Okay, here's another story from my time in a fiction writing course at college. It's the 2nd one I wrote and the best received. It's, I guess, a 3rd draft, but I know it still needs lots of work. I'm just lazy! Tips (story structure, dialogue, character, etc.) would be appreciated. I haven't written much since I graduated from college (Dec '06). I just can't bring myself to, even if I have a good idea it just never comes to fruition. I think it's from lack of confidence! I would really like to take more fiction courses. *nods* Anyway, thanks for reading!
I walk out of the house and the afternoon sun beats at my eyes. I cover them with my left hand and fix my gaze on the trees across the road. The leaves have already turned and I take in all the reds, yellows, and oranges. It reminds me of how much I love autumn and I wonder if he appreciates this as much as I do. My eyes adjust to the brightness and find him hunched over his truck in jeans and an old t-shirt. Smiling, I close the front door and walk over with a cup of coffee in my hands.
“What are you doing?” I say as I offer him the cup.
“There’s something wrong with the car. I’m just checking things out.”
“Hrm…” One of my eyebrows lifts as I glance under the hood, though I don‘t know what I‘m looking at. “Well... Maybe we should call someone and have them look at it? My cousin Brian is supposed to be good at this stuff.”
With annoyance in his face and voice he says, “No, I can take care of it.” I jump back a little when he suddenly pushes down the hood. Taking the cup from my hand, he leans back against the truck. He starts to drink from it, but instead just places it on the truck and grabs my wrist to pull me in front of him.
The sun is behind him, now, and its rays dance around his head. A halo encircles him like in those Jesus and Mary cards the Catholic Church used to pass out when I was a kid. I like the way curly, blonde hair shines in the light and am about to say so when he says, “Your hair has some red in it under the sun.” I smile, but he’s already turned his attention to the woods that separate our house from the neighbors. “Another shit Saturday and State‘s getting their ass beat. Are you doing anything, today?”
“No, but I thought that we could stay around here and maybe watch some videos.”
He turns his attention back to me and, though his hands are still dirty from working on the car, he runs his fingers through my hair. “No, I don’t think so. I’m going to be busy with this. Maybe you can go see your mother?”
I pull away from him and start to walk away. “Sure. I can do that.”
When I reach the house, he says, “Hey, Jess. Bring me back a plate of whatever she’s cooking. I’m kinda hungry, now, but I can wait.” Without looking back I nod and walk into the house.
Our living room is small, but it fits the two of us. Sometimes I walk around and think about the changes we’ll make once we’re married and have kids. I’ve already made plans to throw out his old futon from college and replace it with something decent. We used to spend entire weekends in it, while he watched whatever games were. I didn‘t mind how uncomfortable and dirty it was then because we lay there so close. I lie down on it and curl up. I hate this thing. It always makes me feel so lonely.
The doorknob turns and he walks inside. I prop myself up on my elbows and look at him. He squints at me as his eyes adjust to the darkness. “I thought that you were going to your mom‘s.”
“I will soon. I was just thinking.” I throw my legs off the futon and get up. As I walk down the hallway to the closet, I hear him settling into it. I raise my voice so that he can hear me over the television, “Do you think that it’ll be cold, tonight?”
The volume slowly dies down and he says, “Maybe.”
“I’m just going to walk and don’t know if I should take a coat or not.”
“I don’t think it’ll matter. Leave your car keys with me and you can call whenever you want me to pick you up.”
I grab his State sweatshirt and slip it on. The sleeves are too long and the bottom falls past my hips, but I like the way that it smells like him. I walk into the living room and make the arms flop a little at him. “Okay, I’m gonna go.”
He looks me over and says, “Don‘t get anything on it. I want to wear that to the Egg Bowl.” I nod and walk over. I lean down and wrap my arms around his neck. My lips brush against the top of his ear and his yellow curls caress my cheek. Again, he takes his black hand and places it in my hair. I’m just thankful that my hair is already black.
He turns a little and kisses my cheek. “Have fun,” he whispers before turning up the volume to watch the second half of the State game.
I walk out the door again, but this time it feels colder. I hug myself and rub my arms as I begin to walk down our driveway. At the end, I check for cars before taking a left down the street. The speed limit here is 35 mph, but people drive like they’re on the highway. There’s always some poor animal lying in the road that didn’t make it across in time. With this in mind and the October chill brushing at my legs, I start to jog. My mom lives only a few houses down, but I don’t want to feel the cold for that long. I start to think that maybe I should have taken the car.
Running along, I pass a neighbor and she waves with a confused look on her face. I notice that she looks behind me in search the man, who is chasing me. I know that tomorrow there will be talk of how That White Man, finally, went crazy and ran me out of our house. I just scream out, “It’s cold!” but I don’t think that this will make any difference. As I get to my parents’ driveway, I begin to slow down. The dog across the street is barking at me in anger, but I just smile and wave at it. It starts to bark louder and with more conviction, which makes my mother come to the front door.
“Hello!” I say as I quickly walk across the yard to the house.
“Hi! I didn’t know that you were coming over. Why are you walking alone?” Then, she whispers so that my dad can’t hear us, “Did something happen? What did he do?” I ignore it, because she always seems to expect something horrible.
Once she’s looked at me long enough to see that there are no visible bruises, she holds the door open for me and ushers me in with her hand on my back. I’m certain that this is to check for any bruises that can’t be seen because her hand roams and periodically presses down on my back.
“Hey, dad. How’s it going?” I sit down on the couch that is adjacent to his chair. He’s got his La-Z-Boy reclined and is holding onto an empty coffee cup.
“Can you get me more coffee?,” he mutters without even removing his gaze from the TV. Before I can say anything my mom has already taken the cup from his hand.
She sighs and says, “I’ll get it,” as walks off towards the kitchen.
It’s so warm in their house that I pull off the sweater and shake my arms in hopes of knocking off the heat. He glances over to me and says, “So, where is Na I Hoklo?”
I place my face in my hands and sigh. “Don’t call him that!”
“That’s what he is, isn’t it? Besides, don’t white men always want to know their Indian names?”
“You know it’s not the same. I mean, I don’t want you calling him ‘naholo,’ either. He’s got a name.”
“That’s what they are. All of them.” My mom walks back into the living room with the coffee, which interrupts his speech, but she doesn’t look at either of us and just heads back towards the kitchen. I was hoping that she’d intercede on my behalf, but I, now, realize that she’s hoping that my dad will convince me.
“I’m going to marry him. This isn‘t something you can decide for me.“
He just ignores this and continues. “It’s just that Pocahontas fantasy. He wants a nice, little brown girl, who can use her mystical Indian ways to save him when his neck is on the chopping block. Just wait until he finds that little, redneck girl. Then, that ring will be on her hand, instead of yours.”
My head begins to hurt so, I get up off the couch. I begin to walk away when he says, “He’ll never make you happy. A white man will never know what it’s like to be us. Why couldn’t you have just found some Choctaw guy? That’s the only kind of man that you can have a good marriage with. Someone that could take care of you better than that white boy can.”
I stop in my tracks and turn back towards him. I can’t imagine the look I have on my face, but he must have some idea because he won’t look at me. There are a million things I could say about the type of husband and father he was, but nothing will come out. Instead, I follow his gaze and stare at the TV. State has lost, again, and the other team’s mascot is doing a victory dance. I just turn away and walk out of the room leaving his last sentence in the air.
In the kitchen, my mom is placing spaghetti in a large bowl. I move over to the pitcher of tea and being mixing sugar into it. The only sounds in the room are those of my mixing and her scraping of the pot. Suddenly, she says, “You know he’s right. Now, you know I’m not racist, but this is still Mississippi. It just won’t work. If you have kids, they’ll be teased. People will say that they’re cute, but still call them iklana because they‘re half. They may be liked, but they‘ll never be treated like us.”
“Does that mean you, too?” I turn towards her, but she won’t look at me.
“Of course not. I’ll love any grandkids that I get. There are just so few of us left that are full. And you know iklana only want the other side, so your grandkids would have even less Choctaw in them. Why do you want to marry a white man, anyway?” This time she turns to look at me, but seems surprised when her eyes meet mine. She quickly turns back around and says, “But we can’t tell you what to do. This is a decision that you have to make and I guess that you’ve already decided. It’s just that…”
She just trails off and leaves the kitchen to begin setting the table. I follow her with the pitcher of tea and set it by the spaghetti. She tells me to get cups and I fill three with ice. Dinner is quiet and neither of my parents add to their arguments. Now and then, my mom asks me about work, but there isn’t much to say. Afterwards, my dad goes back to His Chair and watches another football game. I help my mother clear up the table and we begin to wash the dishes.
“So, are you still not getting married in the church?”
“I don’t know. Probably not. You know that he’s not big on church.”
She makes a noise with her throat. “It’d be nice to have a Catholic wedding, though. Father Michael said, last weekend, that he’d like to talk to you about it. I’ve got his number somewhere. You should call him and maybe you can work something out.”
I nod and say, “He won’t go to those classes, though. He says that he doesn’t need classes and some priest to tell him if he’s ready for marriage.” I know that I’m only pushing her buttons, but I also know it’ll eventually get her to drop the subject.
“God, Jessica! It’s not like it’ll kill him. Your marriage will be recognized by the Catholic Church! I didn’t get to have that. I always hoped that my daughter would. Listen, why don’t the two of you just go to church with me tomorrow? He may like it.”
“Or he could just stay at home with dad and watch TV.”
At this, she holds a soapy spoon in my face and looks like she's about to say something. The soap starts to run down her arm so, she throws the spoon back into the sink and wipes her hands with her apron. “I guess that he’ll be hungry. Make a plate to take home. I don’t know what you feed him when you’re not taking food from here.”
I nod and take a Tupperware bowl from the cabinet. I fill it with spaghetti and biscuits, which still leaves enough for my parents to eat for lunch tomorrow. When I’m done, my mom says that she’ll drive me home. The sun set over an hour ago and she doesn’t want me caught by anything that could be hiding in the woods. I stand in the living room and wait, while she searches for a jacket. My dad hasn’t said anything to me since before dinner and I don’t want to argue so, I just let him watch the game.
In the corner of my eye, I see him grab the sweatshirt off the couch and he hands it to me. “Don’t forget this. It’s cold outside.” I take it from him and see that his eyes are still fixed on the game. I glance at the TV and see that, now, he’s watching the Ole Miss game. They’re losing, also, but this time he seems pleased.
As I’m putting on the sweatshirt, my mom enters the room ready to leave. On my way out the door, my dad says, “Tell Chris that he can come over for dinner. Maybe we can all even go to Starkville for one of the games. Just tell him to leave the cowbell at home.” I nod and try to hide a smile, partly because Chris really does have a MSU cowbell.
In the car, my mom talks about her co-workers. Her office has a high school quality to it and I’m certain it’s because she works with only women. She’s in the middle of a story when we arrive at my house. She says, “Well, I’ll tell you about it later. Call me and we can talk. Let me know if Chris wants to go to church. Talk him into it. It really would mean a lot to me if you were married by Father Michael.”
I say that I will try and climb out of the car. She waits in the driveway while I walk to the door. It’s unlocked so, I turn and wave. She waves back and pulls out of the driveway.
Inside, Chris is still lying on the futon and watching TV. I place his food on the coffee table and lie myself down next to him. I lean against him and he rests his hand on my hip. It looks like he couldn’t get all the grease off of his hands and I know that I’ll never get the stain off of his sweatshirt. I look back at him and say, “Dad told me to tell you that you should come to dinner with me, next time.”
He nods and we watch the Ole Miss game together. He pulls me closer and says, “Man, I hope that they lose.”