As some of you have probably noticed, I’ve been largely absent as of late. I’ve been writing fiction like a madman. I’m in a writing phase, not a reading phase.
I’ve been working on a series of twelve short stories about a small town in Alabama — a town not unlike where I live. I’ve been doing extensive research into the history of my town, which has helped shape some of the strongest fiction I’ve created. I’ve never been more excited about a project than I am about this one.
The stories will span the decades in this small town. The earliest year represented is 1941; the latest is 2023. I’m working diligently on the fifth story, which is quickly turning into a novella. Not that I mind!
Anywho, I thought I’d post a small snippet from one of the stories. It’s an excerpt from a rough draft, so grammar issues might be present. I’m putting it in spoiler tags so those who don’t care to read it don’t have to. Feedback is welcome and appreciated! I’m only twenty, and despite writing for fun all my life I am new to writing ‘professionally’ (which means I’m working hard and hoping against hope that I’ll find a publishing platform someday).
For my hometown
Anthony ‘Digger Ant’ Merchant hung his shovel and pickax in the maintenance barn just behind the Sawyer family plots and spat on the ground. He stomped his boots. He removed his gloves and pulled out a cigarette from the front pocket of his overalls. After exiting Plainview Cemetary’s gates, he made his way up the street with a limp in his step. It was dog days, and he was getting on up in years. He couldn’t remember if he was turning 64 or 65 come September, but he knew it wasn’t s almost retiring time. He’d been digging graves for a lot of years. The arthritis was getting quite bad.
For lack of a car Digger Ant made his way down 42nd avenue on foot, aware of the swelling crowd. He passed the First Baptist Church and the First National Bank. He passed the high school and Mo’s General Store. He made it to the town square and rested on a bench in the shade of the Confederate Memorial. Farmhands and bankers and teachers and coal miners lined the streets that crossed downtown. They crowded on the courthouse steps, buzzed in front of L.J. Vickery’s, and leaned against the front windows of Woolworth’s. Some waved American flags and others held banners. The doors of the dry cleaners stood open. Men in hats and ladies in dresses embraced one another, the smiles on their faces radiant with a fullness of life that only comes in the depth of summer, when the grass is lush and the sky is blue and daily living has taken on a leisurely pace. Their young’uns ran in high spirit, playing the games children play. Digger Ant knew them all. He had lived in Taylor Ridge, Alabama since birth.
He smelled the aroma of cotton candy. He smelled hot dogs. What wasn’t in the air was the disagreeable smell that emanated from the lumber mill. That stench usually hung over the town like a cloud. Tarker Kane must have shut down the plant for the day. Good on him. That skinflint old man usually didn’t even shut down for Christmas. From nearby was the sound of kettle popping. From a few blocks away he could hear the high school’s band warming up for the procession. A dog barked. Car horns honked. A clown juggled pins for the little ones. Adults laughed and talked, standing in clumps and nodding their heads. It was a hot day, but no one seemed to mind. The crowd continued to swell.
“Digger Ant, is that you?” a man’s strained, aged voice cried out. Digger turned and took in old Herman Curt. The man was nearing ninety, and was now completely bald. He was much shorter than Digger remembered (for it had been many a-year since the two had seen each other — Digger lived in the townhouse and Herman lived out in the county), and walked with a limp and cane. He was wearing a wrinkled, discolored blue suit — it probably the best outfit he owned. Like Digger, Herman had spent his life since childhood tilling the ground and relying on his own sweat and determination to make ends meet. Neither of them had ever needed to dress nice (except for church, o’course) before today. Today was special.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s me ya old bag! How’ve you been?” he responded, jumping up from the bench and patting the old man on the shoulder. “Sit a spell. I’ve got smokes,” Digger said,” patting the chest pocket of his dirty overalls.
Herman held his hand out for a smoke, and Digger lit it. He then lit one for himself.
“Cain’t stay,” Herman said, leaning on his cane. “Wanna get a little closer to the street’n all. I ain’t never seen a president ‘fore. Even if he ain’t worth a hoss kick in the winter, I wanna see’m!” The two men threw their heads back and laughed at this. Digger Ant could feel the warmth of the sun on his neck. It was quite a day to be alive!
“Well, you here with anyone?” Digger Ant asked the old farmer.
“Yuh, my mess of young’uns ’round here somewhere,” Herman responded, looking around. “I’ll find ’em. I ain’t afraid to move anyone outta the way with this cane.” He laughed again, showing off his tobacco-stained teeth. “Gonna go up to the college?”
“I might,” Digger answered. “Though everybody’s gonna go, reckon? Might not can get through.”
“Mayhap not, but this is a special day. Can’t believe that shit senator of ours got Roosevelt to come.”
“Well, it’s a favor for an old friend, I reckon,” Digger Ant. “It bein’ the openin’ of the college and all. I heard the senator and the president go back a ways.”
“Hmmmph,” Herman responded. “Hmmph.”
The excitement in the air was palpable.
Well, how’s Mary?” Digger Ant asked.
“Oh, Ant. She passed away — oh, must’ve been six or more months ago now. Pneumonia.”
“I hate to hear that,” Ant said, unsure of what to say. He had never married. “Holdin’ up okay?”
“I do my best. I got my gardenin’ and the farm animals to look after, y’know.”
“Still. That’s a tit.”
Herman started. “Well, I’m gonna go try’n find Jackie if I can, that kid —”
“Jackie’s older’n me!” Digger Ant said. “He ain’t a kid no more, old man.”
Herman wagged his wrinkled finger and offered a fake scowl, and the two laughed again.
“Come by sometimes, and get some peaches,” Herman offered. “If you ever get out my way, ‘course. They’re mighty sweet. Picked ’em just yest’day.”
“Mmm!” Digger Ant responded. Peaches sounded nice on a day like today.
Herman looked at Digger for a moment and said, “Must get lonely at that old townhouse.”
“Oh, I make do. I make do. I stay so busy with work’n all. Peaches sound mighty fine, though. Might take ya up on that!”
“Sounds fine.” Herman then began to shoulder his way into the crowd, and townsfolk cleared a narrow path. “See yuns around!” He was swallowed by the mass of people. Digger Ant crossed the street, and stood on the corner in front of Rexall Drug. He wanted to have a nice view of the president, too.