A Proper Southern Boy: Novel Excerpt

Following the prologue post from last week, I wanted to share a bit from what would have been the chapter 1 to the novel I was writing.  Looking back now, it still remains the favorite of the chapters I wrote.  Everything else I enjoy looking back on, but there was something specific about this chapter that I like coming back to.  That doesn’t mean it is the best chapter in the world and that certainly doesn’t mean, in the way it’s laid out it is entirely publishable, but sentence by sentence, I still like it–so here is a bit from that chapter; I’m sure there’ll be more to come.


Chapter 1

“Care to tell me,” Benjamin began, “why you’re cooking…”  He peered over the edge, down into the red, stainless pot sitting on the stove top.  “I’m sorry, what are you cooking?”

Allie batted a chunk of beef against the side of the pot with her spoon, onion bits and carrot slices catching between the two in the broth it all was simmering in.  “It’s only a roast, Benjamin,” she said with a laugh.  “It’s not all that fancy.  Besides, don’t you think Mary and Matthew would appreciate something a little more than pizza or fast food?”

She was right; Benjamin knew it.  It was special after all and with the way Matthew and he had been getting along as of late, Benjamin was more than just a little excited for his brother.

“You’re right, you’re right.”  Benjamin plucked a carrot out of the broth while it was still a little raw, sat down at the table, and bit it through with a snap.  He watched the sun dip down, down below the wooden fenceposts lining their backyard.  It was still bright enough to see the porch he’d built just this spring, the tree house he’d built with his sons last spring, and the last of the gopher mounds left until fall.  He sat back, crunching down on the last of the carrot slice, peering out into the coming dark.

Fireflies were what Benjamin missed most about moving out from the east, though, it wasn’t until he was here that he realized he missed them.  This was about their time too, when the sun dipped down and the world was colored a soft toned sepia, when summer was just close enough to be yearning for it, but not yet in the throes of it when it was not so quietly being wished away.  It was a sweet time, a simple time, a favorite time for a younger Benjamin, when he’d scoop up fireflies in the neighbor’s yard with all the other neighborhood children.

The cul-de-sac he lived in once was all he’d known, the rounded off end of a higher class neighborhood south of Charlotte.

He grew up a proper southerner, or so he heard from the mothers next door.  “–nothin’ like those rednecks and hillbillies everyone thinks we are.”

“I mean my God,” they’d say, “is that all we’re known for anymore?”

His mother was a beautiful woman, taller than most, who wore clothes that soothed the eyes with soft colors and the occasional polka dot.  While the other women wore things that gleamed and sparkled and, perhaps, may have attracted the occasional sheen fixated raccoon, she sat back, simply, with her simple hair, clothes, and smile that were all, after all, anything, but simple.

He and his brother sat, these days, pressing their faces against the white, wooden dowels lining the staircase, listening to the talk coming from the living room.  There was a wall between them and the women and there was an opening from the foyer to the room.  Benjamin could see his mother from there, on the couch, sitting, smiling, hands folded in her lap, taking in the stories the women told.

His mother did little of the talking.  Their house had become a sea for rumor of all sort, rushing in, never out, floating about with the other gossip, swirling and twirling, in a home that didn’t want it there.

Benjamin didn’t want it there.

No surprise, neither did his father.

His father was a suit man, a sharp dressed, crisp haired, suit man and that’s all Benjamin knew about him.  He came and went, weeks at a time, staying for a day, before leaving the next, saying a general hello to everyone before diving into some kind of work; Benjamin didn’t know what.

His mom and dad fought about it, he knew that, in the evening after Benjamin went to bed.  He laid awake in the gentle purple-green of a balloon nightlight, listening to the yelling turn to mumbling as it came up through the floorboards.  He hopped out of bed, slinking up against the wall as he slid his way down the hallway, the stairs, to whatever room it was his parents were in.  He never peeked.  Matthew had taught him not to, so he sat back, in the shadow of a bookcase or under a table, held his breath when he couldn’t hear, and listened.

One time, he remembered, it was the kitchen and Benjamin sat under a table.


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