Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Just the start ....



            County Road 6 does not exist. It’s not on any map published since 1954. But it’s there, a ribbon of decayed asphalt stretching upland along the basalt and granite ridges above the Susan River’s west bank. Poachers walk it occasionally, though the hunting isn’t good there.       
            A crumbling, thick concrete platform is the grave marker for a school. They found a poacher’s body there once, about three years ago I think. He was impaled on rebar, and bits of him were nibbled by the small things that make their home in the tall grasses. His eyes were gone, pecked out by sparrows or crows.
            No sign of that is left; no bloodstains; no gore. Nothing at all tells of a once violent act.
            The road swerves left for no apparent reason, probably to follow a property line that no longer exists or matters. It reaches a basalt wall about two miles further onward and is forced to descend the upland into Susan Valley. The drop is not great, but the grade is steep. Near the end of that decline the ghost of County Road 6 disappears into the wide pool formed behind Castleback Dam. But there are other ghosts there – Ghosts of things drowned and buried. A village died when the pool rose. You can see its bones at low water. There is a cemetery out there somewhere. None of the graves were moved. Near the end of February, when the pool’s at its lowest, you can see the tombstones.
            Willow and birch line the banks, growing around basalt boulders. The bank is swampy and stinks of a dozen of kind of rot. Scoop a handful of the gray sand and poke it with your fingers and you will find it full of squirming, pink nematodes, creatures who vacuum the sand for food.
            There are no local legends about this place, at least none I’ve heard and I have asked. But people tend to avoid this pool of drowned hope and drowned graves.
            “Pretty poor fishing there,” an old timer told me. But I’ve sat on the rocks watching salmon jump. The water is clear, and you can see the fish. No-one fishes here. They all drive down to the old Highway 10 Bridge and fish there.
            They don’t come here because ... well, let me put it this way: I first came here because I was afraid. I was running, and the scrub trees that fill the valley seemed a good place to hide. Now I only come here when I am fearless and my curiosity bests my good judgment.
            My mother preached “common sense” to me. Her pithy and judgmental remarks have never left me: “God gave you a brain. Use it.”

2 comments:

  1. Of course, this is good material and momentum to keep writing.

    Putting on my editor's hat, you've made the setting a secondary character, so it stands out and provides a great place for the reader to interact (in the reader's mind). When you are done with the chapter or in an editing mode, you'll have to work at the opening. The strongest paragraph is this:

    "They don’t come here because ... well, let me put it this way: I first came here because I was afraid. I was running, and the scrub trees that fill the valley seemed a good place to hide. Now I only come here when I am fearless and my curiosity bests my good judgment. "

    You should use a variation of that as your opener and link the narrative flow into your vivid description of the setting.

    All the setting needs is personalization to the main character with smell, touch, sound and temperature.

    If you just spit this out to get it on paper, so to speak, that is impressive. Regardless, I am a sucker for setting as a secondary character, so I'd read more.

    If this is a come-of-age story with some realistic inte/intra gender relationships, with some sex, well, I'd need some alone time in my bunk.

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  2. I like phrasing like 'road follows a border that no longer exists or matters.'

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