Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November 11 1000 Words

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Every journey begins with a single step.
Not all who wander are lost.

The strange clinking had started again. Or maybe it had been going all along and a soft love song had come on the radio. Lara had been driving for miles without the relief of a working air conditioner. Her 1987 Ford pickup was slowly beginning to betray her as it rattled down the highway.

She checked her rearview mirror and made sure her load was still secure. The clinking noise came from under the hood so she knew her freight was safe, for now. When she had stopped before at some lonesome service station outside of Fort Stockton, the attendant was pretty fair with her.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said, eyeing the back of the truck. “I’ll tell you what. The part that’s causing you the trouble could be fixed. But I can tell that you ain’t in a position to pay. So this is what I’m gonna tell you. That part there ain’t essential to get you to where you are going. The road is not going to be as comfortable or as nice- or, as you’ll see, as quiet. But you’ll be okay with out it.”

The patch on his shirt said “Joseph.”

“I have money,” Laura replied, reaching toward her back pocket. She did. She had enough to fix the A/C, and a little extra tucked away in the back should a true emergency befall her.

“Miss, I have daughters. I have a son, too. But- and forgive me for bein’ fatherly with you and all, but you seem to be going someplace. And I just think your cash is better spent at your destination that on a part that won’t hurt you none to do without.”

Laura signed, looking back at her truck.

“Am I right? “

Laura turned back to him. “I’d like a Coke then.”

The truck had been her older brother’s. He was 8 years older than her. She was only ten years old when he went to fight in Desert Storm. Every picture she drew for him had an American flag in the background. She took careful and deliberate steps to make sure she got all the stars and all the stripes in the right places. She wouldn’t settle for only 11 stripes or an accidental star.

Her drawings and a giant batch of brownies were sent to Teddy in Iraq each month. And each month following, her mom would read her a letter from Teddy and the troops thanking her for the pictures and the brownies. Lara kept these letters in a box next to her pens sketchpads. The box contained the last letter Teddy ever sent them.

Her drawings eventually developed into art work. The American flag making an occasional appearance, but not as prominent as people. Laura would sketch her mother- stirring the brownie mix with a huge wooden spoon, looking out the window, sitting silently on the edge of the bed holding a photo of Teddy.

Laura’s father would make an occasional appearance- sitting at the breakfast table lost in thought, sitting in front of the television for the nightly news, then the primetime shows, then the late news and eventually the late night comedy shows.

Everyone always commented on how lifelike her drawings were- these drawings of people who aren’t living. The expressions were so realistic, the fold of the blanket was exact, the listless turn of the spoon in the brownie batter. Not a star out of place.

It took everything Laura had not to scream at her parents, “I’M here! Do you see me? I’M alive!” She wanted them to break out of their mourning. To look up and see that although the family was not the same, they were still a family. She used her images as mirrors- hoping that her parents would recognize who they used to be before Teddy went off to war.

The day after she graduated high school, she drew her last picture. She sketched a family portrait. Her mom and dad were seated in two chairs turned inward so their knees almost touched. Their faces stoic and expressionless, complexions pale- both looking at something in the distance beyond the painter.

A translucent Teddy in fatigues was standing between the chairs with his hands resting on the back of each. A cocky smile on his face- just like his senior portrait three years earlier- except this time with a smudge of brownie crumbs around the corner of his mouth. His hands splayed in such a way that a person could mistake them for holding puppet strings. But that wasn’t Laura’s intent. She should have been more careful about that.

Laura placed herself into the portrait as a photograph that had fallen to the floor. A ten year old girl with a wide open smile holding a sunflower that was nearly the size of her head. The photo was slightly worn at the edges and was resting against her mother’s shoe. She wanted to send a message, but she doubted that her parents would be capable of hearing it.

She left the drawing on her mother’s side of the bed and got in the truck and left.

So here she is. Three days away from Julian, California in her brother’s truck with broken air conditioner and a working radio.

CG Notes: So its not 1000 words yet. And I'm not sure what is in the back of the truck. What do you think is back there?

Assignment Notes: It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Upload a pic to your blog and write Exactly 1,000 words about it.

1 comment:

Art Thief said...

Good start. Not sure what's in the back of the truck. I'm picturing something under a tarp. But I suppose that just avoids the question and doesn't go any further toward answering what's under the tarp.