Second Draft Share: The Hell I Burn Through (Chapter One: Part One)

Second Draft Share: The Hell I Burn Through (Chapter One: Part One)

Continuing with the Southern Gothic theme of the last post, here is the current opening of the novelette I mentioned, The Hell I Burn Through.

Chapter One: Part One

Incense mingled with the smell of soil, salt, roses, and graveyard dust, filling Sula’s nostrils, as She sat in the darkness of the parlor. She exhaled, holding her hands out over the water bowl in front of her with her eyes closed. She inhaled again, and got a strong whiff of the graveyard, mossy, yet almost like rotten thyme and cooked spinach. Maybe it was strange she’d come to like it, but growing up around goofer dust,taken from old cemeteries, had that effect on those who’d grown up in that world. Miss Faye hated that word, goofer. Apparently it sounded far too low country for her tastes. No matter what you called it, Sula found its comfort. Somehow it still didn’t feel like she could breathe the air, despite this being her element, her birthright. The tension in the house was already thick, and it felt all the thicker when Miss Faye gave her work. But that was simply what life in the house entailed, and always had.

In her mind, Sula saw the room as though her eyes were wide open. Sula knew which way the flame of each of the twenty seven white and black candles around the room flickered, and she knew what direction Miss Faye, in her ocean blue headscarf and yellow flowers chose to pace. She could see herself too, sitting at the little table at the center of the room with the bowl in front of her, the woven dime bag satchel of whatever bodily matter brought to use to the right of the bowl, and the burning incense in front of the bowl. The bowl held filtered rain water and her reflection, which was almost perfectly still due to the bowls construction. Supposedly, according to Miss Faye, it’d been a gift for Sula though Sula was only allowed to use it when Miss Faye asked. Some people called helping themselves a gift, Sula knew, and Miss Faye had always been one of those. Well, at least, as long as Sula had been alive. Sula peered directly at herself, and realized she still had some sleep dust in the corner of her eye and that if the shoulder of her blouse fell you could see where Miss Faye had taken a switch to her shoulder yesterday. The bruise was a deep purple against her brown skin.

If Sula couldn’t do what Miss Faye wanted today? Well, then she’d be in for a world of hurtin. She had to focus. She had to breathe. There was nowhere else. No one else. There was life and there was death. There were no borders except the ones she’d been taught, and she’d been taught to break them down to find the universal connections between past and present; here and there. Somewhere a distant ancestor’s breath matched her own. Somewhere a flower blossomed. Somewhere became everywhere, and Sula breathed. From the recesses of her mind her grandfather whispered “Let yourself fall,” and she, ever the obedient girl, slipped down into everything. Before her eyes, in the dark, glitter began to flicker and there came her target, Mr. Johnson. He was a kind man to children, and often gave Sula fresh fudge from his cart for free every Christmas, and whenever he’d been by to see Miss Faye. His bald held gleamed, his once muscular body stretched from a yawn so big his fifty year old round belly jiggled. Once upon a time Miss Faye had been crazy about him, but she’d been crazier about the social club Mrs. Johnson headed.

Sula was gonna miss that chocolate and gooey fudge.

**Chapter One Part One of Draft 2**
The Hell I Burn Through is a southern gothic of intriguing whimsy and fascination with the world of southern high society, african american conjure, mojo, sensuous affairs, innocent loves, and good down home  cooking. 

The Hell I burn Promo
The promotional cover! Coming this Fall to a Kindle near you.
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Draft Share: Five Days with The Stranger

Draft Share: Five Days with The Stranger

****Here is an excerpt from Segment one of my novel Five Days with the Stranger, a noir romance between a waitress and a man with a dark and dangerous past that dominates his present in ways she can’t begin to imagine….though perhaps she wants to. Sensual, earnest, and violent; this story seeks to explore the darker nature of human desire and how what alienates us can connect us.. It seeks to answer the question “Why do I seek that which will obliterate me?”. Currently I’m working on this story for Camp NaNoWriMo, and will finish this by the end of July****

Day One

There were certain jobs a lady grew to loathe when she worked at a diner with a boss more than happy to ask her to close up by herself in the middle of the night, and for Rene that was taking out the last round of garbage. Underneath a starless night’s sky peppered with the intermittent lights of Miami-Dade County, she hauled the large white bag out behind the dinner, as she had one too many times before. A grimace crossed her face as her shoulder lightly popped at the weight. She shouldn’t be so permissive. She missed practice because of this job, but the hours were overall flexible, or so she kept saying to herself.

With an irritated grunt and a scowl like a fat cat who’d never be satisfied, Rene imagined a new way to kick her boss, Uncle Rex, in the ass. The man adored her from the moment she smiled at him when she was four years old. He didn’t have kids, at least not any he knew about, but his best friend’s daughter was the next best thing. That didn’t say shit when it came to certain types of people. They loved you until they were sick with it, but they pushed you as far as they could push you because, in their minds, they earned the right. Some people were just that kind. Her father was exactly the same, except worse. That’s why Rex was even her uncle in the first place. Two jackasses naturally got along like brothers. At least she had a job even if it was one that made her arm sore and sapped up her time as though her life meant nothing at all. How many events had she missed in the last year? How many nights off became double shifts?

She bit her bottom lip. Yeah, Uncle Rex really was that kind. He gave her job when she’d needed it, but for every good deed he’d expect two more unquestioned deeds from everyone else. Rene sighed because at her core she knew she’d be stuck with that until she figured out where she was going. Right now, she couldn’t see past the trash.

She looked around the diner’s deserted parking lot, out a dozen yards or so to the shopping center and its parking lot next door. Four cars sat empty, probably belonging to the patrons of the dive bar. That place closed up at about 3am, and somehow it always had stragglers downing urine flavored liquor until the clock chimed. It was better the diner closed up before then because that meant she didn’t have to deal with the drunks…usually. Besides a few passing cars Rene was alone beneath a darkness that blended into the neon lights of buildings and traffic.

The whizzing cars passing by gave a semblance of comfort until she remembered most people never paid attention to the sidelines. She’d worked in that diner since she was sixteen and it taught her one thing, people preferred not to get involved. People wanted others to be interested in them. They’re only rarely interested in others. They’d tell you endlessly about themselves until you started to do the same to other people because you desperately wanted someone, anyone, to care. Damn if she didn’t hate working there. Damn if she couldn’t find a job with her business degree. Network. Network. Why did people think she never did? She just wasn’t any good at small talk, and people never said what it meant. “Flexible hours. Free food. Sometimes Uncle Rex puts our recipes on the menu.” That had to be enough. If only people really cared…

There were rare customers who legitimately took interest. Miss Candy always tipped a $100 when driving through town. She’d even tip an extra fifty if she heard Rene’s grades were good. Hawaiian-shirt Hal always asked about her music or her studies, and took the time to encourage her. Pete Balch came in on the regular since his wife passed and always invited Rene to spend a few minutes talking about her day. she could make a solid list of maybe ten out of the thousands she’d met. The latest addition was weird-guy Jack, who became handsome-guy Jack when he smiled.

He’d been coming in for three weeks now. Jack had been more than polite since the day he waltzed in with his grey t-shirt displaying, but not bragging, about his muscular body. Well, at least he was a change though a weird one. She couldn’t say why, but he never said much about himself and spoke like every word had been rehearsed in his head so that it sounded exactly like he needed it to sound. Not like he was exactly insincere, but like people were a trial. She couldn’t fault him for that, but then  he’d sit…staring ,unblinking, in the back of the diner as though the mire of his mind swallowed him whole. Yeah, that was strange. Still Jack possessed an enigmatic strangeness that-

The sound of angry honking followed by indignant swerving tire screech tore her from her thoughts, and grounded her in her surroundings again. It seemed like her thoughts were getting louder lately. Maybe that was part of growing up, or maybe now her thoughts were just harder to ignore. But she knew one thing…most customers were likely to just be angry or irritated honkers. Maybe it was good she was alone. Then she glanced towards the empty parking lot and shivered.

No one to talk to or to see her, but that was how it usually was. That didn’t make it easier or more comfortable. No matter how often she took out the nightly trash instinctive paranoia that prickled the back of her mind.

She’d lived in Miami for most of her life. The smells of sea, and meat, and human excess were almost comforting during the day, but at night the city lights became ominous beacons of urban-suburban isolation. The sound of scurrying rats and stray pit bulls, who’d long come to associate her with “dropped” hamburger patties, became warning sirens to a stranger’s approach or a sudden change that meant she needed to haul ass back inside or to her car. But no brown strays wandered up to her and not a single rodent scurried. Not even roaches crunched under her feet. Tonight there was only the sound of her lifting the metal lid of the trashcan, and her huffing as she lifted the heavy bag and dropped it down with one mighty heave.

“Gimme your purse!” A voice like gravel scraping against chalkboard filled her ears.

She began to turn around, and her vision was consumed by the open mouth of a gun. Her instincts reacted first, and she froze before she even processed what that dull gleaming metal could be. She heard the click of the gun and suddenly it came to her. She gasped, and her mouth went dry. Her brain kept saying “Gun. Gun. Gun. Gun. Gun.”