WIP Novel Excerpt

Here’s another bit from the rough draft of my upcoming novel. I’ve got a lot of editing to do, and will change a lot by the time it’s on paper. That’s why I’m posting it, though. Some time next year, you and I will be able to look back at this post and compare it to the finished product.

This scene takes place in the Sawtooth National Forest. It’s just after the last scene that I posted with the main character, Bert. He and his friends are just waking up after their first night at the campsite. I’m not posting huge spoilers to the story. Nothing huge happens here other than some characters being goofy and others being briefly introduced.

Enjoy!

Durham sipped his coffee on the tailgate of Roy’s truck. That tailgate lay extended above a sleeping Shaky. Roy and his wife were still asleep in their hammock, under a tarp. It had been a long time since he’d seen a forest. He soaked it in as best he could, but other things were on his mind. They’d be leaving for Walla Walla soon. There was something about the coffee that bothered him. He wasn’t sure what it was. The scent of the burning logs and the surrounding foliage was influencing the taste. He kicked a small lump of dirt towards the fire. It exploded into a brown cloud of infinite grains. Part of the cloud was carried toward the lake by a gust of wind. He heard Khaki sobbing near where Bert was writing the night before. Durham hopped to his feet in the bed of the truck and turned toward the disturbing sound. He saw nothing of interest and turned back around. He hopped up a bit as he sat back down, realizing mid-air that his weight might be too much to drop on the tail gate’s hinges. One of the sides of the truck bed was close enough that he could stretch his arm out and grab it, saving the gate’s hinges from the brunt of the force. Unfortunately, reaching for the side of the truck also put him in a position where his lower back would land on the bed first. When he did make contact, his back scrapped along the out lip of the tail gate and he plummeted to the Earth. His head smacked the tailgate as he landed.
Reeling in pain, Durham spotted a small creature running through the woods towards their campground. As it got closer to them, he realized that it wasn’t a bear cub or mountain lion, but a human child. That child, a young boy, rocketed into their camp site. He hopped in a lop-sided circle, making sure to stomp at least once on every blanket and bag that they had left lying in the open. Being that he was in a good amount of pain and had just noticed the coffee that had begun warming up his thighs through his pant leg, Durham did not react. The boy stared Durham directly in the eye as he trounced across their gear. Bottles of water had burst. Two packs of cigarettes were smashed. One of the sleeping bags, Durham’s own, had unraveled and a corner of it was melting in the fire. The child began yelling some sort of gibberish chant that brought Durham out of his daze. He rushed up from where he’d landed, leaped across their campsite to grab a couple bottles of water, kicked the sleeping bag out of the fire pit, then emptied the bottles to put the fire out. A rope on the red and gold bag caught Durham’s foot as he turned to subdue the wild child, pulled the rest of the bag into the fire. Securing the bag from flame the second time, Durham looked up to see the hooligan sprinting off in the opposite direction from where he emerged.
“God fuckin… Kid! Hey! What the shit?!” He shouted, coughing out the black nylon smoke that had begun to collect in his lungs.
Shaky burst up from slumber, awoken by the startling volume. He banged the brim of his baseball cap on the truck’s bumper as he sat up. Dirt that had been tucked away in the undercarriage of the truck was knocked loose and into his eyes. Shaky flipped over onto his stomach and began rubbing them with his palms. His palms were covered in dirt picked up while sleeping on the ground, increasing the pain.
Two larger creatures bumbled their way out of the nearby woods. Durham was too preoccupied with putting out the flames eating his sleeping bag to notice them.
“Billy?” His parents called, obviously exhausted.
“Where are you, kiddo?” His father followed up.
Having reduced the bag to slightly smoldering, Durham now noticed the two forest creatures that had already noticed him. Their nerves were stiff and they were speeding his way.
“Hey, buddy. Have you seen our son?” the man shouted. Durham relaxed when he realized it wasn’t two full sized bears or mountain lions chasing the boy into their camp.
“Yeah. You owe us about a hundred bucks, pal.” Durham sarcastically replied.
“Oh, fuck.” the man tried to whisper. The expletive came out of his mouth loud enough for Durham to hear, though, as the man said it while releasing a gust of air. He was gasping for air and perspiring heavily. The man was quite a bit overweight.
“Right?” Durham responded to the cursing. “Look, I didn’t see where he went. I’m bleeding and he caught my bag on fire. He couldn’t have gone back where you came from, though.” He tried to help, thinking that sooner rather than later the boy would be devoured by real forest dwelling creatures.
The man weaved clasped his hands on the back of his head as he approached. The woman, also obese, hadn’t said anything. This was the first time that she had run since she was a small child. They were both middle aged, had white skin lit up beet red, and were dressed in business casual attire. Durham cocked his head sideways out of piqued curiosity while looking at their matching polo shirts and hiking boots that had clearly been purchased earlier that day. If he had a better handle on the situation, Durham would have kicked himself for not noticing the sounds of an unbridled tantrum as it exited their vehicle. Before Durham could think of something else to say to the plump couple as they stood before him, and before their lungs had caught up with the air supply their bellies and legs demanded, Roy ripped his tent zipper open and bounced out of the shelter.
“What in name of the great state of Texas happened to all our shit?” he spat through his gritted teeth. “Ham. Who are these bumble fucks and why are my smokes smashed and thrown about?”

Author: A. M. Langston

Poet and Novelist

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