Saturday, November 19, 2011

Excerpt Land Leave Update

Short story. An excerpt from my editing of Land Leave:

Rain came down quickly. Bill's clothes were getting soaked slowly but he didn't care. He walked down the abandoned road. It would be seven or eight more blocks until he got home. The rain came down in tiny drops, little reminders of the magnificent cloud cover above. If he squinted he could see low and quick moving clouds against the higher permanent background of gray. His hair was long and shaggy; it slowly weighed down as drops hit his moppy top and dripped to his nose. He turned to the girl beside him and smiled. She had on a faux fur hood, and was trying to walk along the edge of the sidewalk.

“I can do it,” she said triumphantly. Her foot slipped and planted firmly into a deep puddle. Her beat up Converse sneaker was immediately soaked. “That doesn't count,” she looked at Bill, smiled flirtatiously and took a quick hop-skip forward.

Bill was sixteen and this was his first girlfriend—it would be at least. For now they were just 'best friends'. She stood under the street light; a bio-luminescent green that burst into full brightness as she passed under it. She bounced on one foot lightly, “c'mon. It's wet out! And we got a long ways to go!”

Bill picked up the pace slightly. Offered his arm to her as he approached. She stuck her tongue out and laughed, “you got an umbrella mister?”

“Er...no.”

“Then I don't want what you're selling,” and she turned quickly and strode gracefully forward.

Bill kept his arm out and walked behind her, “but I'm not selling it. This here is for free.”

The drops left dark stains in any surface exposed to the thin night air. The rain came down with spring heft, but the Colorado air was always crisp, even when it was damp. Bill's boots were awkward; ankle length hiking boots that didn't go with even his most outdoorsy pair of rolled up jeans. The light of the streetlamp faded behind them and the girl turned to him.

“Nothing's for free,” she said coyly. Bill caught her, even in the dim light, bite her lip and hold back a giggle. A flash and she turned away, hidden in her furry hood again.

“What?”

“I said nothing is for free,” she ended with a high final note and grabbed his arm. She put his arm down slowly and stood in front of him. Stopped him in his path, leaned in and stared right into his eyes. Bill held his breath, tried to keep a calm expression. Her eyes darted all over his face, “you need a haircut,” she said matter-of-factly. And she turned and danced in the rain. She twirled and tilted her head back. Felt the rain hit her face.

Bill let his breath out. Tried to think clearly as the image in front of him blurred. It was either the rain or his parents' gin. Probably the gin. The two had sneaked out the back of the house; unnecessary because his parents slept like rocks and put in 'soothing sounds of the sea' on full blast. They were such big hippie naturalists they surrounded themselves with technology to reinforce that image. Bill and the girl had gone to the nearby park, giggling and passing the bottle back and forth. They sat on a bench and talked about what they thought love meant, what held the world together. The park was an overlook on the city. The lights were all out except for the airport where high-speed blimps were getting loaded with supplies.

The blimps were long thin and thin. They rested gently on the ground receiving their cargo. It was almost inconceivable to Bill that those were the tiny dots that darted at over 450 miles per hour high above the clouds. He tried not to wonder too much at it as the girl had scooted closer to him and passed him the bottle.

They decided to return because the bottle was empty and the air was too cold. Bill had tried to look manly and cool; he suppressed his shivers and his speech came out in staccato bursts as a consequence. But it was too cold and they got up to go; smelling the forest air; thick with evergreen, dirt, and the spring snow. As they exited the park, the rain peaked. It had gone from sporadic patters to steady fall. More than a drizzle, less than a downpour. And every drop that touched Bill's skin electrified him. Despite the cold and the wet, he was happy.

They stomped into the house, noisily removing their wet outer layers. Bill kicked off his shoes at the door.

“Shhh” she said and whispered a giggle.

Bill looked at her, “wha?” he pointed to her feet, and she quickly removed her shoes.

The house smelled like new carpet and hardwood floor. It was a large house, another cookie cutter out in the suburbs of the American Union. It had a gas fireplace. Bill grabbed the wet clothes and set them on the rack next to the fireplace. A screen popped up and he set the fireplace to high. With a whoosh and a pop, the fireplace came on and a roaring fire lit the room. Bill set down the clothes and pulled the blanket off the couch. He looked at the girl. She pulled at her tank top and looked at it, “do you have some clothes I can borrow?”

Bill motioned to his room, “second and third drawer in the dresser, grab whatever you want,” he whispered back. She came back into the room, wearing one of Bill's old ts and a pair of his sweats. Bill gave her the blanket and ran to his room to change. He dressed in the dark, tried not to make too much noise. When he came back into the living room he realized that his shirt was on backwards. She laughed at him in a hissed whisper.

Bill didn't even notice that they had fallen asleep. She lay in his arms, curled tightly against his body; a wisp of hair caught in her barely open mouth. He shook her lightly to wake up.