I started a novel awhile back, and will eventually finish it. I recently pulled it out of the drawer–so to speak–and thought I’d share some with you, the world-wide-web. Yes, I’m aware of how dangerous this can be. But, whatever.
Anywho, let me know what you think–I’m always up for feedback.
Kenya Marie Washington-Brown stares out the window of her parent’s red 1990 Plymouth Horizon as it winds its way past Hermann’s Ice Cream Shop, her favorite place in the summer. It’s autumn and the leaves have turned from green to brown, gold, and amber, and despite the lack of need for Hermann’s Ice Cream, it is her favorite time of year; the end of it. And though they are traveling quite fast, Kenya takes it all in–the last of the birds flying south, a squirrel looking for another acorn, and a leaf falling to the earth–the world is changing, passing on at forty-five miles an hour.
The town is busy today, as they pull through the central drag, past Richard’s car mechanic shop, Richard’s Breaks & Repair–not a complicated name, but honest, she thought. Their daughter and Kenya’s half-sister, Keisha, lies asleep next to her in the back seat, which is what usually happens when they go for a drive. She doesn’t understand the gravity of today’s drive, as Kenya does. She’s still a baby, she thought. Clueless. She brushes her sister’s long wavy hair away from her coffee colored face. It’s softer than Kenya’s hair, different, but just as dark. She sucks her bottom lip into her mouth to play with the scab that’s been developing over the last two days, ever since Tiffany Guerrero punched her and rubbed her face in the dirt.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“What you lookin’ at?”
“Nah, I think you lookin’ at me.”
“I’m no window. You ain’t lookin’ behind me.”
“I’m sorry, I–I like your hair band.”
“So you were lookin’ at me, but said you wasn’t. You a lying bitch.”
CRACK! Kenya’s head bounces of the wall of lockers as she recoils from Tiffany’s shove, and she bolts down the hallway nursing the back of her head. The other students still stunned by what had just happened, barely move out of her way and present one obstacle after another as she makes her way to the double door exit at the end of the long hall. Tiffany’s screams can be heard as she gives chase.
Running has always come easy to Kenya, like breathing. With a glance over her shoulder she can see that she is much faster than Tiffany, and will reach the doors with plenty of time to spare. She’ll be able to make a run for the other side of the building and reach the administration offices, where the principal will be, in no time. Tiffany is trailing behind her and will soon give up the chase.
Kenya hits the door at full speed, and immediately trips over another student who was reclining with some friends on the other side, slamming into the ground in a most spectacular belly flop, knocking the wind completely out of her. Tiffany is on her in seconds, slamming her head in to the ground, making her breath in dirt. Kenya tries to push her off of herself, but is only able to turn around, giving Tiffany access to the front of her head. She takes three punches to the face before a teacher can pull Tiffany off.
“You don’t look at me, you bitch.”
Kenya can’t hear the teacher asking her if she’s okay. She can only hear Tiffany.
“You nothin’. Nothin’!”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Part of the scab breaks off in her mouth, and she can taste the blood again. They’re almost there. Soon they will be on the bridge, and then it’s only a few more miles to the Air Force base. She doesn’t know if she should wake Keisha up, or allow her to sleep for a few minutes. She looks to her mother, Toni, sitting in the front passenger seat, dressed in her fatigues, with her hand in Richards. They’re trying not to look at one another. Kenya looks back out the window, as Toni catches her glance in the rearview.
“How are you doing Kenya, baby?”
“You want to talk about it?”
“It’s only going to be four months. I’ll be back sooner than you can spit.”
Kenya can see the base now. It won’t be long.
“Rich is gonna make you pancakes when you get home, ain’t that right?”
Richard smiles in the rearview. “Yes, ma’am it is. And bacon.”
“Oh, good. Kenya likes bacon.”
“I like bacon.”
“Yes we are, baby.”
Toni is out of the car as soon as it’s parked, and right at Kenya’s side a moment later. They don’t say goodbye. Toni holds her, and gives her a long, warm hug. “Sooner than you can spit.”
Keisha doesn’t wake up when Toni kisses her on the forehead.
“I’ll miss you, honey.”
“Oh, don’t you start now, too.” Toni wipes a tear from her husband’s cheek. “I almost made it without crying.”
“I love you, honey. Be safe.”
“I love you too.” Toni turns to Kenya, “And you.”
The wind blows, and something, unseen, rushes over all of them. They can all feel it, a quiet wave of energy and emotion. Lightheadedness, and they can almost see the wave of energy as it passes by them and into the woods.
They shake it off, kiss each other goodbye.
“Sooner than you can spit.”
Kenya gets in the front passenger seat as Richard rounds the car back towards the driver’s side. She rolls her window down and spits her bloody scab onto the side of the road as they drive off.
“Well, did you want eggs, or anything else with the pancakes and bacon?”
“Eggs is good.”
“Pancakes!” Keisha stretches her arms out above her head the way her father does every morning when he wakes up.’
“Eggs and bacon too, honey.”
They pull through the central drag again, but this time there’s something different. A crowd of people has gathered around the grocery store, and another around a car accident in the middle of the town’s main intersection.
“Well, looks like I’m gonna have some business today, too bad I’m not working.” He doesn’t bother to hide the smile as he turns back to look at his youngest daughter. “Glad you could join us.” She smiles back at him.
Kenya doesn’t see the other car slam into the side of the Plymouth, and she doesn’t see the next car slam into the side of the Plymouth, or the car that slams into them, or the one after. No, Kenya sees the town spin and their car lift up into the air, driver’s side down, so that she’s looking out the window, up towards the cloudy sky, grey in color. But, Kenya hears all of it–the crashing and scraping metal, the sound of pavement being uplifted, and slammed into, glass shattering, and people breaking–she’s hears just one scream, Keisha’s. She feels the blood dripping down her face, and she looks to Richard who is unconscious next to her. She is speechless. She looks out the back window, passed her terrified sister, and watches a man fly off of his motorcycle, and over two cars, to land t-boned on the back of the Plymouth. She hears his spine break. He doesn’t scream either.
“Are you okay, honey?” Keisha won’t stop crying. “Keisha? Keisha.” Hanging from her seatbelt, Kenya turns around to see her sister, and reaches back for the crying four year-old. She looks fine. She takes her by the shoulders and gets her attention. “Keisha. Are. You. Hurt?” She shakes her head, no. And Kenya turns her attention to Richard. She shakes him. He wakes up. Looks around.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Keisha’s fine too.”
“You’re bleeding. Let me see your head.” Kenya leans in to her stepfather, which isn’t hard, as she’s practically hanging in his lap anyway. He examines her face, and then the top of her head, where he finds the cut–not bad, but bleeding a lot. “Okay.” He releases her head, and unbuckles his seatbelt. “We got to get out of here.” He reaches into the glove compartment and grabs a handkerchief, folds it, and puts it in his pocket.
“You first, Kenya.” Kenya unbuckles her seatbelt and immediately falls into Richard’s lap.
“Come on.” He takes her hand and helps her up, then grabs her legs by the calves. Kenya grabs the window frame on the passenger side door and lifts herself out of the car as Richard pushes up on her legs, and then feet.
Kenya stands up on the side of the car, and looks out over the accident. No less than ten cars, all of them in different states of distress. Only one other person stirs, an old man steps out of his Chevy Cavalier, stunned.
The car wobbles, and she falls, slamming her back onto the car door and bouncing off, cracking her head against the fender of another mangled car, before slamming down onto the pavement right next to the broken motorcyclist–bloody, and barely breathing.
She takes a deep breath.
“I’m fine. Who’s next?”
“Grab your sister.”
She isn’t fine. She’s dizzy, and the world is getting darker. But she stands up anyway, and reaches for her sister’s tiny hands as she is lifted up out of the Plymouth.
Holding her sister, she sits down on the hood of the neighboring car and waits for Richard. He’s out a moment later. He hands her the handkerchief. “For your head.”
Richard checks the driver of the closest car. They’re unconscious, and so are their passengers.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I’m just a little dizzy.”
“I’ll get you to the hospital.”
“Well, I’m dizzy too. So, I’m going to the hospital, and you’re coming with me. Can’t very well make pancakes if I’m dizzy.” Richard smiles, and then notices the motorcyclist. “Shit.” He’s down on all fours by the unconscious biker in an instant, checking his pulse. He’s alive. “Kenya, give me your cell.”
“I don’t have it.”
“I don’t have it. It’s at home.”
“Why did you leave it at home?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. Where’s yours?”
“At home.” He sighs. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone either.” He looks around for something. Kenya can’t tell. Then Richard takes off his jacket and places it under the motorcyclist’s head. “Can you stay with him?”
Kenya nods. And Richard sets out towards the crowd of people in front of the grocery store. “No!” And Keisha is crying again.
“I’ll be right back, honey.”
“It’ll be just a minute.”
“Want me to go?”
“No, you stay here with your sister.”
“No!” But he’s gone. Kenya holds Keisha tight to her chest as the little girl expends a seemingly endless supply of scream. She looks around herself. The bloodied motorcyclist is still breathing, and the underside of the Plymouth is just as mangled as the rest of it. A car door opens, she can’t see where.
A man walks by them. A piece of a glass–windshield–is sticking out of his face. He stops and looks Kenya in the eyes, but doesn’t see her. It’s as if he’s looking through her. His eyelids fall, and he almost closes his eyes, but then jerks them open as it startled awake. He moves on past them. Kenya notices that Keisha has stopped crying, distracted by something behind her. She turns around.
A pickup, maybe five cars back, has caught on fire, and someone inside is screaming. She looks left. She looks right. There is no one around, or conscious enough to help the screaming person. She looks back towards the grocery store, but Richard is nowhere in sight. She throws Keisha on her back, “hold on,” and makes her way through the labyrinth of broken vehicles.
“That truck is on fire.”
“Yes it is. Now, hold on tight.”
With one hand holding her sisters, and the other holding the handkerchief, it takes Kenya longer than she thought it would to reach the burning car.
“That lady is sleeping.”
A woman, doubled over in her car, parked on the side of the road, uninjured, snores quietly. “Yes, she is.” Must have been really tired, Kenya thought, to have fallen asleep with all of this going on around her. But, then again, she too was tired, and getting dizzier by the moment. She presses down harder on the handkerchief; applying more pressure to her bleeding wound. The handkerchief is almost completely red now. She stops for a moment, and looks up to the sky. Is it getting darker? The screaming is getting louder, she continues on.
When they arrive at the burning truck, they can see that there is a woman inside, and that the interior of the truck hasn’t yet caught on fire. A siren can be heard in the distance. Could Richard have called 9-1-1 already? She turns to look back towards the grocery store, and then towards the Plymouth. No Richard.
Kenya approaches the screaming woman. “Ma’am, are you okay? Do you need help?”
The screaming woman notices Kenya, but doesn’t stop screaming.
Kenya walks up to the driver’s side door and tries to open it, but the woman begins to scream even louder. “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you stuck?”
“My leg, my leg, my leg, my leg, my leg.”
“Okay.” Kenya looks around to the back of the pickup and removes a tarp from it.
“My leg, my leg, my leg. My leg, my leg.”
“I know.” She then turns to her sister and places her on the hood of a nearby car.
Keisha looks through the windshield of the car and screams from the sight of the bloodied driver. “No!”
“Calm down. It’ll only be for a minute.” Kenya turns back to the burning truck, and immediately back to her sister as Keisha tries to get down from the hood. “Okay.” Kenya grabs her sister and places her on the ground, just to the side of the car. “You stay here. Do not move.”
Keisha nods, and waits as Kenya approaches the burning vehicle. She spreads the tarp out in her hands as she approaches it, and with a deep breath, hurls it out in front of her and over the fire. She then begins to pat down the hood of the car, but it’s too hot, and she burns her hands. She pulls away. Backing up toward her sister. “I can hear the sirens, ma’am. The fire department will get you out of there real quick.”
“My leg. My leg. My leg. MY LEG. MY LEG!”
Kenya takes a deep breath and slides down the side of the car where she left Keisha. Keisha climbs in her lap. It’s getting darker. The flame is getting higher. Kenya is falling asleep.
“Keisha touches her face. “Tired?”
The smoke has changed color, now that the tarp too is burning. The smoke is darker, and thicker, and soon everything is black.