Like all wannabe writers, I have a work in progress. I started my novel during National Novel Writing Month (November) and haven’t worked on it since. I haven’t shared it with anyone. Because I’m a chicken.
As I’ve said before, I’m tired of being timid. So, here’s an excerpt. It’s the first draft with no edits. Again, I’m throwing caution to the wind. Concrit is always welcome. Thanks.
Bradley walked home from school slowly. He’d had a bad day. A boy on the playground had pushed him in the mud and called him white trash. When Bradley got up and started to walk away, the boy continued to taunt him. Wimp. Mama’s boy. Other words that Bradley was forbidden to say. It wasn’t until the boy called his mama the b-word that he reacted.
He ran at the boy and pushed him to the ground. He was on top of him, fist reared back, when he remembered his promise to his mother. He sat there, shaking uncontrollably, willing himself not to hit the boy. The frustration made him cry. He got off the boy and walked away to laughter and shouts of “crybaby.”
He was covered in mud and the tears left streaks down his dirty face. He didn’t want to ride the bus, afraid of what the other kids would say. Afraid of what he’d do to them when they said it. He started the two mile walk home at a slow pace. He was more afraid of his mother and her concern. He didn’t want her to feel responsible.
When he finally turned onto his street, he saw a strange car parked in his driveway. A shiny, expensive car. He got the pain in his stomach again. He walked faster. Something was wrong with his mother. He had to get to her. He ran.
He burst in the door. “Mama! Are you here?” He ran to the living room, expecting to see her on the couch. A man he’d never seen before was there instead, looking through some papers. “Where’s my mama?”
The man looked up and smiled kindly. “Bradley, I’m your Uncle Walter, your father’s brother.” He put the papers down on the coffee table. “Sit down, son.”
Bradley stayed in the doorway. “Where’s my mama?”
Uncle Walter took a deep breath. “Your mother had to go to the hospital, Bradley. She had a severe asthma attack.”
Bradley’s eyes darted to the cabinet where the inhaler was kept. He hadn’t been here to get it for her. “Can I go see her?”
Uncle Walter shook his head. “I’m afraid not, son.” He stood up and put his hand on Bradley’s shoulder. “Bradley, your mother went to heaven this morning.”
Bradley shook off Uncle Walter’s hand. “I want to see my mama.” Uncle Walter knelt in front of Bradley.
“I’m so sorry, Bradley. The doctors tried everything they could. Your mother’s lungs weren’t strong enough.”
Bradley turned away from his uncle. “Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t anyone come and get me?”
“It happened suddenly, Bradley. I thought it would be better to wait until you got home.”
“Why are you here? I don’t know you.”
“You were just a baby the last time I saw you. I’m here because your mama called me. She’s been real sick for a long time. She wanted me to take care of you if anything happened. I thought she’d talked to you about that.” Uncle Walter stood up and turned Bradley toward him. “You’re going to come live with me, Bradley.”
Bradley ran from the room. He went to his mother’s room. The bed was made neatly and everything was in its proper place, just where she always left it. He pictured his mother tidying up her room this morning, just like every other morning. And now she was gone.
He ripped the sheets off the bed. He swept her neatly aligned perfume bottles off the dresser and knocked over the mirror. The sound of breaking glass was a relief. He tore pictures off the walls, the clothes from her closet. He pushed over the dressmaker’s dummy in the corner, sending the fake pearl necklaces draped over it skidding across the hardwood floors. He slumped against the wall by the nightstand. A picture of him and his mother lay in the floor beside him. Their smiling faces stared up at him. He picked it up and stared at it, tears running freely down his cheeks. He heard footsteps. He would be in trouble, but he didn’t care. He saw Uncle Walter’s shiny black shoes on the floor beside him. He waited for the yelling or disappointed words. They didn’t come.
Uncle Walter sat down beside him. “That’s a good picture of you and your mother. She was a beautiful woman and you…so much like your father.” He reached out and stroked the picture of Bradley’s face with his finger.
“I know you’re angry, Bradley. You’re sad and probably feel helpless, too. But this…” he gestured toward the destruction, “is unacceptable. You are going to have to learn to control yourself. To take out your frustration in a different, less violent, way. Your father never learned that, God bless him, and he left this world way too soon because of it. I don’t want that for you. Do you understand?”
Bradley nodded. “Mama told me that, too.” He wiped the tears off his face.
Uncle Walter took out his handkerchief and handed it to Bradley.
“No, I’ll get it dirty.”
“That’s okay. Wipe your face.”
Bradley rubbed his face with the stiff, bright white linen handkerchief. He folded it in his lap, with the monogram showing. He rubbed his thumb absently over the raised stitches.
Uncle Walter stood up and held out his hand to help Bradley up. “You need to get cleaned up, son. You’re covered in mud.”
Bradley nodded. He started to walk to the bathroom, but the sight of his mother’s ransacked room pulled him up short. He’d destroyed his mother’s things, the things she had taken meticulous care of, the only reminders he had of her. He covered his face with his hands and sobbed. Uncle Walter pulled him in close and Bradley wrapped his arms around his uncle’s waist and squeezed as hard as he could.
Uncle Walter sat down on the edge of the bed and hugged Bradley, kissing him on the head. “It’s okay, Bradley. I’m here. I’ll help you. We’ll get through this.” Uncle and nephew cried.
One mourning his mother, the other mourning his brother and the loss of innocence of his brother’s child.