The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Fiction Friday 9/2/11

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This is the first installment of Fiction Friday, my way of forcing myself to write outside my comfort zone of non-fiction, by backing myself into a corner every Thursday night. 

Read chapter TWO

Chapter One

It would be unlikely to find a small town that was not governed, propelled and held captive by gossip.  Sherman, Alaska held fast to this rule and Jess had lived there long enough to know it.  So as she walked from the post office towards the general store she pulled her parka hood tight around her face and tried to ignore the words, “Did you hear…?” as she always had before.  Because most likely she had heard, didn’t care, and wished she hadn’t.

But the speaker followed persistently close behind, and Jess was forced to stop and listen or risk being the target of such gossip later when it was whispered that she was a snob.  Though she’d never figured out why disliking all of mankind was perceived as ‘snobby’ rather than simply a sign of intelligence.

 “What?” she snarled as she turned to see who insisted on ruining her day.

Margo Kingston’s face twisted in excitement. She should have known.

“Did you hear about the boy?  The boy at the boat house?”

Margo’s face lit up with glee at being the first to share the news and Jess cringed at the thought of giving joy to someone she’d spent her entire life wanting to dropkick.  But curiosity got the best of her.

“What boy?” she asked, walking past Margo.  If they were still in sixth grade she’d have shoved her on the way by.  But at twenty-four, she’d likely land herself in lockdown for the night if she laid a hand on her. After all, Margo was married to the only Trooper around.

Margo looked one way and then the other. Speaking in a hushed tone, as if she’d not already told the entire town, she said, “Not even an hour ago Carl went down to the dock to check the fish counter and found a little boy!  Just sitting on the dock, bundled up and all, but freezing nonetheless. It’s no warmer than thirty-six degrees out here this morning.”

Jess stared at Margo for a second wondering if she could stand to make her any happier by listening to her yammer one more moment.  Nope.  There was no way.  She turned and walked away.

“Where are you going?  Don’t you want the details?  Jess! Where are you going?”

But Jess had already tuned out her squealing plea as she trudged through the thin layer of snow that had fallen the night before.  She made her way into the store and stomped her heavy boots on the rug inside.

The Sherman General Store was the only store within two hundred air miles and carried everything from panty hose to boat carburetors.  It was rumored that if you couldn’t find it on the shelf it didn’t exist.  Or at least it didn’t exist in rural Alaska. And for a villager, that’s the same thing.

Jess grabbed the bottle of fuel additive she’d come for, shoved a piece of black licorice in her mouth and plopped her money on the counter.  Red Jackson, whose family had run the store for three generations, winked and tried to scoot her money back across the counter.  Jess, who knew Red was on the lookout for someone to help create the next generation of store clerks, forced the money back at him and turned to leave.  She didn’t have the patience or desire to smack Red back into his place today.  She turned her back to the counter, shoved another piece of licorice in her mouth to keep from saying something she’d regret, and went back out into the cold.

Fifteen seconds later she was hit from the left side by a force so powerful it had her reaching for her forty-five before she realized she’d left her gun on the table at home.  She hit the frozen ground and landed flat on her back in the snow, staring up at a child no bigger than her dog, Rex, and twice as dirty.

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