Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On a Hilltop

He stretched his legs in the grass as the sun leaned behind them. Below, the valleys twisted with mine-stained creeks. The water sparkles faded into the purple distance.

"My grandfather used to gather the household trash and burn it in an outside fireplace," he said. "Isn't that weird? I used to find cans in the ashes."

Her arms were stretched over her head. She shrugged by lifting her shoulders.

"When he was done, he spread the cinders in the vegetable garden. They were two mounds with this fence around them. The soil was gritty. It stained your hands black when you worked in it."

"My grandfather made fox urine," she said.

He raised his eyebrows. "Excuse me?"

"No, it's true."

"I'm almost afraid to ask."

"He trapped foxes and kept them in cages. He fed them nasty stuff. Road kill sometimes. He caught the urine in pans below the cages. After he bottled it, he sold it to trappers and hunters to mask their scent. It smelled horrible."

He sat up and crossed his legs. "Wow," he said. "I bet."

In the view over his knees, little rooftops lined the mountainside.

"Can you see your grandparents house from here?"

He squinted. "I'm not sure. I don't think so."

"Oh. Just wondering."

He caught the green of her eyes as she stared at the sky. It matched the sun-yellowed clover where she laid.

"You know, I used to sleep over there sometimes," he said. "At my grandparents' house, that is."

"How was it?"

"Well, they put me on the floor in the front bedroom. I could hear the Lawrence Welk show down the stairwell to the living room."

"At least you had something to put you to sleep."

"Yeah, tell me about it," he said. "There were double beds in there. I think my grandfather slept in one when I wasn't staying over. I slept along the wall under the front windows."

He remembered the orange glow of the streetlights cutting around the blinds.

"But the worst part was the attic door," he said.

She looked over at him.

"Yeah, the door to the attic was in that room. A big old wooden door at the top of some stairs. It used to scare the crap out of me."

She propped up on an elbow.

"I used to turn away and squeeze my eyes shut. I didn't want to see it, you know? I kept imagining it swinging open with its rusty hinges. I imagined something quiet and horrible slipping down from the attic."


"It was. Especially when I rolled over in my sleep," he said. "If something startled me, I'd open my eyes, and wham, there it was. That black door way up high near the ceiling."

She frowned. "I wish I could have been there to protect you," she said.

He smiled and looked down at his hands for a few moments. Then, he shook off his thoughts. "Hey, do want another soda or something?"


SzélsőFa said...

I enjoyed this. It sent me right into a world different and not-so-different of mine and that was just what I needed now. Thanks.

strugglingwriter said...

I think this was my favorite bit of fiction of yours I have read. I like the feel/atmosphere of the story and I can picture that old attic door.

Church Lady said...

Really nice, Jason. You're great with authentic dialogue.

The Anti-Wife said...

Interesting. What happens next? Why are they on the hill?

Kaycie said...

You've got me wondering what comes next. You hooked me, Jason.

Ello said...

Ooooooh, is this the scary story? Cause fox urine is quite frightening to me. I'm ready, shuddering in anticipation of what's next...

Shesawriter said...


You say so much with the smallest amount of words. Each one has just the right impact to relay your vision. The dialogue in this is on spot and very natural. You've got a great ear for it.

Anonymous said...

To those folks wanting more of this story: oooh boy, I'm gonna get a complex. ;) These "vignettes" are intended to be interesting slice-of-life pieces. I try to capture a complex human interaction or emotion. Sorry, but they're not meant to continue. Don't hurt me!! I'll be starting a new serial soon. I promise.

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, I'm happy that you got something from this piece and the connection between the characters. :)

Strugglingwriter, thanks for letting me know! I'm always on the lookout for what people like seeing from me. (The old attic door was real, BTW.)

Church Lady, thanks! It's something we writers don't talk about so much, but I think we really need to be sensitive about people and how they think/feel. That's the only way to create the illusion of life from mere words.

Anti-Wife, see my note above. The rest is up to your imagination. As for why they're up there, I imagined the guy bringing his new girlfriend back to his hometown to show her around.

Kaycie, the pressure is on. I hope my upcoming serial story intrigues you as much!

Ello, wait for "The Stairs." I'll start it soon. I need more photographs for it. That's on the agenda this weekend.

Shesawriter, you've been with me for a long time and have seen the process of me forming this voice. I'm grateful for all the help along the way. I do like where I am as writer. Now I just have to get the right kind of story on paper!

the individual voice said...

Loved this atmospheric vignette with the potent fox pee smell. Question: when you or I post fiction on our blog, does that mean we can't then send it off to a literary journal to be published? Is blogging publishing?

Verilion said...

I really liked your vignette, and loved the last line. It's just so typical to have that wonderfully intimate moment which is then superseded by the mundane.

ybonesy said...

This flowed well and pulled me right in. Dialog was authentic. I'm glad you clarified what a "vignette" was. I like it. I'm curious: does it help you with any particular thing you're working on, or are you putting it out there more for our pleasure and escape. If the latter, it's a wonderfully original type of blog post.

Anonymous said...

Individual Voice, yes, posting on a blog constitutes publishing. However, here's one way you can deal with it. If you want to submit something, take it down for a while, and it will clear out of the search engines, put it through another round of revisions in the meantime, then submit. The earlier draft, now removed, shouldn't present a problem.

Verilion, that's a perfect way to put it. A wonderful moment preceded by the mundane.

Ybonesy, I find novel-length fiction very fatiguing. It can drain the excitement out of writing for me, because it takes so long and doesn't give you any feedback along the way. I use The Clarity of Night as a creative outlet for all those little ideas and emotions that hit me day to day. All these different pieces and styles keep my enthusiasm way up.

Vesper said...

I liked this vignette very much, Jason. You say so much with a few words - it's always a pleasure reading you.

angel said...

cool, a moment in time...