Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Entry #144

Dharma Remembered (Thanks Kerouac)
by Jade Leone Blackwater


The summer of ’56 my folks packed me and stuff Ma deemed critical into our woodie for the long ride south to our new home in California. Pa drove quietly with one sun-scaled hand on the wheel while the other dangled its habitual cigarette, the adjoining arm’s elbow planted firmly out the window, calluses cutting the wind.

Ma ground her teeth while engaged in her favorite pastime of merciless-stranger-speculation: “See how she’s limping? Drunk! That child she’s carrying? Gonna meet a sorry fate with the business-end of a trailer truck!” “Look at that toothless old fool. Bet he had it comin’ with an ugly face like that!”

Occasionally Ma would punctuate her hypotheses with a swift and penetrating jab of her index finger, usually into Pa’s steering arm or one of my hapless legs. With each poke I would retreat to consider my five-year-old’s-eye-view speculations of the roadside specters: “That lady looks determined. Maybe she got away from somethin’ sad. She’s marching with her baby to a new life.” “That old man looks happy. Maybe he’s a silly granpa who teases kids with crazy stories.”

Twenty miles inside California we spotted a leather-skinned man thumbing opposite traffic along the shoulder, his left hand hooked around a poorboy of red wine, his gaze empty, knowing. Pa slowed; maybe he was curious about the stranger. Ma receded into silence; we coasted past the man walking stiff as a mountain as he babbled like a river, his mouth twisting in a saintly smile.

23 comments:

Beth Harar said...

I think this is wonderful. I can see the scene perfectly in my mind and feel as if I know each character. And such an interesting ending! Very nice writing.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I could easilly visualize this scene as they traveled in their woodie.

laughingwolf said...

very much like jack would have done it :)

Merry Monteleone said...

Nicely done. I love the language and imagery... also, that people watching thing is always fascinating.

Hoodie said...

Unique and intriguing. I love love the detail.

A real stand-out.

Laurel said...

So visual. Lovely detail work and I like the optimistic POV of the child.

Beautifully written.

Karen said...

A tribute to Jack! Great!

Ranee Kaur Banerjee said...

You write really well. I particularly like the transference of the "babbling" and the "retreat into silence" at the end. Wonderful characterisation.

quin browne said...

a delight.

Catvibe said...

Really excellent writing, I could see the entire thing, and sense their characters from the descriptions. An aside, my mother does that hypothesis trick, it drives me nuts.

Precie said...

Wow. Seriously. Wow.

Aerin said...

Forget Cat's mother (no disrepect intended), I do that kind of hypothesizing. I'm a die-hard people watcher. Ma and I would get along very well.

BernardL said...

The visuals were very well done.

pjd said...

What is there to add that hasn't already been said? The descriptions are wonderful. No one talks but the mother, and the father drives and smokes his was through her chatter. I, like others, love the optimism of the child, so open to possibility.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Your story was worth reading again and the title definitely fit.

September said...

Excellent. Love how the child thought the best of everyone - always how they treat children.
Lovely, unique piece. Very nicely told.

Aniket said...

Ditto to JR and Bernard.

I love the visuals in the piece. Great description that puts across both the images and the feelings across perfectly.

Great work!

JaneyV said...

a wonderfully evocative piece - beautifully crafted. I very much enjoyed it.

Jade L Blackwater said...

@Beth Harar
Many thanks, I'm glad it painted a complete picture for you!

@JR's Thumbprints
Thanks once and twice over!

@laughingwolf
I'm pleased you agree... apart from the restrictions of word count, it was quite liberating to don Kerouac's style for this selection.

@Merry Monteleone
Many thanks. The hardest part for me was cutting out some of the more flowery and inventive words to make room for clarity (and stay under 250 words).

@Hoodie
Thank you, I'm flattered!

@Laurel
Thanks. I originally thought I might tell this story from Jack's POV while walking along the road. It became much more interesting (and opened more possibilities for interpretation) when I moved the view to the child's eyes from the back seat.

@Karen
Thanks Karen. I just read Kerouac for the first time (Dharma Bums), and when I finished it I had a vision of what I wanted to write for this contest. Kerouac's work reminds me to carefully (and separately) consider my impressions of the writing, and the writer. His rambling, poetic, stream-of-consciousness prose certainly speaks to the poet in me. This was fun to write.

@Ranee Kaur Banerjee
Thank you so much - I am pleased to know these metaphors connected for you.

@quin browne
My pleasure, and thank you!

@Catvibe
It's always good to know when a reader personally relates to something I've written - that's when I feel like I've gotten something *right*.

@Precie
Kind thanks!

@Aerin
Again, it's great to hear that the characters are recognizable and identifiable. Thank you!

@BernardL
Thanks - what I love most about Jack Kerouac's writing is his vivid, tangible, tasteable descriptions. I enjoyed the chance to don this style and play in Jack's sandbox

@pjd
Thank you - it was fun to select what is audible and observable from each character in order to clarify their perceptions while leaving room for reader to imagine the rest. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

@September
Thank you - I enjoyed embroidering this story with small sparks and symbols of the concepts that Kerouac explores in his writings among the perceptions and actions of each character in my story... that "truth" / Dharma as each individual comes to it throughout their learning process.

@Aniket
Thank you, it's good to know that you see a balance between imagery and emotion. This is what I love best about flash fiction - the need to be concise. It's a fun challenge.

@JaneyV
Many, many thanks.

To everyone who has stopped by to read my story, and to all those who responded: thank you! Your audience and input is welcome, and appreciated.

To Jason and Jaye, our hosts: thank you once again for bringing so many writers together! I am so grateful for the opportunity to read the work of others, to "meet" other writers, and to share the audience at The Clarity of Night.

Truth and Wine,

Jade

Geraldine said...

What an intriguing interpretation of this prompt/photo. I really enjoyed reading this work Jade. Good luck with the contest.

jason evans said...

The scene in the car is very vivid and shows the character very well.

High marks for technical elements.

Jaye Wells said...

This was a high scorer for me. If only the honorable mention list could have been longer ... Jade, this was an evocative piece. I really enjoyed it.

Jade Blackwater said...

@Geraldine - Thanks Geraldine, I had a lot of fun with this.

@Jason - thanks again for the opportunity to share your audience here at Clarity.

@Jaye - thanks Jaye, I was really satisfied with this piece when I was finished, and I'm glad that it works for you! Thanks again for hosting with Jason; I wish you the very best of success with your books!