Here’s a new snippet from my novel-in-progress: The Rocky Orchard
Mazie rubbed her hands along the back of her chair, then along the table top. “I guess I should deal another hand?” she asked. “I’m not really sure what to do.”
“Mazie, gin rummy is a grand old game, indeed. Nonetheless, I suggest we get off of this damn porch and give you a chance to feel the sun on your face, even if all we do is take a lap or two around the house.” Lula hooked her arm through Mazie’s and tugged her gently toward the porch door.
Lula stepped off the porch. The steep path that led to the road straight lay ahead of them. The short distance to the orchard sloped to their right. Lula bore left. She and Mazie walked, arm in arm, across the flagstones that ran along the front of the house. Passing under the canopy of towering pines, the two women paused at the edge of what Mazie’s family had always called “the lawn.” The swath of coarse, broad-leaf pasture grass that took up a good quarter-acre on one side of the house has always been referred to as “the lawn.” Her parents kept the assemblage of mostly-green, low-growing plants trimmed very short, so from a distance, it presented a vast visual field of verdant green. From a closer vantage point, the lawn looked exactly like what it was: dry, cocoa-powder-colored dirt covered sporadically by weeds, clovers and various invasive plants that had been chopped off close to the ground.
“We seem to be headed directly for the outhouse,” Mazie said. Was that your intention? To get me off the porch and into the fresh air and then explore the old outhouse?”
Lula laughed and squeezed Mazie’s arm.
Toward the far end of the lawn — quite far from the house but in the dead center of the grassy field — a small, wooden structure that could only have been an outhouse perched. “Speaking of things that completely terrified me,” Mazie said.
“Really?” Lula asked. “The outhouse?”
“Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?” Mazie said. “Every single thing about it scared me. Including – and this is my lot in life, Lula; this is my lot in life that I am this particular sort of a person – I am the sort of person who worried about the people who lived at this farm before my family bought it! Before there was a working toilet in the basement, and they would have had to actually use the outhouse for all of those outhouse-y-type things. It’s so far from the house! I worried: what if someone were really sick, or just waited a little too long, or there were little kids who were just learning to use the bathroom?! Or, what if it was the middle of the night? Although my parents told me that people used chamber pots in the middle of the night, which is just a different kind of gross and scary and gruesome. Anyway, the basement sump pump — which, by the way, I was also terrified of – well, it would go out of whack on a fairly regular basis. And when it did, we couldn’t use the toilet. We’d have to muster our Early Settler, pioneer spirit and do our toileting right out there in that outhouse.
I was scared just reaching for the door, waiting for the sound of the noisy spring that whined and complained when you pulled the door open, then snapped the door back lightning-quick, with a ferocious thud. I was immediately convinced that I was trapped, that the outhouse held me prisoner and laughed at the silly, naïve trust I’d shown by having entered. I was a goner. But just in case I was wrong, and that my brother might try to mess with me while I was in there – which he often did –I locked the rusty old hook-and-eye latch, being convinced that it would rust in place, but not before giving me a fatal case of tetanus.”
“What an imagination you had, dear. It takes my breath away.”
“I’ve hardly begun, Lula. Do you know that there is always a breeze that blows through an outhouse, blows right across your…bottom. I guess I don’t know about all outhouses, really, but there was a hefty breeze blowing right across my ass in this one! Now, how could that be? No breeze blowing across the lawn, no breeze blowing through the little outhouse room, but a good, stiff breeze blowing across my ass. I used to get in all kinds of crazy positions, looking up and down and here and there at the way the little house was built, even looking right down into the unspeakable depths where all that bodily waste fell, trying to figure out how there could be an eternal breeze. Only thing I could figure: had to be haunted. Another reason to be terrified.”
“And please notice that I’ve gotten this far without mentioning the smell. Holy cow, how could you not be scared out of your mind, as a little kid I mean, by a smell so strong and so awful that it surely must spring from something Evil, something way beyond just…shit. I rest my case.”
“Well, if that’s your way of saying that you’d rather not explore the outhouse…” Lula said. “I thought it might be an interesting diversion.”
“There’s that sense of humor of yours, Lula. Such a card,” Mazie said.