pen rainbow

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday: The Reading Corner—My Novel

When I run out of things to post on Mondays, I'll post my Vegas story.  Family names are the same, but the rest is pure fiction...Think of it as Downton Vegas

Introducing Troi, Brooke, Heidi, Mason & Harriet 




The Meadows

Chapter 1 — Princeton Street 

A gust of hot wind whipped across the Bermuda grass as two overheated raccoons paced from one side of their chicken wire enclosure to the other.  In a corner of their cage, they stood up on their hind legs and watched the two girls playing in the patchy front yard of Betty’s weathered white clapboard house.  The raccoons chattered loudly and paced back and forth in their large enclosure.  Betty had warned the grandchildren to stay away from the unpredictable raccoons, but 6-year old Troi sensed that the caged animals were in desperate need of cool water.

“Wait a minute,” she said to her 4-year old sister, Brooke, who was happily plunging a sharp stick into the soft dirt.  “I’ll be right back.”  

She glanced at the big picture window in the front of the house and checked to see if her mother and grandmother were in the living room.  The coast was clear.  The only adult in the room was her great-grandmother, Harriet, who stared motionless at the TV from her favorite green chair next to the fireplace.  

Troi trotted over to the garden hose, picked it up, and skipped toward the raccoons’ hutch.  As she neared the cage, they instinctively backed away and hissed.  She quickly moved around to the back of the hutch and slid the metal cuff of the hose through the chicken wire and over the rim of a large coffee can.  She anchored the hose against the cage, then turned and ran toward the faucet perched on the shaded side of the house.  She turned the water on full strength and leaned around the corner of the house to watch as the water filled the can and began to overflow.  She turned off the water, ran across the yard to the cage, and pulled the hose through the chicken wire onto the sandy ground.  The thirsty raccoons scampered to the water can and submerged themselves up to their elbows in the refreshing cool water.  

Troi returned to the grassy patch where her sister was busily digging a trench to make a miniature river.  As a dust devil erupted in another part of the yard, she dropped to her knees and watched as the relieved raccoons soaked their heavy fur and wiped their faces with their paws.                

Her great-grandmother, Harriet, was spending the day as usual in her favorite La-Z-Boy, babysitting and watching her soaps.  She had raised ten children, and keeping an eye on kids came naturally to her.  From her vantage point in the worn recliner, she could see the TV, the playpen next to the TV, most of the yard, and the driveway.  She had a good view of any people or vehicles approaching the house.  

She watched the milkman from Anderson Dairy drive up on Monday and Thursday mornings to leave whole milk, cottage cheese, and eggs in the milk box on the front porch.  She watched her son-in-law, Walt, lurch out of his faded light blue Ford pickup every night and shuffle up to the house, tired and covered with sweat and sawdust.  Every afternoon, she watched her daughter's best friend, Hazel, toddle across the street from her tidy turquoise cinderblock house to visit with Betty and Deanna while the babies napped.  She watched over Dee’s four young children and Betty’s two teenagers, from the cacophony of jewel-tone metal cups of juice and Tupperware bowls of Cheerios each morning until they were all curled up under cotton chenille bedspreads every night.  Harriet was their protector.  She could stand up to Walt.

Deanna’s youngest child, Heidi, a blond, curly-haired, 13-month oldspent most of her time in a playpen next to the television.  She observed through the wooden slats while her sandy-haired, 3-year old brother, Mason, pushed a shiny orange Matchbox car past the slats just out of her reach. She pushed her arm between the bars of the playpen in the vain hope that her brother might share one of his cars.  Betty and Deanna were drinking coffee in the kitchen, quietly discussing the latest letter from Deanna’s husband, Johnny.  Walt wouldn’t be home until six o'clock, so the women and children were relaxed and at ease. The efficient swamp cooler rattled and sucked cool air into the house from the blistering heat off of the roof.  

The house was located at the end of a long concrete sidewalk leading from the gravel edge of Princeton Street through the middle of the yard up to the front steps of the cement porch.  Strips of sun-parched white paint were beginning to peel from underneath the frame of the picture window, exposing the dehydrated gray wood underneath.  

The neighborhood around Princeton Street was built five years after President Coolidge signed the bill authorizing the massive Boulder Canyon Project—a $165 million engineering marvel that would bring thousands of reliable jobs to the Vegas valley.  During its construction, the population of Las Vegas grew steadily as displaced families from the Dust Bowl traded their drought-stricken farms for squatter's camps and brutal conditions in Black Canyon.  With steady paychecks and exhausting long days in the canyon came gambling and entertainment for the largely male workforce, which fueled local businesses in Las Vegas.  Word spread quickly throughout the country that jobs were plentiful in the desert.

To be continued...click HERE