To refresh your memory, I’m at the start of a new book and can’t decide which idea to follow,
So I’m doing a recon.
The idea is to load a few chapters of the one I’ve started here and see what sort of reaction it gets. Loaded the first chapter last week. This is the second. If the piece seems to appeal, I’ll stay with it. If not, I’ll start on the other.
The working title for this one is “More To Come.” It’s a reminiscence of a sort, not exactly fiction, but based on remembrances and conversations with people who were there and notes and stuff.
The other, as yet without a working title, will be pure unadulterated fiction. It will probably have to do with what happens when the meek inherit the earth, as it is said they will do — or be another Kentucky based story using the King of the Craw as a pivotal character.
If you’re so inclined and have the time, your reactions would be appreciated.
Honest, unvarnished, opinion is needed.
More To Come
My mother was afraid of thunderstorms at night.
We lived a long block away from the newspaper where my father worked as a young reporter then. The quickest way there was through an alley that ran behind the two Five-And-Dimes and the Grand Theatre.
Our apartment was on the second floor of a big brick house on the corner across from the Old Capitol grounds. From our front windows we could look out on the almost constant activity there. In early times, it had been the town square. People were always there — young mothers wheeling baby carriages, small children running and playing, older men sitting quietly on benches under the trees reading their papers or talking.
In the summer it was shady and cool and we played tag in among the trees and over the rises, and in the fall, when the oaks and the maples took on their colors and dropped their leaves we ran laughing and kicking through the mounds of red and orange the groundsmen had raked up.
The square was on the northern edge of the downtown business district, bounded on three sides by residential streets such as the one we lived on, and in front by Broadway, the main street of town. Railroad tracks ran down the center and all traffic stopped, pedestrian as well as automotive, to the let the long trains pass. Oddly, I don’t remember ever being wakened by the sound of a train while we lived there, but I was only four.
Fort Hill was to the rear. Rebel cannon had been entrenched there when John Hunt Morgan’s raiders briefly occupied the town before the battle at Perryville during the Civl War, and the Kentucky River, the state’s major waterway, was almost in sight down at the end of Broadway.
The Old Capital itself was majestic. Made from Kentucky River marble and fashioned after an ancient Greek temple, it sat on a slight rise in the center of this square. The only Kentucky Governor ever killed in office was shot on the sidewalk leading up to it — William Goebel — almost caused an uprising. Politics is passionate business in the Commonwealth. A brass plate marks the place where he fell. Later, after we had moved to another part of town and I had grown old enough to be allowed out after dinner to play, we’d chase each other among the trees near the marker and tell stories of old Ruby’s ghost walking these grounds while the whole town was asleep.
So there we were, my mother and I, in that second floor apartment, she just barely into her twenties, enormously proud when his byline appeared in the morning paper, but apprehensive at being left alone with only me at night while my father did the work that newspapermen do.
She managed fine — except for thunderstorms at night.
When the big black furies of spring came roaring down the valley, whipping the trees across the street into a frenzy and thunder cracked like cannons and lightning stabbed the sky, she would grab me, no matter the hour, throw her coat around us both and run with me in her arms through the wind and the rain up the alley to the Journal and the safety of my father.
I do not know what they must have thought of us, charging bedraggled and breathless into the newsroom. The Journal was a morning newspaper. The editor and various reporters, unless out on assignment, had to be there, working on their stories for the next morning’s paper. What did they think when we came busting through the door? Though she would have been embarrassed, I think they would have been amused, and indulgent, and protective. She was so young and pretty they would have had no other option. And they were Kentuckians. Kentuckians are honor bound to be comforting and courteous to ladies in distress.
I do know that my father would take me, frightened by my mother’s fear and the dash through the storm, and stand me on the work table in front of the big window that looked out on the street and he would stand behind me with his arms around me and we would both watch the storm. He’d tell me how to count the time from the flash of the lightening to the sound of the thunder and to watch how the wind danced with the trees.
He’d tell me what a grand show Mother Nature had arranged just for us, that all that thunder and all that rain — and the wind, and the lightening — it was nature’s magic — it was marvelous– not something to be afraid of, it was something to wonder at and enjoy.
Afterwards, when the storm had passed, he would walk us home and see us safely settled.
My mother never fully lost her fear of the storms, but after a while the fear shrank to mere uneasiness and after that season, we did not run through the alley anymore.
I, though, ever since, have loved the beauty of thunderstorms at night.
The street where we lived then isn’t there anymore. It disappeared under the bulldozers of urban renewal. But I see it still.
The town I grew up in isn’t there anymore, either. Oh there is a town there. A fine town. Just not the one I grew up in.
I still see that one, though, superimposing my memories of it over the look and the feel of the town as it is now. It’s still there, but in the background, Brigadoon like.
I bring the matter up now, here at the beginning, because I think home places, the places where we are born and grow up, mold and shape us. They set our sense of self, our manners, the ease and confidence we hold, the way we talk, the way we think. The look and the feel of them comfort us, reassure us.
And the kids we grew up with, and the adults whose values and actions defined the town as we were growing up — these thing have a fundamental influence on who we are and what we become.
So there I was in this little town that I liked a lot and that I felt liked me.
Then we left.
(more to come)