Have you ever sat down at a blank computer screen and not only was the screen blank but so was your mind? We’ve all been there and asked ourselves the question: how shall I begin my story?
When thinking about this common scenario, I can recall one of my first writing instructors and a very worthwhile exercise he gave us on how to begin a story. He very quietly ushered the entire class outside and had us stare into our surroundings for at least 15 minutes, instructing us to absorb every sound and sight within our viewing distance. After the time was over, those of us who weren’t sleeping on the job, could easily recite within our mind every detail we absorbed during the exercise. What we did not know was that the real exercise was not to memorize all the details but to pick out the one detail that reminded us of something in our past.
Then our professor told us to scan the view again with an entirely new perspective. Things began to pop out at us as if they were never there before. For myself, I noticed a small trailer court in the parameter and immediately thoughts of my own childhood experience surfaced.
My sister and I had the dreary task of walking to school daily so we used a shortcut via a small trailer court. In the court there was a trailer that housed two
mammoth bull dogs who upon the sight of us flung their bodes against the window panes as we scurried through the park. My sister always taunted them and
laughed as she pulled my mummified body down the pathway toward the exit. I
always secretly wished a tornado would come out of nowhere and swiftly destroy the gruesome park and all its inhabitants, especially the bulldogs. Thus this little memory conjured up the story below. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Don't Run From the Bulldogs
Annie’s silver white hair glistened as the morning sun streamed through her small trailer window. Struggling to lift the moisture warped window, she wrinkled her nose as the smell of rotting wood filled her nostrils.
The bulldozers had finally arrived, this time to complete their task. Annie puckered her lips and shook her head from side to side. “Darn ol’ twisters,” she grumbled. “I tol ol’ George we shouldn’ta moved ta this here tornada alley, but then he never did much listen ta me.”
Annie was startled by the rapping on the door and opened it to peer into the face of a young construction worker.
“Mrs. Morgan, I wonder if I could trouble you for a glass of water? It must be a hundred degrees out here today.”
Annie nodded; a smile revealing her stained yellow teeth. “Come on in, sonny and sit down a spell.”
His shirt drenched in sweat, the bearded construction worker sat down on the
faded green sofa and slowly removed his hard-hat.
He wiped his brow with the back of one hand, reaching for the glass of water with the other. “Sure do appreciate
this, ma’am. Looks like that old orange trailer next door took the worst of the
storm. It’s barely holding together.”
“Aw, that ol’ thing’s been fallin apart since George an me come ta this here park some twenty years ago.”
Annie glanced out the window at the peeling burnt orange trailer sitting alongside hers and the memories came flooding back as she told her story.
“How does ya like it, Annie?” Mr. Johnson he done hollered over ta me.
“Looks like a big ol pumpkin,” I says to him.
“But Mr. Johnson didn’t pay me no mind. He was so pleased with hisself, he went out and bought two ugly bulldogs ta sit in the winda. Named ’em Bud & Wiser, he did. I figure that’s cause he spent all his spare time drinkin beer with my ol’ George.
“Mr. Johnson, he trained ’em right though. Worked with ’em everyday ’bout half past nine in the mornin. He’d bring ’em outside an they’d jus sit right quiet, skin hangen down from their mouths, but even so they’s lookin like they’s could bite your head right off.”
“They is pure bred, Anne,” Mr. Johnson bragged.
“Yup, maybe so,” I says, “but still the ugliest darn things I ever did see.”
The construction worker’s eyes narrowed with curiosity and he leaned back on the sofa as if waiting for Annie to continue her story.
Annie joined the construction worker on the sofa, her eyes lighting with a smile.
“Yup, I’ll never forget thems two little girls who come walkin across the trailer park every mornin on their way ta school. Bud & Wiser they’d always be in the winda of Mr. Johnson’s trailer jus itchin ta get out and chew thems little girls ta pieces. The older girl she’d go right up and stick out her tongue or throw a stone at the winda. Then she’d giggle and skip away. She jus loved ta tease thems ol’ dogs.
“One mornin, Mr. Johnson he brung ol’ Bud & Wiser out early for trainin, then set ’em right down by the winda and went back inside. When thems little girls come walkin through the park, they got a big ol’ surprise.
“I run ta the winda when I heard ’em screamin but wasn’t nothin I could do. Thems little girls run like fire was all over ’em, and thems ol’ dogs, well theys took out right after ’em, barkin an snarlin, like they’s on a hunt. Chased thems little girls near close ta the gate, near had their jaws on ’em too.
“By this time, the little one, she was sobbin real hard, but the older one she was jus yankin on her arm like theys was in a tug-o-war. Jus when things was gettin pretty
fearsome, Mr. Johnson, he come outside and clapped his big ol’ hands, ’bout two times I’d guess. Thems ol’ dogs stopped up short, turned and run back home.
“For years Mr. Johnson swore thems ol’ dogs would’da jus set right still if thems little girls hadn’t run like theys did. But I think Mr. Johnson was fixin
to teach thems little girls a lesson, because theys never come through here again.”
The young construction worker grinned and stood up. “Life seems to turn around on us just when we least expect it, ma’am,” he said, walking towards the door. “Guess we just need to face it head on sometimes instead of letting it get us down.”
Annie nodded in silence, leaning down to pick up her old gray cat purring at her feet.
The young man stroked his beard. “Looks like your cat had a run in with those bulldogs. She’s missing the end of her tail.
Annie’s eyes misted as she ran her fingers down the back of the cat and onto its stubby tail.
“No, sonny,” she answered, shaking her head. “My ol’ George come home so drunk one night, he slammed her tail in the door. Musta bled for days after I cut off the pieces that was hangin.
Thought for sure she’d die on me but she jus didn’t give up.”
“George is your husband?” replied the construction worker.
Annie stood up and gave a quick nod of her head.
“Yup, that’s right, sonny, but ol’ George didn’t do as good as kitty. I was sure he woulda stopped drinkin when we moved here, but nothin seemed ta do any good. Been ten years ago since he
drunk hisself ta death.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the young man said, groping for words as he replaced his hard hat. “I–I guess it’s time for me to finish my work.”
Annie watched the young man leave the trailer and climb back into his bulldozer. She rubbed her hand across the paper thin leather of the old brown rocker and closed her eyes. Yup. She could almost see ol’ George sittin there and smokin his pipe.
“Guess this ol’ place ain’t worth much ta anybody,” she muttered, covering her ears to block out the noise of the bulldozer as it neared the side of the trailer.
Soon the young construction worked appeared again at the door. “Mrs. Morgan, I’m sorry ma’am, but yours is the last to go. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave now.”
Annie nodded. “Let me gather me things and I’ll be right along.”
She glanced around the decaying trailer, with its one small room and bath.
“Guess it was fittin that ol’ tornada ripped down half the park seein as it was condemned already.” Her tear-filled eyes circled the room. “Suppose my Cassie’s waitin down by the gate. Poor
thing,” Annie whispered, choking back a sob. “She’s jus like her daddy. Darn ol’ bottle’s got a hold on her too. Might catch up ta her someday jus when she ain’t expectin it.”
Annie reached for her old tattered sweater hanging on the doorknob and gently touching it to her cheek, she placed it across the sofa-bed. She blew out a long sigh and placed her wrist through the
remaining strap on her dingy brown purse.
She lifted the old gray cat into her arms and carefully stepped out onto the cracked cement porch and down to the path below. As she walked towards the
gate, she heard the roar of the bulldozer and the cracking of the wood. She kept her head held high and looked straight ahead.
“Don’t worry, kitty. Me and you ain’t done livin yet.”
I hope you’ve had a little fun reading this old story.
Happy Writing and do something nice for yourself this next week.