Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Middle Creek – a Novel by Jeni Hankins, first listen



Thanks so much to you all for encouraging me as I wrote my novel this month as part of National Novel Writing Month and thank you for all of the congratulations. I have plenty of revising to do to get the book ready to sell on our tours, but I am happy to share the first chapter with you! You can read it below or listen as I read aloud to you on Soundcloud by following the link below.
Just to answer a question from the last batch of Facebook comments: I don't have a publisher and right now my plan is to the sell the novel at our shows to our fans and friends who already enjoy the songs of Jewell Ridge and stories set in Southwest Virginia. But, this troubadour life has shown me that anything can happen and that surprises are always around the corner . . . Many thanks, again, for all of the positivity! Love and Happiness to you, friends. Jeni
Middle Creek - a novel by Jeni Hankins
Chapter 1
© 2014 by Jeni Hankins, for text, recording, and photo
I didn’t think they’d sell the baby. But that’s just what they did. I tried to look after him, because I knew his fussing would wear them down to their last nerve. He couldn’t help being colicky and covered with snot most of the time. That’s just how some babies are. But I knew it was a bad sign when they never named him, named him proper, I mean. They told the midwife at Doran that they were going to wait to get a line on his character, and then they would name him. Told her they would mail in the birth certificate and do everything to a T.
They were good at turning up in strange places where no one knew them and looking fresh and normal. They’d threaten us kids, how ever many of us there were at the time, within an inch of our lives, tell us to straighten up, scrub our faces, arms, and legs, with water from the window cleaning bucket at the filling station, and park us on the front porch of the midwife’s house until the birth was over.
I was somewhere in the middle. Vicey, Curry, Donut, and Sam came before me. Paul, Bit, and the baby came after. I don’t expect you to remember all of their names. All of the older ones are gone now and I don’t reckon I’ll see them again myself. And I don’t imagine Donut’s new family is calling him Donut now, anyhow. They’ve probably all got new names and I don’t blame them or the families for that. I expect they don’t want no part of who they came from and, if that includes us younger ones, that’s just the way the wind blows.
That’s what Charlene said all the time, like when they sold the baby, and I was biting my fist to keep from crying. Charlene just turned around from the front seat of the Monte Carlo, looked me straight in the eye and said, “That’s just the way the wind blew, Chip. You know better than to be tetched about it.” Charlene is our mother, but she doesn’t have any truck with being called “Momma” or anything like that. She said it’s like giving cows or pig names. It just makes it all the harder come slaughtering time.
But I named the baby; I named him to myself. I called him George after the monkey in the story book that the lady at a filling station gave me. I have read it so many times and I’m allowed to keep it in my box. Sarge said I could keep it as long as I kept my nose clean. Sarge is our father, but we call him Sarge for the same cow and pig reason we don’t call Charlene Momma.
I don’t know why we children got born to Sarge and Charlene instead of the nice lady with the clean apron with blue and white flowers behind the counter of the filling station. I don’t know why we live in our car and, sometimes, the trailer park instead of a real house made of bricks or wood. The back seat fits three and the baby was four. I am sure that I was supposed to be next, but the men didn’t want a kid after they saw the baby.
I knew I was pushing it when I asked why two men would want a baby. Sarge said, “You’re not too clever there, Chip. Those men don’t want nothing to do with a baby. They only want to sell him upstream. We are just one link in a long chain, Chip. And you’d be wise to remember that for the future.”
That’s when I got a vision of George being put on the back of one animal after another, first a camel, then an elephant, then a zebra. He was going across a desert and then through the jungle and back to the desert again. He was held high up in the air by the great creatures of the earth until a kindly ape laid him in a basket just like baby Moses and he was discovered by the woman at the end of the chain. I suppose we were all looking for that woman at the end of the chain.
“I am talking to you,” said Charlene in an unmistakable tone. We were all hungry and I could hear the edge in Charlene’s voice. “Take this and get us a box of oatmeal, a loaf of bread, and some butter.”
I was always going into the store. Charlene said I was the most presentable because Paul and Bit were always eating dirt and sticking their fingers in their noses. They had colds more than they didn’t and Bit talked like a woman who had been smoking for sixty years. She was 7, but on account of the walking pneumonia, she sounded eighty. And Paul barely spoke at all. He’d talk to me in my ear, but he wasn’t about to go in a grocery store and chat up a bunch of adults. He had no use for adults at all and I can’t say I blamed him. We’d been pretty much let down by that lot.

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It's so nice of you to take an interest in my blog! Thank you for considering making a comment. I will try to get your comment on my blog ASAP. Thanks for your patience as I moderate it and make sure that it's not spam. Wishing you a wonderful day. Jeni