Here's a scene from my new wip. As intro: Single mom, Dani was laid off from her job in a big city, and has to move back with her teenage daughter to her hometown. In with her dad. Growing up she was ostrecized for being "weird" because she appeared to be talking to herself...actually she was talking to the ghosts she sees. Now she's having to come back.
Starting over at any age sucks, but at 40 it sucks the life out of you. I let this joyful thought play around in my brain for the six hour drive back to Bethany from Dallas. I pondered my life, before the layoff and afterward, where jobs were not to be found and even groveling for a convenience store job was unsuccessful. And as I got closer to my home town, in a car with no air conditioning and my sixteen year old daughter hanging her naked legs out the window to dry her pretty little coral toes, I felt the familiar trepidation.
Visits were always short through the years. Weekends, quick holidays. I didn’t have to do much interacting with anyone other than my father, and it was great. My dad loves me. He’s never judged, no matter what he heard. He never asked me either.
This time was coming home. To stay. My head started banging out a rhythm just thinking about it. But it was the smart thing to do. I’d exhausted everything else, and I had Riley to think about. I had to keep a roof over her head, and a small town like Bethany doesn’t get touched by declining economies and the stock market. We would be okay. I glanced over at her, eyes closed, jamming to whatever her Ipod was pumping into her head, and I prayed she would be okay. That somehow she wouldn’t be tainted by association.
“So, when do we get to Podunk?” she said, a few minutes later.
I cut my eyes her way for a second. “Wow, that’s nice, Riley. Good attitude.”
She rolled her eyes, which was something she did so often I sometimes wondered if it was a nervous tic.
“Well?” she whined, holding her cell up to the window. “I barely get a signal when we go to Pop’s. It’s like the world falls into Hell at the city limit.”
“Sorry. Make do.”
The scenery had turned from flat and drab to rolling hills of pine trees and underbrush, and I knew we were close. I knew my dad would be anxiously waiting, probably adjusting and readjusting the furniture on the wraparound porch. Probably checking out my old bedroom and the extra bedroom just one more time to make sure they were perfect. It was one in the afternoon, and he probably already knew what we were having for dinner that night and the next two.
The sign was barely visible unless you knew it was there. I knew it was there. It came closer as we topped a hill. The paint had worn off to nothing, and the words were just a darker shade of old.
Riley squinted as we approached.
“What does it say?”
“Welcome to Hell.”
That won me another eye roll and half a chuckle. On the downside of the hill, the town came into view ahead, but not before a few straggling old houses made their unfortunate presence known. They had been there since before there was actually a town, most likely, and probably still contained the same people. Folks too stubborn to move to the other end, where most of the residential areas were. And not like they had something proud to hang onto, either. I’m talking skank-bucket. And just using that description, even in my head, told me that home was sucking me in.
Riley turned in her seat as we passed an old wooden house with an iron rooster on top and three broken down trucks out front.
“Was that a toilet in their front yard?”
“Uh--yeah, I think so.”
“It said For Sale.”
I glanced at her. “You in the market?”
“Somebody’s actually going to buy a used toilet?”
“I guess somebody thinks so.”
She rubbed a hand over her eyes and slumped in the seat.
“Yeah, good luck with that.”