Friday Excerpt – The Valley of Shadow

Today, I was looking through some of my old story starts to see if I wanted to finish them. This one started as a project for one of my English Lit classes. I had just gone through an English Lit class about Southern writers, including Faulkner. Let me make my preferences clear. I don’t read Faulkner unless I must. Anyway, this was the beginning of that project.


     She stood on the porch. The porch’s roof, propped up by slanted boards, shaded her as she peered into the horizon.  The sun, a peach, barely peeked out from its hiding place of the night.  She peered toward it on a porch where the brown paint curled down the 2×4’s, the plain pine boards blackened from the sun and the occasional rain. The girl, for she was only a girl, wore a dirty gray-white dress that fluttered slightly as the breeze touched her skirt.  Her arms, legs, and feet were bare—sunbrowned and dusty.

She turned slightly to the southeast, watching a dust cloud billowing from the dirt road. In her estimation, the visitors would be at their homestead in an hour. Not often did they get visitors. The last ones had buried her mother three months ago.  She brushed a brown, dust-covered curl from her face. One day that same curl would turn gray and she would still be standing on the porch watching for the visitors that sometimes did, but usually didn’t, come. Aeh. It was hard to judge her age as she stood there peering out into the desert. She could be twenty-five or forty. Her slight frame did not give her away, but she was twelve . . . now a mother to her brother, a housekeeper to her father, another pair of hands in the desert world they had found themselves in. Pa always knew best, she thought.  Maybe if Pa hadn’t insisted on going gold hunting, Ma would be alive today.  Ma, she was so beautiful, but she . . . A tear trickled down the dust on Sara’s face.  Ma would have loved her son, the child that took her life.  Life is hard. The desert eats up women and children.

She gazed at the land: the cactus hiding beneath the dust, greasewood bushes with small pulpy leaves stark against the sky, and the short twisted trees.  This land hoarded its water.  Water was as precious as gold, the gold her father searched for. There was life in this land, much life, but mainly nocturnal.  The harsh sun beat against the land, taking away precious moisture, taking away life.  Only in the cool of early night or dawn did the sun become tamed.  She hated this land. Hated. And, why? I remember the cool trees, the tame hills, the waters of home. Water to wash in, water to drink. Water. Water. Water. Ponds. Rivers. Lakes. Cool, slippery, splashy jumping into the water and feeling the cool smooth sensation laughter mother peace feeling the fish slip through my fingers wet. But, not in this land of endless dust.  The golden rays of the rising sun touched her feet, she shifted.


If I use that bit, I will do some editing. Anyway, the full story at least in my head– this story has bothered me since 2000– is a young girl who is abandoned in the desert. The other character in the story is her great-grandson, who is a ne’er do well casino gambler. It is a redemption story– and a time travel story.

The following excerpt is the great-grandson:

A buzzing noise threatened to disperse the gray fuzziness, the cotton-mouth, wooly-headed feeling that comes from too much drinking, drugs, girls, cigarettes, and late-late nights. Lucas Hunt, one-stop fool, liked the gray fuzziness. It kept him from thinking.

He rolled over, grabbed the alarm, and threw it at the wall. Whoever invented the alarm had better be burning in hell. He groaned. With his head lifted from the pillow, the buzzing changed to a ringing sound.

Dammit, his hand groped the small table next to his bed.


“U, huh. U, huh,” he said, shaking his head up and down. Damn. “Just give me fifteen minutes.”

“You’re not out of bed, yet?” Lucas pulled the phone from his ear. That hurt. His head began to ring. If he had known, she would be on the end of the line, he wouldn’t have answered it. Her voice squeaked when she was mad. She seemed to always have a reason to be mad.

At least, he got tired of her squeaking. The only reason he listened to her now was because she was the mother of his son.

She had been tired of his shit that was why he was in this little bed-sitter, sleazy motel, in North Las Vegas. When she had thrown him out of their house, she had told him that he could spend his time more profitably sleeping in the bus station. He disagreed. He was not going to sleep on a bench in a bus waiting room. It wasn’t sanitary. At least, he was sure that the homeless he saw camped on those benches did not bother to get up and pee in the bathrooms. They stunk and the benches stunk with them. He had not sunk to that level yet.

At this moment, he was tired of her shit. “Get to the point,” he said. “Ok, I’ll be right there.”

He rolled out of the gray sheets. He groped for some underwear. Something that hadn’t been worn too often. One pair, lying on the floor, had brown streaks in and out. He had worn them enough and tossed them into the garbage can. Yeow, three points. He looked around the room. Being a bachelor was not the fun and games he had thought it would be. There was not a decent clean pair of jeans anywhere—just piles of dirty clothes.

Lucas went to the least dirty. Crawled bare-assed into a pair of jeans. He would have to buy some more briefs, but not now. He had had a call for a command performance from his soon-to-be ex. He put on his least wrinkled shirt, grabbed his keys, threw the keys into the air, and caught them.

“She called me,” he grinned.


So the question is– Would anyone like to read this story? Should I finish it? I may have to finish it because the story has haunted me through my illness. But would you read it?

3 thoughts on “Friday Excerpt – The Valley of Shadow

  1. Pingback: Shira: Hero of Corsindor – Promotion Thursday | Cyn Bagley - Poet and Writer

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