Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chapter 2: Cinders

Beads of Sweat is the working title of a novel about running.  This novel chronicles one high school cross country team's quest for a state championship.  But it's also about hard work and discipline and brotherhood.  I welcome any feedback (good or bad) anyone has to give.  If anyone, has an in to the world of literary agents and/or publishing, drop me a line.  Thanks for reading.


-We’re goin’ to Cinders, right?
-Where else would we go?

            And with that, Smitty gassed it out of One Hill’s gravel lot and three others followed suit.  They all blared music, each a different genre: Pearl Jam from the Pontiac, Tupac from the Nissan, some anonymous techno beat from the Toyota, and Johnny Cash from the pickup.  Two bluebirds on bikes, only half invited, decided to hoof it on over too. 

            Darkness was starting to envelop the town, but the neon lights from Cinders kept the summer’s twilight eternal.  Hordes of kids and octogenarians congregated at the greasy spoon six days a week.  They didn’t compete much, the old and the young, and by seven o’clock the high schoolers ruled the roost.  Everyone, ne freshman, who went there knew somebody who worked there. Consequently, nobody ever paid full price for anything. “Don’t know how that place stays open,” an incredulous parent would say when his kid told him he ate a burger and fries with nothing more than lint in his pocket.  The food graded out at a smidge above mediocre.  Quantity not quality seemed to be the place’s motto.  But nobody went there for the food; they went there for each other.

            The guys ordered their vittles at the counter then sauntered to their usual spot.  Each one hoped that the waitress of his out-of-his-league liking would bring him his grease. 

            -Do you know if Lindsey’s working tonight?
            -Lindsey Warner?  Ha!

            Wallan found Smitty’s guffaw insulting.  He had no idea what he’d been up to this summer.  Nonetheless, the sophomore chose to keep his mouth shut. 

            -Please, Galiozzi said, you haven’t had pussy since pussy’s had you.
            -Ohh shit, Jenkins chimed in.
            -Come on and let’s get our seats, Torres told them.
            They sat down in the vinyl booths and scoped the adjacent banquette and counter. 
            -Man you stink.
            -What do you expect?  We just ran 6 miles.
            -I know.  But damn.
            -Shit Franklin.  You do stink.

            Franklin Torres, the good boy, the mama’s boy, proceeded to engage Jenkins in a headlock that directly positioned nose into armpit.  Torres gave him a few rocking twists then finished him off with a dash of nuggies before relinquishing him to rarified air.  Jenkins feigned blackout. 

            -So where was Spidestrom tonight?
            -Don’t know.
            -I told you he’s at that camp.
            -Which one was it again?
            -I don’t know.  Quick Legs or Quick Foot or something like that.
            -Quicksand.
            -Camp Quick Dick if Spider’s going there.
            Three laughs.
            -Quicksilver. 
            -Quicksilver.  Yeah.  That’s it.
            -How’d you know that Jenkins?
            -I was thinking about going until I found out the price.
            -Oh were you now?
            -Hey, is that Lindsey? 

            Diversion successful.  It didn’t take much to distract Smitty. 

            The food arrived, and, what was so often the luck of the Springfield Boys Cross Country Team, the only divorcee working in the joint served it.

            -Well, at least we don’t have to tip.
            -You’re awful, Torres said, awful.

            They ate in silence for all of two bites before the banter started up again.  Falling into their collective comfort zone, they talked about running.

            -How many miles will Hartman have us run at camp next week?
            -Do you think he’ll have us run a Chestnut before we board the van?
            -I think we’re in for double sessions.
            -My brother told me he gave them triples once because nobody did their summer work.
            -Bullshit. 
            -You bullshit.  I believe Hartman would do it, said Deo.
            -Another country heard from, Smitty said.
            -Shit bombs.  Look at that.

            Looking like two lost puppy dogs, the bluebirds walked in.  They surveyed the place until their gaze landed on seven scrawny boys sprawled over two oversized booths.  They galloped for a couple of steps before the teenage instinct told them to slow it down and look cool. 

-Tinkerbell!  Buttercup!  Tinkerbell!  Buttercup!
            What could they do?  They already committed themselves to walking toward the booths, but now half of Cinders was gawking at them. 

-Tinkerbell!  Buttercup!  Tinkerbell!  Buttercup!

Fifteen steps of humiliation later, they arrived and slunk themselves down into the red vinyl.  Tinkerbell may’ve grumbled something under his breath but nobody detected it.  Poor thing didn’t know that this was a mere tease.  Poor thing didn’t know that in three weeks time he and Buttercup and six others would be bound together in a crude circle as from the top bleachers Smitty, Spider, Coetaine, and Galiozzi dumped down upon them sacks of sickly sweet grass clippings chased by buckets of ice cold water.  Oddly Tinkerbell and Buttercup would relish the punishment as younger brothers relish the beatings their older brothers give them.  They would love it and connect to it, but two others would not.  They would take it like good freshmen should, but they would not return.  Those who survived any of a number of these types of pledges and Hartman’s mileage would gain admittance to the brotherhood that was a tightly knit cross country team.  A team whose patchwork Hartman sewed tight, for he was the needle that pierced through the fabric and tightened those bonds every single day. 

-Okay Tinkerbell.  It’s time for the name game.
-It’s Pawgoski.
-Okay, Tinkerbellski, here’s the deal: you go round the circle and state everyone’s name.  For everyone you get wrong you do fifty pushups.
-What if I get them all right?
-We eat your food, Jenkins said.

The frosh looked around the two tables.  He glanced first at his battery mate.  Buttercup was just happy they weren’t picking on him.  Tinkerbell took a deep breath and stared dead on at Smitty as he said the names in a nonchalant monotone.

-Jenkins, Torres, Smith, Hammond, Galiozzi, Hideo, Wallan.

He paused for a second then added Sellberg, otherwise known as Buttercup.

The kid was evidently listening as he clung to the back of the pack during all those captain practices.

-Very good, Torres said.
-Not bad, Wallan conceited.
-What’s Deo’s last name, asked Hammond.
Tinkerbellski paused,  Kimihaha.
-Haha, Smitty jumped in, It’s hara.  Kimihara.  That’s 50 pushups.

Nobody on the team had ever pronounced Deo’s last name as Kimihara; it was always Kimihaha, but the bluebird didn’t utter a word of objection.  Instead, he got down on the linoleum and pounded out fifty without so much as a hitch in his motion.  Nobody said a word. 

Smitty and Coetaine ate most of his meal.  They left him the lettuce, tomato, and onion from his burger.  Torres tipped extra to make up for the others.

3 comments:

Wilesthing said...

Nice. Cool way to introduce the gang and very easy to visualize. Next chapter tomorrow?

Muddy Puddin' said...

Is this already written and you're slowly releasing it or are you pounding out a chapter at a time? Either way, I enjoy reading it so far.

Thanks.

KG said...

Thanks guys. I have already written it and am now releasing it in a manageable way. It's good for me b/c it forces me to continually edit and revise. My plan is to do 2 chapters a week: midweek and weekend. Thanks for reading.

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