FF - My week as a redneck librarian

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FF - My week as a redneck librarian

Postby JillStar » Sat Jun 21, 2008 10:02 am

jillstar wrote: Fast Fiction is just that... fiction written fast. Please visit What is FAST FICTION for more information.

Look at the subject for today's Fast Fiction at the end of this post... once you have the slightest beginning to your story… begin to write. Don't stop to ponder the meaning behind your writing or try to "fix" it so it's perfect... just write.

If you want to include your Fast Fiction finished product on WordTrip, simply add it to this thread. We would love it!

REMINDER: Please keep your stories PG13 if posted on the site. If you want a critique after you are complete, please consider using your writing group for help in that area or send a PM to one of us.

... try to stick to the 30 minutes time limit... ready, set... WRITE!

SUBJECT: My week as a redneck librarian.
Last edited by JillStar on Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby JillStar » Thu Jul 03, 2008 5:29 pm

What? Nothing? No one thinks this would be funny? Hmmm... How about "My Redneck 4th of July"? NO?
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Postby timberline » Fri Jul 04, 2008 9:11 am

I love the concept but am leery of the stereotype. Maybe there's another way around this, though. Let me think....
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Postby charlesp » Fri Jul 04, 2008 9:13 am

Just to screw with the stereotype: www.theredneckmommy.com ... funny blog... Canadian.

Also, I finished high-school in 3 years and to facilitate this I took one of my english classes as a summer school class at the local high-school in rural GA. My teacher was a proud redneck, and very well read and literary lady (she certainly LOOKED 'neck, but also pointed out that the nickname comes from people who had to work in the field and had their necks sunburned).

Hopefully those two tidbits will help give somebody the creative kick in the head to put together a story on this.

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Postby mae » Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:12 am

I thought the term came from the West Virginia coal miner's Battle of Blair Mountain, when the coal miners from W. VA wore red bandanas around their necks to signify their desire to unionize. They came to be called 'rednecks.'

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Postby Hissmonster » Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:48 am

rofl...Jill, I saw this one, just don't know if I'm up toa Jeff Foxworthy story yet...Talk to me after I've hung around the kids all day today and by tonight, my numb brain may be able to work it...But it has got potental. 8)
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Postby JillStar » Fri Jul 04, 2008 7:42 pm

My brother and his family are very redneck and damn proud of it. It is often assumed that "redneck" means "stupid". I suppose in some cases it may be true... but in the case of my brother, it's just a frame of mind. They don't like big cities, they live on a small farm with horses and pigs and chickens and they will use anything they find to make whatever it is they need... but neither my brother nor my niece will take any crap from anyone. They're strong people in their own right. I am not of the same frame of mind but I can see the appeal of keeping it simple... and they do.

Okay... well, they do have TV, internet, microwave and all the "comfortable" items of life. :)

So the question is... what makes a true redneck.
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Postby Hissmonster » Fri Jul 04, 2008 9:32 pm

I'm not sure as I have never earned the title, but I do know that Jeff Foxworthy has become famous with his routine "You might be a redneck" in which he pokes fun at the stereo typing.
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Postby charlesp » Fri Jul 04, 2008 9:54 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redneck_(stereotype) So mae has it somewhat right as that may be the etymological basis in the US, but there's apparently an older Scottish origin... though it may have sprung up in several locations at several times.

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Postby LizGrayson » Tue Jul 08, 2008 3:40 pm

Redneck is a state of mind, not geography. I bristle a bit at my southern heritage being put down by those who think all southerners are rednecks. Some of the biggest rednecks I"ve met in my 33 years of life are from right here in rural western MA.
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Postby timberline » Tue Jul 08, 2008 4:38 pm

Meanwhile,. back to the thread.... I'm working on this, so don't stray too far. The lede:

I was so depressed when I saw the municipal library I called my girlfriend—now an ex—to test the reality of another world outside Arlos Creek, the town too poor to afford a possessive apostrophe. The reading room to the left was filled with shelves of worn novels, a rack with just six magazines and a scarred checkout desk. The small antebellum house had a small room to the right of the entrance for children, a bathroom with a rusty toilet and a room filled with stacks of newspapers and cartons of unsorted books, resembling a flea market more than a capital of culture.

Miss Alba, the librarian, smiled vacantly at me as though I was an angel delivering her medication.
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Postby Mlou » Tue Jul 08, 2008 5:31 pm

Aha, the plot is brewing. Is your protagonist on his way to becoming a temp at the library?
nothing is ever simply Yes or No. There's always a But...


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Postby mae » Tue Jul 08, 2008 5:45 pm

the town too poor to afford a possessive apostrophe.


What an absolutely fantastic line!

mae
My heart beats in poetry. I think in rhythm and dream in rhyme.



Give me a crit! I can take it!



CELTIC QUEEN, an Epic Poem, Cynthia M. Bateman, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore ... +Epic+Poem at Tate Publishing
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Postby timberline » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:17 am

Mlou, we are all temps in the library of life, checking out possible answers and avoiding the overdue fines for our errors.

And, thanks, Mae. Those highway signs bereft of punctutation have always irked me.
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Postby timberline » Sun Jul 13, 2008 2:57 pm

Scratch the lede posted earlier. This congealed as a visit to the ghosts of Faulkner, Capote, Williams, Harper Lee. Comments appreciated. First draft, 1900 words.

Leaving the air-conditioned bus at Arlos Creek was an exit into another world. I recoiled from the blast of humid air, dropped my bag and stared at the shimmering white courthouse, the blank-faced stores, the dusty asphalt of an empty street. Arlos Creek, the town too poor to afford a possessive apostrophe. Behind me was an echo of Josie’s angry words, the ghost of 10-year-old Zachary and the rejection of editors. Ahead, I was going to be challenged more as an anthropologist than a librarian assigned to a community the world had passed by.

The library stood as a monument to the town’s antebellum past. Once a residence, it now served other purposes, including those I was going to introduce. The reading room to the left of the foyer was filled with shelves of worn novels, a single reading table, and a rack with just six magazines. To the right, a room with diminutive table and chairs was dedicated to children. I visualized how Zachary might have looked at a small table with a large book.

The librarian, sitting behind the checkout desk, smiled as though I was an angel delivering her medication. Miss Alba was my lifeline—a name for the only person I knew in town.

“You must be Alexander,” she said.

Of course I was Alexander. How many other strangers came to her library? Did I sound rankled as I introduced myself? Well, I was totally pissed—at my audacity asking to come down to the land of swamps and magnolias, chitlins and grits. The charter I invented was to energize the town by jump-starting an outreach program. I would invite speakers who could impart their wisdom about quilting and barely remembered Civil War battles and contemporary issues. There would be a media center. A membership drive. The library, I had stated in my request for money, was a bastion of culture that had to respond to changing times and the foibles of human interest. My grant was funded by a paltry few dollars that the government hadn’t spent on wars in god-forsaken places. As Miss Alba oriented me to the building, I wondered if the grant might better have been spent to blow people up.

I suggested that Day One be given over to a thorough cleaning of the place and properly arranging the books according to the Dewey Decimal System. Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man had been stuck next to the fundamentals of drawing. And, someone had placed Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye in a section on agriculture, perhaps the only reason it had escaped the book burners! Something had to be done about the bathroom with a rusty toilet and the room filled with stacks of newspapers and cartons of unsorted books.

Miss Alba had white hair, translucent skin and blue veins in her hands. A shimmery silk dress hung on her thin body, but under the exterior she presented an other-worldly sense of courtesy and pleasant agreement alien to the rough edges of the townspeople that must live here.

Miss Alba said vacantly. “That would be nice, Alex. And see if you can open some windows. It’s going to be a doozy of a hot day.”

Key meteorological term: doozy. The wet air hung like a beach towel over the asphalt outside. As I wrenched at the windows, I watched a dog chase a cat, and both were walking with their tongues hanging out. Arlos Creek lay empty, a Grant Wood water color bereft of people. A ghost town whose windows stared blankly. Not a sound came my ears as I hung my head out for a breath of air under the zinc-colored sky.

Was there a wheelbarrow large enough to bring culture to these rednecks? With unrepentant sarcasm, I told myself the best thing to come out of this part of the country was Interstate 40. The heat had to be the cause of their deterioration. Margaret Mead and Dr. Livingston would agree. Who could think rationally when sweat poured off my face at the first movement?

I felt a tug on my sleeve and looked down into the face of a child about twelve.

“You the Yankee?”

I blinked and sat down, now on a level with her freckled face. “Guess so. But I’m from Virginia, so maybe I’m not a total loss.”

“You a Yankee all right,” she stated and walked backward with a satisfied smile.

A guffaw came from a dim corner of the room. My audience was an antique man whose head barely rose over the book he was reading. Grizzled hair hung over the shoulders of a once-white jacket. I raised my eyebrows.

“Forgive Scout’s curiosity,” he said. “To children, the stranger invites an adventure while to an adult it signals a warning alarm. Imagination is everything.”

“I can imagine a cold beer and air conditioning,” I said abruptly.

The old man ignored this. “Have you never complained about waiting for a train? Now, imagine a small boy complaining about having to hang out in a railway station, a cavern of wonder and mystery, a palace of poetical pleasures visited by iron-wheeled dragons twice a day?”

I smiled charitably at the coot as Miss Alba called me to the front of the room. After I’d brought the carton of books she wanted, I came back to the front to engage the old man, but he was gone.

My first event had to do with a smart young kid named Henry Fleming, who described the arms and tactics at the Battle of Chancelorsville. Repeating rifles were key to pushing back the bluecoats who, the Union feared, would simply waste ammunition. My audience of three men sat with thick hands lying in their laps like hams. They watched—raptly, I thought—until the kid finished, then filed out of the room without a word.

A week later, the county health department offered me a young doctor who talked about medical marvels with odd names invented in the past decade. Four men and women sat in the folding chairs, wordless. I envisioned these silent townspeople considering the disaster these miracles would have on their budget.

Each evening, as I was thanking the speaker, I noticed the antique man leave the dim room. He hadn’t occupied any of the two dozen folding chairs during the program. Where the devil had he come from?

By the start of the second week, I’d convinced myself Arlos Creek might be a construction of wonder and mystery, a palace of poetical pleasures. Might be, I allowed cautiously. It was the antique man’s point that I should invite the willing suspension of disbelief.

I had hoped to rescue my investment as a redneck librarian by measuring the climate of hopelessness that enveloped a place whose very geography was blasted by coal companies, falling farm prices and spiraling interest rates. And then my fevered brain began to sizzle with an other-worldly amazement.

My thesis came together when I walked down the street to buy cigarettes. I’d stay to listen to other patrons. Sometimes, I hung out suspiciously at the café while old men drank coffee and sifted through memories of what might have been and what never happened.

I became caught up in the story told by a man named Bishop—never a first name—about a Randolph Abernethy and the ghost of a British soldier he met on the pike one stormy night.

And there was the hair-raising tale of Molly O’Hearn and her lover. A fellow with no teeth recounted that with glee, making me wonder if Molly lived over the next hill until the toothless one mentioned this happened in 17th Century Ireland. These were characters—real or anecdotal—who would live forever here.

At night, I’d go back to the Jackson Hotel, a two-story frame building in which I was the only guest. And I began writing out the stories in longhand under the single electric light on the table. This was a different topic than my memoir of Zachary’s death, a book into which I’d poured my soul and that angered Josie.

The tales often started as simply as a farmer cautioning, “Don’t get het up like Agnes Calloway.” Agnes, Miss Alba told me, had a run-in with a state senator a hundred years before, gulled him into investing her money before luring him to suicide. Yesterdays in the timeless Arlos Creek might have taken place before the residents’ ancestors embarked from Scotland or Ireland or England. The calendar stood as still as if it were a Southern Gothic Brigadoon. No one paid any more attention to me—the Yankee—than if I had been a spirit wafting across the town square.

I clutched at the anecdotes with a despair. I couldn’t imagine living in this alien world, but I was cursed to return home shortly to confront my failures. My charm was being facile. Words came too easily, but they lacked the substance to make them meaningful. Josie had left because she sensed my protestations of love for our dead son and her were cribbed from a short story. Editors who read my fiction saw immediately that I had no truth to impart, no insights to share with hungry readers. Friends began realizing that my conversation was amusing only when I was paying for drinks.

I was a hollow man, gone now to an empty world. Decades earlier, Tennessee Williams might have been describing my flash of intuition, my recognition of the underlying dreadfulness in modern experience. I had brought my demons with me on the bus to Arlos Creek.

Days were spent wandering the too-small rooms of the library, aligning books, retyping card catalogue entries, tidying the minutiae. It was now my library, at least until Miss Alba returned from Biloxi.

“I don’t think she’s coming back.” The antique man stood in front of the checkout desk. “I think visiting her sick sister was a ruse. She’s gone back to her novel.”

“No,” I corrected him, “she said it would be a matter of days.”

He smiled. “Poetic license. You’re our librarian now.”

“Who the hell are you to tell me who I am!” That wasn’t a question, but a zealous statement. I would never be one of their community.

“I know who I am. Name's Horace Benbow. But you don’t sense yet who you are.”

“Why’s that name familiar?”

“You may have heard it—read it—before. William Faulkner gave it to me. The way Harper Lee gave birth to Scout. You met her your first day here. I’ve been here for—well, I don’t know how many years. Certainly the 1930s.”

“You’re immortal?” The stupid B-movie word escaped my lips.

“I prefer the term timeless,” he said. “And I invite you to join me. Join us. I think it was Gavin Stevens who says in Requiem for a Nun, ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ And, you’ll enjoy Joel Knox, who is really,” he smiled conspiratorialy, “Truman Capote’s unconscious, intuitive self.”

“Old man,” I said, “you are certifiably crazy.”

“Would you like to see your son, Zachary?” He winked, a gesture that suddenly blinded me with anger. “Don’t get hot and bothered, Alex.” He held up his hands defensively. “Your memoir is going to sell. You’ve brought Zachary back to life. He’s coming in the door now.”

I saw him then, my boy with the too-long hair and laughing blue eyes who never had a chance to live and bite life in the ass before the cancer ate him up.

“Dad?” he said in recognition.

I rushed to the door and let him fall into my arms, barely hearing the antique man describe the benefits of being the librarian at Arlos Creek.

# # #
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Postby Writingmom » Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:00 am

Good stuff as usual, Timber. Are you going to work it up? This has loads of material. 8)
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Postby timberline » Mon Jul 21, 2008 2:14 pm

Thanks, 'mom. It's already in rewrite to make the blackest moment darker, the stakes of failure higher, the angst greater. Sorry it took me longer than 30: to write a draft, but I'd plotted it all out in my head sweating bullets with a lawnmower in 90-degree heat.
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Postby timberline » Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:55 pm

A lot of time has gone by,--angst for the memories--but Bewildering Stories has accepted this, retitled "Gothic Revival." Will put up a link when it goes online. Thanks again, Miz Jill!
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Postby timberline » Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:35 am

"Gothic Revival" is up today at http://bewilderingstories.com/issue366/ ... vival.html. Thanks , Jill. This is vondication for my falling asleep during American Lit 101.
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Postby timberline » Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:29 pm

And, happily, "Gotjhic Revival" was just chosen by Bewildering Stories for inclusion in its “Editor’s Choices” issues 366-376, at http://www.bewilderingstories.com/antho ... ntho3.html.
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