Sunday, January 10, 2010

Prompt 4: where'd that go?

Sometimes your story starts in one place, such as:

Photobucket Prompt 4: While on a camping trip, a little boy strays from his family and happens upon a carnival in the middle of nowhere.*

And then it ends up somewhere totally different:

After the war, Frankie returned to the States with useful life skills, like how to pitch a tent in the wilderness, how to cook squirrel over an open fire, and how to shoplift books and small bottles from the druggist. Frankie was a homeless vet.

He started in New York, because it was the place to be, but one frozen day in October and he turned tail west because long-haired people were going that way and he'd heard you could find a place to stay if you were willing to work on a farm. Frankie wanted work. He longed for mindless hard labor that produced something worthwhile in the end.

It wasn't the bodies that bothered him on those long drives in trucker's cabs, though he saw them in the trees beyond the highway. He knew those ghouls would follow him for the rest of his life and he deserved every watchful gaze from the beyond. The thrum of the highway lulled him, he enjoyed having no responsibilities, no end of the journey to anticipate. Particularly pleasant was the hum of the diesel engine, though in the dreamy half-sleep of highway hypnosis, he felt the bumpy, shocks-deprived seat of a transport convoy beneath him. Sometimes he startled awake, but he hid that well beneath his cap and parka.

He weighed about a hundred and ten pounds in that voluminous polyester by the time he reached Colorado.

In a café outside Denver, an angel stood over Frankie's table and asked if he had found Jesus.

'I didn't know I was supposed to be looking.'

The girl sat beside him, all long, curly hair and jangly optimism.

'Are you a lost soul too?' she asked.

Frankie didn't know what she considered a "lost soul" to be, nor did he particularly want to be included in any group that she considered herself a part of. But he was lost, cold, and hungry, and this girl seemed to be offering something. When he signed up for the Army, the sent him to hell; wherever this little girl was driving him to down the dark country road, he would survive one more day until something better came along.

*Prompt source: The Writer's Book of Matches, by the staff of Fresh Boiled Peanuts, Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH, 2005.
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