Friday, September 22, 2006

"Aunt Maddy's Chair"

"Aunt Maddy's Chair" came next. It was published in Peeks & Valleys in 2004.

Writing is such lonely business. Sometimes you have to travel through a wilderness of rejection slips (Lord knows I've a pile of them), crawling on hands and knees, almost to the point of breaking, before you get to that sweet oasis the Acceptance Letter.

When I first started this journey I had no idea that the wilderness would be my home for somewhere close to a year. I was discouraged. I was downhearted. Did I want to give up? Sometimes. But I plugged on. Why? you ask.

Because it didn't matter if anyone wanted to read my stories. It hurt my feelings a bit, but that still wasn't the point. I put words to paper so that the people in my head - the ones I'd been talking to for a while - would have a place of their own and give me some peace. I know, I know. I promise you, I'm sane.

True artists create out of love for their creation. Not to be noticed, and definitely not to get paid. Don't get me wrong. Getting money to do something you love is a nice perk, but not the spine of the act.

I realized something in that wilderness. I love to write. Sitting here, right now, writing this blog ... I'm in Heaven. If I'm so poor I can't afford the paper, I'll write my stories in the dirt.

When I came upon an oasis with "The Barn" I was overflowing. When I received the letter for "Aunt Maddy's Chair" a few weeks later ... I wanted to do back flips in the yard.

Aunt Maddy’s Chair
Gabriel Beyers

Jacob Lydel stood at the door of the tiny box style house. He looked at a pyramid of unclaimed newspapers resting on the porch. Aggravation stabbed at him. Someone should have brought her the paper, he thought. Everyone knows how much she likes reading the newspaper. Then he caught himself. I mean liked. A ripple of embarrassment moved from his scalp down his back. His wife Audrey was always telling him how insensitive he was, but his Aunt Maddy had only been dead for a couple days now. Anyone could have made the same mistake.

"You all right, honey?" Audrey asked. She shifted their son Eli from one hip to the other. Eli let out a little whimper then went back to surveying his new surroundings with wide eyes.

"Yeah," Jacob said turning around, "I’m just looking for the key." He searched his pockets, finally finding the tarnished brass key in the inside breast pocket of his jacket. Connected to the key by a tiny ring was a piece of paper. The words, MOM’S HOUSE KEY, were written in black marker on the paper key chain.

Jacob turned the key, and with a minor nudge of his shoulder, opened the door. The smells of stagnate hospital air strangely mixed with mildewed carpet wafted around them.

"You go ahead in," Jacob said. "I’ll go get our bags."

Audrey stepped past him stopping just inside the door. "You sure this is all right?" she asked before Jacob had a chance to leave. "I mean, is Brandon okay with this? His mother just died. Staying in her house seems sacrilegious or something. We could still find a hotel." There was a desperate plea for reconsideration glinting in her eyes.

"Yeah, it’s fine," Jacob said. "It was his idea. Besides..." Jacob’s voice curled into the broken pitches of an old woman’s; his best imitation of his aunt. "Aunt Maddy would have called us all damn fools for gettin a hotel room, when she had perfectly good rooms goin to waste right here." A sinister smile crept onto Jacob’s face. "You’re not afraid of sleepin in a dead woman’s house, are you?"

Audrey slapped Jacob’s shoulder. "That’s not funny!" She shifted her weight and gave a quick glance inside dark house behind her. "Have some respect!"

"Oh, calm down," Jacob said. "I was just kiddin. Besides, Aunt Maddy would’ve thought it funny. She always did loved a good scare."

"Yeah, well, it’s still not funny. Now I’m not gonna be able to sleep tonight."

"We’re just stayin one night. We’re headin home right after the funeral tomorrow. Just go on in and get comfortable. I’ll get the bags and be right back." Jacob started through the yard towards the car. He stopped and turned to Audrey, who was setting Eli on the ground. "Hey, if you see Maddy in there, just hand her Eli. She always liked playin with little kids."

Audrey snatched Eli back into her arms and shot Jacob a look that said: Laugh it up. You’ll get yours.

That night, after a fine meal of delivered pizza, they settled into the livingroom. Jacob and Audrey sat on the couch flipping through the only four channels that weren’t blocked from the TV. Eli was on the floor scribbling on a piece of paper with a crayon. Dried splotches of pizza sauce clung to his face like the rosy cheeks of a doll.

"Who dat?" Eli asked pointing to an old brown reclining chair just off to the right of the couch.

"That’s Aunt Maddy’s favorite chair," Jacob replied never looking up from the TV.

Eli stared at the chair for a moment then went back to coloring.

"Do you think he talks okay," Audrey asked, "y’know– for a two year old?" Jacob was too busy channel surfing to answer, which landed him an elbow to the shoulder.

"Ow," Jacob yelped. "I don’t know. I don’t hang out with a lot of two year olds. He could be a freakin genius for all I know."

"Fweakin denus, fweakin denus," Eli repeated with hysteric joy.

"That’s just great," Audrey said glowering at Jacob. "Why don’t you teach him to curse while you’re at it?"

"If it’ll make you feel better," Jacob said with a smile.

After ten minutes of idle threats, Audrey finally got Eli to quit repeating his father’s bywords. Audrey knew it was boredom, not the threat of a spanking, that quieted her son, just as she knew that he would start back up again right in the middle of church someday. Murphy’s law.

The family sat quietly for awhile. It was Eli that broke the silence.

"Who dat?" Eli pointed to the brown chair again.

Audrey sat up. She made a couple of quick glances between Eli and the chair.

"She looked awful, didn’t she?" Jacob asked.

The question caught Audrey off guard. "Who looked awful?" Audrey reluctantly pulled her eyes away from the chair.

"Aunt Maddy," Jacob said. "At the viewing today. She looked so thin; like a skeleton. And that wig she had on– it wasn’t right. It didn’t look anything like her real hair. Too short."

"Well, that’s what chemotherapy does to you. It eats away the good parts just the same as the bad." Audrey felt the urge to look at the chair, but she forced her eyes to stay on the TV. "No wig would’ve looked right. They never do. Besides, you can never find one with long hair. Not as long as her real hair was, anyway."

"Who dat?" Eli asked, pointing to the chair again.

"Who is who?" Audrey asked Eli. Her voice was loud and full of panic.

"What’s wrong?" Jacob asked, a bit alarmed by his wife’s voice.

"Eli keeps pointing to the chair and asking who’s that. It’s freaking me out." Audrey shook as cold chills crawled the length of her body like a thousand cold fingers.

"Will you quit it?" Jacob asked, a little aggravated. "I was just kiddin earlier. If I knew you were gonna to be a baby about it, I would’ve just kept my mouth shut. He doesn’t mean who’s that, he means what’s that. He’s just askin about the chair." Jacob stared at Audrey, waiting for a response, but she kept her eyes on Eli.


Monday, September 18, 2006

"The Barn"

This is my first published story, "The Barn." It was published in Mudrock: Stories & Tales, volume 2, issue 2, in 2004. The editors of Mudrock Press have went their seperate ways (on good terms) and the magazine will now be known as Mud. Bradey Allen and Scott Geisel were excellent editors to work with. I have set up a link to Mudrock Press.

The Barn
Gabriel Beyers

My father told me to stay away from Mr. Witfield’s barn. He said Mr. Witfield was gone now; that a family from Chicago had bought his farm. I nodded with all the sincerity of a teenager, and my father saw right through it.

"I mean it," my father said. "This isn’t like before. No more sneaking out. No more barn."

I had never seen my father this way. It wasn’t anger that I read on his face — it was fear. Dad always yelled at me for sneaking out to that barn. He did it with a kind of half grin to let me know that the scolding was mostly for the benefit of my mother. After all, Dad knew why I went. I never told him, but somehow he knew.

That barn was the place I went every weekend to meet with Laura Price. It was the perfect spot. Mr. Witfield was old, but that barn was older still. He never used it anymore. It just stood quietly on the back of his farm like an embarrassed child.

Every weekend Laura and I would sneak out and meet up in the loft. It started out innocent enough — just a flirting dare to see how far the other would go. It wasn’t long, though, before natural curiosities took hold. My father understood that; at least I had always believed he did.
I promised my father that I wouldn’t go to the barn, and that I would make sure Laura got the same warning. Satisfied, my father dropped the subject.

In the back of my mind I knew I would get caught — someday. A good beating was sure to follow, but it was worth it. The things I was learning in that loft with Laura Price was worth a lifetime of leather belts and green switches across my backside.

My father seemed to grow more anxious as the weekend approached. He watched me with a different look on his face, like a person trying to steer a small animal in the direction of safety without startling it into the path of harm. I was the picture of calm. I never let my guard down for a minute. Whatever my father read in my face, it wasn’t the truth.

That Friday night my father stayed up longer than usual. Did he think he could get me that easily? I had planned for this. Laura and I weren’t supposed to meet until one o’clock; two hours later than normal. When I heard my parents go to bed at eleven, I felt an excited euphoria pour over me. The stakes were higher tonight, and that made the prize seem all the more sweet. The anticipation from eleven to one nearly killed me. I had to stop myself three times from getting up and leaving early.

When one o’clock finally came, I rolled out of bed, pulled my homemade rope ladder out of its hiding spot, then repelled out of my bedroom window. I crept off of our property with the stealth of a shadow.

The five miles to Mr. Witfield’s farm went by fast. I was young with a purpose — a dangerous concoction. As I stepped over the threshold of the property I felt a shiver run over me. I stopped and looked around. The trees melted into a black backdrop that, when mixed with the bright half-moon, made the barn stick out like a week-old corpse at a beauty pageant.

I began to wonder just where Mr. Witfield had gone. I couldn’t remember anybody talking about the old man moving. We hadn’t been to any funerals. What happened to him? My Dad said he was just gone.

And who was this family from Chicago? I hadn’t heard of any newcomers in town. Hadn’t seen any moving vans, no brown boxes — no lights in Mr. Witfield’s house. Besides, Chicago was a hundred miles away. Why would someone in Chicago buy a farm in Indiana, and not move there?

Then something happened that washed away my curiosities. I remembered Laura was waiting for me in the loft.

My walk to the barn was a strange one. I hate to use the cliche: felt like someone was watching me, but that’s what it was. I had never been frightened of that barn before, but as I stood in front of the large swinging doors, my mind raced with all manner of dangers that might be waiting inside. Maybe it was my father’s vague warning. Or, perhaps, I felt no ominous feelings at all, and it only seems that way now that I look back. It’s been too long to distinguish.

I pushed through the doors, wincing at the shrill creek from the rusted hinges. I could see nothing but darkness. I pulled my pocket flashlight out, turned it on, then moved to the ladder leading to the loft.

I wasn’t sure if Laura was there yet, and I didn’t whisper her name until I reached the top. No answer. She wasn’t there. I found the propane lantern that we left there, lit it, then waited. At that moment I would’ve been glad just to see Laura’s face, even if there wasn’t going to be our normal night of experimenting. I hated the solitude.

I don’t know how long I sat there waiting for Laura to show up, but I knew she should’ve been there by now. I just knew something bad had happened to her. Whatever it was that scared my father — it had found Laura. I had to go look for her.

I stood up and stretched my legs, which were half asleep. Then I heard something that made my heart nearly explode into my throat. It was the sound of a motor gurgling and gravel skipping out from under rubber. It was a car. Someone was driving to the barn.

I jumped in a kind of weak-kneed way at the lantern, nearly knocking it over with my gangly hands. I heard the car stop outside. I looked for the lantern’s gas valve but it was hiding from me. A car door slammed, then another. I just knew my mother and father had come to get me. I was going to get my beating; probably with the lantern if I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.

Then a third car door slammed. I was so thrown by this, I almost forgot about the lantern. I killed the fire just before the barn door opened. Light drifted up from below. I heard footsteps shuffling on the dirt floor.

"Jimmy," a thick, raspy voice said. "Why in the name of the Pope did we come out here?"

A voice that I assumed was Jimmy’s answered: "Tony, will you tell Sammy why we’re here?"

"Because stupid," Tony said, "it’s quiet. Nobody’s watchin. It’s a good place to do business."

I pushed myself up on my hands and knees and crawled towards the edge. Looking back it was a foolish thing to do, but when your young, curiosity outweighs fear. When I got to the ledge, I looked down. I gasped as I saw a small wad of hay fluttering down right over the head of a very large man.

"So whatever happened to the old fart that owned this joint?" the big man asked. It was Sammy.

"You’re standin on him," Jimmy said.

Sammy stepped off the small mound of dirt he was standing on, and the wad of hay drifted down behind him, unnoticed. With that tragedy averted, Jimmy’s words started to seep into my brain. Did he mean what I thought he meant?


Sunday, September 17, 2006

How It All Started

Some writers are blessed early on with the knowledge of what it is that makes them happy, and what keeps them going. They are able to sharpen their skills; find their voice and write, write, write. I was not one of those writers.

I have been writing for only five years. As I look back on my life I see all the signs: a love of reading, all the English classes I could take, an enormous imagination, and the habit of re-writing the endings to stories I didn't like. But, as is always the case with me, simple and obvious never sinks in right away.

By the end of my high school days I had grown bored with school. I was all set up to move on to college, but I just couldn't do it. I didn't know what I was going for, and I didn't have the money to waste on four years of education just to get out and do something else. When you're eighteen there are so many pressures to "know what you want to be" and "prepare for your future." I'm twenty-nine and only now do I have a basic sketch.

I don't lament missing college (sometimes I do, but not often) because I believe there is destiny behind the major decisions in our lives. Had I went to college I most likely would have missed the person who made me realize that I wanted to be a writer. She's the one that encourages me when I cry out, "Why am I doing this? I could be playing Nintendo." She's the one I write for. I met this pretty lady when I was nineteen and married her two years later. Oh, the wife is his Ideal Reader, how cliché, you say. Maybe, but truth anyhow.

It was in our tiny two bedroom apartment out by the county fairgrounds. We had been married for somewhere around three years. I must have been complaining a lot about how I could write something better, or how fun it would be to be a writer instead of a concrete finisher. Brandy turned to me with that crap-or-get-off-the-pot look and said "Why don't you write something then."

I'm sure I had been milling it over for a while. As I said, it takes me a long time to do anything. But it was her words - not those of anger, not of aggravation, but of stern encouragement - that put my butt in the seat. Even if she won't admit it, I think Brandy knew I could be a writer before I did.

Brandy and I tell this story different, but the end result is the same. This is my blog so you get my version.

I didn't tell her I had written anything. It was just a few paragraphs - the beginnings of a larger work that had been rolling around in my head. Brandy, playing on the computer, found it and asked where I had downloaded the story. She wanted to know who it was by, and what happened next. I was happy to tell her that I was the author, but sorry to say that I wasn't sure at all what happened next.

It was the best compliment anyone has ever or will ever pay my writing.

That paragraph turned into a novel. But I knew it needed a major polishing. I'm still polishing it today. I turned to the short-story to build up my name and hopefully help me land an agent.

That is how my journey started. It is the first paragraph. What comes next? you ask.

I wish I knew.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Little About Myself

My name is Gabriel Beyers. I was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, where I continue to live. I am twenty-nine years old and have been married to my wife, Brandy, for seven years. I've worked in a couple of different fields but my passion is writing.

I have published seven stories since becoming serious about my craft. They are:

"The Barn," Mudrock: Stories & Tales, Volume 2, Issue 2. (2004)
"Aunt Maddy’s Chair," Peeks & Valleys, Volume 4, Number 3. (2004)
"The Fire Lady," Fighting Chance, Winter 2004 Issue.
"A Town Full of Holes," Midnight Times, Winter 2005, Issue 8 & Seasons in the Night, Volume 4. (2005)
"Fox Lane," Seasons in the Night, Volume 4. (2005)
"The Monster’s Box," Fighting Chance, Spring/Summer 2005 Issue.
"Love, Obsession, & the Deep-Freeze," Midnight Times, Summer 2006, Issue 14.

This is mainly a place where I can discuss my joys and frustrations of trying to become a professional writer in today's market. Soon I hope to add the above published stories so anyone can come by and take a look at them. I hope you enjoy them.