I ran into Dave Mattingly, the Big Daddy of Blackwyrm Publishing, where I have a book in submission. He’s more packed with work at the moment than my office is packed with really good stuff that I might need any second so I can’t put it away. He said the book is in the queue, and should make it to the front for consideration in a month or two, which I figure means three. Maybe four. Six, to be on the safe side.

Hey, I’d rather be considered by a house that takes due deliberation with its projects than one that slap-dashes through everything, wouldn’t you?

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the very beginning of SOME DISPUTED BARRICADE, the paranormal mystery in submission.

by Marian Allen

    It was 1968. Like a lot of seventeen-year-old males that summer, I was thinking about death. Not Bobby Kennedy’s or Martin Luther King’s – I was contemplating my own. I could feel my eighteenth birthday looming and I had to wonder if I’d spend my nineteenth in Vietnam, in Canada, in jail, or in the Great Hereafter. It was nearly the last mentioned, and not at the hands of the VC, either. I came this close to having my goozle slit right here at home in good old nothing-ever-happens Faelin, Indiana. But that was later….

    I tried for a basket and missed, trotted half-heartedly after the ball and caught it as it rolled to a stop against the fence. One good thing about playing alone on a day so hot the asphalt sucks at your sneakers: no razzing when you play like a stoned sloth.

    The court ran along one side of the house, or Home or, as the Townies called it, The Orphanage. The official name was Faelin Municipal Children’s Refuge, making me, I guess, a refugee.

    The parking lot ran along the opposite side, which is why I didn’t see the car that pulled in and parked. I wouldn’t have supposed it had anything to do with me, even if I’d seen it; I’d long since given up any hope of adoption. As soon as I turned eighteen, I’d have to leave, anyway –probably go into the Service – probably try for the Navy. With my dark skin, dark hair, and dark eyes, I always kind of thought I’d look sharp in a white uniform.

    I thought about that my last day at the Refuge, bouncing the ball across the court, not really practicing anything, just fooling around.

    “Hey, Mitch!” I saw Jimmy Gassman’s features pressed against the screen of our first-floor bedroom. Jimmy, my roommate, was ten, and a first-class pest. “Mrs. Brandt wants you to get cleaned up and go to her office. There’s a lady in there!”

    My heart did one of those flops like they talk about in True Romance comics. (Sometimes you get real desperate for reading material.) Like I said, I’d be leaving in a few months, and I’d been at the Refuge all my life; nobody had ever even taken me home for a month’s free trial, but I’d never given up hope. Kids can be so dumb. I mean, the cops found me in a dumpster. With my coloring, there was some speculation that I might not be white. Nobody in small-town Middle America in those days was going to adopt a kid who might not even be white. Things were changing by 1968, but trust me to miss the benefit.

    Anyway, I tossed the ball into the equipment shed and sprinted to the bathroom. No time for a shower. I slopped off the smell with a washcloth at the sink and darted into the bedroom for a change of clothes.

    Jimmy still had his face smooshed against the screen, humming loudly. He said it tickled his lips.

    “Cut it out,” I said, pulling on a clean tee and buttoning my good Madras shirt over it. “You’ll get lead poison or something. That screen’s dirty.”

    “I washed it,” he lied.

    I hesitated between my pegged jeans or my new bell-bottoms. I decided to go with the more conservative look, and squeezed my feet through the older jeans and into my loafers. Thank God, I thought, for Trinity Episcopal Sunday School’s Dorcas Class, who had chosen the Refuge as their “mission” for the year. They tended to concentrate on the younger kids, but one of the members was a male clothes horse, and he’d passed me some pretty cool threads.

    “Better hurry, before she changes her mind,” Jimmy mumbled, without taking his mouth off the screen.

    I shook some Barbasol onto my hair and combed it back. Mrs. Brandt was with-it enough to let me wear my hair as long as I wanted – half-way down my ears – but she insisted I keep it neat. I could live with that.

    I peered into the mirror. Did I need a shave? No, but maybe in a couple of days.

     “Hope you like the taste of bug guts,” I said, on my way out of the room. “Notice, if you will, the fly swatter on the floor under the window….”

WRITING PROMPT: Recreate a day or a feeling or an activity from when you were seventeen.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply, If You Ple-az

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.