Editor’s note: To keep myself on track, and to receive feedback from my readers, I’m going to post chapters from my NaNoWriMo project during November. Please feel free to leave suggestions and comments, good or bad, to help me make the most of this experience. Thanks, friends!
In the country it’s called a “farm-to-market” road. It’s narrow, narrower than a regular road, with barely enough room to meet another vehicle. I’ve traveled these roads all my life, and I still hold my breath when I see another car on the horizon coming in my direction. The edges of the roads are like fine patterned lace, and more often than not they’re a patchwork quilt of asphalt strips covering potholes.
I never bother with the radio this far out of the city. The tires always sing as they sail over the stripes. Fall came a little early this year, so the leaves were just beginning to turn beautiful shades of orange, red and yellow.
I signaled to turn off the Enterprise-Geneva Highway and onto an even narrower county road. I rolled down the windows and took a deep breath. Everything always seemed better out of the city, especially the air. Except for tonight. The chicken houses were ripe tonight and forced a cough from deep inside my chest. I sped past the open chicken houses as quickly as I could, but I kept the windows down. The cool night air was a welcome treat. It had been such a long, hot summer. Long, hot and definitely one for the books.
I’ve travelled this path from Montgomery to Enterprise to my grandparents’ farm in the small town of Coffee Springs my entire life. This time was different. I was running away, and I couldn’t think of a better place to be lost in than rural Alabama.
Funny thing about small towns. Everyone knows you, and you know everyone. In a weird way, I was counting on that. Everyone in Coffee Springs knew my family and me. I will forever be Samuel and Mary’s granddaughter, so me camping out at the farm for a little while won’t be a surprise for the townsfolk. And, heaven help any strangers that happen my way.
The sun was just grazing the tops of the trees as I passed Eden Baptist Church and slowed to turn onto the gravel, single-lane road leading to my grandparents’ farm. I hate gravel roads, but it’s even worse now since I’m towing a small trailer behind my mini-SUV. I could hear the loose gravel pop and grind under the tires of the trailer as I eased the vehicle down the sloping road and back up the hill. When I finally arrived at the house, I pulled around to the back of the house and parked under the barn.
The sun finally sizzled its way down the horizon leaving a soft glow in the distance. I stood at the corner of the old barn and looked out over the pond and across to the pasture on the other side. The water was as still as I’d ever seen it. The fish weren’t jumping. No bugs skimming across the surface. It was like slick glass reflecting the golden hue of the sunset. As serene as this place was, and as much bliss as it had brought me over the years, I wondered whether I’d find much peace during my stay this time.
There wasn’t much daylight left reflecting in the pond, and the barn wasn’t wired for it, so I grabbed a few things from my vehicle, especially my Daddy’s rifle case and my small travel suitcase, and locked up.
The old house was cool and dark when I opened the back door. I didn’t bother to turn on the inside light, not wanting to draw any unnecessary attention to myself. I’ve been walking through my grandparents’ house all my life. I could find a peanut in the carpet while blindfolded if I had to.
The squeal of the screen door closing behind me not only caused every nerve in my body to wince with physical pain, but also shot its way to the top of my To-Do list. It would take more than a can of WD-50 to fix that shriek, but I’d worry about that tomorrow. Tonight’s list consisted of a hot shower and a cozy bed.