Monday, April 16, 2007

Greenwood Cemetery

Pat Hart

Hey, writer pals I started a new book...okay I should finish the one I'm 150 pages into or rewrite the one that's done and sell it but this new one's got me sucked in. Here's the opening scene:

Dad and Will pushed the body in a wheelbarrow up the hill through the silent graveyard. The body was trussed up in a burlap sack so we didn’t have to look at the busted up mouth and dead eyes.

Bobby was down in the grave tossing up shovel fulls of heavy clay. He’d just closed this grave up this afternoon, so, the despite the frozen ground, the digging was easy.

I stood next to my mother but there was no comforting arm extended from either of us. Guess the digging wasn’t easy between us either; things had been buried too long, secret things.

My jeans were frozen; I clenched my thighs to keep the cold denim off my skin. I hunched my shoulders up so the wide collar of my pea coat covered the frozen edges of my ears.

Dad and Will stood panting from the exertion of the uphill climb, their breath making clouds in cold air. The gusts of wind snatched the clouds and threw them down the valley, towards our faintly lit house.

The scrape of shovel on wood drew us all to edge of the grave to look down on Bobby’s red hair, darkened by sweat to the color of an orange brick. Will extended his hand and Bobby climbed up.

“Awright,” Dad said.

My brothers lifted the body. Bobby grabbed the feet and Will hooked his arms under the shoulders, the burlap-encased head lolled against Will’s belt buckle. Without needing to count, the boys swung the body between them, letting go as it reached the top of the arc over the open grave. The body paused for a moment, then gravity dragged it into the open grave. It landed with a muffled thud, bouncing a little on the coffin at the bottom of the grave.

Will and Bobby filled the grave.

In a few days a new tombstone would be set. It would read: Franklin D. Newkirk, Beloved husband, father, brother and friend, 1920-1976. There’d be no mention of the 28-year-old white man who’d be “unofficially” sharing Mr. Newkirk’s Greenwood Cemetery grave, undetected, God willing, until judgment day.

My Dad stood the foot of the filled grave, the boys panting and leaning on their shovels “This is done,” he said. “You’re not to talk about this to me, your mother or each other. Ever.” Then he held his hand out to my mother and they walked back to the house hand in hand. The boys and I trailed after.

I went to bed that night in awe at the power of lying, ambivalent about the value of truth.


Joyce said...

Oooh, nice beginning! So when do we find out what happens next?

Tory said...

Pat, you've got me hooked!

I understand the lure of the new story: so fresh, uncharted, full of possibilities. Too bad there isn't some store we could go to called, "Rent an ending."

Kristine said...

Tory: Rent an ending? Sign me up! Sign me up!

Pat: Good hook. I love a creepy graveyard story.

I know what you mean about fresh ideas. I spent the weekend doing research on my idea for my next book because it was nagging at me. I made myself promise not to start it until I've finished the book I'm currently working on, but it was fun to get my brain noodling on something new.

Judy Schneider said...

Great opening, Pat! I can only imagine the psychological damage the narrator would have suffered (do tell, Tory). I'm hoping the book now jumps to 15 years later, when we can see how this damaged soul has evolved. Take that new-idea energy and keep writing, Pat! It's great!

pat said...

I'm so glad people find it 'hooky.' Setting the hook is a big problem in my completed ms.

As for what happens next... Actually, the story goes back to what happened before, before this family had to bury the handyman. An how only one of them knows -for sure- who killed him.

Thanks for all your comments

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

This was perfect on a day when the wind is threatening to kick in my front door. Clearly, we know how you were able to write the cold-related parts so well!

I, too, am curious about what's next!

Nancy said...

Pat, this is a near perfect example of an excellent prologue. (Which, normally, I have a distaste for because they're often hokey, not "hooky.") But you've planted the Primary Narrative Question *and* evoked a mood *and* introduced a character made compelling by virtue of her voice and her problem.

Now...when do we see the outline for the rest??