I’ve been a little bit quiet on the blog lately–been finding that the demands of my day job are just a little more…well, demanding of late. And, when I do have idle moments, I’ve been working on revising and editing my next book. This one’s going to be a post-apocalyptic YA novel, and the feedback I’ve been getting from beta readers has been great. I’ll work on getting a sneak peek of that one out before too long.
In the meantime, though, I’m getting ready to release a short story for Kindle and other e-readers. This one’s called “Walk a Mile” and appeared originally in print form in 2012 in an issue of Lissette’s Tales of the Imagination. So this will be the first time it’s available in a downloadable version.
Mark Walsh at orbitalmindcontrol.com has been hard at work on the cover and just delivered it to me last night, so I’m doing the cover reveal here, and also including a taste of the story itself.
Walk a Mile
Mike Parker wouldn’t have been able to explain the feeling, but when he saw the pick-up limping into the station, he knew there was something wrong, something more than just a flat tire. It was after ten. He should have already locked up, but the copy of Life had engrossed him with its profile of a unit of Marines in the Pacific. He had been sitting at his Uncle George’s desk, peering at the photos and wondering about the unwritten stories in the lines on all the young men’s faces. For the thousandth time since graduation, he pondered enlisting, but as always the thought of how his uncle needed him here pulled him back. If he was drafted, so be it. Until then, he’d wait and wonder.
It was a warm night, summer, and he had kept the office door open for the hour and a half since the last customer had pulled up to the pumps. An easy breeze blew the scent of eucalyptus from the rows of trees that lined the road, and it had also carried the rhythmic thud of the flat for several seconds before he realized what it was and pulled his eyes from the magazine to look past the pumps.
The pick-up was Ben Clark’s, and it came in off the road a little faster than it should have on the flat, rolling out of the dark and into the bright circle from the floodlight mounted to the eaves of the station. The truck’s red paint had long ago oxidized, and its hubcaps were gone. It was probably only ten years old, but had seen a lot of wear hauling loads to and from the Clark farm not three miles down the road.
Reluctantly, Mike laid the magazine on the desk and got up, checking his back pocket to make sure he still had his oil rag before he stepped outside. The pick-up’s engine cut out with a shudder before Mike was halfway to the pumps. Its door squeaked open almost immediately, and Mike stopped short when he saw Ronnie Clark getting out of the cab.
He had been expecting her father, but in the instant he saw Ronnie, Mike remembered that the Clarks had lit out for Fresno yesterday; Ronnie’s grandmother had died, and while her family had gone for the funeral, someone had needed to tend the farm. A stupid, involuntary smile worked its way across Mike’s face, and the good-natured greeting he had readied for Ben Clark disappeared, sucked in with his breath. Nothing replaced it, just the same dumbfounded silence that Ronnie had inspired in him since he’d been old enough to notice the depth of her eyes and the curve of her hips. She left the truck’s door open and walked past the pumps, heading straight for him. She wore faded jeans rolled up at the ankles and a blue checked shirt, heavy shoes well-suited to haying and being around cattle all day. Her brown hair was disheveled and a bit flattened, as though she had been asleep until just recently.
She moved quickly, her jaw firmly set and her brown eyes steely. She looked at Mike as though she didn’t know him, as though they hadn’t spent the last twelve years together in school. Her gaze was unsettling, and Mike’s heart began pounding harder.
“Hey, Ronnie,” he finally said. He hadn’t seen her but once or twice in the two months since school had ended, and then only to pass her on the street or to catch a glance an aisle away at the market. When he’d heard about her grandmother, he had told himself he should go pay his respects, but he hadn’t done it, hadn’t known what he’d say if he managed to make it up their porch steps and to the screen door.
Her expression did not change after he greeted her, and he hesitated to say more. Must be in a bad way, Mike thought. Poor kid. “Sorry to hear about your grandmother,” he offered quietly, but Ronnie’s face remained stony.
She was five feet away from him now, and he made certain to look her in the eyes, unsettling though they were. He would have hated it if she caught his gaze drifting down. She stopped walking and continued staring. Not acknowledging his offer of sympathy, she just said, “You have tools here?”
Mike wrinkled his brow. It wasn’t just that her question was odd. Of course he had tools. It was a service station, for Pete’s sake. No, it was her voice, almost as expressionless as her eyes–cold, unfeeling. Again, as though she didn’t know him. “Well, sure,” he said, finally managing an uneasy smile. She began walking once more, making as if to pass him and head for the service bay. “But I’m not gonna have a tire for you, what with the rubber ration,” he went on. “Has your dad got a spare in the–”
She was right beside him. “There’s no tire. Tools,” she repeated, impatience and anger in her voice now.
“Sure,” Mike stammered. “But it won’t do any–”
She stopped again, turning to him with complete determination. And then she reached out with her right hand and put it to the back of his neck, her fingers in his hair. She pulled him forward and kissed him.
His first instinct was to pull away. It was too much. Ronnie Clark had never looked at him with anything close to desire and now, in her bereavement and distress . . . this. It would be taking advantage of her.
Even so, he did not pull away. He could not. She held him too tightly. He wanted to move his hands, to run them up her back. But, again, he could not.
That’s all for now. Watch for the full story to be released soon!