Below is a chapter from a story I’ve been writing. It’s in the Southern Gothic genre. Most people are familiar with the genre as “the grotesque.” The characters are typically flawed. The descriptions of the environment lends the reader to see it all gray, rundown, decrepit, etc. Throw in a deranged killer and you got yourself a story. Here’s a better description if you want more.
At any rate, I needed a scene to show naivety, ignorance and innocence. The locals are unable to grasp what is happening. They are ill-equipped to face the swelling tide of modernity and evil. It’s simply not in their nature. And so the dialogue, characters and behaviors below is their greatest attempt. It’s comical but only because it’s so ridiculous, depressing, and hopeless.
I’d like to share more, and perhaps I will. I’m curious to the reactions/feedback this might receive.
There sat in the breakfast diner a collection of local souls. The counter lined a steady row of men drinking coffee, shoveling down pancakes and sausage. T-shirts pulled tighter than a drum over the girth of mid sections. Cigarette smoke poured as freely from black lungs as the black coffee poured by the black waitress. The sweetness of the syrup was just another thick smell in the admixture of all other ones coming and going. Years of accumulated grease, like coal soot, gave every surface a waxy sheen.
One small television mounted to the wall above kept their attention.
At a booth the four men could hear the news. Turns out Fordoche was famous, as famous as any other place in the world. Yeah, someone had seen two Channel Five vans from New Orleans this morning. Must be a big deal. Lord knows New Orleans got its own problems. Sure wish there’d be something better for them to write about. Suppose people don’t care too much about ordinary stuff. But a murdered woman and her baby, now that really gets people’s attention. Ought not be like that though. Well ought not be a lot of things. When it comes to life the only thing people take notice of are the exceptions. All else just gets a ‘good morning, how are ya,’ which don’t mean nothing anymore. Just politeness amongst strangers is all. No I wouldn’t in all my years expect to hear of something like this happening here. Don’t make no sense. Reckon we’ve all done some mean things during our time but this here, well something else is gonna have to be thought up. Ain’t got no words for it.
“Alright now, the four of you together. We can’t have no trouble here. Done got enough of it,” the black waitress motioned with her chin toward the television.
“Tish, we done too old and slow to cause any trouble. Sides, we are scared of you.”
Tish revealed a perfectly straight row of white teeth. “I just teas’n ya. Y’all need refills?”
The men took their coffee black, save one. He splashed it with milk. “What’s crazier, my nephew says they’s more of these kinds of killings. Down in East Baton Rouge over to Avoyelles. All women. It was down in Baton Rouge they found that young man in his living room. Been shot in the head but he was still alive. Neighbors found him. Fella came in and killed his wife and then killed his daughter. I guess he tried to kill him too afterwards. Way my nephew tells it, it’s the same man doing these killings. Called him one of those serial killers you see on TV. But y’all don’t repeat that. Charlie held me to my word.”
“I heard about that one. Some months back. Fella’s in a bad way. Come home to a nightmare, woke up in a bigger one. They got him at one of those funny farms. I guess he ain’t right no more. Can’t say I blame him. Can’t think of anyone who would be. Getting shot through the head on top of it all.”
“I told my daughter-in-law don’t you let anyone in that house during the day while Randy’s at work. No one. Randy drives for FedEx, y’all know. He’s gone a lot. Gave her one of my pistols. Me and Randy showed her how to shoot it last Sunday. That little lady even knocked over few cans.”
“She did? Little ol Becky did that?”
“She sure did. I says, Becky no matter who it is. I don’t care if it’s a man carrying a stack of bibles and wants to give you one for free. You don’t open that door. You call me and the police. I got grandbabies, y’all know. She understood. Hell, she’s scared too.
“That’s good. You did the right thing. Whoever this fella is, he’s a cowardly sonuvabitch. And a twisted one at that. Cutting up women, having is way with them. I hope they catch him. Did Charlie say they might know where he is or noth’in?”
“Naw, he didn’t say. ‘Course prolly wouldn’t tell me that much anyway. He don’t trust me like he used to. Just says the fella’s been driving up and down Highway 1 and 1o. They gather from the towns he’s killed in.
“Well fellas, I was fixin to go fish’n. Don’t really feel like it anymore. Reckon I’ll just go home instead. Tell Anette I said hi. Wife’s been asking about her. Says to tell you that she is in her prayers.”
“I’ll do that, Buck. It’s spreading faster it seems.”
The men filed out of the booth, walked past the row of backs and shoulders and the lone television mounted above them captivated its audience. An attractive woman was holding a microphone looking back at the local souls. Behind her was a farmhouse. Crime scene tape, vehicles of every sort in the driveway. She was out in front of Ol’ Jessup’s place, one patron noticed. Another recalled driving out past it last week. A sense of pride welled up in the new celebrities.
Fordoche was famous. It was now the exception to all other small towns like it.