I am writing a new book–a supernatural psycho-thriller! A little test-marketing is in order before I unleash it upon an unsuspecting public, so I’m posting some of the chapters first; “blogging-a-book” if you will. As a reader, I’d like to get your opinion as I go, so there’s a rating widget and a very short poll at the bottom. I would appreciate your responses when you’re done.
Also, a note on another approach I’m experimenting with: associating verse and music with each chapter. If you click on the chapter title, you’ll land on the Amazon page (or equivalent) for the song that goes with the verse below it. You should be able to listen to a sample of the song on the Amazon page, then if you like it, download it for 99 cents! Give a listen to the whole song before you read the chapter just to get in the mood. Try it. Its cool!– Paul Hill
On the curb of a city pavement, by the ash and garage cans,
In the stench of rolling thunder of motor trucks and vans,
There sits a little lady with brave but troubled eyes,
And in her arms a baby that cries and cries and cries.
She cannot be more than three, but the years go fast in the slums,
And hard on the pangs of winter’s cold, the pitiless summer comes.
from MADONNA ON THE CURB—Woody Guthrie
LOCATION: Interstate 40 Eastbound-Rest Area E of Gallup, NM-just W of the Continental Divide
Odessa Kearney was born on the West Side of Chicago in the 1950’s to no particular fanfare. Piloting an 18 wheeler was not something every little girl wanted to do at the time she grew up, but thirty-four years after her infatuation with a matchbook cover and many wrong turns later, Odessa now resisted sleep. “LEARN TO DRIVE THE BIG RIGS” the matches had advised. The message must have had its subliminal effect, as that’s what she eventually did, beginning a journey that pre-paralleled the wanderings of this metal beast now enveloping her like some inscrutable cocoon.
With the sun disappearing at her back, the eighteen identical wheels plodded monotonously along the highway when a familiar green sign came into view and reflected back…REST AREA 2 MILES. She let off the gas, shifted down, and two minutes later deftly slid the grateful rig off the Interstate and into the refuge. Quietly, she dimmed the lights and joined the herd getting ready to sleep. Squirming into a good spot close to the facilities, she didn’t care if she was between the lines. It was late, and the advancing darkness matched her state of mind.
Random thoughts rushed around her head. She thought about walking away from her marriage. Could she have run over that guy at the loading dock? Would she ever get abducted by aliens?
Though momentarily energized by these unanticipated sprouts of fear, she realized she was guilty of unpoliced thinking. Self consciously releasing her grip on the wheel, she put her hands in her pockets and settled in to collect herself. After a minute of staring into her reflection in the side window, she doused the engine, turned off the interior lights and climbed into the bed in back. Simply too tired, she postponed the obligatory trip to the women’s room. She could wait till morning. Stretching out like a cat, the long distance driver drifted off.
Odessa’s eyes danced beneath her lids as a dream conjured up a confused montage of childhood memories. She was back in first grade at Our Lady of Grace, and in the classroom crowded with her peers she was delightfully chasing a boy, her first boy friend. As they playfully ran around the diminutive chairs and desks, Sister Theresa’s dark form dutifully intruded between them.
“Stop running!” she screamed. She looked at Odessa as if she was about to save her from Satan. “Leave that boy alone. It’s against the Church!”
Odessa awoke at that instant, harboring a residue of guilt from the dream-nun’s admonition. Growing up Irish Catholic in the 50’s in Chicago left its mark. She remembered how to diagram sentences and multiply triple digit numbers without a calculator, but the feelings transferred by the good sisters were also still with her. “Damn her!” she exclaimed to herself. But the curse failed to expel the demon, and her discomfort lingered into her waking state. She wondered why.
A vague anxiety filled the cab.
The year is 2012, and she is in a truck in the American Southwest somewhere along one of the Interstate “superhighways’ that President Eisenhower built five decades earlier, far from the busy streets of Chicago that had to be safely crossed by small children learning how traffic lights worked and why cars and trucks sped carelessly by. It was her cradle of civilization where she learned not just the 3 R’s from the nuns, but also about the Boogeyman from her older brother.
It’s 4:32 a.m., and looking out the windshield, she notices a figure standing in the shadows next to the men’s room entrance. He is wearing a cap and overalls, the kinds you’d see a mechanic wearing after an especially dirty job. Under the dirt was probably faded orange. His darkened face was obscured by a full and scraggily beard. Untrimmed and unkempt hair stuck out front his cap. He just stood there, an odd combination of man and building where people usually scurried in and out hurriedly. Then his eyes caught hers.
A few seconds of mutual staring passed. Not wishing to confront this disturbing image further, Odessa climbed behind the wheel, cranked up the Detroit Diesel power plant, slipped it into first gear with a crunch, and pulled out. When she glanced back at the building, the apparition was gone. What remained was a feeling of dread, and a vivid memory of someone who scared her far more than the Sisters of Fear ever did.
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