Excerpt: The Greener Side

This novel draft is a huge work in progress at the moment. In fact, everything about this is in progress. However, the following is an excerpt from the current opening.

The Greener Side

Ida stepped barefooted down the dusty road peering intently into the sand and rocks. She glided with an odd frozen hitch in her hips and knees, bent at the waist with her hands clasped behind her back. She stopped, and suddenly bending with a fluid motion only possible for the young, reached out for a small stone among the sand. She wiped dust from the stone and then placed it in her mouth. She swished the stone in her spit and grabbed it from her lips with her fingers. Turning to the side, she spit into the bushes a few times, clearing the sand from her mouth. However, no matter how much she spit, there was always some grit remaining. It tasted almost metallic, reminding her of the time one of her uncles dared her to bite down on some tinfoil over a sore tooth. She bit down now and heard the crunch of sand. She sucked hard a few more times with her mouth closed to generate some more spit and then spat again into the weeds. She’d just eat the rest of the grit. Peering into her hand at the cleaned and shiny wet stone, it looked completely different without the dust. While interesting, it wasn’t the type of stone she was looking for, though. She tossed it back into the dust and resumed her stiff and stilted posture and the slow walk down the road.

A few yards later, she bent down again and cleaned off another small stone. She smiled when she saw it. The agate was like a tiny football in her hand, no larger than a pea. She could clearly see the small, white, eye-like markings through the pitted rind of the stone. These ones with eyes were rare on their road. This one even more special. Instead of the usual overall maroon color, this one was blue-gray. She put her hand into her right dress pocket and drew out today’s haul. With her latest find, she had six of the small stones with eyes. Most were the size of peas but another, like the gray, was a little larger. She always wished she could find a big one, but these kind with the eyes only seemed to occur in a small size. Carefully closing her hand around the stones, she shoved her hand deep into her pocket and released them. She glanced into her pocket to make sure none of them were stuck to her hand.

She dusted off her hands and turned to resume her hunt, but noticed that her shadow was getting longer and would soon start to fall across her hunting path.  It was no use trying to find them through her shadow.  She’d never distinguish the agates she wanted from the other reddish rocks. She stood up again and stretched. She could always look another day. The county wasn’t due to bring the grater trucks for weeks. So she had time to hunt this road for a while longer before it was stirred up again. Off in the distance, cow bells wafted on the breeze, as did the tang of manure. Grandpa would be bringing the cows in for the evening milking. Grandma would want help in the kitchen. Even with four uncles, Ida was always Grandma’s first choice for kitchen chores, even though she wasn’t as strong. “Practice makes perfect,” her Grandma would say. Practice makes boring, was Ida’s opinion. She’d much rather work in the barn or the pasture with the animals, or in the fields of corn. But, those were her uncles’ domain and, unfortunately, hers was the kitchen, pump house, clothesline, chickens, and the vegetable patch. She had tried to argue with Grandma once, just after she had first arrived. She didn’t get very far, though. After Grandma stated that the chores were divided the way they were for a reason, it was all Ida could get. After asking why a second time, perhaps with a touch too much whining in her request, all she received for her trouble was a swat on the butt. Sighing and turning a sharp left, she crossed the road, hopped the ditch, and ducked under the wire fence to the side field. She strode through the tall grass, lifting her legs high before plunging her next step. The coolness felt good on her hot, dusty feet and legs.