Writer In Progress; Carry Me Away, written by Robb Grindstaff
December 31, 2014 Leave a comment
Happy Holidays! Hard to believe that in a weeks’ time 2014 will be just a memory. I want to thank all the wonderful authors who participated in both my interview series and my excerpt series. I wish the best for everyone in the New Year. *hugs*
The last excerpt for 2014 comes from a good friend, Robb Grindstaff. This excerpt is from his second novel CARRY ME AWAY. Robb chose this excerpt because, as he puts it,
“I thought this scene really established the dynamic between this twelve-year-old girl and her rebellious sixteen-year-old brother, a relationship that deeply affects her for the rest of the book. In my first draft, I had skipped most of this scene. The story is written in first person, so I figured she wouldn’t really remember the accident, and I stopped at the moment of the accident, then the next chapter starts with Carrie waking up in a hospital bed. My editor suggested it was too important to skip and encouraged me to write it. But how to write it in first person? This was the result.”
Virginia, May 1994
CinDee lived a whole minute away by car, but Sammy always took the opportunity to drive around the block to squeeze in an extra forty-seven seconds of unsupervised driving time.
“I’m taking you to Cin’s, so shut the fuck up.”
But he didn’t go around the block. He went straight three blocks to the end of the street and turned right.
“Then why are you going this way? I was supposed to be at Cin’s like half an hour ago.”
We’d driven this way many times, over the hill where more trees lined the streets, where brick mailboxes guarded long blacktop driveways that led to houses bigger than ours. The road narrowed into a country lane in the middle of the city, barely wide enough for two cars to pass, bordered by deep ditches gargling with rain runoff. Ahead of us, the road squeezed together for a one-lane bridge over a tiny creek, followed by a long, sweeping curve to the right, before taking a sharp bend to the left and heading down the hill again. After that, we would turn right at the intersection, back toward Cin’s.
Sammy didn’t answer me except to wave his middle finger in my direction.
I grabbed the black eight-ball knob off the stick shift, held on only by sun-dried electrical tape. The chrome, curved stick jutted its threaded tip up beside his thigh.
“Put that back on, goddammit.”
“I’ll give it back when you get me to Cin’s. When you gonna fix this piece of shit anyway?” I shoved my cigarette through the barely open window into the rain, rolled it up the rest of the way, and tossed the heavy eight-ball from one hand to another.
“If I cut myself on this, I’ll wipe the blood in your hair and laugh when you faint.” Sammy grabbed the stick by the shaft to change gears.
I turned my back to him as far as the seatbelt allowed. The rain cut tiny horizontal rivers across my window as we climbed the hill. A long expanse of green lawn led up to a big white house with pillars across the front porch. The house had a small, round corner room upstairs with a cone-shaped roof. I loved that house. I wanted that room.
As the road narrowed, the trees formed a canopy over the road, combining with the dark clouds and rain to bring nightfall in an instant. Sammy flicked on the headlights, clicked the wipers up a notch, and cranked the radio a little louder.
I refused to look at him. The raindrops shoved each other across my window.
We slowed for the bridge. The raindrops raced on the other side of the glass. Heavy, dark trees and brick mailboxes lined the road. The drops mesmerized and the thumping wipers hypnotized. My eyelids wanted to shut.
The trees spun to my left until the bridge we’d just crossed swiveled in front of me. The raindrops on my window stopped racing past me and stood still, jiggled and danced in place. Everything seemed odd, out of place for a moment until the view shifted back to where it belonged. The trees grew so close to the road here, the brick pillars holding mailboxes beside them at the edge of the street. So close.
“What was that?”
“We just fuckin’ hydroplaned. Cool, huh?” Sammy slowed and brought the car back under control, leaning forward over the steering wheel to see the edges of the road better.
The side view mirror flew off with a quick crunch. It bounced and flipped into the ditch, triangles of mirror flying like glitter confetti. Reflected shards of brick mailbox pillar and wet grass and black tree trunks floated into the ditch.
“You idiot. Daddy’s going to kill you. You better go back and get the mirror.”
“What mirror?” Sammy laughed. “I didn’t see anything. Someone must’ve hit the car when it was parked.”
I twisted sideways to face him, leaning against the door and propping one foot on the dashboard, tapping the windshield with the toe of my tennis shoe.
He glanced at me and grinned, then leaned farther into the steering wheel, peering carefully through the rain and shadows to see the road.
Like a hamster wheel, the road bent upwards ahead of me, up, up and back over the top of my head.
“Sammy?” My stomach flipped. Something slammed against my door like a sledgehammer, punching me in the back and the ribs. The air emptied from my lungs with a grunt. The glass exploded against the side of my face and into my hair, stinging like a swarm of bees. Two headlight beams searched for squirrels in the trees, then dropped again to light the tall grass and rocks in the ditch as we burst through the guardrail as easily as a runner breaking the winner’s tape. A deafening crack of thunder rocked the roof of the car.
The car slammed to a stop, and the seatbelt locked me into place, but not before the dashboard slammed against my hip and side.
A moment passed, perhaps two seconds, perhaps two minutes. An eerie white-green glow floated around me. Screaming pierced the air as the echo of the thunder faded.
“Sammy, are you okay? Are you hurt? What’s wrong?” He just sat there grinning, staring through the windshield. I turned the radio off and the scream ended with a click.
“You might have gotten away with just the mirror, but now you are fucked big time.”
Sammy laughed until he coughed and rested his chin on the dash. His long, straight hair stood on end, straight up.
I started laughing, too. “You should see your hair.”
The tips of his hair pressed against the roof. I tried to reach up to see if mine did the same, but the still-locked seatbelt tangled around my arm and tied me into place, sideways, leaned against the door, pinned between the seat and the glove box.
“I can’t get out of this thing. Give me a hand, dickweed.”
Sammy giggled and coughed but didn’t say anything. He didn’t take his eyes off the road even though we weren’t on it anymore.
“You ass. You better get straight before the cops get here. They’ll know you’re high. Oh, you are so fucked. Daddy’s going to ground you for the rest of your life.”
Daddy had always told him to keep it between the ditches, but Sammy never listened.
When I tried to turn in the seat to undo my seatbelt, an ancient samurai warrior drove his sword through my back and twisted. Hot rain poured onto my face, choking and hiding my scream.
The glow from the dashboard lit up the white rubber sole of my tennis shoe. How the fuck can I see the bottom of my foot?
I fumbled for the button until the buckle clicked. My head crunched against the roof.
“Goddammit, Sammy, I can’t get out. I have to get out.”
With both hands, I pushed against the roof to take the weight off my head and neck, but only managed to shift to the side of my face. Bits of glass dug into my cheek.
The bottom of my shoe taunted me, peering up at me, or down at me. I clawed with one hand to find the door handle, but it wasn’t where it should have been. Crawling out the window didn’t work. The opening was too small to get my head through.
My weight shifted again and my body ripped in two. The samurai sword sliced through my back and my side, piercing me with an ice cold flame. I opened my mouth but couldn’t draw in enough breath to scream it out again.
“Come on out here and help me, child. Don’t be afraid of the bees.” Mama Carissa, my grandmother, worked in her flower beds.
I stepped down from the porch and floated across the yard to where she sat in the grass at the edge of the flowers. When a honeybee buzzed by my ear, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me back to the house, but the porch moved farther away. The bee stung my cheek. Then another. Bees surrounded me, swarming around my head, stinging my face and my neck and the top of my head. When I swatted them away, they stung the palms of my hands. My legs sank into mud, each step harder to follow with another.
“Sammy,” I whispered. “You’ve got to help me. Get the bees off me.”
He was busy trying to see through the broken windshield into the dark, trying to get it into gear, trying to keep it between the ditches.
The white-green glow faded. Sammy leaned so far over the dash that the steering wheel disappeared into his chest.
I felt around for the gear knob, through bits of broken glass and the warm, sticky rain that poured across my face. When my fingers touched the slick eight-ball, it rolled against my forehead.
I tried to put it back into place, but couldn’t see where to slide it onto the shifter.
Sammy’s car door groaned and swung open.
“Where are you going? Come get me out of here.”
His footsteps squished in the mud as he came around to my side of the car. He leaned over outside my window and reached a hand through, calmly picking the bees from my hair, brushing them from my cheek.
“I can’t get out. I have to get out.” My legs wouldn’t move at all, wouldn’t run from the bees. The sword twisted with every breath.
“Relax. We’ll have you out in a minute.” He reached both arms through and wrapped them around me. He didn’t try to pull me out, just held on until I quit squirming.
“Here.” I handed the gear knob to him. “Here, take it.”
Sammy didn’t reach for it. He let go of me and slid away from the window.
“Where are you going? Get back here.” His footsteps moved away, splashing in the water running through the ditch. “Don’t leave me, Sammy.”
I reached for the gear shifter again, forcing my eyes open to see where to place the eight-ball.
Sammy still sat in the driver’s seat, leaned against the dash, face pressed against the broken windshield, eyes open wide to see the road. His hair stood on end, his butt a good six inches off the seat. The stick shift twisted at an odd angle, and disappeared into an unspeakable place.
Mama Carissa fried bacon, or pork chops maybe, in the kitchen. Sizzling, popping. The smell of grease and meat. The steam. A red mist floated up from the stove.
A red mist floated up and surrounded Sammy until he disappeared behind it. The red flickered blue, then red again. A baby cried in the distance. The screaming started again, but the stereo controls were out of reach.
Demons hid in the mist. Demon hands reached through the red fog, grabbing for me, grabbing my hair, my face, my arm, holding me in place with cold, clammy hands, screaming at me, stabbing me in the back and the side with swords and spears, beating my leg and ribs with their medieval clubs. Ripping my body in half. The bottom of my foot stared at me, useless, unmoving.
Demons rose through the red mist and grabbed for me.
“Don’t try to move,” the demons warned. “We’ll have you out in a minute.”
Robb Grindstaff’s first novel, Hannah’s Voice, debuted January 2013 to rave reviews from critics and readers alike, his writing compared to Flannery O’Connor and John Irving. His latest novel, Carry Me Away, published September 2013.
In addition to a career as a newspaper editor, publisher, and manager, Robb Grindstaff has written fiction most of his life. The newspaper biz has taken him and his family from Phoenix, Arizona, to small towns in North Carolina and Texas, and from seven years in Washington, D.C., to five years in Asia. Born and raised a small-town kid, he’s as comfortable in Tokyo or Tuna, Texas. He now lives in Wisconsin, where he manages a group of newspapers.
Robb has had a dozen short stories published in several print anthologies and e-zines, and his articles on the craft of writing fiction have appeared in writing magazines and websites.
ROBB’S WEB AND SOCIAL MEDIA STUFF:
Carrie Destin, a biracial military brat, believes her injuries from a car accident will prove fatal before she reaches adulthood. Carrie launches a frantic quest to experience everything, travel the world, and find her soul mate before her life ends. Her grandmother’s wisdom points her toward acceptance, but first she must break through her fears before she can give the gift of ‘til-death-do-us-part.
WHERE TO BUY THE BOOK – available in print and e-book:
http://www.evolvedpub.com/robbgrindstaffbooks/ (this is the landing page at my publisher’s site, and it has more links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc).