To read an excerpt from the book, please click on the following link:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First Two Pages, Ravine

I'm a bit scared yet to publish this on Facebook, as I know some of the people there are sensitive to work about violence towards women (I probably will, though--a reaction means I've done something right). Weirdly, they can post pictures all day about poor hurt animals, which is truly a real and timely issue, but some have an aversion to reading such things about people.  The book I am writing  is essentially about domestic violence, so if you do not like to read of these things, please do not read  (although what I describe here, though specific, is also general: so many women end up in similar ways.  The solutions have only scratched at the real, underlying problems).

So: this is the opening to Ravine.  I may or may not publish more here, because it's considered "publishing" if you put it on a blog.  I realize it is very, very rough, but at least I walked into that country.


Chapter One

        On September 9, 2006, the moon, a waning gibbous but still bright, showed its dry white mask well after eight-thirty p.m.  As always, it shone in all directions and over every landscape, including the town particular to this story, Ben Lomond, California.  Some of its light never penetrates the deep canyons and thick redwood forests surrounding this part of Santa Cruz County; there, roads snake upwards through steep hills, vanishing into dead ends, and several homes cling for dear life on half-eroded cliffsides.  
        A single street runs through the central part of town; small businesses, housed in renovated clapboard buildings, line each side: a seamstress advertising custom slipcovers, an art gallery, a dental office, a small library, an auditorium  called Park Hall where a local theater company puts on plays, a dog grooming parlor, and a hairdresser.  Here, the principal establishment is the Ben Lomond Market, as spacious and well-stocked as a rural market can be, with a bright green awning and posters on the sliding glass doors advertising weekly specials. That September, pumpkins, acorn squash, and gourds had begun to dominate the storefront produce display a bit earlier than usual, crowding out the last of summer’s bounty as autumn edged in.
        When I remember that night, I always think the moon must have shone with a particular coldness on a certain road in Ben Lomond called Love Creek, named for an actual creek which cuts straight through the site of ancient landslides.  A more recent landslide in 1982 took out houses during a wild, flooding storm. Several bodies, including those of two small children, still remain under those tons of dirt and rubble; a wooden sign advises people to not dump garbage there.  Next to the sign, someone has built a large toy box, painted bright red and filled with faded stuffed animals in memory of the two children, and a local Girl Scout troop hangs glass ornaments each Christmas on a Douglas fir planted not long after the storm.
        As the road ascends into the mountains, it changes from pavement to dirt; landslides rise on each side, masses of chalky brown mud dried into thick, overlapping layers. Trees grow off plumb, twisted away by the unstable ground; branches dangle overhead, the very definition of the word “widowmaker.”  The road itself gradually dwindles to a narrow ribbon of dusty white sand and the creek becomes increasingly shadowed, revealing no trace of itself except for the sound of rushing water.
        For many hours, light would have shone not at all into a particular ravine just at the place where Love Creek rises again from the canyon and becomes, in the dark, a flowing blackness more sensed than seen, braiding and unbraiding over smooth stones.   Eventually, the moon may have cast a miserly silver on what rested just above the creek, cradled in leaf litter gathered for years against a fallen redwood log: the facedown body of a young woman, six and a half months pregnant, the back of her head a crushed and bloody mangle.
        Earlier, as the moon slipped above a break in the ridgeline, it surely must have watched with flat skull eyes the dented gray-and-blue Ford pickup raising pale clouds of sand and dust as it raced away down Love Creek Road, the truck bed empty except for a crumpled blue tarp, the driver at the wheel smiling or not, but certainly satisfied, released at last from the weight of his terrible burden.