Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2010 NaNoWriMo Challenge - Chapter One

For your amusement and mine, here is a sneak peek - chapter one of my NaNoWriMo 2010 novel.


The woods behind my house are disappearing.

All those beautifully twisted old oak trees that fill our little suburb with their mangled skeletal fingers, clacking in the winds of the dark winter nights.

We live in one of those cozy little bedroom communities only a short drive outside the city, the communities that city people love to hate; one of those communities that continue to grow and multiply because city people, like me, grow up and move out to those cozy safe little communities. Somehow they feel more friendly and safer than identical communities in the suburbs within the city do.

The evil of crime and overcrowding is confined within the city limits. Or is it?

Sometimes, in those sleepy little communities, evil just sleeps a little deeper.

“Beep Beep Beep.”

The incessant beeping and growling of construction equipment relentlessly permeates the air, driving all the sleep deprived stay at home moms to distraction. And there are few things that are scarier than a marauding pack of grumpy housewives.

Last night was Halloween, the kids are all over-tired and cranky, and so are the mom’s, many of which were up dealing with sick achy stomachs from kids scarfing down piles of sweet candy bliss.

Deer jog across the road in single file. First one, who looks back to show its safe, then another, and finally after a pause in the road the last one brings up the rear.

They are unusually alert.

The chill frost in the air seems to be making them uneasy.

Their usual winter trail has been irrevocably changed and the crispness in the air has urged them to turn to their winter habits despite the lack of snow on the ground.

Trees have been ripped ruthlessly from the ground, the topsoil scraped away and carted off to be sold back to the homeowners, and roads for new houses are being roughed in by the hulking metal monsters that roam back and forth growling and beeping.

Canada geese fly overhead, their flight patterns seeming to make no sense while they make their practice runs in preparation for the great migration.

They seem confused, or perhaps they are just agitated.

Somewhere, in the blinding morning light of a kitchen, a group of mothers hunch over their hot coffees after sending their kids off on the school bus, plotting how they can shut up those infernal construction tractors that are taking away the woods, desecrating the adjoining farm fields, and have destroyed the tranquility of the quiet community to build a new housing development.

On the edge of an untouched part of the woods a lone figure stands silently, hunched against the cold in a thin worn jacket, watching the construction.

The old man shakes his head sadly; his leathery face is scarred with the lines of spending many years in the sun working the land. He turns and slowly shambles away on arthritic knees, muttering to himself.

The hulking front end loader chugged weakly, coughed, and let out a final death rattle before lapsing into silence.

With a tired grunt, the driver climbed down out of the machine to the man waiting below, the foreman Stanley Rutthers.

“The old bitch is dead again,” the driver mumbled.

“Vandals again?” Stan asked.

“Pretty sure.”

“Damn, that’s the third one this week.”

“She’s going to be out for a while this time to get fixed.”

“Hmph,” Stan grunted. “This job is getting expensive.”

He took off his hard hat, ran a stressed hand through his hair, realized and put the hat back on his head, giving it a meaty slap with his palm.

“I gotta go check out the rest of the site, see what else the vandals have been up to.”

Stan stalked away in a foul mood.

A group of men in rough dirty clothes, heavy gloves, and hard hats stood milling around, staring at a rocky pile of mud half spilled out of a large Cat front loader.

Stanley Rutthers approached the group, stopping to stand beside one of his most seasoned workers, Dave McCormack. The weather-lined look of their faces and over-worn clothes made them look almost like brothers.

“You check the plans?” Dave asked without turning to look at the foreman.

“Yeah,” Stan said. “They don’t match up. Somehow our plans are different from what’s at the office.”

Dave looked at him in surprise. He wasn’t really surprised, but you’re supposed to look like it when these things happen. This whole job has been a bigger carnival of mistakes and screw-ups than usual.

He dutifully made shocked noises.

“Which one was altered?” Dave asked. “No surprise they forgot to send the changes somewhere again.”

“That’s what’s weird,” Stanley said. “None of the copies look revised. It’s like the engineers drew up new plans, each one a little different, instead of just making copies of the new revised plans.”

“I don’t think anyone’s finding that joke funny.”

“No joke. They all insist they only drew up one new version and made copies of it. The chief engineer is right pissed about it.”

“I bet he is,” Dave said, almost amused.

“The inspector is coming down on our asses because the work doesn’t match the plans that he has too, threatening to shut down the whole job site.”

That changed Dave’s expression. He needed that money. Shutting down the jobsite means sending all the guys home, and sitting on your butt in front of the television with a beer doesn’t earn a pay check in this line of work.

“They’re trying to figure out how this could have happened and which set of plans are the right ones,” Stan said. “The boss is threatening to fire whoever’s behind the prank.”

If it was a prank, it was pretty well played out. The engineers seemed genuinely confused how this could have happened, and no one else had the skills to forge the blueprints.

“So, what’s with the bucket?” Stan asked; referring to why everyone was standing around staring at the Cat’s bucket.

“Some old bones turned up,” Dave said.


Finding bones was dreaded by anyone running a job site, and all the workers too. They were almost always just some kind of animal, usually cow, but every once in a while they turned out to be human. When that happened they all prayed to the construction gods that they were fresh. The remains of a murder or accident victim could shut down the job site for weeks, but old bones possibly from some ancient native ancestor could shut down the site for months, or even indefinitely.

Usually they just covered up the bones, crushing them beneath the huge tires of the Cat without reporting them. But boys will be boys and they usually all wanted to take a look with eager morbid fascination.

And every now and then they’d get a green guy on the crew with too many morals who thought they should report the find just in case. This was one of those times.

“It’s just some animal,” one of the workers argued.

“I dunno,” the young worker with a higher sense of morals hesitated. “Seems kind of big for an animal.”

“It’s a farmer’s field. We’re going to find cow bones. This is the eighth cow bone we’ve found so far. They’re scattered all over the place.”

“Hey, we could make soup!” a jester from the crowd tossed in.

The young worker looked around.

“Looks like a wheat field to me.”

“Barley actually,” one of the men said.

“Whatever.” One of the men was getting annoyed. “There used to be more dairy and beef farms around here. It’s just a cow leg bone.”

“We probably still should-,” the young worker was interrupted.

A Cat some distance off lurched to a stop, the driver jumping out and running around to dig in the mud turned over by the bucket.

He whistled shrilly to get the groups attention, proudly holding up his prize with a big grin.

“Looks like we’ve got more’n cows!” he yelled to the crew.

Like a bunch of school boys trying to look too cool to be overly eager over someone else’s gruesome find, the men shuffled and ambled their way over to check out the new treasure.

Stan didn’t have to see what it was; he had a pretty good hunch.

“Damn,” he muttered.

The worker beamed as he showed off the yellowed scarred skull, a human skull. He hadn’t decided yet if he would add it to his trophies of weird construction discoveries or crush and bury it like the usual bones.

He was genuinely dismayed and disappointed when that decision was taken out of his hands.

The young worker with a perhaps overactive sense of morals was determined this bone had to be reported.

A few hours later the bulldozers and Cats slumbered, the workers stood around sipping old thermos coffee and complaining about lost wages, and the job site was closed.

Yellow police tape fluttered in the wind, police cars sitting idly by while a few uniformed men wandered around the job site. The rest stood around in clumps talking amongst themselves.

The crews coming to investigate the scene and excavate in search of more human remains should be arriving soon.


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