Saturday Snippet – May 18, 2013
Writing an intense action scene with cowboys, a drunk man, and no offensive language was a challenge, but here it is. This is part of a scene from my book, “An Orphan’s Heart.”
Set up – Alabama 1875. Ellen has hitched a ride across the state with two moonshine-hauling wagons. The four men have been gentlemen for the previous five days, but tonight is a different story. Apparently Floyd has been sampling the product.
Cast of characters:
Ellen Rodgers – twenty-five-year-old girl who hitched a ride
Floyd – old wagon driver
Earl – cook
Buck – sharpshooter
Luke – Buck’s teenage son who drives the second wagon
“What are you whishpering ovah there? Are you trying to keep that pretty little girl all to yourshelf?” Floyd has risen to his feet, with more than a little difficulty, and is staggering toward us. He stops for a moment in the middle of the campfire clearing, and guzzles from the jug, throwing his head all the way back. I think he may fall backward, and I wonder if he will break open his skull if that happens.
Earl doesn’t move from his spot next to me. He sits in a relaxed pose, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, with a half-whittled piece of wood in one hand and a knife in the other.
“That’s enough, Floyd! Go sleep it off.” His stern voice doesn’t match his calm body language, but when I see his eyes squinting in Floyd’s direction and his jaw throb with anger, I think Floyd should do as he is told.
“Don’t tell me what to do, Earl. I wanna talk to the pretty girl, too.”
I don’t move. I don’t even think I’m breathing. I have never seen a person in this condition before, and I’m not sure if he’s dangerous or if he’s going to fall down at any moment.
Earl slowly rises to his feet, moves in front of me, and lowers his voice. “You’re not going to do any such thing. The lady doesn’t need to speak with you when you’re drunk.”
Floyd wildly takes a swing at Earl and hits him right in the jaw, causing Earl to hit the ground with a thud. He is out cold. Luke throws his guitar down on the dirt, runs around the outside of the circle, and grabs for my hand, but Floyd beats him to it. Before I realize what is happening, Floyd spins me around and I find myself facing Luke, pinned in Floyd’s arms.
“That’sh better, pretty lady,” Floyd slobbers. The rancid odor of whiskey and rotting teeth invades my nostrils.
Luke freezes and pushes his hands toward the ground in an attempt to calm Floyd down. “Look, Floyd, you don’t want to do this.”
“How do you know what I wanna do?” He spits down my neck as he speaks, wobbling back and forth. The motion and the smell are making me sick to my stomach.
Luke looks past me, over my shoulder. He nods, then there is a sudden noise behind me. When Floyd turns toward the noise, Luke grabs my hand and says, “Come on!”
“Hey!” Floyd hollers at us as we pull away.
“That’s enough, Floyd!” Buck yells, appearing from the woods behind us.
Floyd turns toward Buck, and moves faster than his inebriated body should be able to. Luke yanks me toward the wagon and shoves me in. Buck grabs Floyd by his outstretched arm, spins him around, and puts the knife up to Floyd’s throat. Floyd curses, demanding Buck to let him go. I assume Buck refused, for they’re soon having an all-out brawl. I hear the jug hit the ground, but I don’t know if Floyd threw it or dropped it. I also hear fists making contact with flesh. I can’t imagine Floyd is in any shape to fight off a man like Buck.
I jump when I hear a gunshot. Everything is abruptly silent. The bullfrogs stop croaking, and it seems as if time is standing still. I look wide-eyed at Luke, wondering if Floyd has been shot.
“It’s all right,” he says, shaking his head in answer to my unspoken question.
“Are you sure?” I whisper.