A Glimpse into Roanoke.

I’ve written somewhere around 3200 words today. Here are my favorites thus far.

She ran down the beach to the water line, giggling in both terror and excitement as she looked over her shoulder. This man — this new man who said his name was John Smith, a sure sign he was a terrorist and or a liar — chased her at least fifty yards behind. Lilac wasn’t sure what had come over her; she’d always been sure of herself, confident that nothing would get between her and her Calvins. And yet as she ran from him, she knew she was teasing and delaying the inevitable.

John called after her, words she couldn’t hear, but sense. She turned again and saw he closed the distance to just twenty-five yards. Her heart raced from the exercise and excitement and anticipation. She took her eyes off the darkness in front of her and tripped over a piece of driftwood, sending her crashing into the sand with a great poof and an audible laugh from her pursuer.

Great, she thought. Graceful as always.

John stopped short of her. “Are you alright?” he asked, smiling from about five yards away.

“Fine. Just my pride is all. I should mention I’m not very graceful, especially after a few drinks.” Their eyes locked and she expected him to pounce and take her, right there on the beach. She’d let him, probably. This wasn’t her; not at all. Instead he held a hand out with a smile.

“Come on.” She took his hand and stood, blushing at him, saying thank you with no words coming out.

“You caught me,” she said, biting her bottom lip. She never bit her bottom lip while looking at a man with a stolen glance.

“No, you fell. You can keep running if you want to,” he started. He got as far as the word running, before she kissed him. She never made the first move, though sprinting from the bar, and acting like a girl was also not something she ever did.

She could get used to it. His hands never moved from her shoulders, despite the feeling as though she was about to be ravished, that she was about to be taken as she’d never done before. And in truth, she barely had. Once, The Boy of The Broken Heart, her last beau tried and failed miserably before her heart shattered in a million, billion pieces.

Lilac heard rockets, the staccato beat of something she thought to be her heart. She heard a flute, somewhere in the distance as the sounds of rockets became more drum like. A snare drum playing a pa-da-pum-pa-pa, each beat punctuated by the wires below the snare drum. There were at least ten, joined by flutes, playing something whimsical, as though to announce the presence of something, someone. She broke the kiss, looking in Johns eyes.

“I found you,” he said, smiling. “It’s really you.”

Glimpse: Alan Franklin Summers

There is some debate on the true age of Alan Summers.

Some of his stories take place five years before the Great Depression, when he was just a small child, living in a farming community outside of Pittsburgh. The Summer Farm specialized in spinach, a delicate leafy vegetable that Alan had grown to hate, thanks to it being the only food they could eat during the Depression. There was spinach fries, spinach casseroles, spinach with spinach sauce and spinach ice cream for desert. All of which Alan confided to Lila was a bunch of malarkey. Doreen made the worst, most waterlogged and oily spinach he’d ever had the displeasure of tasting, a fact that each of the family members agreed upon. Stories set around this time put Alan’s age somewhere in the late 80’s.

Other stories took place fifteen years before the start of the Great Depression, making his age somewhere in the hundreds. In these, he was a beet and potato farmer from Missouri, watching helplessly as the Beet Beetles ate his family’s sole crop, forcing him to take a job as a boot black for a man who’d lost both legs in the Civil War. This story especially offended Doreen.

“What on EARTH would a man with no legs be doing with boy to shine his shoes when he had no shoes?” she would ask, flabbergasted each time Alan told the nonsensical story.

“Who’s to say? General Cornelius C. Cornpone wanted to ensure that by the grace of God, if he did grow new legs, he’d have shoes on the ready.”

By now, Lilac would giggle, and Doreen would become even more infurated at the man’s spendthrift ways. Nevermind that Genereal Cornpone was a figment of her imagination, so far as she knew. That he spent his money frivolously angered her to the point of the vapours, and he knew it. “Now, Doreen, relax. My time was spent well. When not shining his shoes, I was tending to his horses which he’d ride daily.”

Had she been a tea kettle, her outburst would have signified that the water was ready. “How can a man with no legs ride a horse?!” By now, Steven would put his head down to cover his laughter while Lila would excuse herself from the room to giggle uncontrollably while the fight raged on, Doreen arguing with her father-in-law, who stayed steadfast in his dedication to Cornelius T. Cornpone and his ancestors, the real champions of the Civil War.

Still other stories about his birth lead him to be a childhood friend of Christ, the man who gave the name “dirt” to the object which had no name before he came along, and sometime within the last week, depending on how witty he was feeling. Only Alan knew for sure his birthday and date, and he wasn’t telling. Inspite of that, he lived a wonderful, vibrant life at his “around ninety years” of age.

It’s not that Alan was secretive; no, Alan was an open book, for those willing to get past the foreword. His stories were long and worth every word, if you were willing to look past the grandiose and absurd exaggerations placed within each story. Alan could see everyone as he told his stories, and the second someone looked around, incredulously, he’d had him and began speaking only to him, gradually ramping up the absurdity until the subject burst. It was his favorite thing to do, and he was an old pro at setting Doreen off.

What’s known about Alan Summers is: He stood six feet, three inches tall for most of his life, and weighed a perfectly healthy one hundred and eighty pounds. His eyes blue, his hair blond, his skin fair with Germanic features. He was an athlete in high school, and very nearly won the Wisconsin State 100m dash some year of his life when he was eighteen. And, until ten years ago, he’d likely never had a bad day in his life. His first day of life, he was born in a hospital next to Gertrude Opal Smith, who would become his best friend and wife. Alan was born first, Gertrude seconds later. Their parents — William James and Anna Ruth Summers and John and Jane Smith, both men farm hands on the same farm, both women servants on the same farm were like best friends.

Each stayed on the farm in Lower Wisconsin growing soybeans on the largest soybean plantation in Wisconsin until the death of the John D. Rockefeller of Soybeans, T. Harold Wilson. Wilson, not having children due to an accident as a child, left his vast plantation to the Summers and Smith, which was inevitably passed on to Alan and Gertie, which will then be left to Steven and Doreen and then Lilac Flower Summers.

Fifty-two years ago, they welcomed their first child into the world, Steven William John Summers, their first son. Fifty years ago, they both welcomed and buried their second and last child, Mary Anna Ruth Sanders.

Alan and Gertie, until September 6th, ten years ago had not spent more than half-day apart, when Gertrude got sick. She passed quickly, her heart failing her after sixty-four years of marriage. From there, somewhere in his eighties or nineties, Alan’s health started failing, too. He was sicker more often, tired more often. Still tending to his hundreds of acres of soybeans, he finally allowed Steven to take over more of the day to day operations of the crops.

Alan barely remembered the days, barely knew he was alive anymore. Without Gertie, life just didn’t seem to matter, aside from Lilac and Steven. He’d do anything for Gertie, he’d do anything to have her back again, and through his granddaughter, he felt her still there, even slightly. She loved him, and he loved her. They hadn’t spent more than a day apart since Gertie died, and likely never would again.

That is, until it was time to tell her the family secret.

Glimpse: Roanoke.

She’d never intended to wait tables and tend bar for more than a few months, maybe a year. Ten years later, Lilac had seen it all and done it all, starting sentences to fresh-faced newcomers with words like “Back a while ago” and “Before everything changed” as though she were her grandfather, talking about the Great Depression. She wanted to smack herself each time.

Still, like most of what she did, Lilac Flowers Summers excelled with very little effort and liked it. Why be better when you’re already okay? The world needed more people like her, who were driven just enough to barely succeed, despite everything going in her favor. It gave people hope that when they were speaking to Lilac, maybe they were talking to a future CEO and could tell people that they knew her when. It was the glint in everyone’s eye that kept her from trying too hard.

She was glad that she did, especially now that Grandpa Alan slipped farther from reality each day, the throes of Alzheimer’s Disease robbing his memories unfairly. She was his primary caretaker, and loved it every moment of it. Alan looked at her with a twinkle in his eye, occasionally calling her Gertrude (his wife of fifty-two years he lost ten years ago to the cancer) instead of Lil’ Lila, the name only he could call her. They had a routine: Wake up at 6:30 (despite Lila not getting off work most nights until 3am) breakfast at 7:15 after a short walk around the apple orchard in the back. Breakfast was porridge that Lila stirred and Alan ate with gusto. Alan would read until 10am, though he forgot most of the words as soon as he read them, and often times read the same paragraph a hundred times. Lunch was 12:30, and Lila would often sleep until 3, since Alan liked to watch soap operas, since Gertrude liked them, he wanted to tell her what happened in Quarry Town when he saw her again in heaven.

At 3, it was another walk, where Alan would hold Lilac’s hand and point at things. Before, he would speak, telling stories she’d heard hundreds of times before. Now, he moved his mouth, but forgot how to speak frustrating himself to the point of tears. Lila would put an arm around him and tell the story for him, as though she were his ventriloquist puppet. Most days, his mind would be sharp enough to squeeze a hand for a correction when Lila would make a mistake, purposely. He smiled at her, knowing what she was doing.

And then, her favorite time of the day: supper time. The menus stayed the same, and the result did too. They would at at 4:30, have dishes done by 5, and then sit and watch TV with each other, holding hands. It was then that his mind was the most clear, the most vivid, when he remembered things he’d forgotten and actually formed words without much frustration. His wit was as sharp as ever, despite his mind betraying him now at the age of 87.

At 6, when Steven and Doreen came home, Lilac would kiss her grandfather on his forehead, tell him she loved him and cry all the way to work. She’d emerge from the car with perfect make-up, and a practiced bounce in her step, shoving the days hardships to the side, in order to make a few dollars that she didn’t need anyway.

Her parents were rich, filthy stinking rich, having pioneered the Lower Wisconsin Green Initiative back before anyone knew that green meant something more than a color in 1983, just before Lila’s birth. They’d promised her, their only child by design the business someday, though she regarded it more as a burden than a birthright. In return, all she asked is that she have enough time to take care of Alan so that he didn’t have to die in some sterile, clandestine nursing home. Once he passed away, she would get involved in the business. But, not yet. Not now.

Everything changed on August fifteenth of Lilac Flower Summers twenty-eighth year. It was a Saturday morning, the family sitting in their spacious kitchen. Alan, who’s mind had been more vapid than ever, stood and turned to each of them. “I would like to go to Roanoke. One more time. Pack light. It will be a short trip. Take my car. You’ll leave it there with my cousin, Norman.”

Roanoke, is where Gertrude went, and it’s where members of her family before her went to die. Lilac burst into tears immediately and Alan rushed to her side and held her. “It’s okay, Lil’ Lila. We need to go now. Be strong for me.”

Three hours later, they were on their way, Steven driving, Doreen asleep in the passenger’s seat, and Lilac and Alan in the back seat, Lila’s hair in her eyes to hide the streaks of mascara and eyeliner smeared on her face. Alan knew it, and a tear dropped from his eye as well.

It was time to go home.

I can’t tell you how stoked I am for this story. I tried for an hour or two to write a synopsis of the story, and couldn’t. There’s so much I want to tell, so much I think people should see, that I don’t think a synopsis would do it justice. I am very excited for a the four main characters, that they’ve been in my head for so long, I feel I know them as though they were friends.

This story (once finished, of course) I think could become one of the Great American Novels, and I’m stoked to share bits and pieces with each of you.