I’m writing a novella at the moment – working title ‘Let it be’ – and wondered if anyone would be kind enough to tell me whether or not my narrator is 1930’s-American-Mid-South-Man enough? I’m a Brit girl, through and through, but I really want to give a ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ sort of feel to this story. So below, for your reading pleasure, I have pasted my first few parargraphs 🙂 PLEASE let me know any thoughts.
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A great friend of mine once told me that evil people weren’t born that way – that they come to it when someone does something mean to them – but I don’t much believe it. That boy who walked into the garage, way back before Betty and I got wed, hadn’t had anything but good in his life. He was the child of a rich papa and a big, fat mama, who loved him more than life but he still did all manner of wrong by that little girl.
The first time I saw him there weren’t many of us around – just me, Big Steve and Mary – and I was the only one who noticed him slip in. He ignored our big red signs telling him to wait in the reception and sidled inside, past Big Steve under the truck to where Mary stood washing our coffee cups. She was always one for plaid shirts and Levis, so from the back I guess she could’ve looked like a guy to someone who didn’t know her. This boy, all dressed up in his Sunday-suit, tapped her on the shoulder but Mary didn’t turn round, as was her way. With just a little pause to see if she’d stop washing, he said,
“Excuse me, sir. I wonder if you might help me. My father sent me here in search of Miss Ward.”
At that time, Ward was Mary’s last name, but if she noticed he’d said it, she sure as shit didn’t let on. She finished washing those cups until he was about to speak again and then she turned to him, all serious like. The boy near as jumped out of his skin when he saw those big black eyes looking up at him, out of that soft, pink face. See, Mary’d always had her hair short – she’d tell tales of being little and cutting it back an inch a month so her mama didn’t notice until it was all swept forward over her forehead and near enough looking like a boy’s. We just all took that as part of Mary, but I guess our visitor expected something different from his papa’s Miss Ward.
I knew Mary pretty well at that time. She’d been working as my secretary for almost three years then – though Betty didn’t much like it. She was a calm sort – never let anything fright her, unlike most women back then – and she got on well with the boys who fixed the cars. She kept to herself mostly, just making the odd remark where she had to and I’d never, in all that time, seen her put out.
Except when that young boy showed up. She stared at him, eyes squinting against the sun at his back. She knew him – I could see that much – but he didn’t seem like the usual sort she’d slot in with. Mary was at home with me – with the guys around the shop, and a couple of the girls who worked the bar in town – she wasn’t the kind of girl who’d get caught up with a fella who looked like he’d run from a wedding.
“What do you want?” she asked, slow like, her voice as steady as usual.
“My father sent me on a matter of personal business –is there somewhere more private we can discuss this?” He nodded at where Big Steve was struggling with the exhaust on the truck. Didn’t look like he’d seen me, but Mary flicked her eyes my way so I nodded – let her know she could go do what she needed to.
“Just follow me.” It wasn’t an invitation – those words came from a girl who’d had enough and she barked them like an order. The boy followed her all meek and mild into my room. I took a step out of the shadows by the door then, and went to stand by Big Steve in case he needed something.
Only, Mary and that fancy boy weren’t in the office for longer than two minutes, I wouldn’t’ve said, before he came storming out again with his fingers making fists. He stomped right past me, glaring his eyes against the sun outside, but turned before he stepped out. Mary stood in the opening to my room, leaning on the door frame, looking at him with her normal blank stare.
“You will help me, Ward,” his voice sounded sharp and foreign and I didn’t much like it, “Or as God is my witness, I will put you in your grave.”
Mary just laughed at him, not moving from where she stood. He tried to stare her down but she just smiled a lazy, half grin until he went running off again. When he was gone she pushed herself from her leaning place and we walked to stand next to one another, meeting in the middle of the ’shop floor.
“Old friend?” I asked, thinking she’d not tell me. Her way was quiet – she kept her business as her own.
“John,” She said, her smile making her voice sound like laughter, “I have never met that man before in all my life.”
There was something in the way she said it that told me it was truth.