Literati! I am trying to get a bite on these postings, making sure they are posted in post haste. Fewer than ten to go, before I can decide (yes, The Decider is Moi) who our six finalists will be; there are stories that even the great and powerful MOI has yet to read. So our …
I am trying to get a bite on these postings, making sure they are posted in post haste. Fewer than ten to go, before I can decide (yes, The Decider is Moi) who our six finalists will be; there are stories that even the great and powerful MOI has yet to read. So our prize winner (of five Franklins) may not even have had their story on line yet! All stories will be posted this weekend and the finalists announced Saturday evening.
Here is the second entry from Caitlin Hornshaw. Story number nineteen since I started posting on Thanksgiving weekend.
By Caitlin M.F. Hornshaw
The night of her release, Marie hugged her backpack close to her chest as the Blazer being driven by Dale, her new probation officer, charged through the night. The darkness of the trees surrounded the SUV, its headlights making out the occasional dash of yellow on the abandoned road.
There hadn’t been a whole lot of time to process the events of the last few hours, and later Marie would realize that this time in the car was this first time in nearly five years that she wasn’t afraid.
Seated in the back of the Blazer, it was the first time she hadn’t been confined by some kind of metal blockage. Marie was wearing a short-sleeved teal sweater, tan pants and sensible brown shoes. Her short graying mess of black hair was even more unkempt than usual and her sapphire jeweled framed glasses were perched slightly crookedly on the bridge of her nose. She kept nervously fumbling with them as they drove on in silence.
In prison they called her grandma. A nickname assigned the day she arrived, lines of female inmates in cages held tight to the bars and cat-called as she walked by in her orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, an officer at each shoulder.
The nickname was ironic, considering her charges, but she kept those to herself. Her lawyer warned her that jail could be living hell for sex offenders—they had their food taken, their cells defecated and urinated in. Once their crime has become known, he said, the chances of survival were slim.
By being polite, keeping to herself and passing the time by reading at least a third of the penitentiary’s library, Marie did make it out alive–and about 5 years early.
The blazer began to slow down. The sound of gravel crunched beneath the tires as the car gently rocked from side to side as it made its way over the uneven terrain and onto the road’s shoulder.
A moment later, the SUV came to a stop. Dale shifted it into park then turned in his seat to face his passenger.
“This is where I let you out.”
Marie looked around in confusion.
“But, this is a street in the middle of nowhere. I thought you were taking me to rehab.”
Dale stepped out of the car and came around to open the door for Marie. “The Julia Tuttle Causeway isn’t a treatment center. It’s a highway. This is where you’ll be living.”
She stared at him blankly. She was too stunned to think of what to say.
“The law states that we can’t have you staying within 2,500 feet of a school, day care, playground or bus stop. That leaves the Bridge.”
Without giving her a chance to reply, Dale took Marie’s hand and helped her step out of the SUV. With that came two slams of a car door and that dome light dimmed to darkness.
“I’ll be back to check on you in a week,” he said before rolling up his window and driving away.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Marie followed the blurry light in the distance and soon saw the grubby faces illuminated by the dancing flames of a trash can fire.
She slung her pack over her shoulder and made her through a narrow opening in the guardrail. Hidden from the traffic above was a kind of post-apocalyptic outpost. Scattered between the giant concrete columns that prop up the bridge were tents and large cardboard boxes, a half a dozen wooden shanties, more barrels of fire, rusted bicycles, mounds of rotting trash. Some of the apparently more crafty inhabitants had outfitted their boxes, tents and shacks with lights and furniture. She could hear a dull roar of electric generators.
When Marie looked up, she could see movement inside the dimly lit rafters of the bridge. She was looking at the modern cavemen. She was now one of them.
A man wearing slippers and a bathrobe emerged from a tent that appeared to be made from blue plastic tarp and twine.
He approached her with an outstretched hand. “I’m Mark. They call me the Governor. You must be Marie. We’ve been expecting you.”
Taking her bag, Mark escorted Marie to the brightly lit female encampment on the other side of the bridge.
“We’re society’s trolls,” he explained. Some of us are angry to be here, some of us have come to call it home. Some feel like they have a disease. Some have regrets. Some don’t.”
Marie started to cry again.
“I’m going to die out here,” she sobbed. “And I have nothing to show for my whole life.”
The Governor pulled a pocket of Kleenex from his robes pocket and offered it to her.
“It’s not too late. I swear, it’s not too late. It’s all about perspective. You have to think of this as the beginning instead of the end.”
“Once you get settled in, come see me and I’ll make sure you get something to eat.”
He handed her back her pack then turned and walked away.
Marie dried her eyes with the tissue. Then she pulled back the flap of her assigned tent to investigate her new home under the bridge.