I see by your outfit that you…are Gary Clark!

Literati! Looks like the magic is coming back.  Just posted this contest, and already Gary Clark has entered with a new work in progress. The task of each author who enters this contest is to connect us to the story fast as fallin’ through a prologue.Each author has to decide for themselves how much information …

Literati!

Looks like the magic is coming back.  Just posted this contest, and already Gary Clark has entered with a new work in progress. The task of each author who enters this contest is to connect us to the story fast as fallin’ through a prologue.Each author has to decide for themselves how much information is enough, and how much is too much. It is an act of seduction.

That studly cowboy Gary Clark sets us up for a story that has already got us interested in the outcome. But I ain’t no spoiler.  Read it for yourself and then in the comments feel free to agree with me!

Gary also has a published work Dance of the Bull Rider, available here

http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1115

Coming soon will be another novel, War on Bird Street, about the unlikely relationship between an overweight bullied young boy and a returning veteran unable to cope with PTSD. We hope to be able to submit the prologues and first chapters to these books as well, though, already published (or under contract) they will be ineligible for the competition.  And you can say hello to Gary here:

http://www.clarkliterary.com/Dance_of_the_Bull_Rider.html

 

In the meantime, here is

Buddy and Snug (prologue)

by Gary Clark

“I think you’re gonna be ok, Betsy,” Buddy said, patting her belly. “Might be just a little indigestion got’cha down. You’re awful old to be carrin’ a calf but, well, I know how it is sometimes. You’re standin’ out there in that pasture mindin’ your own business, and the Phelp’s bull finds his way through the fence. He looks at you and you look at him and…” Buddy patted his milk cow on the rump and laughed. “Never too old, I guess.”

He walked out of the barn and looked at the sun just cresting above the horizon. “You gonna beat us down again Sol?” he said to the sun. “You been pushin’ the temperature up over a hundred for three weeks straight now. Keepin’ any chance of rain away from us and dryin’ up what little water’s left out there in those stock tanks.” He pulled off his hat and swatted at a big green fly buzzing around his face.

“Water’s no more’n catfish deep out there in those stock tanks,” he said. “River’s down to a trickle, too. Don’t know how much longer we can go like this. But we’ll survive,” he said, kicking at the cracked ground. “We always find a way.”

Walking into the kitchen, he looked up at the ceiling and said, “We will survive this, won’t we, Lord?”

Buddy reached into the pie safe and pulled out a loaf of bread. He cut off two thin slices, rewrapped the loaf in the cheesecloth and put it back in the pie safe. He twisted a big piece of cheese off the wheel of cheddar, poured himself a cup of coffee and sat at the table.

Looking out the kitchen window, he saw dust blowing across the field near the road. “Who the hell is that?” he said, readjusting his cap on his head.

“Howdy, Buddy. You in there?” the Sheriff called as he stepped out of his patrol car.

Buddy carried his coffee out to the front porch. “I done told y’a, I don’t want nothin’ to do with that boy and I meant it. So you can just get in your car and hightail it back to town.”

“I know you did, Buddy. I’m just out here on a friendly visit. Checkin’ up on you.”

“Some reason you need to be watchin’ me now? You expectin’ me to rob a bank or somethin’?” Buddy said.

Sheriff Massey laughed. “No. Just a good day to get out of the office and visit an old friend. Just checkin’ up, seeing if you’re doin’ ok.”

“Well, look up there on that hill up yonder,” Buddy held his coffee mug up toward the hill. “You see one cross or two under that big oak tree?”

“Just one. That’s Ruby’s grave, ain’t it?” the sheriff said.

“Yep. As long as there’s only one cross up there that means I’m still down here workin’ and gettin’ it done. You can bet I’m doin’ ok and no sense anybody comin’ out here to check up on me.”

Sheriff Massey stepped up on the porch, pulled off his hat and fanned himself. “Another hot one.”

“If you came to give me the weather report I can get that by holdin’ my hand out in front of me. If my hand gets hot and dry then that’s what the weather is. If it gets cold and wet, then it’s winter,” Buddy said, walking back into the house. He poured Sheriff Massey a mug of coffee and carried it and his own mug back to the porch. “Might as well sit and rest a bit,” Buddy said, sitting down hard in the old rocking chair. “Maybe the weather will change and you’ll have to go spread the word about it. Then I can get back to my work before the day’s over and I gotta do today’s work and tomorrow’s work all tomorrow.”

Sheriff Massey sat on the rocking chair and sipped his coffee. “Might be,” he said.

They stared out across the fields without speaking. Then both heads turned toward the peach tree beside the porch and listened when a mockingbird began calling for its mate. Looking across the road, they watch a buck and a fawn amble slowly across the field, cropping the grass as they traveled. A coyote bounded out of a thick grove of trees and jumped the fence then ran toward the deer. Instinctively the buck positioned himself between his fawn and the charging coyote, lowering his head, facing the half-starved coyote. The coyote charged. The buck swung its huge antlers to the right, throwing the coyote rolling under the fence, back into the road. The coyote yelped and kicked up dust as they ran back to the grove of trees.

“Natural instinct to care for the young,” the Sheriff said. “He’d sacrifice his life to protect that fawn.”

“Yep,” Buddy said. He struggled out of the rocking chair and grabbed the Sheriff’s coffee mug. “More?” he said.

“Yeah. Maybe half. I gotta get back in town.”

Buddy refilled the mugs and returned to the porch.

Buddy handed the mug to the Sheriff and settled back in his rocking chair. After a long silence, and without looking at the Sheriff, Buddy took a deep breath and said, “I ain’t takin’ that little sonofabitch outta jail.”

“Never said nothin’ ‘bout that.”

“It’s what you came out here for and don’t go tryin’ to tell me no different. But I’m gonna tell you one more time. I ain’t gonna bring that boy out here. I got all the broke down stuff I can pray over and I don’t need nothin’ nor nobody else to fix.”

“You need help out here, Buddy. This place is going downhill, and with just a little help you can get it back like it was – a money-making farm.”

Buddy leaned and spat across the porch rail. “Ain’t no such thing as a money-makin’ farm no more. And I don’t have no money to hire good help and that’s what I need, good help. Not some broke down boy that’s spoiled and got soft hands.”

“Give him a chance. Judge said he’d grant a personal bond if you’ll take him. Snug’s wanting to talk to you and ask you if he can come out here and live with you. I think he’s serious. I think he’ll make you a good hand.”

“He’s serious as long as he’s got those big inmates sniffin’ after him and takin’ his food away from him. Soon as I got him out of there and brought him here, he’d run away and be back in Houston with his drug takin’ friends. I ain’t a’gonna be no part of that. My son and daughter-in-law never raised him to be like that. He turned sour after they got killed in that crash and he got all their money and blew through it buyin’ a big house and fancy cars. You can’t turn sour milk back to sweet. He’s tasted what he thinks is the good life and he ain’t never gonna be happy out here havin’ to work from the dark of mornin’ ‘til the dark of night.”

“If he stays in jail, he’s gonna get hurt. He’s been in protective custody since we got him but I can’t keep him there forever. You willing to take responsibility for what’s gonna happen to him if I have to move him to general population where those guys are twice his size and a hell of a lot meaner than him? He’s a good lookin’ young man, Buddy. Those inmates will trash him and mess up his life forever.”

Buddy struggled out of the rocking chair and threw the last of his coffee over the porch rail. “Good to see y’a, Sheriff. Thanks for comin’ out. It gets pretty lonesome out here and company’s always welcome. Even you. But I got work to do. I don’t have a job like yours, you know, work my eight hours and then go home and come back tomorrow. I gotta work ‘til todays work is done and then tomorrow I have to work ‘til tomorrow’s work is done no matter what time that is. I been sittin’ here with you and half the morning’s gone. Just means it’s gonna be later when I get through and can go in the house tonight.”

“Think it over, Buddy.” The Sheriff pointed across the road where the buck and his fawn were still cropping grass. “You have the same instinct to protect your grandson as that buck did protecting his fawn. If he hadn’t stood up against that coyote, it’d of killed them both and he knew that. He was willing to give his life for his son to survive.”

“I’ll see y’a,” Buddy said, putting his hand on the Sheriff’s back, ushering him off the porch and to the door of his patrol car. “Come back anytime. Always got a pot of coffee on.”

“I’ll see y’a, Buddy,” the Sheriff said, putting the patrol car into gear and rolling slowly away from the house.

Buddy pulled off his cap and brushed his arm across his forehead. “Lord, it’s already nine thirty. Half the day’s gone and I ain’t hit a lick yet.”

He put his cap back on and readjusted it. He turned on the faucet, grabbed the hose off the ground and sprayed the wilted daisies with cool water.

“No sense you flowers goin’ without water,” he said. “She’d never forgive me if I let y’all die. I don’t know how you’ve survived all these years with the drought and all and her not here to nurse you through it. But somehow you just find the strength and determination to keep comin’ back every year. And you reach way down in that dirt and find something that you can use to set these flowers up here for us. That’s the way it is with this old earth,” he said, scooping up a handful of the power-dry dirt. “Just have to keep reaching down and finding nourishment and strength to keep going – keep producin’ even when it looks like everything’s all used up.” He spread his fingers and let the dirt flow out between them.

Buddy looked up toward the hill. He turned off the water and pulled six daisies off the wilted plants. He walked across the field and struggled up to the crest of the hill where she waited for him.

He leaned over and swatted the dead daisies off her grave. Then he knelt and placed the fresh daisies at the base of the cross. He rubbed his old, calloused hand against the hand-hewn cedar cross then sat on the bench beside her.

“This old hill’s gettin’ steeper and steeper every year, Ruby,” he said, sitting hard on the bench he’d built for her. He fanned himself with his cap.

“Looks like I got a few shingles missin’ on the house,” he told her. “’Course they’ve been gettin’ tired of holdin’ on and just fallin’ off for years now. Everything’s getting tired of holding on.” He pointed toward the barn. “Fence over there’s got some posts rotted off at the base, leanin’ over and ready to fall. Barn needs paintin’, garden’s full of weeds.” He looked at the cross. “This place is gettin’ away from me, Ruby,” his voice cracked, “and I just can’t keep up with it no more.” He growled and cleared his throat. “When it was me and you and Casey down there, this place was the best it ever was. We had milk and vegetables enough to give away, fifty head of mama cows, two sheds full of hay, and still had time to help the neighbors that needed helpin’. “

“Then Casey got married and me and you started gettin’ old and the drought set in,” Buddy rubbed his hand across his face, “well, then…”, he stopped and looked at the cross and took a deep breath, “then you… died,” he said. “There. I said it. You died, and… and then Casey and Linda got killed in that crash and now Snug’s locked up over in the county jail.” Buddy leaned forward, slapped his face in his hands and cried.

He stared up at the sky. “If it wasn’t for you being up here watchin’ over me, I’d of give up a long time ago. But just knowin’ that someday I’ll join y’a up here keeps me goin’. Keeps me holdin’ on. I guess the Lord’s not done with me yet. Maybe he’s got a plan in mind for me.” He looked down at the pasture and watched the buck guard the fawn as it continued to crop grass. Buddy smiled and shook his head.

When he finally pulled his pocket watch out of his faded overalls, he saw that it was past eleven o’clock. “Dang. I’ve sat up here all mornin’,” he said, wiping the sweat off his forehead. “Even up here under this big old oak, it’s gotta be a hundred degrees already.”

He put his hand on the bench and pushed himself up to standing, then he brushed his hand against the cross one more time. Without telling her goodbye, he limped down the hill and into the house.

Buddy washed his face and hands and put on his good shirt. Then he walked out to the pickup truck, rolled down the windows and started it up. He drove down the dusty road and out the gate, finally turning onto the road that led into town.

*****

And here is Gary Clark discussing catfish with our president…oh! …wait!

 

 

 

15 comments

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    Smooth, very smooth, down-home words heating up the cracked landscape on some mighty thirsty Texas lands, wife on a hilltop in her own cemetery, who’s in jail, where’s the rain, where did the morning go and the story is set after paying respects to his Ruby.

    There is a gentlemen quality to the words and character that Gary Clark brings us. The prologue is drawn out slow as the novel is introduced to us tinhorns. It’s too hot to go two stepping, so I might as draw my petticoat to my ankles and settle in for a while hoping “Buddy and Snug” arrives soon at my front porch swing. Thank you Gary for such an entertaining prologue.

    • Glclark says:

      Thanks, Madame. Glad you liked it. Just be sure when you draw up your petticoat up that you keep your ankles crossed.

      • Parisianne Modert says:

        Why sir, you most certainly shock a delicate lady as myself. To show more than an ankle is simply unthinkable before a wedding night. Now that this is settled and the stray cattle are rounded up, how about a sweet tea and chapter one. My, my, it is going to be a hot contest.

  2. Your writing is comfort food for the soul. Sure there is the down home Texas country that is light and easy to read, and the full intent of the characters abiding by the rules their momma’s taught them. But the honesty of introducing emotion; the agitation in a cup of coffee, the sadness in life’s reflections, the mark of a man coming up short and then doing something about it, this is pure horse-sense Gary Clark style. Get a-long little doggie.

    • Glclark says:

      Brother Stang – The writing style, as you already know, is typically me. I like to think my readers will take a glass of sweet tea out on the porch and rock and read at their own leisurely pace. Heck, most of us down here in Texas still move our lips when we read to ourselves so that slows the story down a bit. But – don’t be fooled by the slow drawl of this prologue. Buddy’s on his way to the jail to talk to Snug and, as we say here, it’s about to get Western!

      • Trust me. With you behind the wheel the rosy glasses are lost underfoot on the floorboards. I gitit. Little doggie got off the porch with the mother______.
        This is gonna be cool

  3. Julie Mark Cohen says:

    Gary,

    An engaging read, but I humbly suggest that it’s too long (2250 words) and too detailed to be a prologue. I think that you have the essence of a prologue plus one or two chapters rolled into one.

    To me, a prologue is a quick read to quickly pose a conflict that entices me to move on to Chapter 1. I think of a prologue is a large hook to snare the reader who is sifting through books on the shelves in a bookstore. That is, the prologues are in competition with each other. What will hook me in the first sentence and keep me reading? What’s the last sentence in the prologue — do I want to learn what happens after this?

    Would you consider shortening your prologue, perhaps thinking of it as a flash fiction story with no resolution or denouement? Perhaps, we learn from the get-go that Buddy is alone, except for his grandson. Then, we learn about two conflicts (using the Sheriff as the foil for both): Buddy wants nothing to do with this grandson and he needs farm hands. Maybe, the prologue ends with Buddy grumbling about not being able to find reliable farm hands… or something stronger and completely different from this.

    You might want to consider something like the following as your first sentence which might provide a stronger initial “hook.”
    “I done told y’a, [” Buddy said to that morning’s intruder, Sheriff Massey. “] I don’t want nothin’ to do with that boy and I meant
    it. So you can just get in your car and hightail it back to town.”

    750 words? 1000 words? Again, think about standing in a bookstore or perhaps reading online, one prologue after another to select a book to read..

    In Chapter 1, you can provide some of the back stories, maybe, chronologically, or perhaps current with flashbacks. In these you can elaborate on hints from the prologue — the drought, Buddy’s wife’s death, Buddy’s son’s and daughter-in-law’s death, his grandson’s troubles, other.

    Several suggested edits:
    readjusting his cap on his head –> readjusting the cap on his cap

    the weather report I can get that –> the weather report, I can get that

    When you introduce the Sheriff, you might want to include his surname then, not later on.

    Just some humbly-submitted suggestions for your consideration, to take or toss, as you wish.

  4. Parisianne Modert says:

    Writing as a lady often better suited for the 19th century, I am amused at how rushed and attention deficit, modern people are in comparison to a more gentle century’s reader. My compromise is to alert the reader early with the main character or one of the main characters believing that the persona and psyche are the first drawing points along with setting a scene.

    Most of my novels haven’t prologues, but I’m rethinking their importance. While discussions of commercial enterprise may be necessary, I find that I wish to avoid such vulgar considerations in favor of artful expression and fanciful livings within a story line.

    The thought I present is that a prologue is an invitation to a masquerade ball with limited particulars about who the full characters are, so the reader can imagine whether they would like to attend, but hold on to the fascination of not knowing. What happens at the ball (chapter 1 onward) is an unfolding of mystique, surprises, characters to dance with and scenes to be part of.

    Some say the prologue should not be the beginning, but I’m personally fond of such beginnings and what they are to lead to. The end of the prologue to me should be, “Shall we dance?”

  5. Stars Fall On My Heart
    Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    Hi Gary!!!

    I think I’m on board with Julie that this seems a bit too long for a prologue. I actually think this would function MUCH better as a first chapter, though. It’s got an excellent conflict that will fuel the rest of the story, with the possibility of redemption for all parties involved.

    Reading through this forced me to take a good look at the current prologue I have. Though I love it (I really do. I don’t think I’m letting it go for anything.), I may need to rethink what to start with. What I would suggest for you for a prologue I will probably have to do for myself: find an event before this story starts that is more background. What about when Ruby died? What was that moment like? What’s a regular day for him when the sheriff isn’t trying to get him to take Snug in? What about a small snippet of when he acquired PTSD? Or a moment when he struggled with his PTSD? Or the day he found out Snug got arrested?

    While I agree with Julie that it’s a tad long, it still sets up the story beautifully and would certainly recommend that it remains in your novel–whether as your prologue or your first chapter is entirely your call. But your writing shines like a shooting star as always <3

  6. Glclark says:

    Stars and Julie – You busted me! I was in a hurry and I do hereby freely and humbly admit that I sent chapter one of Buddy and Snug and tried to pass it off as a prologue. But I was in a hurry because the guys were waiting and honking the truck horn, ready to get down to the lake and do some serious fishing. I have one of those 18-wheeler horns on my Dodge Dually and it sure makes Interstate travel easier. Mikey has a horn that sounds like a shotgun blast and that usually gets us to the front of the line at any traffic jam.
    Anyway, I told you that to tell you this – I WAS in a hurry when I sent the entry in. I should have known I’d get busted and sure enough, I did. Reminded me of the time I was packing the truck at two in the morning, getting ready to go down to Mexico for some REAL big catfish. I had just got in the truck and buckled my seatbelt when the light in the garage came on suddenly and there was Darla standing there with one kid slung across her hip and another one hanging onto her night gown. Anyway, all of a sudden she flings this ten pound skillet at me and it crashed through the windshield and landed in the seat right beside me. Then she said kinda snotty like, “You forgot this,” and she and the kids walked real slow back in the house.
    And so, my friends, Julie and Stars, to you I send hugs and appreciation for the time y’all put into the critiques you give us.

  7. How long was Count of Monte Cristo, Anna Karenina, The 59th street Bridge song…? good things come in short and long packages.

    I’ve read my share of long and short prologues, and the quality is what matters. I saw humor, sadness, a good opening to story. I suspect this would be a long book, but we’ve all read books that were too long for their own good, or too short for us to get engaged. I loved this length. The protagonist has a lot he’s dealing with, and I know you’re the kind of writer that could flesh it out and keep the reader engaged and wanting more the whole time.

    Does this story *have* to become a novel? What if this is the prologue to a series? Father, Son, Grandson… all the stories rolled into one book, but three separate tales…? I see all those possibilities and more in this, and I am gonna tell you ‘write’ now –you better bring it, because I’ve been a fan of yours since I started coming to hang out at the AWwYP towers, and I expect greatness, even if that includes word count!

  8. Billy Holder says:

    …if the crick was dried up, no catfish and pickins was slim, I would a took a shot at that buck. …just sayin O_o

  9. I was so absorbed in that gentle southern-fried haze that comes with westerns flavors I failed to notice the length. I liked this… it moved my heart for the old boy. The heat, the pace, the slow connections by the beleaguered old farmer to his true roots at the grave of his wife, thats just classic western magic. I am a closet readr of westerns myself, I hide and read them like an addiction:D
    The folks here seem to have caught most of the critical nits, so I won’t go there, but the natural voice and most important musicality of the piece sure-fire hooked both my sympathy and my tender heart, and I would have to turn to the next page to see this lonesome hard working farmer collect and try to sort out his grandson.

    Enjoyable read sir, thank you!

    Fond regards,

    Shawna

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