Thursday, April 30, 2009


Island, a short story by Theresa Mattiello
Clyde woke extra early on a Tuesday, and silently slipped on his work shirt and a pair of worn out jeans. Every morning before he left for his trip he opened the drawer and stared at the new pair of Wrangler’s his wife had given him last Christmas. But he always ended up wearing the same old pair that were fraying around the seams and were so faded they had turned the color of an October sky.
He noticed something about his outfit was missing. His name tag must have fallen off in the dryer. He retrieved the old banged up thing, and pinned it to his shirt. It was oval shaped, and in red cursive letters his name was spelled out, reminding him of a Coca-Cola label: Clyde.
He whistled as he went into the kitchen. He opened every cabinet, although he knew the cereal was in a small cupboard next to the stove. It was as if he was expecting a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast to pop out of the cabinet, and he’d surely have the best breakfast ever.
But he made do with a bowl of Raisin Bran and a glass of cold milk. Although there was already milk in his cereal he always needed extra on the side to wash it all down. He took a seat in his easy chair. The old thing creaked beneath his weight. He watched the morning silently arrive through his living room window. A hummingbird danced around the nectar feeder Louise had put out. He was always amused that those little birds could always be so quick and productive.
A low grunt came from the corner of the living room. Charlie, the old Bassett Hound wobbled out of his hiding place and went up to meet Clyde. “Hello ol’ boy,” he said, petting the dog on the head and stroking his ears. He glanced at the clock. It was time to leave.
He packed up a few things to eat while on the road, but he knew for dinner he’d end up eating fast food. He would be back in only a few days, and Louise would cook something special on Thursday night in lieu of his arrival. She always did.
He headed out the door, not pausing to go to the bedroom to wake his wife and tell her goodbye. She had already had a rough night anyway. Five times, maybe more, she woke him up to tell him to quit snoring. He was surprised to find that she was still sleeping beside him when he woke up. She often tiptoed into Davy’s room – now the guest room – to get some uninterrupted sleep. Clyde tried everything, even those nose strips, but nothing seemed to work out just yet. Lord knows he couldn’t afford to see a doctor about it.
The drive to the truck yard was quiet. He left the radio off and put the window down so he could feel the cool spring breeze filter into the car. He hoped that when he got there everything would be ready to go and he wouldn’t have to wait around.
Upon arriving, he spotted his truck, a black rig with “Riley & Sons Trucking Inc.” painted in white sparkly paint on the doors. But there wasn’t a trailer attached as he had hoped. Looks like I’m gonna have to do all this today, he thought.
He pulled into the yard but couldn’t drive in. The gate was locked. He called out from his car: “Open the gate, Pete!”
Pete Riley’s head peaked around the corner inside the office, disappeared, then reappeared again. He came to the front door.
“Open the gate, Pete!” Clyde called again.
“You’re gonna have to come inside, Clyde.”
Clyde backed up and parked in the lot next to the office and went in. Something just wasn’t right, and he could feel it.
“Come on in, sit down,” Pete said in his slow drawl.
“What’s goin’ on Pete?”
Pete Riley looked at Clyde over his glasses and said, “Clyde, I was meaning to call you but I knew you’d get here early enough. I don’t – I don’t have anything for you today…”
Clyde was confused, and after a short pause said, “You let me drive all the way up here to tell me that?”
Pete furrowed his brow, “No, Clyde, what I mean to say is…I don’t have anything for you to haul – ever. I have to…let you go.”
Clyde felt Raisin Bran rise to the back of his throat. “Pete,” he croaked, “I need this job.”
“I know, Clyde, I know. Times are rough on everybody. We had to let someone go.”
“Did I do something wrong, Pete?” Clyde asked, his face all flushed as if someone had whacked him across the face with a hot iron. He was a one million miles safe driver. He attended all of the safety meetings. He was always the first to the yard in the morning, and the first to come in after a long haul. He took good care of his truck. He filled the logbooks out accurately. He always arrived at his destinations on time, and frequently with time to spare. Trucking was his life.
“Clyde, you didn’t do a damn thing wrong. The other guys got seniority on you. That’s all they got. You’re a great driver. And we’re gonna miss havin’ you on the crew. There’s other trucking companies – big companies – that are hiring in Durham, some in Greenville, not too far from here. I can get you a list…”
But Clyde was done listening.
He arrived home only an hour and a half after he had left. Louise was outside in her garden next to the house. He wondered how he would tell her and what she would say.
“You’re back early,” she said as he got out and slammed the door shut. He walked past her into the house.
“Clyde,” she went inside behind him, her tiny frame dominated by his massive size in their cramped hallway. He went straight to their bedroom, and sat on the bed, slowly removing his shoes.
Louise stood nervously in the doorway. She had already guessed without him needing to say anything.
“You got fired?”
Clyde nodded, “Caught me by surprise.”
She began to wring her hands.
“Well what are you gonna do?”
“Let me be depressed today Louise. Then I’ll wake up early tomorrow and drive to Durham.”
“What’s in Durham?”
“A list. Pete gave me a list. Somebody’s gotta hire me, right?”
Louise sighed heavily, “Lord, I pray someone does. My disability ain’t enough to cover both of us.”
Clyde stared at his face in the mirror, “You ever just…wish you lived on an island somewhere. And you always had food and shelter and never had to work for nothin’?”
“I dream that a lot,” Louise said, sitting down on the edge of the bed next to her husband of almost 35 years. “Only that island would be Topsail Island and I would spend all day looking for seashells.”
“I would spend all day fishing,” Clyde added.
“We’d walk on the beach every night,” said Louise.
“Eat oysters and crab legs at that one seafood place just off the bridge there. Remember that place?”
“Oh of course,” Louise replied.
Clyde pulled her to him. “My God what a time we’d have. Remember on our honey moon…”
“Yes I do, Clyde.”
They sat in silence in their bright bedroom and the minutes crawled by like hours. The cookoo bird left its roost to signal the passing of one hour to the next, and the loud churning of the clock’s gears broke the silence.
“Are you thinking about me getting a new job?” Clyde asked her.
“No,” she said, “I was thinking about that island.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Casey's Ward - The First Paragraphs

Casey’s Ward

In town there was a scaffold and from the scaffold hung a rope, with a large loop that was fit over a man’s head and tightened around a man’s neck and they called it the law. Christian McIver eyed the scaffold each time he and his uncle, John Casey, rode into town on business and he knew what it meant. He had once faced the noose, when he was around 15 years old. His mother, John Casey’s sister, had died, and his father was gone. Casey rode all day and all night, a hard ride, to reach his nephew. He bargained with the law there in Buxton, where the boy was held, and brought him back to his ranch 90 miles northwest to start new. In Cerillos, no one knew Christian, but his Uncle had built up such a mighty reputation for him, that Christian was beginning to forget those long months of stealing for food, and hiding from the Deputy in folks’ barns.
But he saw the noose and saw it for what it was; a symbol of power over the misfortunate and the misdirected; the thieves and the murderers; the rapists and the lechers; and unfortunately, over people like him, who seemed to always be caught in the thick of it. He never saw himself as a bad man, he just did what was right by him – to survive. They had come and taken his father’s ranch and all the livestock. Every last penny was stripped from his name, and yet they had wanted to hang him for shooting a man in defense of it? Casey had to have bribed them a hefty sum to get them to let the boy go. That dead man was so beloved in Buxton.
And now Christian revered his uncle. He worshipped his every word and his every move. For no one Christian had ever known was as good of a man as John Casey.

*Just the first couple paragraphs...tell me what you think *