I guess I should stick to my day job. The results for Writers Weekly’s 24 Hour contest came in at the end of last week. Me, not a finalist of any sort. But that does not mean I am giving up on writing (in fact I have already signed up for the Winter 2010 Contest on Jan 23). I love words and the way they can paint a picture, just as I love actual paint. So read my story, then take the time to read the winners’ stories as they are definitely good reads.
Anticipation filled his chest as the cameras unloaded from the van to set up next to the entrance to the corn maze. Marcus hopped out of the passenger side of the van in his flannel shirt and jeans, trying a little too hard to fit into the rural atmosphere that he just emerged into. Today will be his first live segment interviewing a farmer in central Wisconsin in advance of next weekend’s county fair. The rains from the early afternoon made the ground underneath spongy, adding a little spring to his step.
Weathered and jolly, an older man hurried towards the camera crew with two dogs trailing behind him. His chest puffed with impending pride as he introduced himself to Marcus.
They chatted about the dreary weather and the positive effects on the crops, as the crew finished setting up. Waiting for the segment to start, the farmer meticulously picked at his vest that he donned for the special occasion. Marcus envisioned how the farmer’s neurotic ways surely would earn him the blue ribbon for his biggest pumpkin.
As the farmer shared his tales of obsessive tending and gentle turning with the camera, Marcus instinctively turned his head toward an infant’s cry. At the top of the hill, under an old maple, a pretty girl was shielding a bundle from the wind, fumbling with her blouse. Distracted by the sight of the woman’s ordinary behavior, Marcus stumbled through the rest of the interview.
As the camera equipment was being loading back into the van, Marcus glanced back up the hill observing only the silhouette of the old maple as the clouds turned shades of orange and pink from the sun setting.
“She is stuck up,” the farmer disclosed, irritated that the woman had interrupted his moment of glory.
“Who is she?” asked Marcus still gazing up at the painted clouds.
“That’s Elle, the daughter of the Hagens, who live next door,” He said conclusively. “She cares for no one but herself. Like I said, she’s stuck up.”
The cold wind started again and he shivered, watching the sky darken too quickly Marcus ambled into the town’s only pub to get out of the weather and have a cold one before heading back to the inn for the night.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was playing on the jukebox while a number of local farm boys on the far end of the bar pounded drinks like the frat boys did back in Madison.
Marcus pulled up next to a girl with her head down on the bar, soggy hair flowing around her ears. She looked vaguely familiar.
She turned in his direction looking through him, not at him. The farm boys were now pretending to shear the bar stools as if they were sheep with wooden legs.
She giggled, prompting Marcus to look in the direction she was staring. He laughed along.
“I saw you on the hill today overlooking the Altenburg Farms. Where is your baby?”
Without blushing, she answered assuringly, “With my parents.” She cautiously continued, “I am living with them for a while, until I can get on my feet.”
Prompted by Marcus’s prodding questions, Elle continued to speak about life in a small town and her dreams of leaving the rural life to become a hair stylist for a fancy salon. With each question she became more intense, divulging more than he asked. Marcus was fascinated by her wisdom for such a young age. She was maybe 21 or 22.
He found out that she had grown up in Wisconsin Rapids her whole life. Her parents had been supportive when she became pregnant after being raped by some local farm boys, not unlike the rowdy boys at the end of the bar.
Even with all of her troubles, she seemed to have her life in order including step-by-step plans for fulfilling her passions.
It was late when Marcus walked Elle back to her car. Walking along the tree lined Main Street, he noticed for the first time that she was barefoot. She carried her shoes in her right hand swinging them in time with her stride, allowing the rain soaked sidewalks to wrinkle her toes. This prompted a smile on his face.
“It was great to talk to you tonight,” she said seriously. “I really needed that.”
She hugged him tightly, squeezing his chest to where he thought he wasn’t breathing. Before he could open his eyes, she was in her car driving away.
The tires splashing through small puddles of rain was the only sound on the town’s quiet streets as Marcus made his way back to his hotel.
Frigid morning air flowed through the van’s open window stinging Marcus’s face, as the crew headed back towards Madison. Marcus reflected on the evening with Elle and how he may have just ruined his chances for any future live segments due to his inability to focus during the interview. His thoughts were so distant that he was completely unaware of the news report on the radio stating police had found an infant drowned in the Wisconsin River.