This is my first example of how this project (Scribbler Society) will work. I’m uploading the [very very] rough draft of my first chapter for people to read here, and they can comment below. When I upload it, as a WordPress author, there is a little indicator in the bottom right that tells me how many words there are, so I can use that for my counter if I’m writing directly into the site.
Again, please be gentle. I haven’t even proofread this yet for basic errors. This was what I wrote on Day 1 of Camp NaNoWriMo.
Winula shook her head, her hand already on the doorknob to the bedroom.
“I don’t understand why you won’t just give it to him,” she half-shouted. Lulu was mostly deaf, and sometimes Winula used this as an excuse to vent some frustration. “It’s just a statue!”
Lulu’s lined face darkened. “It’s more than that, granddaughter, and you know it. It has been in our family for hundreds of years.”
“It’s a statue,” Winula repeated. “I don’t care how long we’ve had it, I’m sick of the sight of him. He keeps showing up everywhere, he was even at the store today. This thing isn’t worth the headache.”
Lulu was the one to shake her head this time. “You don’t know what you’re saying. Our heritage is worth everything.”
Winula’s lips pressed into a thin line, and she bit back a harsh word. I am so sick of hearing about our heritage when we can barely feed ourselves. That night, she’d only had enough flour left to make one batch of fry bread, and there would be no meat until she got paid in three days.
She pulled her hand back from the doorknob, and her shoulders slumped. As much as she just wanted it to be over, she couldn’t bear going against Granmother’s wishes. It was going to have to play out.
“I’m going to get Lissa and Tret from the bus stop,” she said, a little louder than she needed to. “Be back in a minute.”
Lulu only grunted in reply, and Winula slammed the door behind her.
The bus stop was only a block away from school, but she needed to get out of the house. The walls of that place seemed to close in on her sometimes, and getting some fresh air while she could, before the twins were running around inside raising hell, was one of the few times of day between cooking, cleaning, working at the Store (the one grocery on the Res) and taking care of Grandmother that she got to herself.
She leaned against the pole to the stop sign, which was already bent at a 20 degree angle, and lit a cigarette. She didn’t like for the kids to see her smoking, so this was one of the few times of day where she could do that, too.
She heard the rumbling of the ancient engine before she saw the bus. It was probably about 30 years old, a relic from a white neighborhood that had moved on to newer and better, not to mention safer, models, and the undersides were starting to rust badly. The bus sent up a cloud of red dust as it lumbered down the unpaved road toward her; the pavement ended a few blocks back. Winula watched in silence, savoring the last few puffs before she was finally in view and was forced to stamp out the cigarette under one booted foot.
The bus paused in front of her, and the door opened, but Winula felt a pang of alarm as she realized the girls were nowhere in sight. Robin, a round woman with cheeks as red as the breast of the bird she was named for, was behind the wheel and looking a little unnerved. She didn’t seem to want to make eye contact with Winula.
“Rob?” Winula said, coming forward, her heart thumping. “Where are they?”
Robin took a deep breath. She looked at the steering wheel, then finally seemed to force her eyes to make contact with Winula’s. “Someone from the state came to get them.”
Winula’s throat tightened. “What do you mean? When?”
“Just as they were about to get on the bus.” Robin swallowed, tears coming to her eyes. “I’m sorry, Winula, you know there was nothing I could do.”
Winula barely heard her. There was a ringing in her ears, and suddenly it was hard to see. “They didn’t even call me,” she said, more to herself than to Robin. “Those motherfuckers.”
“I’m sorry, Winula,” Robin said again. “I have to finish my route, but Jim and I will come by afterwards, we will do anything we can.”
Winula didn’t answer, just stepped back from the bus, still in a daze. She felt her blood getting hot, and Robin pulled away just as Winula had started to run back toward the house. Those motherfuckers, she was still thinking, when the Lincoln pulled up beside her. Its window rolled smoothly down and the scent of air freshener wafted out.
“Ms. Waterson,” a man’s voice said, and Winula recognized Roger Corbry’s voice immediately. She turned to him with a snarl, about to scream at him to leave her the fuck alone, and felt all of the fight go out of her as she saw Lissa and Tret sitting beside him in the back seat.
Oh my god. He wouldn’t.
Roger Corbry smiled at her, and it was dazzling. He was a startlingly beautiful man, about 6’4” with blond hair and a face that could have graced a magazine cover. In fact, it often did. Everyone knew the face of Roger Corbry.
“What. The fuck. Are you doing. With my DAUGHTERS?” Winula spat this last, and ran up to the car to yank on the door handle. It was, of course, locked.
Mr. Corbry eyed her cooly and raised the window a few inches, obstructing her view slightly. As if on cue, the car pulled up a few feet. Winula saw what they were doing and stopped dead, her face a mask. She didn’t want him to see how badly he had rattled her. Too late for that, a voice in her head whispered, but Winula swatted it away.
“Ms. Waterson,” Mr. Corbry repeated, “I would like you to meet Pat Templeton. She works for Child Protective Services.”
The other window rolled down, and a middle-aged woman with a pinched face and a clipboard sat looking placidly out at Winula. She said nothing, but the sourness in her expression told of a person who had seen many ugly things and had hardened herself to them. Perhaps even brought many of them to pass.
“What the fuck are you trying to do here?” Winula demanded. “You have no right, this is kidnapping. Give me my children back!”
Corbry held up a silencing finger, and Winula hated herself for obeying it. There was simply something about this man that made you feel you had to obey. She wrenched her mouth open again in defiance, but he had already started speaking. “Actually, Ms. Waterson, you’ll find that Mrs. Templeton is only doing her job. There was an anonymous tip about some narcotics usage in your home, and the children should absolutely not be exposed to that sort of thing.”
Winula’s face was white. “Don’t do this,” she whispered finally. “Please don’t do this.”
Roger’s smugness was so thick you could have stood on it. “I won’t have to, if you’d just give me what I want. I have tried being reasonable with you, Ms. Waterson. I have tried to appeal to your logic.” As he looked at her, she could have sworn she felt a wave of heat coming off him. “Now I have to resort to less savory tactics.”
Winula struggled to stay standing. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She opened her mouth to reply, but could think of no reply as she gazed at the faces of her two daughters. The girls, who were 10 and 12 years old, were quite old enough to know what was happening here. It had been an ongoing occurrence for children to be taken away from their Native parents on the reservation under the slightest pretext, because the state got a bonus for every Native child in foster care. She had seen just a few months back a family of six be reduced to a family of two when the state took all four of her friend Daisy’s children. Daisy had spent the months since at the bottom of a bottle.
The girls looked at her, knowing better than to say anything. Talking was never a way to deal with the state.
“I will get it.”
Roger’s smiled stretched from one side of his beautiful face to the other. “Wonderful. We will wait here, won’t we, girls?”
Winula turned from him, fighting to keep the nausea that was rising in her stomach from reaching her mouth. It felt like an age before she reached the rotting front steps of the trailer, and when she got inside she went straight past Lulu and through to the bedroom, ignoring her grandmother’s demands to know what was wrong, what was happening, why did she have that look on her face?
“Winula!” Lulu finally shouted. The sound of her shrill, cracked shout somehow penetrated the ringing in Winula’s head, and she turned to look at her grandmother. Lulu saw the look in her eyes and took a hasty step back. “What has happened?”
Winula could hardly get the words out. “He has the girls.”
Lulu’s look of horror was a reflection of Winula’s own face. She then saw that Winula was holding the statue, that she’d taken it from it’s copper-banded box under the bed, and if anything the look on her face grew even more dismayed. “Winula, you can’t do this!”
“Lulu, he has the girls!” Winula screamed this last, her hand already on the latch to the front door. “I am not going to argue this with you!”
“You can’t trust that man!” Lulu replied, and Winula wanted to scream at her again but she saw the tears in her grandmother’s eyes and knew that she too was desperately afraid. “When I was a girl, I made a promise to my mother to guard that totem with my life if I had to! You cannot do this!”
“Well I never made a promise,” Winula hissed, wrenching free of Lulu’s grip. “And I’m sure as fuck not protecting it with the lives of my little girls. No, Grandmother, get off me.”
Lulu stepped back, her eyes wide, and drew her shawl closer over her round shoulders. She swallowed hard, and when she spoke, her voice was trembling. “Forgive me, mother,” she whispered.
Winula ignored her and headed out into the front yard, large strides eating up the space between her and the town car in seconds. The window rolled down as she approached, and she thrust the statue out, but thought better of it and yanked it back just as Roger put out a hand for it.
“I want my girls back first,” she said flatly.
Mr. Corbry smiled. “You aren’t in the position to make demands.”
“I want my girls back first,” she repeated. She made no move to either approach or to walk away.
“I give you my word,” Mr. Corbry said, “that I will let your children out of the car the moment that totem is in my hands.”
“What good is your word?” Winula spat. “You piece of shit.”
His smile was brittle. “I have lived over four hundred years,” Mr. Corbry said softly, “And in that time, I have only broken my word once. I assure you, the second time will not be today.”
Winula wanted to lift the statue and bring it smashing down into that perfect face. She wanted to see his skull crumple, his teeth splinter, see his nose disappear in a spurt of blood. She wanted to raise that block of carved wood over and over again, until his head was an unrecognizable slurry of crushed bone and shredded flesh.
Instead, she handed him the statue.
“I appreciate your cooperation,” he said, and reached across the girls to open the car door on their side. Winula began to exhale, tears of relief leaping to her eyes. She began to run to the other side of the car to meet the girls, her arms open, and drew up short as she was met with the stout figure of Mrs. Templeton.
“My apologies, Ms. Waterson,” she said in a toneless, businesslike voice. “But your children are to be taken into custody until your hearing two weeks from today, in which the state will decide whether your home is safe for them.” She was tearing off a sheet from her clipboard and handing it to Winula, who batted it aside.
“Fuck you!” she was shouting, doing her best to push Mrs. Templeton out of her way, her voice rising to a fevered pitch. “Give me my daughters! You bastard! You bastard!”
Mrs. Templeton pursed her lips and held out an arm, but Winula hardly noticed the woman. She only had eyes for Mr. Corbry.
“YOU BASTARD!” she screamed.
“It’s out of my hands, Winula,” he said smoothly, and something about him using her first name sent her over the edge. She was shrieking, trying to claw at the arm holding her back, her heart seeming to shatter as she felt Lissa’s hands on her leg, the little arms clinging to her. She reached down, her arms encircling Lissa’s tiny torso, and began to lift her, when she heard an odd buzzing and felt her entire body seize.
It was like a nightmare. Winula watched her body crumple, felt herself falling to the ground, saw Mrs. Templeton stowing the taser in her sensible handbag before lifting Lissa back into the car. The little girl’s face was streaked with tears, but the older one…her face was like stone, the way it got when her rage was too much to bear. Winula saw it all but was powerless to move, and to add humiliation to humiliation, she felt a warm wetness spreading across the front of her jeans. Mrs. Templeton reached out and grasped the inside handle of the car door and as she did, Winula heard Corbry say, “They will be given every advantage. This will be better for them in the long run, you’ll see.”
And the car pulled away, leaving Winula Waterson crumpled on the red dirt road.