Chapter I

Chapter I

A Chapter by Mounsell

A man drives across the desert.


Sitting along a lonely stretch of highway, a small diner offered relief to the few fatigued travelers that frequented it.  The dim lights that lined its exterior struggled to cut through the darkness and presented to those distant only a feeble aura.

Inside this diner, a man sat patiently.  Hunched over the counter, he cast a haggard figure.   The hair on his scalp was tousled by wind and the clothing he wore was matted with dirt and dust.  His clear gray eyes were discernibly strained. The hands he had folded atop the counter displayed the grime that had collected as a result of hours of hard labor.  The tag that was pinned to his shirt proclaimed his name to be John.  He noticed the tag still attached to his shirt, unpinned it, and placed it inside his jacket left breast pocket.

From his position by the counter, he was able to see the only other person present in the diner.  She stood across the counter from him, filling his mug with warm, black coffee.  She, too, appeared fatigued by long hours of work but was able to muster a smile.  He lacked the strength to do this but managed a soft "thanks." 

"So where are you gonna try to go from here, John?"

John looked up to see her eagerly awaiting his response and replied, " I'm planning on heading west, Anna."

"You mean to Los Angeles?"

"Yeah.  I'm sure I can get work there."

Anna grinned and said, "They do need busboys."

"Come on, Anna," John replied, "you know I can do more than just clean tables."

He returned his attention to the cup in front of him.  He lifted it from the counter and held it to his lips.  The coffee warmed John's throat and offered some salvation from the frigid night air.  He consumed his coffee in small sips in an effort to savor it.  His meal had yet to be placed before him and he was in no hurry to eat. 

Outside, the sun had long since disappeared below the horizon.  A cold wind swept through the area, serving only to add to the weather's wretchedness.  When he came in that morning, the weather was still somewhat warm.  Now that night had fallen, his trip back out would be considerably unpleasant. 

As his head drooped closer to closer to the counter, Anna came by and placed his meal atop the counter.  The clang of the ceramic dish against the counter startled John.  He pulled his head up quickly and glimpsed her.

"Thank you." John said.

He reassured Anna and grabbed the burger on his plate.  The meal was cold, but, at that point in the day, John was content to be eating anything.  He ate the burger slowly in order to delay his inevitable walk in the cold.  He spread his meal out by taking small sips of his coffee between bites.  Once the coffee in the cup dwindled to just a few drops, he finished his burger.

The waitress saw that he had finished both the coffee and burger and placed a ticket by his plate.  He took the ticket and studied it.  John pushed his hand in his jeans pocket and began to sift through its contents.  He managed to find a few crumbled bills after some time and handed them to the waitress.  She accepted them with a "thank you."  John stood up from his stool and walked towards the door.  Standing at the threshold, he closed his jacket tightly about his body.

Stepping out into the cold air, the jacket offered little relief. Wind bit at his nose and face.  He strode quickly to the truck outside the diner and pulled a key from his pocket.  The cold air rattled his hands and he fumbled at the door's lock before finally managing to open it.  Once inside, he searched for his atlas.  After only a few moments, he pulled the book from the floorboard and flipped to a page stained by coffee and crinkled by heavy use.  Looking at the map on this page, John was able to determine a route that would take him to a motel that was not distant. 

He placed his key in the ignition and turned it.  The truck came alive.  Its bright lights cut through the darkness and its engine let loose a low growl.  He accelerated quickly down the highway.  In the rear-view mirror, he was able to see the lights of the diner grow fainter and fainter and finally disappear.

After some time, he was able spy a dim glow in far ahead.  The distant light flickered and John could scarcely make out its text.  Driving closer, he was able to see the source of the light: A sign with the words "Motel" and "vacancy" written across its front in large red lettering.  The sight offered him some relief.

He parked his truck in the lot.  Walking into the motel's lobby, suitcase in hand, he was able to tell why the word vacancy was permanently inscribed on the sign.  The motel appeared in gross disrepair.  The wallpaper peeled off in spots and collected on the floor.  The few pieces of furniture, all placed haphazardly about the room, sat in varying states of decay.  The chandelier that hung from the ceiling of the lobby flickered and gave off a sickening yellow light.

John glanced about and saw what appeared to be the front desk.  He walked over to this wooden counter and looked down at the area behind it.  Sitting on a metal chair between the wall and the counter, was an older man, newspaper in hand.  He grimaced at the sound of John's boots and looked up towards him.  He appeared perturbed by the thought of dealing with a customer and muttered a gruff, "How long?"

John replied, with pleasantness absent in the old man's voice, "Just one night."

The man told him the rate and John gave him a few bills.  He was given both small key and a gesture to indicate the direction of his room.

Moving down a narrow hall to his room, John was unable to hear any sounds from the nearby rooms.  At the end of the hallway, he placed the key in his door's lock.  Turning the key and pushing the door forward, he was able to see that the condition of his room was nearly the same as the lobby.  The wallpaper peeled, the furniture rotted.  He went to the lamp and attempted to switch it on.  It flickered and cast a weak glow about the room.

John closed the door behind him and opened his suitcase atop the bed.  He replaced his dirty work clothes with cleaner garb and pulled his boots back on. 

Observing more of his room's abject state, John was dissuaded from staying the night there.  He left the room and shut the door behind him.  As John neared the counter, the old man looked up from his paper. 

John asked for a return of his cash.  The man reluctantly pulled the bills out and gave them back to John.  John placed the key atop the counter and could discern a grumbled "thanks" from the man.

Stepping out into the night air, John was able to feel the sharp drop in temperature.  The wind had grown much sharper.  He lifted the collar of his jacket in order to shield his face and walked to his truck. 

Once he had pulled his chilled body into the cab, John turned his key in the ignition.  The engine roared to life.  He stepped on the gas pedal and headed towards the next town on his route.

© 2012 Mounsell

Author's Note

Critiques would be greatly appreciated.

My Review

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I agree and disagree with the other reviewer. Yes, you are giving too much detail, and it definitely slows the stories pace, but I think it works in this case. It helps set up the bleak atmosphere you are trying to create.

Otherwise, as I go through my several rewrites (up to a dozen or more) I often ask myself, "Does the reader REALLY need to know this?" If the answer is 'no' I will often delete it. It keeps the story from getting too bogged down in details. Of course, you can err on the side of brevity, too. Sometimes it's a tough call.

I wouldn't change this chapter, though.

Posted 8 Years Ago

Ok. Read the first chapter. The scene. Was well written but you were telling me to much. Left nothing for my imagination to grab onto and follow. You don't have to tell me he is "eating his burger"
Sometimes scene can tell a reader a lot about the mood the characters or hoe they should act. It is is difficult to give you a better critique without microsoft. Hope I have helped.

Posted 8 Years Ago

Thank you for the reviews. I am going to expand on the story. I'm currently experiencing a bit of writer's block. I'll try to finish it by the end of the summer. School, however, will slow down my writing if I can't finish it by then. If you guys have any comments or suggestions, fell free to add them here.

Posted 8 Years Ago

I agree woth mrs.blesh15 and I also want to say i love the imagry

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I love where you are going with this. I like the symbolism of making the truck like a lion's roar.

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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5 Reviews
Added on May 19, 2012
Last Updated on June 2, 2012
Tags: salt, city, sea, truck



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