So I am in my second of three fiction workshops at SNHU this term. Week one, the assignment was to write a story that focused on point of view. I pulled this one out of my archives (don’t worry–for the first two weeks, using previously written work is allowed!) I originally wrote it from a story prompt about the meaning of fear. Reading that prompt brought to mind a schoolyard in the late 19th ore early 20th century. This is what I came up with. I entered it into a contest, which I didn’t win. So I thought that using that story for my class would be good. I’d like to know what I could have done better to help me win a contest like this in the future. Please, let me know what you think.
The Taste of Fear
Bein’ scared ain’t nothin’ new to me. I been scared plenty a times in my life. Like when Mama says she is gonna make a pie. Any man would be scared o’ that. Biscuits, potatoes and carrots, maybe even some boiled meat. Mama makes them good. But she can’t make a pie fit for the pigs.
Tellin’ Mama her pies ain’t no good is scary, too. She asked me once why I wasn’t eatin’ it. Said I didn’t wanna break my teeth. Papa was up outta his chair, smackin’ me ‘cross the face afore I even knew he had moved. Learned never to be honest about bad cookin’ that day.
Don’t tell nobody, but storms scare me, too. It’s not the rain or the lightnin’ or even the thunder that bother me. Can handle all that. It’s the wind. The way it blows the trees outside my bedroom window, makin’ the branches scratch at the side of the house—it rattles me. I always imagine it’s the devil hisself tryin’ to get at me. Can’t never get a good night sleep with a storm makin’ those trees knock on the house that away.
Even with all those things in my life, I can still say I never knew the meanin’ of fear until I kissed Becky.
Didn’t expect to kiss Becky that day, or any other neither. She wasn’t my girl. Didn’t want her to be my girl. Becky was Big Richard’s girl. I may not have been the smartest one in the school yard, but even I knew not to upset Big Richard. Everyone knew Becky was gonna marry Big Richard.
Everyone but Becky, anyhow. Becky said she wasn’t gonna get married. Said she was too smart for that. Don’t know what she thought she would do without a husband. Maybe be a school teacher. She had the smarts for it. Most woulda said she was too pretty for that. I don’t know. She was nice girl, always sharing her molasses cookies in the school yard at lunch. She mighta been a friend, I suppose. But that kiss messed everything up.
I didn’t mean to kiss her. I was just standin’ there, mindin’ my own business when I heard Becky yellin’ at Big Richard. Most people wanted to yell at him, but only Becky ever did it. Teacher never dared yell at him. And all us boys in the school, even the ones actually older than Big Richard, was too scared a him to talk in a normal voice. We never woulda yelled.
Becky, though…. There was somethin’ special about her. She was everyone’s friend, and Big Richard, he didn’t like that. He wanted Becky all to hisself. I think that is why they was fightin’ that day. Big Richard was tellin’ Becky how he expected her to act, since she was his girl. Becky was tellin’ Big Richard she belonged to no man.
“Give me back my book, Richard Taylor,” Becky yelled, chasin’ him across the school yard. She was the only girl in the school who didn’t mind havin’ her skirts drag in the dirt and mud. She woulda been happier if she could wear trousers, like us boys did. “Give it back!”
“You want this book back?” Big Richard said, laughin’ at Becky. He stopped in front of her and held the book over her head. She jumped and jumped, but couldn’t reach it. “Don’t know why you need it for.”
“It’s called ‘reading’,” Becky told him. “Maybe you should try it yourself sometime.”
“No point in you readin’,” he told her. “Not something you are gonna have time for after we are married. You will be too busy cleanin’ the house and birthin’ babies for stuff like readin’.”
“I am not going to marry you, Richard Taylor,” Becky said. “Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.” She stomped her little foot. “Now give me back my book.”
“You can have it back,” he said, still holdin’ it out of Becky’s reach, “for a price.”
I watched as Becky placed her hands on her waist. “What price?” she asked him.
“A kiss,” Big Richard said. “Right here, in the school yard, before teacher calls us back in. I’ll give you back the book for a kiss.”
“A kiss?” Becky repeated. “Just one kiss, and I can have my book back?”
Big Richard nodded. “That’s the price. Just one little kiss, and you can have the book back.”
Becky looked around her, probably hopin’ to see Teacher nearby. Kissin’ in the school yard was not somethin’ teacher would put up with. But she wasn’t there. She was still inside, gettin’ our afternoon lessons ready. Instead what Becky saw was me. She smiled at me. “OK, Richard,” she told him sweetly. “You win.”
Big Richard smiled. He lowered the book, getting’ read for the kiss.
Instead of steppin’ toward Big Richard, Becky stepped toward me. Before I knew what was goin’ on, my life changed.
Becky placed her hands on my shoulders. Her face was right in front of mine. I noticed that she smelled good, like the rose water Mama washed in on special days. Then her lips touched mine. It happened very fast. So fast, I nearly thought I was dreamin’.
There was a thud as Becky’s book hit the ground. The thud was followed by a scream from Big Richard. “Not him!” he hollered. “You was supposed to kiss me.”
Becky calmly picked up her book. With a sweet smile, she said, “You did not say who I was supposed to kiss, Richard. You just said I would get my book back for one little kiss.”
Teacher rang the school bell then. Becky waved at Big Richard, winked at me, then headed back into the school. I tried to follow her, but Big Richard stepped in front of me.
“Hope you enjoyed that, boy,” he growled at me, “’cause you are gonna pay for kissin’ my girl.”
Yep, I knew what it was like to be really, truly afraid then.
And with the memory of Becky’s sweet lips on mine, I have to say fear tasted pretty good.