In celebration of the release of And the Soft Wind Blows this Saturday (4/20), I've posted an excerpt! You can get your copy starting 4/20 at my website, www.lanceumenhofer.com, for only $7.99!
Chapter Three: Friday
At two a.m. Timmy startled himself awake, thinking it was way past time to get to work. He had twohours to kill, and he was still a little bit woozy from drinking. Not to mention, his neck felt like absolute hell, and for some reason, a strong desire grew in him to walk down to the river.
The river that runs through Ashton City, Tennessee is called the Cumbersome River, and Timmy lived right across the street from one of its banks. He had only been to the bank a fewtimes before since Mandy never wanted to go outside and do things like that. Nevertheless, he put on his coat and boots and opened and closed and locked the door behind him, half expecting to see Mandy outside of the door, ready to come in.
He crossed the twolane road without difficulty (there were no cars at two a.m. in Ashton City) and went down to the bank. The air was cooler coming off the river, and the breeze was headed straight for him. He didn’t mind, although he was shivering. Across the bank there were several buildings. Office buildings, Timmy thought. Each of them had their lights on, and the reflections lightly grazed the top of the flowing water, rippling, yet staying in the same place. Timmy watched it for a moment without any thought. His hands were buried deep in his coat pockets, and his fingers felt like ice. He was not built for cold weather.
A sense of calm overtook him as he watched the steady, slow current. Sometimes there were speedboats that raced up and down the river, but at this timeofnight there was only calmness. Timmy thought about Roxie and Mandy and then Roxie again. He truly hoped he could make things better thatday. He truly hoped she would say yes to his crazy fantasy. Was he actually going to ask her that?
Soon enough he got tired of standing, so he crouched down and stuck out his hand to play with the rocks and dirt that were all around him, sometimes picking up a rock and throwing it into the river, causing more ripples. He found a baseballsizedrock and stood up and threw it as far as he could. It landed only about fortyfeet in front of him, again splashing, again causing ripples. He always wished he knew how to skip rocks.
When he judged it to be around threethirty, he headed back toward the house. He reached the top of the incline that was the bank to the river, and his stomach churned at the thought that he might see Mandy’s car parked in the driveway. He imagined it to be so, vividly.
But that instantly dissipated when he saw that it was only his white pickup. Upon entering, he again halfexpected Mandy to be there, standing, waiting for him to tell him all about what happened, but she wasn’t.
His mind returned to the terrible thoughts that had been flickering in the back of his mind, behind those of Roxie. He walked down the hallway and had the instant thought that Mandy might be asleep in the bedroom; his walk turned into a cautious tiptoe. His breath turned from a smooth inout to sudden bursts both ways. His heart pounded as the door gently creaked open; he dared not turn the light on; instead he tiptoed into the bedroom, keeping a keen ear open for sounds of heavy breathing or the rustling of sheets. Timmy was never that good at seeing in the dark.
They had their nice, burgundy sheets on, Timmy remembered. He loved the way they felt: as soft as silk but not as slippery; he remembered he got a really good deal on them, and Mandy was happy with it. He remembered he had found them in the back of the rack of sheets; it was him; it was due to him that they got those sheets; and how they matched the comforter so nicely! His hand was running along the sheets and did not cross over an enormous lump on its way to the headboard.
Timmy looked at the clock: threetwentyseven a.m. His alarm would go off in threeminutes, but he decided to lie down on the bed for those threeminutes, maybe sleep would bless him with a short presence; he closed his eyes and thought about Roxie.
He thought he fell asleep and jerked up. It was still dark and the clock read: threetwentynine a.m. He had dreamt of the freeway as if he was standing on an overpass, watching the semis and cars and trucks and SUVs pass by at seventymilesanhour. They were headed toward him, disappearing as he looked straight down, going through the tunnel, the underpass, the place where he leaned over the railing to look; he tried to follow with his head a large semi that flew under him; he followed it as long as he could, but it disappeared quickly into the dark, and Timmy jerked up as soon as he felt his weight surge forward, and awoke.
Wish they all could be California girls…
It was the radio, his alarm; it had frightened him. He took a deep breath and wrenched his deadweightbody off of the bed.