Excerpt from ‘The Bended Tree’

Okay, I’m trying to be brave here and post a 500 word excerpt from my novel. Hands shaking as I type this…keep in mind, I only gave it a cursory glance for typos, etc. It hasn’t been edited.

We arrived in Altoona early the next morning and piled off the train just as we had the day before. There were only a handful of children left and Mrs. Crandall said this was their last stop before returning to Chicago.

Miss Tanner helped us into our change of clothes and wiped our faces and combed our hair. We marched to the Lutheran Church, where there was a mass of people waiting in the pews. There were far more people looking for children than there were of us. I hoped this meant I’d find someone to take me home.

After Mr. Brandon introduced us and we sang our song (which I had memorized on the train before sleep), the people milled about, examining us as they had done before. A very large man with a tiny, cheerless wife came and examined me.

“Whaddya think? He’s small, but I think he’ll do,” said the man.

“He looks alright,” said the woman who appeared to have a permanent frown.

“You ever worked a farm, boy?” the man asked me.

“No, sir. But I worked a pug mill and I’m stronger than I look.”

He stood and looked at me for a several moments.

“Fine. You’ll do,” he finally said. He called over Mr. Brandon and said he’d like to take me home.

As they signed some papers, I saw Jack leaving with a couple, also. I waved to him from across the room. He turned and waved back as the church doors swung open and he disappeared into the daylight.

Mr. Brandon introduced me and the man said I could call them Mr. and Mrs. Jansen. I followed behind as they walked to their team and wagon outside. I got into the wagon as Mr. and Mrs. Jansen climbed into the front seat. I bounced around in the back during the eight mile drive to their farm. None of us said a word.

When we arrived it was time for supper. Mrs. Jansen showed me to my room, a tiny closet with a mattress on the floor. At least it was a clean mattress, I thought. I hoped there were no rats like the orphan home. There was a table with an oil lamp and some blankets on the bed.

At supper the Jansens didn’t talk much. They said they never had any children, which they were fine with, but now that they were getting up in age they needed help on the farm. That’s why they decided to get themselves an orphan. They told me they figured they’d give me a bed, a warm place to stay and food.

“It’s got to be better than the bastard life you been livin’!” said Mr. Jansen, clearly amused.

“I’m not a bastard,” I said under my breath, “sir.”

Mr. Jansen snapped his head and looked at me, fuming. “What’s that?” he said, his eyes boring a hole in my head.

“Nothing, sir,” I mumbled.

“That’s what I thought,” he leaned back in his chair. I looked at Mrs. Jansen and she only frowned at me. I realized at that moment the Jansens didn’t want a son. They wanted a slave.

When I climbed into bed after supper, it seemed clear to me this would be my home from now on. Then it hit like a flash. I had left everything behind. My friends, my family, they were all gone.

When I blew out the oil lamp that night, I never felt more alone.


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Natasha
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 13:24:52

    I totally agree with your comment, Kathan, about how difficult it is to write sad.

    For a couple of years, sad is basically what I wrote and finally I just stopped writing for a while. It felt too masochistic and it was definitely no fun — so I am enjoying fluffier writing much more — though sad definitely keeps cropping up.

    Just like real life, huh?


    • kathanink
      Nov 17, 2009 @ 13:51:30

      I’ve never been very good at writing silly or humorous. About as close as I ever get is my Mean Girls story, which is more biting and dark. I wish I could write fluffier, seriously. Maybe next year?

      I do like writing sad or thought provoking, but usually it’s short stuff, so I don’t have to live in it for an entire month! 😦


  2. kathanink
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 13:05:01

    A side note, this is smack in the middle of my story. It’s literally where I left off when I stopped writing yesterday. I didn’t want to go back and look for something else that might have given more background about the characters…it would have been too tempting to edit!!!


  3. dayner
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 11:32:57

    Okay–heavy for a Tuesday. I didn’t expect to tear up. This is good and I’m glad you decided to post it. I feel much more familiar with what you’re writing now. I can’t wait to read the entire thing.
    And to think this was inspired by your grandfather’s life. That makes me want to throw a thousand questions at you about your grandfather. This sounds like a very powerful story, the fact that you are tackling a historical novel for NaNo is very inspiring.
    I suggest you take plenty of time to watch comedies and read Hallmark greeting cards to recover from the funk of such a powerful and sad story.
    Here are my suggestions for your recovery…
    Finding Nemo
    Meet the Robinsons
    Happy Gilmore
    In and Out – Kevin Kline – Hilarious! Love the dancing scene!
    Yes Man
    Elf—very good clean comedy!
    Forrest Gump

    Read anything by Jennifer Crusie or Janet Evanovich- They’re both very funny writers. The Stephanie Plum series from Janet Evanovich is about a fumbling girl bounty hunter who blackmails herself into a job. You will pee yourself many times.

    I’ll let you know when I think of more.


    • kathanink
      Nov 17, 2009 @ 13:03:48

      Thanks so much for your encouraging input! I have to say, I decided not to call it “historical fiction” anymore, because while there are many real historical things in it, I didn’t want to be bound to proving the history behind it (which I am afraid I would have to do). So now I am just calling it mainstream fiction.

      Thanks for the book ideas! I am always looking for things to read, and I do feel like I need some funny these days! :-p


  4. kathanink
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 09:13:15

    Oh, and now that I read it today, I see several things I don’t like (ways I worded things, order, etc). This is why it’s soooo bad for me to reread my stuff until editing time!


    • darksculptures
      Nov 17, 2009 @ 09:18:25

      I know exactly what you are saying.

      After I read what I have written I always curse my parents for raising me in the south!

      Everything we say seems to come out backwards down here!


      • kathanink
        Nov 17, 2009 @ 15:46:17

        I don’t have that excuse – LOL. I’ve just been writing as fast as I can and it turns out, some of it just plain makes no sense.


  5. Natasha
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 21:24:51

    Oh, this is so sad. They didn’t want a son. They wanted a slave….

    This really gets into the heart, doesn’t it?


    • kathanink
      Nov 17, 2009 @ 09:11:04

      I hope so…I mean, it’s supposed to if I wrote it well, write? I had just gotten him out of really sad stuff after week 1, now week 3 looks to be sad again. Ugh. I’m looking forward to week 4.


  6. darksculptures
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 19:21:00

    Oh Kathan, talk about a tug on the heart strings. This is so well done. This segment started with such hope that the boy would soon have a home and then, BAM, his situation only seems to get worse.

    The cold calloused nature of the Jansens is painfully obvious. I just want to grab the boy and run.


    • kathanink
      Nov 17, 2009 @ 09:09:19

      I know, and so I enter in the yes ANOTHER sad part of the book…I had gotten him some friends and things were looking up. But now he’s with the Jansens. I don’t think I’ll keep him here very long. It’s so hard to write sad…


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