FLASH FICTION FRIDAY
EXCERPT FROM A NEW YORK YANKEE ON STINKING CREEK
Like a bomb, Kiara’s world detonated and dumped her back in time to a stinking cabin on Stinking Creek. It might as well have been an explosion rather than a long cab ride that rattled her brain like mortar fire—or a ride on the A train.
Kiara’s eyes strained through the darkness, illuminated only from the taxi’s headlights. A log cabin looking like it was chinked with mud rose before her. Bryce, why did you call this place a haven?
“The far’s one-hundred-twenty.” The cabbie’s gravelly voice jarred her. “We’ll skip the cents seein’ as I ain’t gonna fuss with change at midnight.”
Kiara twisted the ring on her left index finger. One-twenty? I thought Manhattan cabbies gouged.
The driver jumped out of the taxi, popped the trunk, and grabbed her luggage. He plopped her bags on the front porch. The simple wooden structure stood no more than a foot off the ground. The rough planks disappeared into the gloom around the far side of the cabin.
“The far don’t include the tip.” The driver grinned. His face, lit by the taxi’s headlights looked like a kid holding a flashlight to his face to scare his friends around a campfire. Creepy.
She fished through her handbag and pulled out her wallet. Hopefully, the local taxis would be cheaper. A chirruping filled the air interspersed with a loud croaking. Manhattan was noisy, but this?
“What’s making the racket?” She waved her hand—the one grasping the fare.
The cabbie slanted his head and listened. “What? Them insects?”
“They’re bugs?” Visions of cockroaches scurrying across her floor in her Manhattan condo scuttled through her imagination. She wouldn’t survive these hills.
“They’re katydids. ‘Bout ready to die off for the season. The loud croakin’—them’s tree frogs.”
Katydids? Frogs living in trees? Kiara shuddered and handed the cabbie a hundred-dollar bill and a fifty. “Keep the change.” She turned her eyes back to the cabin, and her heart wrung out more misery. “Thank you.”
She fumbled for her key—the one Bryce had made a year ago when they bought this place. The key, splashed in different colors like a Kandinsky painting created while on LSD, swirled in a wild mix of pink and turquoise and yellow creating an abstract design. She had laughed out loud when he presented it to her as though he were giving her the keys to Windsor Castle.
“The cabin’s in your name, alone, my cherry-haired leprechaun.” He bent and kissed the whorls of hair she’d just begun training into dreadlocks. “Amanda won’t be able to lay her hands on it.” His eyes had danced with joy. “When we marry, we’ll have a retreat like Yaddo. A place for all artists—writers and photographers and sculptors—”
“Don’t forget painters,” she interjected.
“Of course, painters.” Bryce had pulled her into his arms and held her close. “Tennessee will get to know the world’s greatest abstract artist. We’re in this together. For the long haul.”
Three weeks ago, he died.
The crunch of the cab’s tires faded leaving only the chirruping of the katydids and frogs to torment her. Can any good thing come out of Stinking Creek?
She took one step up onto the porch.
“Ah!” She danced off it, dropped her bags and flailed her arms. Spider webs tangled in her face, wove into her dreadlocks. She spat the fibers from her mouth. As she choked, Kiara felt a fat, pregnant spider, or worse, its silk-wrapped fly, slide down her gullet. She spit. Spit some more like a truck driver gorging on chew.
She unwrapped the narrow scarf binding up her dreads, scrubbed her hair with her hands to make sure Ms. Arachne didn’t take up residence there.
Shivering in the cold evening, she draped the cloth over her face in case another web tangled in the path to the door. No other creepy crawler would slide where only food should reside.
Kiara sank onto the porch’s one step. What else lurked in the dark? What else lived in the shack Bryce thought was such a great deal? Possums? Venomous snakes? Kiara shivered and squinted as she surveyed her yard. Nothing pierced the midnight, new moon blackness.
Beyond the bridge to her property and across the road, one light shone on her neighbors’ house. Aside from that, just inky black and the scent of a skunk—hopefully far away—surrounded her.
She needed light.
Kiara dug in her purse and flipped on her cell phone’s flashlight app. She stood and faced her … what? Her destiny? Not if she could help it. Tomorrow, she’d call a realtor and put this retreat on the market. With its sale, she’d head back to Manhattan. Friends promised they’d let her know when something affordable came up.
Affordable in New York City? Her art sold well, but only Bryce’s wealth enabled her to live there. She could find something in Jamaica or Astoria.
Brooklyn had priced her out a long time ago.
After surveying the porch, she took a hesitant step forward, inserted her key, and the door swung forward. Bryce said he’d left the utilities running.
She ran her hand along the wall and found a light switch. The cabin lit up.
No. Her hand clutched her chest. If the outside was pitiful, the inside was wretched.
Bryce, how did you envision this cabin as a place someone wanted to visit?
ABOUT A NEW YORK YANKEE ON STINKING CREEK
Alone, again, after the death of her fiancé, abstract artist Kiara Rafferty finds herself on Stinking Creek, Tennessee. She wants out of this hillbilly backwater, where hicks speak an unknown language masquerading as English. Isolated, if she doesn’t count the snakes and termites infesting her cabin, only a one-way ticket home to Manhattan would solve her problems.
Alone in a demanding crowd, Delia Mae McGuffrey lives for God, her husband, her family, and the congregation of her husband’s church. Stifled by rules, this pastor’s wife walks a fine line of perfection, trying to please them all. Now an atheist Yankee, who moved in across the road, needs her, too.
Two women. Two problems. Each holds the key to the other’s freedom.
ABOUT CAROL MCCLAIN
Author Carol McClain is an eclectic artist and author. Her interests vary as much as the Tennessee weather—running, bassoons, jazz, stained glass and, of course, writing. She’s a transplant from New York who now lives in the hills of East Tennessee with her husband and overactive Springer spaniel.
She has taught in the local jail, supervised student teachers for Western Governors University and taught for Art Reach for Arrowmont.
She is the president of ACFW Knoxville and the secretary of the Authors’ Guild of Tennessee.
The world in East Tennessee intrigues her from the friendly neighbors to the beautiful hiking trails and the myriad wildlife.
More about the author can be found on her website: http://www.carolmcclain.com/
Life is good in here.
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