Friday, February 5, 2010

There's someone I'd like you to meet...

I’m working, in the very early stages, on a story. I woke up this morning with some of the characters bumping around in my head. I decided perhaps I should introduce you to Hank.

Hank had a natural strength and bulk to his tall frame that came not from pumping random dumbbells at the local gym, but from driving fence posts and manhandling livestock. His dark brown hair, in need of a trim, revealed its hidden tendency to curl. When he was a baby, his mama had let it grow until it tumbled over his ears and rested just above his eyelashes. He smiled at the world through clear blue eyes as deep as the dimples in his sun-baked cheeks.

That morning, like every other, he kissed his mama’s gently aging face and told her good-bye as he passed through the kitchen on his way to the truck waiting out front. Rhonda always tipped her head with a small smile and closed eyes, taking this moment to steal a glimpse in her memory of that sweet baby boy who years ago toddled around her feet as she fried the morning eggs and bacon.

When did her baby get so big? When did he quit digging in her kitchen cabinets, banging on her orange Tupperware bowls? What happened to her days of preparing after school snacks, kissing skinned knees and fussing at little boys for riding ottomans like miniature bronco-busters? Before long, this handsome man she’d raised would leave home and his dutiful morning kisses would be just another memory of her years with him. They would be just another page in the scrapbook in her mind.

Outside, Hank tossed his backpack into the bed of the Chevy and piled into the cab. The morning was damp, but the air went out years ago in this ol’ bucket of a farm truck he shared with his older brother, Vince. They didn’t mind the fresh air whipping between the seat and front dash, except for the occasional Saturday night date. Pretty girls tended not to appreciate being forced to wear a windblown look for the rest of the evening. On the rare occasion they thought this month’s girl was worth the trouble, they’d resort to borrowing their dad’s truck, though that really wasn’t much of an improvement.

He never really minded school. Hank was smart and most things had come easily for him. He enjoyed learning about history and reading literature. Math classes were none too entertaining, but not too much of a bother either. The sciences intrigued him, filling in blanks and answering questions he’d had since his boyhood. Watching his father and the other ranch hands right a poor cow’s prolapsed uterus and stab cattle with vaccine-filled syringes had inspired a whole line of questions his father wasn’t prepared to answer. He’d long ago developed a silent curiosity about nature and science and how those two worlds intertwined.

What he did mind was homework. When he left school each day, his work had only just begun. There were animals to be fed, fences to check, and always, always, always the horses. The horses were his domain, his specialty. “His gift,” Rhonda frequently remarked with pride. He never had the time or energy to waste on filling in blanks on study guides or completing pages of random, arbitrary calculations, especially if he could pass the test, often spoiling the curve, without all that nonsense.

This year, though, he found himself in a French class. Vince and Hunter, his best friend since their early days of kicking dirt and throwing rocks, had proposed they take French instead of Spanish to meet their foreign language requirements...and to meet girls. Apparently, some of the guys on campus were toying with the idea of this “back door” strategy. The three had completed their schedule requests together last spring. At the end of the summer when schedules were distributed, the guidance counselor explained with a sarcastic tone, “Due to a surprising influx of student interest in the French language, we were unable to honor all students’ foreign language requests.” Priority had been given based on class rankings.

This was one time Hank half-wished his academic aptitude was more like his brother’s. Vince had struggled to learn to read. Rhonda had wanted him to move on with his friends. She feared how this would affect his self-confidence, especially since it would place her two sons in the same grade. Her husband, Jack, had no such worries, nor did the deciding powers at the elementary school. In the end, Vince repeated the first grade, making the two boys more like twins than big and little brothers.

Hank would have survived French easily, were it not for his otherwise charming Texas twang that pervaded every sentence, every word, every syllable his lips uttered. Madame Russell winced with pain at his inadvertent slaughter of the French language. For the first few weeks, he tried with honest efforts to master the throaty, breathy French “r”. He struggled in vain to soften his “j” and push it forward, between his teeth, as Madame insisted. Eventually, though, the sight of veins in her neck flaring with frustration and her teeth gritting impatiently sent him into a spin of apathy.

He had lost what little motivation he had for mastering basic French vocabulary, when Madame Russell called him aside just as the bell rang and students began pouring into the halls. She had a plan. She knew exactly what he needed – a tutor. And, lucky for him, she had just one in mind. The tutor was an honor student, in French III, and a natural with the language. Only after Madame Russell made it clear that this was not a request, but a requirement if he hoped to pass her class, did he agree to come by after school for introductions.

That was when he met Ione.

Photo credit: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


  1. I think I want to see more of Hank. ;)

  2. Jenny, I love it! I already knew you were a great writer, but WOW. I hope you'll share more with us!


Care to comment? Be my guest! Just remember, be classy -- not too sassy! (My young fans may be reading!)

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