Monday, July 18, 2011

Excerpt 4 from TUNNELS



As the growling grew louder and the snorts produced some foggy, and stinky, hot breaths, I slipped over the side of the cliff. Old Miss or Mrs. Jackson was already below me, rappelling faster than a spider in a chimney.

The crash of the waves below told me when I was near enough to look down, catch some good footing and finish the descent by swinging into a convenient cave.

“Watch out,” Jackson said as she grabbed me around the waist and kept me from landing in, or rather diving through, the hole in the cave floor. “Now listen.”

The language we heard coming from the steamboat and the raft was specifically identifiable as nineteenth century . The jargon, the cussing and continual use of “the n word”, was jolting yet I was not offended. Somehow it fit.

“Start writing!” Jackson hissed, thrusting paper and pencils at me. She had already turned on her recording device and was capturing the dialogue. I didn’t see the point in my taking notes. Who even knew shorthand anymore? Still, I disengaged myself from the ropes and gave it my best shot.

It seemed to take hours and when I looked up we weren’t outside at all. We were standing in an old-fashioned farmhouse bedroom, peering out from a crack in the closet door. A school marmish, bonnet-headed old woman was shaking her finger at a boy coming out from under the bed, another boy was huddled under the sheets.

“Enough,” Jackson whispered, dropping her device into her satchel. She held it open for me to toss in the paper and pencil. Then she stepped back and disappeared through a hole in the floor.

But not before she grabbed my ankle. I flew after her, bumping against the smooth sides of yet another tunnel.