The diverse weather in far Northern California never ceases to surprise me! Roasting last week, cool beautiful day, looming thunderheads above us today~
True is receiving wonderful reviews on Amazon and through email, daily! Visit the True Amazon Review page at http://www.amazon.com/True-Melinda-Field/product-reviews/097620083X/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
I wanted to share some excerpts from True, starting with chapter one...
The girl flipped her long black hair out of her eyes. She stood looking at the empty motel room’s dirty carpet and cracked walls. She’d cleaned it as best she could, hoping that Mr. Monsoon, the manager, would give her what little was left of the deposit. The girl and her mother had lived there for six years, until last week when the cops busted her mother for heroin and prostitution. She opened the window—dusk in downtown Phoenix, the crowded boulevard, a cluster of gangs, pimps and drug dealers, shouting people, heavy traffic, honking horns and the constant screams of sirens. She looked around the place one last time. The big closet with shuttered doors had served as her room. Most of the time she’d slept there on the mattress or listened to the radio.
“Goddamn her!” she yelled into the disinfected air of the bathroom. In the daytime she was gone, at school or work, while her mother shot heroin and nodded out in front of the TV. Most nights her mother went out, but once in a while she’d bring a man back; then the girl slept in the tub so she could lock the door.
Her mother had been arrested before but her pimp, Eddie, usually bailed her out right away. This time he’d been arrested too. The Monsoons let her stay in their guest room in the apartment above the decaying motel. When her mother was allowed her one phone call, she’d told the girl, her voice soft and weak, “I’m gonna be in for a long time; call your grandmother, Jenny Brown, Green Valley, California.”
“No, mom, no way! I’ve never even met her!” she fired back. Then she heard a gagging sound like vomiting and the phone line went dead.
At first she’d thought, No fucking way I’m calling the grandmother.” Once when she was ten she’d found a picture in a box her mother kept under the bed. In it, a small dark woman held a little girl who was laughing. On the back it said, “Morning Dove and Mamma, 1959.” She’d asked her mother, who went by “Dovie,” if that was her real name.
“It’s my Indian name, Green River Tribe. That’s your grandmother holding me. You too, you’re Indian, maybe more than Mexican, not East Indian like the Monsoons, but more like…” she’d paused, “like cowboys and Indians. But don’t tell anyone, say you’re Mexican, they won’t treat you so bad.” Ever since that day the girl had checked the box next to Hispanic.
The last few days she had been desperate to find a way to stay in school and keep her job. She needed to find a safe place to sleep. She’d wondered if the Monsoons would let her rent their guest room, but she knew better; the cops were always on their back for one reason or another. Then, yesterday, after Child Protective Services called, Mrs. Monsoon had drifted across the room, her sari edged in gold, and handed her a cup of tea. She’d moved to the altar that they kept in their living room and lit a stick of incense. “Kali,” she’d said tapping a framed picture, and “Ganesh,” pointing to an elephant god. Then, with her eyes on the floor, in her broken English, she’d told the girl, “Good luck with grandmother,” and handed her the push button phone. Reluctantly, she’d called information; the number was listed.
At first, the old woman on the phone didn’t understand. “Dovie’s girl? Where? Arizona? Who? Caterina?” The girl explained about her mother and jail. She bit her lip and fought back angry tears as she spoke the words, “I have nowhere else to go.”
It took forever while her grandmother copied down the Monsoon’s phone number and address. For the next few days she’d helped Mr. Monsoon move furniture out of a room, shampoo the carpets, and hang drapes. He’d had another sudden vacancy and she’d worked with him to get it ready to rent. There had been no word from her grandmother. Then, on the third day, Mrs. Monsoon had set a letter with the words Express Mail stamped on it by her plate. She’d held it in her hands a long time, knowing her life was somehow bound to it. She’d left the table and walked out to the balcony to read it.
Here is a bus ticket to Green Valley.
Someone will pick you up at the Post Office.
Your grandmother, Jenny Brown
It was all happening too fast. She looked up Green Valley, California, on the library computer. Three hundred miles north of San Francisco, a rural, secluded ranch valley…
Shit! Did her grandmother live in a tipi? she wondered. Surrounded by three wilderness areas…Boasts a rich history from the gold rush days...Boasts!? Who uses words like that? Who!
She straightened her small body, pulled the fitted shirt down over her tight black jeans. She picked up the new black backpack she’d saved all summer to buy, the one that was supposed to be for her junior year, not to carry her pathetic belongings to some godforsaken place. She put on dark glasses and the head phones that plugged into a small AM/FM radio and CD player she carried in her pocket. She almost always wore the headphones whether she could afford batteries or not. Wearing them stopped people from talking to her. She heard Mr. Monsoon’s horn, looked one last time at the room, blinked hard, shouldered the pack and hurried outside.
In the parking lot of the Greyhound station, Mr. Monsoon, after double checking that the Honda’s doors were locked, took the backpack from her. He’d worn his brown Nehru jacket and shiny black shoes. She’d noticed in the car that his clothes smelled like curry and incense. She wondered if she’d miss that smell. Probably not, she decided, trying to keep up with his clipped pace. The terminal was packed with people. Buses lined the street, their engines running, the visible exhaust rising up into the orange, dirty ceiling that passed for air.
After reading the destinations lit up on the back of each bus, she finally found hers, Phoenix to Sacramento. She pointed and Mr. Monsoon veered with her to the left. Once she’d gotten into line she noticed that Mr. Monsoon kept looking around nervously, adjusting his turban. She saw relief in his eyes when she told him that it was okay to leave her. His face was blank; he stepped towards her, bowed, pressed a ten dollar bill into her hand, turned and was gone.
Right then, as Mr. Monsoon disappeared into the crowd, a man in the line winked at her and grabbed his crotch. She looked away, hiding behind the curtain of her hair. After handing her ticket to the bus driver she stepped up into the bus, the heavy air freshener not able to completely cover the faint smell of sweat and dirty diapers. It wasn’t until after she’d found a window seat and stashed the backpack underneath it that reality slammed, her heart raced, she felt nauseous, hot, sweat on her palms and across her lips. She turned to the window and pressed her cheek to the cool glass.
Stop! she wanted to yell, Let Me Off! As if he knew, the bus driver buckled the seat belt over his pot belly, glanced in the overhead mirror, nodded, reached out and pushed the double levered doors shut. They closed with a loud intake of air as if the people on board were vacuum packed, sealed in.
She woke in the dark, the black windows and dim blue lights more like a space ship than a bus. Most people slept, even the crying baby in the back. After using the cubicle bathroom she ate the food that Mrs. Monsoon had packed—an apple, an orange, and a naan filled with meat and vegetables. She flipped through a People magazine she’d found in the bathroom. “Back to school fashion, looking great in 98.” She fingered a hole in the knee of her jeans and yawned. She watched the wide, dark desert pass by; jagged shadows of cactus were backlit by a half moon. Stretching out her legs, grateful for the space of three seats, her stomach full, the repetitive swish of the tires lulled her and she slept again.
On and on and endlessly on, the bus crossed the swaths of farmland and freeways through central California. Identical freeway towns with carbon copy restaurants, stores, and malls spilled into new suburbs with look-alike houses and beige cars in every garage.
The bus stopped morning, noon, and night. She couldn’t tell one Stop n’ Shop from the next, from the people, to the familiar merchandise; they were even arranged identically so you could always find the chips no matter what town you were in. And she wondered, were Greyhound stations located in the worst neighborhoods, or had bad neighborhoods sprung up around Greyhound stations?
In the early morning of the second day, they dropped off and picked up passengers in the Sacramento station, where huge, carved balustrades told the story of the discovery of California. A lot of people got on the bus, and this time she was in the middle between an old man who started snoring the minute he sat down and a boy about her age who kept staring at her. She glared at him.
Four more freeway hours later, her body cramped and in need of a shower, she tried to read her worn copy of Jane Eyre. Just outside of Churncreek, the bus driver announced over the loud speaker the sighting of Mt. Cloud, fifty miles away. He referred to the double humped mountain reclining on the horizon as She.
That was really weird, she thought, giving a sex to a pile of dirt…
At the Mt. Cloud Stop n’ Shop she reached into her pocket and counted eighty-three cents. She bought a candy bar, then filled her empty Pepsi bottle with water at the drinking fountain. Outside she stared at the huge mountain, so close she felt like she could have reached out and touched it. 14,351 elevation, said the engraved plaque. She was only about an hour away now. Her stomach growled, so she unwrapped the chocolate, letting the sweet bitterness melt on her tongue. In the bathroom she’d washed up, reapplying the heavy black eye liner and maroon lipstick she always wore. When she came out, the driver had called for people to board.
Miles more of brown stubble fields passed, some dotted with a few horses—or were they cows? The old houses seemed to all have a falling down barn nearby. Where the hell were the neighborhoods and shopping malls? After forty miles they exited the freeway into Butte City and drove a short distance past the main street which held a grocery store and gas station.
Here I go, she thought seeing a sign that said, To Green Valley. Twenty-three miles of steep winding road, unmaintained in the winter.
Does it snow here? she wondered. They trundled uphill, nothing but heavily forested mountains on either side. She felt sick, the alien landscape and high elevation twisting in her gut. The summit looked down on a valley imprisoned by mountains. The highway narrowed to one lane, then abruptly dropped. In a few moments, she’d told herself, she would get off this bus, step into a place she’d never been, a place where she knew no one.
My life is over! her mind screamed, while the bus’s brakes bleated a series of short shrill shrieks as it hurtled downhill.