Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents! Though the competition was close, I can confidently declare a winner following this week’s earlier poll. Based upon the results as of today, Choice #1, pulled from a chapter titled, “To Wrestle With a Starved Bull,” has emerged the victor. Thanks to all who voted! However you cast your vote, I hope you enjoy this brief look at what I’ve been working on. Do keep in mind that the novel is in its first draft, so plenty is subject to change. Regardless, I am proud of what I’ve done with this particular passage. If you have a thought about it, you are welcome to leave a comment. This marks the first time I have shared anything longer than a paragraph or two on the blog, and I am entirely comfortable doing so thanks to the positive interaction I’ve had with you ladies and gents over these last few months.
The only context I will provide for the excerpt is as follows: Clarence is 23. Kairi is about the same age, and she is a member of the Gish tribe.
Without further ado, here it is.
Clarence saw nothing but lone rocks and tumbling weeds for leagues ahead. Perhaps now, a time free of distraction, was the proper time for he and Kairi to have a rest and talk the situation over. Arjuna had held her pace at a gallop for far too long besides. Intent on slowing the horse, Clarence prodded her with his bootheels, but the creature practically froze in her steps. “Woah!” Unprepared, Clarence was flung forward by the invisible hand of momentum. His legs reached to arc over his head. In the disorienting moment, a sinking sensation commanded his muscles to action. He reached for the leather sword belt around his waist and jerked it enough that it unraveled and fell away from him. Then, as his legs ascended in their damning arc, he reached for Arjuna’s neck and tugged tightly as he could. Gravity pulled him back down to the earth and his groin slammed against the horse’s back. Clarence spilled off of her side with a breathless grunt and toppled into the dirt with a thud.
Clarence pressed his palms against the pit of his belly where excruciating, hollow pain wrenched and twisted like a hot knife. He groaned despite knowing full well that Kairi was watching. Clarence hardly paid a care to the sounds of her scrambling off of the horse. He just lay in the dirt, face twisted in agony and burning scarlet as he rode the wave of pain that only a man could know. The bulging vein throbbing at his temple seemed ready to rupture on top of it all. Blast the horse! In the fiercest grunt he could muster, Clarence rasped, “Arjuna!” The exclamation attached to the name was more implied than anything. His attempt to scold the beast was pitiful.
Rolling in defeat, Clarence tossed from side to back to allow his air-deprived face to siphon what it could from the pink sky. He almost found calm in the view until Kairi’s face interrupted it. Couldn’t she let him suffer alone for a moment? But she was a woman, so she was bound to hover over him and bathe him in nurturing and light touches and assurances until she deemed his color healthy and fed him chicken soup to boot.
“Clarence Cash, you clodhopper! How do you manage to hurt yourself at every step like you are still a toddling child? Pick yourself up from the ground! Look, you are crying! I should have brought a boy from camp to guide the horse!”
The girl was right about the crying. There were tears tracing jagged trails down Clarence’s cheeks. But they were not tears of pain. Well, not all of them. Most were tears of delight. Kairi, the blue-eyed girl who had a presence like a crashing ocean wave, had taken that “chicken soup to boot,” stuffed it in the boot, and sent the shoe bobbing down a river. Why should he be surprised? A man could have better luck predicting the tides, the winds, and the clouds a particular day a year into the future than predicting what a woman might do in a minute.
“I’m not crying,” Clarence laughed as he brushed away tears with a dusty finger. He didn’t feel the slightest bit insulted by Kairi’s scolding. The rosy sky outlined her honey-blonde hair with a glow that dulled much of the edge which had sharpened her words. Surrounded by an easy aura projected by the sky, the girl seemed just that: a girl. And a pretty one, too.
Kairi gathered the space between her dark brows into a tight knot. She needn’t say a word for Clarence to know she demanded an explanation for his rude laughter. A flash of perception flickered in Kairi’s glass eyes and Clarence suddenly knew that he needn’t give an answer. She already knew he was laughing at her. “Clarence Cash, you are worse than a toddling child! You are an infant who needs his mother. Why are you laughing at my face?”
Clarence couldn’t help the laughter rolling from his belly. Perhaps the euphoric relief of recuperating from a knock to the testicles had roused something inside of him, though the thing roused couldn’t have been his brain. After all, any wise man would sooner wrestle with a starved bull than laugh in the face of an angry woman. But Kairi could not actually be angry. Could she?
Clarence sat himself up and wiped away a final tear. Dirt was smudged across his face, painting him filthier than he already was. He was long due for a bath. Long due. As for why he was laughing…“Don’t worry about it,” he assured Kairi through a boyish grin.
The Gish girl, perched at a squat, eyed him with her lips pressed in defiance. Clarence eyed her in turn, wearing his grin as a mask. The girl didn’t budge. She just stared with her vast eyes, stared as if the cool blue of her irises was an elemental force. But Clarence did not intend to sit there until he was buried under the avalanche. Or swallowed by the hurricane. Whichever happened to emerge from those formidable eyes, Clarence had no desire to be in its path. Not now, not ever. A starved bull before an angry woman any day.
Copyright 2016 J.J. Azar
From there, things escalate, but as is implied by the nature of an excerpt, that’s all I have for you today 😉
As always, stay classy.