Though I’ve started a new book, a chapter book tentatively entitled Space Junk, I’m still having to mull it over in my brain. I am drawing some images for it. I mean if you’re writing a book about traveling into space you have to put in at least ONE alien. But what does the alien look like? And what does the human who’s interacting the said alien look like? Well, Keandra Maria Diaz came to me all by her curly headed self, full of curiosity and determination, but her new friend, Shellorba, is shy about appearing in my head. And since he is capable of mind traveling around the universe, I’ve got to figure that part out as well.
However, while I’m cogitating on that, I can’t not write. Which prompted me to write something to submit to the nature magazine, “Terrain.” It’ got interesting stories in it and allows the writer a max of 6000 words. My short stories tend to be very short, so I’m thrilled to have this extra number of words to play around with.
The plot line is based on an incident that happened when I was out for a trail ride with a friend and we got caught in the edges of a grass fire roaring up from the Patapsco River on the grass covering a gas pipeline. We had heard a helicopter flying above us while we were in the woods almost as it was tracking our movements. When we got close to where we’d come out onto the pipeline, which was fortunately buried fairly deep, we thought we heard to the helicopter land off to our left.
We emerged from the woods and did see the helicopter on the ground and two men—presumably the pilot and co-pilot—walking toward us. We stopped to figure out how we were going to get by the whumping machine without spooking the horses, and my horse, Gemini, casually turned his head to the right to look down the pipeline. The area was quite hilly. When I turned to see what he was looking at I saw a wall of almost black smoke rising up from the hill. A fire! A big fire! Gemini’s reaction was ho hum. Not what one hears a horse doing in a fire. The pilots realized we were not in danger and when I signaled that we would ride past where the helicopter was, they got back in and lifted off the ground. I figure that at least one of them had some experience with horses because they raised that machine straight up into the air until they were tree-top high before they flew in our direction.
Well, that’s not much of a story to tell! I mean where’s the danger? Where’s the heart-throbbing action? When I wrote the story the first time, I added spice to it and named it “Trust,” because horse and rider do have to trust each other or somebody’s going to get hurt.
It turned out the fire was a case of arson and I don’t remember hearing if the culprit was caught. Again, not very exciting in a story. Enter the bad guy, who really is just pissed off that the state had bought the family farm many years early to make the state park. And this man, the surviving would be heir, never got over the assault on his family’s land.
Since the magazine likes the stories they buy to have a lot of environmental description in them, I am adding a lot about the Patapsco State Park, which, BTW, is a spectacular place to hike or bike or ride through and the river is quite navigable at that point either by canoe, row boat, or kayak. So if you ever get a chance to see a bit of it, head to the border between Howard and Baltimore Counties, Maryland. There are several places to park in the area and there is a more cultivated area called the McKeldin State Park.
Anyway, the story is progressing and at the urging of a critique group partner I am putting in the bit about another time I was riding in the park and the horse I was riding that day wanted to go a different way home. We turned left off the pipeline to ride between an over-grown pasture and a small stand of oak trees. Out of the woods, again tree top high, flew a red-tail hawk carrying what appeared to be a six-foot-long black snake twisting and turning in the hawk’s talons as if to say, “Hey, you can put down any time now.” The hawk had babies to feed so she just kept on flying. Another wonderful memory from my time with horses.
As you can see, writing any story is more complex than the reader ever understands, but what else is a writer going to do? The stories just keep popping up in a writer’s head and must be put down. I’ll end up finishing my space story. In the meantime, I’m toying with doing the illustrations for it myself. What would your space alien look like?