Children’s Novel Chapter Sample

Stormy

Fog Of War

The rains departed and a mist rose up from the warm grass, rolling out from the Big Water like a herd of Sheep in a quiet stampede. The clouds above cleared and the moon shone brightly. It was nearing midnight. I was in a mood for hunting. I wanted my blood to race and my mind to stop thinking. My nerves were anxious and my instincts were itchy. I needed to scratch something to stop that itch. I needed to kill something soon or my thoughts would kill me. I needed to kill the thoughts spiraling around inside me like bothersome flies with their sharp bites.
Out to the wheatfield I ran, slipping into that strange mix of thin stalks and thickly overlapping crowd. The full moon was covered in the paw prints of a giant beast prowling nearby, lurking in the shadow beyond its glow and ready to pounce upon the unsuspecting earth below. I heard tittering from the hill. My need to kill was replaced by curiosity. I followed the laughter until I came to the top of the hill, where the concrete foundation protruded from the grass like a gray scar through green fur.
Two foes faced off in front of the Fox den. A large male Fox was bounding around in the fog, leaping here and there while, between him and his den, there stood Claw; still and unmoving as an icy statue never to thaw. Even his tail lay still around him, like fallen snow on a frozen frond.
“I will give you the opportunity to leave,” the Fox said. “Go now and never return.”
Calico and Pug-Nose tittered. They sat at the edge of the foundation, below the oak tree that grew up between the concrete’s cracks. Zoe was in the tree, watching from a branch. All three of them watched Claw. Claw said nothing. He stood as still as before. His one good eye did not follow the Fox as the Fox continued leaping around in the fog. The Fox spoke in a reasonable, courteous tone. Claw stared straight ahead, as if disinterested in the Fox’s antics.
“I know you think you can linger outside a family’s doorway and intrude on their quiet evening,” the Fox said, “but just think of how you would feel if someone did the same to you.”
“Our home has no doorway,” Calico jeered. “The world is our home. The open sky and the broad earth is ours and ours alone.”
“That’s right,” said Pug-Nose, wheezing through his flat-faced nose. “Doorways are for people who fear the world. We do not fear it. The world fears us.”
The Fox spoke a lot, and I would have thought him confident except for a slightly nervous twitch in his poofy tail. He was as large as Claw, but he seemed to be more concerned with making a spectacle of himself than actually fighting. If anything, he fought with Foxy truth. He leapt all around Claw, his tail bouncing after him. He changed direction so much that it was hard to keep track of him as he spun through the fog and shadow. His tail misled the eye, just like a Fox’s word misled the mind. The fog swirled with him, trailing him like his tail. Claw remained still, however, the mist bedewing his whiskers. He was a statue of hoarfrost.
“All this time spent here,” the Fox said, “and you could have been hunting something better. Chickens, for instance. Or mice, if you prefer.”
The Fox bounded round and round, his speech and tail baffling to me. If I had been caught in that whirlwind I would not have known when to attack, nor which direction. The Fox was disorienting.
“You think you are rooted in your spot,” the Fox said. “But the Wind Fox would pull you up into the sky and eat you. And you never know when he will show himself.”
The Fox hastened, moving faster and faster as if he might become the Wind Fox. I began to step back, wondering if the Wind Fox would appear.
And yet Claw seemed unfazed. The Fox’s confidence grew, mistaking Claw’s silent stillness for confusion. He suddenly sprang forward, his teeth gnashing toward Claw’s throat. Quick as lightning, Claw’s paw struck the Fox across the face, sending him tumbling back into the wheat. Claw had not used his claws. Why, I did not know. The Fox stood up slowly, and shook off his hard tumble. He looked at Claw again. The Fox’s grin, and the gleam in his eyes, were gone. I felt a thrill, and the hateful glee of revenge. I knew, then, that the Fox could not defeat Claw, and I could see that the Fox knew this also. He looked toward his den, behind Claw; a black hole in the earth. I thought he would flee. I triumphed in the thought of his flight—his cowardice.
Claw finally spoke.
“Your words will change nothing,” he said. “You are all meat and blood for my morning meal. Nothing more. The wind does not hear the shivering of the leaves it blows. It does not care.”
The Fox bared his teeth again.
“The Wind Fox will take you!” the Fox cried. “He will eat you! You will be his morning meal!”
He charged at Claw. He charged without Foxy truth in his tail. He charged without strategy or deceit. He simply leapt at Claw, head-on, and for a moment it appeared that Claw would do nothing. Yet, as before, Claw struck out at his foe at the last moment. The Fox tumbled again. This time Claw had drawn blood. The Fox’s face was ragged with cuts. I felt my own cuts burn anew as I watched the Fox’s cheek bleed. But it was a sweet pain between us. The Fox’s pain resonated in my own wounds, and I reveled in that pain. I savored every burning ache and agony. If I could have sliced off my tail so he could have felt that pain, I would have. I hated him and his kind more than I could ever love myself.
The Fox stood again, and again he looked toward his den. Again he charged at Claw. This time he landed upon the large Cat, and for a moment it appeared as though the Fox had finally tackled and overcome Claw, the two of them rolling over.
But it was a feint— just more of Claw playing with the Fox. Claw flipped the Fox, in an instant, and latched onto his neck and pinned his fiery body to the ground. The Fox became still as stone.
And then, just as suddenly as he had pinned the Fox, Claw released him and stepped away. The Fox, looking as bewildered as I felt, shakily pushed himself up from the earth. Claw stepped away from the den, as if he was inviting the Fox to return to his family. I saw the female Fox look out from within the shadowy mouth of the den. I thought I could see Candice, too.
Trembling, the Fox walked toward the den. A smirk passed across his snout, for the briefest moment, and that was when Claw tore the Fox’s white throat open with a swipe of his paw, spraying the wheat and grass with blood. The Fox flipped and floundered about—much like the fish from the overturned bowl—and then, gradually, he lay still upon the earth, moving no more.
The hush of the wheatfield was haunting. The fog gathered close like ghosts creeping all around. And then, out from that silence, I heard quiet sobbing beneath the concrete foundation.
I did not know what I felt in that moment. Satisfaction? Regret? Pity? Maybe I only felt envy toward Claw, for he knew what he was with absolute certainty. He was a Cat.
“Where are your witty words now?” Claw said. “What is a word to the power of a sharp tooth or a talon? What good is a word from a throat easily torn? Better to use your mouth for biting rather than speaking in this blood-steeped world.”
Calico and Pug-Nose leapt down from the concrete, smirking at the body of the Fox.
“He was no match for you, Claw,” Calico said.
“No match at all,” Pug-Nose said, wheezing through his nose. “Like a little mouse.”
Claw said nothing. He began to eat the Fox. I watched him eat the Fox. I watched him eat Candice’s father while the full moon shone pale among the silent stars.
When Claw had finished eating, he approached me. His white mouth was crimson, and his one eye an icy blue. His missing eye was black with shadows, and it almost seemed as if the sobs from the den came from his dark socket.
“Why are you here, little one?” he asked me.
“I…I wanted to learn,” I said.
He stared at me as much with the black hollowness of his skull as he did his blue eye. “And what did you learn?”
“I…I don’t know,” I said. My thoughts fumbled over one another, and none of them seemed satisfactory for the question.
“By killing, we become stronger,” he said. “We gain strength from every foe we defeat and devour. I began with insects and mice. Then came moles and chipmunks and squirrels, chickens and geese and whatever bird I could claim with my teeth. And then came the larger prey. The fox cubs, and then foxes themselves, as you have seen. In time I will devour men and women, too, and more.”
“The Man has the THUNDERSTICK,” I said, fearful that what he said was true. “He has the power of the thunder and lightning. I have seen it blast a Snapping Turtle’s shell to pieces in the Big Water. I have seen it explode a Hawk into a cloud of feathers in the sky. He uses it against the Coyotes, and Jack told me he had killed a Bear with it once, too.”
“He has a trifling bit of power,” Claw said, indifferenty. “When I kill the Wind Fox I will have true power over the storm. No man will be able to destroy me. I will wipe their ilk off the face of the earth. Their shelters will not save them. Their buildings and their roads and their machines will not save them. I will run riot over the earth and devour them all.”
I looked past Claw, watching Calico, Pug-Nose, and Zoe gather around Candice’s father. They gnawed at his bones.
“He was no wolf,” Claw said, “but at least he was no dog, either, tamed by man.” He did not take his eye off of me, or the dark hollowness of his empty eye socket. There came into his expression something of wry appraisal.
“Dogs were once wolves,” he said. “Did you know that? Powerful, fierce wolves. But Man enslaved the wolves, and took power away from them, one generation after the next, until some have become as weak and puny as that dog that foolishly died chasing foxes in the field. Think on that, and know who your true enemy is.”
He turned his back toward me and walked to the Fox’s den. He stared into that darkness where Candice and her family huddled together. I felt that Jack had been avenged, even if I had not been the one to avenge him. I watched Claw in wonder and admiration. I did not feel sorry for Candice or her family. I did not feel sorrow for her father. No, I thrilled at the thought of being strong like Claw. I wanted Foxes to fear me. I wanted everything to fear me. I wanted to fear nothing. I would be like Claw, I told myself. I would be as ice-cold as Claw seemed to be. No topsy-turvy feelings. No warring emotions to spin me around and around in a tornado. I wanted to stand as still and solid and cold and unfeeling as he did—as if made of ice and hoarfrost.

Author’s Note: The above is a sample chapter from a children’s novel I had started to write as a sequel to my first children’s novel “Chloe Among The Clover”.  I had set it aside while finishing my other novels/short stories and had recently had time to pursue its conclusion while recovering from an automobile accident (that was not my fault).  My nephew has been urging me to finish it since he loved the first one so much.  The sequel is titled “Stormy Within The Strawberry Patch” and is nearly finished.  I have been finalizing the first half of the novel and now will finalize the second half in the oncoming days.

Paradise Among the Ruins

A young boy and girl
in humble shepherd frocks
dance together, all aswirl
among mossy stones, the crumbling rocks
of an ancient castle fallen long ago
to a mysterious cataclysm
when beloved ally became hated foe,
either side destroyed by a fateful schism.
The boy and the girl dance, hand in hand,
where the king once held his court,
his word the law of the land—
fair and prudent and without retort.
But the echoes of his baritone voice
no longer vibrate in wisdom here,
nor the instruments of his choice—
neither bugle or lyre or rattling spear.
The songs that sound so softly now
are giggles and childish sighs,
nor does cold gold weigh upon a brow
or sparkling jewel ensorcell eyes.
Dancing lightsome, pure, and free,
the girl and boy know no shame
in the shadows of toppled history—
they know not that dead king’s name.

Kentucky Gothic

Darkly webbed withered vines
strung out along the telephone lines;
deep-holler, river, mud-bank valley,
stained sidewalk, cobbled, and colonial alley;
white siding, cracked, and black-eyed shutters,
gully-gushing bent-tin gutters;
funeral procession through the murk,
tinted windows, veils, shadows lurk;
cedar, birch, ash, and oak,
brick and mortar, glass and smoke;
clouds and grays and mists and rains,
decaying leaves and shattered panes;
she walked here, each day, along this road
from nowhere to nowhere—twelve years old;
mortician smiling behind a cadaver
as if he is glad, at last, to have her;
buried in her flashy fuchsia dress
with a woman’s blush, a little girl’s tress;
soft satin inlay within the coffin
and the bow in her hair that she wore often;
sonorous sermons to come to terms
and hard mahogany to hold off the worms.

Moontide

Moontide

“There’s something wrong with the moon,” Sophie said, staring out the window. “It’s almost green-looking. Apple green. Sweet, delicious green.”
Austin did not bother looking up from the television. He was tired. He was tired because it was nighttime and he was watching a BBC Nature program on Netflix. He always did this on a weekday to put himself in the mood for bed. He inherited the habit from his father, who would follow the same habit on weekdays. Only, his father had watched PBS Nature programs, since that was all that was available to him back then. Since Austin and Sophie lived in the Valley, it was hard to get a signal from any local stations. All of their neighbors in the subdivision used Netflix or satellite tv.
“Its so green,” Sophie said. She stood at the window, with her fingertips planted on the glass. Ever since the birth of their first child, Dallas, she had a hard time losing weight. Where she was once lithe and lean she was now plump around her hips and stomach. Where she once wore tight, contour-conforming blouses and jeans that made her husband hungry for her curves, she now wore loose, curve-flattening hoodies and jogging pants that rendered her a unisex tomboy. She had been trying to lose weight every day, but the only thing she lost was hope. She tried to exercise in the evening, but it was hard to find time when she had to sit at a cubicle for nine hours, juggling HR spreadsheets and payroll accounts, and then had to come home to look after their son.
Austin was an oil rig man who worked on the coast. It was a job his father did, and his grandfather. Three months on, one month off. This was his month off. Coming home made him relieved, but he always felt a bit disappointed, too.
“Maybe I should wake up Dallas,” Sophie said.
“Let the boy sleep,” Austin grumbled, his own eyes dragging heavily up and down in uncertain wakefulness. “And let me sleep.”
“It might be one of those once-in-a-lifetime events,” Sophie said, never once taking her eyes off the moon as it reigned above the Valley. “He might miss out.”
“Let the boy sleep,” Austin repeated, drifting off. His eyes went in and out of focus on a gigantic flock of birds going on migration. He was so tired, and lacked so much concentration, that he could not remember the name of the birds. The Narrator of the program— some Brit with a silken voice that cradled Austin’s mind like a hammock—lilted in a swaying song of syllabic cadence.
“I think I will go get Dallas,” Sophie said. Yet, she did not leave the window.
For Christ’s sake, Sophie,” Austin growled, rousing again. “Leave the boy alone. No wonder he ain’t growing at all. He isn’t getting enough sleep to grow.”
“That’s not true, Austin,” Sophie said, too wonderstruck by the moon to be defensive or even peevish about the assertion. “The doctor said his hormones just haven’t kicked in yet. He’ll have a growth spurt eventually and maybe he’ll be almost as tall as you.”
The thought that Dallas would not be taller than Austin bothered Austin. He took a deep, disgruntled breath and sighed through his nose; noisy with aggravation. He folded his arms across his chest and adjusted himself on the sofa. “Maybe we should put him on some protein drinks,” he said. “At this rate we’ll be lucky if he’s five foot tall. And the kid needs to eat something. Jesus, a strong wind would blow him away.”
“He’ll get better,” Sophie said, still staring out the window. “Just give him time to fill out.”
Austin almost said “Fill out like you have?”, but he knew it was meanness and did not want to say it, however much he thought his wife was now a jelly-belly. His son was a sore spot for him, and often provoked him in ways nothing else could. Dallas was asthmatic. He was sickly. Austin had wanted a son like himself: a rough-and-tough football player always getting high-fived by the guys and handjobbed by the cheerleaders. He wanted a son that was happy. But Dallas was a nerd. He liked computers. He liked looking at the stars. He liked playing videogames. Granted, the videogames had half-naked women strung throughout them, but that was a mere shadow of what Austin enjoyed in highschool. And at this rate Dallas was going to be like those awkward, quiet kids that Austin mocked throughout highschool. He was going to be a loser.
Something flew past the window, faraway. Despite the brightness of the moonlight, the thing flying was too faraway to discern as it floated above the concave neighborhood. It became lost in starlight and distance. Whatever it was, it did not move like a bird. It floated like a balloon on a gradual rise. Austin wondered if it was a birthday party balloon or a bachelor party balloon. Part of him wished to see a stripper dancing in front of him.
“Wow,” Sophie sighed. “Look at all of them. They’re really going…”
Austin inhaled and exhaled laboriously, then settled in again, trying to fall asleep. The Nature program had shifted from birds to some jellyfish in the sea, all gathering under the pull of the moon.
“I need to see better,” Sophie said. “It’s just so…so beautiful.”
As if sleepwalking, she went upstairs.
“Don’t wake the boy up,” Austin muttered, half-asleep. He drifted in and out of sleep. One moment he was watching a group of tentacled lights dancing in dark waters; the next, he saw a small fish chasing a glowing lure in utter void, only to be devoured by a horrific mouth. Then came Canadian Geese flying high above drafty, plummeting depths. Then came salmon swimming upstream, leaping toward breeding grounds. Bears caught them as they passed, and tore them apart with easy demeanors. He was not sure if he was watching a Nature program with ADHD or whether he was simply dreaming about all of the Nature programs he had watched throughout the years.
He roused a little when he heard tapping on the window upstairs.
“Jesus Christ, woman,” he grumbled, more to himself than anyone else. “You never quit, do you?”
He leaned forward on the sofa, rubbing his face with his hands and growl-sighing in annoyance. Standing, he stretched his arms, ready to walk to the master bedroom and crash, hard, upon his bed.
But then something caught his eye. There was a greenish glow upon the Valley. He could not see the moon, but he could see down the sloped neighborhood and over the rooftops that swooped down along the Valley’s crater. There were things floating into the green-tinged air. Hundreds of them. Their bodies were slack, hunched over, and rising slowly as if pulled upward by the shoulders on gentle ziplines. They were not birds or balloons. One flew past the window and he recognized it as Mr. Peterson, his nextdoor neighbor. Austin shook his head and rubbed his eyes, and still he saw them rising— rising into the sky.
Suddenly remembering Sophie, Austin hurried upstairs. He found her in Dallas’s room. She was tapping her forehead against the window. She floated a foot off the ground, as if gravity meant little to her pudgy body anymore.
“Sophie!” he gasped.
She turned around, in mid-air, still hunched over, her body lax. Her eyes were dilated utterly black.
“Time to go home,” she said. She turned away from him and touched their son, Dallas, on the forehead. “Get up, honey,” she said. “It’s time to go. It’s time for all of us to go.”
Dallas looked up at his mom, then toward the window. The little near-sighted boy became gawp-mouthed, like his mother, and floated up from his bed, the blankets and sheets slipping off of him. Austin ran to pull them both back. Pulling on them, he screamed. But then he, too, glimpsed the moon through the window. It was so large and green and close to the earth. It peered so closely at them— at all of them—and Austin finally understood.
It was time to go home.
He felt himself rise, alongside his family, and huddle against the window. He felt, distantly, the window buckle and shatter, falling away, letting the cool air of the Valley caress his face as he and his family rose above their house, and their neighbor’s houses, and felt the whole of the earth dissolve into a dream beneath them, their eyes and their brains and their thoughts full of nothing but that green light. Flying away like a great flock of…something. Words lost meaning. Images lost meaning. Life, as it had been on earth, lost meaning. Nothing mattered but the green light of the moon. Instinct dictated all, and all that mattered was to pass where that great lurking hunger had been waiting for them to come to it, one final time, for the harvest of a million millennia.

 

Author’s Note:  This story came to me in a dream; not all of its particulars, but the main thrust of the story.  I woke up this morning and typed it down in one go.  I doubt I captured the raw horror I felt upon dreaming this story, but I hope I conveyed it in a manner that makes it understandable.  Unfortunately, it was a very image-heavy story and I do not know if such things are “paintable” by words alone.  Vladimir Nabokov said he painted with words, and he certainly did, but I am not the literary virtuoso that Nabokov was.

Some More Poems

Deicide
With an envenomed tooth I write this
as in biting spitefulness of the hydra fang
with which the conceit of all gods die
as their devotees carry their crude idols,
(carved in likeness unto themselves),
stumbling gleefully toward the temples
whereupon to perform
their own grandstanding
apotheosis.
Know that you blaspheme
the sacred earth
from whose heart comes this
marble
into whose purity you deface
with the vain mask you wear
during your sermons of selfhood—
know that your vanity
corrodes beneath its own rigors
the fragilities of feature
carved in such godly visages,
thus fracturing that which is written
with a vainglorious chisel.
But take comfort, crumbling stone,
in knowing your vengeance, in turn,
against this fang
that melts all that you hold sacred,
for it shall succumb to its own venom
in due time, surrendering itself sweetly
to the acid of its own
nihilism.

Fall Scene
Fireflies flickering
in the wheatfield, the
stalk filaments below them
bronzed by
shadow and moonlight.

Anxiety
Anxiety like a single shrill
screech from a violin savaged
by a sadist’s razor-edged bow.

Poseur
Pity-party poetry
proffered from a power-point podium,
as dead in delivery
as a mummy in its sarcophagus
waiting for its gender reveal.
A lot of glass heart merchants
in the ponzi scheme of this
new century
always accruing interest
as people vacation on beaches
of shattered crystal shards,
cutting themselves
not to feel something, but to
post something to faux-feel
for fleeting instagram click-chicks
with shallow selfie-styled emotions.
Catullus never condescended
in the first-world forums of
Ancient Rome
to wail for attention,
nor sank so low to overcompensate a
lack of emotion
with a flailing pantomime of feelings.
And as much as Walt Whitman was a
self-obsessed narcissist
tone-deaf to his out-of-tune
Song of I,
he never but felt his own words,
however poorly expressed with
maudlin mediocrity
and shameless shades of adolescence.
I only spit spite to precipitate
rain
over the
hash-tagged mass graves
into which so many have
deliberately swooned to fall
with such self-satisfied melodrama,
gleefully delirious with their own
bandwagon sorrows.
Grow flowers over them, I say,
or, better yet, let thorns
grow like barbed wire
in trench warfare
and let the earth swallow them up
unto silence.
The sound and the fury
signifies nothing
and then a thousand other
wails rally to answer it
until the world echoes with
woeful dirges
and falling bodies.
So many wails and falling bodies,
all overlapping upon one another—
it is not unlike a
silence,
no one taking prominence
and everyone lost in the tangle of
each other’s self-interest.