Tonight was my official last class at Flying Object. This week's prompt was a continuation of an in class exercise we did last week. We were to take the first page of a piece of fiction and continue on with it. Only three of us completed the assignment this week. One of my classmates chose a Eudora Welty story while the other picked The Dog of the South by Charles Portis.
And I... I also went the southern route. But as they chose fine, upstanding writers, I selected what I might least likely want to read. As I saw it, I was to put my spin on someone else's beginning. Perhaps it was serendipitous that I saw the collection of softcover Nicholas Sparks novels in the lunch room at work. I grabbed at the lot and came up with A Walk to Remember, a book which I believe was made into a movie starring Mandy Moore. If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.
And so it begins:
In 1958, Beaufort, North Carolina, which is located on the coast near Morehead City, was a place like many other small southern towns. It was the kind of place where the humidity rose so high in the summer that walking out to get the mail made a person feel as if he needed a shower, and kids walked around barefoot from April through October beneath oak trees draped in Spanish moss. People waved from their cars whenever they saw someone on the street whether they knew him or not, and the air smelled of pine, salt, and sea, a scent unique to the Carolinas. For many of the people there, fishing...
And which I continued:
...was both recreation and livelihood. The innumerable salt marshes and brackish creeks provided an abundance of shrimp and crab and in late Fall, six dead prostitutes as well.
The first one was found by Billy Swanson, out in his father’s motorboat without permission. He was fishing for reds and came across the body, or what was left of it, of a young, blonde girl hung up in the mangroves where the high tide had left her. The crabs had done a pretty good job on the body, but her dress was pulled up over her head and Billy lingered, at once repulsed at her condition and aroused by her nakedness.
Sheriff Thompson was eating a chicken salad sandwich from Pearl’s when Billy flung open the door.
“I found a dead lady out near Wells’ Creek,” Billy said.
The Sheriff put down the sandwich and looked at the boy, with his obvious erection, and decided that he’d have to keep an eye on him in the future.
“Don’t fool around, son,” said the Sheriff.
“Honest, Sheriff, she’s dead and the crabs have been eatin’ on her.”
“Boy, if you’re havin’ me on, I’m gonna nail your hide to a tree.”
Billy told the Sheriff where he’d seen the body and convinced him that the story was real. He grabbed Billy by the arm and dragged him out to his car, a black Dodge, and threw him in the front seat. He got on the radio and called his deputy, who’d been hiding behind the Piggly Wiggly sign on highway 21 catching speeders all morning.
“John, get your ass down to the dock at the marina. Billy Swanson found a body out in the marsh.”
“Sure thing, Sheriff,” crackled Deputy Paul’s voice over the radio.
After Billy showed them where the body was and they’d returned to town, Sheriff Thompson called the County Medical Examiner’s office and arranged a larger boat to go retrieve the body. There was no doubt she was dead, but the marks around her neck indicated she’d been strangled. It didn’t take the Medical Examiner to prove that. They brought the body back to the morgue and put her in the cooler until they could do the autopsy.
That was the beginning. Over the next several months, they found more bodies in the marsh. The first one turned out to be Charlene Walsh, who worked in Savannah. Ten days later a shrimp boat crew found the body of another girl, blonde, but not enough left of her to identify. Three days later an oysterman found the third, another prostitute from Savannah, named Jenny Shoemaker. That was when they decided they had a serial killer on their hands.
I'm fairly certain that I went in a different direction than Mr. Sparks. I don't believe there are dead hookers floating in any of his other books, but I haven't read Message in a Bottle, so I could be mistaken.
Rachel gave us all books and I received, in a cosmic joke sort of way that would only mean something to me, a book called Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth. Fucking hilarious, universe... I see what you did there.
As I said, it is my official last class, but there will be one more meeting, on Monday, November 21st from 5:30 - 7:30 where we will be giving readings of our work. So if you'd like to come out and see me possibly (undoubtedly) make an ass out of myself in public, feel free. The address is 42 West Street, Hadley, MA.