Friday, July 5, 2013

Flaunting Fiction Friday

The Truck Driver's Daughter

Chapter 1
           My name is Sinthia Foster.  Yes, that’s Sinthia, not Cynthia.  Apparently my mother wasn't the world’s best speller.  At least I think that’s the reason for my name.  The only other explanation would be that my mother had precognition.  Although I never asked, I prefer to believe the former; better my mother had limited spelling ability, than that she looked at my newborn face and determined I would grow up with loose morals.
           My father drove truck for J. B. Hunt and spent most of my youth on the road.  He parented by phone; once a week he called and asked how I was doing.  I know he worked hard to provide for my mother and me, but it would have been nice to see him more than a weekend a month, which was about as often as he would drive that 18-wheeler into our driveway. 
           On those days he would jump down from the step of the truck, six feet tall, dressed in faded jeans and a denim shirt; his slightly graying hair would be disheveled from driving with the window open.  Then he would reach up to run his fingers through his unruly hair,  glance around at the house and yard his time away made possible for us, and with his long legs, he would quickly cover the distance between the driveway and the porch.  Always what he wanted most was a much-needed shower, some home cooking, and a couple of good nights’ sleep. The fact that I never had any siblings convinced me later that the ONLY things Dad did during those monthly visits were shower, eat, and sleep.
          When he died of a heart attack four weeks before my 15th birthday, not much changed.  It was as though a distant uncle had stopped visiting.  The man I had hardly known and barely missed did have life insurance, however, and he left a will with instructions that I was to go to college.  If not for his will, I would not be where I am today.   For that I am grateful. 
          College wouldn’t have been a priority for my mother.  She had quit school as a freshman in high school and never looked back.   She managed to get a job at the soda fountain at F.W. Woolworths’ in her hometown of Jonesbury, Vermont, and there she stayed until she met my father six years later.  They soon married, and this bundle of joy my mother christened Sinthia arrived just 10 months later.  Determined that the mother of his child would not have to work, my father soon left his position as a clerk at the local hardware store for the more lucrative, if lonelier, life of a long distance truck driver.  Such was the tale my mother shared with me.
          That was about all she shared with me.  I never knew if she resented my father being gone so much or being saddled with the responsibility of raising a daughter on her own.  Her name was Beverly.  She had blonde hair from a bottle, a scar on her chin which she kept covered with makeup, and legs that could have been on the cover of Cosmo.  She once told me that she had applied to flight attendant school after she and my father were married but was turned down because of the scar on her chin.  Today, that would probably be illegal discrimination; in her day, not so much.  (I suspected the fact that she had no high school diploma may have been a barrier as well, although she omitted that detail.) I never knew the cause of that scar.  Whether it was a childhood accident, or a result of abuse, she kept that bit of information to herself.  I only asked about it once, and she quickly changed the subject.  Most of the time it wasn’t visible, so I guess it never occurred to me to ask again.
          Beverly was a quiet, introverted soul, which meant I had to look outside my home for attention.  Fortunately, Jonesbury was a safe, small town, and I developed a network of friends who satisfied my need for attention and companionship.   It wasn’t until after college that I learned Beverly’s satisfied her similar needs with her best friend, Jim Beam.  After my father died and I went off to college, Jim became the center of her universe, and what had for years been a secret alliance developed into a full-fledged love affair.
          I was oblivious to the situation because she was clever at keeping it hidden when I was living at home.  Busy with school and friends, maybe I turned a blind eye to some of the signs.  The bond between my mother and me had never been strong from the beginning.  I often wondered if it was something I did, but in retrospect, I now realize that Jim Beam was closer to her than I. 
          The fact that Dad had specified in his will that the bulk of his insurance money be used to send me to college didn’t endear me to her, either.  Resentment became coldness; coldness descended to bitterness.  By the end of the summer before my freshman year of higher learning, we were barely speaking.  When I left for college I pretty much severed ties with Jonesbury, Vermont and adopted Maine as my new home.

Chapter 2

         I was determined that nothing was going to keep me in that Vermont town.  It wasn’t that I hated the place; it was a typical New England borough with tree lined streets, three churches (Baptist, Catholic, and Methodist), brick school houses, and a mini mall adjacent to the Kmart. 
          What I hated was the pitying looks the neighbors’ faces took on when they saw me.  To them, I was that poor Edwin Foster’s daughter; her Pa passed away and her Ma drank too much.  They had no idea that Dad’s life insurance would take care of me quite comfortably.  Even my mother was unaware of exactly how much had been left to me.  The New York Life agent had encouraged Dad to take out two policies; one to guarantee his wife security, and one to guarantee his daughter’s financial independence, well past her college days.  
           When Stewart Finley, Dad’s attorney and the executor of his estate, informed my mother that her husband had made sure the proceeds she expected to receive were to be deposited in trust for her, with Finley as trustee, she was furious.  Apparently Dad had been more aware of her affair with Jim Beam than I was; Mr. Finley would be taking care of her household expenses, and she would receive a weekly stipend from the trust for her personal use, preventing her from spending it all on her “lover” and winding up homeless. 
           My mother was even more furious when Mr. Finley handed me a savings account passbook with only the stipulation that I attend a 4-year college and maintain a satisfactory grade point average the day of my high school graduation.  My grades would be forwarded to him at the end of each semester, and should I falter, the balance of my savings would be placed on hold until I raised those grades or, if I did not graduate in good standing, until I turned 35.  The way my jaw dropped when I opened the passbook and saw the middle six figure balance told my mother that the sum was large, and unlike her, I had easy access to the funds.
          “It’s not fair,” my mother complained; “Sinthia’s barely eighteen and can do what she wants.  I’m an adult and have to get by with a weekly allowance!” 
          “I’m sorry, Mrs. Foster, really I am, but that’s the way Edwin instructed me to handle things in his will.  All your monthly bills will be paid, so you’ll have nothing to worry about,” Mr. Finley responded in attempt to reassure her.
          “But what if there’s an emergency?  What am I supposed to do then?” she demanded, twisting a lock of her bleached blonde hair around her index finger.
          “We’ll discuss emergencies if and when they happen.  I assure you, there’s no need for concern.  I’ve left one of my cards on the table with my telephone number should you need to reach me.”  And with that, Steward Finley closed his briefcase, shook our hands, smiled, and said, “Sinthia, I need you to come with me.”  Still stunned, I nodded and followed him.   When we were outside and beyond my mother’s hearing range, Mr. Finley turned to me and said, “We need to go to the bank and open a checking account for you, and we need to switch that passbook account to a statement savings so that you will be able to transfer funds as you need them to your checking.  My name must be on the accounts with yours, and copies of the statements will be sent to me so I can keep any eye on things, as your father requested.   As long as you enroll in college and keep your grades up, the money beyond the cost of your tuition, room and board, and textbooks, is yours to do with as you wish.  I would caution you, however, to keep in mind that you need to pay for four years of college.”
          “Can I buy a car?” I asked.
          “My dear, you certainly may.  I would suggest that you not tell people about your money, however, as they may try to take advantage of you.  If you are reasonably frugal with the funds, I suspect you will have enough to pay for college, living expenses, and whatever you might need for several years.”   His tone was kind and almost paternal; I was grateful the gray-haired man seemed to be in my corner.  “If you ever need help or advice, feel free to call me,” he added.
           We drove to the bank, and Mr. Finley guided me through the account-opening process, explained how to use my checking account responsibly, and then dropped me back off at home.
          I was grateful that I’d already packed for school and only had to spend one more night with my mother.   Where she had always been secretive about her drinking, this night she was blatant.  I counted the hours until morning, hoping she would go to sleep and leave me alone.  To my relief, by 10:00 p.m., she had passed out on the couch in the living room and was snoring loudly.
         With my purse slung over my shoulder, I climbed into the Greyhound bus the next morning, after handing off my two suitcases holding the only items I cared about to the driver for storage in the luggage compartment.   I made my way between the seats to a couple of empty ones, about halfway up the aisle.  Sliding across the first empty seat, I settled into the one next to the window, peering through the glass at the Jonesbury bus station, wondering if I would ever see the place again; I just felt no ties to the place where I’d grown up.
          As the Jonesbury Public Library, the town square, the Kmart, the mini-mall, and McDonalds’ slowly disappeared from my view through the bus window, I pulled a memo pad and pen from my purse, settled comfortably in my seat and began making a ‘to do’ list for my arrival at my destination.   First, I’d need a car; an apartment or some kind of living arrangement would be next.  There were still 2 weeks before classes would begin, which would give me time to decide whether I wanted to live in the dorm on campus. 
          Watching the trees and towns pass by through the bus window, the stress of the past few weeks begin to lift from my shoulders.  The realization of the freedom and independence my father’s will had given me began to sink in.  Mr. Finley had assured me he would look after my mother, and instructed me to “do well in school, and find time to have some fun.”

(The above are the opening chapters of the book I'm currently working on, tentatively titled, "The Truck Driver's Daughter.  Unfortunately, it's a long way from completion!)

If you can't wait for this book to be finished and want to read something of mine other than this blog,  click here to visit my Author's Web Page.



Brian Miller said... are already developing some nice characterization in her background...and the new location as well...nice start...all the best on finishing it...and i hope that you had a great 4th

Sue said...

I like it, Eva. It definitely left me wanting to know more...


Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
It caught my imagination Eva, you've definitely got something going here!! All best for it's completion. YAM xx

fishducky said...


Stephen Hayes said...

I just spent time wandering about your Author's Web Page and I think it's very impressive. I'm currently putting together a collection of stories and posts and it would be great to pick your brain sometime to get up to speed on this. Take care and have a great weekend.

Alessandra said...

Get busy writing please, I love this story and I really want to know what's going to happen. I like that in a couple of chapters, you've already have established some clear story points. :)

Eva Gallant said...

Thanks, Brian; your comments are always valued because of the source!

Sue: Thanks!

Yamini: Thanks so much!

fishducky: I'm working on it!

Stephen: Slim pickins' I'm afraid, but here for the asking!

Alessandra: Thanks for the kind words.