Started for real working on this story:
“Oswald’s War” (working title). Nola Jensen, the sole heir to the estate left by her family, founders of the town of Mount Jensen, Maine, returns after many years during which she was on the run for her role in a Boston hold-up in which a police officer was killed. Tired of hiding and dragging her teen-age daughter from town to town, Nola seeks peace and reconciliation. What she finds is a small town torn by conflict.
New residents from out of state want to turn the rural, lake front town into a version of what they left behind and the natives are resisting. There are fights over land, water and reconstruction that take many forms.
At the center of the story are Nola and her collection of friends she left behind. Chief among them are Henderson, who owns the local diner, “Tender” Johnson, who works in a local paper mill, Dennis LeGrange, a deputy sheriff, and Oswald Neggerson, a poor farmer whose family, he claims, was defrauded by Nola’s family centuries before.
When Nola and her daughter return to Mount Jensen, it is to witness Oswald pointing a rifle at Henderson in front of his diner.
It is a story of cultures clashing, disputes in any form that are as old as the hills and as new as plans for change. It is a story about friendship and love and family, a story about generations: Nola’s daughter Emma and a local boy, Max, are both caught up in the adult events and their own explorations.
It is also a story about the clash of ideas as Nola and Oswald face off.
I see this story as a broad grand tale.
Here’s the opening:
The Diner was shrugged under the last of the gigantic spruce trees that once stood like a castle wall around the Inn’s property, tucked into the drooping green barrier a spy, like some country kid on the roof of the grocery with binoculars watching the New York girls on the lakeside veranda, laying on their blankets with their bikini tops unhooked, their tight little asses tanned against the white bikini bottoms, waiting for one of them to roll over and for one magic second point a pair of sharp white titties to the sky. Did they not see us on the roof, Henderson always wondered? Did they not know how exotic they seemed to the collection of teen-aged boys gathered there, grabbing the glasses out of each others’ hands and yelling, then ducking when one of them thought one of New York girls might have looked their way? But of course they didn’t see us, Henderson knew. They arrived with their families in long sedans, stepped from the back seat with shades and headphones, tight shorts and cut-off t-shirts and stretched, arching their backs like a cat, then took three steps and lowered the shades half way and with an Oh my God, mother, what are we doing here, glanced up and down the dusty main street of Mount Jensen, Maine with its five houses, old schoolhouse, unpainted church and a grocery store and decided that the two days at the Inn, before their week at tennis camp, were going to be the worst days of their lives. Then they would lounge on the veranda, sleep on the Inn’s green towels or order a salad, dressing on the side, and iced tea, which they would eat while sitting under the green umbrella; eat, if that was the word, more like pick at the vegetables with a studied distain and then wave their glass at the waiter, More iced tea, please. And a slice of lemon.
But by the second day, the New York girls began to flirt with all the county boys who were the waiters and bellhops, and if they stayed at the Inn a night or two at the end of tennis camp, Henderson knew they would be on the lakeside veranda that last morning, and he knew for a fact that more than one of those New York girls with her bikini top unsnapped sat up half naked and began to apply suntan lotion just as casual and open as if she was in her room alone, because at tennis camp someone told the New York girls that the county boys were watching from the grocery roof, and she thought, why not; slowly rubbing the lotion on her arms and neck, stretching her head to the side; on her shoulders and flat belly and long legs, then placing both hands on her chest and sliding them slowly down over her white titties, now even whiter against her dark tennis camp tan, before she laid face-down on their towel again. Unless her mother saw her and yelled something that the country boys on the roof could hear but not understand, before she stood up and covered her daughter with a towel, and then glanced around toward the roof of the grocery where all the country boys ducked behind the roofline, and rolled and giggled and covered their mouths in wide-eyed surprise, Oh, man did you see that? Henderson more than once was the country boy with the binoculars when the New York girl rubbed her soft shoulders with lotion and his mouth would be open, and his left hand was fighting off the grabbing of his friends and pants would be swollen because even that far away New York girls were beautiful.
The roof of the grocery was their lookout, where they affirmed their places in the small-town universe of Mount Jensen, where they watched the lumber truck roll down the hill from Darcy’s woodlot, brakes squealing, motor chattering in protest before it swung the turn wide, surprising the hell out of some Indiana tourist in a minivan because that sort of thing never happened in Indiana, apparently, before the truck with its fifty-foot load of trees wandered down the middle of the narrow main street before taking the left at the schoolhouse and heading up Loon Road toward Skowhegan and the paper mill; the great snort of the gear change timed and regular as the driver gained speed, and even with the rig a half-mile away, the country boys on the grocery roof could still count the gears, until the silence absorbed it, the distance erased it; watched as the sunlight pulled back across the lake from yellow to orange to red and the transparent water turned green then grey then black, and the lights in Franklin’s milking barn came on and the hidden loons cried out from the shadows as trout began to rise creating silent rings that spread across the dark water just catching the dying light to shine translucent for one dissolving moment; then sometimes a large brookie would break the surface as a dragonfly dipped too low, and the soft splatter of its reentry would reach the ears of the country boys on the grocery roof too late for them to see the fish, but not the ripples as the sputter of a small outboard leaving Bachelor’s settled to a drone, and behind the shield of a dozen tall spruces the lights in the rooms of the Inn flicked on, one by one, golden beacons reflected off the white walls and green shutters of the Inn; one by one in the rooms where the New York girls stood naked under hot showers, dreaming.
Henderson on the grocery roof would stare in awe at the Inn, so white, so gleaming, so forbidding behind its wall of tall trees and the wide porch and then look at the rest of the village fading darkly, retreating with the daylight and think that everything in Mount Jensen is getting older, except the Inn.