This is from a novel, a work in progress called “That time the world visited Mount Jensen, Maine.”
It is a generational story about a small town under the pressure from rich developers, the internal conflicts of residents, both new and historic, and about families growing and changing. The hope in writing is that darkness of the story is somewhat offset by the humor, and the way the several characters are shown will carry the tale.
It is drawn from familiar U.S. conflicts, and even though it was written a couple of years ago, has a current ring to it.
Nola, in the piece, is Nola Jensen, the survivor of the family that gave the town its name. She was a 60s Hippie and ran from her small town. Now she has returned, seeking reconciliation and peace and a place she hopes her teen-aged daughter can live without conflict.
Oswald is one of the group of childhood friends central to the story, including Nola. While his family was also a founding member of the town, there has been resentment between Oswald and Nola their entire lives that reflected the historic notion from Oswald’s point of view that Nola’s family cheated his out of the best land.
To be sure, Oswald is off his rocker, and perhaps dangerous.
This scene is from a chapter that I think will be called “The Gospel According to Oswald.
Oswald stepped to the edge of the cliff, the town dark and settled into dusk below.
“You think it’s all about peace, love and understanding.” He spit a black gob of tobacco juice over the rocks. “It ain’t, you know.”
Sitting on rocks opposite Oswald, Nola shook her head repeatedly.
“There is no ideal, Oswald. There are only ideas, and hopes and dreams. Thoughts. This nation was a thought. When our ancestors came up the Kennebec, and with a deep breath picked a trail northwest and landed here, the nation they were a part of was just an idea conceived, not even completed, just hatched that if we as a people declare some of us are free of the restrictions, then we create the possibility that we all will be free of them. The definition and practice of freedom over centuries has changed, but it has become wider and deeper at each turn.”
Oswald spit again.
“Them that gots, and them that ain’t. Always was and always will be. And them that ain’t will take it from them that gots. That’s freedom, Nola-Girl. Then we all be the same.”
“Now who is living in a fantasy?” Nola asked. “It is all about the chance that something will come of good efforts. When our families stopped on this lakefront a couple hundred years ago they believed that with hard work and luck they could carve out a life, get through the winter alive. Each family had its land, bought sight unseen from a sketchy map. That map was the dream, just as the Constitution was the dream of the nation. It was up to the citizens to make the dream real. Still is.”
Oswald turned back to face Nola, squinting, his profile craggy and unmoved as an old mountain top. “The dream ain’t even,” he said low, nearly a whisper.
“Didn’t say it was,” she replied. “Doesn’t mean it’s not worth dreaming. That’s how you make it even. People struggle sometimes. It doesn’t mean the rest don’t them help out. Makes us all stronger.”
“Ain’t even a dream,” he yelled. “Nothing peaceful, just the winning of conflict, the powerful squashing the weak. It don’t end until them that ain’t, gots. It’s all about…” he let the thought drop, not wanting to give a hint. Fire, he thought; it’s all about fire. And as he stared out over the town settled in to dark, he envisioned a yellow-turning-orange burst in the church steeple, windows blown red from the hotel annex, embers windblown to the grocery roof, where black smoke rose and reflected the yellow flame, the shoreline roaring in glittering destruction, the black waters of the lake rippled in hellish gold.
“Naw, Nola-Girl,” Oswald choked out, “It ain’t about dreams, and peace, just about war until the end.” He spit out another dark gob. “Gets time to pick a side.”