First Sentence Friday – Chapter 6
I knew a few people like that, and to this day, I remember them. I recognized the rightness or wrongness of their actions and because of what they said or did, I believed what my very young gut instinct told me – they might not be trustworthy.
One was an elderly man who would come and occasionally visit with my mother while my father was at work. My mother would have me stay in the kitchen with her while Mr. So and So sat at the table, drinking sweet tea and eyeballing her as she washed dishes, cooked or maybe ironed. When she wasn’t looking, he would stare at me, aggravated I was hanging around. He would raise his eyebrows, tip his head towards the door, and I took that as his silent message I should leave them alone. I wouldn’t budge. Eventually he would decide it was time to go, and as he went to the door, he’d always insist (even in front of me) that he give her a kiss on the cheek. I could tell this made my mother uncomfortable, but she’d also said she felt sorry for him. She would comply, and as soon as the door was shut, she would wipe her cheek off and say, “He’s just a lonely old man.”
Another one was a teacher I had in sixth grade who didn’t care much for me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but she made me uneasy. When I was called on to give an answer to a question, it was like my brain became paralyzed, while her pale blue eyes squinted and she’d raise her chin ever so slightly, like she’d already figured I was going to get it wrong, I was going to fumble. She’d drift closer – and wait. Most of the time I simply shook my head, and stayed silent, too nerve-wracked to attempt to speak.
In THE FORGIVING KIND I’ve created an antagonist named Frank Fowler, and while I’m proud to have created someone so sinister, I’m also glad I’ve never met anyone like him. Sonny Creech gets nothing but bad vibes off of him – yet her mama has accepted his offer of help, and all Sonny can do is go along with it. What she notices first is the difference in Mr. Fowler when her mama isn’t around. Frank Fowler’s presence is like a weed slipping through a crack of asphalt, and like the weed allowed to grow, eventually the asphalt begins to weaken and crumble.
The whistling stopped soon as Mama went into the house to start on supper.