The Sunset Excerpt from an upcoming novel

When Marty arrived at the Travis house, he was overwhelmed by the kindness that was shown to him, as well as the unkemptness of the giant in front of him. The man immediately shook his hand, and when he smiled he revealed his big, bright yellow teeth. He was very tall and very pudgy, dressed in a red flannel shirt that had spots of brown liquid stained all over it. His face was blocky and fat with rosy round cheekbones and two chins above his thick, white-haired neck. Gazing into his light blue eyes was like looking through windows on a cloudy day and a small potato nose was mounted above his red cracked lips. Gray and white hair, made thin over years of aging, stuck out from his head and behind his ears. When he spoke, his Southern drawl was thick and much more noticeable than his daughter’s was, and his breath

reeked of chew tobacco and the Budweiser that he was holding.

He walked in small steps, his shoulders dropped and his back slouched, wearing short leather boots. His daughter, Fanny, who stood silently by the staircase smiling at Marty when he walked in, followed the boys into the living room where they started out with small talk. She sat on the couch next to her father, still not saying a word, as if she felt she needed permission to speak to her new friend. Out of fear of spoiling their personal conversation, she remained silent. “You know, Marty, I’m… I’m sorry I acted the way I did when I saw yer truck outside my house there that day,” said Mr. Travis. Marty raised his hands to his chin to signal his forgiveness, but he couldn’t get a word in. “Let me just say it was a rough day at work. The boss thinks I’m getting too close with one of the gals at my job, so he gave me a good talking-to

before I went home that day. I bet you know that feeling, right Mart?” Mr. Travis laughed to himself. Marty tried to fake a smile out of politeness, but he couldn’t stand the smell of the half-drunken man’s breath. Fanny’s lips were frozen to her teeth. “So, enough about me,” he said. “Tell me a little about yourself, son. What are you up to these days?” “Oh, you know,” Marty said, having not spoken more than three words since he came to the door. “Working on college now.” “College, yeah? How’s that going for ya?” “Eh… well, what can I say? It’s got its ups and downs.” “Ah-huh. Never got to college, myself. There was a time for that, of course. But, I was fighting the good war in my youth. Though, from my experience, y’all learn a helluva lot more in the

service than you ever will in one of them ‘ole classrooms, y’know?” Marty didn’t know how to respond to that. He disagreed with him in theory, but of course he knew nothing about the military life. He smiled at him awkwardly, faker than fake. “I guess it depends on the person, though. Anyhow, yer ma told me you’d known Fanny since we moved here. I’m real sad we got off on the wrong foot.” “Mr. Travis, I’m sorry I didn’t properly introduce myself.” Marty adjusted himself nervously in his seat, his eyes beaming at Mr. Travis with his head fighting to turn away. “No harm done, boy. I think you’re a good kid. But out of curiosity, where in the hell were ya when yer Ma was here?” For a brief moment, Marty said nothing. “Oh. Um. Why wasn’t I here. …I had some housework to do. Pop said my mom would handle things while I just stayed put.”

“Ah, I gotcha. Hell, I’m just glad you were able to make time for us.” “No trouble at all, Mr. Travis,” he said hastily.

For the next few minutes the three of them sat around silently. Fanny turned her head towards the clock, then towards Marty, and then finally towards her father. “So, Dad, um, me and Marty wanted to go for a walk at some time, today,” she said, having not uttered a word for more than an hour. “By all means, go ahead,” Mr. Travis said. They ended their meeting on good terms. Marty shook Mr. Travis’s hand one last time and went out the door with his daughter. The two turned left heading down the trail with no idea of where they’d end up. After a little while, he looked at her and said, “Fanny, I want to show you somewhere I went a lot as a kid.”

“What’s that?” “You know that lake up ahead?” “Um, I think so. I mean, I probably drove past it a couple times.” “Let me show you. Here, it’s not up much further.”

When they got to the lake, they walked around in circles, taking in the beauty and serenity of it all. They took off their shoes and socks and left them behind a bush. They rolled up the ends of their pant legs and walked through a shallow part of the lake. It was a pretty, quiet, sparkling lake, and no one was there but them. They found a lonely deck and sat next to each other, kicking their bare feet in the water. Marty gazed into the horizon. His eyes took full advantage of the sunset shining above them. They were both silent. Every few minutes Fanny,

turned to him, then back at the sky. Marty’s head was down looking at his hands crossed on his lap. “Are you okay?” Fanny asked him. He said nothing for a moment, clearing his head, and then looked up at her. “Fine,” he said softly. “I’ve just, I’ve just been busy.” “What’s going on? Come on. Tell me.” “I’ve been, I guess I’ve been thinking about things like my family and college and my, um.” He got real quiet. “Book…” “Your book?” “Uh, if you could call it that. I write now. It lets me appreciate the simple things in life more, I’ve found.” “What’s your story about?” “Oh, it’s not really a story. I mean, it’s a story of a bridge.” Then he caught himself. “Um, okay, I’m lying to you. It’s not even a story. It’s a vivid

description of a bridge that I want to make into something great one day. I’ll have to get more into it with you.” “Please do that.” Suddenly, she put her hand on his back, clearly also hypnotized by the colors of the sky. Marty would have liked to return the favor to her. He would have liked to truly get to know her, but she seemed too perfect. Too innocent. Too kind. It was enough that they were friends. How could he ask for more? So instead, he just smiled at her, and when she removed her hand from his back, he laid down on the deck, his eyes fixated on the fruity sunset’s waning glow. And Fanny lay next to him, on her back, and she was brought back to her hometown. Everything was just like this, except that instead of a deck, it was a grassy hill, and instead of Marty, it was her old sweetheart, Jed, lying right next to her. He, like her in that sweet moment, seldom said a word. But it was the nicest feeling, and not a thing had to be said. They didn’t leave until about a half hour later

when the sun sunk too low. Marty was worried that he wouldn’t find his way home. The two quickly put their shoes and socks back on and ran back to Fanny’s house. When they got there, they promised each other, as they always did, to meet again soon. They were both relieved; as it would finally be absent the lingering fear of an angry Mr. Travis finding out his daughter had gone off with some stranger. “Marty,” Fanny said before she turned toward the house. “Yes, Fanny?” “Thank you. I had fun.” “So did I, Fanny.” He smiled, his eyes returning thanks for all the time she spent with him. The grin that formed on his face lasted his entire trip home.

To be continued.

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