“The Forest Talks” (trying my hand at dialogue writing)

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Jimmy (the brains of the operation put together with rags for clothes)

Johnny (foster child in the hands of an absent adult and forced to make friends his family)

Gene (the older, but not always wiser, boy among the group)

SCENE
The backwoods Appalachian Mountains of lush southwestern Virginian forests.

TIME
1950’s

Gene and Johnny are scouting on a quiet fall day in the woods of Appalachia for a new moonshining site to claim. The only noise is crunching under their feet on the forest floor and the chatter of their mouth. Jimmy has trustingly left for a few hours to retrieve supplies they will need to build the shelter and still for cooking the moonshine.

GENE
Hey Johnny, whatcha got oer’ yonder? I ain’t got nothin’ down here. Can’t even find a trickle!
JOHNNY
Gene, I reckon we gonna have to keep looking. You know Jimmy will have our asses if he gets back and we don’t have no dern site picked out. This is his money maker and we gotta help him get it together. He trusted us!
GENE
I know, I know. Now we just need a creek with some clean runnin’ water. Hell, a ditch with clean runnin’ water will do for now! But keep an eye up top cause you know the 5-0 flies that old bird around out here searchin’ from time to time. We need some thick brush to help keep us covered. If we can’t find any that’s good enough, I’ll call my brother, he’s the local camouflaging expert in these parts. Everyone knows him.
JOHNNY
Look Gene, just ‘cause I’m in foster care doesn’t mean I ain’t from ‘round here. I probably know these woods better than most of the kids you know who grew up out here. I sure remember that time when my pop’s got mad at my ma’ and got to wailing on her. That was a bad night and ma’ just told me to run. ‘Run John-boy, get out of here or he’ll get the gun out on you!’ I guess my momma always knew I could take care of myself. She just didn’t want pops to get to me ‘cause I wasn’t really his…
GENE
Damn Johnny. I didn’t know you had it that bad.
JOHNNY
Yeah man, it was tough, but I listened to my ma’. She always knew what was best for me. I packed my sack and high-tailed it out of that shack house and never looked back. Stayed put in the woods so the police wouldn’t find me and lock me up for running away. Eventually they found me and said I had to go to school and learn something.
GENE
Man, school sucks! I wish we could just make moonshine all day and make some money who needs school anyways.
JOHNNY
Yeah, but the detective man told me when he found me, ya’ know some kids actually make something of themselves and get outta these hell-bound Appalachian Mountains.
Both laugh hysterically.
JOHNNY
Life outta these woods? Yeah right! I’m no hippie or democrat, and I damn sure ain’t moving further south. I don’t want to be caught up in that…
GENE
You know they said it’s getting better down there these days. They’re letting the blacks go to the same school as the kids like us and everything.
JOHNNY
Dang Gene! You hear that? It sounded like cars driving by down there. How far you suppose we walked? We need to get cracking on this still site man. Jimmy ain’t gonna like this if he comes back to find us empty han…
GENE
I got it John-boy! Over here! Come look! We got us a site right here!
JOHNNY
That sure does look nice! We got over-head coverage, pretty good brush around us and level forest ground to work on. By the looks of it, we’ll be makin’ that mountain lightning in no time! Boy, I tell ya, your silly sometimes but you’re like a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out the good stuff!
GENE
Hey…Is that a dig or a compliment?
JOHNNY
How’d you take it?
GENE
In the good way. I always liked bloodhounds.
JOHNNY
Chuckles to himself
Let’s get cleanin’ up some of the branches and junk from this site and meet Jimmy back at the road to help him unload. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was waiting on us.
The clean-up begins and they uncover an unlikely finding: Jimmy’s old gun that he told Gene and Johnny to get rid of for good after he killed that man. That man was the detective that raided their last still site and almost took them all to the county jail to ruin their lives.
GENE
Johnny! Jimmy is gonna ring our necks like a turkey at Thanksgiving! We can’t let him know that we never threw this over the bridge. He still thinks it’s sitting at the bottom of Nelson Bridge, in the deepest water in four counties! Four counties Johnny!
JOHNNY
It’s just a .38 Special, Gene. You know how many people got them ‘round here? It’s not like he is gonna know it’s his or anything. He’ll probably think someone threw it out because it wasn’t good anymore. Shit, look at the corrosion and rust on it. You can’t even pull the hammer anym…
GENE
I’m scared Johnny. Jimmy don’t like people that can’t follow directions. He don’t like people he can’t trust. And he especially don’t like no detective coming up on his site and that’s why he trusted us to get rid of the gun that he killed that detective man with! We’d have gotten sent to prison for the rest of our lives just for the site, but if they all found out we killed that man and destroyed evidence like that…they’d bury us under the prison so we couldn’t leave even after were dead!
JOHNNY
Lord Gene, would you calm down! We will just explain what happened to Jimmy and tell him that old ’37 Ford your daddy lent us that night broke down and it was raining buckets. We couldn’t just walk down the road carrying everything we had, trying to stay dry, and have this big barrel sticking down our pants trying to hide it. Every lady in the county would have wanted to know who our fathers were to see if theirs hung to their knees also! Not to mention, if we’da got picked up and had that thing on us, we’da been screwed. Big time.
GENE
Like we’re about to get screwed now, Johnny!
JOHNNY
You just let me talk to him and we will get this figured…
GENE
I just heard his truck go by Johnny. I can tell it anywhere. That thing is loud as a tank going by!
They abandon the site mid-clean-up and head for the road only a short distance from the flat spot they’ve found on the side of the mountain. Gene’s stomach is in knots and he can’t figure out if it’s because of the finding of the gun or if they’re going to tell Jimmy they didn’t find a site. Either way he will be mad. Johnny is just a cool as a cougar on this mountain side, sly with a quick reaction time. He knows Jimmy will understand.
GENE
*Breathing heavy*
How..do you know…he isn’t gonna take us out? Man this mountain got steep!
JOHNNY
Don’t loose….your balance Gene….you’ll slip and fall and…break both our necks.
Sliding to a halt at the edge of the bottom of the mountain, Jimmy has heard half their conversation and awaits their arrival on the side of the road.
JIMMY
What are you two idiots talking about? Did you find my site? You better have! I trusted yall to get this right this time. I’ve got orders coming in already and I can’t even get a batch going ‘till I got a site!
GENE
See, Jimmy, we found this site but… Well, I’ll let Johnny explain.
JOHNNY
Jimmy, we have a site. It’s flat, got coverage, got thick brush surrounding and we even cleaned it up a bit for you. Got a nice creek nearby too for our water supply.
JIMMY
So what’s all this talk about me breakin’ necks then? Yall got the job done and that’s what I needed. These jobs I ask yall to do are extremely important. You’re the only two I ever ask to do this stuff for me. Part the reason being one of yall is better than a bloodhound and the other could pass the most intense grilling of any interrogation by the police.
JOHNNY
Jimmy, remember that big job you had us do last year when shine season was in full swing? We’ll that ’37 Ford Gene’s daddy lent us broke down that night and we chucked the .38 in the woods since it was raining. We couldn’t walk with tha….
JIMMY
So you’ve still got evidence that I killed that detecti… man?! Are you kidding me! I can’t believe you two! The most important thing and you had to go a mess it up! If they catch me, I’ll bring yall down with me, after I am finished with you of course!
Jimmy went to his truck in a fury of rage, grabbed his bat out of back and came after Johnny and Gene. Each got a bruise across the face the read ‘LOUISVILLE SLUGGER’ and numerous broken bones. Knowing the cops had a case built for the raided still site from last year, he left them a bloody mess unable to move hardly on the side of the road. He sped off in his truck kicking dirt all over them. Looking in his rear-view, Jimmy chuckled with evil knowing he left that gun pinned in between Johnny’s leather belt. Someone would find them eventually.

The Funny Thing About Voices

It’s been a minute.
It’s been a lahng while. *go ahead and say it like that*
Well damn, wher’ya been hidin’ at?
*yeah, this one too*
I havn’t seen you lately.

Either way you slice it, I haven’t had the time lately to post so I have been absent. Please forgive me, for I do muddle through my wordpress app while I am away but there is no justification in the writing process on a phone for me. I just can’t do it. It’s like trying to slice vidalia onions into perfectly symmetrical slices with a paring knife. It just does not work for me. I need my big, sharp, short keyed keyboard to do the trick.

Lately, I have found much humor in the various forms of voice. It has always amazed me, but now we are going over it in my writing class I am currently in and I have found some interesting things I would like to share with you. First of all, voice in writing is something that can be hard to achieve and requires some [very creative] work. For the sake of this blog, I would love to have some fun with y’all and see what we can come up with. What are some of your regional/familial sayings you’ve grown up saying? Hearing? Even understanding a certain thing to be only this particular word instead of what everyone else calls it? One of the most interesting one’s I have heard so far is calling a couch a chesterfield.

If you were to hear me talk instead of reading my writing, you may think I have a thick accent with a southern flare, giving way to the y’alls and heavy r’s, higher pitched u’s and y’s, and then you get fire which sounds like fahr. E’s are almost non-existent in my own personal (regional/familial sayings) unless you can pick them out of the letters they are blended with or unless I say pecan. You’ll really think that there is something in my house called a “pee-can” and form an opinion that I still don’t have indoor plumbing. These are the things I am talking about. And by the way, it drives me nuts when someone says peacahn. Like, hello, it’s PECAN! Lol.

Some of the things I grew up saying, or currently say, goes as follows:

  • Lay-Z-Boy (always the recliner, couch was a couch, but the couch at grandmas was a sofa)
  • Pocket Book not a purse
  • Y’all but I hate typing the apostrophe. It’s like a hatchet chopping the true word yall in half. Ridiculous.
  • Tenny Runners (always my moms shoe, but I have Vans, and yes that is the name brand but somehow had turned into all of my shoes)
  • Fahr say it like that and it might make sense. It’s the way I say fire.
  • Lightnin’ – forget half of the i’s and the g’s and your saying it right!
  • Fridge (never a refrigerator)
  • Amblance (not an ambulance)
  • Liable – your not likely to do something, your liable to do it.)
  • Ant (aunt, but I promise she isn’t an insect. I have a lot of wonderful aunts!)
  • Reckon’n (your thinking, forget the apostrophe and extra n and your getting ready to do something)
  • Lollygagin’ – there were no dolls harmed in this saying. Playing around and not doing what your supposed to.
  • Fussin’ not arguing.
  • Nho instead of No.
  • Knothead (a real prick or knuckle head, without the rope!)
  • Sunday Driver (god love my mother, but this is stuck with me. Whatever day of the week, it doesn’t matter. If you drive slow and you will get this name. Originally taken from the after church crowd on Sunday’s, respectivly.)
  • Wet a line / drown a lure (I’m going fishing!)

Please leave me a comment and let me know some of yours. Type them out how they sound and let me feel the word. I’ve always loved the creole, Louisiana Cajun voice. North Carolina with a twist of southern Virginia has always had my tongue tied up in knots and I can’t shake it for the life of me. It’s who I am. Sharing your voice and finding the voice of your characters is like sharing a piece of yourself, ever-so-quietly and almost with a camouflage.

– Anxiously awaiting!
Chris

Creating Voices for Characters (Part 3 of 3)

Young Son Might Shine

(A monologue poem from the unchained thoughts of an old employee to a new employee. Almost like a first pep talk.)

I seen you walk in
through that prison like gate.
A field mouse looking for his piece a’ cheese.
Boy, it’s been forty years and we still ain’t found it.

Hands soft as cotton
never seen a shovel so heavy.
Thin skin drawn tight to the bone
won’t last long against

all these lashing tongues.
We’re all different kinds
in here, behind that gate.
And we’ve been here too long

to worry about ma’ and pa’.
Unlike you, still slurrpin’ off that silver spoon
never building those muscles we need
to get the job done.

Soon ‘nough you’ll learn,
smart guy like you probably catches on quick.
It’s just a shovel and a pick-axe,
the backhoe does the real tough stuff.

So don’t wear yourself weak,
because it’s only your first week.
Take it from me,
I was around when we didn’t have machines.

Back then our backs were the real machines,
that’s why mines crooked now.
Young boy like you should’a
went off to college and made that thick money

To make a real name for yourself
instead of having it on a recycled tag
sewed onto your ‘been worn before’ uniform shirt.
At least the steel toed boots are still new

in the box.
Don’t mix your stuff up with no one else’s.
That’s how ya’ get a nasty fungus
to put you out for weeks.

I’ll watch out for you here
because I know you’re a new guy.
But I won’t be around for long
‘cause my years are a’dwindling.

Creating Voices for Characters (Part 2 of 3)

Green, Bean Arms

(A polysyllabic poem that reflects the perspective of a new employee)

Raring to go
as I hustle through the chain linked gate
to my first real job.
I hope they find me helpful.

Lunch packed, shirt buttoned up tight.
These pants are stiff with starch
but I am sure I’ll wear them in.
Blending in instead of being “the new guy”

Because everyone despises a new guy.
They won’t have to take time from their day
to train a young guy like me.
Because I am smart

I should have gone to college.
But money is faster than a degree
and I can make it hard like them.
As long as they don’t break my back.

My hands are soft when I shake his hand
and a smirk is revealed from the old gentleman.
I can already feel my forearm burning with new muscle growth
as he hands me a discerningly gestured “hello”.

Creating Voices for Characters (Part 1 of 3)

Teach ’em or Preach ’em

(A monosyllabic poem, from the perspective of an old employee of a job that has been there for too many years)

I see new ones comin’ in,
think they know’s it all.
Sit back in ma’ chair
and laugh at what they don’t.

The boss, ya’ know he like me
but he can’t get me no good help.
An old guy like me needs a strong back
from the young folks, where are they?

I keep an eye on the time
and laugh with the other
old heads like me.
Makes the time tick fast

‘cause my time is short.
Like life.
It’s been too long for me,
waste these years out here

and I lost the smart
and got the sense
that they don’t teach in the books.
Pass it down

to the new help.
Save the world as best I can
‘cause they ain’t gon’ learn
if it won’t for this old head.