Another Story Revelation [fiction]

Here is an unedited chapter of my novel, Night of the Hellhounds. Enjoy.

Vree was glad the blueberry patch was behind the house and not far from the back door. Even though the day was sunny and birds sang merrily and flew across the kind of sky summers are famous for, she had read that lightning could strike on a clear day.

She paid close attention to the cloudless sky and kept her attention away from the shadows in the woods almost fifty yards in front of her. Besides her fear of lightning, she was in no mood to see another pair of red eyes. She stayed close to Lenny, who walked at her side and guided her to an open field of wild grass and weeds.

“Where are the blueberry bushes?” she asked, looking around when they stopped.

“We’re standing in them.”

She looked down at clumps of both ripe, plump, light-blue blueberries, and unripe, tiny green and white ones. Following Lenny’s instructions, she knelt low to the ground and picked only from healthy, full bushes that were in direct sunlight. She ate some of the ripe berries, of course, which tasted sweeter than any her mom bought at the store, and she soon forgot about scary lightning and red eyes.

When she had her pan filled, she heard the faraway sound of bees buzzing. She cocked her head and tried to determine whether the sound came from actual bees.

The buzzing sound quieted. She turned to show Lenny her pan of berries and wound up looking at a pair of blue, leathery knees inches away from her face. She emitted a small screech that should have been a scream as she recoiled, both startled and frightened. She landed hard on her backside. Berries fell from the pan and littered her lap and the ground. She looked up at the face of the creature Lenny had called a Roualen. Her breath and the voice that she tried using to call for Lenny felt locked in her chest.

The Roualen’s beady red eyes, practically the same as the ones she had seen across the road and downtown, looked down at her from a blue leathery face with an anteater snout for a nose and mouth. Copper hair covered its head, shoulders and arms, just as Lenny’s drawing had depicted.

“Don’t hurt me,” Vree managed to say.

A sudden voice similar to the one downtown entered her mind.

It sees?

Vree nodded. “Yes.” Her voice cracked. She cleared her throat and caught her breath. “I see you.”

You see?

“Yes.”

Me?

“Yes.”

She thought she heard it squeal as it turned and loped away from her. When she stood, she saw it turn and look over a shoulder at her before it quickened its pace and hurried through the blueberry field and into the woods where the trees and brush were thick and dark and hid the creature from her.

She turned and saw Lenny stooped low and picking berries at the far edge of the patch, thirty yards away. She picked up her fallen berries, returned them to her pan one by one, and then went to him.

“I saw your creature,” she said when he looked up at her. “Next time, use a red crayon for its eyes instead of a black one.” She spun and headed toward the back door, leaving him watching her, a frown and confused look chiseling his face and brow.

She was almost to the door when he caught up and stepped in front of her. He had left behind his pan of blueberries, so he had his hands up, turning the palms toward her.

“Wait. You saw a Roualen?”

She saw his stained fingers and thought of the creature’s blue leathery skin.

“I’d rather not talk—”

“How is that possible?” he asked.

She stepped back and sputtered, “I dunno … it was just there, looking down at me with red, meddling eyes.”

“Meddling?”

“Yes. Meddling. Its eyes darting over me like a voyeur.”

“I think you’re confusing meddling with curious.”

“But that wasn’t the worst part.” Vree shivered as she recalled the panic and terror she had seen in the Roualen’s eyes before it ran off, and the anger they held when it turned back to look at her.

She scanned the woods, looking to see if it peered out at her.

Lenny followed her gaze. After a moment, he said, “You know, Roualens are a myth, just like Bigfoot.”

“Well, someone must have seen one or you wouldn’t have a drawing of it copied from a book.”

Lenny shrugged. “Humans aren’t supposed to be able to see them.” Then he grinned at her, his eyes large. “What did it look like?” he asked. “Did it have blue skin and orange fur like the picture I copied?”

“Look, I’d rather not talk about it. Okay?”

Vree brushed past him and went inside, letting the wooden screen door slam shut behind her.

“Lenny’s bringing the berries,” she said to the quizzical looks she received when she passed her mom and grandmother in the bright yellow kitchen. “I’m taking a shower,” she added and held up her stained hands, “if that’s okay.”

“That’s fine, honey,” Evelyn said from in front of the large white stove. “But you’ll want to wait until the last load of laundry is done washing. Our pump can handle only one job at a time.”

“But what about my hands?”

“I already have a solution for that.” Evelyn went to Vree and guided her to the kitchen’s aluminum sink. “Cornmeal, toothpaste and lemon juice works wonders on blueberry stains.” She scooped with her fingers a yellowish paste from a ceramic cereal bowl on the windowsill and rubbed it on Vree’s hands. “Just let this sit for a few minutes, then wash it off with warm water.”

Evelyn wiped the paste from her own hands with a dishtowel and returned to the stove where silver pots of cubed potatoes, kernels of corn and leafy spinach boiled, stewed and simmered. Karrie stood to the right and stirred the corn with a wooden spoon. Her shoulders slouched and Vree knew she was exhausted after their long drive. Vree turned on the water to wash her hands so she could relieve her mother when Amy stepped from the washroom at the right of the stove and stopped at Karrie’s side.

“I can do that,” Amy said. She took the spoon from Karrie who released it without protest. “You should sit and relax, maybe take a nap,” Amy continued. She embraced her mother, and then turned her attention to the pots on the stove while Karrie stretched and released a yawn before heading in the direction of the living room.

“You’re such a dear,” Evelyn said to Amy.

“With Dad not around, I do what I can to help,” Amy said.

Vree scowled out the window above the sink and watched Lenny trudge from the blueberry patch, carrying the two pans of berries. She wondered if he would say anything about her seeing the Roualen.

Humans aren’t supposed to be able to see them.

She washed the paste from her hands, dried them on Evelyn’s dishtowel, and then hurried and met him at the screen door.

“Not a word to anyone about what happened,” she said through the screen.

“Not a word to anyone about what?” Jack Lybrook asked as he stepped into view and stood beside Lenny. He carried a coil of clothesline around a shoulder.

Vree stepped away from the door and her grandfather who peered in at her. “Nothing,” she said sheepishly.

“Nothing?”

“I … I spilled the berries and they got dirty.”

“Well, they’ll get a good cleaning and rinsing,” Jack said before he proceeded toward the side yard and nearest T-post of clothesline. Someone had hung shirts and pants to dry on the two lines there.

As Jack began adding more line, Lenny coughed and drew Vree’s attention to him.

“Are you gonna let me in, or what?” he asked as he held up the two pans of blueberries.

Vree opened the door and let him inside.

“I mean it,” she said. She stood in front of him and blocked his way to the kitchen. “I don’t want my brother and sister to know about what I saw. Or my mom and grandparents. You got it?”

“But, Vree, you can see—”

“No.” Vree glared at him.

“Okay. I got it.” Lenny brushed past her and entered the kitchen.

Vree looked out at the woods where the Roualen had run to get away from her.

“I don’t ever want to see you again,” she said.

Throwback Thursday, 1983 [drawing]

Here is a go at this week’s Throwback Thursday at my Facebook page. The 3 drawings below are some of the best of my art from 1983. Enjoy this peek into my past.

Graphite on paper. The cat’s name was Mittens and the Spaniel’s name was Rags. I was studying fur when I drew this. I even wrote a short story about them, but I haven’t been able to find it. I probably threw it out after college when I went on a major cleaning spree.

India ink illustration for an ad. I used Chinese brushes to apply fill and washes. This exercise strengthened my watercolor painting techniques, which strengthened my acrylic painting techniques. As for the illustration (which seems awkward because it wasn’t photographed with all sides in correct proportion), it isn’t bad for a first attempt at drawing with ink.

India ink illustration. My first portrait ever attempted with ink. I was very pleased with the results then, though it would take me a few years of practicing to illustrate realistic looking hair in ink.

Painting Alla Prima, Part 2 of 2

Many years ago, I taught wildlife and landscape painting classes. This is a lesson plan from those classes.

Understanding and controlling values should be one of your first goals as a painter. When I began painting landscapes from life, I realized that the objects in my finished paintings lacked convincing form. When I understood how light reveals form and began looking at the world with this in mind, my work began to improve. So will yours when you learn to see light and understand what it does to show an object’s form.

Recognize value in color. An object’s form is made of valued tones of color. It’s imperative while painting to be able to see a color in your subject and translate its value into paint.

Think about the picture and its center of interest. Think in terms of composition first. Plan where the center of interest will be located and how you will emphasize that area. Make your center of interest stand out with color and value contrasts and an interesting shape.

Inside, Looking Out
Inside, Looking Out, Oil Painting

When painting a center of interest, keep your eyes on that area of landscape (or model or still life) and nowhere else. Use your peripheral vision for the rest of the subject, but keep your eyes on the focal point as you finish the rest of the painting. This will help you make the rest of your painting harmonious with the focal point.

What can you cut? Are you saying too much and cluttering the picture space with too many details? Is there anything extraneous that you can remove from the picture? Can you cut detracting background by moving in closer or by cropping the subject with a viewfinder?

The overall design. When composing your painting, do not think “up and down” or “side to side.”  Rather, consider the depth you can create within the “cube” I’ve talked about in class—that three dimensional rectangular space that will be your painting. Then work with the overlapping forms within your vision’s periphery as part of the overall design.

A Brief Pause in an Apple Orchard
Apple Orchard, Oil Painting

Put it on and leave it alone. This rule is often mentioned to oil painters, but I’m suggesting it to painters using acrylics, too. Fussing with passages of acrylic paint can be more damaging than reworking the slower-drying oil paints.

When putting in the lights mix up thick, opaque color and put it down with simple strokes. The amount of paint on the brush and proper brush pressure is vital when applying your paint. Putting thick paint down boldly forces you to make definite decisions. Believe your first impression. Paint quickly; if you look too long, your perception may change. Be decisive. A boldly applied stroke looks right because the artist made a decision and stuck with it. Putting down a stroke and then restating it once or twice pushes the paint into the underlayer, making the color muddy. If the underpainting is too thick, scrape it off. You can lay paint over a thick area by painting the next layer even thicker.

Oil on canvas board
Oil on canvas board

Criticize your work from afar. Step away a good distance from the canvas and decide whether some shapes and edges need more emphasis. Judge artfully from a distance, not critically with your nose against the canvas. From Leonardo da Vinci’s Treatise on Painting we learn that from a distance “…the work appears smaller, and more of it is taken in at a glance, and [any] lack of harmony or proportion in the various parts … is more readily seen.” Remember to emphasize major areas—do not stray far from your painting’s focal point.  Add detail, or sharp edges at the end of the process.

Sketches in the Sun
Sketches in the Sun, Oil Painting, circa 2002

Impressionist Claude Monet described painting alla prima as this: “When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have in front of you, a tree, a field. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives your own naïve impression of the scene.”

Vree’s Journal Entry 2 [fiction]

I was born April 30 to Charles and Karrie Erickson.

My Dad:

My father, Charles Erickson, is a lawyer. He was born 41 years ago on May 11 in New Cambridge PA where he grew up. His parents are attorney Benjamin Erickson (70, retired) and school teacher Katrina Erickson (67, retired). Dad’s older sister, Jane (45, graphic designer), lives in Cincinnati OH with husband Paul Watson and family. His younger sister, Michelle (43, kindergarten teacher), lives in Monroeville PA.

Dad graduated from New Cambridge High School at age 18 and then from New Cambridge University of Law at age 22. He met my mom at college and married her when he was 25. They moved to Myers Ridge the month after I was born.

He is tall (6’ 3”) and has blonde hair and blue eyes.

My Mom:

Karrie Erickson was born 37 years ago on November 19 in Ridgewood PA, the oldest of three daughters to architect Jonathan “Jack” Lybrook (66) and Ridgewood High School principal Evelyn Lybrook (64) of Alice Lake. Mom was a 4-year cheerleader for the football team at her high school.

She graduated Ridgewood High School at age 17 and attended New Cambridge University of Education. She graduated at age 21, receiving her teaching degree in secondary education. She met my dad Charles Erickson while at college and married him the summer after she graduated. She teaches 8th grade science at Ridgewood High School.

She is 5’ 4” tall, has auburn hair, and dark blue eyes.

My Maternal Grandfather:

My grandfather Jonathan “Jack” Lybrook is 66 years old, tall and thin at 6’ 2”, has gray hair, handsome blue eyes, and wears glasses.

Our house is a remodeled single-story house that he renovated before my parents bought it. Here is a photo of how it looks today:

A sheepherder and farmer named Ludwik Dekownik built the original house in 1890. His daughter Mara was a self-proclaimed witch. Although she is dead, some people believe her spirit haunts the house.

Grandpa Lybrook grew up in nearby New Cambridge. His brother Jerry lives in Albany NY with wife Alice and family. His mother Helen Lybrook is deceased and his 91-year-old father George lives at New Cambridge Retirement and Health Center, a senior care home.

My Maternal Grandmother:

My 64-year-old grandmother Evelyn Lybrook is short at 5’. She has short, gray-blonde hair and blue eyes. She is the principal at my school.

She grew up an only child to Benjamin and Verawenda Myers at an estate on Myers Ridge. Her parents vanished one day without a trace. No one knows what happened to them, though a crow named Luken (more on him later) says a witch, Mara Dekownik, killed them when Ben accidentally shot and killed her father during a hunting accident.

Journal Entry 3

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