Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lil Libby

Writing exercise today. But I slightly changed my rules this time. Yes, I closed my eyes and picked a book off the shelf and, sight unseen, found a sentence and wrote a piece around it. No paragraphs, no plan, just go! But this time I stuck the sentence in the middle.

William Styron, Three Tales from Youth: A Tidewater Morning, from a story entitled Shadrach, p. 42.

“Junk and auto parts were a sideline of Mr. Dabney’s.”

Lil Libby was sitting among the weeds beside the mailbox, just sitting there counting mosquito bites and picking at the scabs on her legs. All that summer she spent half the day sitting by the mailbox, waiting for who knows what. Lil Libby did not get her name because she was petite. Far from it—Lil Libby was huge. Her full Christian name was Lillian Elizabeth Dabney, in honor of both of her grandmothers. Lil Libby dropped out of high school in her first year, not long after she started. She was too big to sit at the desks at Washington and Lee High School and she was sick of being the object of ridicule. So long before she might have learned the Spanish word for water and long before she had a clue what algebra was all about, she ditched school for good. When she wasn’t sitting by the mailbox, she spent her days on the sofa watching The Price Is Right and her soaps. She only got up off the sofa to adjust the rabbit ears on the television or to prowl around the kitchen to find where her daddy had hidden the cheese puffs and the Pepsi Colas. “Doggonit, Da,” she muttered, “A girl could starve half to death in this house looking for something decent to eat.” Trouble is most people would presume Lil Libby was the victim of circumstances, just a redneck who could not rise above her humble background. But Lil Libby came from good stock, from landed gentry who had a couple hundred years of prosperity behind them in Virginia. But her daddy was in a precipitous decline from the status that he was born to. Her daddy didn’t toe the line to honor his family pedigree. He had no ambition beyond catching an occasional big fish and he earned a meager income leasing land to the local chicken processor. Junk and auto parts were a sideline of Mr. Dabney’s. Most of his inventory of junk and auto parts was scattered in the back yard, all the way down to the creek. Lil Libby’s mama didn’t have much ambition either but she had just enough ambition to run far and fast, leaving behind her daughter and her husband. No one knew where she went and in the past 10 years she never once tried to contact the girl. But apparently Lil Libby believed her mama would come back to get her. She refused to give up hope. Hope was about the only thing she had going for her.

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