Anyone want a sneak peak of “The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge?” Okay, hold your pants on. Here’s the commercial first: “The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge” by Lori Crane will be available Fall 2013 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.
Okay, then. I’m working on a new book based on historical fiction and Mississippi legend. Since the ghost of Old Man Stuckey has apparently taken over my computer and seems to have written the opening chapter all by himself, here it is. It is not revised or edited, but it is too fun not to share. 😉 Enjoy!
Bobby saw his little brother yank up on his fishing pole. “Did you catch somethin’?”
Billy frowned as he watched the tip of his pole arc and the line grow taut. “Naw, I think I’m just snagged,” he grumbled.
“Oh, I though you got a catfish.”
“I wish. I think I’m just stuck on somethin’.” He lifted his pole again, reeling in an inch or two of the line.
“Maybe you caught one of Old Man Stuckey’s boots.”
“Don’t even say that, Bobby. It gives me the creeps.”
The warm afternoon sun quickly disappeared behind ominous dark clouds and the wind rustled the tops of the trees.
Bobby looked up. “It’s gonna rain. You better get that line in so we can go.”
Billy looked up. A gust of wind caught the front wisp of his brown hair and gave him a chill.
“You know he’s still here,” Bobby snickered.
“Old Man Stuckey.”
“Yeah, I know, but I’d rather not think about it. Besides, I’m a little busy at the moment.” Billy wrinkled his forehead as he tugged on the line again, ever so slowly bringing it closer.
Bobby yelled into the air. “Old Man Stuckey! Jump in there and unhook that line.” Bobby giggled.
Billy didn’t think it was funny and gave his brother a nasty look. “Don’t call him,” he whispered as if someone might hear him, even though he knew there wasn’t a soul within miles of them.
Bobby rose from his seat on the bank, leaving his line dangling in the murky water. “Here, let me help you.” He walked in front of Billy and reached out over the river, trying to grab the clear fishing line.
Billy lifted the pole into the air a third time, bending the tip. “Whatever it is, it’s coming, Bobby. It’s just slow.”
“Maybe it’s the rope they hung him with.” Bobby giggled.
The sunny afternoon transformed itself into an eerie dusk that one usually witnesses just before nightfall, and the clouds were rolling in fast—gloomy, thick, menacing clouds. The breeze rustled Billy’s hair again, making him shiver.
To the right of the boys stood Stuckey’s Bridge —a seventy year old bridge, one hundred twelve feet long, with a plank bottom and iron rails and bars across the top. Some people fished from the top of the bridge, but Billy refused to step onto it. Bobby teased him incessantly about his fear of Old Man Stuckey’s ghost, but Billy accepted the teasing and firmly stayed on the bank. The only reason he came out here at all was to catch the big catfish, and they lived under the bridge. As far as he knew, across the river stood nothing but trees and brush and the occasional woodland animal. He never dared to go across the bridge to see if there was more.
Bobby grabbed the line and took a step back, pulling it as he moved. “What the heck you got on here, Billy?”
Billy spun the reel, bringing in the line a foot or so. “I don’t know, probably just a branch or some leaves from the bottom.”
“Well, whatever it is, it’s heavy.” Bobby stepped forward to get another handful of the line.
A crow flew overhead, trying to maintain its airborne status in the strong gusts of wind. Billy looked up for a moment, thinking the crow to be a bad omen. His hand began to sweat on the cork handle of his fishing pole. He decided at that very moment it was time to go, and they both needed to bring their lines in quickly. “Bobby, I got it from here. You should pull in your line so we can get goin’. Looks like a big storm comin’.”
Bobby looked up at the sky. “Yeah, okay.” He let go of Billy’s line and walked back over to his fishing spot. A quick movement on the other side of the river caught his eye. “What was that?”
“What was what?” said Billy, still concentrating on his line.
“Over there.” Bobby pointed to the left across the river. “I saw somethin’ in the trees.”
Billy looked over but didn’t see anything. “Probably just a possum or somethin’.” Then Billy heard something in the brush. He froze.
Bobby heard it too. “I told you I saw somethin’. Maybe a bobcat?”
Thunder sounded above the boy’s heads as loud as cannon fire and made them both jump. Bobby grabbed his pole and frantically reeled in the line. It was quickly growing darker and the wind was increasingly stronger. He knew they would get soaked long before they got home. He watched impatiently as Billy pulled and tugged at the line.
“It’s almost free,” Billy assured him. “It’s comin’ faster.”
Bobby nervously looked at the other side of the river. Something caught the corner of his eye a little to the right. “Dang! There’s somethin’ over there all right.”
Billy anxiously glanced across the river, but with the dimming light, he couldn’t see anything even if it was there. He pulled his line harder. A twig snapped across the river. Both boys darted their heads in the direction but saw nothing but darkening woods.
“Maybe it’s him!” Bobby said.
“Stop it! Don’t be stupid, Bobby.”
Billy slowly but deliberately reeled in the line. He pointed the tip of his pole toward the water to keep it from snapping at the weight of the mystery catch, and he kept turning the handle. A drop of rain fell on his forehead and mingled with the nervous sweat on his brow and gave him another shiver.
“Hurry up, Billy. We got to go.”
“I am hurrying. I don’t want to break my line.”
A loud crow sounded from across the river and shot straight up above the tree line as fast as an arrow released from a bow. Both boys looked that way, knowing something was in the woods, just out of sight. Another branch snapped.
“What the hell is that?” Bobby sounded nervous, staring into the near blackness on the other side.
Billy didn’t answer. He was absorbed in the blob he was pulling across the top of the murky water.
Bobby looked out at the greenish brownish blob. “You got nothin’ but leaves. Let’s go.”
Billy pulled the blob onto the edge of the bank and laid his pole on the ground. He moved toward the blob to dislodge his hook, but as he reached for it, he noticed something shiny. What is that? It’s shimmering. What the…?
Another branch snapped across the river.
“Come on, Billy. We got to go now.”
“Hold on,” Billy said as he grabbed a stick and poked into the blob, separating the leaves and muck.
Yes, there was something shiny. Something gold.
Thunder rumbled above their heads. A rustle sounded from across the river, making Bobby look in that direction again. Heavy, fat raindrops started to fall on their heads. It’s something gold. The crow cawed loudly. Another twig snapped. It’s a watch. Thunder roared again. On a gold chain. The wind was intensifying. It’s a pocket watch.
“What is that?” Bobby asked, just spotting the gold item.
“It’s a pocket watch.” Billy reached down and rubbed the mud off the front of the watch. He cocked his head to the side and read a single T embossed in the gold. Simultaneously, the thunder roared, the crow cawed, the rustle across the river grew louder. To their right, directly beneath the bridge, a giant splash scared both of the boys into standing straight up and looking toward the bridge. Right under the bridge, the water rippled as if something very, very large had just been dropped off the side. Thunder sounded again. The water rippled more. The boys froze. An inch above the water in the center of the ripple was an eerie green glow. The water rippled higher in its ever-growing circle as if the ocean tide was causing waves to come ashore. The boys didn’t look at each other. They did not communicate. They both turned at the same time and ran as fast as their feet would carry them. They did not take their fishing poles. They did not look back.
The thunder boomed and the raindrops splattered on the rocks, turning them from gray to brown. As the storm grew, the ripples inched up onto the bank and little by little pulled the gold pocket watch back into the murky depths.