"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rodney and The Boys

short excerpt from Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen

I can't remember who gave me [Rodney’s] name but I think it was someone in the neighborhood, 'cause he lived just around the corner from me.

One day he sauntered down to my bed and breakfast and knocked on the door...When I open the door, he was slouching against the white wooden entrance way,  looking like a cross between one of Hell's Angels and a Hard Rock musician about to smash his guitar across someone's head. He assured me he knew all about putting up privacy fences. Despite outward appearances, Rodney was intriguing, especially to the writer in me.

After the many unfortunate experiences I’d had with local handymen and contractors, I refused to give him any money up front. No, we'd have to discuss the project thoroughly before that happened.  I asked for a written estimate of the total cost. That was fine with Rodney. He put together a small crew of seemly looking rednecks who rambled into my back yard and began putting up my fence.

The next morning, I walked out into my back yard and found Rodney planted on the deck in one of my plastic lawn chairs. He was barking orders to his crew, who were scattered all over the back yard, his tattooed arms waving back and forth. A blue and white bandanna was tied around his head keeping his long hair in place. Steaming ribbons of hot sweat were running down his suntanned forehead onto his neck, settling into and soaking the rim of his “Motorcycle Boys” T-shirt.  He looked at me through Aviator sun glasses, shielding his eyes from the strong morning sunlight with gnarly hands.

“Hi Babe” He gave me a wave as he turned his head in my direction.

The strong smell of marijuana nearly overwhelmed me so  I found a chair on the other side of the deck and joined him from afar.

“Hi, Rodney. How’s everything going?”

“Fine. The boys are doing great”

I glanced around the yard. The only thing I saw that looked like the beginnings of my lovely privacy fence were ten holes waiting for fence posts. There were five on either side of the yard.

“Rodney, what about along the back? I don’t see any holes there.”

Guzzling down a whole can of cola, he informed me that I had said nothing about the back of the fence.

“We don’t have enough slats for that part” he said.

“Well, we’ll just have to get some more, wont we? Rodney, why would I want a fence that only went three fourths around my yard? First of all, the dog could get out...”

“Lady, that was all you asked for.”

Now I was lady, instead of babe. A warning signal went off in my head.

“ Okay...Okay. But, Rodney, I’m going to need the fence to go all the way around the yard. Can you do that?”

“I suppose so, but we’ll have to wait until I can get some more money, to buy more slats,” he said.

Uh oh, here it comes.

“Don’t worry about that”, I said. “ I’ll just put it on my credit card. You and I can go to the lumber yard this afternoon.” That part, he didn’t like but he went along with it.

Since he only had a motor cycle, I told him I would pick him up at his home in a couple of hours. He was not out in front when I arrived, so I walked around back to where he said his apartment was and knocked. A black skull was carefully painted in the center of the door. Suddenly it opened. There stood Rodney with a can of beer in his hand beckoning me to come inside, his hulking frame completely filling the doorway. I stepped inside. The rancid smell of pot and alcohol immediately accosted me..

Dishes were piled in the sink and I could see that his bed, pushed against the far wall, hadn't been made in a while, if ever. Several guitars lay around the room and a double-barreled shotgun hung from the wall. There were books, magazines and newspapers everywhere and a black leather jacket with nail heads thrown across the faded flowers of the sofa. A large pair of blue jeans lay in a circle on the floor where someone had stepped out of them and just left them there. The TV was playing General Hospital in the corner as loud rock music blasted from a small plastic radio.

“Sorry, Rodney, but I just remembered I have someone checking in in a couple of hours, so we have to get this thing done fast. I’ll just wait in the car”

My heart was pounding as I turned, headed straight for my car, and jumped into the front seat. Taking a deep breath, I leaned my head back against the car seat and tried to relax. Just then, his back door slammed shut and he stumbled out from between the bushes at the side of the house. He staggered slightly and made his way down the path and around to the passenger side of my car.

We made it to the lumber yard and bought some extra slats. It was only after we got back home that I noticed the difference. The slats Rodney bought were rougher and had a lot more knot holes than the ones I picked out .They were obviously inferior and cheaper. But by that time I didn’t care. I just wanted to get the damn thing done...

That evening, the crew left after sticking the posts in the holes, leaving thick gravelly cement oozing out from all sides. I knew it wasn’t going to be the best fence in the world, but it was all that I could afford.......

if you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a comment


  1. Hi Nancy, I did enjoy this excerpt from your memoir. It's meeting characters like this that keep us on our toes. Your writing style held my attention and I'm curious to know if Rodney disappears or stays in your life for a while. At what stage is your memoir?

  2. As a matter of fact, I never saw Rodney again after he finished the fence; nor did I want to. I thought about him occasionally as I drove by his house from time to time.
    My memoir consists of a collection of stories or vignettes about people, many of them guests at my bed and breakfast, who came in and out of my life over the past 17 years.

  3. Thanks for your reply and very interesting. A bed and breakfast, what a great place to meet unique and interesting characters for a book.

  4. You're right about that. I didn't open the bed and breakfast for that reason, but it certainly has generated some wonderful characters.

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  6. Hi April, Hope you enjoyed the excerpt from my memoir. Appreciate your stopping by. Will check out your blog when I get a chance.

  7. Love this, Nancy. I have a great picture of Rodney now - eeeek! Is the fence still standing?

  8. Thanks for nice comment, Jaxbee. Yeah, the fence is still standing...just barely. We had the tail end of a hurricane here a few years back and it almost knocked down one side. Fortunately my maintenance man fixed it.

  9. Wonderful use of dialogue and internal monologue as characterization! This was a great read, could just as easily be from a novel as a memoir. Glad I stumbled here!

  10. Does Rodney still live down the road? Loved this! Ha!

  11. Jan, Thanks for the great comment. It's the kind of remark that makes me want to finish my memoir and make a real effort to get it published.

  12. @Michael Ann, You know, I'm really not sure. I glance at his house every once and a while as I drive by...but have very little interest in finding out if he's still there.

  13. Really enjoyed reading this excerpt from your memoir. I love how much tension you're able to build in such few words. Looking forward to reading more now!

  14. @p2c2u, Thanks for the nice comment. Glad you enjoyed my excerpt. Really appreciate all supportive remarks...that's one of things that keeps me going.

  15. Oh my, you really captured Rodney. I can completely picture him. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving the wonderful comment.

  16. Hi Annette, Well, that's a good sign...at least some of my sensory and imagery attempts are working. Thanks for the comment.

  17. Wow, what a little snot. Your descriptions are so vivid, I can smell the beer. Here from the bloghop - thanks for coming by mine earlier. I'm so glad to subscribe!

  18. Hi Elizabeth. Great comment...only I would say he was a big snot, not a little one. He was tall and burly, that is. I feel really good about this piece with all the positive feedback I'm getting here. (wonder if a agent will think the same?)It's almost ready to take its place as one of the finished chapters in my memoir.

  19. It has been hard for me to continue the write ups of the memories we had for my beloved husband. I have so much to tell that makes my heart melt. This blog interest me to continue.


  20. @Aiza, Sometimes we have to wait a bit and get some distance before we can write heart-wrenching stories. I don't know if this will work for you or not. I applaud your tenacity.