Alive by David Fernandez Saez

Laney – This Desert Life (working title)

Working through some character POV pieces for one of the novels I’m working on again. Laney, from This Desert Life (working title).

The art in the header is titled “Alive”, and is by David Fernandez Saez.

This Desert Life (working title)

Excerpt 1:

He handed Laney a penny to put on the train tracks, to damage, to roll over, to imprint like a memory. They sat close together. Waiting, watching, sharing the last cigarette from his pack, two on a match, two on fire.

“The train’s late?” she half-asked, her voice curling into a lyrical lilt, like a spoken question mark, curved, poised, and ready.

So am I, she thought, but didn’t say out loud.

He told her a joke in his broken language, “Spanglish”, his Abuela would say. Laney understand most of the words, she was learning, a little more each day. She practiced at the corner market next to their near-the-border “bungalow” – real estate speak for tiny, broken down shack, the best that minimum wage could afford. She was learning that, too, this living on your own thing.

She laughed, genuinely, the light in his eyes filling in the missing words. She thought he might make a good Father, that he might keep them safe, that he might not make her give it up.

“I love your laugh,” he said, grabbing Laney’s hand, “es lo mejor.”

“Beautiful Feeling” by Polly Jean Harvey, featuring Thom Yorke
from the album, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000)

Excerpt 2:

“Amazing Grace” was her grandmother’s song, not that she knew her, not that she’d ever met her. Laney only knew this fact because on days when their mother had looked so sad, and gotten stuck in that “stare off into the distance” kind of haze, she would start to hum “Amazing Grace”.

Their mother could play it on the guitar, too.

Nights when her father was on another all-night binge her mom would pull out the guitar from the corner, dust it off, tune it, and start to play. Laney and Jack would come in. Jack immediately at her feet, sitting cross-legged or lying on his stomach. He was always so eager with his love, so quick to show it.

Laney, on the other hand, would hesitate in the doorway, one foot in and one foot out, always feeling this overwhelming awkwardness when it was just the three of them. Always so afraid of letting her mother see any of her thoughts or feelings.

On those nights with the guitar, her mother would always start with “Amazing Grace”.

She’d never told Laney about the song, or it’s significance. She’d told Jack, though, and Jack had told Laney after mom disappeared. She knew he’d asked. She knew if she’d ever asked her mother anything, anything at all, she’d have told Laney.

Laney never asked her anything though. She just couldn’t.

Laney knew the town thought her mother was dead. Most nights she hoped she was, and then immediately cursed herself for thinking such horrible things. If she was dead though they could play “Amazing Grace” at the funeral. If she was dead they could cry and say goodbye and have a place to visit her. If she was dead it’d mean she hadn’t left them all alone.

“Amazing Grace” by Judy Collins
from the album, Whales and Nightingales (1970)

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