The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 11, 2010

Chapter 7, As the Small Town Turns

By News Courier Staff

ATHENS — Chapter 7, As the Small Town Turns

Editor’s note: Chapter 7 of The News Courier serialized novel, “As the Small Town Turns,” is staff written. While we received several interesting submissions, which are printed in this section, we staff members, gathering for lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, said we wanted to kick the romance angle up a notch and at the same time eliminate the required mention of the word, “Leggings.” We have replaced “Leggings” with “Mattress.” And again, let us remind our guest writers that this is a family paper. As you will remember, in Chapter 6, Raquel told Buck she couldn’t keep their planned date because she had to comfort an old friend, Maggie.

By The News Courier Staff

Yeah, Buck understood Raquel’s need to comfort her friend Maggie. But it didn’t make it any easier to wait until she was free.

He thought of Raquel often as the night wore on and, at last, when he could wait no more, he took a chance on calling at midnight and possibly awakening her.

“Hello?” came Raquel’s delightfully drowsy voice as she picked up the phone.

“I’m so sorry. This is Buck,” he said.

“So what are you sorry for?” she asked.

“Well, obviously I woke you up.”

“Listen, that’s O.K. Maggie left about an hour ago and I had just dropped off.”

“I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to talk to you.”

“Me too. As bad off as Maggie was, I found my mind drifting to you all evening as she sobbed her heart out.”

“When can I see you?” Buck asked.

“How about right now?”

“Now? Won’t I wake your parents?”

“I don’t think so. They own a duplex and live in one side and let the kids and me live in the rental side.”

“I’ll be there in 15 minutes!”

Raquel rolled off the mattress and reached for her leggings. But suddenly, she couldn’t stand the sight of the ratty old things and tossed them in the wastebasket, opting for a pair of faded jeans instead.

She knew she seemed too eager when she whipped open the door just as Buck stepped onto the porch.

And he knew he was being too forward when he didn’t wait for her to speak, but swept her into his arms and kissed her like a starving man. She breathlessly returned his ardor and led him to the sofa.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi, yourself,” she answered. “Welcome home.”

The words began to tumble out from both sides, each expressing all the pain and the joy they had held back for far too long.

Just then, there was a loud pounding on the door.

“Who could that be at this hour?” Raquel asked, as she smoothed her hair and stumbled toward the door.

Before she was halfway across the living room, the door burst open, and there stood Rock Roddenheimer in all his fat, sweaty, bigamous glory.

“I’m back, baby,” he announced, reaching for her.

“No, I’m afraid you’re not,” said Buck, stepping up behind her.

Rock shook his head in confusion.

“Who the h…?” was all Rock could get out when Buck stepped around Raquel, placing his big tanned hand on Rock’s chest, just below his 10-karat serpentine gold chain and giving him a smart shove backwards out onto the porch.

Rock gathered his wits and took a quick but misguided swing at Buck’s jaw. Buck ducked and plowed into Rock’s midsection, sending him sprawling onto the sidewalk.

Effortlessly, Buck reach down and scooped up Rock by the collar and belt loops, aiming him toward his 18-wheeler at the curb and applying a sendoff with his foot.

Rock gasped, trying to regain his breath as he scrambled into the cab. It felt like that maniac Power Ranger had left a piece of his steel-toed boot in him.

Good thing he still had that doughnut ring stashed behind his cab seat.