I've just joined a writing community called "The Write Practice." Following is what I came up with for a writing prompt called: Out Of Place.
This is based on a true story—embellished—just a bit.*
The air stifles. Trees flourish full in summer green. No doubt it is a beautiful place. Mountains roll unfamiliar. I’m a flat-lander—so flat—I was raised below sea level near the Everglades. I thought we’d eventually make it back.
Having moved away from Florida to Virginia as newlyweds, we discover change and relief of seasons, Fall and Winter. The body can handle extreme temperatures for only so long. Northerners take up drinking to warm up. South Floridians just go nuts—blown to bits in strip mall furnaces.
Moving again, we descend into a Smokey mountainous valley which proves to be a whole other still.
My stomach waves queasy in time with the steering wheel. My car loops and curves, undulating through the Appalachian community. I pass a steep winding gravel road and wonder how anyone could make it without 4-wheel drive. The whole experience of my transplantation in two words: motion sickness.
I turn right onto Elementary School Drive. The first and last time I read the sign. A flag pole stands empty within a circular driveway. Only a tether cord clangs in the hot breeze. Red petunias border a brick wall.
My stomach lurches. I walk up steps towards a playground. I notice a woman who has just stepped out of the 60’s. She wears a jean jumper with appliques of school supplies stitched to it—an apple, a ruler, a book. Hair cropped plain, she glances at her trim Timex band. Walking beside is a lanky cowboy. He saunters bow-legged in camouflage – head to toe. The brim of his cap shadows southern eyes. A wad of chew stuck like a gumball in his cheek—his thumbs straddle a rebel flag belt buckle. My pulse quickens. I start to sweat. “What are we doing here?” I think. I remind myself of folks I knew in Okeechobee. I recall airboat rides in the swamp and coon hunts at camp. Just people—give it time.
I smile and ask teacher lady, “Can you point me towards the office?” I need to register my children as new pupils. Her eyes, recluse and guarded—she points me in the opposite direction. I never run into her again in this town of 800. She must belong to the high school. I have five kids aged ten and under.
An article is printed about our family business. We purchase a 40,000 square foot building that the bank rids from its’ books. Everyone knows who we were. We don’t know a soul. We are the Floridians. We are Catholic. We bring our jobs with us.
On the way home, the trees all look the same—defining a country mile. Walking up to my door cicadas buzz menacing in the hot afternoon. Another wave of nausea rises. Thoughts race. My chest catches fire blazing upwards—sweat glazes my neck and upper lip.
Kids in tow, boxes yet unpacked, we walk in through the garage. The next week, we’ll have a garage door installed. The previous owners never saw the need. I click on the AC. I settle kids to various stations, and head to the bathroom. I’d stopped by the drug store to buy a pregnancy test including other toiletries to diffuse my wonder and curious small town eyes.
Hasty I wait… barely minutes. A little pink cross glows vivid in the meter window. Baby number six is on her way. In one day, culture shocks from within and without.
Have you felt this way before? Out of place? Tell me about it...