Saturday, January 19, 2013

Uwharrie Calling - Prologue: The Claim

"Eno tells me you've come to claim it" growled Uncle Uwharrie, leaning against the front porch post, arms crossed.

"If I can" I replied, standing in the mud by the rusty mailbox, my shoulders aching against my heavy pack. Talking to Uncle Uwharrie was difficult at the best of times, but I had left his world a generation ago, and our conversation strained to connect across that distance.

Uncle Uwharrie didn't move. There was a moment of silence while he stared at me. The moment stretched uncomfortably as he stood there, motionless, with his gray green eyes locked to mine, his jaw lightly clenched in silent judgement. You never looked away from Uncle Uwharrie, no matter how uncomfortable you felt under his hard gaze. In these parts, respect was both given and earned through unflinching eye contact with your elders, something that had always been difficult for me growing up here as a shy boy.

I kept my gaze locked to his, but shifted uncomfortably from one tired foot to the other, and the movement seemed to satisfy something in Uncle Uwharrie's mind.

"Well, get in out of the drizzle, boy." Uncle Uwharrie turned and walked back through the clattering screen door, calling "Eno will be glad to see you again."

Nathanial Goodwin Uwharrie, known to his few friends, simply as Uwharrie, was a lean, gristly, hard man of backwoods North Carolina. A man of short words and a shorter temper. Everything about him seemed slightly out of date, from the rough cropped cut of his iron gray hair, to the rough, dark cotton work pants and button up shirts he wore year round. His voice was edged with sharp gravel and kerosene whiskey, constantly threatening to erupt with the booming snarl I remembered from my childhood. I was deathly afraid of him as child. Thirty odd years later, I still feared him.

Coming back hadn't been easy for me. I had left this part of my life on my own terms, and for good reasons. But time and age had whittled away the reasons that had mattered so much in my youth, leaving a growing hole. A hole that I needed to fill.

[ Bear with me. I haven't written any significant fiction in a long, long time. I plan to write a few chapter snippets like this and place them between the multipart series of posts I have planned for the Uwharrie Mountain Run 40 Mile race report. I have no idea where this is going, but that's half the fun. ]