In the scene that emerged from my free-floating mind last night, Ruth and Joe, her suiter, are sitting in her brand-new Volkswagen Beetle facing one another.
“So, got yourself some wheels. Be heading out soon? What are you thinking, big city out east?”
“Good God no,” Ruth laughs. “No. I don’t know yet. Look, Joe, all I know is, I need to go because… I need to see it, whatever it is, for myself.”
“Sounds like you don’t want company then.”
“No, sorry.” Ruth sighs and looks down at her hands. “Really hard to explain. I just know I need to do this by myself.
“Sounds kinda lonely.”
“Lonely? I wouldn’t know.” She leans her arm on the steering wheel and shifts around to face him. “You realize I’ve not been alone on this ranch from the day I was born. Everywhere I go I’m surrounded by family. Cousins. Uncles. Christ’s sake, my dad’s sister was my teacher through 6th grade. In fact, Joe, I bet there isn’t a single person within a hundred miles of Elko, Nevada who doesn’t know who I am.”
“And that’s a bad thing?”
“Yeah. For me it is.” Ruth gazes past him, past the empty corral, past her father’s grasslands tinged red in the last of the day’s sunlight. “Don’t you see, Joe, that’s the problem. I don’t know who I am. And I won’t know until I go someplace where people never heard the name Ward. Here I’ll always be Big Wes Ward’s daughter. Don’t you see? This ranch, the WW, defines me.
Joe sighs breaking the silence between them. “Guess I read you wrong. I kinda thought…” He takes his hat off, studies the brim, then shakes his head. “Doesn’t matter. Seems I fell in love with the wrong girl, is all.”
I may never use this scene in Whitey’s Roadhouse: Home to Wayfaring Strangers, the sequel novel to Bear Woman Rising, but it gives me a feel for two characters, Joe and Ruth. I get a glimpse of what kind of people they are not only from the words they choose, but from the way they speak and act toward one another.
By the way, I never know what’s going to emerge from the mouths of my characters until they speak, but I can see them sitting in her shiny new VW Bug. I can hear the night sounds whispering through the open windows. I can even smell sharp hay smells filling the damp evening air. I’m a spy--watching and waiting in the dark for whatever happens next.