GSWP stands for the Great Smokies Writing Program. Our in-class writing is meant to take a moment and suspend it in time; these are not complete stories, yet. The prompt for this one was to begin with, "One summer night..." The first part is the real memory; the second is a fictionalized version of the memory.
One summer night, adventure beckoned us. It was a humid evening in July and I was in high school. The girls were straining to act casual, even as we flirted and laughed. Thin cotton tanks revealed brown shoulders and flip flops smacked loudly against blacktop. The guys, thumbs hitching up drooping jeans and voices jovial in the deepening dusk, made up our other half. It was Phil who made the suggestion.
“Why don’t we go up to the Cut?” he urged. As recent newcomers to the area, my sister and I peppered him for details.
“You know,” Phil said, “it’s that rocky ledge overlooking 240. The strip that separates downtown from the mall area,” he added, seeing our confusion.
Everyone was game, so we piled into a few cars and drove towards Town Mountain Road. I remember leaving the cars parked on the side of the road. We had pulled into a private community that was in the very early stages of existence - only a few houses were up - and the forested path began there. Pulling out my keys, I fumbled for the little light clipped to my keychain. A florescent gleam popped into being, casting eerie blue shadows on the rough path. We marched single file for an excruciating five minutes or so. I focused my entire attention on keeping my feet moving and making sure I didn’t trip.
Light beckoned and everyone picked up the pace, eager to be out of the woods. I gingerly stepped onto the rocky outcropping and stared. The mountain vista spreading before me was phenomenal. Cars raced below us, their lights a winking blur. To my right, I could see the silent buildings of downtown Asheville jutting darkly against the night sky. On the left, the colorful lights of the mall and its many minions wove a siren song, luring potential customers. And against all that loomed the mountains, darkly beautiful.
Our crowd settled into the rocks, bodies fitting neatly into seat-like ledges. One guy lit up, the orange glare of the flame harsh against the darkening sky. The stories started to flow, like wine at a socialite’s dinner party.
“Do you remember when we…?”
“Why did you ever…?”
“Hey, that was my car that night…”
This was a Saturday night at the Cut.
Photo from Rainbow Arts Review
“Just what do they think they’re doing?” said the woman. One heel began tapping the smooth wood planks. “Not only is it ten o’clock at night,” she hissed, “but those hooligans seem to have forgotten that this is private property.” Dark eyes were glued to the kitchen window, but manicured hands continued drying the wine glass she held. Back and forth, back and forth the soft towel went until… CRACK.
“Ellie, what’s wrong?”
“Pardon my French,” she said abruptly. Then, “It’s teenagers, Bryan,” she spit out. The man looked bemused. “They’re out there again. They just parked their cars and now they’re heading into the woods towards that rocky outcropping overlooking I-240. You see the light from their flashlights through the trees,” she pointed. Bryan came up and began messaging the stiff shoulders. “Honey, they’re teenagers,” he said. “And shoot, the Cut sure beats any movies out in theater recently. Talk about crappy story lines.”
“Bryan!” Eleanor snapped. “That does not change the fact that these teenagers are trespassing on private property; exclusive, gated, private property.” She emphasized the last two words, “that we paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for.”
“Aww sweetie, leave them alone. Didn’t you ever go somewhere you shouldn’t have? We all did it for the thrill.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” But she couldn’t help it. Memories gently nudged her subconscious, permeating the moment like a warm beach breeze. Eleanor let herself slip back, just for minute. She remembered running barefoot on sandy dunes, the wind whipping at her hair; ducking behind waving sea grass to avoid being spotted by the wealthy beach residents; swimming naked in the salty water; smoking in the abandoned lighthouse.
With a quick flick of her head, Eleanor chased away the thoughts. She wasn't seventeen anymore. Straightened brown hair fell quietly back into its place, along with that summer of memories. “Bryan, you’re a sentimental fool. I’m calling the police on them.”