NaNoWriMo 2012: Worthy Distractions

I’ve spent so much of this week cooking and doing major house cleaning in preparation for holiday entertaining, so when I sat down Wednesday night to watch Gone With the Wind for the first time it felt positively indulgent. It’s rare I watch TV without multitasking; usually I’m on the computer, writing or catching up with social media and current events, or otherwise knitting, sewing, or doing something with my hands. But for five hours (courtesy of commercials), the most I did with my hands was drink tea.

Yesterday’s cooking and inevitable food coma rendered me not much more productive, but today I finally sat down to do my American Horror Story blog and pick at my novel-in-progress a bit. Here’s another rough scene. This one’s about friendship. Or not.

“Morning, Lieutenant.” Garrett grinned at Claude as he sat beside the cook fire. “How’s the arm?”

Grimacing, Claude flexed his fingers with gingerly care. “Hurts like hell, but Dutch fixed me up as best he could.” Garrett’s enthusiasm reminded him how exhausted he was after a painful and sleepless night.

“I’m sorry about your horse. I know you were fond of the animal.”

“He carried me from Louisiana.” Claude agreed, somber.

“Familiar things are a comfort.” Dutch piped up, sitting on a stump and placing a tin plate on the ground beside him. Though he nodded affably, Dutch looked tired. He hadn’t returned to the tent until late, and when he did he reeked of blood and sweat. Claude didn’t envy his job in the slightest, but Dutch worked without complaint no matter how dire the circumstances.

Garrett prodded the battered pot hanging over the fire and produced a small sack, his grin eager. “And I’ve got some coffee.”

Dutch perked up. “Where did you find coffee?”

“I traded some tobacco to a couple of the Yanks on the other side of the hill.”

Captain Morgan crooked an eyebrow.

“They ain’t so bad, Captain. They’re just boys too mostly. Ain’t one older’n Lieutenant Bertonneau, that I’ve met.”

“Where did you get the idea to go that close to the Union camp against orders?”

“Private Latendresse. Those Federals have things we don’t but just can’t seem to get any tobacco up north. They’ll trade just about anything for it.”

Morgan’s sidelong glance was one of quiet reprimand. Claude understood; he’d been promoted to Lieutenant in hopes that he could rein in Remy’s temperament. Instead he was seeing Remy in a terrifying new light as he grew wilder. Drinking, gambling, and whoring were no surprise, but Remy’s ruthless bloodlust left him stunned. “I’ll talk to Latendresse, Captain.”

He had the opportunity that night. With Garrett’s help he found Remy on the edge of camp, concealed by a tree and listening for Yankee soldiers. Claude gestured for Garrett to hang back and keep silent, and together they waited.

After an hour in the balmy Virginia night, back against rough treebark and meditating on his aching arm, Claude heard movement. A lilting tune called out, and was answered by Remy. As they agreed to put up their weapons and talk, Claude snuck forward to watch. Remy clasped hands with a bluecoat, affable in the lantern light. “What’ll it be, Jimmy?”

“Tobacco. And whiskey if you’ve got some. Captain’s come down hard after yesterday.”

“I can do tobacco if you’ve got coffee and a bit of meat.”

“Meat?” The Yankee whistled low. “You’re asking a lot.”

“I thought it fair for this Kentucky bourbon.”

Claude watched, amazed. The boy couldn’t have been as old as Garrett at his side, and his Second Lieutenant was only eighteen. “That’s good stuff. I might be able to get some bacon.”

“Why don’t you see about it? I’ll wait, but I haven’t got all night.”

“You Louisiana cocksuckers are hard as nails, aren’t you?”

“Tell your friends.” He joked, leaning against a tree to roll a cigarette. The Yankee scampered off and Claude wondered where Remy was getting this surplus. The thought of him scavenging the belongings of corpses on the battlefield made his stomach sick.

“Are we gonna talk to him?” Garrett whispered, anxious from sitting around.

Claude hushed him. “When he’s finished dealing. I don’t want to interrupt; if the Yankee get anxious it might get us all shot. He knows Remy, but I can’t imagine he’d welcome surprises.”

Garrett nodded, solemn. Claude made a mental note of who was on patrol; Morgan would want names. The young man return with a package wrapped in newsprint and a small sack. “Bacon and coffee, Latendresse. I like doing business with you.”

“The pleasure’s mine.”

Remy tucked his treasures into his coat and turned toward camp, vanishing into the near-perfect dark of the trees. His footsteps were clear though, and Claude thought with grim satisfaction that his friend had never been much good in the wild; he was too spoiled by his comfortable life, had never relied on not frightening game away just to eat. Claude crept after, addressing him by name, not wanting to get shot out of misunderstanding. Gunfire so late would rouse the whole of both camps, maybe spur another battle into motion. “Remy.”

Remy whirled. Blonde hair gleaming in the thin sliver of moonlight that found them in the clearing, his hand found the butt of his pistol. “Who’s there?”

“Claude. Why so jumpy, mon ami?”

“I see you survived your wounds.” The hand lingering near his firearm made Claude’s stomach roil. Suddenly he was not entirely certain his dearest friend wouldn’t shoot him.

“I’m well enough. What’re you doing out here?”

“A bit of business.” He nodded back toward the clearing, casual.

Claude tried to fold his arms on instinct,  jarring his injury in an unpleasant way. “Morgan’s forbidden trade.”

“Why don’t you remind your little lackey of that?” Remy peered past Claude’s shoulder, blue eyes fixed on Garrett, who shifted behind his superior officer.

“He’ll be dealt with, and so will you if this foolishness doesn’t stop.”

“What foolishness? They need things. We need things. If the Confederacy and the Union aren’t providing for their men, it falls to us to provide for ourselves. I don’t see any harm in that.”

“No? And what if you find an ambush waiting instead of trade? What if they use your name to sneak into camp? What if—”

“You cluck like a hen. What if, Remy? What if?” he mocked. “You’ve been taking lessons in worrying from Evie. I proved I can handle myself.”

“This isn’t about you!” Claude growled. “Think! Lieutenant, get back to camp.”

Mercifully without argument, Garrett trotted off and left Remy and Claude at odds. Claude rubbed his face with his good hand. “Remy, I love you like a brother—“

“But you’re not my brother. Even with your secret dreams of marrying my sister.”

“Can we leave Evie out of this? She’s married to Beau now; I don’t see why we ought to keep dragging it up.”

“Let’s leave it entirely. I can handle my own, Claude. And if it comes to it, I’ll show you myself. I don’t care about your injuries. This isn’t the world we grew up in, where you bested me in wrestling and hunting and everything else. I don’t care about those fancy marks on your coat, either. If you come at me I’ll put you in your place once and for all.”

Claude snorted. “What a shame Mercier will inherit your father’s plantation; you’ve got hard master written all over you.”

“Stop with the nobility. This is war. It’s no time for gentlemanly conduct and rigid adherence to rules and protocols.”

“A war’s the most important time for those things.”

“Your ways might be effective, or maybe they got Wheat killed. My ways have made the Tigers legendary.”

“And that’s what you care about, isn’t it? You’re more worried about creating a legend.”

Remy laughed. “You know, I thought I’d long for the soft pleasures of home. The drinking, women, a warm bed, and my favorite meals prepared by the family’s slaves. I was surprised the merits of our situation far outweigh its minor inconveniences. This war might never end, and I’d be a happier man for it.”

Claude shuddered at the thought.

How’s everyone else getting on with their NaNo?

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