I was contacted by this author to review The Ride. I unfortunately didn’t have time to review, but offered to do a promo post instead. I have an excerpt to share with you today.
Diego Ramirez, 15, anonymous, obsessed by fire, flees his home in 1952 El Paso after setting fire to the barn where his abusive stepfather is working. Believing he has killed him, he steals his mother’s life savings, dimes and nickels, and hitchhikes through Texas. Accepting rides from a bigoted truck driver, a woman who only gives rides to children of crippled spirit, a salesman who feeds Diego’s dreams of success, a lonely widow, who takes him in only to have to let him go, and other drivers along the road, Diego is helped to unravel his crime and the crimes against him.
All he knew was America, the parched grass, the flooding rains, when they came, the tornadoes, Tex Mex. He knew nothing of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas of his grandfathers. He was fifteen, anonymous. His stepfather mucked stalls on a ranch. His mother cooked rice and beans, rice and beans, over and over again. His sisters giggled then sulked. Not to arouse suspicion he decided on short hops, El Paso to Odessa. He had stolen a map from the gas station, not knowing they were free, and had hidden it in his pants where it crackled every time he took a step. He felt in his pocket for the Diamond Tips. He had not meant to bring them. He had taken the twenty dollars his mother stored in a coffee tin, dimes and pennies, nickels, her life savings.
Diego Ramírez noticed things, the fecundity of grasses, the age of wood, the brilliance of the unwavering sun, but he was unsure how to hitchhike. He had been picked up numerous times from the men working the ranch, on his way to school, and then as he made his way back. But this was different. He had choice. He would choose a small blue sedan, a red sports car, maybe a mighty Mac. He sat alongside the highway twirling tall grasses between his palms until they slipped back to earth as dust. It was still dark. He would not hitchhike until dawn. He stood and started walking east trying to put as much distance from El Paso as he could. The burlap sack was heavy with his coins. He had wrapped them in a paper sack and tied them with twine so they would not jingle, but with each step he took he could hear them breaking loose and rattling the predawn quiet. Animals skittered into the brush as he walked, but he was not afraid. He was running and it felt good. Cars roared past in the night, their headlights making the growth along the road stark and ghostlike.
A thin line of light shrouded by a cloudy grey umbrella began to seize the horizon. Diego turned to the west, from where he had come, and a white Mac truck screamed toward him. He faced the oncoming truck with his arm thrust straight out, but the truck raced past him. He worried that he did not get the ride because he did not use his thumb. He refused to use his thumb. That was a tool for boys. He was a man.
Nancy Cathers Demme is a retired Children’s Librarian. She teaches ESL “Writing In English” to adults and is an active member of the Garden State Storyteller’s League. “The Ride”, a young adult crossover novel, has just recently been published by the Stephen F. Austin State University Press. Her short stories, flash fiction and poetry have appeared in Confrontations, The Kelsey Review, US1, the Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and Willard & Maple. She has been facilitator of the Twin Rivers Writers’ group for 27 years and facilitates the East Windsor Senior Center Writers’ Group.