I’m close to finishing my latest novel, A Penny on the Tracks, a coming of age story about friendship, family, love and loss. The story centers around two eleven-year old girls who discover a place hidden in a remote area not far from where they live. They call this place their “Hideout”. Believing the secret spot is known only to them, and the high school boy they meet there named Derek, the girls spend the summer of ’86 sneaking off to their hidden hang out and experience a reality of life that would haunt them forever.
Melancholy at times, A Penny on the Tracks tests the resilience of friendships during the threat of betrayal, explores the tumultuous relations of a dysfunctional family shattered to pieces, and shows the desperate limits life can impose on a person struggling for a reason to live.
But through all the heartache portrayed in this story, the book ends with the hopeful sentiment that even in death, a loved one never completely leaves us.
Below is an excerpt of A Penny on the Tracks:
I wasn’t sure who else knew about our Hideout. Aside from Abbey and me, Derek was the only other person I’d ever seen there. But anyone with an interest in exploring deep into the field, behind the big Nabisco building that sat across the street from the park, would have no trouble finding the spot near the railroad tracks we loved so much.
About a hundred yards beyond the brush lay the tracks and an area covered in gravel, which Abbey and I had declared our spot. It was the place we’d first met Derek, sitting on his rock, smoking his cigarette and, seemingly, deep in thought. But when he looked up and nodded his head nonchalantly at us, and asked, “How’s it going?” I knew he was gonna be cool.
There was a wooded area just east of the tracks, thick with trees and a small creek. Abbey avoided going there as much as she could, but when she did venture into the woods, she never delved as deeply as I did. She preferred staying out in the open field.
Abbey and I didn’t consciously go searching for a place just for us. We were hanging out at the park across from the Nabisco building, and heard the faint sound of a train’s whistle.
We’d been goofing around in the tennis courts, competing against each other over who could hit the ball the farthest over the fence. I had always won, even though I’d let Abbey have the better of the old, worn rackets—the one with the tighter strings.
She still could barely hit the ball over the fence.
But every time I smacked the ball, it shot off my racket, like a rocket, over the fence. And I’d give my best Tom Hanks impression from the Bachelor Party, imitating his “tennis homeruns” by tossing my racket in the air and cupping my hands around my mouth, producing sounds of exhilarating crowd noises.
Abbey’s lack of ability to hit the ball very far was always the racket’s fault.
“These rackets are old and broken,” she’d say. “Hardly anyone would be able to hit with these rackets.”
“I can,” I’d shoot back with a tight smirk.
She’d tell me to be quiet, and I’d tell her that losers have to fetch the balls.
But Abbey was right. The rackets were in horrible shape. I had found them shoved behind a dusty cabinet one day in my garage. They must have come with the house because my mother didn’t remember buying them.
I’d often wondered how far I could lift a ball through the air if I’d had a real tennis racket, one with all the strings attached. But tennis rackets weren’t in our budget, and I wouldn’t ask my mom for one because I knew it made her feel bad whenever she couldn’t give me something I wanted.
Even though Abbeys parents could afford new rackets, we both knew her mother would never approve of such a purchase. Her mother didn’t believe girls should play any sports. It was too rough and un-ladylike. At first, I thought she was worried Abbey would get hurt because of her slight stature, but when her complaints about girls playing sports were even extended toward me, with my huskier build, I knew safety wasn’t the reason.
I had skinned my knee pretty badly once playing basketball in my driveway with a couple neighborhood boys, and Abbey’s mom gave me an earful when she saw the cut.
“This is why girls shouldn’t play sports,” she’d said.
“Ah, it’s fine. It doesn’t hurt me any more than it would hurt a boy,” I’d said.
She’d given me a stern glare. “But look at your knee. What boy is going to want to take out a girl with cuts all over her legs? You two better stop playing so rough. Boys don’t like that.”
As much as we hated our rackets, I was sure Abbey knew, like I did, that they were the best we were going to get.
But from the moment we heard the train, and ventured far beyond the Nabisco building and discovered our train, we no longer cared about old, worn tennis rackets.
We had found our Hideout.
Thanks for reading!
Please check out my other books, Her Name and Loving Again, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.
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