A Long Hot Summer
Overhead the searing southern Mississippi sun burned its heat into the dry red clay of the delta. Along the path below the cottonwoods the afternoon shadows almost concealed Charlotte Lebuea as she slipped towards the waters of Willow Creek. It was her secret place, a place where she often disappeared when the heat of August gripped the land. Alongside the creek were stands of ancient trees. They each were draped with cascades of Spanish moss that decorated this place of dark waters.
Charlotte made her way down the narrow path that led to the creeks edge. There, she kicked off her shoes and cautiously touched her toes to the water’s surface. She closed her eyes as she tossed her long dark hair back, lifting it onto the top of her head. Now, her exposed neck could feel the cool breeze beneath the moss covered trees. She glanced down into the green tinted water, touched here and there by rays of sunlight that found their way through the leaves. One of those rays of light illuminated a gathering of small fishes that swam near her feet. She giggled like a nervous school girl when they nibbled at her toes. High overhead katydids sang their forlorn songs, searching for love before summer slipped away.
Charlotte splashes the cool water as she wades deeper. She lifted the hem of her bright yellow sun dress higher as she ventured deeper into the stillness of the pool. She blushingly grinned, knowing if someone saw her, she would have to pretend to be shy and embarrassed; after all, she was a true southern lady. Well, at least her mother thought so.
Suddenly the katydids stopped their songs, and her secret place went still. Charlotte turned her head slowly, looking for the reason the small insects stopped their love songs. But, her gaze saw no reason why they had ceased their afternoon serenading.
She returned to enjoying the coolness of the water. As she stood staring at the tiny fishes, she noticed a ripple in the water coming from behind her. Then a darkened shadow moved over the water as she turned quickly. She looked up and saw Billy Henson…
Don’t you just hate it when I do that to you when I am telling a story? You know what I mean, guiding you towards a vision in your imagination of love beneath the cottonwoods. For a story teller or a writer, it is a good thing when they can pull their readers to want more from the written words on a page. If I do my job correctly, I should be able to tap into a hidden place within your brain. With just my words I have managed to slip into the privacy of your homes, hidden within my words that stimulated an emotion in your mind.
Your imagination is what gives the writers of books and the makers of movies the ability to create images that draw you into their story. Have you ever went to a movie and sat in the darkness and watched a love story or a sad movie with tears running down your face? Or have you ever watched a creepy movie and when the really scary part flashes onto the sixty foot screen, did you pull back to save yourself? If you have, you are human and have the ability to imagine a world created by someone else.
I enjoy a good Alfred Hitchcock movie. He understood the best way to pull an audience into his story and closer to the screen, was to arouse their imagination. Hitchcock’s movies often used unusual camera angles and shadowy images, combined with close ups to tell the story. Remember the 1960 classic horror movie, Psycho and the shower scene. The only things you saw were closeups of Janet Lee’s terrified face. The music was choreographed to follow the flashing of the steel butcher knife. Finally, the image and sounds of water circling the drain carrying away blood. You never really saw the act of the murder, but in your mind you saw it all in great gory detail. At least that’s how I felt after the first time seeing the movie.
Poor unfortunate Janet’s lifeless face was pressed against the bathroom floor after her onscreen murder, convincing you she died horribly. You see it all in your mind in black and white. I bet many a woman thought of that scene the next time they showered in a spooky hotel. Combine the spine-chilling music track that races to follow the action and you have a great movie classic. Today, if that same scene were to be set into a modern movie, the director would leave nothing to your imagination. In fact, it would be in full color and 3-D graphic details.
How about a love story, do you remember Tennessee Williams screen play, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof? Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor acted in the 1958 movie about all the things you avoid, if you want to go to heaven. You know what is happening when people stare at each other longingly and the camera slowly pans towards an open window as the unseen air moves the curtains. I guess it is too bad they did not have air conditioning in those days. What happened when the camera moved away was left up to your imagination. In a movie today, if the couple were to be romantically involved, the camera is right there with them. What makes the human race different than any other species on earth, is our imagination. The ability to create a moment in just our own thoughts. We enjoy books and movies when they help us reach those places in our minds that make us feel happy, sad, or romantically moved. A good book or movie can take us to places we cannot go in our daily lives. I somehow don’t think books and movies that tell all the secrets are the best. I believe if my story can lead you to the threshold of young love under the Cottonwoods, I have done my job. To complete the vision, well, I’ll leave that up to you and your imagination.
Mary says I can’t leave you hanging as to what happens with Charlotte and Billy. Well, they were standing under the cottonwoods and Billy leaned close to steal a kiss. Suddenly from behind a nearby tree, Clarence Gilbertson and his red-haired half-brother Tommy tossed a green water snake onto Charlotte’s bare shoulder. She gave out a blood curdling scream as she knocks Billy down into the water and ran for home.
Billy laughed, realizing he almost stole a kiss from Charlotte during the Long Hot Summer, as we imagine… Through the Lens.