|Posted on May 26, 2014 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
IT'S RELEASE WEEK!
We have paranormal novel, Enter Eternity by Honey Boudreaux, a family saga romance with Sentimental Journey from Shakey Smith, and a literary novel From Time To Eternity by Mary Cote, all hitting shelves on Thursday, May 29th!
For Jillian it was just another day at the beach until she saw a young boy caught in an undertow. One minute she was battling the current and waves, holding on to the boy. The next minute, she was confronted by rows of doors. As she passed through them, she entered a different life she had lived -- a Native American, a slave on a southern plantation, an executioner in France... with each door she learned more about herself, and she saw how intricately our lives are woven together. Enter Eternity is Honey's second novel!
Cy and Stevie Joy are about to celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary. As they prepare for the big day, amid the chaos of family life and family strife, they each wander through old memories of their first days together, and worry that 'their day' could result in the biggest ballroom brawl ever. Sentimental Journey is 6th novel in the Dupees of Gray County Stories series by Shakey Smith, and one you will not forget.
Wyatt Cresswell wakes up on November 1st, convinced he is never going to experience another November 1st in his life. There is no reason for him to think this, but the notion is enough to propel him out of his long list of fears and neuroses. With the help of his best friend Dylan, he realizes now is the time to fulfil a dream -- to go to Italy, but first, Dylan insists they go someplace far from Wyatt's comfort zone -- Haiti. In the still-remaining wreckage of Haiti, perhaps a metaphor for Wyatt's life, he finds both death and life, despair and hope, and a reason to go on living. His experiences on the island make him see classic, historic Italy in a new life. In essence, From Time to Eternity is a 50-year-old coming of age story.
All three books will be available in digital and print formats in most on-line bookstores. Click the covers to learn more about each book!
|Posted on November 19, 2013 at 10:30 AM||comments (0)|
RELEASE DAY - FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22nd, 2013
STAIRBIRDS IN LOVE by SHAKEY SMITH
Once again, Shakey immerses us into the middle of a Dupee family crisis, and the results are amazing.
It is 1992, February of that year to be exact -- the month of brooms. An icy wind is scouring the sand hills of western Kansas, sweeping tumbleweeds and clouds of grit across the gray prairie. There is nothing on the monotonous horizon but same and old. This is the time of year that folks do crazy, desperate things and silent, steel-fisted stairbird Meggs Dupee has just done something crazy. He has taken a pregnant, twenty-something waitress home to keep his house for him. Is it a ploy to dodge Migra or is it true love. Even Meggs is not sure.
Since Meggs gave up on housekeeping back in the late eighties his house is not fit for even the most determined housekeeper, Meggs' male cousins come to his rescue, cleaning his house and shopping for him. In the process, they begin a long, spirited debate on the mystery of love, never once realizing that they have stood up their wives on Valentine's Day.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW BOOK TRAILER
Chapter 1 -- The Pretender
“She’s waiting in the back room.” Ollie shivered a little in the draft from the opened door. He gestured with his thumb toward the dark storeroom, but remained at the register, counting.
“Does she have the kids?” Meggs asked from the doorway.
Ollie nodded, busy with facing the bills.
Meggs let the door close behind him. He took a peppermint from the complimentary dish. “Is she ready?”
The café was empty, the lights dimmed. The closed sign blinked in the frosted window, casting a feeble orange glow against a scrappy tinsel border of hearts and cupids. Outside only tumbleweeds traveled the deserted highway. Still the two men whispered.
Ollie took a minute to scribble in a ledger. “Yeah. You’ll have to stop by the trailer to pick up their coats. It turned cold so fast she didn’t have a chance to bring them. There’s a sewing machine she made the payments on. Fact is, she made most of the payments on her and Rosa’s car, too. Doubt if old Miguel will turn loose of the car, but it might be worth a try for the sewing machine. Miguel says him and Rosa are leaving in the morning, before dawn.”
“They can’t take Rosa’s own sister and kids?”
Ollie closed his ledger and zipped the day’s deposit into a bank bag. “Miguel’s out of work. He has a chance for a job in Las Animas. If the truth was known, I’d say that old Miguel isn’t any more comfortable with Migra than Tedi is. Anyway, they have to move fast and Tedi ain’t going nowhere fast. Migra is after her and she don’t have no place to go in Mexico but to a step-father who hits her. Are you getting cold feet?”
For a moment, Meggs’ eyes were fixed on his giant work boots. Then he shrugged. “Too late now.”
Ollie tossed the deposit into an open safe in a corner of the kitchen. He left the safe’s door ajar. “If you’re not one hundred percent on this, forget it. I’ll call Migra and get it over with. They’re not monsters. They’ll feed her and the kiddies and put them on a bus to El Paso. I’ll slip Tedi some cash to tide her over till she finds something.” He hung his apron on a hook behind the door then switched off the lights. “I don’t stick my neck out for no one. I’m no do-gooder.”
Meggs followed him out of the kitchen. “That why you are feeding her and letting her stay here when she can’t work?”
Ollie raised a chapped hand to fend off the charge. “She worked hard for me when she could. She’s cheerful, honest, a decent person. No sense with men but that’s most women – at least the pretty ones. I like Tedi fine but I’m not stupid enough to dick with Migra. You need a housekeeper. She needs a place to stay. You like her. She likes you. It might could work out.”
“I’m thinking about family.” Meggs took another peppermint and very carefully unwrapped it. He slipped the mint into his mouth and the cellophane into the bib of his overalls.
“You haven’t told your folks nothing?”
“Just what, Ollie, am I supposed to tell them?”
“Have you even tried?”
“Jeez, Meggs! What are you? Pushing forty?”
Meggs stepped to a mirror that hung next to the coat rack. “I was going to ask Dad for something to cover up the gray, but I forgot.” He tugged at his beard.
Ollie took up his feather duster. “You’re my baby cousin. God knows I try to hold my tongue because of the tragedy and all, but sometimes you are flat peculiar.”
Meggs was still at the mirror, fiddling with the band that held his dark ponytail. “Can’t see how the folks could bitch, but they will.”
Ollie dusted each of several toy tractors that were displayed in the window. “Aunt Stevie is bound to kick a little. Just in her nature. The girls might… well, Tharon. You know Tharon will have something to say.”
Meggs adjusted a gallus then tugged his sport jacket to cover his overalls. “I’d like to break it to Mom first.”
Ollie opened the side door to shake the duster. “Tedi needs someplace to sleep tonight. That little cot in the backroom just isn’t big enough for all of them. Kids are cranky and edgy, starting colds. At night the wind just cuts through this place.”
Meggs looked down at his mighty hands. A stubborn blotch of yellow paint stood out on his well-scrubbed wrist. Nervously he swiped at it with his bandana. “Okay. I’ll just have to spring her on the family tomorrow sometime. Might be easier to catch everyone together on Sunday.”
“No way you are going to keep this quiet for even a day! Now, if you are not gentle enough in your mind about this arrangement to tell your own folks, you had better clear out.” The heavy door blew shut on Ollie, almost snapping the duster in half.
Meggs turned from the mirror to stare out the café window. It was February, the month of brooms. A dry, howling wind scoured the prairie like a phantom broom pusher, raising clouds of frozen grit, jangling the bayonet, and scattering jackrabbits and coyotes alike.
On the windowsill, the cupids, a row of toy tractors and a small dish of Easter cactus made a brave show against the menacing night. The wind rattled the window and kicked an empty cardboard box down Highway 50, which was also Main Street for the two blocks that comprised Pierceville, Kansas.
“That’s some wind,” Meggs observed.
“Terrible fierce,” Ollie affirmed.
“Sky won’t snow, wind won’t let it.” Meggs shuddered and glanced again into the mirror. “Okay.”
Ollie took a minute to water the Easter cactus. “Clinic tomorrow in Charleston. Sam or Phil will be there. Tedi doesn’t have an appointment but she needs to see a doctor.”
“Has to,” Meggs agreed.
“She has quite a bill there. Don’t look like Alberto is going to pay any on it.” Ollie looked steadily into Meggs’ face.
“Okay,” Meggs said again, starting down the dim hallway that led to the storeroom, his great, heavy Wolverines ringing hollowly on the linoleum. He stood for a moment, jingling the silver and keys in his pocket.
Ollie opened the door for him. For just a split second, Meggs had the impression of a den, with a bitch and pups huddled in the dark. Then Tedi struggled to stand with the sleeping baby in her arms. Ollie helped her up, taking the baby. She picked up a single, duct-taped suitcase. Meggs took the suitcase from her. Tedi lifted Yesi, who wrapped her legs and arms around her mother and buried her face in her blue black hair.
Meggs led them through the dark café. He stopped at the register and blinked at the empty coat tree.
“They don’t have no coats. You’ll have to pick them up on your way out of town,” Ollie explained patiently.
Tedi stood, head down.
Meggs slipped his coat around her and Yesi.
Ollie pulled Bobby’s dingy blanket around his chubby face. He took a toy tractor from the windowsill and tucked it in with the sleeping baby. “Boy is plumb nuts about tractors,” he explained.
Meggs opened the café door and walked the sidewalk to his ‘76 Laredo. He turned the heater to full blast and drove, over the sidewalk, to the very entrance of the café.
“We’d better both help Tedi in,” Ollie advised, handing up Bobby, who had yet to open an eye. Meggs and Ollie both worked to get Tedi, who was about the size of a small house, into the pickup cab. She sat silently, almost sullenly, holding the children to her.
Meggs thought back on the slim, sassy girl who had brought him his iced tea and pie, his patty melt and salad, all summer. He shook his head as he climbed behind the wheel, wondering how women got themselves into the fixes they did. Ollie slammed the pickup door and its baling wire handle jangled. Bobby jumped but did not wake.
They bumped through the dismal village of Pierceville then crossed a concrete bridge that arched ridiculously over a dry bed of scrub willow, ragged tumbleweeds and frozen sand. Once out of town, Meggs followed a winding, rutted road which ended in a weedy trailer court. He stopped in front of the most rundown of the court’s six trailers. Tedi opened the pick- up door. Meggs held her arm. “You stay here.”
There was a flicker of light in her dark eyes.
He left the truck, stepped over a yard of dismantled furniture, and rapped on a duct-taped front door. Miguel answered. The house was in boxes and crates. Several children slept in the living room, on threadbare sofa cushions.
“I came for Tedi’s car and her sewing machine.”
Miguel shook his shaggy head. “Ella no tiene un caro.”
Meggs shook his shaggy head. “Tedi made the payments.”
“No, Rosa lo pagó. Chee hev title,” Miguel handed out a single cardboard box.
Meggs took it and waited. Miguel tried to close the door. Meggs inserted his huge boot.
“What joo wan?” Miguel snarled.
“The sewing machine.”
“Ella nos debe dinero.”
“Chi are ode oss.”
“No es HAIRS. ¡Es nuestra!”
“The sewing machine!”
“¡La maquina es nuestra!”
“You bastard!” Meggs said this with some heat although he had been expecting it. Miguel took a step backwards and shoved a sorry box of broken toys and rags at him.
“Thees hit! Thees hall! Now you gat the hail!”
Meggs was thin, gray and stringy but he was a big man who swung hammers for his livelihood. He had the advantage despite the age difference. His huge fist was working, but he didn’t need any trouble with Migra. Miguel sensed this, cutting his eyes contemptuously at Tedi.
“You thievin’ greaser bastard,” Meggs snarled.
“Gringo.” Miguel spat and slammed the door.
Meggs carried the boxes to Tedi. “Coats?” he asked.
She rummaged through the boxes and shook her head. He threw the boxes into the truck bed and climbed into the cab.
“¿La maquina?” she whispered.
Her eyes narrowed. “Ladrones, “ she hissed.
“Bastards,” he affirmed.
They drove south and west on a county road, slithering across barren sand hills and nothing else. The wind shook the pickup cab. Tedi wept quietly. Yesi, unnerved by her mother’s distress, wept also. There were no streetlights, no guard rails, no signposts, no horizon. There was only the dead, moonless sky above them, the sickly green dash light, a woman crying softly, and a child crying softly, in the vast darkness. Meggs had never heard anything so heart-wrenching and timeworn.
He took his bearings from a round-top, a stock tank, a pear tree and a clanking windmill. He turned east. He hadn’t wanted to make any major expenditures until he was certain that the arrangement would work, but he couldn’t have his family, coatless and weeping, in the cold and dark.
He navigated the country road, made a bootleggers’ turn at a dilapidated round-top and bumped up, onto the pavement. It was late. He was tired. He had been hauling junk and painting most of the day but he was a family man now. He reached for a second wind and watched Tedi out of the corner of his eye. She had no idea of direction, and so was unconcerned. He was relieved. He hadn’t wanted to frighten her.
|Posted on May 29, 2013 at 11:05 AM||comments (0)|
It feels like a family reunion when you crack open a Dupees of Gray County book. This large family is one that we all can relate to, as it fumbles, stumbles, and charges its way through life, sharing the laughs and love along the way. Fruit Salad and Wings is no different. This is our fourth glimpse at this wonderful family, this time focusing on Elspeth and Corliss (Bozo to you Shakey Smith aficionados). Thankfully this is not the last of the Dupees... the fifth book, Stairbirds in Love, will be available in the fall.
Fruit Salad and Wings by Shakey Smith
Chapter 1 -- Two Oblong Melons
Step 1: Choose two ripe, oblong watermelons. Scoop and ball the first, reserving the melon balls in an airtight plastic container. Cut the second melon lengthwise. After scooping the contents, scallop the edges in a decorative manner…
Strawberries and peaches, grapes, cherries and pineapples were whirling across the gleaming countertop in a mad mazurka. The melon balls were staging a jailbreak from their airtight container to join the shenanigans. Elspeth was doing her best to ignore them all. She was wearing a pigeon-crowned chef’s hat, intent on scalloping a watermelon shell with a handy light saber. The edges had to be just right or the whole fruit basket would be a lopsided mess. She knew this from sorry experience. Obi Won Kenobi, dressed as Martha Stewart, gave her a reassuring wink.
“Past the prime! Soft and faded and weepy… look at those wrinkles!” An angry voice rasped through the open screen of her bedroom window. Elspeth dropped her light saber and frowned.
“She is only rape,” a lower voice reasoned.
“Ripe? Rotten! I can’t make a fruit salad with that bruised mess! A cobbler maybe… but this is July! It’s too blazing hot for…”
“Is only rape!”
“Ripe? Ready for the worms! I can’t serve that to Corliss!” the angry voice ranted.
Shut up, you bawling cow! The words raced through Elspeth’s torpid mind. For a heart hammering second, she chewed her pillow. Had she spoken the words or merely thought them? Five seconds ago she was dreaming up a harmless, if animated, fruit salad. Now her happy dream was vaporized. The one before had been so sad.
“Shut up! The sun isn’t even up and you’re on your broom!” A voice, very like Elspeth’s, shrieked from the next window.
“Oh, Jeez!” Elspeth stumbled to her feet and pushed her tousled hair out of her eyes. She pulled a seersucker robe over her late husband’s softball jersey, which now served as a nightgown, then stumbled down the hallway to defuse the situation.
Too late. The voice of Connie Dupee railed from the driveway below. “Augusta Zaiser! A twenty-year-old girl who’s still abed at this hour of the morning is a disgrace! When I was your age, I had my own house, a husband and three babies to tend!”
“No doubt you delivered them yourself while plowing the south forty!” Augusta shouted from her bedroom window.
Four swift, bare steps carried Elspeth across the room and to the window. She caught a tiny ball of dark-haired fury by the back of her nightshirt then slung her from the window seat, onto the double bed. “Stay! Gusty! Stay!” she commanded.
Connie Dupee ranted on, standing in the driveway below, shaking a diamond-studded fist at the Zaiser house. “I’m sure there’s some housework you could be doing to help your poor, widowed mother. God knows, your grandmother is turning in her grave the way her house is being kept. There’s a garden out here needs some attention; might be a project for you and your lay-about sisters. So full of foxtail and spurge that it would shame a white person. Studded with heathen talismans and popish idols, a Christian would take a hoe and tear into that satanic mess…”
Again, Elspeth caught her hell-bent daughter as she sprang for the window. She held her by her shoulders.
It was Augusta’s turn to rant. “Mom! We didn’t get home from work until three. How can I sleep with that old bitch haggling over fruit? A husband and three babies at twenty? That’s nothing to brag about!” Gusty tried to push past her mother.
“Stay!” Elspeth guided Gusty into an armchair then stepped to the open window. “Give it a rest, Connie. That’s not an idol, popish or otherwise. It’s a statue of Mary. You know that. It was my mother’s. It’s been there for thirty years and it’s not going anywhere.”
“The commandments say…”
“We’ve been over this before. There seems to be some discrepancies between my commandments and yours. The statue stays.” Elspeth crossed her arms.
“What about that heathen fetish?” The tall, steely-haired neighbor lady pointed to a quasi-scare-crowish, but decidedly female, effigy mounted on a pole, overlooking a weedy patch of tomatoes, peppers, floppy dill, bolted lettuce and parched corn.
Wearily, Mrs. Z. peered out of the upstairs window, taking in the family vegetable garden. She stifled a shudder and smiled politely. “That’s Annie’s corn dolly.”
“It’s a slap in the face to the First Commandment!” Connie Dupee’s voice cleared the pigeons out of the eaves.
Elspeth blew a sigh through her dark bangs. She spoke slowly. “It’s an old Celtic custom. Annie researched it. It doubles the fruit of the plot it guards, and it does keep the jays out of the strawberries.”
“The girl says she’s a witch! Flat out owns to sorcery!”
Elspeth managed a smile and a scoff. “It’s a phase. She’ll outgrow it when she goes to college this fall. Look, the girls worked a double shift last night. Could you and Eleno take your transaction over to your backdoor? Gusty needs to sleep before she reads to Corliss at nine. ”
“Six dollars an hour to sit in the shade and read? I call that taking advantage of a blind man.” Connie shook her head. Not a single strand of her stainless steel bouffant was disturbed.
“Corliss set the wage,” Mrs. Z. replied, her smile stretched into a grimace; her arms still folded.
“Girl told me to shut up,” Mrs. Dupee grumbled.
Elspeth uncrossed her arms and put her hands on the window sill. “The girl is short on sleep. She and Annie are taking all the hours they can get at the nursing home this summer. They’re saving for college. I’d rather have them sleeping late than help me around the house. Augusta will apologize to you this morning, when she comes over to read to Bozo.”
Mrs. Dupee gave this some thought before taking her hands from her hips. She pointed to the backyard. “I took your laundry down this morning… the cutwork table linens that your Aunt Gusty made; didn’t want the dew to spoil them. They’re folded and in a basket by the kitchen door. I picked a bowl of cherries for you last night. It’s in the jam closet. Corliss will never remember that it’s there. I made up a sauce to top your rice pudding. It’s in the refrigerator. Be sure to remind Corliss about that, too.”
“Oh, thank you,” Elspeth said. “I forgot those things were on the line when I went to bed last night. Thank you for the cherries. I was just thinking of doing a fruit salad for supper tonight… the one Mom used to make, in the watermelon shell. Do you remember it? I can’t find Mom’s recipe. If you have it, could I borrow it?”
Connie pursed her lips. “Well, that’s no wonder to me; there’s no rhyme nor reason in that kitchen of yours. I have the recipe. It’s the same as your mother’s, but I use a can of ginger ale instead of wine.”
“Yes, I remember that.” Elspeth smiled.
“I’ll leave it on the counter for you. I’m going to Meade today for a funeral. I’d thank you if you could give Corliss his lunch as well as his breakfast. You know how absent-minded he gets when he’s writing.”
“I have to go to Cimarron this morning, to the bank and to the library. Tell him to come over at twelve-thirty.”
Elspeth turned to address the man standing in the back of a produce-laden pick-up truck. “Buenos días, Eleno. ¿Hay sandías?”
“Buenos días Señora Zaiser. Mis sandías are nice. Very sweet. Very rape. También los duraznos. ¡Mira!” He gestured to a pyramid of rose and amber globes, shooting an aggrieved look at Connie Dupee.
Connie was not having any of it. She dismissed the peaches with a wave of her hand then entered her house, slamming her screen door.
Elspeth ended the transaction. “Entonces, dame dos sandías y una cesta media de duraznos. Te pagaré en sábado.”
“Hokay. Where I put she?”
“Por la puerta.”
“Hokay good,” Eleno agreed, taking two watermelons to the porch and parking them on the top two steps. Next, he tucked six peaches into a plastic basket and settled them on the porch rail.
“Gracias,” Elspeth called after him as he pulled his faded blue pick-up out of the driveway that both houses shared.
She lowered the blinds and unknotted the lace curtains that framed the bedroom window. A small paper bag tucked into the window sash caught her attention. She opened the bag and dealt her second-born a scowl.
“Firecrackers left over from the Fourth,” Gusty answered, without being asked, all wide violet eyes and dark tousled hair.
“Not firecrackers; cherry bombs. I’ll keep these,” Elspeth said through clenched teeth as she rolled the bag shut.
“They’re not even mine. I’m keeping them for some-one else… someone with a nosy mother.”
“Augusta,” Elspeth began, not unkindly. “Let me tell you a scary little piece of gossip that I heard the other day from Glenn Pfannenstiel at the Co-Op. It seems that there were some juveniles playing out at the sandpit this weekend. They were swimming out there, which everyone knows is illegal, not to mention plain dangerous. These misguided delinquents went so far as to make a big bonfire, which is especially stupid when one considers that there isn’t a tree, a house, a hill, or even a tall tumbleweed between here and the Sheriff’s Office in Cimarron.”
Gusty sighed one of those weary, eye-rolling sighs that so vex a mother’s heart. Elspeth wanted to holler. She did not. Hannah, Gusty’s older sister, was sleeping in the same room. The last thing Elspeth needed was Hannah awake and growling.
“Any way, these juveniles were cooking hot dogs and hamburgers at this bonfire. Rumor has it that they were not drinking soda pop. Rumor also has it that these juveniles had stolen a box of watermelons off one of the Doemler’s produce trucks.”
There was another frustrated sigh.
Elspeth continued. “When Deputy Simmons went out to the sandpit to investigate, some brazen juvenile bombarded her with cherry bombs from the top of the dredging tower. When Deputy Simmons tried to give chase, the child dove from the tower, swam the pit, and disappeared: a very illegal and flat stupid thing to do.” Elspeth paused to deal Gusty a look that she hoped was disconcerting.
Gusty returned the stare with a chilly one of her own.
Elspeth leveled her forefinger. “Deputy Simmons could only describe this juvenile delinquent as small, female, weighing one hundred pounds or less, dark-haired and one hell of a swimmer. Until this very moment, I, like the rest of the county, have been wondering who that delinquent female could be.”
“Mom! That’s high school stuff! I’m in college!”
Elspeth took a seat on the edge of the double bed, and folded the bag of fireworks in her hands. “You’re good; very convincing. You never confess. You never deny. I especially admire your tone of righteous indignation. Your father would have fallen for it in a heartbeat. I, on the other hand, am convinced that you are the mad bomber. Only the fact that I would have to cover fines and court fees prevents me from calling Chief Khorf and ratting out your unrepentant and incorrigible little fanny. I’ll keep these.” She shook the bag.
“Mom, you don’t have any proof...”
Elspeth pulled the sheets back and motioned Gusty to bed. “I don’t need proof. I am your mother. I urge you to remember last summer when I paid out… let’s see – the tow bill, MIP, the diversion, court fees, and legal fees to Dupee and Dupee, Attorneys at Law – at a special rate, thanks to Tre Dupee, who has always had the hots for me – five hundred seventy-two dollars and six cents; money I had to pull out of Grandpa’s CD…”
Gusty slugged her pillows in disgust. One fell to the floor. “Put away the keys, Mom. I’m not going on your guilt trip. It’s your fault… for moving us here, to Wodan, Kansas – the shit-kicking, cousin-humping, yee-haw capitol of the world. Why couldn’t we have stayed in Chicago Heights?”
Elspeth picked the pillow off the floor and plumped it. “I couldn’t afford the house in Illinois after Daddy got sick. You know that. We had to move here.”
“Why couldn’t I stay in Emporia for summer school?”
“I can’t afford your apartment rent this summer, not with Annie starting college next month. You know Daddy’s medical bills…” Elspeth tucked the pillow behind her daughter. “Look, you are putting me on a guilt trip for something that I can’t help. When you go to read to Doctor Dupee, you will apologize to his mother.”
Gusty slumped back against the pillow, the picture of shock and outrage. “Didn’t you hear what that horrible woman said? She said that I’m ripping him off. I’m never going over there again.”
“Corliss asked you to read. You can’t renege on your agreement to spite his mother. He needs that research, the books are old and faded, and his eyes can’t take the strain. You’ll have to stick it out.”
“I hate that woman. She’s the nastiest person in Gray County.”
“In Western Kansas,” Elspeth corrected. “But you can’t hate her. Mrs. Dupee and your grandmother were neighbors for forty years. She’s still grieving for Grandma, just like we are. Grandma wouldn’t want us to be rude to her. Mrs. Dupee means well. She just doesn’t realize how she comes off.”
“She’s so prejudiced.”
Elspeth patted absent-mindedly at her daughter’s knee. “Mrs. Dupee didn’t used to be this... grim. She was always nuts, but not mean-spirited, not like this. Then she became a zealot. Wild-eyed fundamentalists are never pleasant company. Annie’s herb garden is getting a bit bizarre. A couple of saner citizens have mentioned it.”
“She hates everybody! For Christ’s sake, she says Disney is undermining our moral values! Disney, Mom?”
Elspeth nodded. “Small town people tend to be xenophobic.”
Gusty scoffed. “Xenophobic? Wodan is the actual setting of ‘The Lottery’. Shirley Jackson had car trouble here, in the early forties…”
Elspeth cut this diatribe short with a stern finger. “Okay! Here are the facts: I’m in debt. I owe a hospital in Chicago more money than I make in a year. I own this house free and clear. I have a teaching job here. This is my hometown. As tough as they are on outsiders, they always take care of their own. It’s a tribal kind of thing. This is our home now and Connie Dupee is our neighbor. We will respect her! Don’t wake your sister. I cannot deal with two of you at once.” She added this because Hannah had made a soft moan, rolled onto her back, flinched at the milky sunlight filtering through the east window, and thrown her arm across her lightly-freckled nose.
Gusty whispered. “Mrs. Dupee is always on Hannah’s case, too. She tells her she had better stop loolygaggling and get a job. What the hell is loolygaggling? I can’t find it in any dictionary.”
“Lollygagging; one o, two ls. Mrs. Dupee may have a point. Graduation seems to have unhinged Hannah. When those college loans come due…”
Hannah pulled her pillow over her head.
“I’m sorry. Did I wake you?” Mrs. Z. whispered wryly, tugging the pillow to ensure that her firstborn had a breathing passage.
“She’s plain brutal,” Gusty observed.
“Oh, no, Sweetheart; she may be irritable but she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.” Tenderly Mrs. Z. patted at Hannah’s Hollywood- bronzed shoulder.
“Not Hannah. Mrs. Dupee. She’s so negative,” Gusty explained.
Elspeth shrugged. “Negative doesn’t touch it. Connie Dupee is a hard, bitter old woman. In my day, old people were supposed to be bitter. We expected it of them. When Connie Dupee was your age, hard work and scolding were what made the world go around. Western Kansas in the thirties…”
“American Lit. 303 – The Dust Bowl,” Gusty groaned, eyes cast heavenward.
Mentally Elspeth tucked away her lecture notes and stood to leave. “Regardless of how annoying, abrasive, and plain goofy Mrs. Dupee is, you will apologize before noon.”
“Why are you sleeping in here, anyway? You have a bedroom across the hall where you almost can’t hear Mrs. Dupee.”
“It’s an oven in there. We need air conditioning!”
“Need and afford: two vastly differing concepts. Why didn’t you sleep on the back porch with Annie?”
“She creeped us out with her Wicca… and Walter.” Gusty ran her fingers through her straight, dark hair.
“It’s a phase.” Elspeth took her fingers through her own straight, dark hair.
“That’s right, Mom. Look the other way.”
“Mrs. Dupee is right. The garden is a mess. You can hoe it after you read to Corliss. That gives you about two hours to sleep.”
Taking up her pillow, Gusty stomped, barefooted, out of the room and down the stairs to the back porch.
Elspeth shook her eldest daughter’s shoulder. “Hannah, Tennyson says she will put your resume on floppy disk this evening, if you have it ready to type. I’ll buy extra stamps and envelopes today when I go to town. Did you look at those ads I brought home?” Elspeth peeked under her daughter’s pillow. “The summer after graduation is such an exciting time. Daddy and I stayed here with Grandma and Grandpa. We took all summer to weigh our prospects. Do you remember that? Tennyson and I took you and Shorty to the wading pool in Cimarron every day.” Elspeth knelt down so that she could speak face to face with her daughter. This was not easy because her daughter’s face was squished into the chenille coverlet.
Elspeth sighed and tugged at the coverlet, rolling it down and folding it at the foot of the bed. Hannah slumbered on. Elspeth shook her head in wonder. She went to fetch her husband.
She returned carrying a studio portrait of a long haired, bearded, tie-dyed, college senior. She held the photo up to better enhance her late husband’s view, all the while speaking in a conversational whisper: “So, Jay, do you remember the two a.m. feedings that went on for a year? The screaming nap scenes? The bedtime hassles that we always lost? Take a look at this new development. Your daughter has been sleeping since the twenty-sixth of May. It has me beat. You give it some thought. I’ll get back with you.”
Elspeth settled the portrait into the bookcase in the empty headboard that had once held her husband’s westerns. “Oh, and keep an eye on these, too. I can’t afford another lawless summer.” She tucked the bag of fireworks behind the picture frame.
Fruit Salad and Wings trailer.
Fruit Salad and Wings is available in Print, Digital and Kindle formats.
|Posted on November 26, 2012 at 2:05 PM||comments (0)|
For the next few weeks, we are delighted to bring you a little inside glimpse at the authors behind the books... totally unedited. Each author was supplied with their own list of questions (some will be repeated with some authors, some are totally unique). The answers to some will entertain you, some will enlighten you, and some, yes, will move you to tears -- we just won`t say what kind of tears. First up, we bring you our own....
Let me first say that these questions arrived on an evening when I decided to buy a bottle of wine. I don’t often drink wine. I can’t remember why.
It is a nice light Riesling. The Czech half of me wanted one of those super sweet, kool aidy Czech wines like my great-grandma used to swill, but the German half of me insisted on a German wine to go with cheese and some pears that I have on hand. You know how those Germans are.
Anyway, I was well into the bottle before I opened my e-mail and read the questions.
#1-- Do you base your characters on real people?
WTF??? Of course I don’t write about real people. In a county of less than 4,000 people that would be begging for someone to sue my ass—right? But here is the crazy thing: I have this eerie power to bring ink and paper to life. Yup. I will write a character and then, bam, out of the blue, meet up with his flesh and blood doppelganger!
Way back in grad school I was in a mythology class, doodling a character sketch for Tim Dupee when I glanced into up and saw Tim Dupee as solid as concrete, standing in the doorway and staring at me. SWTG! I sat there stunned for a count to ten and then raised a shaky hand and asked for a bathroom break. When I got into the hallway it was empty. He was there. I saw him. Then he melted away!
I came face to face with Cotton Kanega one June morning. I was writing him and boink! He appeared on my neighbor’s roof. I blinked hard and then headed outside for a better look. There was a crew re-shingling my neighbor’s roof but not one of them was close to Cotton. I recorded the whole thing in the margin of my manuscript. Just in case I started to doubt it happened. Another time I spotted Corliss Dupee in a Walgreens in Wichita. He was there and then he wasn’t. Go figure.
#2--You have a lot of musical references in your work. Do you write with music on or prefer to have quiet? If you like to have music on, who is the performer?
My mother’s major in college was voice and piano. In my toddler- hood I banged my head on the baby grand in our living room so many times that music always plays in my head. I listen to music while I write—when I begin a chapter, I use the lyrics of the song I am listening to in order to title the chapter. This helps me to keep track of my place when I come back to the story.
When I am writing about a certain generation I listen to music from that era. The music brings the whole era to life for me. I was listening to Lawrence Welk just last night because he is Minta and Dudley Dupee’s favorite musician and I was writing about them.
Trivia : Years ago Lawrence Welk’s band bus was caught in a blizzard on Highway Fifty, outside of Macksville, where I teach. The folks of Macksville helped the band out of the bus, fed them and put them up until the road was clear. Lawrence Welk put on a concert to thank the town. It was held in my school and he, himself, played the accordion. The old folks still talk about it.
#3--Shakespeare fan – yes or no, and why?
Big yes and to Cervantes, too!
English Literature and Spanish are my majors. I know a lot about English Lit and I refuse to apologize for that. I love the stuff. Well, except for Beowulf. I just cannot get into a work where the swords have names but the females do not.
I have spent a goodly portion of the last twenty years teaching Shakespeare to cowboys and cowgirls. I used to start Macbeth by asking the kids if they knew anyone who was PW—I mean really, really pussy whipped; so badly whipped that even though he was big, strong and respected, he would cut his best friend dead if his girlfriend told him to. That always got a response from my students and from then on, Macbeth was a piece of cake. They were even willing to tackle the vocab to find out what happens in the end. Once they had a handle on the vocabulary the grandeur of the words caught them—they used to holler “Fly Fleance, fly!’ down the halls.
The same goes for tilting at windmills. Kids love the idea of changing the world. Don Q. can become Batman: Lazarillo de Tormes can become Huck Finn. The vocabulary and the social customs might be outdated but the characters are still vivid, the story is still relevant.
#4--In hindsight, many of us find that our writing was impacted by our schooling. What was your favorite assignment in high school English, your least favorite, and the one that affected you most?
God help me, I loved to diagram. And I loved to recite choral poetry—Like October Gave a Party. I had a teacher in grade school who was nuts about choral reading. She would split up the class and we would take different parts on days we had to stay in for recess. I’d get goose bumps when it all came together. The other kids, of course, were pretty pissed off. If we played Tiddlywinks or Chutes and Ladders on a rainy day I would take out my English book instead, and diagram the sentences at the end of the book.
I can’t think of anything I didn’t like except sad stories. A Mother in Manville, The Scarlet Ibis, anything with a dog or a kid that croaks.
In high school I wrote an essay for another kid. Don’t know why—I think for a cheese salad sandwich. Cheese salad was the ground up ends of all the cheese used in a week. Our cafeteria cooks used to mix these with mayo and pickle relish and serve them as a cheap alternative to the school lunch. I was always short on lunch money.
Anyway the assignment was to write an essay on a picture the teacher handed out. I could always do A+ work on that type of essay and I usually played it for melodrama. High school teachers love weepy stuff. I did so well on this particular one that the teacher got all misty and declared it the best she had ever read. Major error! I had to write every essay for the kid after that, so she wouldn’t get caught. And I had to make my essays different in style and tone so I wouldn’t get caught.
Nobody eats cheese salad any more. Wonder why. Must be one of those foods from the sixties that turned out to be lethal.
#5-- You’re stuck on a deserted island with only three books and one other author. Name the books and the author then tell us why.
I would say Cervantes but he had that gimp hand. A gimp hand would not be helpful in a castaway situation. I’d want someone with a sense of humor and of the opposite sex. It would be between Mark Twain and Somerset Maugham. I’m guessing Mark Twain would be the better lay.
As for the books I am going with Robinson Caruso (duh!); Swiss family Robinson (duh! again.) And an illustrated dictionary of edible plants indigenous to the South Pacific.
#6--Have you ever read a book or watched a movie, and though ‘damn! I wish I had thought of that’? If so, what was it?
All the damn time. I have to force myself to read fiction because I am so insecure about my own writing. A book by Dave Smith—a friend— sent me to woozytown this summer. The first time I read Anne Tyler I went into a funk and wrote nothing for five years. A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman ? –I kicked myself for a year. Why the F didn’t I write that? Oh, yeah. I’m not a medieval historian. Still. Damnit!
I mostly wish I had written Summer Lightning by PG Wodehouse. Or To Kill A Mockingbird. Better have another glass of wine.
#7--Have you ever judged a book by its cover?
Raymond Chandler—one of my very favorite authors. The garish covers of his books kept me away for years. They were lurid detective novels with bilious colors—the first time I really connected the word bilious as an adjective was to a Chandler book jacket. Then I read one because I was stuck in a job—clerk in a retail clothing store—that I hated and it was the only thing available on a slow night.
Wow. I cannot describe my utter flabbergastation. This guy had huge talent! He had it all: plot, jump-out characters, the prose to glue it all together, brilliant literary devices and a hero that could be Don Quixote in a fedora! And yet Chandler once strung tennis racquets for a living? When he finally did find the time to write he was considered second rate because of his genre. He was so good and yet, so sad.
#8--Books can be like comfort food. Which one book is the one you go back to the most?
This is hard to explain. It is not really a book but a type of book, usually non-fiction. It is often, but not always, a first person account about someone who is displaced from an established life and must find a new life in changed circumstances. The Small Woman by Allen Burgess is an example. One of my very favorite authors is Agnes Newton Keith. She wrote three books based on her experiences as a POW in a Japanese prison camp during WW2. This is not an angry commentary but a wonderful observation of life. Another is The Egg and I by Betty Macdonald. Little Britches; O Pioneers; Little Big Man; The Tin Ticket by Deborah Swiss, and of course, the Little House books come under this type. I think these are called homestead novels. They are not easy to find but when I do find one, I am lost in it for at least two reads.
Shakey Smith is the author of the newly released Quick Fixes. She also has published Show Me The Way, 6 Hearts; 7 Stories, and Robe & Crown, all three involving the Dupee Family of Gray County. She has three more books on the way; you won`t want to miss any of them! Thanks, Shakey!
|Posted on November 19, 2012 at 6:30 PM||comments (0)|
Chapter 1 -- Up In My Bedroom
Quick’s bedroom was awash in a tsunami of library books. Every single one of them was overdue. A weighty copy of The Magus teetered on her headboard like the sword of Damocles. Books on galaxies, ghosts and reincarnation elbowed each other under her quilt. Atlases and the works of Teilhard de Chardin dripped off the dresser and onto the sea green carpet. Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas sulked in a chintz armchair. Federico Garcia Lorca helped to press a tennis racquet. Cervantes napped on the window seat.
In her search for Truth, Quick had ‘checked up’ her card, her mother’s card, her father’s card, a card her dithering uncle had left on her grandmother’s kitchen table. Somehow she never got around to the second chapter of any of the books. It was too late to return them now.
Most of the books had been checked out over spring break. It was now early June. Great Bend was a small town and eventually, any day now, Jewell Kanega, the town’s fiendish librarian, would be down on Quick’s head like a blue-haired harpy; a blue haired harpy who was not above serving a bench warrant for unreturned books. Quick knew this from sad experience.
She sat up in bed and massaged her aching temples. This was Thursday night. Tomorrow was Friday. She had only to get through Friday without being contacted by the Great Bend Public Library or its lawful representative, the Great Bend Police Department, and she would be home free. By Sunday, if her luck held, she would be far beyond the reach of the establishment.
A record dropped onto the turntable: “Quicksilver Girl.” Quick sighed. The song was so her. She truly knew every branch on the tree.
She threw herself onto her bed and tried her damndest to sleep.
Downstairs Quick’s parents were still noisily reuniting, reminiscing, celebrating. Underlying the strident joy, cubes clinked against tumblers. Adults were so phony, so devoid.
Uncle Bobby laughed. He sounded like a jackass. Quick winced. She closed her eyes and cleared her mind by mentally chanting ommm. Surely she could summon the wisdom to untangle this tangled skein of karma that the Fates had snipped.
“Who’s that guy laughing like a mule?” A sleepy voice asked from the bunk below.
“My Uncle Bobby. He’s not my real uncle. He’s my godfather. He used to be Dad’s business partner but they split up. They don’t get along very well but Mom and I love him. He had a daughter named Cyndi who died of polio before I was born so he kind of adopted me,” Quick answered, not because it was relevant but because she thought that history was an important tool in uncovering Truth.
“Do you love him a lot?” Dawg yawned.
“Yeah, I do.”
“Then I’m sorry I said he laughed like a mule.”
“It’s okay. Remember what I said about your Aunt Bathie the first time I met her?”
“You had a point, Quick.”
“Adults. Why is it so hard to love them? God knows, we try.”
“They drink too much.” Dawg rolled over and began to snore.
Quicksilver reached under her pillow for a slim edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets. An engraved invitation held her place at a particular sonnet. She did not need to read the invitation. She knew it by heart. She did not need to read the sonnet. Mr. Kanega, her high school English teacher, had required his seniors to learn it by heart: Let me not to the marriage of true minds…
Quick choked back a sob. It was true – so awfully, irrevocably true. Life was a sad, dreary travesty without True Love. She replaced the book under her pillow. In doing so, she dislodged The Magus. It was a hefty volume and landed with a thud.
“Damn it!” Dawg growled from the bottom bunk.
“Sorry. I thought you were asleep.”
“Quick, you’re going to have to start picking up after yourself! You won’t have a maid, or me, after you’re married,” Dawg bitched, throwing the book onto the overloaded window seat.
“Sorry. Go back to sleep.”
“I’ve been awake for a week. Some people actually had to take finals and write papers. Every time I close my eyes, I see ibids. My flight was delayed. I sat in O’Hare for two hours then we took off in a thunderstorm. Flying scares the snot out of me in calm skies,” Dawg bitched on.
“I’m sorry. Go back to sleep,” Quick soothed her one-time roommate and soon-to-be maid of honor.
Dawg had never been west of the Mississippi. She was in culture shock. Worse, her parents were in Nairobi and would be until July. They hadn’t even waited for their firstborn child to return from her first year of college. When Dawg got back to Chicago on Monday, she would be living in an empty apartment. Dawg hated living in an empty apartment more than flying through thunderstorms.
Of course, living in an empty apartment wasn’t nearly as ponderous as marrying the wrong man the day after tomorrow. Quick’s thoughts turned to her personal predicament. She sought comfort from a small bag tucked into her windowsill.
“Damn it, Quick! Are you smoking a reefer up there?”
“I’m just finishing the pony we started on the way home from the airport.”
“Smoking pot in bed is what got you kicked out of the dorm in the first place!”
Magnanimously, Quick passed the roach down.
Dawg snatched it from her fingers, took it into the bathroom and flushed it, muttering, “Told you that I’m swearing off that stuff. It’s counterproductive, and don’t try to say it’s not. Look what it’s done for you. Drop out of school before finals… Look at this room! Be my luck. Torch yourself on a pyre of overdue library books and I’m on the bottom bunk! Just my luck!”
Quick almost laughed but at the last minute decided not to. After all, she was brokenhearted and her best friend did not care.
“Jeez! Quick! Your parents are just downstairs!” Dawg harped on, climbing into bed and slugging her pillow.
“Dawg, we are in Great Bend, Kansas, population fifteen-thousand uptight and white establishment zombies. We could light up in the middle of my parent’s cocktail party and they all would compliment us on rolling our own cigarettes!”
“That is the clear, sharp thinking that got you kicked out of our dorm room,” Dawg muttered.
“Ommmmm,” Quick droned, peering into her soul to find tranquility. She would not snap. She would not feel anger. The crickets squeaked. The highballs clinked. She cleared her mind and made it a receiver for the clear, Aquarian Transmission.
“Quick, I’m sorry. I’m tired and pissed at my parents. I didn’t mean to take it out on you,” Dawg apologized, after a moment.
Quick gathered the nearest books into a safe pyramid then dropped them semi-gently, one by one onto the floor. “It’s okay. I couldn’t sleep anyway. My whole life is zooming down the tubes, and fast. I’ve been up to my ass in bad luck since spring break. Like these library books. I just know that our bitchy librarian is scribbling up a bench warrant so they can take me away in handcuffs first thing tomorrow morning. It will ruin my wedding, and you know how Walt has been bitching about this big expensive wedding – he says I’m not mature enough to get married. He’ll freak out for sure when they take me away to the slammer for overdue library books. This time, I bet he won’t even go my bail!”
“Maybe he will. Your dad seems like a nice guy – when you’re not around.”
Quick took her fingers through her crazy, curly mop of hair and sighed. “If I hadn’t been kicked out of the dorm, I wouldn’t have had to live in that moldy basement apartment to finish out the semester. If that apartment hadn’t been haunted, Tizz wouldn’t have been sleeping with me when my parents drove up to surprise me for Easter. If the damned school had not spitefully given out my new address, my folks would have never found me, much less discovered that I’d been kicked out of the dorms for smoking.”
“But only for smoking tobacco. The nuns bought the cigarette story. That was a piece of luck. You pinched the letter to your folks out of the mailbag on the first try. If that’s not luck, I don’t know what is,” Dawg reasoned.
Quick was having none of it. “If my parents hadn’t barged into my apartment on Easter morning, if Lil hadn’t started screaming and if Walt hadn’t started chasing poor Tizz around the apartment, beating on him in his nakedness, I would never have told them that we were engaged and getting married in June!”
“Day after tomorrow.”
“Don’t!” Quick held her spinning head.
Dawg sighed. “Look, Quick, this isn’t about true love. This is a simple case of pre-wedding jitters. We studied this in Psych. You’d know it if you’d ever gone to class. Dad told me that he puked every morning for a week before he married Mom.”
“Your parents hate each other.”
“But they’re still together.”
“I feel nauseous.” Quick slung the book of sonnets onto the window seat and folded her pillow over her eyes.
“What are those squeaking things? They’re driving me nuts.”
“My parents and their friends.”
“No. Out the window.” Dawg made a shadowy gesture towards the open screen over the window seat.
Completely stymied, Quick listened intently before grinning. “Crickets.”
Dawg sat up fast. “Bugs? Where are they? I can’t sleep with bugs squeaking around! Can’t you roach fog them or something?”
Quick giggled. “You can’t kill crickets. Where would your karma be if you went around murdering Jiminy Cricket?”
“Somebody must have murdered them in Chicago. I’ve never heard anything like this. Like fingernails on a blackboard!” Dawg pulled her pillow over her ears like a deerstalker hat. She tied it with the belt from her robe.
Silence, except for Uncle Bobby, and the crickets, descended upon the bedroom, but sleep eluded Quick. Wide eyed, she wrestled with angels and demons; she pondered the mysteries of love.
Dawg, on the other hand, was bummed by the pillow-proof crickets. She sat up and threw her pillow hat. “Just back out. Your parent’s can’t force you to marry someone you don’t love. They aren’t evil.”
“I don’t know. They’re pretty medieval when it comes to pre-marital sex… and on some level, I do love Tizz – maybe truly.”
“He is a hunk.”
Quick nodded then sighed, long and hard. “At first, my attraction to him was purely carnal. We were so shallow back in our sophomore year, but then we had Mr. Kanega for American Lit. When Mr. Kanega taught Walden, it was an awakening for our whole class. Tizz began to take his column in the Panther Tales seriously. He walked off the football team in protest over the crew cut rule. Mr. Kanega told me that Tizz alone, of all his students, saw the world through Thoreau’s eyes!”
“‘Simplicity and clear vision,’” Dawg quoted Emerson, reverently.
“Right on, Dawg. That’s when my love for him matured. I no longer saw Tizz, my scruffy neighbor boy or Tizz, the captain of the football team. I saw Tizz, the Old Soul, the transcendental pilgrim. I burned for him. When I developed the hots for his soul, as well as his body, there was no stopping us. We didn’t need a piece of paper to say what we meant to each other. We became one. That’s what I told my parents – after they stopped hollering and chasing us around.”
It was Dawg’s turn to sigh, just as gustily. “So, Saturday morning you get the piece of paper. Then you can live happily ever after without your father beating up on Tizz in his nakedness. Is that so unlucky? I never had a boyfriend at all.”
Quick closed her eyes and dealt her thoughts like cards in a mental game of solitaire. Dawg spoke the truth. All that she said was in the deal, but Quick was dealing from a short deck and only Quick knew it. There was a part that she never told:
The itch was gone the morning after she had scratched it. The fire was out the morning after she had kindled it. The case was cured the morning after she had doctored it. She didn’t talk it around. She didn’t like to think about it. She felt as shallow as a finger bowl at a cajillion-dollar-a-plate fundraiser. True love was supposed to be an ever-fixed mark, not a shooting star.
Quick squinted and peered, although her eyes were closed, far into the mystical reaches of the netherworld. Past the silver and blue shores of Narnia, past the fireworks that bordered Never-Never Land, beyond the patchwork circle that was Oz, there was a web, somewhere, somehow; a black and silver web woven across the void. A scrap of that web was embedded into every soul that had ever been, or would ever be. Humanity was strung out, soul to soul, across that web, like dewdrops on moonlit gossamer. That web was the universe.
Somehow, somewhere, Quick had snaffled a line in that web. It had happened about the time she’d started sleeping with Tizz. It was then that her luck had curdled. “I must go to him,” she said softly.
“You went to him,” Dawg muttered from between clenched teeth.
“Words failed me.”
“You puked in his peonies!”
“That was the Boones Farm. I must see him tonight.” Quick threw back her quilt.
In climbing out of the top bunk, she started a meteor shower of library books. Dawg ducked, swore half-heartedly, and tossed them onto the window seat.
Quick slipped into the bathroom where she washed her face, brushed her teeth and threw on a pair of faded blue jeans. Topless, she ran to her dresser and took a white cotton t-shirt from the drawer. Over this, she donned a chambray shirt that had ‘Quicksilver’ embroidered in silver thread just over her breast pocket – Dawg’s handiwork.
“Didn’t you hear that lecture your mom gave you about the no-bra thing? You’d better put one on!” Dawg called across the room.
She mumbled through a mouth full of bobby pins. “Dawg, I am an A cup. What’s the point?”
“He’s a teacher! What if he calls your mom and tells her that you’re going around town without a bra?”
“He won’t notice. He never sees anything but books and lecture notes.”
“But what if he does?”
Quick glanced at herself in silhouette and gave herself a secret thumbs-up. “It might do him some good.”
“I thought you had only spiritual hots for him.”
Quick took a pick to her mop of blonde curls then anchored it down with six or seven more bobby pins and a tie-dyed bandana. “This is what I need to clear up. Am I spiritually hot for him or is it carnal? I owe this to Tizz. I need to be sure. Tizz could be having doubts, too!”
“Tizz gave up everything for you. He traded his MG for a secondhand bug. He’s clearing the land for you!” Dawg protested.
“All of my life, I have been drawn to this one man. I can’t… Look Dawg,” Quick said, taking a small wooden chest, carved with larkspur and daisies, from her top dresser drawer. “Here is every hall pass he ever wrote for me. See? He wrote funny stuff on them. For: La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Signed: The Knight. Don’t you see? Mr. Kanega is my courtly love; the one man who would slay a dragon for me.”
“Tizz has blisters on his hands for you.”
Quick was busy rummaging through a half unpacked suitcase. “But if Tizz isn’t my soul mate I shouldn’t marry him. If it turns out that Tizz is my soul mate, then I must say goodbye to my mentor. I made these for him, in Eagle Point Park by the sacred Indian springs, last semester, as a token of all we have been to each other. I must give them to him before I marry another.” Tenderly, Quick opened a small ceramic box and took out a string of beads.
“Love beads? Teachers don’t wear love beads! Is this the clown you’re mooning over?” Dawg asked, holding up an open yearbook, turned to the faculty page.
“I told you not to look him up! He’s all different in person!” Exasperated Quick snatched the yearbook and threw it to the back of her impossibly cluttered closet.
“He wears a bow tie?” Dawg gestured to heaven.
“It was a joke. He was protesting the dress code,” Quick lied.
“He is forty-thousand years old!”
Dawg threw up her hands. “Same difference. You’re only eighteen.”
“Tizz may not be your soul mate but he does have hair!” Dawg did not mean to be spiteful, it was just that Quick was beautiful and she was not. Beautiful girls never saw the charm of beautiful boys. Beautiful boys never looked at Dawg.
Quick fished a pair of tennis shoes from under her bed. A cobwebby copy of the Golden Bough came with them. She tossed it onto the heap and laced the sneakers as she talked. “He has hair. It’s just really blond so it doesn’t show up in pictures. All of his sisters are blond. He has five sisters. He’s not married because he has bad luck. He was engaged to our gym teacher but it fell through. My mom says that his mother and sisters made short work of her. Mom used to babysit him and his sisters. See, all of the Kanegas have bad luck. They’re famous for it. His father died in a famous freak accident when Mr. Kanega was still in grade school. All of his life, the poor guy has had to work to support his family, because he’s the only boy. Mr. Kanega’s mother works at Duckwalls. She’s in charge of the fabric and sewing section. She’s a bitch on wheels. My mom told me that, and believe me, my mother is the woman who wrote the book on bitchy, so she knows what she’s talking about! Mrs. Kanega brings home all the fabric that nobody buys, then makes her daughters sew their clothes out of it. Then they have to wear them until they wear out! Even if they go out of style!” Quick grimaced.
Dawg frowned. “Thoreau would have loved that.”
Quick scoffed. “Not when he saw how nothing matched. Look at his pictures. Everything he wore was white or black. Classic. I hate mismatched stuff. It’s so depressing. My mother says that most women are looking for rich, tall guys; not poor, short English teachers. So see? Cotton and I have that bad luck in common. It might be a sign. Anyway, forget that year book picture. Appearances don’t count.”
“Then wear a bra!”
Quick stood on the window seat and raised the window screen.
“What are you doing?” Dawg hissed, coming out of her bunk.
“Sneaking out my window.”
“You can’t do that. It’s dangerous. I thought you were afraid of heights.”
Quick shot a glance at the dark ground under her window then looked away. She took a grip on the window sash. “Tizz and I have been sneaking out since we were in sixth grade. I’ve been doing this so long, it doesn’t bother me… much.”
“Don’t you want your car keys?” Dawg asked, jingling the keys.
“I have to walk. My grandmother lives next door to Mr. Kanega. I can’t park my car anywhere near there. If someone sees my car, they will ask Grandma or Uncle Fritz about it. You know how Uncle Fritz loves to rat me out to my folks.”
“Walk? You’re going to walk? Just walk? Outside? In the dark? Alone? Walk?” Dawg was at the window, trying to coax Quick back into the bedroom.
“This is not Chicago, Dawg.” Quick stepped onto the porch roof.
“Wait! What if he’s a pervert? You’ll be all alone with no bra!”
“A pervert? Cotton Kanega? He blushes at the earthy parts in Shakespeare.” Quick shook her head at her friend’s naiveté, stepping nimbly across the porch roof then climbing down the trumpet-vined trellis.
Quick Fixes, this romantic comedy by Shakey Smith will be available for purchase in digital, print and Kindle formats on November 22, 2012.
|Posted on September 25, 2012 at 9:30 AM||comments (0)|
As I understand it I am supposed to write something about why I wanted to be a writer. The sad truth is that there is no “want” about it.
I can never remember a time that I wasn't writing or thinking about writing. We have a snapshot of me writing when I was just over a year old. Every morning about dawn I would climb out of my crib, go to the dining room table and scribble on paper with a pencil. When asked what I was doing out of bed, I would answer writing. One morning Dad snapped a picture of me. I am in a baby nightgown with a pencil in my hand and a paper in front of me, frowning at the flash. In my mind I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and was a little irritated that no one was taking me seriously.
And that is still the way of it. At least with my family. My teachers were always encouraging me to write but everyone in my family knew that scribbling on paper was not going to pay the bills. With my family dreams were to be avoided at all costs—they were a waste of time and money. Talk about parade pissers! So I kept my writing secret.
My mother did believe that someday I might have a nice column on the society page of the Great Bend Tribune but that hope died when I stopped wearing bras and teasing my hair—never mind that every other girl in my generation was doing the same thing. My lack of sixties fashion sense was the last straw.
Mom could see that I would never make the society page or snag a husband without a pointy bra and bubble hair. She flat refused to pay college tuition unless I went for nursing or teaching. I hate blood more than grading, so I became a teacher.
Wonder of wonders I did manage to marry, have three children and a couple of careers. Of course, I always wrote, but only for myself, usually in the early morning hours because the house was quiet and no one could piss on my parade.
At first I just scribbled in bits and pieces, kind of like quilt blocks. Even I could see that my writing wasn't very good. But I couldn't stop. Thank God. Forty years is a long time to do something without improving on it. Slowly, over the years, I got better and the blocks came together to form novels.
I daydreamed Show Me the Way while driving through Rush County on my way to classes at Fort Hays. My husband told me about his cousin nearly strangling on a worm—that story, interwoven with stories about funerals and bedbug crazy families, became Robe & Crown. My newest novel, Quick Fixes is based on a couple of three stories I heard in college about skinny dipping, communes, and crushes.
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Watch for Shakey's Novella, Quick Fixes, which will be released November, 2012.
The next installation in her Dupees of Gray County Series, Fruit Salad and Wings, will be released in early 2013.