We can’t find Scooter!

 

article-2017054-0cc18ad400000578-245_634x692Miss Helen paces and says, “We can’t find Scooter. I even went to the swimming hole.” Now she’s sobbing. “The water’s deep and violent. What if, what if …” She blows her nose on the handkerchief she brought with her.

There can’t be a world without Scooter Hutchings. A world where things Blossom if you believe, and where everything is so good, you can’t see any of the moldy parts. I try not to upchuck.

“What was his fit about?” Frank asks.

Miss Helen shakes her head. “He kept yelling ‘broken bones and bad ladders, broken bones and bad ladders.’ I know my Scooter was mad at the ladder after Leonard fell and broke his leg. A few days after the accident, Scooter took a hammer to it and used the rungs for whittling.”

“That’s where he got those pieces,” Frank mumbles to himself.

“But Scooter never yells. Ever.” Miss Helen keeps going. “So, I told him to go outside and play the harmonica. It helps him relax. But I forgot to check on him. I was—”

The Eveready Hour,” I say, knowing it’s her favorite show.

Frank stands up and fidget’s a stare out the front window.

Miss Helen nods and keeps crying. “The song, It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo, came on. I was thinking about the night in the storm shelter, how we were all together.”

“Well, we can’t just sit here,” Mama says, thinking my thoughts.

Think like Scooter. Think like Scooter. He’d heard Brandon’s words, knew Mr. Foley broke his kid’s bones. He took revenge on the ladder. Could he be after Mr. Foley for breaking Rachael’s arm? But Mr. Foley was on the other side of the creek, not our side. Scooter couldn’t get to him. Would he try?”

“Oh, God.” I stand up. My hands shake first, then my body.

“Emma June?” Daddy pulls me toward him and stares in my eyes. “Tell us what you’re thinking.”

So, I do.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

daily post word prompt: Blossom

Why shear a pig?

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I look out at the monster contraption in the moonshine thicket. A coiled snake-looking tube sits on top of a barrel and is attached to a copper boiler pot.

Two of me could fit inside the barrel that I tap. “What all’s in here, Miss Helen? Besides prunes and yeast.”

“Corn, rye, and a few other secrets.”

“It smells stronger? How come?”

She stands straight and proud and looks me in the eye. “Fermentation.” She smiles. “And ready to be poured.”

“I bet you wish prohibition was over so you didn’t have to work so hard at moonshining,” I say.

She lifts one eyebrow and glares at me. “Why shear a pig? I like seeing Ulysses S. Grant smile at me on his Crisp bills.”

I look at the scars on the insides of her arms. “Even if you burn yourself?”

“Those are nothing but hard work kisses. What’s important is temperature, filtration and whether or not the beading’s right.” She sets down a box of Mason jars. “Besides, what would the Mayor give his constituents if I didn’t do my job?”

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

Daily prompt: Crisp

Drinking to Dead Relatives

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Great Gatsby Franken-Farter stares at the creek. “I saw my aunt die.”

“I saw my grandpa die, too.” I remember Mama crying when she pulled the bed sheet over him and Daddy hugging her for a long time after. When they buried him, Scooter kept going back to the cemetery to see if Grandpa was sprouting from the dirt.

“Your grandpa. Was he run over by a get-away gangster, too? Like Aunt Sissy was? She didn’t Survive like your dog,” he says.

It sounds too horrible for truth. “Phonus balonus.”

“Suit yourself. You’re next?”

“Okay,” I say. But I won’t mention Miss Helen. I think for a while then decide to tell him another truth. “I’ve been Cooter Browned before,” I say, and almost taste the vomit-varnish from that night.

“Who?”

He’s not so smart after all.

“You know, I’ve been blotto before.”

His eyes crinkle when he laughs. “Let’s drink to that. Plenty of mornings I’ve had to chew my water. Tomorrow might be one of them.” He hands me the Mason jar.

I take it thinking it’s his way of making peace. I pretend to drink then hand it back.

“Where were you when you got drunk?” he says.

“At the carnival. Last weekend. The night Mama left.” I didn’t mean to say the last part. “I gotta go.”

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

 

Body Removal

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Betty doesn’t look like Betty unless you stare long enough and Miss Helen’s too busy with body removal to take a good look.

“What’s she got, Miss Helen?” Frank asks.

“I have an inkling and, if I’m right, she needs medicine right away.”

They carry her to Moonbeam like soldiers hauling the injured.

“Open both back doors,” Miss Helen snaps at me.

I open the near door first then scramble around to the other side.

“Now come back over here and hold her the front corners long enough for me to go on the other side and pull her in.”

“I …”

“You’re strong enough to hold her up for three seconds, aren’t you?” she squawks.

I take Miss Helen’s place. Now, it’s me who’s keeping up the top half of Betty, but she’s sinking in the middle. Frank stays quiet holding the corners next to his ma’s feet.

Miss Helen climbs in the back seat and grabs the sheet corners by Betty’s head. She pulls Frank’s ma inside Moonbeam like threading a human Yarn through the eye of the needle.

 

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket set in 1928

Campout over

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It was dark, like now. Miss Helen had laid out the sleeping bags. Mama had set the sandwiches and cookies she’d made in the center of a picnic cloth.

After Mama and Miss Helen had gone inside the house, Scoot and me were fine for a while. We settled in to the hum and thump of the distillery until I realized the machine was so loud, I wouldn’t be able to hear danger if it came sneaking up on us. Maybe if Choppers had been there. But he was still recovering and getting used to his missing leg.

All that day, Scoot had been excited about camping out. That’s why I didn’t tell him I was spooked. I looked up through the gaps in the trees and watched the clouds as they moved across the half moon like Blankets trying to cover a small bed. Then it got darker. The owl hooted. When we both saw its eyes, yellow and mean, Scooter said it first. “Campout over.” Then he got up and walked inside with the sleeping bag over his head.

I’m not afraid of the dark anymore. I’m not afraid of untold secrets, either. “I’m afraid for Scooter,” I tell Frank.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket set in 1928

 

Shining Bosoms

 

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photo credit

Mama liked Miss Helen’s moonshine, but only when she drank with Beauty. Once, when the summer was too hot for anything else, Mama, Scooter and me, took Beauty to the swimming hole. Mama spread out a red blanket and plopped a picnic basket on top. Scoot and me ate cheese and tomato sandwiches and crunched apples while Mama and Beauty drank Miss Helen’s hooch out of paper cups. Beauty got so ossified, she stripped naked and jumped in the creek. It Jolted me a bit, but Scooter didn’t care on iota.

“Betty Bedford, get out of the creek before you drown,” Mama said, laughing.

Then Beauty stood up in water only waist deep, her bosoms shining with moisture. She’d laughed and said, “Hard to do unless something pulls me under.”

No matter where we went, Mama and Beauty always had fun together. Except when everything went wrong.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

 

 

Learning with challenges

 

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Scoots’ hand in mine, we walk home from school. His other hand blows a new harmonica, one of many Miss Helen bought at Johnson’s Variety.

He’s getting better at playing “Has Anybody Seen My Gal.” He misses notes sometimes, but now I can almost sing along without hour-long Pauses between the words.

“You like playing, Scoot?”

He takes the harp from his mouth and wipes it on his sleeve like a real musician. “Like DeFord Bailey.”

“Who’s Difford Bailey?”

“DeFord Bailey. Best ever. That’s gonna be you someday, Scooter,” he says in a Frankish-enough voice I have to laugh. “DeFord had polio. Polio. Like me.”

“You never had polio, Scooter.”

“DeFord learned anyway,” he says, straight in my eyes.

And then I know. Scooter understands that, unlike most folks in Holly Gap, Frank believes in his abilities to learn.

Scoot drops my other hand and uses both to play us home.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket