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

Sitting in the back of the bus

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photo credit

I’m sitting with Isaac in the back of the bus as we pass Pease Park, one of my favorites. Daddy said Governor Elisha Pease owned the land for a slave plantation. But Pease believed in the Union’s cause so I must imagine that he treated them with kindness. Pease also owned the area the area now known as Clarksville. Freedman Charles Clark Griffin bought two acres of that land for one-hundred dollars, the land where Elias Ford has his home.

But Shoal Creek, the grass and the oak trees, aren’t what catch my eye. I’d recognize that red Schwinn anywhere. He’s staring at the bus.

“Duck down, Isaac.”

Isaac doesn’t ask why until he scrunches down in the seat, his eyes wide.

“It’s asshole. He must have followed us.”

Ours is the next stop. We don’t get off. Fifteen minutes later, we find ourselves back downtown. The bus’ engine shuts off. I have to pee in a bad way.

The driver stands up, his hands on his hips. “This ain’t no tour bus,” he yells to us.

“Sorry,” I yell back. “I must have fallen asleep. I’ll stay awake this time, I promise.”

“What about you, boy?”

“Must’a dozed off too. I’m headed for Clarksville.”

When more people climb the steps to board, Dick-Driver restarts the engine.

“I think we lost him,” I say. “He won’t find me now.”

“We’re stopping at Clarksville first,” the driver fumes out.

Isaac is the only Negro on the bus.

We pull to a stop. The brakes screech.. “Out,” Dick-Driver says.

When I follow Isaac out the door, the driver shouts at me. “Where you think you’re going?”

Fifteen passengers turn their heads and glare at me.

“Home,” I say.

“Home,” Isaac says as he waits for me to get off the bus.

“What a jerk,” I mumble.

“Shoot, that was nothing. But I don’t mind saying, it feels good to be in Clarksville again. No offense or anything. I enjoyed the movie.”

“None taken. Can I use your outhouse?”

Isaac nods. “Uncle Elias keeps it real clean.”

After the bladder relief, I meet Isaac on the front porch. “I was wondering. Mind if I look at your books. I think that’s another thing we have in common. You know, movies, books, dislike for mannequins.”

“What time is it?”

“Not time for your uncle to be home if that’s what you’re asking. Besides, I won’t stay long. I have to get back to Olive’s.”

Isaac ushers me inside. Of course, I see no TV or radio.

“A hurry to get back to the mannequins?” he says.

“Yep. Can you imagine if Gladys and Fritz only have Olvie to talk to?”

Isaac snickers and points to the books. The one open next to his sleeping pallet has no writing on the outside. “Your journal?”

“Private, if you don’t mind. Now it’s my turn.” Isaac heads out the front door.

The bright green cover is the first of his books to grab my attention. The Negro Motorist Green-Book was about how to avoid problems when travelling. I dig further—The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Harriet, the Moses of Her People by Sarah Bradford.

The last book is called Black Like Me written by John Howard Griffin. Something about this book jars a Distant memory. Is it on our bookshelf at home? I open the front cover and see that it’s a library book. I pull the yellow card from its pocket. Checked out on July 31 by Sylvia Peterson. The day she disappeared.

Excerpt from my WIP, working title Olvie and Chicken Coop, set in 1963.

 

Daily word prompt: Distant

Retaliation of the wrong kind?

Isaac grabs Olvie’s arm as she reaches the doorknob. “Olvie, don’t you do it. I don’t need protection just because a man’s called me names. I’m used to it. And you marching over there and giving him a tongue lashing will only make things worse.”

“He’s right, Olvie,” I say.

Then I realize. Isaac’s endured this kind of treatment his whole life. So have his friends and family and so many others. I also realize that the bigoted man across the street is using Isaac to calm his own domestic storm, to diffuse the quarrel by placing greater importance on what he doesn’t know as his personal fear and stupidity.

We didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. And now, Deputy Garvey has driven off.

Something else occurs to me. “Olvie? You used to harass Isaac’s uncle every morning.”

“What? You think I’m no better than Roberts of Asshole? Is that what you’re trying to say?”

It’s a thought worthy of her Pursuing. “No. I’m just wondering why you stopped messing with him.”

Olvie shrugs. “Guess having his nephew work for me is a good enough retaliation.”

“Well, that makes me feel peachy,” say Isaac.

“Oh, Wisenheimer, don’t be so sensitive. It has nothing to do with you. You, I happen to like. Your uncle and me have had a beef a long while now.”

“Why? What did he do that was so bad?” Isaac asks.

Although Olvie turns to the side, I see the tears puddle in the corner of her left eye.

“That,” she says so quietly I can barely hear her, “is a long story. It’s also my story.”

 

Work in Progress – a novel about diverse friendships in 1963.

Daily prompt: Pursue

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

 

Driving home from the hospital

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We’ve only been waiting a few minutes when Tanner pulls the green and white Pontiac up to the front of the hospital. He hops out of the car, his teeth glistening in the dim light of dusk. Soon, I’ll be the one who makes his smile go away.

He opens the passenger door for Olvie. “Miss,” he says, ushering her inside like a real chauffer.

“How many dents and scratches did you put on Pontiac?” she says.

“Only one.” He smiles. “Buffed out easy as pie.”

Olvie lets out a hoomph. “Think you’re funny, don’t you Wise Guy?”

“Yes’m. Sometimes, my funny bone pops out an’ jes’ makes the white folk laugh.”

“Stop talking like Elias. Your uncle thinks he’s living on some plantation in Mississippi picking cotton for his Master.”

Tanner starts the car and pulls away from the hospital. “Uncle Elias’ Roots are still in his ancestors cotton field. And it’s Massa, not Master.”

I catch Tanner smiling at me through the rear view mirror.

“Don’t you dare stink up my car with slave dialect,” Olvie snarls.

“As long as you don’t dress me up in a moo-moo or as an Injun.”

“Don’t be crude, Wise Guy. I’ll have you know that Fritz is no ordinary Indian.”

“That’s for sure,” Tanner mutters.

Olvie huffs. “He’s an Indian Chief, and don’t you forget it.”

 

“How do you know Fritz likes being a Chief?,” he continues. “Maybe he just wants to be a mannequin.”

“Why you!” Olvie squeaks.

“Okay, maybe he liked being a Churman and wearing those lederhosen.”

“Shows what you know. The German Fritz got tired of thinking about the damn Nazis’.”

If I hadn’t watched the news, hearing their banter would have put me in a state of euphoria. Tanner seems totally happy, almost like a new person. But, knowing what I know, nothing in the world is funny.

Excerpt from my Work in Process, Olvie and Chicken Coop (working title), set in 1963 during segregation.