Fiction: Adventurous Thoughts

As Thankful hung the last diaper, she heard Fahy’s laughter in the front parlor. Forgetting how she looked, she ran inside, trailing suds and sand behind her. “Thankful, you look a caution!” Fahy said with a grin. He liked the way she looked.

Thankful nodded his way but addressed her enemy. “Miss Peckham, Mr. Weldon was here awaiting your orders, and he was very sore!”

“Do you mean physically? Because we met him on officers’ row and he was cheerful as a bird in summer. Don’t you agree, Mr. Fahy?” Miss Peckham turned to the officer with a smile.

Fahy nodded in agreement then met eyes with his fiancée. “Miss Crenshaw, I was hoping you might be done with your chores so we could take a ride. I nearly have to get back to work, but our horses are warmed up.”

“Warmed up?”

“Yes, I hope you don’t mind that I let Miss Peckham ride Durie.”

“That horse needs firmer discipline and less feed. If he were my horse, he’d receive a sound thrashing,” Miss Peckham bragged.

Fahy gave Thankful an exasperated look. Thankful dug her fingernails into the soft wood of the little dining table. “It’s very pathetic that you must prove your masculinity by mistreating animals, Miss Peckham. Mr. Fahy never should have been such a gentleman to take you out, but you probably strong armed him.”

“I will have you know, Miss Thankful Crenshaw, that I’ve won at many women’s riding events in New York!”

“Isn’t New York famous for its corruption? It’s the only way you could win a horse show–or a beauty contest,” Thankful said.

Fahy stood with his cigar hanging from his mouth. Miss Peckham tossed her gloves and hat on the sofa and ran up the stairs to Thankful’s room. Fahy and Thankful listened to her muffled cries.

“Damn it, Thankful, that was low of you. Peckham’s no great shakes, and she’s a pest, but really—you’re better than to be so—well—so vicious.”

“She abuses my horse and I’m low?” Thankful asked.

“Well, I took the whip from her pretty quick,” Fahy said.

“Thank God for small favors.”

“Mrs. Markham said that you threw a tantrum over an egg . . .”

“Land sakes! Not even an egg gets by people in the army! I just hate Miss Peckham. She told me last night she was only being nice to William for his family’s connections to the military.”

Fahy laughed. “So what? I’m so tired of Bill Weldon. I don’t care a fig, and you shouldn’t either.” He pulled her close. “I love that you care so much about your homefolk and all, but a different man than me might get jealous.”

Thankful looked at his sunburned and freckled face and his impressive sun-bleached mustache. “My sweet lieutenant, you are the most attentive, kind person I’ve ever met. I hope one day we’ll have adventures of our own.”

“Adventures? You amuse me. Sometimes you really act your age.”

Thankful pulled away. “What does that mean?”

“Well, nothing exactly—you’ve got very romantic and naïve ideas. It’s adorable.”

“Miss Peckham has all the adventure she wants and . . .” Thankful began.

Fahy tapped her nose. “And she will most likely spend her life alone.”

“She has such a full life and . . .”

Fahy grinned. “I thought you didn’t much admire Miss Peckham? Anyway, won’t your life be full enough taking care of me?”

“I plan to care for you, but is that all?” Thankful asked, feeling sweat trickle down her spine.

“No, of course not. There’ll be children and we can take trips if you like.” Fahy looked worried. “Won’t I satisfy you?”

“Oh, Mr. Fahy, you already do. But I never have any larks with you. We both work so hard. I want to play a little more than I do now—don’t you?”

“Life is about work, I’m afraid. Childhood is almost over for you, Thankful. There’s no point clinging to it. That just makes the adjustment more painful.”

Thankful sniveled. “But when we are married won’t we still dance and ride?”

“Of course, silly,” he said.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

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“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: Dirty Diapers

When was there a time when Thankful did not have to concern herself with diapers? Now as Thankful scrubbed shit far from her family, she wondered why she had traveled a great distance only to immerse her hands in dirty laundry water again. Her tantrum may have ruined a friendship with Mrs. Markham, who had been a kinder mother to her in a few months than Margaret had been in her entire lifetime. Either way—in Englewood or Arizona—she was pushing other folks’ strollers.

“Say! Anyone at home?” William called as he came around the back gate. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting to see you, Thankful.”

Thankful’s dress and her stylish apron hung sodden and dirty. “I live here don’t I? What do you want?”

“Um, well . . . are you all right?” William asked.

“I’m perfectly fine, William. You must be wrecked after the show you put on for the garrison last night,” she said, punching at the diapers in the basin and giving herself an uncomfortable splash in the eye.

“Funny thing; I’m right as rain,” William replied, tipping his hat back and leaning on the gate. “I always sleep well at army posts. My legs are sore, but . . .”

“Well, that serves you right—hopping around foolishly!”

“I can’t hop, Thankful, so I guess you’re wrong on that. As far as being a fool—well—I don’t mind if I was!” William laughed.

“Why are you here, William? I’m too busy for small talk.”

He didn’t seem to mind how angry and upset Thankful was.

“Well, yes, um, is Miss Peckham in?”

“No!” Thankful replied, huffing as she punched the wet diapers in the water. “She’s not in. She’s doing ‘research’ on the army species of man. She’s man enough—she needs no study.”

“Which way did she go? I wanted to know if she needed anything else from town before I head back.”

“Perfume and plenty of it!” Thankful said.

“What? Oh, your idea of a joke, I guess. Anyway, you don’t seem to know much so I’ll be on my way, Thankful.”

“Oh, yes, girls in trousers are much cleverer than the rest of us!” Thankful muttered as William closed the gate behind him, and was gone.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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Fiction: Escape to Marriage

Working for the captain’s wife is no longer the lark it once was.

Thankful marched back into the Markhams’ finding Miss Peckham, dressed in one of Mrs. Markham’s plain visiting dresses and brushing out the matron’s long, mousy hair.

“Be a dear, Thankful, and do up the egg—fried—while Miss Peckham shows me the latest style.”

Miss Peckham stopped a minute appraising Thankful’s dark curls. “I could show you how they wear their hair in New York these days, Miss Crenshaw.”

“I know how they do hair in New York! I like to wear my hair my way!” Thankful responded storming to the kitchen.

By the time Mrs. Markham joined her, Thankful was in tears again. “Thankful, why are you so upset?”

Thankful shook her head. “I don’t care for Willy any more than a friend, but he’s from home, is all. That’s all it is, but Miss Peckham—I just hate her, and I’m sorry, but I can’t have her in my room. I work for that space, and it’s unfair that I should have to share.”

“Thankful Crenshaw, that is a very unchristian way to be, and I’m surprised.”

“Why should I have to be her slave?” Thankful asked rolling her sleeves.

Mrs. Markham laughed. “Don’t be so naughty. When you’re married, it won’t do to start fires with other women. Some army wives are just as—difficult as Miss Peckham.”

“I didn’t start anything! And I’ve never met anyone in the army as horrid as Miss Peckham!” Thankful said just above a whisper.

“Hold your tongue, Thankful. Miss Peckham’s a guest, and I hate to make mention of it, but your work here includes cooking.”

“Ordinarily I don’t mind that a bit. You know that!”

“You must never mind it when I have a guest,” Mrs. Markham said.

“But she got up late . . .” Thankful tried with no success.

Mrs. Markham folded her arms, but was distracted by Fahy’s knock at the door. Miss Peckham led him into the hallway.

“Morning ladies, I didn’t see Miss Crenshaw out on the grounds. I was wondering if she’s still unwell.”

Mrs. Markham met Fahy in the dining room. “Thankful is fine but busy making breakfast for our guest. I’ll tell her you inquired.”

Miss Peckham smoothed her hair back and grabbed her hat from the table. “Oh, Mr. Fahy, would you to show me around the place?”

“For Miss Peckham’s research . . .” Mrs. Markham added.

“Well, I suppose I could,” Fahy hesitated. “I’m free now for about an hour, if you’d like . . .”

Thankful jumped out from the kitchen. “Miss Peckham, here’s your breakfast!”

Fahy tried to greet Thankful, but the other ladies were in the way.

“Oh, Miss Crenshaw, dear, set it aside for me,” Miss Peckham said. “I’ll be back for it later.”

Thankful walked back into the kitchen and slammed the fine china plate against the counter, chipping it. She glanced behind her, found the chipped fragment and hid it in Miss Peckham’s burnt egg. After covering the plate with a cloth, Thankful untied her kitchen apron and pinned on the prettier one she’d made for walks with the children and hurried into the dining room just as Lieutenant Fahy escorted Miss Peckham out the front door.

“Thankful, dear, I’ve decided that today I’d like a stroll with the children,” Mrs. Markham said. “My nerves are shattered with still no word from the captain. But there’s a small bit of baby’s soiled things that need washing. Miss Peckham mentioned that she was highly sensitive to smells. You don’t mind, do you?”

“No, of course not. I love cleaning diapers,” Thankful said.

“Get used to it,” Mrs. Markham said with a smile. “Mr. Fahy wants plenty of children.”

“Well, I guess he’ll have them with someone else. I’ve told him I’d only like one, maybe. I’ve been sent off with my father to rescue babies from breech birth and all. I don’t want any of that!” Thankful declared.

“One baby?” Mrs. Markham laughed. “What’s the point of one? Immigrant families are having upwards of nine or ten.”

“It’s not my job to populate the world!” Thankful complained. “You and my mother are doing a fine job of that.”

“I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Thankful! Next you’ll be like our visitor discussing suffrage for women,” Mrs. Markham said tapping her closed fan once before opening it and using it to shoo the children out the door.

“I’m nothing like her! What has the vote got to do with anything in my life? I only don’t want so many little ones—is that a crime? And I don’t know why Mr. Fahy would discuss his plans with you, not me!”

“Mr. Fahy is a fine man, but he’s a Catholic and they don’t believe in . . .” Mrs. Markham whispered, “and with the Comstock laws . . .”

“My father is a doctor. I know all about how to prevent babies. I don’t want to hear any more about the lieutenant being Catholic! My mother is extremely upset over it–as if she is so damned religious!” Thankful bawled.

“Thankful, when you’re finished with the laundry, wet a rag and go to your room for a rest—you are over excited today.”

“I’m the same as I ever am! Why didn’t you send Miss Peckham to my room when she spoke her mind? I’m not your child to send to bed!” Thankful cried.

“Well, you’re behaving like a spoilt one. I’m appalled. I feel great affection for you, but you’re acting disrespectful,” Mrs. Markham said, pulling her bonnet ties tight.

“As you hinted over the cooking,” Thankful said, “I’m just your hired help. I should have realized it sooner before considering you to be a real friend. I won’t make that assumption again.”

“You’re breaking my heart, young lady. I didn’t realize how you resented your work here! I was doing you a favor!” Mrs. Markham said.

Thankful sobbed. “And I haven’t done you a favor? Watching the children and cooking and cleaning while you lounge drinking nice lemonade! But I never minded. I’ve been very grateful to you until this minute. You’ve humiliated me in front of the lieutenant and Miss Peckham. Why did I have to get her that egg? Toast was fine for the rest of us!”

“To lose your temper over a ridiculous egg confounds reason!” Mrs. Markham said. “I have my own more important troubles. I shouldn’t have to keep you and Miss Peckham from each other’s throats! I do love you dearly, but you are a shallow and insensitive girl at times. Miss Peckham shall be treated as a guest—and that is my final word on it.”

Thankful wiped angry tears from her eyes and turned to the laundry basket. She fed the stove and hauled water to be heated. She scraped and cleaned diapers made messy from the disagreeable diet and water of Arizona in the sandy backyard.

“I cannot wait to be married and able to do what I want for once,” she mumbled, filling the basin in the yard with the hot water.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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An August Midnight by Thomas Hardy

I

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter–winged, horned, and spined –
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands . . .

II

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
– My guests parade my new-penned ink,
Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl, and sink.
“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

 

NOTE: In August guests arrive here at Middlemay Farm. The tomatoes ripen and children beg for visits to the lake. My time for blogging will be limited depending on how the August moon strikes me, but please come by for a series of guest posts (starting on Sunday) called Family History. The posts are written by some of my favorite bloggers. I may still post some fiction and hope to make visits to your blogs, but you never know in August here on the farm.

All the best ~

Adrienne

Fiction: The Morning After Pill

Thankful Crenshaw wakes to find her position at Fort Grant changed.

Thankful had just finished buttoning up the smallest child for a walk out in the morning air when Miss Peckham, wrapped in one of Thankful’s favorite robes, descended the stairs from the bedroom. Miss Peckham motioned for one of the children to give up his seat and pointed to the door. The child left politely.

“Oh, I’ve such a head this morning! Late nights can be such a bother,” Miss Peckham lamented. “And such busy bees you are; banging around all morning.”

“Have you been crying?” Thankful asked.

Miss Peckham gave her a barely tolerant look. “No, of course not. Why?”

“Your eyes are horribly puffed and your poor complexion is so ruddy.”

Mrs. Markham scolded Thankful with her eyes. “Miss Peckham, are you hungry?”

“Positively famished,” Miss Peckham said while adjusting Thankful’s flower arrangement on the dining table.

“Too bad you missed breakfast,” Thankful said, scooping up a toddler.

Miss Peckham smiled. “My, Miss Crenshaw, with that child in your arms you look like a dear old matron.”

Thankful opened her mouth to speak, but Mrs. Markham again stepped in. “Thankful, please go to the kitchen and fetch our guest coffee and toast.”

“Have you got eggs?” Miss Peckham asked.

“No, I’m sorry . . . but Thankful will go next-door to Mrs. Tremble, and see if she’s got an egg to spare.”

Thankful deposited the messy toddler onto Miss Peckham’s lap and stormed off to Mrs. Tremble’s quarters. She knocked until the hired-on Mexican girl Anita answered, peeved at the racket. Thankful pushed past the servant. It annoyed Anita that Thankful held her nose so high when she was still just hired help until she married Lieutenant Fahy.

Mrs. Tremble spent hours upon hours doing needlework and studying the occult. She claimed to talk to dead soldiers though living ones did their best to avoid her and her weird husband who’d lost one of his eyes to a bear (though some said it was a bar brawl in St. Joseph). He never bothered with a patch.

Mrs. Tremble’s eyes were serpentine green and her dark old teeth gave Thankful shivers. But who cared about her feelings now that Miss Peckham was here? Thankful sniffled.

“Miss Crenshaw, how nice to see you.”

“I-I need an egg, please.”

“Excuse me?” Mrs. Tremble said over her glasses as she pulled a red thread through her needlework.

Thankful burst into tears. “An egg. May I borrow one?”

Mrs. Tremble dropped her work and went to Thankful. “My dear, what in heaven’s name is wrong? Of course you may have an egg. Take two even . . .”

“No, no, it’s not the egg,” Thankful sobbed, wiping her eyes on her apron. “Oh, I don’t know what it is exactly.”

“Have you and the lieutenant quarreled? Do tell!”

“No, never mind. I’ve just behaved childishly, but Miss Peckham is so awful!”

“Miss Peckham? The lady on the horse?” Mrs. Tremble asked.

“Yes, and I think that she’ll take advantage of William.”

“I’ve never seen your friend William smile so much as he did last night at the dance.”

“I don’t care!” Thankful cried. “And we’ve had breakfast already, and she has the nerve to ask for an egg after she was offered toast! Miss Peckham is forward and ugly—don’t you agree?”

“Now Thankful, I’ve never heard you be so mean before. It’s unattractive.”

“Have you got any spells maybe?” Thankful eyed the mantle full of skulls and glass balls.

“Spells?” Mrs. Tremble giggled. “I’m afraid not, but here’s some advice—there’s no protecting others in love.”

“Love? Who said anything about that? William was drunk, and that’s why he behaved so foolishly. He’ll realize it today, I bet.”

“Or not. Bill didn’t look so foolish to me,” Mrs. Tremble said. “He’s a handsome young man. Miss Peckham seems to have done him a world of good. He was never meant for you, young lady.”

“No. You’re wrong,” Thankful said blushing. “I mean about Miss Peckham. May I have the egg, please?”

Mrs. Tremble returned to her chair and rocked. “Anita will give you one. Cheer up; your friend will be fine. You’ll see, dear.”

“I think that I know my friend best, Mrs. Tremble, but thanks all the same.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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The Motherless Ones

Not just poets and heroes lose mothers.  Some lose their mothers to childbirth, still others to drugs and some when they are rescued from women who fracture the skulls and clavicles of children not old enough to walk.

William Cowper at the age of six lost his mother. His baby brother was the cause. They lived the only two of seven to survive childhood in Cowper’s family.

William grew close to his mother’s family, he attended school and studied Latin. It is said that he fell in love with his cousin Theodora, but his uncle refused to let the two marry. From time-to-time he suffered depressions that on occasion plunged him into insanity and stays at the asylum. He tried to commit suicide multiple times but destiny and friendship prevented his success.

At a post-adoption support group we started attending my husband and I listened to the stories of women who became mothers to orphans. These women had many years of experience behind them and a learned patience and strength I marvel at. One woman spoke of a 5-year-old Chinese orphan who tried to strangle her as she drove down a highway. The girl was so frightened, so possessed with an animal fear she could not be convinced of safety in her new home.

These motherless ones often have difficulties. My husband and I leave these meetings with an odd sense of elation. Children do progress (maybe not in the ways we dream for them) and adoptive parents do often survive. No longer do I think it’s that weird to have a child who has been institutionalized. After reading only a small portion of my child’s files I wonder why more children aren’t institutionalized.

The devoted lady who has run this support group for years asks me, “Yes, but what do you love about this child?”

I know she asks because so often these meetings become places where we laugh and vent and paint horrible pictures of all we’re going through with these motherless children.

William Cowper went insane. Did the first spark of insanity come at the loss of his mother? Who knows, but he went on to write some of the most beautiful hymns and poems. He inspired Wordsworth, Coleridge and Martin Luther King Jr. who often quoted from ‘The Negro’s Complaint‘. He befriended John Newton (who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace“) and became an ardent supporter of the abolition movement in England.

Cowper recovered his sanity for long periods of time allowing for his hymns and poems to be written. Broken children can be incredibly scary to adults. One is tempted more often then one wants to admit to desert. Cowper had people in his life who came beside him, but he had something even more important.

The lady asked me again what I liked about this child who has upset my writing and reading schedule, hurt my animals and threatens to rob my sanity with her incessant talk.

In the quiet of the basement room in the municipal building surrounded by folding chairs under ugly fluorescent light I remembered the day last week when this girl read the neuro-psychological evaluation because she thought I was hiding something from her. She read about her sister’s broken bones and so much more that only now she was beginning to remember and understand.

On the drive this weekend to drop her off at camp she looked out at the blue sky and the soft Adirondack Mountains that seemed to go on forever, one soft peak after another. ‘Let’s worship God for this,’ she said. ‘God did this. Isn’t that great?’ she asked me.

I told the lady at group that I loved how this motherless child cut to the core of things. I told her how I loved how despite being broken physically and shattered mentally she still wanted to get up each day and worship God. If I think about God at all it’s usually with complaint.

Everything is a cliche, you see. Special gifts are given to special children. Beauty can often survive great suffering. Redemption is real. Oh, it’s so boring sometimes.

But sometimes it’s not.

Fiction: Pillow Talk

“It’s too bad you suffered a headache,” Miss Peckham said as she slipped beneath the covers. “What do you suppose it was from, Thankful?”

“I guess with all the excitement today …”

Miss Peckham giggled. “You call today exciting? You really haven’t lived much have you?” Her back itched from the wool and she shifted around uncomfortably.

Thankful turned on her side. “It was foolish of you to force William to dance so much—he’ll be the laughingstock and be in pain when he sobers up.”

Miss Peckham laughed. “Is there a time when Mr. Weldon is sober? He chose for himself to dance.”

“To impress you. He doesn’t seem to have much luck with girls.”

“Well, if he kept his head out of the bottle and his, um, body out of whores, he’d present a better picture, but it’s his life. It’s not my problem,” Miss Peckham stated. “He’s a child.”

“That’s a very nice attitude.”

“Men are either children or brutes. Mr. Weldon has a few connections that will be helpful in my research. It’s in my best interest to remain on good terms with him—and truth be told, he’s not bad company for a drunk.”

“He’s more than that! Must I remind you he saved your life?” Thankful asked.

“Oh, I’m tired of hearing about that already. I gave him a thrill tonight on the dance floor so I say we’re even,” Miss Peckham replied and climbed out of bed again. “It’s so damned hot.” She pulled off the last of her clothes, the moonlight illuminating her. Thankful shut her eyes tight. “Miss Thankful, it’s curious how army women play a game of adopting all the men in camp. I don’t understand it yet, but it’s intriguing.”

“Everything you say seems so dirty and cynical,” Thankful grumbled.

“Well, Miss Thankful, I see through the false modesty and virtues of society. You just don’t enjoy feeling exposed.”

“No, I feel sorry that people like you exist,” Thankful said, turning away from her.

“The feeling is mutual,” Miss Peckham replied with a laugh.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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Save

Do You Hear Voices?

Is your world real or imagined?

The other day a distant relation sent me a thick packet with a copy of the history of our family reunions dating all the way back to the late 19th century and a ten page history, written in neat hand, of one branch of my family tree going back to the early 1600’s.

How thrilling it was to finally see a picture of my great-great grandfather Lucien as an old man and to read about the exploits of family members who escaped being scalped by Indians during the Revolutionary War and others who sadly died during the Civil War. My great-great-great-great grandmother was such a fine spinner that wealthy women paid top dollar for her work. Some family members drank too much, others were heroes and still others were exploited as children.

I knew a few of the stories through my mother but most of the history was new—yet as I read it I felt like I knew it all already. There was a satisfaction in reading it but not that sense of surprise I would have expected. My aunt told us of an unsettling dream she had about meeting many past generations in heaven. I remember my father and uncle teasing her about it, scoffing at the notion of heaven and not really wanting to discuss death since that branch tended to die young and they were all in that age window of being taken. My aunt died a few days later.

This sense of knowing the past through dead relatives, of knowing them though never having met them, is so similar to knowing the characters I write about. I’ve never been able to change a thing about a character once they appear in my mind. I’m only able to unearth deeper truths about them. It’s as if they’ve been there all along waiting for their stories to be told, not mine. When the story starts to go in a direction that isn’t true, the characters push back and demand I dig more.

Sometimes I worry that this or that thing may be too much for a reader or my characters to bear, but the characters won’t rest until I put them through the wringer. But am I putting them through the wringer or just transcribing their history? Do they live in another dimension? Will I meet them some day in heaven?

It’s odd to have this knowing and the desire to know more. Occasionally there is also a sense of being pat on the back, as if a character is whispering in my ear. Yes, that’s exactly as it was for me. Those are the best moments. And so strange. After I finish publishing this series about the Crenshaw and Weldon families I may fictionalize my family tree, but I find the line between fiction and reality blurring. I feel Buck Crenshaw and my great grandfather begging me to get things right, but what for?

Readers and writers: How real are your characters to you? How real is your past to you?

 

Are You a Critic?

“Reader, I think it proper, before we proceed any farther together, to acquaint thee that I intend to digress through this whole history as often as I see occasion; of which I am myself a better judge than any pitiful critic whatever. And here I must desire all those critics to mind their own business, and not to intermeddle with affairs or works which in no ways concern them; for till they produce the authority by which they are constituted judges, I shall not plead to their jurisdiction.” Henry Fielding

I’m (sort of) on vacation and reading Tom Jones and War and Peace (Prince Andrei just had an epiphany on the battlefield about striving for glory). The above passage by Mr. Fielding made me laugh.

ellen casinoLast week we visited the Oneida Mansion (the inspiration for Buck Crenshaw’s experience at a utopian society). My husband spotted the Oneida Casino (forget the name). It seems casinos are noted for their buffets(?). We stopped by after traveling back in time (at the casino it’s as if time stands still). I think we won $.50 but we only played about $5.00. The buffet was pretty good, but can anyone explain why there’s such a thing as an Ellen slot machine?

My tendency is to criticize noisy things. Like casinos. Despite my best intentions I ended up criticizing Ellen and the fact that slot machines no longer have levers which were the only things that made casinos even remotely bearable to me (I’ve been dragged to casinos three times in my life). My husband has no great love for casinos but he tends  to take flashing lights in stride–especially if there’s a good buffet to follow. 🙂

What about you? Are you a harsh critic? An annoying kill-joy critic or a more evolved person who realizes life is just too short to spend time criticizing? I’m somewhere in the middle (I think).

 

 

 

Fiction: Wine With Supper

“Why is it you think women would improve politics?” Thankful asked. “I’d hate for a woman like you to speak for me—nothing personal, of course, Miss Peckham. I’m fond of men. I wouldn’t want them to change.”

“Miss Crenshaw, (you seem such a smart girl), was it God who planned slavery?”

“Well, no, I guess it was men, but . . .”

“Just like it’s men who keep women from the vote. I don’t for a minute expect women to be better voters. Most women are too stupid to realize how enslaved they are and would probably waste their votes on a handsome yet stupid candidate. But if the Negro, only up from complete and utter ignorance, should vote then why not a woman? Many slaves loved their masters—or at least the security they were given. They had a home and food and a place in the order of things—just like women. They all need to see the real way of things. I consider myself an educator. . .” Miss Peckham proclaimed.

“My father never offered my mother security, and she’s devoted just the same,” William said, never missing an opportunity to snipe at his father. There was an embarrassed silence. The trumpeter called for stable duty.

“My goodness, how do you all put up with that infernal racket?” Miss Peckham complained.

“I love it,” Thankful said with her arms folded in front of her.

“Me too,” William said with a small smile at Thankful.

She offered no such response, but said quietly, “It was low of you, William, to speak so unkindly of your father in front of a stranger and old military acquaintances.”

“Bill gets a scolding. How nice,” Miss Peckham laughed.

William fumed. “Miss Crenshaw, you have no right to judge me at all!”

“I’m your friend.”

“Really?” William asked.

“Why, yes! How can you question that?” Thankful replied on the verge of tears. “Why do you want to hurt me?”

Hurt you?” William was taken aback.

Mrs. Markham spoke uneasily, “Of course we’re all friends—Bill, don’t be so silly—we ALL miss you at the post. Now, I’ll set up a nice meal for us, and we’ll get along—as we must—till morning.”

William looked at Thankful with soft eyes before turning his attention to Miss Peckham. He cleared his throat. “Mrs. Markham always has nice meals.”

“It will be an excellent chance at research,” Miss Peckham said.

“You’re not visiting a foreign land,” Mrs. Markham said, with an annoyed laugh. “Our food is of the most ordinary sort.”

“I’ll be the judge of that!” Miss Peckham laughed too.

The matron glanced at the telegraph line as she set off for home, with the small party traipsing behind.

Thankful and William understood how frugal an army wife—even an officer’s wife–must be if she had any ideas for her children’s education, or a trip east for a wardrobe change every few years. What the captain’s wife offered that evening was more than she could afford.

William ate reluctantly, figuring the little ones seated in the kitchen might be going with less, but didn’t turn down the wine. Thankful ate like a bird—an unusual trait for a Crenshaw. Miss Peckham pushed the ordinary and bland food on her plate with her fork, unimpressed.

“Maybe someone might offer to take me to a real live Indian meal,” she said as she moved her plate away.

William whispered, slurring his words, “What were you expecting soldiers to eat—Indian testicles?”

Miss Peckham let out a big guffaw as Thankful and Mrs. Markham cleared the table for coffee and tea. Thankful, standing with a few stacked plates, watched William cling to his glass, pour another and get closer to Miss Peckham.  Mrs. Markham pulled Thankful’s sleeve.

“Some are just bent on their own ruin, poor boy.”

“He’s not poor in the least; just blind,” Thankful said, storming off with the dishes.

Miss Peckham teased and flirted with William. He couldn’t think of a way to quiet her, so he drank and enjoyed it, noting the annoyed glances of Thankful.

“Miss Peckham, you’re probably too worn out to come dancing,” Mrs. Markham said.

“My goodness, of course I’m not tired a lick—your strong army coffee is quite a restorative!”

“I would think that dancing might be against your beliefs since the men lead,” Thankful said with a triumphant grin.

The captain’s wife laughed, too.

Miss Peckham ignored Thankful. “Mr. Weldon, you’ll escort me, won’t you?”

“No, I’m afraid I’m no dancer and unwelcome anyhow,” William replied.

“Bill Weldon, that’s a great fiction you’ve invented,” Mrs. Markham said. “You’ll come as my guest.”

“Well, I’ll come to watch, maybe,” William said, pouring out the last of the wine.

“It’s a shame that dances aren’t held on horseback—then you wouldn’t be so awkward, Mr. Weldon,” Miss Peckham said.

The women did not appreciate it. William excused himself for a smoke on the porch.

“Miss Peckham, you are very insensitive!” Thankful scolded.

“Mr. Weldon is still bitter over the accident that kept him from a place at West Point,” Mrs. Markham added.

Thankful had related many of William’s trials and accomplishments to the garrison. The stories were so enmeshed with her own.

“How is it that Mr. Weldon is so well-known here?” Miss Peckham asked.

“Why Miss Crenshaw and Mr. Weldon are from the same town in New Jersey—their parents are friends, and Bill’s father served in the military years ago under General Crook,” Mrs. Markham said.

“Oh, General Crook, I’ve heard he has kind feelings toward the Indians. Anyway, I’m sure you’re all well-meaning. Bill seems to be a pet to you, but a man should never be overly pampered,” Miss Peckham stated. “My remark was said in jest—Bill is a good horseman.”

“William suffered awful torment and abuse at school, and pain, too. If you had been aware of that . . .” Thankful started.

“I’m aware that he’s crippled physically, but he’s fine company, and I’m sure has many other talents—I didn’t think he needed any coddling.”

There was a new voice on the porch. Thankful ran to the stairs. “Land sakes, Lieutenant Fahy is here, and I’m not ready!”

“Miss Peckham, you may freshen up . . .”

“I need no improvement, Mrs. Markham—besides, I don’t have any of my clothes.”

The captain’s wife sensed a small chink in the young lady’s confident demeanor. “Miss Peckham, you may look through my things, though I know they’re not as modern as you may be used to. We are about the same size.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”