Fiction: Bad Reputation

William almost escapes Thankful’s notice . . .

001-2The officers strode out from officers’ row and every woman, child and mongrel milled about on the parade ground. Guns were presented, cannons were fired and order was pronounced with a clarity and confidence heard nowhere else in William’s life. He marched off, trying to ignore the lines of men with gleaming buttons and bayonets, feeling the leper.

“Willy!” Thankful called, running from the Markhams’ porch on officers’ row.

The men turned to admire her, distracted from their manual of arms.

“William, wait! Where are you going? Mrs. Markham saved you some breakfast.”

The idea of food turned William green. “Thankful, no. I’ve made a right fool of myself coming here last night. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“Not much, I’d say. You were awful drunk.”

“Yes. I realize that.”

“Don’t be that way, William Weldon. You’ve made a big mess for yourself, and I don’t understand it a bit. Mr. Fahy tells me you were to go along with the Bourke fellow to study Indians, but you made excuses! The way you collected bits of the past in Englewood, I’d have thought you’d jump at the chance to really study.”

“I’m no good at study—I have brain problems, remember?”

“Oh, I’m bloody tired of hearing about that!” Thankful burst.

“Bloody? You’re two days with Fahy, and you start talking like a Brit? That’s tragic.”

“The lieutenant is IRISH, I remind you, and you’re the tragic one,” Thankful said. “What I wouldn’t do to have your chances. The only problem you have with your brain is that you so rarely exercise it!”

“That’s not fair!”

“Oh, land sakes, Willy, you’re such a child!” Thankful said, with her trademark pout. “You draw ugly things mostly. Why? Life isn’t so bad.”

“You only skim the surface of things, Thankful. I used to like that about you. But now I see that beneath your helpful cheer is a shallow, judgmental girl, who only cares for herself.” William clutched the watch in his pocket. “You didn’t come to visit me. You came to get your parents in a fit for not paying you enough attention and then you set me up for a complete humiliation just so you can gain the sympathies of the people here who were supposed to welcome me!”

“Supposed to? You earned your place in their hearts and minds long before I arrived! I feel sorry that you think I wouldn’t find you worth a visit. Back in Englewood I admired you, Willy. You always seemed to take such good care of your father and even little Lucy, who would try a saint’s patience.  But now you’re worse than even Buck and Fred—at least they don’t just sit around and complain.”

“What on Earth could they complain about?” William asked. “They’ve never had a single trial that your parents didn’t snatch them out of. Now they’re at college having a grand time, I bet!”

“And so what if they are?” Thankful replied. “You’re on a grand adventure and with more heart and talent than the two of them put together, but you ruin it for yourself! Did it ever occur to you how your parents scrimped to get you here?”

“It’s none of your concern, Thankful.”

She huffed, crossing her arms. “While you’re off wasting their money, your mother worries night and day for you and for your father—she thinks your father will up and die—so Mama says.”

“Is he that ill?”

“Well, no. I don’t think so, but your mother worries just the same.”

“I can’t worry about them anymore. I’ve spent years at it, and where’s it gotten me?” William asked.

“What an awful state of mind! Loving people is reward enough!” Thankful scolded.

“No, I want to do what feels good for me, for once.”

“And what do you think that is?” Thankful asked.

William scratched his head. “I don’t know for certain.”

“I hope it’s not just drinking and being with bad girls,” Thankful said. “You can get . . .”

“I won’t get sick. Anyway, I don’t want to do just that.” William looked at her. Thankful’s freckles seemed to have multiplied overnight. “I’d like to have a proper girl sometime, Thankful . . .”

“Then become a proper man,” she replied turning her nose up at him. “It’s a sin to Moses how you carry on.”

William rolled his eyes and scratched his head. He hoped there were no lice in Fahy’s blankets. “Thankful, will your folks send you money, do you think?”

“They might do, if I ask. My father is very generous with me. But the officers have done up a collection for me and even some of the privates and such threw in what they could. I could leave tomorrow if I liked.”

“Well, bully for you, then.”

“But I won’t go,” Thankful said.

“What?”

“I won’t take advantage of my new friends and spend their money. It’s not right. Mrs. Markham has kindly offered to keep me on for the season.”

“The season?”

“Yes, Willy. You never told me the posts are such social places. Who’d ever want to leave?” Thankful said, enjoying the fact that she’d succeeded where he failed.

William glared at her. “So you’ll stay on and be an extra mouth to feed?”

“As you know, BILL Weldon, Mrs. Markham recently popped out a new baby, and she’s all tuckered out since the last girl ran off with the married major.”

William laughed. “So you’ll be the hired help?”

“Yes, and I suppose that’s where the shoe pinches,” Thankful said. “I don’t know the first thing about cooking and cleaning.”

“You must know something about babies though,” William said. “Your mother has enough of them.”

“Yes. It will be a lark anyhow. I did mention to her that I am just above useless, but didn’t mind some training. Mr. Fahy says he’ll take me out shooting if I’d like.”

“But I thought you were terrified of guns?”

Thankful swished her fan open. “Modern weapons in the right hands are fine. My brothers used to tell me how reckless you were with guns in Englewood.”

“Englewood? The last time I shot in Englewood I was nine or ten years old! I’m a very good shot!”

“William, there is no need to make a scene over a silly old gun,” Thankful lectured. She waved to Fahy as he marched his men by, and he waved back.

William wanted to shoot them both. “I do hope you’ve sent word to your parents. The doctor deserves at least that.”

“I’ve sent a telegram,” Thankful said, “and I intend to write them today to explain my plans. Maybe you should worry about your own relations instead of ordering me.”

“Oh, hell, Thankful, I have to go.”

“Say good day to your town friends, Bill,” Thankful said and marched back inside the Markham’s.

PREVIOUS EPISODE FROM 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.”

Fiction: Sunday Morning

Waking up at Fort Grant reminds William of his father’s morphine addiction and disgrace.

The familiar call of reveille got William’s attention as always. The fife and drum reminded him of his sister Eliza and the quiet lovemaking of his parents when they thought William was asleep so long ago. His gut burned and his side ached from laying on the hard earth as he eased himself up off the blankets on the floor with a big headache.

073Fahy groaned an oath beneath a ragged old pillow and shifted his weight on the army bed. William stood up using the wall for balance. Had he lost his shoes again? No, there they were, neatly tucked beneath a solid camp chair—not the sort his family ever owned. William sat and pulled on his wretched smelling boots, hoping that it had not been Fahy who’d pulled them off for him.

Contrived clutter made the place homey. Pictures of family and friends covered a shelf on the wall and a whatnot in the corner, which looked handmade but well-crafted. A likeness of Fahy posed with a man very much like him sat next to his bed. William turned to see if Fahy was still asleep before picking up the photograph. It would have been nice to have a brother, anyone to talk to. And how did they get to be so confident and happy?

William put the image back in its spot and sat again, staring at the Indian artifacts covering one wall. He wanted to touch them but didn’t, remembering how angry he had been at his sister for destroying his collection only a short while before she died. William longed to go home and sit with his mother. She’d always helped him, and William regretted not thanking her.

Fahy burst to his feet. “Damn it, Weldon, why didn’t you wake me? I’ll be late now for stable!”

“I didn’t think . . .”

Fahy waved William off as he jumped into his boots and pulled on his white stable jacket. He griped about early mornings, poured a glass of whiskey, sugar and bitters, threw it back and ran out the door. In a second Fahy returned. “You’ll be gone before I’m back, I assume? Or are you staying for services?”

“Services?”

“Think, Weldon. It’s Sunday. So will you stay?”

“No . . . I guess not . . . I . . .”

“Miss Crenshaw might prefer not to see you,” Fahy said, this time waiting for some movement from his guest with arms crossed.

“Just give me a second to collect my thoughts,” William said. “It’s too bright out there for me this minute.”

“It’ll be sunny all day, I’d wager. Listen, I’ve got to go, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t touch anything,” Fahy began, but a trace of sympathy passed over the soldier’s face. “I’m sorry, Bill, that was uncalled for, I know.” He glanced at his clock on the shelf. “Damn, I’m really late,” he grumbled and left.

William let his mind wander while sitting in the well-worn camp chair as the band played on parade. When he opened his eyes an hour later Fahy had come and gone again. His bed was made and his dress uniform was missing from its spot. Sunday inspection. William knew he should leave, but the room soothed him. He coughed, sighed and stretched. Grabbing his carbine William pushed into the bright world of the desert.

Because of the dance last night, there were more people than usual at the small post and everyone wore their best gear. William kept his head down and hoped for a quiet exit, but the sight of two companies of infantry and the one of cavalry converging on the parade ground stopped him. He still admired dress parade—it always made Sundays special—and then so humiliating when his father failed at them.

William considered making a sketch for his father to remind him of what proper soldiers looked like, but he didn’t have his sketchbook. In fact he hadn’t picked up a pencil at all in the last month.

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: The Watch

William travels to Camp Grant to return Thankful’s watch (pawned to a worker at the stables by Haviland).

the watch“He’s intoxicated, the thief, and should be left to wander the desert,” Baker, the preacher’s son said when William arrived at Fort Grant that night.

“I’m not drunk—now let me see Thankful.”

The other sentry with Baker laughed. “She won’t be pleased to see you. No one will.”

“Shit-ass, just let me in,” William said with a slur.

The men relented, William being protected property of Captain Bourke’s.

William heard the tinkling of laughter and music at the end of the wind swept parade grounds. What day was it? Saturday? An officers’ dance was on. He limped towards the music, remembering his timid attempt at dance with his mother in the kitchen. His grandmother’s laughter had put a stop to it. “He’s no Simon, is all I have to say!”

No one could ever be like his Uncle Simon. William remembered him as always so at ease and generous—nothing like his father. He sighed, edging closer to the chapel dance hall and shivering in his light jacket. A visiting party of officers and their wives amplified the merriment and noise. A small window offered him a secret glimpse.

old-camp-grant-280Along the larger windows at the far end stood the regular company men and the laundresses envying the lace and cut of the gowns worn by the officers’ wives. Flags and bunting hung everywhere bursting with national colors. William studied the unfinished paintings of swords and chivalrous sayings on the rough walls. No one had attempted completing William’s work. The music from a few members of the regimental band made something ache inside of William.Why couldn’t he ever remember those times in the army with Mother and Papa—and Eliza? He missed things, but couldn’t figure what.

The notes of a waltz came up, and the honor of leading the dance went to a young officer and his new friend. The captain’s wife had been ingenious in getting up, with a few minor alterations, a dress suitable for Thankful, mix and match always the way at the frontier posts where clothes must last. Though more old-fashioned than Thankful usually wore, the lavender bodice and black full skirt set her streets ahead of the other ladies.

William heard a few of the bachelor officers arguing over promised dances, and he wanted to pummel them. Thankful’s laughter annoyed him, too, as she swung along with Fahy, her dark curls bobbing and shining in the candlelight.

Would the musicians ever stop? William cringed when things grew quiet and Thankful pinned her fan beside the corps badge on Fahy’s jacket. Why couldn’t she just stab him? But everything about the Crenshaws went smooth as silk.

William finished the rough whiskey in his bottle and made his way around to the front where a makeshift punch and refreshment table stood with favors and unusual edibles made with army rations and lit by polished lanterns. William grabbed a snack and waited for his chance to speak with Thankful. He upset a small platter with the carbine dangling off his shoulder. The noise caught Mrs. Markham’s attention. She handed her punch to a young pet officer and hustled over to the uninvited guest.

“Mr. Weldon, how are you here tonight? You know how much I care for you—and the captain, too. We’re both still upset you moved away, but this dance is for officers only, I’m afraid.”

William spotted some civilians, but what did it matter if she lied? “Mrs. Markham, I’m here to return something to Miss Crenshaw.”

“So you did take the money then?” Mrs. Markham asked. “I don’t know how it’s all gone so wrong for you. Well, Thankful was certain it was only some sort of mistake. And I suppose it was—to leave money in town the way she did, she’s very foolish, but so darn lovable—practically family already. You know how the army is, William.”

William squirmed.

Mrs. Markham gave him a hard look after spotting the old boots he wore. “Where are the boots the captain and his men got for you?”

“Lost.”

“You exasperate me, young man, truly, you do. But you realize even our lost sheep are welcomed back into the fold if only they’d come,” Mrs. Markham said with marked emphasis.

“Mrs. Markham, I like town,” William replied. “I only came to see Thankful.”

“My, she’s the belle of the barracks, isn’t she?” the captain’s wife said, admiring Thankful.

“She’s lovely,” William said as he caught sight of her, flying by on Fahy’s arm.

“Are you very distant cousins, Mr. Weldon?” Mrs. Markham asked with a confused look.

“No, just up the hill.”

The captain’s wife guided William out of the light. “Sweetie, your cousin is a fine young lady, who I’m sure doesn’t want her chance for a little society to be ruined and cut short by her pickled cousin. Now be fair. I know that it’s far too late for you to go back to your suite in town, but you can’t hang about here looking all dour. I’ll have you set up for bed tonight and you may speak to Miss Thankful first thing.”

Fahy and Thankful dashed up to the table in high spirits and took drinks.

“Those darned buttons and medals and such are pretty to look at and certainly keep my attention, but they scratch awfully much in a dance,” Thankful giggled, rubbing her cheek.

“If you weren’t so energetic in your steps, Miss Crenshaw, maybe a fellow would have a chance to mind his buttons,” Fahy laughed, his dark eyes full of merriment.

“Well, Mr. Fahy, I learned to dance from my father and he’s gracefuller than most,” Thankful said with her nose in the air.

William hated when she spoke childishly for attention.

“I guess your father had less buttons to get in the way,” Fahy quipped.

“Oh, Father has his big belly to watch out for. . .” Thankful burst into tears.

“Miss Crenshaw, did I offend you in some way?”

“Oh, it’s just you’re such a gentleman—like my father and you’ve all been so kind—what with taking up a collection for me—almost thirty dollars even! I’m so horrible and partly homesick—but I’ve made some very special . . . friends here, I think. I’m so mixed up!” A familiar figure stepped out of the shadows. “Willy?!”

Mrs. Markham could not hold him back.

He tucked his shirt as he walked up. “Thankful, I’ve retrieved something of yours.”

“Oh, William! I knew you couldn’t have taken the money. You wouldn’t! It’s not in you!” Thankful cried, deserting Fahy.

“No, Thankful . . . it’s not the money.”

“Well, whatever is it then?” Thankful asked with pained expression.

“It’s this; your watch.” He handed it over.

Fahy came up behind Thankful, protectively. “What has he done?”

Thankful flipped the elegant watch in her hand. “He’s given me my watch back,” she replied, expressionless.

“What’s the matter, Weldon? You couldn’t pawn it?” Fahy asked.

“Mr. Fahy, I think it’s best if you stay out of family business,” Mrs. Markham warned.

Thankful wiped her teary eyes. “I’m so ashamed of myself! I’m no better than poor William who has some excuse! He’s no cousin of mine—just a friend from home, and we lied to you. I put William up to it so I wouldn’t have to stay in that awful town! And I never should have taken the money from my father without permission! I’m a terrible girl who has brought shame to my family. I hope you can see it in your hearts to forgive me!”

Mrs. Markham took Thankful’s hand. “Oh, child, sometimes we learn from failure—I hope you will. Of course, I forgive you.”

“I just feel a little offended, Miss Crenshaw,” Fahy added. “That you would think that the men of the army would ever allow you to stay in town!”

“I realize that now and feel so mortified and foolish to leave my money—and now I will have to leave before I can regain your trust and friendship, Mr. Fahy.”

“You already have my friendship, Miss Crenshaw, and maybe it is you who must learn to trust others who will like you even more for being honest.”

“I will remember it as a lesson learned, Mr. Fahy,” Thankful said, flashing her long wet lashes up at him.

The color rose on Fahy’s face, and he took her hand in his and kissed it.

William froze. The way they gazed at each other was like his mother and father once did. It was like looking at his own lost dream.

Thankful turned to William, her voice icy. “Thank you for the watch back, but . . . well, it’s broken and all. Maybe you should pawn it.”

“Thankful, I just know that I would never take your money—I know it,” William said.

“Then where is it, Willy?” Thankful demanded.

“I think that maybe my friends . . .”

“Your friends? Who are these friends?” Thankful pulled William aside. “Are they the other drunks from town? I’m ashamed to know you. You’ve turned into what your friends are and your father would be very upset.”

“My father? What do you know about him, Thankful?”

“All I know is that he’s a sweet old man, and he’d be as heartbroken as I am seeing you like this!”

“Who do you think you are? After two days you’re sparking with the officers! Lieutenant Fahy even! Getting their hopes up only to go off and take up with someone else. I thought maybe you were better than the other Crenshaws, but you play tricks with people like nothing!” William said.  Unsteady on his feet, he took a step back.

Fahy and Mrs. Markham inched closer again.

“I’ve never played a single trick on you!” Thankful cried. “Why are you so cruel?”

“Because all of you Crenshaws are a pack of liars and cheats!”

Thankful threw the watch at him, “You are so eaten up with hate and jealousy. There’s no helping it! I don’t want a friend like you when there are men like Mr. Fahy. I’ll be a true and loyal friend to him—in letters even—if he’ll allow it.” Thankful turned to the lieutenant.

Fahy lingered in her adoration a moment.  He turned to William then. “Bill, you need to go to bed. I’ll set something up in my quarters,” he proposed with a magnanimous smile sent Thankful’s way.

William was in no shape to decline his offer.

PREVIOUS EPISODE FROM 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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Writing Idols

“It is indeed a remarkable fact that sufferings and hardships do not, as a rule, abate the love of life; they seem on the contrary, usually to give it a keener zest; and the sovereign source of melancholy is repletion. Need and struggle are what excite and inspire. Our hour of triumph is what brings the void.”
William James.

It is not my habit to live in the present. I either linger on past moments of tenderness or future dreams of glory. Suffering brings the present–the present as gift and challenge. Living life as a cup in need of filling (by other people, by success, by healthy foods and by writing) is a sad fiction with tragic consequences.

So often I strive (in search of what?). I don’t believe creative pursuits are meaningless or bad yet when I make idols I miss things. I hunger after food that does not satisfy. I forget others. I avoid others. They interfere with my goals (my declared and undeclared wants disguised as needs).

I’d like to write a better post this week yet winter lingers here at Middlemay Farm with a host of sufferings and difficulties. I confess that January felt laden with disappointment, boredom and wasted time. February was no better until one day when I’d gotten up especially early to get stuff done before having to wash staph-infected goats with lime sulfur (yes, it smells of rotten eggs) I stumbled upon a verse from the Bible.

“The Lord is peace.” Judges 6:24

Four simple words. Words almost cliche. Yet they struck me as the opposite of how I’d been living my life. After years of striving, yoga, green smoothies, tantrums, therapy and complaint, I suddenly saw that I’d bought into the lie that I was a cup “needing” to be filled. God led me to write novels. Some may scoff at such a notion but there are just some things that jump out at you in life. The mission placed on me, embedded in my DNA, is to write fiction for those of us who are terribly flawed. Those of us who believe we’ve taken things too far and are irredeemable. I once was there.

But missions can get corrupted as easily as anything else. A review comes in. A reader finds a book’s characters too damned flawed. For a moment, maybe even a day, I wander the farm wondering: Is it true that some people are just not lovable?

On an intellectual level I believe God loves us–all of us, but I fall prey to feelings, and feelings lie. I let my characters go through quite a lot of hardship. They grow that way. I love them and the people I write for. Fictional characters live in the past and future.

In the NOW there are real people who suffer minor slights and major catastrophes all around us. I find them insufferably flawed. I say to my husband things like: if this one goat I love does not get better soon I want her taken out back and shot. Do I mean it? Sometimes. Maybe? Not really.

It’s very easy for me to blind myself to the suffering of others when I’m stomping my feet and needing my cup filled.

So what is this peace?

I used to think it was an easy thing for the Lord to have peace. If I had complete control wouldn’t I have peace?

Honestly I’d have to say no. It’s obvious that none of us are gods, but I make idols of people and things all the time. Idols bring no peace. Striving brings no peace.

I think the point of the four words is that while there are lesser things to love, to struggle with and to mourn over God remains present. As in the moments. Right now. As writers we create characters, serenely aware of our deep love for them (would our characters know that as we allow their suffering?). Unlike us God isn’t scripting for an exciting dystopian young adult novel. His story is sadly not as well known as it should be.

At the end of our suffering there is peace–something we are only awake to on rare occasions in this life. Those times in suffering when a nurse stays with you all night or when a dog jumps into your sick bed. Those moments temporarily fill our perceived empty cups. But here is where we look at it wrong. God’s peace is for the givers more than the takers. To look at a creative pursuit or mission as a love offering to others instead of a way to pant after good reviews and limelight is to change everything.

I’m no saint. I hate kids, animals and the world for brief moments every day when I’m looking to be filled.

But there’s something better.

PEACE.

 

Fiction: The Priesthood

barn

After a big night William considers a change . . .

“So, give us the news, Bill. Was she some socialite back east you left behind with a broken heart?” Haviland asked always edging too close—close enough to see the dried spittle at the corners of his yellow smile and the dandruff in the coarse dark hairs of his eyebrows.

William said nothing for a moment. “No, just a friend of the family—a cousin—from Englewood.”

“Ah, Englewood, it always sounds so green and luxurious when you talk about it,” Haviland said. “You’re lucky for the culturing you got—art and all that truck.”

“Yes, well . . .”

“I thought certain that you must have sparked her sometime, the way she gushed seein’ you,” Haviland said, his glassy eyes always looking for an angle.

William looked up from his drink, momentarily excited by his friend’s interpretation of Thankful’s behavior but remembered what had happened this afternoon. “No, that’s just her way with people. All people. But she’s nice though.”

“That lieutenant seemed impressed with her this morning. He’s trying her on, I’d say,” Haviland said, waiting for reaction.

“She’s leaving soon. But . . . well, she’s had some trouble. Listen, Haviland, I’ve got to go now. I’m awful wrecked.”

Haviland laughed. “You were some wild son-of-a-bitch last night—see you later, then?”

William hesitated. “Jay, what exactly did we get up to last night?”

“The usual, I reckon,” Haviland replied, hoisting himself up on to one of the bar stools.

“Did I seem to have more money or anything?”

“Why? Did you get paid?” Haviland asked like a cat regarding his mouse.

“No, it’s that my cousin, she’s lost a heap of money and thinks . . .” he said more than he wanted to.

Haviland got close. “Listen, Bill, I wasn’t gonna ask how you got all that cash . . . two hundred dollars is a lot.”

“How’d you know it was two hundred?”

Haviland hesitated, but then laughed and shook his finger at William. “Why, you told me last night. You were blind drunk here and talking up a storm.”

“But, Robinson said I didn’t pay him.”

“I couldn’t tell you if you did or didn’t. You don’t remember a thing, do you?” Haviland probed. “I keep tellin’ you to watch out—someone will land you in deep shit one day.”

“I couldn’t have drunk up that much and Madeline was huffed at me for paying her only a few coins.”

“You don’t remember anything? Bill, that ain’t good.” Haviland looked concerned. “You don’t remember racin’ the greaser with your pony?”

“A Mexican?”

“Spect he’s gone now—some rider he was and you bein’ so drunk and all . . . I’d say you lost yer shirt.”

“I remember putting Sophie to bed at the stables.”

“You sent me to go fetch her again.”

William said nothing. He never took a horse after drinking—ever.

“Come, Bill, have a little hair of the dog.”

“No, I’ve got to go see Sophie.” William jammed his hands deep in his pockets. He licked his parched lips. “I have to get control of things, somehow,” he thought. He walked toward the stables, but the Catholic Church, with its open doors and dark, cool interior, called to him. He took a seat along the back wall and leaned his head against the adobe.

Hours later the Spanish accented priest Father Diaz nudged William awake. “Son, I’m closing shop.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to camp out here,” William said, pushing his greased hair off his face and behind his ears.

“Well, you have to leave now.”

William stood and looked around a minute. “Sir—I mean father or reverend or whatever—I was considering the priesthood.”

The priest laughed. “Are you a Catholic?”

“No, but I’m sure I could learn the basics—don’t you want more people to join up?”

“Why suddenly do you think of the priesthood? This is a small settlement, Bill Weldon. I know what you get up to every night. Are you ready to confess your sins and renounce that sort of living?”

“What’s renounce mean?” William asked. “And if you know my faults why do I have to say them? But if you want me to, I guess I could.”

“Do you feel sorry for your behavior?” the priest asked with an indulgent smile.

“Sometimes, I guess, but it’s hard—I think if I’m a priest then—“

“Son, I don’t think you’re ready for the priesthood. It’s not a hiding place from your lustful nature.” The priest snuffed a candle.

“Well then, what’s it for? What else can you priests do but pray and hope for Indian converts and the end of the world? I think I could do that. I don’t seem much good at anything else. Maybe I have a calling for it.”

The priest shook his head at William in his rough clothes. “Bill, the priestly garments would hardly fit you and there’s a lot of study—theology and that sort of thing. You need some real intelligence.”

“Numbers get mixed up in my head is all—are there lots of figures and geometry in knowing God for Catholics?” William asked with an edge.

“I didn’t mean to insult you. Becoming a priest—or just a Catholic, for that matter—is no small thing. That’s all I was getting at. It takes commitment and all I’ve seen you commit to since arriving is that rascal, Jay Haviland, and the girls in the whorehouse.”

“I’m not committed to Jay Haviland! We go on larks together, that’s all and he doesn’t mind my lack of brains.”

“Of course not. It benefits him that you are so—let’s say generous.”

“He watches out for me when I . . .”

“When you drink too much, then he spends your money. He’s no good, son, and it’s the laugh of the town that you don’t see it. Listen, consider giving up the drinking and the women before visiting me again with foolish notions.”

William stalked off for home, remembered Sophie and went to the stables.

PREVIOUS EPISODE

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.”

 

Fiction: Sobriety Lost

William pushed aside his glass, remembering the first time he took a drink.

When William and a few greenhorn privates, hanging together like newborn pups, had first visited town Haviland sauntered up.

“New to these parts, I see. Are you going to stand on the corner barking at a knot or do something with your freedom?”

William didn’t trust a man with sayings that made no sense—his mother told him not to.

Haviland leered at the pioneers with a mix of pity and scorn. “Look, boys, there’s a lot of bad types out here to take advantage of new recruits and the four of you standin’ here is advertisement enough that you’re wantin’ to be taken. You don’t know me from a wohaw, but my family built up this town and I’m like the hemp committee and the welcoming team all in one.”

One soldier whispered around, “What in heck is a wohaw?”

The others shook their heads at him like they knew.

“And a hemp committee—is there hemp growed out here in the desert?”

William spoke. “No, Baker, it’s the folks who do a lynching.”

“Oh, so there’s one bright spark! Course he’s smart enough not to sell his soul to the government—lying bastards,” Haviland said, and smacked William’s back.

William scratched his head with a small grin, but said, “We should go, boys.”

“You ain’t the boss of us, Bill Weldon. Everyone knows you ain’t clever!” one soldier replied.

“So, young lads, would you like an expert to show you town?” Haviland waved his arm all around him as if they were viewing a grand wonder of the world instead of a single street of false fronts and ne’er- do- wells.

They shrugged and gave each other tentative glances as they followed the shiny-looking Westerner with all the latest gear.

The tour started off with a short history of the settlement, tales about Indian fighting and then a look-see in the general store and the haberdashery. One of the boys plunked down his money for a big cowhand hat. The others laughed. Further along the short, dusty and exciting road Haviland noted, “Fellows, when a good carte-viste won’t do it for you and you want a real fuck, this is the place to go first. It’s a high-class place though and they’ll want cash. Cards are on the ground floor and the women on top (if that’s the way you like it).”

The boys eyed everything with enthusiasm, but William and one of the others, a Methodist preacher’s son, hung back.

“You don’t like women?” Haviland asked.

The preacher’s son replied, “Course I do, but my daddy raised me right and this ain’t nowhere near right. I’m leavin’ back for the post. Bill, you comin’?”

William liked the preacher’s son, but something, a memory, made him stay.

The soldier shuffled off. “Friendship over,” William mumbled.

The other soldiers laughed.

“Can we get a girl in broad daylight?”

“Course. If you have enough for it.”

The soldier took out his pay, minus the money spent on his ostentatious hat and Haviland shook his head. “No, this is high class, I tell you—go down to the bed bug hotel if you want a quick and easy cheap lay—no tellin’ what you’ll end up with.”

The men turned up their noses.

“Hmm . . . now, if you were to maybe win a hand at bluff . . . do you fellows play?” Haviland asked.

“Our captain says we shouldn’t,” the soldier, who had followed up until now in silence, said.

The last soldier with the big hat remained steadfast in his enthusiasm. “Come on, men, we’ll try our beginner’s luck. If I win big, we’ll all get a girl. Anyway, I’m damned good at cards—you’ll see.”

“Now watch your manners—you don’t want to wear your welcome right off,” Haviland warned, dusting off his hat at the door.

Two men inside the thick-aired room heavy with drapery and cheap art turned and stared. William’s gut burned. This parlor—the smell and feel of it—was so familiar and, in some small way, comforting. He couldn’t bring himself to leave though nothing good could come of staying.

The two soldiers took seats at the long, beat-up table. If this was high class what was low?

“You with the gimpy leg, are you playin’ or babysitting?”

“Neither, sir,” William replied.

The man stared at his manners.

“Are you in or not?”

“Not, sir.”

“Then, boy howdy, take yourself to that there settee. Your gangly self is makin’ me jittery. Where’d you drag him in from, Haviland?”

“He was part of the package deal,” Haviland replied.

William knew from the start that his friends would lose everything and they did. His parents had instilled in him a deep distrust of cards. When the soldiers rose from the table, beaten and demoralized, William tried not to appear too self-satisfied, but clutched his money even tighter in his pocket. A long, miserable hallway led from back to front. Light from the back door lit the kitchen and William stopped short. A young lady shot by and ran out back.

Haviland laughed, “What a wretch that one is—ugly as a one-eyed cat.”

“Pardon?” William turned to him.

“I bet you can get that one cheap—she’s from down the road, but wants to step up. There’s not a chance in hell.”

“I don’t want her!” William replied, horrified at the thought, but shaken, too. Something about her. . .

The soldiers snickered and Haviland slapped William’s back. “It’s been a rough time for you cubs—fleeced like sheep. I’ll treat you to some Shepherd’s Delight at The Buckskin—it’s the best whiskey for miles, I tell you.”

“My daddy back home, he makes the best. . .” the cowhand soldier said.

“Yes, yes.” Haviland dismissed the soldier’s small talk.

They followed the westerner, impressed and put-off by him at the same time.

“Bill, are you coming?”

“Sure.” But he had promised his mother. . .

The soldier wearing the tall hat whispered, “Bet he won’t take a drop—afraid of his own shadow—bet he’s scart he’ll tumble over on that crooked leg of his.”

“You ain’t one of them religious crazies, too?” Haviland asked.

“No, sir.” William followed the others into the saloon.

“Whiskey all around, Robinson.”

The bartender shook his head at the greenhorns.

William spoke. “I’ll just have, well, a lemonade, sir.”

Robinson didn’t bat an eye, just poured him a lemony drink and added something unfamiliar. William sipped it. The other’s threw back their whiskey and waited for more. They laughed at William so he finished his with a gulp.

William felt pressured to buy his friends a round. He had only brought his money along so he wouldn’t misplace it. The soldiers stared, bug-eyed, at William’s fund as he brought it from his pocket and laid it on the bar.

Haviland kept a close eye on him. After two drinks William no longer hurried to go and after five drinks the soldiers had to mind him and the money he left unattended. William relaxed and the soldiers liked him.

WEARY OF RUNNING PREVIOUS EPISODE

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.”

Where the West Begins (SAGA FRIDAY)

linger-and-look-com
courtesy of LingerandLook.com
Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where the friendship’s a little truer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,

That’s where the West begins.
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
Where a man makes a friend without half trying,

That’s where the West begins.
by
Arthur Chapman

OLD WEST LEGENDS: GREAT PICS OF REENACTORS!

LEGENDS OF THE WEST

LEGENDS OF AMERICA PHOTO/PRINTS

DO YOU ENJOY WESTERN ROMANCE?

LOOKING AT THE WEST (Beautiful Photographs!)

The family saga chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families. The typical novel follows the generations of a family through a period of time to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multiple of perspectives.

This week I’m bringing you the West (where my characters sometimes escape to).

And remember weekends are the perfect time to read family saga fiction!

Happy Friday,

A

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Fiction: A Drunken Night

What happens when you mess with soiled doves . . .

“Bill Weldon, I’ve listened to your snoring long enough and my patience is all worn through. Even after the five dollars you gave me last night, you still owe me for ten hours.”

At first, in his fog, the voice sounded like his grandmother’s, but William sat up and realized his mistake. The woman, with sagging jowls and deep ruts across her forehead, sat in her pantaloons, legs wide apart with a Turkish cigarette dangling between her fingers.

William tried to remember how he’d paid for her services, wincing as he moved his sore leg over the edge of the bed.

“Bill, I hope you ain’t looking for no shoes. You musta lost em at bluff.”

“I couldn’t tell you,” William mumbled, pulling his trousers off the bed knob.

“So you still owe me for some hours,” the woman said. Her eyes were slits beneath their puffed and heavy lids and her mouth rested in a scowl of disappointment and skepticism.

“I bet I slept through most of it.” William checked his pockets. “I don’t know, Madeline, I’ll have to pay you back some other time, I guess.”

“Get out of my sight, Bill Weldon.”

William limped out the door and vomited. The loss of the expensive boots weighed on him now as he walked toward home.

“Willy!”

He froze on the dusty road as Lieutenant Fahy and Thankful strode over to him. William buttoned his shirt. The dirt, sweat and bodily fluids beneath it made him very uncomfortable now. His tongue caught in his sandpaper mouth.

“Oh, Willy! We’ve been searching for you for hours!” Thankful embraced him.

Fahy stared at William’s bootless and deformed foot.

“Willy, I’m all set to go and I need my money now,” Thankful said. “I left it in your room after you told me about the bandits in the desert. Please let me go fetch it.”

“I don’t know, Thankful, I . . .” William held his head.

The lieutenant glared at him.

“Thankful, just how much money did you leave in my room?” William thought of the whore and drinking . . .

Thankful leaned forward and whispered, “Over two hundred dollars!”

Both Fahy and William blanched.

“Please, God,” William prayed to himself, “don’t let me have lost all that money!”

“Bill, take us to your room this instant—please. The poor girl wants her money.” The lieutenant gave William a superior and knowing look.

William coughed and swallowed his spit before leading them back to his hovel, limping.

“Oh, Willy, you haven’t lost your boots?” Thankful asked. She gave him a tender look.

William opened his door. The lieutenant scanned the floor and bedding and the bits of William’s drawings. Thankful went to the wash basin and gasped. “Oh, Willy, you wouldn’t have taken the money—by accident–last night, would you? Did you find your hidden savings?”

The lieutenant scoffed. “Hidden savings? More like your father’s money!”

“I don’t even remember coming home,” William asserted.

“Do you remember moving my money at all?” Thankful asked, her face red and frightened.

William shook his head.

“Don’t tell us you took the money to the bluff tables!” the lieutenant exclaimed.

“He couldn’t lose that much at poker, could he, Mr. Fahy?” Thankful wrapped her arm in Fahy’s and it galled William.

“Anything is possible with your cousin. He has a knack for trouble, poor fellow.”

Fahy was so clean and self-possessed.

“Land sakes, Willy, try to remember!” Thankful said. “I can’t go home with no money to show for myself!”

“You shouldn’t have brought so much out here!” William said. “It was so dangerous and stupid!”

“Bill Weldon!” Fahy said. “How dare you lecture your cousin! You’ve really put her in a pickle. It’s well-known you owe half the whores in town and have high tabs at the dram shops. You should confess instead of hiding behind your supposed infirmities.”

William remembered Thankful’s words last evening—be good. He couldn’t defend himself against a night he didn’t remember.

“Shall we bring the sheriff in on this, Miss Crenshaw?”

“Merciful heavens, no!” Thankful replied. “I don’t want Willy in trouble. I know it’s not his fault. I shouldn’t have depended on him, it wasn’t fair.”

William wracked his brain for ways to help her. “What will you do now?”

Fahy replied, “Miss Crenshaw is welcome at the captain’s house for as long as she likes. She’s already Mrs. Markham’s pet after only one night. Some are just more suited for the military life.”

“I’m so sorry, William, that I put that much temptation in your hands,” Thankful said, wiping a tear from her eye. “I only wish you thought of me how I think of you.”

William couldn’t have spent all the money. “Thankful, I’ll come and see you tomorrow. Maybe I’ll think of something.”

“William, it’s all right. I’ll be well taken care of. Don’t trouble yourself,” Thankful replied, with an edge in her voice William had never heard before. “It’s my fault entirely.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE

**Featured Image: LEGENDS OF THE WEST

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, William Weldon and Thankful Crenshaw’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.”

Fiction: Maps

Thankful and William travel uncharted territory at Fort Grant.

“You’ve got visitors, Captain Markham.” Lieutenant Fahy waved William and Thankful in.

Markham, an athletically built man with small eyes and wrinkled skin from too much desert, greeted William with a firm handshake and fatherly knock on the side of the head.

“Bill, how are you holding up in that God-forsaken town? We haven’t seen hide nor hair of you in weeks.”

He turned a surprised eye towards Thankful who curtsied.

“Captain Markham, my cousin Bill has been very busy at his drawings and such. I’m terribly pleased to meet you. My name is Thankful.”

She held out her hand again.

“What a pretty little thing you are, miss,” the captain said, holding her hand between his for a moment. “You say you’re Bill’s cousin? That’s very nice to come see the boy.”

“Well, sir, I’ve come to see his drawings, really. They’re quite superb and I’ve always felt he would go far with them if only they fell into the right hands. But he’s so foolishly modest.”

“Bourke told us that Bill had talent, but we’ve never been honored with a viewing,” Lieutenant Fahy said, giving William a disgusted glance. “I for one don’t believe that anything good can come from town.”

“Well, Mr. Fahy, I can prove you wrong and I don’t mind showing it,” Thankful laughed.

William stood in awed silence.

Fahy and Markham gave Thankful their indulgent attention glancing at each other in pleasure as she fished from her bag the pieces of William’s map.

William hadn’t noticed her taking them and the place names were wrong! He wanted to run, but where would he go? Thankful had no right!

Thankful pushed the captain’s things to the side of his desk, turned the lamp higher and spread the gloriously colored drawing like a carpet for the men to see. The men leaned into the intricate and accurate depiction of the territory they had traversed for years.

“Thankful, why did you save that?” William asked. His palms sweat.

Markham and Fahy looked up at William with new eyes.

“It’s magnificent work, isn’t it?” Thankful winked at William.

The men nodded in agreement.

“But. . .” William began, “the place names . . . I never get them right.”

The officers looked again. “Oh, those small settlements come and go. That doesn’t take away from the overall presentation of our little part of the world. It’s damned impressive, Bill,” Markham stated. “Bourke told me your uncle Captain McCullough was a good map maker.”

“Was he?” William asked, missing the uncle he hardly remembered. “He went to West Point.”

“William has so many fine drawings of the military, too—you should see them,” Thankful boasted. “Well, unfortunately they’re torn up.”

“May we keep this, Bill?” the captain asked.

“You want it? Sure, you can have it,” William said, relieved and looking like the boy Thankful so admired at home.

“Cousin Bill, remember that you promised it to Mr. Bourke.”

“Oh, well . . . we’ll just save it for him,” Markham said with a grin. “You beat all, Bill. Now why don’t you come back to us more often?”

Thankful pouted, swaying a little while twirling a curl. “My cousin wants me gone by tomorrow, so may I stay in camp? I’d feel safer with military men than the common sort in town.” She blushed at William. “I didn’t mean Willy–Bill of course. My cousin is a gentleman.”

Fahy raised his brow, but the captain gave him a stern look.

“We can keep you till morning, Miss Crenshaw,” Captain Markham said. “My wife will set a bed for you in our home.”

“That would be just bully, Captain Markham! You’re all so much as I’ve imagined. I knew the army would be full of nobility–not like everyone says back east.”

The men stood a little taller under Thankful’s gaze. William’s stomach turned again. He scratched his head with a sigh.

“So, good luck, cousin,” William said with an awkward grin. He touched his cap, playing at good spirits.

Thankful pecked him on the cheek. “William Weldon, be good,” she whispered.
The dash of alcohol in Thankful’s lemonade this afternoon lingered on her breath. She was beautiful.

“Bye, then, Thankful,” William said. “Good evening, Captain Markham and Mr. Fahy.”
In the cool night he stood for a moment on the porch, which smelled so much like the cigars his father always smoked in the army—the ones from the commissary. Men slept under their porches and a coyote yelped. Tomorrow would be the same as always.

William considered saying a prayer for his father’s tremors, but didn’t. His leg ached in the special boots he wore to hide the limp he’d gotten when he fell from the horse years ago. Captain Markham had purchased them for him. William unhitched his horse, said good-night to the guard and raced under a starry sky back to town.

PREVIOUS EPISODE HERE

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, William Weldon and Thankful Crenshaw’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.”

Fiction: Where Are The Gallant Men?

William Weldon is not the man Thankful once knew.

Thankful scooped up the map pieces on the floor. “Such a gift you have and you throw it away on depraved women.”

“Jesus hung around with them.”

Thankful looked up at him with a severe stare. “So now you compare yourself to our Lord? You have changed.” She adjusted her hat with one hand while clutching the map in the other.

The faint odor of perspiration under Thankful’s perfume flustered William.

Thankful stood. “I shall have to go back to the army on my own for assistance. I don’t trust anyone here and you won’t keep me the night.”

“Of course I won’t. The hotel is terrible rough though.” William tapped his fingers against his temple. “I guess it won’t be safe to go now. It’ll be almost candle lighting by the time you get there.”

He tried to ignore the small vermin creeping from under things.

“If you take me right now to the barracks, I’ll make my way home in the morning, and I won’t say a word about your state of affairs,” Thankful said bravely, but William detected a quiver in her voice. “This was a mistake.”

“It does seem ridiculous that you’ve come,” William said. “And I don’t care what folks at home think.”

“It seems MORE ridiculous that you’re corned and living in nothing better than an outhouse!” Thankful replied.

“I’m not drunk!”

“The William I know would do what’s right and bring me to the army where men have manners and are gallant and . . .”

“Enough! I’ll bring you. I hope you don’t mind horseback and it’s a dangerous thing out here.”

“I wasn’t born in the woods to be scared by an owl—when will we leave?”

William grinned. “Thankful Crenshaw, you’re a caution. The doctor must be in a conniption fit over you leaving home. I wish you hadn’t done it to him. Send the doctor a telegram to be fair.”

“I’d like to go soon if you don’t mind. Please stop talking about my father,” Thankful said, the guilt that plagued her on the train returning.

William found an old cap and sniffed it before smoothing his hair with a pungent tonic and tossing it on.

“Are you done with your toilet, Willy? I didn’t know  boys prepared themselves so much for a visit to the post.”

William ignored Thankful and sifted through piles of sketchbooks, clothing and bottles, finding his gun.

“Oh, my, that old thing is yours?” Thankful asked with an amused giggle. “It looks mighty heavy. How do you lug it? Do you know how to use it even? I hope you have no intention of bringing it along. My father told lots of stories about cavalrymen shooting their feet and other things off.”

“Well, those people must have been fools. I’m not so weak that I can’t carry an old carbine!” William said.

“Now I’ll be a nervous Nelly all the way out, worrying I’ll be shot up.”

“It wouldn’t be an accident if I shot you, Thankful,” William joked.

LAST WEEK’S EPISODE: HERE

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his 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.”