Fiction: Sleeping Arrangements

“Mrs. Crenshaw, I want to apologize for my acid tongue earlier on,” Mrs. Markham said. “I was worried over Buck, as I’m sure you were, but that was no excuse.”

Margaret surveyed the plump, plain, little woman. “I accept your apology. We Easterners have high standards as far as manners go. I couldn’t possibly hold you to them.”

“I am from the East,” Mrs. Markham said, holding her chin a little higher.

“Oh. From where?”

“North Carolina.”

“Well, that’s not really east is it? It’s practically southern.”

“It is southern—where manners were born!” Mrs. Markham said.

“On the backs of the darkies,” Fred quipped.

Again there was a long silence. Thankful could smell Fahy’s perspiration and urine. She wondered if anyone else noticed.

Mrs. Markham took a deep breath. “Thankful and I have a few ideas for the wedding, Mrs. Crenshaw. I hope you don’t mind I’ve gone ahead and reserved the dance hall.”

Dance hall? Is my daughter to be married in a saloon? I know the lieutenant is Irish, but this is ridiculous! I’d prefer a Catholic church to that.”

“Mama, the dance hall is just here at the fort—for military celebrations,” Thankful explained. “It’s easily decorated—we thought some desert flowers and special lanterns from a friend of ours in town …”

“Desert flowers? Is that what I smell because, honestly, I’ll be sick if I don’t get air soon,” Margaret said.

Graham figured what the smell was and sympathized with the bitter, young lieutenant. “Margaret, we should walk the grounds and get our things.”

“Our things won’t fit in this tiny house, Graham,” she half whispered.

“Mother, Meg will sleep up with me, and Fred will share a tent with Buck. You and Father will stay in a nice wall tent.”

“A wall tent? Me? I’ve always told you that I’m afraid of tents—they fall down—and there are dragons and bugs creeping and crawling—oh no. I can’t! I won’t!” Margaret cried. “I thought at least after all the other disappointments Thankful might find us a proper roof to sleep under!”

“Mama, the tent is very nicely done up.”

Graham laughed. “It’ll be like old times in the army, Maggie. It’ll be fun.”

“I guess you forget that I was never in the army like the nurse you slept with last summer! Sleeping under canvas will only serve to remind me of how much you’ve hurt me!” Margaret sobbed, mopped her eyes, and stopped. “I will sleep with my girls.”

“But Mama, there’s no space.”

“We’ll make space,” Mrs. Markham said.

“Perfect then,” Margaret replied. “Tonight we can discuss my plans for my daughter’s wedding.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Markham said.

They stood for another moment.

“I’ll go get your things then, Margaret,” Graham said.

Fred and Buck followed him out.

“Well, this is some disaster, Father. I don’t like that Fahy a bit—seems angry.” Fred lit a cigar.

“Of course he’s angry—he can’t walk!”

Fred changed the subject. “So I guess you and Mama aren’t sleeping in the same room anymore.”

“That’s none of your damned business, Fred. Now just take these bags to your mother and leave me be.”

Fred shrugged and did as he was told.

Graham sat heavily upon one of their trunks.

“Father, are you all right?” Buck asked, suffering the same queasiness he had often experienced as a child when he worried about his father’s tenuous health.

Graham took out a cigar and offered one to his son.

“No, it irritates my throat now,” Buck said. “Father, are you sure you’re feeling well?”

Graham looked at him differently now, almost as a friend. “No, son. I’m not all right. When have I ever been? I married a woman I never loved and in avoiding her I neglected the needs of my children.”

LINK: PREVIOUS EPISODE

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“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: The Invalid

The front door opened in the hallway. Mrs. Markham called in, “Everything all set in there? We have eager visitors, so stop your sparking!” Her voice was high and nervous.

Before Thankful or Lieutenant Fahy could respond, the Crenshaws stepped in from outside and crowded the hallway. Fahy grabbed his blanket and Thankful threw another over his useless legs. Without considering his feelings, Thankful took a small bottle of flower water from her pocket and poured it between the layered blankets to hide the smell of urine.

The door opened. “Mr. Fahy, are you all right?” Mrs. Markham asked when she saw his miserable face.

The lieutenant nodded, unable to speak. The Crenshaws filed in, looking at Fahy as if he were a curiosity in a freak show.

Thankful stood just behind the couch.

Graham extended his hand. “Mr. Fahy, good to meet you. Thankful says you make her happy.”

“Well, she’s a liar then,” Fahy said.

The family turned to Thankful. “Oh, he doesn’t mean it! He’s joking,” she said.

“Good thing you poked my sister before this happened,” Fred said, laughing.

“Fred Crenshaw, stop it at once!” Margaret demanded.

“Sorry, Mama.” Fred glared at Fahy.

Margaret sneezed. “Oh, it must be that smell of flowers—I suppose desert scents don’t agree with me.” She wrinkled her nose at Graham.

“Buck has told us all about your troubles, Mr. Fahy,” Graham said.

“Oh, has he? I guess he told you I was a thief and debtor—but those charges were dropped. Bloody scoundrels!”

Graham’s color rose at the sides of his thick neck. “I was meaning your paralysis. I’m sure you know I’m a doctor, and I believe we’ll be able to help you.”

“Do you know something the doctors here don’t?”

“No, but Thankful has mentioned that you might like to stay with us. There is a wonderful hospital in New York that I am associated with, and new cures are found all the time.”

“I need a miracle—got one, Buck?” Fahy asked before looking up at Graham. “No, I don’t want to live with you, sir.”

“But Thankful will need help and we can do that,” Graham said, anger slipping in now. “After the wedding, you may decide—once you know us better.”

“I don’t need to bloody know you. I want to be left alone. I told Thankful to call off the wedding, but …”

“But nothing!” Graham shouted. “Thankful will not have a bastard child! Never! If I have to drag you to this ceremony at gunpoint, I will!”

Everyone stared at him.

Fahy softened.  “Dr. Crenshaw, how will it be for Thankful? You realize the life I’ll lead. You understand. What about your daughter, sir?”

“If you had cared about her yourself, you wouldn’t have knocked her up, you bastard,” Fred said.

Graham replied to Fahy, “It’s because I love my daughter I don’t want her reputation sullied further. She needs to leave here and you may come and be well-cared for the rest of your days.”

Thankful cried. Fahy took her hand, and she came from behind the couch and sat beside him. “Sir, I always intended to marry your daughter. Maybe someone from above knew that we wouldn’t be able to have children if we waited.”

“Oh, don’t use God to defend your disgraceful behavior. God is decidedly opposed to having relations before marriage,” Fred said. “Isn’t that so, Buck?”

Buck looked out the window.

“God or no God, Thankful is going to have a baby. It’s too late to discuss morality and ethics,” Graham said.

“Of course,” Fahy said. “I will marry her, but I refuse to live as an unwanted guest in your home. Maybe I’ll go back to Dublin.”

“Dublin?” Thankful cried.

“Oh, I knew a soldier would be the death of me somehow!” Margaret moaned. “And he’s not even that handsome,” she whispered to Meg.

Fahy heard and Meg blushed. She went to him, her every movement proclaiming her disgust for invalids. Meg tried a smile, but could not look him in the eye. “Mr. Fahy, do you have a proper chair? Maybe then you could come to the dance. Thankful wrote how much you loved them … I mean … well, you can still listen to the music and get pushed around and all.”

Silence now prevailed until Mrs. Markham brought in cool tea. They gulped it down and stood waiting, each in their own thoughts.

READ THE : PREVIOUS EPISODE

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“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Do You Have Theme Songs For Your Life?

Today feels like a day to listen more than to talk. I’ve noticed when writing novels that random music will stop me in my tracks —  as if the characters in the books are begging me to listen to another layer of who they are. I write about BROKEN HEARTS so I don’t think it will surprise you that the music that acts as the soundtrack to my novels has a certain poignancy.

Do you have a soundtrack? How does beauty play a role in your life? in your creative endeavors? I’d love to know what piece of music most matches who you are or what you create. Let me know in the comments.

 THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD is a book of broken hearts for sure, but Aaron Copland’s beautiful Saturday Night Waltz captures the fledgling love between John Weldon and Katherine McCullough:

Buck Crenshaw spends a lot of time in the books being an aloof and mixed-up mess, but when he meets the girl who becomes his wife in FORGET ME NOT, a new side of him appears:

This is the song I played every time before writing about the troubled William Weldon in WEARY OF RUNNING and his big time crush on Thankful Crenshaw:

LINKS:

WHAT’S ON YOUR PLAYLIST?

WHAT IS THE SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR LIFE?

MUSIC TO WRITE BY

Fiction: Into the Gloaming

“So now you give up and hide behind your little Bible studies and weird friends? You heap embarrassment upon the whole family. What will our friends at West Point say?”

“You’re no embarrassment, Buck,” Graham said. “It’s only that you’re lost in there somewhere behind those bandages. And you’re right to say I was never with you as a child. Please, after the wedding, come home to stay.”

Margaret interjected, “But leave this fanaticism behind, Buck. What would they say at First Presbyterian—and your father on the board! It’s nice to read the Bible now and again, and I’m proud of your memory work, but still, Buck, this is too much—it’s creepy even.”

“Buck was always creepy,” said Meg, but came over and kissed his hand. As obnoxious as he was, he was still family.

“I want to become a missionary,” Buck began.

Thankful interrupted. “Save that talk for another day.”

The family turned to her, staring in silence. Thankful embraced her sister and then Fred. She came to her father and looked up at him. “Forgive me, Father.”

“My pet, what have you let happen?” Graham said. “I so wanted you to do things before starting a family, but I love you as always.”

Thankful burst into relieved tears and turned to her mother.

“You stupid girl,” Margaret said repulsing Thankful’s attempt at embrace. “You don’t understand how much you’ve sacrificed, and your father’s health has suffered greatly. Don’t you realize how weak his heart is? I knew you’d disappoint me!”

“Margaret,” Graham said. “Stop.”

“No! I’ve raised a zealot and an adventuress—why can’t my children be normal?” Margaret cried. “Well, I guess we won’t be seeing much of you—being in the army.”

“Mother, we won’t be in the army,” Thankful said. “I was hoping to come live with you for a while.”

Margaret stepped back. “Oh, our house is so crowded.”

“There’s plenty of room, dear,” Graham assured her.

Thankful wiped a tear away.

“It’ll be all right,” Graham said. “We’ll help you with the baby. Where’s your sweetheart?” He was unable to hide his dislike for the unknown soldier. “We heard he was shot like Buck.”

“Oh, Father!” Thankful cried. “The army can’t keep him!”

“Keep him? What did he do?” Fred asked.

Thankful turned to Buck, who answered for her. “Fahy’s a—well, he’s a decent fellow, but he’ll never walk. He’s injured badly.”

“Thankful, shall we call off the wedding till you’ve had time to reflect?” Margaret suggested.

“Take us to him,” Graham ordered.

The doctor recommended that Buck stay at the infirmary, but he wanted to be with Thankful, so the family tramped off to Captain Markham’s home. Lieutenant Fahy, though officially discharged from the army, was staying with the Markhams until he decided where to take his bride. Mrs. Markham led the way and stopped in the barren front garden. “Thankful, why don’t you go in and see if Mr. Fahy is ready for visitors.”

They all stood, complaining in the heat. Mrs. Markham offered Buck the only cool spot in the yard. He politely refused.

Thankful entered the neat, little home afraid of Fahy’s mood. She tip-toed into the parlor decorated floor to ceiling with Captain Markham’s citations and framed photographs taken on his many military travels. Fahy sat where he’d been put, staring at the soldier’s life he no longer could enjoy. Thankful tapped on the door before entering with a hopeful smile.

“What the hell took you so long?” Fahy yelled.

“My poor thing, I’m sorry,” Thankful said with a kiss. “It’s just Buck was hurt again.”

“Is he dying?”

“No, his face …”

“Damn it, Thankful! I needed you!”

“Please, dear, tell me what’s the matter?”

“Are your parents here?”

“Yes, outside. Don’t be nervous.”

“Shit—the tube—it’s been leaking all the while you were away. There was nothing I could do. Oh, blast it! I can’t go through with this!”

Thankful lifted the blanket covering his urine saturated legs.

“I wish I were dead,” Fahy said.

“Don’t say it!”

“I can say anything I damn well want! That I can still do!”

Thankful wiped his forehead. “I’ll just clean you up.”

The front door opened in the hallway. Mrs. Markham called in, “Everything all set in there? We have eager visitors, so stop your sparking!” Her voice was high and nervous.

LINK: PREVIOUS EPISODE

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“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

“Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with land surveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come.” ― Gilles Deleuze

Do you love fictional MAPS as much as I do?

I love maps in books so much that I decided to make a map of my fictionalized version of nineteenth century Englewood, New Jersey which I included in the first edition of THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD.

For a book series brimming with family drama, addiction and child abuse, my map turned out kinda cute. Life tends to look cute on the surface in certain neighborhoods and in certain time periods, but we all know that down every lane with the ticking away of every moment there are secrets hidden behind freshly painted doors.

englewood map cut (4)

 

 

 

When a desperate and addicted JOHN WELDON arrives on the McCullough doorsteps he enters a soft world with a pretty girl waiting for him:

Weldon considered bolting. He didn’t belong here, but after a quick glance toward the house he crouched down to run his fingers over the hilly pumpkin skins and the soft round tomatoes. Weldon pulled a furry leaf from the low-lying lamb’s ears and slipped it into his pocket. Sunny black-eyed Susans burst out where they’d be most pleasing. The wild lilies stood at attention like well-disciplined followers of an inspired leader. Weldon marveled at the planning. His visit was unplanned, unannounced—that had been a blunder. The McCullough family might not like such surprises, and it was still so early in the day.

He hadn’t slept, and the night had seemed forever. He had two or three days without the urges … just enough time to meet this girl—he’d stop for her.

interior map tenafly road (2)

Much later a young boy, WILLIAM WELDON, still grieving many losses, poisons a teacher at the Kursteiner School for Boys:

“It was just an old medicine bottle—blue pills, I think. We only thought it might make Mr. Finney queasy for the examination tomorrow.”

Mercury? My God—you could sicken the man for life or worse,” Scott yelled. “What were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry to say there is more to the plot. We found Mr. Finney’s grade book in with William’s things.”

“You’re a thief now too?” Scott asked and then turned to the secretary. “When will Mr. Kursteiner come by? I will have my wife and daughter ready for his arrival.”

Scott closed the door still gripping his grandson’s ear. William tried to pull away. “Do you have any idea how much trouble you have caused?”

William tried to scratch free like an animal in a trap. “I don’t care! I hate Mr. Finney!”

“You hate everyone—do you plan to poison us all?” Scott dragged the boy through the hallway into the kitchen and toward the side door.

“You’d have done it too if he called you a liar and said things about your father!”

“No, I would not!”

“Then you’re just a dumb old coot!” Willy said as he pulled and got free. Out the side door he went, but Scott surprised him and caught him as he flew off the steps, landing with a great thud.

“You’ve become as savage as a meat ax, and I will have to put a stop to it if you will continue living in my house.”

“I don’t want to live here anyway!”

“Believe me, young man, I’d love to send you away, but your father won’t take you!” Scott continued, pulling his grandson toward Simon’s willow. With his strong right arm he kept hold of William, who began to plead. Scott ripped a long branch, still in bloom, from the tree. Unfortunately for William his school trousers were of a shoddy, thin weave and every strike across his backside stung as if hitting his skin directly.

englewood map cut (3)

My little map leads the reader past shops full of patent medicines, past hotels where hops are held and up the hill to where the Crenshaw family home sits. The Crenshaw siblings hide their own secrets behind the respectability of living on “The Hill.”

Tall and handsome BUCK CRENSHAW looks down upon the McCULLOUGH / WELDON family even as he envies the obvious love that is shown down on TENAFLY ROAD:

Buck skirted the room, his fingers running along the finely crafted bookcases until he came upon a scrapbook labeled in a sloppy masculine hand—“West Point Memories.” He touched it and Weldon saw.

“Oh, Buck, you might enjoy that,” Weldon said, feeling sorry for him. “It was Simon’s—Mrs. Weldon’s brother.”

“May I look at it?”

“Yes, of course.” Weldon took the museum piece off the shelf, as if letting Buck in on a great and happy secret. “Let’s find you a nice comfortable spot and some good light. There’s a blanket in here somewhere.” Weldon limped for the tattered throw hanging over a well-worn Scots-plaid chair.

Buck’s face flushed at the gracious attention. He sat where Weldon put him.

Graham watched with jealous eye. “Buck, we really should have made you comfortable at home.”

“This place stinks,” Fred said. “Must be a leak somewhere. I’d get that fixed if I were you, Weldon, or these medical books and other treasure will all go to ruin.”

Do you like seeing maps or imagining fictional worlds? Do you like making maps? Why are maps so fun?  I’d love to read your take on maps in the comments!

EXPLORE MORE MAPS AND TELL ME WHICH ONES YOU LIKE BEST!

20 GREAT MAPS OF FICTIONAL PLACES

LITERARY WONDERLANDS by Laura Miller

PLOTTED: A LITERARY ATLAS by Andrew DeGraff

PS~ Thank you AMY of HEARTH RIDGE for the inspiring this post with your INSTAGRAM!

englewood map

Fiction: Thankful Crenshaw Misses a Step

“William, I’m so ashamed of myself—truly—you must forgive me. I’m just so annoyed over Miss Peckham.”

“Why? Because you need to be the center of the universe at all times? Come to your senses,” William said as he pulled a bottle of whiskey from under the tablecloth and filled a large glass to the rim. “You’re a pretty girl, but not the prettiest or smartest or anything. And no, I don’t have to forgive you—and I don’t. Look, the dance is over; better be off to your fiancé before you’re upstaged by Miss Peckham.”

“I hate you, William.”

“It’s Bill,” he muttered, gulped back his drink and poured another.

Miss Peckham raced up, yanked the bottle from his hand and said, “Mr. Weldon, I need you for a dance.”

“I don’t dance.”

Miss Peckham grabbed his hands. “Come on! I know you’d like to. I can see it in your eyes!”

“That’s the drink, I’m afraid,” William joked.

“Don’t be afraid, Mr. Weldon. . . .”

“I’m not!”

“Mr. Weldon, aside from Lieutenant Fahy and me, there’s no talented dancers. It’s just following steps.”

William laughed. Miss Peckham pulled him out, even as he protested, to a circle of dancers with a spot reserved for them by Lieutenant Fahy. The officer had a smug look on his face. William knew he had been set up—yet again—for humiliation. Thankful saw what Fahy was up to and stood stiff and angry with both men. Mrs. Markham and the aged quartermaster sergeant made the third pair and two other second lieutenants rounded out the circle.

“Mr. Weldon, by gosh, take a breath—I’ll get you through this with flying colors!” Miss Peckham whispered.

William nodded staring at his feet, and the music began.

“Three steps forward and back—and again, Mr. Weldon,” Miss Peckham coached.

William concentrated on his teacher. He found that he could follow and not too awkwardly. Turning the opposite partner went all right, but the small sashay got sticky.

Miss Peckham dragged him along as if she were made for the job. When the final twirl of the opposite partner came up, William found himself left hanging in the center, but it was Fahy and Thankful who had missed a step and Thankful belatedly trotted out. “Sorry, my mistake,” she said icily to William.

“So, Mr. Weldon, you seemed to enjoy yourself,” Miss Peckham said as they drank punch between dances.

He laughed. “Thanks.”

“No need to thank me, sir. You could have done it all by yourself.”

“But I wouldn’t have,” William said.

Miss Peckham shook her head. “Well, that’s a sad state of affairs–to wait for others before doing for yourself.”

William took a long drink and said nothing.

The hops lasted until the last dancers went to bed and tonight Miss Peckham and William were amongst the group that kept the musicians awake. Thankful went home early with a headache. Fahy grew tired of watching Bill Weldon make a fool of himself. When Miss Peckham stopped at the front gate of the Markham quarters to say good night to William, Thankful hid by the window to listen. “Call me Gertie, Bill; all of my best chums do,” Miss Peckham whispered.

Thankful’s blood boiled, but she got into bed. Mrs. Markham had put down cool cotton bedding and a nice feather pillow on a cot next to Thankful’s bed, but Thankful pulled an itchy wool blanket out and spread it over the cot after hiding the cotton under her pillow and tucking the feather pillow beneath her bed. She listened as Miss Peckham entered the dark room with a sigh and got into bed. “I hope you’re comfortable, Miss Peckham.”

“Oh, Miss Crenshaw, you’re awake. Thank you for asking. Truth is I could sleep on broken glass and it wouldn’t bother me. I’m so bone tired.”

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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What are Your Favorite Film Adaptations of Books?

pierce brosnan courtesy AMC

Pierce Brosnan courtesy of AMC (I love this pic!)

You know mine will be period pieces set in 19th century America, right?

THE SON

Okay, so I haven’t watched this one yet but I will. Pierce Brosnan in a western family saga? What’s not to like?

GLORY

One of the few movies that captures the nuances of race relations during the American Civil War. The cinematography and music are beautiful.

“The screenplay was written by Kevin Jarre, based on the personal letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the book One Gallant Rush by Peter Burchard (reissued in 1990 after the movie), and Lay This Laurel (1973), Lincoln Kirstein‘s compilation of photos of the monument to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on Boston Common.” Wikipedia

THE OLDEST LIVING CONFEDERATE WIDOW TELLS ALL

Alan Gurganus tells how he came up with the idea to write this epic saga about a crusty old Civil War veteran who married a very young girl which I devoured when it came out.

Back in the day television networks actually called people at home to complete surveys about miniseries ideas. I answered the phone and they asked me if I’d like to see this book made into a miniseries! They granted my wishes!

What are some of your favorite books made into movies?

How to Write a Big House Novel: Learn from the Irish

courtesy Sisters of Science
Lillian Bland

Here’s a belated bit of Irish:

CASTLE RACKRENT, a short novel by Maria Edgeworth published in 1800, is often regarded as the first historical novel, the first regional novel in English, the first Anglo-Irish novel, the first Big House novel and the first saga novel.

POWER AND PRIVILEGE IN THE BIG HOUSES OF IRELAND (Fantastic pictures of landed gentry in Ireland).

LILLIAN BLAND: Anglo-Irish journalist and aviator who, in 1910–11, became one of the first women in the world to design, build, and fly an aircraft.