Are You Emotionally Mature? Here’s How to Get There

“This was where the moment of maturity occurred: the place where they passed across an emotional frontier, the line that separates insecure ambition from likely success.” Making Haste From Babylon by Nick Bunker

As a writer of sagas about flawed people seeking redemption (usually from mistakes made in youth), the idea of emotional maturity has me pondering about emotional frontiers and how characters in books and those people in our real lives react to frontiers.

Some characters blanch as the emotional terrain before them comes into view. They hide along the edges of feeling, stranded in terror. They rationalize, keep secrets or drink self-pity by the pint. If only, if only . . . they seem to say.

Others plunge forward, stumbling, anxious, unthinkingly. A pride drives them. Criticism and praise prod them too quickly one way or the other. They curse the gods and run rough-shod over lessons unlearned in their futile efforts to satiate their immature ambitions.

Pruning lesser branches of the emotional tree produces stronger, mature specimens, but one must find a way to enter the frontier and not be chopped down by it. The frontier is where interesting characters live. Each character matures or dies. Even those who avoid the frontier one day are dismayed to discover the frontier has arrived at their doorstep.

Safe lives bring their own terrors and not of one’s choosing.

I decided to look at a few of my own characters to see where they stand:

JOHN WELDON hides his addiction.

THANKFUL CRENSHAW searches for the meaning of her own beauty in the arms of immature men.

BUCK CRENSHAW demands the world love him for his accomplishments because his mother does not.

Here are the marks of maturity according to Psychology Today:

A mature person is able to keep long-term commitments.

A mature person is unshaken by flattery or criticism.

A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.

A mature person’s decisions are based on character not feelings.

A mature person expresses gratitude consistently.

A mature person knows how to prioritize others before themselves.

A mature person seeks wisdom before acting.

After doing a quick inventory of myself, I have some work to do, but thank God for immature characters. We’d have no one to read or write about without them.

SIX LEVELS OF EMOTIONAL MATURITY

WHO’S IN CHARGE OF YOUR EMOTIONAL MATURITY?

10 HABITS TO ACHIEVE EMOTIONAL MATURITY

Readers and writers, do you have a favorite immature character?

How about an emotionally mature one?

Are you emotionally mature?

How did you get there?

***Painting by Anders Zorn

 

Fiction: The Parting Glass

Parting is sorrow for William and his father . . .

William slid out of bed and rummaged around for a bottle. All were empty, but his father left a few coins amounting to less than five dollars on the bureau—probably all he had to spare. “Damn him, making me the guilty one. How does he do it?” William mumbled, scooped up the change and was about to walk out when Jay Haviland arrived.

“Say, Bill, I saw your ghost on the street an hour ago—Robinson tells me it’s your old man—you’re the spitting image, cut from the same cloth . . .”

“Yes, he’s gone now. Why are you here?”

“Well, that’s a nice way to talk to your closest friend and confidante.” Haviland looked around the room haughtily.

“Why is it I’ve never in all these months seen or heard about your family if they’re such big bugs?” William asked.

“I told you, but you must have forgotten, Bill, that they’re touring Europe, Tibet and all,” Haviland said, eyeing Thankful’s watch.

William snapped it shut and put it in his pocket. “I thought you said Asia or Siberia?”

Haviland huffed as if offended, but smiled then. “Here, I’ve brought us some spirits—thought maybe to share with your fine father . . . anyway, my family will be just across Panama and off first to the South Seas and THEN Europe—I told you already.”

William had a talent for map making but knew almost nothing of the world. He figured his parents didn’t think he’d go very far anyway. “Give me some of that, Haviland. I feel like a celebration,” he said with great sarcasm.

“You? I thought you’d be all cut up over Miss Crenshaw and that ass Fahy.”

William slicked his hair, wiped the oil on his trousers and took a drink from Haviland’s bottle. “He’s not an ass really. He’s right for Thankful,” William said.

“Well, I saw the two the other day at the agency, and they were so close if Fahy farted Thankful could smell what he had taken for supper. I knew somethin’ was up.”

William took another drink.

“Watch it, bub, you’ll be washed out and passed out before we have a night. Did Father Weldon put you in funds? I’d have expected a more dashing and distinguished look for an old lieutenant, but he’s nothing better than a down-and-out rail worker,” Haviland laughed.

“I’ll not have you insult my father!”

Haviland searched William’s face with friendly condescension. “Your secrets are out William Weldon. You don’t come from eastern royalty after all so no need to talk all high falootin!”

“I’ve never said anything about royalty.”

“No need to get all heated in the desert, Bill. Let’s go to the barroom. The air ain’t so close there.”

“Fine.”

Haviland held the door and William stumbled out, already greatly influenced by Haviland’s “Tarantula Juice.” At the saloon, Haviland looked disappointed with the small change William pulled from his trousers, but said nothing. Two days of hard drinking with only the brief respite of his father’s visit made getting back to blind drunk easier for William. He held his glass unsteadily and toasted. “To my father. I hope he rots in Hell.”

Haviland touched the glass with his own disinterestedly. William’s head fell into his dirty hands.

“For the love of Christ, Bill, this is some celebration. You’ve gone plumb loco and I’m not happy with it. You’re bad company these days.”

William lifted his head long enough to order yet another drink. He gulped it down, but the image of his father sending him off at the train station a year ago would not allow for clear thinking. He had expected his mother to take his parting hard, but she’d been stoic. She kissed him, her eyes full of pain and pride, and she wished him luck. Weldon shook his son’s hand.

At the time William received it with cold formality; again his father came up short with no words of wisdom, no parting words at all. William found a window seat and looked up to the houses on the hill before craning his neck to see their own hill rising on the opposite side, the shabbier side. He slid out of his seat and into the other facing the depot and spotted his parents sitting on an out-of-the-way bench. His father’s walking stick—his one nice thing—was on the ground next to his mother’s faded parasol still open.

They didn’t scan the windows of the train for a last wave good bye. Their son was gone. And William stared at them in surprise at their emotion. Katherine looked empty, but his father hid his face as his shoulders shook. At the time William turned away repulsed at yet another sign of his father’s weakness.

William tried another drink, but couldn’t finish it. He stood to go. “I have to go home and tell my father . . .”

“Your father is long since gone, Bill. I saw him myself,” another drinker said to him. “He was coming from the apothecary shop then took the train.”

“Apothecary? The druggist?” William pushed his stool away and felt his way out. “Just forget it all; forget him. He’s worthless. . . .” William’s gut pained him, and he slouched under the staircase up to his room. It smelled of urine and was the only damp place in the whole town. He couldn’t take the heat or the steps. It was too hard. Everything was.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY of RUNNING

PHOTO courtesy Library of Congress

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.”

The Real (Fake) Lives of Authors

I’m a big fan of those feature stories that circulate on writer blogs and The Huffington Post about what famous authors wore. Or the ones about where they lived. Or the ones about the superstitions they had. All the while, as I gaze at the artfully photographed author posing as if in mid-thought, I’m aware of a small jealousy.  I know these things are fabricated for mass consumption. I really know it, and yet I still feel, because they had a better desk or cooler shoes, they had a leg up on the ladder of success.

The ones I remember most are the photos of great-looking authors who later went on to commit suicide. I don’t know about you, but I’m drawn to  studying the demise of celebrity authors–so tragic, so mesmerizing.

I think the real problem is photography. It captures just a moment–a perfect moment. The unreal moment when an author becomes famous. Even for the biggest writers the moments are only small things that happen for a few hours now and again.

It’s why reading about what authors do when not writing is so interesting. Are they really human? Are they witty all the time? Are they jerks to family? I know the answers but still need reassurance.

This weekend THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD about a dysfunctional family in the post-Civil War era received this review:

“*****I started this book without bothering to check the length. Had I done that, I may have changed my mind. So many of those books are full of pages that say nothing – or the same thing.

This is not one of those books. This is a piece of art – a story that flows from one page to the next, one year to the next, with absolute beauty. It was painful at times, full of raw emotion, but so beautifully, wonderfully written.

Well done!”

I was elated and grateful, of course.

But then we had to shoot one of our goats.

Yes, my favorite milking doe Kate who loved peanuts and affection has spent the last year barely hanging on. The vet hinted last year that she should be culled as a weak link in our herd, but I adored her and spent the winter injecting her with all sorts of remedies that didn’t work. In the thick of blizzards I was in the dark barn running my fingers over Kate’s rib cage looking for some fat to stick a needle in twice day.

When spring came on we thought we saw some hope, but then there was none. We researched the most painless, least stress inducing way to put her down: gun to the back of the head while she ate. I milked her one last time (we needed the milk for other goat kids) and brushed her–she liked that–and then I brought her into the big fenced in area to graze until my husband came home from work.

I did what everyone does in the movies–I took that one long look back at her and she at me. A little while later I heard the gunshot and that was it.

The next day my husband and I got into a two day fight about hummus–the stuff you put on crackers. When we spoke to each other again it was about the fact that one of our registered bucks turned out not to be a purebred Nubian. We had foolishly assumed he was and paid a purebred price a few years back but he was just an American Nubian (a step down in breeding circles). A customer of ours knew the breeder and pointed out our mistake  after I had advertised and sold a few babies as purebreds! I had to call everyone to apologize and offer to take back the babies or keep them for the $50 deposits they had given me. Luckily everyone was fine with getting great animals for a great price, but still I was mortified.

One of the babies was born with entroption (when eyelids turn under). I spoke with the vet and she assured me it was an easy fix and I could come by the next day and she’d walk me through the procedure. Instead I sat on her porch with a knocked-out baby goat on my lap as the vet with a tiny scalpel sliced off skin. The eyelid was HUGE like the vet had never seen. BTW, both of us humans were in a weird mix of farm clothes and pajamas since we thought we would only be injecting the lid with a tiny bit of penicillin.

I could also go on about our Golden Retriever whose face blew up after having eaten a bee this week, but the goat stories and last week’s post on the trials and tribulations of adoption are enough.

It’s raining again today. I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as weather manipulation. Photos of famous authors (and not so famous ones) are manipulated. The perfect turtleneck sweater, the relaxed sitting on the porch look, the deep in thought at typewriter pose . . . all fabricated, idealized versions of lives. Lives where writing is the obsession maybe but lives with a lot of mess. My life is no messier than others–it’s actually quite good despite goat shootings and bee stings.

I think for today I’ll luxuriate in a good review, knowing that for a brief few moments I took someone’s mind to another place.

MORE FUN LINKS:

WHAT WRITERS WEAR

WHAT WRITERS WEAR WHEN THEY WRITE AT HOME

THE CLOTHES BEHIND THE BOOKS

Fiction: Go West, Young Man (and Grow Up with the Country)

An old soldier has dreams for his son.

The oncoming evening and the hangover tugging William’s stomach tempered the brief elation he felt after abusing his father. As William lay in bed, he remembered the day back  home, over a year ago now, when his father called on the landing in that hopeful  way he had.

“Willy, how about a walk in town?”

“Papa, not today,” William moaned from bed, knowing he’d give in.

“I want to buy a gift for my little bird, Kate,” his father insisted.

The humidity made William’s collar and shirt stick and a mosquito sucked blood at the exposed part of his ear. His mess of golden hair needed cutting. The sidewalks, slick with late summer showers, led them through mildewed shade past Queen Anne houses and manicured lawns. William’s father preferred not to use his walking stick (just in case he needed his hands—for what William never knew). And so with his one strong hand, John Weldon clung to William, who labored under his own handicaps.

Once William caught the reflection of the two of them in a storefront window and kept this awful picture in his mind all through their subsequent walks. His father always found the slickest paths to stumble and slide over. William never listened to what his father was saying as they passed sympathetic or curious townsfolk.

Today his father fell. The damp air made his leg worse and his butchered arm made it near impossible for him to get up without his son’s help. He laughed at his weakness, much to his son’s consternation as the twins, Meg and Thankful Crenshaw, came into view, followed by their fashionable friends.

Thankful rushed up, dressed in the softest looking cream walking suit. “Oh, my goodness, Mr. Weldon, are you all right?” she giggled.

William noted her sweet and accepting blue eyes. Meg and her friends whispered, probably assuming that his father was drunk since he’d fallen in front of Stagg’s Ale House. Thankful extended her white-gloved hand and Weldon grabbed it. William cringed.

The old soldier failed to get his leg straight and needed the girl’s and William’s help on the mossy, wet planks. Meg moaned. “Do let Willy take care of his old father, sis!”

Thankful turned on her. “You’re so rude. And his name is Mr. Weldon! For shame, Meg!” Thankful took the old soldier’s hand and pulled hard but her glove slipped and she fell back into the wet road.

William pulled the girl steady. “Oh, dash it, Thankful. Why did you jump in to help so fast?”

Thankful laughed and punched his arm. “William Weldon, you’re too serious. You should be more like your nice father who still sits waiting for help.” She went to Weldon and held out both hands. “Come along, Mr. Weldon, we’ll get it right this time, won’t we?”

Weldon grabbed her hands with a chuckle and William helped, too, but less enthusiastically.

“Thank you, young lady,” John Weldon said catching his breath once righted.

Meg grabbed her sister, and the girls hurried off, Meg checking as she went looking for witnesses.

“Well, that was about the most embarrassing way to start the day, Papa,” William complained.

“Oh, William, there are worse things than a little fall,” Weldon said.

“Yes—I’ve experienced them,” William replied.

Weldon flashed him a quick, hurt look. “I know, William. I know. It’s stupid of me to make you come to town. I see how it embarrasses you now with the young ladies.”

William slipped from his father’s hold. “I’m going to take you home. Mother’s got enough of your silly gifts.”

“Does she say that?” Weldon asked.

“Papa, isn’t it enough that we’ve made a scene in front of a tavern? I’m getting a roaring headache. Let’s go home.”

“No! Something’s come in t-t-t-today that I w-want. . .”

William sighed. “Papa, Papa—take a breath. I can read your mind, anyhow. You won’t let us go home till you get what you want.”

Weldon laughed.

They strode into Demarest’s store. “Afternoon, old soldier and young Willy,” Demarest said in a way that grated on William’s nerves so he didn’t reply.

“Do you have my order then?” Weldon asked.

Demarest passed a box over the counter and John pulled a decent sum of money from his pocket.

“These are for you, Willy. Paints and things . . . for your trip. It’s a nice set so I hope you like it.”

Demarest added, “Your father spent quite a lot of time picking out just the right one.”

William touched the smooth wooden box—an artist’s kit. His face tingled with suppressed surprise and gratitude.

John spoke haltingly, but with no stammer. “William, it’s time for you to go. We want you to be happy one day.”

“Papa, I don’t understand,” William whispered. They were sending him off?

“I never should have filled your head with notions about West Point. It was unfair and my dream . . . but you’re different from me, thank God,” Weldon tried to laugh. “You’re more like your mother. You have her talent for art.”

“Art?” William never thought anyone noticed.

“Painting, you know,” Weldon explained. “It got me to thinking that there’s more than one way to join the army—if you’d like to. Your mother’ll worry—she’d keep you here forever . . . but . . . I feel it—you need to be away from me—f-from here.”

“Papa!” William pleaded, glancing at Demarest. “Don’t talk like that!”

The storekeeper disappeared into the back room.

“Papa, I don’t feel that way! Not at all. I won’t leave you. I can’t!”

Weldon took off his cap and smoothed his hair back with a lonesome false laugh. “As much as we’d like it, we can’t keep you forever—we’ve—I mean I’ve given you enough trouble.” He messed William’s hair like he used to. “You’ve turned out brave and good—there’s no need to hide yourself. You remember Captain Bourke, I hope. . .”

“Yes, I think so.”

“He says to send you out for a small visit and see what happens.” John slipped the long box under his arm and rested his other on William’s shoulder. “Good day, Demarest.”

“Good luck, William!” the storekeeper called back.

William helped Weldon out onto the walk. He never did stretch out quite as tall as his father and so he looked up to him. “Papa, I don’t think I’m ready.”

Weldon gave his son a stern look. “By your age I was years in the army.” He handed the box to his son and held tight to William’s other arm. “Come along now. We need to tell your mother you’ve decided to go.”

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.”

 

Fiction: The Stairway Down

“A man accepts his weaknesses and then rises above them.”

“Oh, and you do that, Papa?” William asked with a disgruntled laugh.

“Yes, yes, I’m trying very hard. I always have. I’m not a quitter,” John replied.

“Except when you quit on Mother and me and Eliza or when you quit and let me run off or when you quit your respectable job at the feed store to do gardening and write your idiotic little soldier stories. It’s a good thing none of your readers get to see the real man behind them.”

“The feed store?” Weldon asked in confusion. “I volunteered to help out Mr. Adriance after his son died. I never worked there.”

“Well . . .” William faltered, “well . . .”

“Writing those stories puts food on the table and paid for your doctors.”

“And none of that would have been necessary if you hadn’t let yourself become an opium eater! I remember you on parade—it was disgusting to see you struggle in the end. If you’d been any good, you would have kept us together and had plenty of money, and I’d be at West Point,” William said.

“W-Willy, you never had the temperament for West P-Point.”

“You say that now to avoid feeling bad. You avoid everything and hide everything behind all this new happiness—it’s sickening. I’m glad to be away from you. You always played the fool in town—laughing at your falls and being so gentle all of a sudden—it makes you look so horrible. It would have been better if you died in some Indian fight. That I could be proud of! I don’t know how Mother takes it! It’s probably why she wants me home so she can throw you off on to me again!”

“She threw me off on to you because she wanted you to care for me again, but it didn’t work. I tried everything . . .” Weldon said, inching toward the door.

William got on his elbows. The cowlick at the back of his head made his hair stand funny. “So give up, like you always do—it’d be a relief. All you ever do is make me sorry and miserable. Leave me alone, and you can go back to the little safe spot you have on Tenafly Road.”

The older Weldon’s voice shook. “Yes, I’ve finally allowed myself a safe spot and some happiness. I made mistakes—a thousand of them—and I’ve paid for them and continue to pay. I never had family to guide me. I was on my own—and I lied to your mother and you for years because I thought it was the only way of keeping you both.”

“Well, you were wrong. I’m so tired of hearing about your devotion to Mother and me. You constantly brag about you and Mother! Mother was a fool and weak to stay with you! She deserved better like Doctor Crenshaw!” William replied.

“Don’t ever talk with such disrespect about your mother who has devoted her life to you!” Weldon’s cane shook in his hand.

William hacked and spit phlegm to the floor from the side of his bed. “That’s funny! She devotes her sad little life to you and you alone! I come a distant second! If she wasn’t so God-awful pathetic and stupid she would have kept you away!”

Weldon ran over and pulled William from the bed with force. “You ungrateful little bastard! Your mother and I lived with nothing—gladly—to see that you recovered enough to have a life—a good life! And you sit here—drunk—making excuses for not taking responsibility!”

“You and Mother ignored me then suffocated me. You prepared me for nothing! I have nothing! I am nothing! You did everything wrong, and you get to be happy! It’s unfair, and I hate everything about you! I pretended to care for you in Englewood because I was trying to be so damned good. Where was my reward? I’ll never go back there!” William pulled away and wrapped the dirty blankets around himself like a filthy cocoon. “I am who I am, and I won’t hide it or hurt others.”

“But . . . you hurt Thankful.”

“She hurt herself—she was stupid to leave her money.”

“Why do you have her watch?” Weldon asked.

“It’s broken. She didn’t want it anymore. I’m gonna get it fixed. It’s expensive.” He pointed to the maker’s imprint. “Remember the Christmas watch, Papa?”

Weldon said nothing.

“You do remember, don’t you? The watch you promised me? I bragged about it a lot before Christmas to all the soldiers the year I came back with you. I was so excited and proud to be getting a grown up thing . . . you fooled me those first months. You were brilliant then to me. You were better than a god. You were everything. Do you remember what it felt like to pawn it for morphine or opium or whatever it was?” William looked his father over like a specimen in a freak show. “So now you shake and have tremors, but it’s all an act. I don’t feel sorry for you. Maybe you even limp and fall for attention. I don’t trust a single thing you do or say.”

“William, I’m so sorry for everything.”

“Sorry means shit to me, Papa.  This is my life now; it’s a relief in a way. There’s no pretending, no optimistic little plans for me to make you and Mother feel less guilty that you were rotten parents. For once I’m doing what I want!”

“What you want? Drinking?”

“I have friends. We do things.”

“What about your drawings?” Weldon asked.

“They’re not that damned good! You want to latch onto something—anything to make me at least a little special, or better than I am. I’m not! Stop this awful pretending.”

“Willy—you are special. Look. If you weren’t then how would someone like Doctor Crenshaw think so highly of you?”

“Papa, sometimes you’re so blind. Doctor Crenshaw loves Mother. He always has.”

Weldon laughed, waving away William’s words.

“Mother has always had a thing for doctors,” William said. “Before you came back east Doctor Crenshaw visited every day. He and Mother spent hours together on the porch talking. Mrs. Crenshaw was always too busy to come.”

“He came to help you, William,” Weldon said.

“Maybe for the first ten minutes,” William said, delighting in the sight of his father unsure and angry. “You remember Doctor Dudley, don’t you, Papa?”

Weldon clenched his cane with white knuckles. William searched his troubled eyes with glee.

“Yes, well I remember him, too. When you left with Crook on a scout, I guess, Dudley kissed Mother, and she didn’t stop him. Eliza and I saw.”

“Stop lying, William! You’re angry.”

“I don’t lie, Papa. You know that. I told you I’m a different man to you! Dudley was madly in love with Mother so that’s why he left. I wished that he hadn’t. He was bound for success.”

“William . . . I . . .”

“Papa, I can’t take the stammering! I can’t! And I can’t stand this game you play with mother . . .”

“There are no games between us, William.”

“Mother sees you like another child, not a real man at all.”

Weldon stood motionless, his breathing labored.

“Your caring is the worst kind, Papa. You suck the blood from people. Now please leave!”

“Y-your mother wants you home . . .”

“You’re well practiced in disappointing her. Don’t worry, she’s used to it.”

The old soldier limped out the door. William listened as his heavy leg hit each rickety step on the weather-beaten staircase.

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.”

Fiction: A Man to Man Talk

William sat at the back of The Buckskin and read over the letter he’d received from Thankful at Fort Grant.

 

Dear William,

I am to be married to Lieutenant Fahy as soon as my parents come out. I would have wanted you to be here for my wedding, but I know you would hate being around the Crenshaws. I miss the old times terribly much. I hate being grown up, and I am sorry that we are not friends anymore.

I would love to invite you to the grand socials we will have and talk about Delacroix and Raphael and maybe about the music we both liked so very much. I wish I had your mother who let you paint and draw and loved you.

Do take care of yourself. It is so lonely thinking that you are only miles away and we no longer talk. I forgive you about the money. You will always be William to me, not Bill and I will always love you like a brother and friend.

Kindest regards,

Thankful Crenshaw

 

 

Why did Thankful make a point of telling him of her engagement? They had hardly spoken in the months since William left her at the post. William slipped the letter into his pocket and threw back a shot. The saloon door creaked open and, though the glare of the sun obscured the man, William’s heart quaked.

“I’m looking for my son, William W-Weldon . . .” John Weldon said, clearing his throat.

William hated the weakness in his father’s voice.

“Bill Weldon? Well, you’ve come to the right place,” the barman laughed and pointed back to where William sat, adjusting his sweat-stained collar.

The men in the place turned to watch John Weldon, with his walking stick, head toward the other cripple in the room.

“Papa.”

John Weldon rushed up, flush from the desert heat. He didn’t touch his son. No embrace; no handshake. “Oh, no, Willy . . . what’s become of you?” he asked, his voice hardened. “I wanted you to escape it.” He couldn’t meet his son’s hateful stare. “William, Mother has missed you. I’ve come to take you home.”

“What? I’m not going anywhere.” William crossed his arms, moving himself as far back against the wall in his seat as he could get. He looked around embarrassed.

John glanced around too and, whispering this time, said, “You’re wanted at home, son. Now don’t fight me on it.”

“Are you trying to be a strong father suddenly?” William asked, slurring his words.

John Weldon grabbed William by his suspenders–jerking him from his high chair and dragging him to the door before throwing him into the light. William stumbled to the sidewalk. Passersby took about the same notice they would a fly on a window sill.

“Oh, for God’s sake, Willy—give me your hand.”

William pulled himself to his feet and teetered till he caught hold of the building’s porch rail. “Papa, give yourself a rest.”

“We’re going to sober you up, son, and take the train back.”

“No! I’m not going back. You’ve come to humiliate me. Haven’t you done that enough?” William’s stomach roiled. He had no idea how long he’d been drinking—since yesterday? William wanted to crawl into bed and be left alone. He stumbled around the corner and up to his room with his father trailing. The sound of his father’s Grand Army of the Republic walking stick against the wooden path and then on the slippery sand grated on him.

William opened his door and took to bed. His head spun as his father, looking older than he had a few months ago, explored the tiny room, knocking things around with his stick as if afraid of coming up close. His arm trembled. William knew every muscle of those long arms. How many times had he seen his father clean a gun or pull a horse’s girth tighter in the old days? Strange things William remembered. “Papa, I’m sorry,” he began, but his old anger resurfaced. Why was he apologizing?

“W-William, I thought you’d be different from me. Why are you doing this to your mother?” Weldon asked.

“Papa, we’re nothing alike.”

“You’re a drunk, William. How will I tell Mother?”

“Do what you always do, Papa. Keep it a secret. Lie. I don’t care what you do.”

John Weldon scratched behind his ear. “William, Thankful told her father you spent all her money.”

“And you believe it, of course.”

“I don’t know . . . I used to do things . . . when the morphine . . .” John said.

“I don’t want to hear about that! I don’t take things! I have my own money!”

“Have you been getting the money I send?” his father asked.

“Yes, and I’ve bought a lovely ranch with it,” William replied.

“I know it isn’t much,” John Weldon said, “but with Grandmother nearly burning the house and with Lucy always needing new spectacles and . . .”

“Well, if you never work then . . .” William interrupted.

The old soldier stared at his bleached out son. “Willy, do you mean me or you?”

William tried sitting up but groaned and fell back on to his bed. “You take away every chance I have and think a lousy box of paints and five dollars now and again makes up for it all.”

“Is that all I’ve done for you over the years?” Weldon asked. “How is it you stand and walk today? It was me who helped you. You gave up with Mother and Doctor Crenshaw when they tried to help you.”

“You sat on a chair bleary-eyed as Mother did everything!” William said. “You made me sick.”

“No. I sat in the chair teaching you your lessons when Mother ran low on patience. I stayed home to help you. You begged me to,” Weldon replied. “I know I’ve made big mistakes.”

Mistakes? You were afraid to leave the house. You go out of your way to set me up for failure, and I stupidly go along,” William said. He swallowed hard, pulled himself up and opened the shuttered window to vomit. Someone below, who got the worst of it shouted up abuse. He turned back to his father wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

John Weldon’s once impressive posture now bent into a defeated curvature of the spine.

“Papa, why did you tell Thankful where I was? That was the worst thing you could have done.”

“I-I never thought she’d come to see you. I hoped you’d be flattered that a girl was asking after you. I saw the way you admired her back home . . . I hoped . . . remember that time when I got you the paints, and she helped me when I fell?”

“How could I forget?” William replied—though he’d forgotten a lot. “You set up these ridiculous hopes for me!  Thankful wanted to use me as an escape from her parents,” he said climbing back into bed. “If you’d have left things alone maybe I would have had a chance with Thankful . . . someday.”

“Someday?” Weldon laughed dismissively. “It looked like she wanted to be a part of your life now. D-did she give you that watch, son?” Weldon pointed to the exquisite little article opened on his side table.

“What? Do you think I stole it from her?”

“No.” Weldon said with a hint of doubt.

“I didn’t spend her money either. I know I wouldn’t,” William said, shielding his eyes from a shaft of light through the dirty window. “Oh, Papa, I don’t know what went wrong. I’m just so stupid. The money—Thankful came, and I was ashamed. I didn’t fit in the army and . . . I always lose my money. I told Thankful that, but she still trusted me. I don’t remember taking it.”

“B-but your drawings–they’re real good,” Weldon said.

“Who cares?” William cried. “I’m all by myself. How could a girl like Thankful, who’s smart, ever feel more than pity for me?”

His father looked at the dark walls and dirty windows in the charmless room so unlike William’s attic room back in Englewood with its sketches and small collections full of boyhood dreams and innocence. “You’re right, William, she couldn’t have feelings for you the way things stand now.” He picked up the broken little timepiece. “A man accepts his weaknesses and then rises above them.”

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.”

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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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.”

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: Glass Houses

The holiday visit unravels after Fred Crenshaw throws Captain Simon McCullough’s West Point scrapbook into the fire.

“That Weldon was just lording it over you that you might not graduate from the academy,” Fred said as he watched the flames eat away at the cloth edges of the old West Point scrapbook. “There’s too much clutter here anyway. I did them a favor.”

Fred shoved Buck out of the family library into the narrow and dimly lit hallway. Margaret called from the dining room. “Come boys, supper—I mean–pies are ready.”

Buck shuffled in with his head down and Fred’s fist at his back. They sat and Margaret passed them plates. Buck felt his head.

Lucy sat opposite him. “Buck’s bleeding!”

Graham upset the china to be at Buck’s side.

Buck shoved him back. “Father, I’m fine. Stop humiliating me with this act of concern. Everyone leave me be.”

“Buck, please . . .” Graham said, moving back to his seat.

“Father, Fred said that you paid money to get me in at West Point—is it true?”

Graham went red. “No, I’ve always contributed funds to our congressmen and senators.”

“Did you think I couldn’t get appointed on my own?” Blood dripped over Buck’s eyebrow and down his cheek.

“No, it’s not that. It’s only that you wanted it so badly and then Fred went first. That year you spent at home, I sort of came to like you a bit. I wanted you happy.”

“Buck, dear,” Margaret said, “you see now I was the honest one here. I told you that you weren’t right for that awful school and look at you now. Oh, it breaks my heart! How can I bear it? Tell me!”

Sarah spoke. “Why don’t we sing some carols?”

Everyone went back to eating pie, but Sarah sang:

The holly bears a berry

As red as any blood

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

To do poor sinners good

Oh the rising of the sun . . .

“Here, here, old Sarah!” Fred interrupted her delicate voice and a look of sorrow and forgetfulness appeared on her face.

Buck kicked Fred and did his best to sing in his raspy voice:

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir.

Weldon and the others joined in now:

The holly bears a prickle

As sharp as any thorn;

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

On Christmas Day in the morn.

“That was lovely, Sarah. Thank you,” Graham said.

“That was my Scott’s favorite carol. Leave it to him to like the one song about thorns and gall,” Sarah laughed and then cried. “Willy should be here not out west. It will all end in tears—I just know it. That boy hasn’t the least sense to be off on his own. Oh, the best ones are gone and here we sit. Let’s sing one for my dead son Simon.”

“Blast it! This is damned morbid,” Fred complained. “Father, I’ll ready the horses.”

“Wait a minute, son. We haven’t even opened the wine.”

“You’d have to be drunk to get through this train wreck of a Christmas,” Fred replied.

“Fred, that’s enough.”

“Father, is that all you know how to say? Well, what about you? I think that’s enough pie for you. And I think we’ve all had enough of your work and writing and women.”

Graham’s head collapsed into his hands in despair.

Weldon slammed his fists against the table. “Now you’ve gone too far, Fred! I don’t care what your father may or may not have done, but he is still your father and you’re lucky to have him. I’ve watched you torture him for years, embarrass him and you dare judge him? Even that damned spelling bee and how you humiliated William and your father.”

“God, you still go on about that bee. So what if we taught Willy the wrong spellings? It was just a lark. We were kids for Christ’s sake. Don’t live in the past, Mr. Weldon. I’ve heard that yours wasn’t so great.”

“Fred!” Thankful grabbed him by the arm and spoke in a low tone. “You’re embarrassing us!”

“What could be more embarrassing than spending Christmas with a morphine-eater, a crazy old bat and a syphilitic child—not to mention one of the women our father had affection for. Why must we make this yearly journey into the pits of hell? Mama hates it, too. Only Father and Thankful enjoy it here—that’s because they’re fools and in love. Someone has to have the guts to finally end this charade of friendship!”

“Guts? You mean heartless disregard for human feelings!” Katherine cried.

Lucy asked, “What’s syphilitic?”

Graham stood. “Fred, leave this house at once!”

“That’s fine. I only came as a favor to Mama—she says it can be so dull here.”

Margaret went white.

“Buck, come on. Let’s go,” Fred said.

“No.” Buck replied, staring at his plate.

“Right, Buck. I know where you stand now. Mr. Weldon, I didn’t want to tell you, but Buck threw that West Point thing into the fire—said it was rubbish. I tried to stop him and maybe it’s his head. He hasn’t been right for months—like Willy, I guess. Probably why Buck almost killed that cadet.”

“Simon’s memory book?” Katherine cried. “John, how could you let them near it?”

“I don’t know. I just thought . . .” Weldon shoved his chair out and ran to retrieve what was left of the family’s precious book.

“Buck Crenshaw, you’re worse than your brother because you’re devious and vicious out of sight. You even fooled me in there,” Graham lamented.

“But I didn’t throw the book—I liked it very much. I wouldn’t . . .”

“Damn you, Buck, will you ever own up to anything?” Fred asked.

“I believe Buck,” Lucy said.

“You stupid, little tart! Stay out of it! What do you know?” Fred asked.

“Leave Lucy alone!” cried Buck.

“I want both of you out of my sight!” Graham shouted nearly turning over the table in his rush to drag them to the door. Fred smirked at him and walked just out of reach into the night, dusting his jacket. “Get up, Buck! NOW!” Graham ordered.

Buck stood up shakily. Nathan cried. Thankful’s eyes were full of judgment. Margaret waved her fist as if to throttle him.

Graham said, “Buck, give me the watch back.”

“What?”

“The watch. I know you have it with you. I saw you rudely check the time earlier. Now give it over. It’s a special thing to me. I thought you’d appreciate it, but it’s too good for you.”

“The watch? The WATCH? You can have it! It’s always amused me that you have so little time for us—always too busy to know us, but you give us watches! I thought that maybe you liked me more than just a little bit. Here’s your damned watch!” Buck threw it on the table and ran out after pushing a few chairs out of his way. The front door slammed, and the room went silent.

Weldon carried in the charred book and handed it to Katherine. “Lucky the fire was so small.”

“Katherine, I am so terribly, terribly ashamed of my boys tonight,” the doctor said.

“What does it matter, Graham?” Katherine replied, pulling a half- burned letter from the book. “I’m sorry, but your apologies are empty to me right now. I think it’s time you all went home.”

“Oh, Katie, don’t end Christmas this way,” Margaret pleaded.

“Margaret, if you want the truth, I’m tired of your company as much as you’re tired of mine. Take all of your children and your horrible manners and leave our boring home.” Katherine stood.

“Katie, please.”

“Margaret, leave before I scream,” Katherine warned, her raised voice so unusual and unsettling.

Graham turned to John. “Weldon, I. . .” but there was nothing to say. And so they left, Margaret driving one sled and Graham the other.

Katherine, after sending Sarah to bed and Weldon into the parlor to read with Lucy, stacked plates in the dining room. There on the table lay Buck’s watch. She read the inscription and slipped the timepiece into her pocket before going to the porch for air. In the distance sleigh bells rang and a lonesome evening church bell sounded the time. Underneath Simon’s snow-covered willow someone coughed. Katherine grabbed one of her husband’s tattered coats and slipped on a pair of boots. Buck jumped when she spoke his name.

“Put this on,” Katherine said.

Buck had been crying and holding his throat in the piercing air.

Katherine sat beside him on the stone bench Simon had bought for Sarah years ago. “Buck, why do you hate my family?”

Buck shook his head and wiped his eyes. “I didn’t throw that book into the fire.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“You have no reason. I’ve been a cruel bastard to Willy.”

“Yes, and I don’t understand it. You have everything; William has so very little.”

“Mrs. Weldon, I didn’t throw the book,” Buck said again.

“Buck, your father left this here by accident. It’s a beautiful inscription,” Katherine said, pressing it into Buck’s hand.

“He must have meant it for someone else.” Buck took the watch and threw it. It crashed through a pane of glass in Sarah’s conservatory. “For God’s sake! What have I done now?” He put his face in his hands.

Katherine laughed. “This is some Jonah day for us all. Come with me to the glass house.”

“No. I better go now. I’ll pay to have it repaired.”

Katherine took his cold hand and pulled him to the hothouse. “We’ll find that watch. One day you’ll be glad to have it.” She turned on a little lantern.

“So many flowers,” Buck said.

“Yes, the hard thing is some get neglected and get all out of shape and undisciplined,” she said in the soft confidential way the Weldons had.

Buck hated his weakness for wanting to swim in the sound of it.

“Look, here’s the watch,” Katherine said. “Your father sees something in you. Trust him.”

“I try, but I don’t think I can.”

“There’s not much Lucy and I agree on—she’s so like her father Simon with her opinions–and maybe you’re just fooling me, but I’d like to believe that you told the truth about the book,” Katherine said and tucked the watch in Buck’s shirt pocket. She made to embrace him, but Buck turned to go.

“I’ll bring you the money for the glass tomorrow, Mrs. Weldon.” He stepped into the icy night and waved goodbye.

Katherine waved back and then turned her attention to the flowers.

**Featured image: Young Lady With Flowers, Jane Maria Bowkett

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.”

PART ONE HERE

PART TWO HERE

PART THREE HERE

PART FOUR HERE

PART FIVE HERE

PART SIX HERE

PART SEVEN HERE

PART EIGHT HERE

PART NINE HERE

PART TEN HERE

PART ELEVEN HERE

PART TWELVE HERE

PART THIRTEEN HERE

PART FOURTEEN HERE

PART FIFTEEN HERE

PART SIXTEEN HERE

PART SEVENTEEN HERE

PART EIGHTEEN HERE

PART NINETEEN HERE