Fiction: Bad Reputation

William almost escapes Thankful’s notice . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes. I realize that.”

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s not fair!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is he that ill?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, bully for you, then.”

“But I won’t go,” Thankful said.

“What?”

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

“The season?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I thought you were terrified of guns?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, hell, Thankful, I have to go.”

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

PREVIOUS EPISODE FROM WEARY OF RUNNING

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

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

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: Sunday Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t think . . .”

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

“Services?”

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

“No . . . I guess not . . . I . . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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Fiction: The Priesthood

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After a big night William considers a change . . .

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

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

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

“Yes, well . . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How’d you know it was two hundred?”

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

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

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

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

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

“A Mexican?”

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

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

“You sent me to go fetch her again.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, you have to leave now.”

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

The priest laughed. “Are you a Catholic?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He watches out for me when I . . .”

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

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

PREVIOUS EPISODE

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

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

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

 

Fiction: Lost Time

William Weldon ponders generational curses . . .

William, now at loose ends,  went to see if he’d gotten any mail. He opened a short letter from his father in the old soldier’s pathetic, shaky script.

Dear William,

We are all well here. Mother was very pleased to receive a kind letter from Captain Bourke dated some months ago, but it seems as though you have impressed Captain Markham and the others as we knew you would.

Please tell us when your sketches are published so we can look for them in the magazines. We would like to hear from you more, but we understand about your headaches and all the distractions of the West.

Enclosed is a small bit of money for you, I wish it could be more. Buy a little treat.

Affectionately your father,

John Weldon

His father had great timing—always too late. What was five dollars to him now? William didn’t feel at all guilty about sending his father nothing for Christmas. Being out west reminded him of the Christmas long ago, alone with his father, before his accident.

All of the soldiers had sparkling gold and silver pocket watches, and William wanted one desperately. His father had taken him hunting with the same old carbine he still carried, and they had gotten a big bird. It was probably John’s bullet that caught it, but he lied and insisted it was Willy’s. He hinted that William would get what he wanted for Christmas. Something made William turn spiteful. “All I want is Mother,” he had said.

His father got sicker and the watch never materialized. Later William realized that his father had traded it for opium.

William shoved the letter into his pocket and limped in his old, uneven and tattered shoes from home. His head burned in the sun. He found shelter in The Buckskin Saloon.

“Merry Christmas, Robinson,” William said and sat at the bar, sliding the five dollars towards the bartender. “This is some of what I owe you.”

The bartender gave him a once over. “Well, this is a holiday, if you’re payin.’ But it hardly covers the damage you done last night.”

“Damage?”

“Boyo, you really are soft in the head, ain’t you? I mean to say all the drinks you bought on credit—that’s the damage.”

“Credit?”

“Like always,” Robinson replied. “What will I get you now?”

“Now? Oh, just a ginger beer.”

The man raised his brows. “On the wagon?”

“Gosh, no. My stomach just pains me is all.”

“Gosh? Bill, if you didn’t amuse me, there’d be no fun. So when you sellin’ another picture so’s I can get some more spoondulicks from you? More than just a few dollars, I mean,” the bartender asked while passing him the small glass and nodding at another customer.

“Soon.”

Jay Haviland slapped William on the back. “Here’s just the man I wanted to see today. You were all horns and rattles last night. Is the girl sent back and all, do you know? Thought I saw the very same one with one of them high-falutin’ officers this morning. Boy howdy—it’s hot enough to wither a fence post, ain’t it?”

“Yes, it’s hot.” William finished his drink, remembering the first time he met Haviland.

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: A Drunken Night

What happens when you mess with soiled doves . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get out of my sight, Bill Weldon.”

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

“Willy!”

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

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

Fahy stared at William’s bootless and deformed foot.

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

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

The lieutenant glared at him.

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

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

Both Fahy and William blanched.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William shook his head.

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

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

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

Fahy was so clean and self-possessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

FICTION: Burning Memories

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Family Saga Fiction at Middlemay Farm

Paintings, conversation and memories stoke the flames of jealousy and resentment.

The parlor seemed closer than ever as the men entered. The fire roared and everything smelled of the kitchen disaster. Katherine laughed with Nathan and Thankful as the three popped corn and watched a kettle boil. Margaret and Meg complained in whispered tones about their bent hoops and smudged overskirts before turning their attention to a newly hung portrait of Katherine.

“My word, Katie,” Margaret said in amazement, “you didn’t tell me you had commissioned a painting to be done. I wouldn’t think you’d like to spend that much money on yourself. Graham—Graham, come take a look at this. I’d like one for our family. Who’s the artist?”

Weldon, with a mix of pride and embarrassment, said, “Willy did it—on memory.”

“You’re not serious!” Margaret cried. “I knew Willy sketched now and again—but this! You should have sent him…

View original post 1,265 more words

FICTION: Burning Memories

Paintings, conversation and memories stoke the flames of jealousy and resentment.

The parlor seemed closer than ever as the men entered. The fire roared and everything smelled of the kitchen disaster. Katherine laughed with Nathan and Thankful as the three popped corn and watched a kettle boil. Margaret and Meg complained in whispered tones about their bent hoops and smudged overskirts before turning their attention to a newly hung portrait of Katherine.

“My word, Katie,” Margaret said in amazement, “you didn’t tell me you had commissioned a painting to be done. I wouldn’t think you’d like to spend that much money on yourself. Graham—Graham, come take a look at this. I’d like one for our family. Who’s the artist?”

Weldon, with a mix of pride and embarrassment, said, “Willy did it—on memory.”

“You’re not serious!” Margaret cried. “I knew Willy sketched now and again—but this! You should have sent him to art school!”

“Margaret, please stop,” Graham complained. “Weldon’s sent him west for a different sort of education, and he seems to be thriving.”

“Willy was so disappointed not getting into West Point,” Katherine said, glancing at the two cadets at the door. “But Captain Bourke invited him out to Arizona with the troops.”

“Bourke always had a soft spot for Katherine and the children,” Weldon added.

“Seems everybody did, right Father?” Fred commented under his breath.

“I guess Willy’s fine,” Weldon continued.  “We hear from him only rarely, I’m afraid, but then it’s some distance and there’s bound to be distractions.”

“What sort of distractions?” Thankful asked, blushing.

Katherine glanced over with a knowing smile.

“Garrison life can be dull at times,” Weldon said, “but with the Apaches still on the loose there very well could be some action.”

“But Willy’s no soldier,” Thankful worried.

“You’re right, but we often had sketch artists come along from the newspapers. William is the responsible quiet sort military men don’t mind having along,” John said with an air of pride.

Fred with folded arms leaned against Buck. “That ass suck William is going to kill Indians before we ever get the chance!”

Margaret didn’t want to hear a thing about a successful William Weldon. “Well, there’s no room in here for a man of your size, Graham,” Margaret said. “Take the boys to the library. I won’t give up my seat now that I’ve cleared a space for baby and me. Now isn’t this just a special holiday? Could we be any closer?”

“Land sakes, Mama’s complaining will make me mad. Weldon—that is, Mr. Weldon, may I smoke in the library?” Fred asked, already halfway across the hall with cigar in his mouth.

“W-well . . . Sarah likes that room kept just so,” Weldon said. He lingered until Katherine motioned him to go.

Fred lit up, making himself at home. He hung his thumb in his embroidered vest, surveying the room filled with old mementos, small medical sculptures and books. “Old man McCullough never once let us in here. What was the fuss about, I wonder?”

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 Buck. “It was Simon’s—Mrs. Weldon’s brother.”

“May I look at it?” Buck asked.

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

Weldon turned from him to Graham. “Crenshaw, get rid of that awful cigarette. I’ve something nice to share with you.” Weldon found in a cluttered drawer two fine cigars.

“Thanks old fellow, you have a way of cheering me up,” Graham said, taking a cigar and glancing Buck’s way again.

Weldon lit his cigar. “Buck, you all right over there?”

Buck nodded and whispered. “Seems the captain had an awful good time at West Point.”

“Simon had a good time everywhere,” Weldon replied with a note of sadness.

“Sounds like my kind of bloke,” Fred said.

“No, I doubt it,” Weldon said. “Simon had a heart of gold; spent most of his time thinking of others.”

“I guess you’re accusing me of something Mr. Weldon.”

“No, it’s just that Simon never went in much for intimidation and trickery.”

“Weldon, that’s enough,” Graham warned.

“You’re right, Crenshaw,” Weldon said. “It is Christmas after all.”

Buck turned the pages in the memory book with care. “Captain McCullough was very impressive looking when he was young,” he said.

“What are you, a Nancy boy now?” Fred asked. “First it was coloreds and now this.”

Buck jumped up and went for Fred’s throat. “You bastard! You’re a piece of shit!”

Graham and Weldon dragged them apart and Margaret called from across the hallway. “Come now, boys. No rough housing—the dining room is fine so come eat now.”

“Get yourselves in order and don’t give me yet another reason to be ashamed,” Graham ordered and walked out.

Weldon hesitated, but then followed Graham.

“Look at you, Buck. Any reason for your ass sucking Mr. Weldon?”

“What?”

Fred grabbed the memory book from the chair Buck had deserted. “Suddenly you take an interest in a dead and buried relative of theirs? Then you compliment Weldon over selling his horses? Whose side are you on? Seems it’s always the wrong one and I’m sick of bailing you out.”

“Then don’t. I wouldn’t be up on charges if it wasn’t for your help.”

“You wanted Streeter gone, and he’s gone, you little coward. You sicken me—and Father and Mama, too.”

“Shut your mouth, Fred.”

Fred grabbed him by the collar. “I warn you, if you tell anyone what happened that night . . .”

Buck shoved him. “What! What will you do?”

“I’ll kill you,” Fred stated.

Buck laughed.

“You will not destroy my good name over Streeter, Buck.”

Buck laughed again. “Good name?”

“Buck, you have always acted morally superior, but why? When have you ever gone against me? You know as well as I do that on your own you’re nothing. You will and have always been just my brother. That and Father’s bribes got you in at the Point.”

“Enough of your damned lies!”

“Sure, your grades were good, but truth be known, they didn’t like your personality—or lack of it. You’re colorless, a bore even. Every friend you had I engineered for you. If only I hadn’t left you to your own devices last summer . . .”

Buck stood shaking.

“What’s this?” Fred asked. “You’re crying! STOP NOW.” Fred waited a moment and then slapped him hard. “Get a hold of yourself.”

Buck ripped the West Point book from Fred’s hand, but Fred tugged it back and flung it into the fire.

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

FICTION: The Holidays Are Awkward

Margaret Crenshaw and her obnoxious son Fred do their best to keep things uncomfortable when they visit with old friends. For Buck, still in shock over his brutal treatment of a West Point cadet, the visit goes from bad to worse.

To the great relief of Graham’s mother and Margaret, Graham gathered up his children and left for home the next morning. They were expected for the traditional holiday dinner at the Weldon home. The Crenshaws in their enormous garnet sleds pulled up the drive at Tenafly Road to be met by a few chairs–badly burnt and smoldering–and a sooty John Weldon limping up to greet them.

“Holy Jerusalem, Weldon! What’s happened? Is everyone all right?” Graham asked, climbing down from his seat.

“A fire. S-Sarah s-set the place in flames,” John laughed in his defeated way.

“Graham, dear. . .” Margaret said with her hand held out, waiting to be helped from the sled.

Graham took Margaret’s hand and set her beside him.

“Mr. Weldon, it seems hardly the time for laughter. When will you get some hired help to mind Sarah? Oh, I know Katherine wouldn’t like to spend your small income, but truly,” Margaret said, “Sarah will have you all dead and buried by summer. What a shame she’s so gone off in the head.”

“It wasn’t really—well, it was an honest mistake,” John replied.

“Mr. Weldon, I’m sure that Sarah’s as honest as an acorn when her mind is working, but please,” Margaret huffed.

Nathaniel, the Crenshaw ten-year-old, jumped down to survey the damage.

“Nathan,” Margaret scolded, “get back in your seat this instant. We’re leaving.”

“Oh balls! But Mama . . .”

“No, for goodness sake!” Margaret cried. “Graham do you hear his language? And what will we eat here with the kitchen charred to bits?” Margaret asked Nathan, but her son hardly listened.

Lucy, the Weldon’s adopted niece, wearing thick spectacles and a grin, waved and called to Nathan. “We’ve got gallons of cider and pies like you’ve never seen.” She grabbed the boy and ran to the porch.

Fred stayed perched at the helm of the second sleigh. “Well, if this ain’t rotten luck, Weldon.”

“Mr. Weldon to you, young man,” Graham said. “Is there anything we can do?”

“Fraid not,” Weldon replied, wiping his hands on his trousers.

Margaret huffed again as Katherine strode up with a smudge on her nose. “Come along, Graham. I’m sure the Weldons are in no mood for company now. It’s grum here, right, Katie?”

Katherine looked to John.

“Well, my wife would feel more cheerful if you stayed. Why let a little kitchen fire ruin supper?”

“Supper usually includes cooked foods, dishes, that sort of thing,” Margaret said. “Besides my children suffer in the smoke.”

“Since when, Margaret?” Graham asked and turned to John and Katherine. “We’ve brought nice wine from my mother, and Lucy says your pies are in eating shape. You know that’s why I came. Of course we’ll stay. The boys will help get things in order for you.”

Fred moaned. “But Father, I’m on holiday and we’ve been from Hell to breakfast this morning.”

“And our poor, poor Buck is an invalid this year. Do you still keep Willy’s wheelie-chair thing around?” Margaret asked.

Buck slammed his hand against the side of the sleigh to make his mother stop—uselessly.

Katherine stepped over to him. “Buck looks very unwell.”

“Oh, don’t worry—those cuts will heal and he’ll be as good looking as his brother again. I know he’s gruesome,” Margaret said. “It wouldn’t be right to send him home on his own though.”

Katherine went red. “Of course you wouldn’t, Margaret! I wasn’t speaking of his wounds, only that the poor thing looks green. I don’t discriminate based on looks.”

“Obviously not—look what you married, Katie, and there’s no hope of improvement there, ha-ha,” Margaret quipped.

Thankful, with the youngest child in her arms, jumped from the sleigh.

“Watch the child! Watch the child!” Margaret screamed.

Thankful laughed, handed the happy baby to Margaret and gave Katherine a hug. “Any word from Willy yet, ma’am?”

“Yes, my son sent us lovely gifts.”

Lucy joined them. “Oh, but Willy forgot all about Uncle John.”

“But Lucy, there must have been a mistake,” Thankful said, turning to Katherine.

Katherine said nothing as Weldon walked over and kissed her.

Thankful pulled her bag from the sleigh. “Oh, dash, I almost forgot. I’ve something for Mr. Weldon. It’s from England—a book of flowers, garden things and such. I thought you might like it, sir.”

John glanced at Katherine with a charmed grin. “Miss Thankful, that was thoughtful.”

“Why are you giving Grandmother Martha’s book away when you just got it, Thankful? How rude. She’d be hurt,” Margaret said.

“Grandmother was getting rid of it. . .” Thankful replied, pushing it into Weldon’s hands.

“It’s the thought, Thankful,” Weldon said. “Here you go. I won’t take it, but it’s the thought. I appreciate it.”

Meg, Thankful’s twin yawned and stood beside her mother. Finally Buck made his way to the ground, pulling his hat lower.

“Well, I do hope we can be kept warm. The baby is just over being sick,” Margaret said. “Katherine, I’m so happy that all of you are safe, though. We love you very much.”

Katherine collected herself. “The parlor is fine. I haven’t the heart to look for damage in the dining room—we had it nicely done up.”

The men took the horses to the barn.

“My gosh, I remember this place when old man McCullough used to keep it fine with the best horses in the county—aside from ours. Look at that poor wretch you have now,” Fred said. “Whatever happened to your last Morgan?”

“As you know already, Fred, I sold the horse for my son’s trip west and I’d do it again. Seems Willy’s doing really well with his paints and all.”

“So he’s painting fences out west?” Fred asked.

“F-for m-magazines,” Weldon replied.

“That’s nice about the horse,” Buck whispered.

“What are you saying, Buck?” Graham asked.

“It’s nice that Mr. Weldon did that for his son.”

They stared at him.

Buck took up a grooming brush and ran it a few times over the horse, but soon tired and sat on a hay bale, close to napping.

Weldon said to Graham, “I’m surprised you let him out.”

“Oh, Buck was adamant. Wanted to come. I don’t know why, but well, I’m inclined to give him what he wants after coming so close to losing him. He’s still in for some big trouble yet at school.”

Weldon was just putting out the final lantern when Lucy arrived.

“Uncle John,” she whispered as she came up beside him with big eyes.

Weldon gave the willowy girl his undivided and adoring attention.

Lucy pulled a tiny kitten from her coat.

Weldon laughed.

“Please, uncle, please let me keep it. It’s forlorn.”

“Lulu, but how many orphans can we keep?” Weldon caught himself and kissed Lucy’s pale forehead. “Go on, then, but what will you name it?”

“Willy,” she replied. “He’s handsome like Willy.”

Fred guffawed. Lucy walked out whistling but not before showing Doctor Crenshaw her new little pet.

Fred laughed and whispered to his father, “She’ll be something to look at in a few years, won’t she?”

Graham glared at Fred. “Wake your brother. Come along now.”

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

FICTION: A Haunted Holiday

After abducting Cadet Streeter and leaving him for dead in the cold woods at West Point, Buck and Fred Crenshaw go home to celebrate Christmas.

Buck sat by the frosty upstairs  window at Grandmother Martha’s house in dread. The gash over his eye pulsed red and swollen. He fingered the soft scarf wrapped around the stitched-up mess of an incision on his neck, shivering as the snow changed to a mix of rain and sleet.

Tired horses slid the bright sleds carrying his frozen parents and siblings up the drive of the estate in Peetzburg, a small farming town a few miles away from his family home in Englewood. Buck listened, wrapped in a rough wool blanket, as his parents trudged up the path bickering. Graham’s voice rose and fell one last time before knocking at the door of his boyhood home.

“Doctor Crenshaw! So good to see you!” Betty, Martha Crenshaw’s housemaid, gushed.

“Betty, how very nice to see you.” Graham held out his hand.

Betty, pushing his hand away, gave the doctor a hug. “Oh, it’s been a lifetime—since the deaths of your brothers– that we’ve celebrated Christmas together!” she said, laughing and crying.

Seward Crenshaw, Graham’s stepfather, had freed his family’s slaves long ago, but they’d stayed on as hired help.

Betty pulled the doctor. “Come in out of the weather. What a nice surprise for us with poor Buck and Fred already here.”

Margaret ignored Betty and pushed past. Thankful lowered her head and followed her mother.

“Where are my two big boys? I want to see them!” Margaret called in her booming voice.

The door to the wood-paneled sitting room with its large, stone fireplace opened and the hall reflected the blaze from the flames in the hearth. Martha Crenshaw dressed, as usual, in a slate gray gown with her hair braided in a severe bun. She stepped out of Margaret’s way with an imperious glance toward her son Graham as he hung his wet things in the entrance way.

“Merry Christmas,” Graham mumbled to himself. “Same shit as ever.”

Margaret, with her massive skirts, sent loose things tumbling as she brushed against delicate tables in her race to find her two wronged sons. “Oh, dear boys, come to Mama and let me touch you to know you’re real and not a dream!”

Buck, who’d come down the back staircase stood thin and pale. The Crenshaw children carried themselves with dignity, and beauty ran in the blood. Buck’s present condition was an affront to how the family saw itself.

Margaret and Thankful embraced Buck with quick stiffness.

“Oh, my darling, Fred!” Margaret sobbed turning to the more robust of the twins.

Fred threw his cigar into the fire with a rakish grin and strode up to his mother, shoving Buck aside. He kissed Margaret. “Mama, you look like an angel.”

Martha’s eyes betrayed her lack of patience for Fred’s fawning. Graham shook his head in annoyed silence.

“I want to announce here and now to my loving family that neither Buck nor I had any role to play in the horrible trouble that has come upon the Negro cadet,” Fred said. “We are made scapegoats for the newspapers. It’s a disgrace how we’ve been treated, and I intend to fight all charges!”

“Of course you’ll fight any injustice heaped upon you, Freddie. And that’s what makes Mama proud.” Margaret pulled both of her boys close. “Aren’t we proud of our sons, Graham?”

“I’ll reserve judgment until I hear the full account. You say it will all come out in the papers?” Graham asked.

“Is that all you care about?” Margaret cried. “The papers? Look at poor Buck! His wound is an awful mess all because of some darkie. As a doctor you should be appalled at the sight of him—I am!”

“Maybe Buck looks so unwell because his conscience pricks him,” Graham replied.

“Just like you to believe the worst about us and on Christmas, too,” Fred said, tossing his head.

“Fred is right, Graham. Be fair,” Margaret urged.

Buck said nothing, but edged nearer to Thankful.

She pouted, but after one look into Buck’s violet eyes Thankful relented. “Were you cruel to that cadet?” she whispered.

“No more than to any other,” Buck croaked, his voice still recovering. “It’s just he’s a stupid nig–”

“What did you say?” Graham asked, turning around with his head cocked in anger.

Buck went paler still.

“Are you some ignorant piece of trash to bring that language home to your sister?” Graham ranted.

“I’m sorry, Father, but that’s what they call him,” Buck replied.

“Fred, is this true?”

“A spade’s a spade,” Fred said with a smirk.

“You think you’re very clever, Fred, but someday you’ll get yours,” Graham warned.

“How dare you wish ill fortune on our son!” Margaret cried, pulling Fred closer to smooth a stray curl at his temple.

“I don’t wish it. I dread it, but it will surely come,” Graham replied.

“At West Point, Father, there’s no room for sentimentality towards the colored race,” Fred said, with his usual smugness. “If they’re to make it, they must prove themselves equal and so far, in my opinion, they haven’t.”

“And why, Fred, is it your mission to interfere and set obstacles? Don’t you have studies?” Graham asked.

“Father, you must remember—even with all of your outside interests—that I rank second in my year.”

“Well, why not first?” Graham asked.

“Don’t be a humbug. First, second, it’s all the same really,” Fred said as he helped his mother to a seat near the fire.

“Yes, and we are off the subject. I’m disgusted by the brief report I’ve read about the two of you. I was under the impression that West Point was training you to be gentlemen,” Graham said. He grabbed a crystal decanter filled with scotch and poured a large tumbler.

“Yes. We’re taught to be white,” Fred said.

“Excuse me?” Graham held his drink mid-air.

“It’s cant, Father, slang,” Buck said. “To be a gentleman . . .”

“Graham, the military is turning our good boys into I don’t know what!” Margaret complained, smoothing her skirt.

“All of my sons served in the military,” Grandmother Martha said, “and if nothing else, they were gentlemen and humanitarians. They fought for equality even though the rest of Jersey were against it during the war!”

“Oh, come now, Grammy. Even the Massachusetts boys want nothing to do with the colored cadets—and their families were abolitionists of the worst sort!” Fred said.

“I was an abolitionist!” Martha reminded her grandson.

“And why do you still keep Betty? And why do we have Lucretia?” Fred asked.

“Lucretia and Betty are paid handsomely for their services and are free to leave and seek work elsewhere,” Graham replied.

“Handsomely? I know what they make—at least Lucretia—less than a private in the army and with no chance of promotion,” Fred said with a sneer.

“We pay above the going rate!” Graham said. “And I won’t allow you to compare Betty or Lucretia to slaves—are privates in the army slaves?”

“In the end, Father, I’d rather not turn the holidays into a trial. We’ll win our case in the new year if it comes to that. Not a single witness would dare come forward against me.”

“What are you saying?” Graham asked.

“I just mean to say that . . . that no one would dare present false testimony. Cadets pride themselves on honesty. As an upperclassman, I have done what’s best for the institution and Cadet Streeter,” Fred said. “He should have gone home long before getting drunk and almost killing himself walking the Palisades alone at night.”

“Must we only talk about ugly things when it’s Christmas? Let’s not ruin things for Martha. She must have plans of her own and looks worn out. Are you tired, dear?” Margaret asked.

“No, I’m not tired, Margaret. It’s more that I am disgusted by my grandchildren and their clear lack of remorse.”

“Everyone at the Point is against us because we’re not rich,” Fred contended.

“See, Graham, I told you they need more money!” Margaret scolded.

“Stop this nonsense—we give them all the money they’re permitted to have in their accounts!” Graham replied. “I don’t know why you boys came here and got your grandmother involved.”

“Fred figured you’d never come here for us since you’re huffed at Grammy,” Buck said.

Fred shot him a menacing look.

“I’d be happy enough if you all stayed away,” Martha said. “I hate to be reminded of my failures, but I suppose I have to put you all up for the night.”

“Oh, no-no-no, WE are leaving at once,” Margaret said.

“Don’t be a fool, Margaret. I’m not driving in this weather at night,” Graham said.

Fred rolled his eyes. “You’d never do as a soldier, Father.”

“Fred, you ignorant, obnoxious fool,” his grandmother said. “As smart as you think you are you should know that your mother will come down with an obscure ailment if she sits in the weather too long. Your father is using good judgment for a change.” Martha sent the grown children to bed upstairs in the rooms that once belonged to her sons.

“Land sakes, this room is a tundra!” Thankful whispered.

“Befitting the old ice witch, herself,” Buck grumbled with a weak laugh and cough.

Fred snored, peaceful as a kitten on the little cot next to the bed Buck lay upon. Thankful jumped from her cot and got in beside Buck for warmth. “Shove over, Buck and shh! Grammy will hear us laughing and give us the lash!”

Thankful teased him the way she used to, but Buck was grim. “Thankful, this time I really think I’m done in with Fred. I feel sort of bad about it.”

“Well, that’s new—you feeling bad,” Thankful laughed. “But not to worry—Fred never catches it.”

“That’s what I’m thinking about. Fred’s on a mission and now I’m tangled in it and I don’t think it’s good.”

Thankful giggled. “You look eight years old in that cap. Does it hurt? Your head I mean?”

“No. Well, yes it does. But don’t tell. It’s embarrassing. I wish I were eight again. I could just do things different.”

Thankful pat his shoulder dreamily. “The past is done. Good night.”

Buck sighed. “Thanks for those words of wisdom.” He closed his eyes, knowing he would not sleep. He hadn’t for months. Buck slid from bed and pulled out the chair tucked beneath his father’s childhood desk covered with rocks and bones. He shivered before the window and stared out at the frozen countryside.

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

**Featured Image: Giuseppe De Nittis – Winter Landscape [c.1880] Flickr.com