Fiction: The End of Innocence

The rest of the day hung like a weight around Thankful’s neck. Poor young Lydia cried and suffered. Captain Markham came home from a few weeks in the field and was informed about Thankful’s surprising inattention to important household duties.

Thankful poured coffee for the couple and it took everything in her not to spill the hot liquid in Mrs. Markham’s lap. The captain listened to his wife with nodding head before turning to Thankful.

“You do know that we have a very sick child and my wife cannot be burdened with menial labor right this moment, Miss Crenshaw. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Nothing, sir. I was dispirited over Mr. Fahy, but it’s no excuse for not having coffee made.” Thankful wanted to rip the captain’s disgusting sideburns from his face and fling him into the fire. Why on earth must they keep such a fire in the desert?

“What’s happened to Fahy?” Markham asked his wife.

“He’s fallen for our Thankful and plans to marry her.”

“Sakes alive! Why didn’t you tell me that straight off? Well, that’s darn good news for you, young lady—and Fahy, too!” Markham scratched his freshly-shaved chin as if pondering the mysteries of the universe. “Don’t worry about this morning’s coffee. I understand it all now, and I’m certain it won’t happen again.”

“No, sir.”

“Why doesn’t she seem at all happy then?” the captain asked his wife.

Thankful wiped her eyes. “May I be excused?”

Mrs. Markham replied, “Right after you wash up those dishes, dear. Will you see the lieutenant this evening?”

“Yes,” Thankful sobbed and ran to the kitchen.

When Lieutenant Fahy came to call, Thankful lingered upstairs. The few things she had to wear were smoky and wilted in the overheated house. Thankful washed and wondered if Fahy would like her body. She poured a liberal dose of flower water over herself and slipped on her best dress. Her hair needed washing, but she hadn’t any time, so she pulled it tight like a school marm, feeling anything but gay.

When Mrs. Markham called to her a third time, Thankful appeared. Fahy looked dashing in his dressier blouse and trousers. He flashed her a big friendly smile. They let the Markhams believe they were going to the dance tonight. Fahy and Thankful skirted the music and a wave of loneliness crashed over Thankful as the band played the fiddler’s waltz. She pulled on Fahy’s arm. “I’m so very frightened.”

Fahy kissed her, a little impatiently. “Don’t worry, miss.”

Thankful imagined that Fahy would bring her someplace special—a hidden spot—so she grew curious when they circled back behind the Markhams’ house and toward the woodpile. A tattered army blanket and a jug of whiskey lay in the shadows.

“You said that you imagined us under the pines—well, here’s some wood, anyway—pine wood—so it smells sort of the same,” Fahy explained.

“But the woodpile?” Thankful asked in astonishment. “I can practically see into Mrs. Markham’s kitchen. I hear the children! And there’s Mrs. Tremble bringing out the trash. My goodness! They’ll see us here!”

Fahy kissed her. “No one will come back here at this hour. There now, let’s sit.” He dragged Thankful down on to the itchy woolen blanket and kissed her again, handing her the jug of whiskey. “Go ahead. Taste it—it’ll make things easier for you. Go on then. It’s not poison!” Fahy laughed as Thankful sipped and choked.

“Oh, it’s awful!” she cried.

Fahy ran his hand over Thankful’s head. “Sweetheart, this is what adults do, I’m afraid. Don’t you like when I touch you?”

“Yes, but behind the woodpile? There are bugs and things and it’s just not what I expected.”

“Look, we have the stars and the cool evening . . . and each other, darling. Isn’t that enough?” Fahy kissed her more passionately and her body responded. “I love you dearly, Miss Thankful. Do you love me?”

“Yes.”

The lieutenant tore Thankful’s shoes and stockings off in a hurry. No fine words, no tickling behind the knees. She had worried all day about her body, but he plunged under her petticoats, pulled himself out of his trousers and pushed his way inside. “How does it feel?” he asked.

“Fine.” It hurt just a little, but then it didn’t. It wasn’t unenjoyable or enjoyable—it was nothing, really, but wrong.

Fahy moaned, kissed her and it was over. He rolled off and gazed at the stars. “So what do you think now, Thankful?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s wrong?” Fahy asked getting up on his elbows, his intense eyes shining in the moonlight. “Didn’t you like it?”

“I think so.” Thankful didn’t want to upset his feelings.

“Think so? You should know!”

“Should I?” Thankful asked.

“You should have had more whiskey,” Fahy said, sitting up. “Damn. So you didn’t enjoy any of it?”

“No. I mean, I did, sort of. Did it make you happy?” Thankful asked.

“Well, yes, but it’s supposed to be for both of us. Want to try again—in a few minutes?”

“No! Someone will come by,” Thankful said, grabbing her stockings and slipping one over her toes.

“No one will come by,” Fahy assured her, taking the stocking off her again. “I’ve got a friend watching out.”

“A friend?” Thankful cried. She tugged the stocking away from him and pulled it on in haste. “How awful! Now everyone will know what we’ve done!”

“No. He’s trustworthy. Thankful, why don’t we marry before your parents come?”

“I want a proper wedding,” Thankful cried. “You’ve already deprived me of a proper wedding night.” She tugged the other stocking on and slipped into her shoes.

“Don’t say that!” Fahy complained. “Our wedding night will be great.”

“Maybe we’ll even get to have a bed,” Thankful said.

“You told me you imagined doing it outdoors. I thought you’d like my idea.” Fahy said, surprised at her emotion.

“I never imagined doing anything behind a bunch of logs in view of Mrs. Tremble’s and the Markhams’ back yard. You said it would be special.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it, but you need to relax more,” Fahy offered, running his hand along her hot cheek.

“How many girls have you been with?” Thankful asked.

“Oh, Thankful, let’s not talk about this now. Let’s try again, and I promise you in time you’ll grow fonder of it.”

The horses whinnied in the stables and someone, probably the lookout, whistled a melancholy tune.

“I’m so sad, Mr. Fahy. Were you engaged before, too?”

“No, Thankful. Stop it. You’re the only girl I’ve ever loved.”

“But you slept with girls you never loved?”

“Yes, but . . .” Fahy began, shaking his head.

“But what did you tell them?” Thankful asked, her eyes welling with tears in the moonlight.

“I didn’t have to tell them anything,” Fahy said as if Thankful’s questions insulted his honor. “You’re the only girl I’ve ever had to explain myself to. Please, Thankful, I’m still randy—let’s try again.”

Something changed. Fahy didn’t love her anymore. But now Thankful loved him desperately. “Mr. Fahy, I love you.”

“I’m glad. Will we try again?”

Thankful was his now, and she so wanted to love him. Thankful lay back and this time Fahy was more attentive. “Do you feel anything? How’s this? How about now?”

At first Thankful was honest, but after a while it seemed cruel to keep him trying and not getting anywhere—so she lied and said it was good.

Fahy knew she lied and it upset him, but he kept it to himself, wondering if he had satisfied the other girls or were they just more practiced liars. Fahy brought Thankful home and kissed her good-night with forced passion.

Thankful stood at the gate and watched him 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: How To Keep a Man Happy (Part Two)

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Thankful makes a decision about Mr. Fahy . . .

When Mrs. Markham awoke to find the fire puttered out, and the coffee not made, she wasn’t pleased.

“Thankful Crenshaw, I love you like a good friend’s daughter, but honestly, crying at this hour and before coffee is just wrong. I don’t pay you to pout. I’m sorry to be so upset, but you know how I am about coffee.” Mrs. Markham watched for reaction from Thankful out of the corner of her eye, but when she did not get it, turned more emphatically in the girl’s direction. “I allow other things to slide, child, but not this. I will have a word with Captain Markham about our arrangement.”

Again Thankful sniveled. Mrs. Markham wanted coffee, but softened. “I’d hate to lose our friendship over such a trifling thing. I’m at wits end, and the captain knows best what to do.” The mantle clock clicked the time slowly. A horse whinnied.

“I’ll pack my things, Mrs. Markham,” Thankful sobbed.

Mrs. Markham rushed to her side. “But you have no place to go, my sweetness, just be more mindful of your chores!”

“Yes. I’m sorry.” Thankful rose to fetch the coffee pot, wiping her eyes on her gingham apron–one Mrs. Markham had a laundress make for her pet.

“Whatever are you fretting about?” Mrs. Markham asked, sitting to write out Thankful’s endless list of chores. “Do you miss home?”

Thankful nodded, but then shook her head.

“Poor girl, you’re all mixed up. That’s what love does. I should know—the captain still keeps me in conflict. But love is love, and you’re lucky to have it. Some never do.”

“Mr. Fahy is demanding,” Thankful hinted.

“That’s men. Would you rather he left you to yourself and found another?” Mrs. Markham asked. “I didn’t think so.”

“But he’s very demanding,” Thankful said, wondering if the captain’s wife was really the friend she needed right now. “I just don’t know. . .”

“I don’t know how to say this.” Mrs. Markham took the pot from Thankful– too theatrically for Thankful’s taste and mood–and filled it herself with a scolding look. “I do love you, but you’re selfish in a way. A man has to be given his way once in a while—he needs to think that you trust his judgment. I’m sure that Mr. Fahy, of all men, wouldn’t lead you astray—he’s a fine gentleman.”

“Mrs. Markham, has he had any girls before me?”

“Many girls have sought him from what I hear, but I’ve never seen him take especial notice. I do believe Lieutenant Fahy is saving himself for you—that’s very sweet, I think. You’re a very lucky girl. Everyone thinks so. Don’t ruin things for yourself by being hard on him. After all, he’s only a man.” She laughed.

Later that day Mrs. Markham went visiting while Thankful took the children out to play. The sun blazed as Thankful’s temper flared. The older children fought, and the younger ones hung off her, wilted and cranky. Thankful could see Lieutenant Fahy smoking on the porch at headquarters, and this infuriated her. Usually he tripped up to see her for a moment around midday.

“Come along, children. It’s time to go indoors for your naps.” The young ones whimpered in protest, and the three eldest ran off, knowing Thankful could not give chase with the little ones clinging to her. “Horrible little wretches,” Thankful muttered as Fahy finally trotted over to her. She pushed past him.

“Thankful, please slow down, would you?”

“Why should I? I’m busy!” she said.

“I wanted to apologize for this morning. I can be a right bastard sometimes.”

“How you curse!” Thankful said, relieved and glad for his apology.

“It’s just that you’re so darn beautiful. I’m not a patient man, and I want you. But if you don’t feel the same way . . .”

“But I do, Mr. Fahy! I’m afraid of it though, and I only want to do what’s honorable and right.”

“But no one has to know and you’re nearly my wife.”

“I would do anything,” Thankful began–she must be honest, however immature it may seem to this man, “but that.”  She saw he was not pleased. “Oh, but let me explain. It’s very horrible really . . . I’ve never told a soul, but my parents conceived before they were married. It’s been a horrible marriage, and I’d hate for us to end so sadly.”

Fahy wiped his brow. The babies were crying, and the toddlers smelled like sewage. The lieutenant sighed. “Thankful, you’re a great girl—too good for me at times. I came over to apologize but also to let you know that I won’t be by this evening.”

“Oh,” Thankful said, a rush of panic and hurt coming over her. Had he even listened to her? “Well . . . why not?”

“Some of the fellows, well, I’ve been neglecting my friendships lately, and I have tonight free.”

“What will you do?” Thankful hated herself for asking.

“Just drink at The Buckskin. Nothing more.”

“Town? You’re going to town?” Thankful cried.

“Yes. Oh, you don’t think—what I said before about the others?” Fahy rolled his eyes and looked truly affronted. “Now I see you really don’t trust me!”

“No, it’s that I don’t know what to think! Before you threaten to use a whore and now. . .”

“I never threatened it!” Fahy said.

“Go ahead with the boys, but don’t expect me to be friendly tomorrow!” Thankful cried.

“So now I can’t have any friends?” Fahy complained. “You’re being unreasonable!”

“You can have as many friends as you like,” she said. “But I have no friends here at all!”

“And how is that my fault? Maybe if you were a little less stuck-up. You girls are always so dramatic!” Fahy fumed.

“You said you loved me!” Thankful sobbed now. “And I’m not stuck-up!”

“I do love you!” Fahy turned her away from passing soldiers. “Bear-up, Thankful. You’re making a fool of yourself, now,” he said irritably but hugged her. “My passion for you is so great that I don’t know how much longer I can wait. I’d never spend another moment with the lads if only I could have you the way we talked earlier.”

“So you would stay home for me?” Thankful asked. “I’m the most important to you?”

“Of course. It’s all I want, but I need to know that you trust me for everything.”

Thankful grabbed his arm. “Mr. Fahy, please come to me tonight, and I’ll be ready.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

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

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

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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The Seven Virtues in Writing

girl with girls
Virtuous Girl? (Courtesy Pinterest)

How our culture hates a goody-goody! I think we hate virtuous people almost more than we hate child traffickers. Or so it seems.

As I write MY HISTORICAL FAMILY SAGA it’s easy to hate the virtuous because it almost feels as if there’s nothing to say about them. I sometimes imagine a virtuous person having no struggles, and this, I know, is unfair. My tendency is to focus on the lost and sinful elements of characters and heap tons of sympathy upon them while the virtuous remain alone in their human toil.

The virtuous, we think, are bland like vegetables to the person inclined toward sweets. Yet broccoli can be a tasty thing when put in the hands of a good cook. And so it is with virtue. Those of us who struggle to attain even a modicum of humility realize the great difficulty involved in becoming virtuous. There is a faith necessary here. One must believe that life, and the characters you write will become even better with a sprinkling of virtue.

When a person wakes up each morning expecting a do-nut (that in one half hour will make them feel sick to their stomach) they find it hard to believe that a warm glass of lemon water and some protein will will produce better results.

Anti-heroes intrigue me, but the characters who challenge me to take a hard look at myself and my icing covered flaws annoy. More than annoy, they tempt me to run from them. A virtuous person (albeit with some flaws) causes me to contemplate my own place in the race of life. Sometimes that’s not enjoyable.

The anti-hero understands our hidden parts, asks us to wallow a while in the shallow comfort of self-pity and despair, but the virtuous character asks us to stretch ourselves in uncomfortable ways with only scant promise of success (or that elusive thing called joy).

The further along this racecourse of life the more I’m ready to tackle the virtuous in writing with admiration instead of suspicion and jealousy. Buck Crenshaw as he grows through each of my novels is moving out of his anti-hero costume into something more compelling and rare: a man who (timidly at first) is drawn to the good race. Yet Buck is a clumsy runner and always will be.

Surprises sometimes come in the shape of a mate. Around the final bend Buck is brought to his knees, but along comes a virtuous friend. I can’t wait to see what Buck does with her.

So here’s the question, readers and writers: who’s your favorite virtuous character in fiction (or in life)?  I’m dying to know.

Humility – Humility is the virtue that counters pride. As pride leads to other sin, true humility clears a path for holiness. Pride is a sin based on undue and inappropriate appreciation of one’s self worth. Conversely, the virtue of humility is about modest behavior, selflessness and the giving of respect.

Liberality – Liberality, or generosity, is the virtue that is counter to greed – the sin of immoderate desire for earthly things. The virtue of liberality is focused not merely on the appropriate concern regarding one’s earthly things, but furthermore on generosity and a willingness to give, freely and without request for commendation.

Chastity – Chastity is the counter-virtue to the sin of lust. Chastity embraces moral wholesomeness and purity, and in both thought and action treats God’s gift of sexuality with due reverence and respect.

Meekness – Meekness, or patience, is the virtue that counters the sin of unjust anger, also called wrath or rage. Where the sin of wrath is about quick temper and unnecessary vengeance, the virtue of meekness focuses on patiently seeking appropriate resolution to conflicts, and on the ability to forgive and show mercy.

Temperance – The virtue of temperance or abstinence counters the sin of gluttony. To be gluttonous is to over-indulge. On the opposite hand, the virtue of temperance is centered on self-control and moderation.

Kindness – Kindness, or brotherly love or love for one’s neighbor, is the virtue which counters the sin of envy. Envy, in contradiction to God’s law of love, is manifest in a person’s sorrow and distress over the good fortune of another person. Conversely, kindness and brotherly love is manifest in the unprejudiced, compassionate and charitable concern for others.

Diligence – Diligence, or persistence, is the virtue which acts as a counter to the sin of sloth. Sloth, as a capital sin, refers to laziness in matters of Faith. Diligence in matters of the spiritual combat laziness and this virtue is manifest in appropriately zealous attitudes toward living and sharing the Faith.

Excerpted from: AQUINAS AND MORE

Fiction: How to Keep a Man Happy

Madame Paul Poirson1885 by John Singer SargentThankful wonders how long Mr. Fahy will love her . . .

Before long Mr. Fahy began to pester Thankful in all sorts of embarrassing ways. What would she do? The kissing and the ring and the promises began to wear on Thankful. She struggled to subdue her natural urges. Suddenly she clung to him, wondered where Fahy was and what the lieutenant was doing when he was out of sight.

Maybe Fahy noticed the new girl in from Pittsburg, visiting Mrs. Tremble or maybe he was tiring of her if he arrived late to sit with her in the afternoon. Fahy took liberties he shouldn’t, but Thankful allowed it. Fahy loved her. When he whispered as he kissed the skin at her neck it was almost too delightful to bear.

Thankful tried to be good. She only allowed small previews of herself, but Fahy demanded more. He sighed and grumbled under his breath each day—the opposite of what Thankful imagined would happen each time she gave in. More and more Fahy wanted of her, and Thankful worried how much more she could give him without being bad. She took to layering even more clothes over her body, but nothing worked and it was very hot in the desert.

When alone in the morning, Thankful’s conscience pricked her. In those moments when the children and Mrs. Markham were asleep, and the fire was new and bright, Thankful resolved to show more restraint, come what may, but by day’s end, Fahy touched her ankles and ran his fingers behind her knees. It amazed Thankful that such things could sway her. Sometimes she rushed to her Bible, praying for her chastity, but daydreamed through her prayers.

On this morning a knock and call at the door broke her reverie. Thankful pulled her wrapper close and peeked out the window. Fahy waved for her to come to the door. He kissed her, smelling of stale cigars on an empty stomach. “Dearest, I’m exhausted, all night dreaming of you! I can’t concentrate,” he said. “If only we could be married this day. When will you hear from your parents?”

“Mr. Fahy, They’ll surely send word of congratulation once the letter is delivered, and then they’ll come,” Thankful hoped.

“I was thinking how nice it will be when we are able to do everything,” Fahy whispered in her ear.

Thankful blushed. They were already doing far too much, but she whispered back, “I imagine us one day lying beneath the pines in the mountains.”

Fahy looked pleasantly surprised. “You are a naughty young lady.”

“Do you really think so?” Thankful worried.

Fahy laughed and glanced at the men lining up now.

“You may visit me tonight, sir,” Thankful replied, looking behind her for signs of Mrs. Markham.

“I want to really visit you!” Fahy said.

“Sir!”

“What’s the difference in waiting?” Fahy said, his soft dark eyes suddenly stormy. “I love you, and soon we’ll be married anyhow. Please think about it. You’re asking too much of me to wait.”

“Am I?” Thankful replied with a mix of fear and annoyance.

“Of course!” Fahy said with a quick kiss on the cheek. “All the fellows go to town for women, but I don’t. I want to be faithful to you.”

“Is it that hard?” Thankful wasn’t sure why she should feel so angry at the moment, but suddenly she didn’t like him at all.

“All night! Just thinking of you!” Fahy replied with a grin.

“I don’t like the way you talk.” Thankful pretended to giggle.

“Don’t you love me, Thankful? I’d wager you don’t trust me, but you know I’ll always do right by you.”

“It’s wrong, Mr. Fahy,” Thankful said, more firmly than she expected, “and I don’t want any babies.”

“Ever?”

“I don’t know,” she sulked, feeling put upon and upset.

“Well, that’s silly talk. Anyway, for now we can prevent it easily enough—just tonight. Consider it, miss. I know just how to do it and it’ll be special.”

“No.” Thankful folded her arms.

Fahy slapped his hat against his leg in frustration and turned to go.

“Mr. Fahy, wait!” Thankful couldn’t bear his anger resting upon her all day. “Are you really huffed at me now?” Her heart raced.

“No. Why should it bother me that my wife to be doesn’t trust me? Good day, Miss Crenshaw.” Fahy threw his hat back on and walked to his men.

***Detail of painting: Madame Paul Poirson1885 by John Singer Sargent

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

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

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

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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Who Else Hates Genre Labels?

The White Cockade by Edward Martin
The White Cockade by Edward Martin

LITERARY FICTION FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE LITERARY FICTION

“There is a stereotype of literary fiction shared by both science fiction readers and non-science fiction readers: that academically-sanctioned, “serious” contemporary fiction is all about dull middle-class people having affairs, and that the writers of this fiction do such things as use a couple hundred pages to describe events that could quite easily be described in a paragraph.”

WHY THE HATE FOR ROMANCE?

An interesting thread on romance in fantasy writing:

“But for people who want verisimilitude and detailed characterizations, romance is going to be there. Real people deal with romance in their actual lives. It’s a huge part of being human.

Romance doesn’t mean the book is plot-less or spends all its time dealing with vampire-werewolf three-ways. Badly written romance means the book is plot-less or spends all its time dealing with vampire-werewolf three-ways.” unconundrum

THE EMPTINESS OF LITERARY FICTION

“The stereotype is not just about elevating certain works of fiction, but overdetermining their value.”

13 STRUGGLES OF BEING A ROMANTIC WHO HATES ROMANCE (this one doesn’t have much to do with books. Just a fun read.

“(And yes, you cried deeply at The Notebook, and hated yourself for every minute of it.)”

 

WHAT FICTION DO YOU HATE? or LOVE?

Fiction: It’s Better to be Loved

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Working as house help isn’t quite as fun as Thankful hoped . . .

“Sometimes I wish I could chop it all off in this heat!” Thankful complained as she again tried to control her curls within the kerchief she wore while cleaning.

“Oh, you mustn’t do that,” Mrs. Markham said, sipping her tea.  “Every woman here would kill for such a gift of hair. Now, there, dear, you’ve missed a spot. With more scrubbing, that stain will come off.”

Thankful put her energy into the food-splattered wall, but it was futile work with so many sloppy children racing in and out. The scrubbing didn’t bother her as much as Mrs. Markham’s constant hovering. Wasn’t there some useful thing the lady of the house could be doing? Mrs. Markham’s young daughter Lydia, a sickly girl whose days were numbered, languished for lack of attention, but Mrs. Markham chose to ignore and avoid her daughter. Instead she picked on Thankful’s work.

“Well, I’m certainly glad you came to me before marrying,” Mrs. Markham continued. “You must be prepared for anything if you decide to marry an officer. I remember when my young lieutenant husband dragged me across the prairie. We had not a penny to our name—not even an extra pot. We couldn’t even keep a girl—not that I would have allowed it back then. Young officers have roving eyes.”

“Not Mr. Fahy,” Thankful said.

“Did I mention Mr. Fahy?” Mrs. Markham asked with a grin. “I’m sure he would be very pleased to know how you defend him.”

“You won’t tell!”

“My dear child, Lieutenant Fahy is already quite enamored with you,” Mrs. Markham replied, pointing to a missed spot on the wall. “There is no need for me to further sell you to him.”

“I won’t be bought!” Thankful stated, splashing sudsy water.

“Maybe it’s time you stopped taking his gifts,” Mrs. Markham advised.

Thankful blushed. “I’m not sure how to stop him. I’ve asked politely, but he ignores my feelings on the matter.”

Mrs. Markham looked worried. “Mr. Fahy always means well, but Thankful, remember, there is much to this army life that is profitable, but in money it is not. You must do your best not to take advantage of a man’s generosity.”

Thankful did not appreciate her mistress’s words but held her tongue. She would speak to Mr. Fahy tonight about his unnecessary gifts. Mrs. Markham went out back to garden and soon a knock came at the door. Fahy walked in and helped Thankful to her feet. He wore his white horse grooming jacket, and Thankful laughed. “Look at the state of us this morning! As pretty as a picture.”

“I like the smell of horse,” Fahy laughed and kissed Thankful’s wet hand. He pulled a small bouquet of wilting desert flowers from his pocket. “I thought I should bring them before they completely die, but it looks as if maybe I’m too late.”

Thankful pretended to be fascinated by the little blooms. “Oh, Mr. Fahy, this was ever more thoughtful than any of those real gifts. I hope you’ll always be practical like this and not waste money on me at all.”

“Why? Don’t you like my gifts?”

“You shouldn’t spend all of your money,” Thankful said, dusting hay off Fahy’s shoulder. “Mrs. Markham says . . .”

“Don’t listen to her. I love the old girl, but she never keeps out of my business—especially now—but I’ve beaten her this time.” He pulled a clean handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to Thankful.

“My, this is very practical indeed.” she said, trying to appear enthused.

“You silly girl, open it up.”

Something sparkled and fell to the floor. Thankful retrieved it and looked at it dubiously. “Oh, a ring.”

“I was hoping you might like it and marry me,” Fahy said, twisting his mustache between his nervous fingers.

“Mr. Fahy, I’m shocked beyond disbelief!” Thankful replied, blushing between looks at the ring and the man before her.

“So you’re not happy with the idea?” Fahy asked, his brow furrowed.

“I hadn’t thought of it—yet.” She hugged him, but he pulled away.

“Oh. Well, I can return the ring then,” Fahy said.

“No! You’re offended, and I don’t understand why. I like you very much, sir, but we’ve known each other only a very few weeks. How do you know I’ll please you?”

“When I know something, I know it! I don’t waste my days in restless deliberation. I’m a soldier. Tomorrow may be my last!”

“Merciful heavens, don’t dare say such things!” It aggravated Thankful somehow. “Are you ill?”

“No, but any day there could be an Indian breakout, and I may be called upon to serve—I assume I will. I want to prove myself, of course. The West Pointers like to think low of us men risen from the ranks . . . but I’m off track. I want you now for my own. I want to know you’ll wait for me if I’m called and mourn me if I’m lost.”

“I won’t mourn for you! I mean, I don’t want to think of you dying, sir.”

“So you do care?” Fahy asked with an irresistible grin.

“Land sakes, yes! It’s only I’m all mixed up and afraid of marriage.” The idea of marriage, in a general way, was pleasant but actually settling into it was quite a different matter. How long had her parents courted before making a terrible mistake? Thankful had known Willy forever . . . but never mind him.

“We suit each other, don’t you think? I know you’ll be a good mother and wife,” Fahy said.

“I’m afraid I know too much about children and not a thing about men—I mean wifely duties. My mother is an odd bird. I don’t want to be like her—though I . . . I do care for her.”

“Do you feel any tenderness towards me like I feel for you?” Fahy asked. He straightened his jacket.

Fahy was charming. Thankful could see that. Any girl back east might be jealous of her. “Yes. I think so. You’re so much fun and very kind to me,” she said.

“Just think of it, Miss Crenshaw, we can travel the world and throw big parties for generals and diplomats once my career is started, and you will dazzle the entire army. You are tremendously lovely and deserve better than scrubbing the floor.”

“That sounds wonderful, Mr. Fahy. I’d love to have big parties and read poetry and play the violin and talk about important things like art and politics, but my parents would be—surprised. I expected something different when I came out here.”

Fahy’s face clouded. “Yes, Bill Weldon. But you must realize that he’s lost.”

“You’re right. I know you are, but I feel sorry for him.”

“And your compassion is one of the very endearing qualities I admire. Miss Thankful Crenshaw, I well and truly love you, and I don’t know how I’d take losing you. From the moment I saw you I wanted you for my wife.”

“You love me, Mr. Fahy?” No one had ever said those words to her; not even her parents. No one. Thankful knew she was cared for, she was liked, she was a good girl, but was she loved? “You really love me?”

“Of course! I’d be a damned fool not to!” Fahy laughed and plunked his hands on her shoulders. “So what do you say? Won’t you take a chance with me?”

“I will, Mr. Fahy!” Thankful cried. “Promise to keep loving me, and I will try to please you!”

“You do please me, my sweet darling!” Fahy slipped the ring on Thankful’s finger.

“It’s sweet, sir, very sweet. Oh, I . . . like it . . . very much!” she gushed, but felt a knot in her stomach. “I’m frightened, Mr. Fahy.”

Fahy pat her face. “I’ll take care of everything. Not to worry!” He pulled her close and kissed her with passion.

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.”

 

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

courtesy Sisters of Science
Lillian Bland

Here’s a belated bit of Irish:

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

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

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

Fiction: Bad Reputation

William almost escapes Thankful’s notice . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes. I realize that.”

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s not fair!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is he that ill?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, bully for you, then.”

“But I won’t go,” Thankful said.

“What?”

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

“The season?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I thought you were terrified of guns?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, hell, Thankful, I have to go.”

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

PREVIOUS EPISODE FROM WEARY OF RUNNING

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

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

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: Sunday Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t think . . .”

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

“Services?”

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

“No . . . I guess not . . . I . . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

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

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

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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Fiction: The Priesthood

barn

After a big night William considers a change . . .

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

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

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

“Yes, well . . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How’d you know it was two hundred?”

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

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

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

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

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

“A Mexican?”

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

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

“You sent me to go fetch her again.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, you have to leave now.”

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

The priest laughed. “Are you a Catholic?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He watches out for me when I . . .”

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

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

PREVIOUS EPISODE

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

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

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”