I used to be a good man. There are memories, strong, of sitting on the porch with Marcie. We drank sweet tea from jelly jars. The porch was cluttered with flower pots and lawn chairs and Marcie’s rainbow of flipflops. I rested my hand on her thigh and we watched the alfalfa fields shift in the wind, like feathers rising from water, and imagined shapes in the chameleon clouds. Sometimes I plucked dandelions from the lawn and tucked one behind her ear. She laughed, then scowled, then laughed again. Eventually, the sweet tea became bourbon, and the laughter became the deepest part of our summer nights. We were young, so young. I remember I wanted her and she wanted me, and then somewhere, somehow, we became poison to each other. I was a good man once, but that might just be a dream, a desire for long-ago soundness.
The o’seer of pain dresses in white, his fingers adorned with thorn’d rings, a garland of roses loose around his throat, and he teases a kiss of mercy. Well acquainted, he and I, with his mark purposed to tissue and bone. Look upon him close and his robe is stained, his stance unshamed, his hands filthy from his forge.
Fifty-seven years ago I killed a boy. Tonight, Euart Monroe walked into my room with a Mossberg 510 and a stained hobo mattress and fired a shot into my belly. It should have killed me right off, but he didn’t want that. He wanted me to know who pulled the trigger.
I’m excited to announce that Ordinary Handsome is now available in paperback. It’s an oversize 6.69″ x 9.61″ book with a matte cover and cream pages. Pardon the indulgence, but it really is quite handsome. Weighing in at a whopping 187 pages, it’s got a spanky new cover and even a tiny author photo on the back for your mustache-drawing indulgence. Please check it out and let me know what you think. As always, thank you for reading. — Steve
I got all these feelings bundled up in a snarl, all the should-have’s and supposed-to’s and unfair verdicts of past mistakes. There are all these bricks of grief and regret and wondering if I could have changed just one moment. Just one. And when I try to build something out of them bricks, they crack and shift into different shapes, and then they fall into a heap worse off than when I started. I know Gram was thinking about Daniel. We’d been stepping in and out of his shadow since I first showed up here, neither of us wanting to conjure him up for real. Thinking about Daniel made me tired and sad, cracked at the spine, broke in the heart.
Excerpt from Maggie, now available from Amazon. Many thanks to D. Wallace Peach for her remarkable editing skills. I was under a particularly tight deadline to complete this story, and Diana’s suggestions and thoroughness gave Maggie a little more shine. And I won’t mention all those damned commas. Thank you, my friend.
I could lay it down at a lot of people’s feet, but I lay it down mostly on myself for being foolish and lonely. But like Gram says, it ain’t a sin to be lonely.
“Look at me, honey, look at me,” she says.
I try real hard to shroud the sorrow from my eyes, but she always sees it. I smile and pull her close. Her arms are narrow but strong, and she folds herself around me and I feel the warmth of her old steady bones.
“I’m happy now, Gram,” I say. Just a whisper. “But I really need to pee. I could pee beans right now.”
She chuckles in my ear. “You always was frank. Go use the toilet and then we’ll sit out here. The wind is cool, but I do like Mister Sun this time of day.”
I allow myself a few seconds to enjoy her face. It’s the only face I know that dares show kindness to me, a frank love that makes me shiver inside. It’s a hard face from so many years of living, but I see the mildness underneath. Maybe I’m the only one she shows it to.
“You ain’t redecorated or nothing?” I ask. “You ain’t moved the rooms around so I can’t find the bathroom?”
“Same old,” she says. “Still in the back. Though I do think there’s a new stopper in the sink since the last time you was here. Got that maybe two years ago. Now you git, and I’ll pour us some tea.” She pauses. “The tea is new, too. Bought it just last week.”
I skitter along like the girl I was, right up them steps like I don’t have any gravity in me at all. I ain’t skittered in a long time.
A wonderful review from my friend D. Wallace Peach at Myths of the Mirror. She has been a constant champion of my work, and I am so grateful. Please check out her site… she’s an amazing writer and I think you’ll be mesmerized not only by her work but by the depth of her imagination. Her review is here.