A ghost doesn’t have to touch you to ruin your heart, she thought. It picks out the weakest part of you and lets you do all the work.
“It ain’t the land that’s ruined,” I said. I softened my voice some, and I sat in one of the chairs beside where he was slumped. “The land can’t be commanded. You should know that by now. The corn is decent, the rain has been curious enough to visit, and the weather has tried to be kind. But honey, nothing will grow faster just because you’re drinking faster, and it won’t stop growing because you’re feeling bad about it. It’s just… a hard life. You chose it like your father chose it. It’s part of the land and it’s part of you, you have no say in it.” I wanted to tell him – it was on the tip of my tongue, since he was now such close friends with the dirt on the porch – that he was the one ruined, and it was on account of the drink. But that would be unkind, and I didn’t feel unkind at the moment. I felt adrift and understood what he said. The land did have us in shackles.
Excerpt from A Very Tall Summer – Coming soon
I could smell the rot from the rain, the decay of old wood, the black mold that festered on the hay bales. What light I could see inside the barn was hooded by beams and watery shadows. It was a shabby radiance, a transparent film. Each step I took felt spongy. I could hear the softness of the ground, the slop-slosh of mud. The rain was softer, a half-seen mist that swayed with each exhalation from the wind. The barn was blurred gray, but inside, that immutable light was waiting for me, and I for it.
Jeremiah stood with his back to the sun, and stood and waited. A moment. Waiting for courage, waiting for patience, waiting for the blackness, the blackness inside of me. A moment, the moment. He did not move. His eyes scanned the ruins of the fire. My eyes scanned the ruins of our marriage. My cowardice, my bitterness, my pride, they rushed like a filthy wind in my head. I lifted the shotgun. And I pulled the trigger when that wind finished blowing….
Excerpt from A Very Tall Summer… coming soon.
“I try to be good,” he said. His droopy eyes were almost closed, and I decided to leave him there for the night. The sky was wide and bruised with stars, and a cool breeze was curling its tail around the porch. I would bring him a blanket and a pillow for his head; he was too big to coax into a bed. “I got a temper,” he said, and it almost turned into a snore. His eyes snapped open for a moment. “I don’t know where it comes from. My old man, probably, he had a temper. I tamp it down best I can, but the stove fills up with smoke too quick….”
Excerpt from A Very Tall Summer – Coming Soon
In the dry summer of 1957, Charlotte and Jeremiah Windover took a short drive to a neighbor’s old homestead to investigate a fire. Only one of them came back.
… I stand up every morning, make myself a cup of coffee, eat a few scraps of bread, and step outside to face the dust. And the foolish part of me thinks it will get better. Or easier. But it hasn’t yet. I don’t expect a shiny man in a shiny car to come along and pay me for this land, or pay me for my work. I don’t expect any man to come along and rescue me, or a preacher to come along and save me. I know what I did, and I know this is my punishment, and I will abide by it because I don’t know how to do anything else.
The road is a flat gray sheet, leading to nothing. It is a wet illusion. I see fresh, flat rain above the pavement. It’s a trick of the eyes, I know that. Miles of road, and clean oscillating puddles that disappear when you approach. The heat, Lord, the heat, it pours down the way that rain should pour. There’s grimness in such a hard wide sky. You wouldn’t think so when you’re sitting on your porch and watching the day tramp through the front yard. But miles of a liar road, and a person can hardly see themselves; they’re hidden in their own life. There is my grief.
From the forthcoming novel, A Very Tall Summer — coming soon.