I was twenty-three years old when President John F. Kennedy was assasinated on November 22, 1963, and I cannot begin to tell you how horrible that day was. I posted about it five years ago: Blowin' in the Wind.
Like all Americans, my husband and I were glued to the television, and to this day, when I hear "Hail to the Chief," I am swept back in time to our young President's funeral where the Air Force band played the anthem on the steps of the rotunda.
My story, "Murder at the P. O.," has been accepted for publication in the first issue of Blank Fiction Magazine. It will be out in November.
I wrote a version of the story years ago but never attempted to get it published. I knew it wasn't quite ready. But several months ago I took another look at it and began revising; leaving it for weeks at a time, and going back and revising, revising, revising, before finally deeming it might be publishable.
It was worth it, though, particularly when the editor of Blank added this note: We very much liked the way you braided the narrative together through different character perspectives.
As the sun sets and shadows fall,
she walks in purple dusk...
I was very curious when I was a child, always asking questions:
"Why does Mr. Bill walk everywhere?"
"He doesn't drive," Maw Maw Wilson said, "Never has."
"Why did Mr. Riley just stand there and not say a word when Brother Crider told him to give the closing prayer?"
"He's always been backward."
Although Maw Maw's answers didn't contain much detail, I was satisfied. They made sense.
What didn't make sense were the answers I got when I asked why everyone in the neighborhood got so upset when Lily Worthington's husband took her to Memphis every now and then. They discussed it relentlessly, shaking their heads, voices down to murmurs, pained looks on their faces.
"She has spells sometimes," Maw Maw explained, "And makes a lot of cakes."
Mother's answer was a little more detailed; she said Lily had problems, which caused her to stay up all night, making cakes.
ButI didn't understand that. Mother and my grandmothers made cakes; every woman I knew made cakes. Even I made cakes. We made them during the day, of course, but what was wrong with making them at night? And why did Lily's husband have to take her to Memphis because she made cakes?
That is why, after all these years, I wrote "The Poem." Although the idea for the story came from Lily, it is purely a work of fiction.
"The Poem" was accepted by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. You can find it here.
I've received great news. Shapato Publishing has accepted my story, An Honest Book, for
inclusion in their upcoming 2013 anthology, the sixth in a series of true stories about growing up on farms or in small towns in the Midwest.
The book, Needle in a Haystack, will be available on Amazon in October.
My father never much liked having his picture taken. I finally found this one Gina took in 1988. He was down in the Mississippi River Bottoms where he farmed, like generations of Wilsons before him. He loved working the land. But as the family grew, he took a job in Paducah to make ends meet.
I miss you, Daddy. Words cannot express how much I appreciate the sacrifices you made for us.
They say we Southerners live in the past. That, they say, is our problem; the past is dead, Faulkner or no Faulkner.
I guess I could try to explain, to tell them that for us memory is not an inventory, not a catalog of events, but a time machine. It lifts us off the dull treadmill of grown-up responsibilities to a time of adventure and wonder. The past is not dead, and so the dead are never really gone. We resurrect them, daily, for one more story, one more buck dance or ball game, or one more cast into the cool water.
Before we knew it, October’s bright blue
weather had moved into the Windy City. Renewed and invigorated after the hot, muggy days of summer, I decided to host my first big Sunday
dinner. Since space was limited in our two-room attic apartment, we invited three couples: Roger and Sharon, the Jerrys (Jerri and Jerry) and Maurice and Glenda.
I rose early that morning and made a meat loaf from a recipe I’d found on the Quaker Oats box. I wanted to make sure we had enough, so I doubled the recipe. I also made huge bowls of mashed potatoes and coleslaw, opened four cans of pork
& beans and Mexican corn and several packages of brown & serve rolls. (We ate leftovers for a week after that!)
appetizers, I made deviled eggs, dressing them up with half an olive in the
center of each, and opened a bag of Ruffles potato chips. I served them with something new: dip made from Lipton's onion soup mix.
I put our yellow-flowered tablecloth (a wedding gift) on the little oval kitchen table and we found two backless old chairs and a stool in the kitchen crawl space. I dusted
them off, and as we were pulling them around the table, Roger and Sharon arrived.
Sharon rushed up the stairs carrying a beautiful homemade four-layer Red Velvet Cake with buttercream frosting. Every other space was piled with pots and pans, so I told her to place it on the stove. (I forgot the stove was hot!)
By that time Maurice and Glenda and the Jerrys had arrived, so I brought out the appetizers.
Our guests were sitting on our saggy pin-striped sofa munching on potato chips and deviled eggs and sipping RC colas when unexpected guests stopped by: Lloyd and Marion. As they grabbed some appetizers and plopped down on the floor, I rustled up two more plates. Since there were no more chairs or forks, Carroll and Maurice stood and ate their meals with spoons.
When dessert time came, Sharon removed the cover of her Red Velvet Cake and one layer immediately slid onto the stove. We watched in horror as the second layer slid down the side of the stove and landed upside down on the floor.
Sharon rushed to retrieve the two layers that were slowly sliding toward the edge, catching them in her hands and arms. "Hot damn!" she squealed as I captured what was left on a cookie sheet.
As we were all giggling and trying to
get the cake onto dessert plates, Jim and
Hope showed up. Although they said they had already eaten, Jim filled his plate. Then he lined up alongside Carroll, Maurice, Roger and Jerry,
making no comment when I gave him a spoon. Afterward, we all
ate what was left of Sharon’s mushy (but delicious) Red Velvet Cake.
That afternoon we traveled in a motorcade to downtown Chicago where we toured the Museum of Science and Industry. When we arrived back at our place, it was eight o'clock.
"The night is young," Jim said, "Come on, follow us out to Joliet so you can see our new apartment!"
Hope and Jim's apartment was upstairs in an old house
which smelled of mildew. It contained a small living room, two bedrooms and a small
kitchen, all furnished in dilapidated furniture.
“This is really living!”Jim said, as we crowded into the bathroom with its turquoise toilet, pink sink and tub and yellow fish decals on the
walls, “Isn't this some shit house?"
We were all speechless. Until Sharon poked her head in the door.
What a great way to start the new year! I have been informed by the editor of Open Road Review, a literary journal in New Deli, India, that my fiction piece, People Like Them, has been accepted for publication.
This is the first story I've written in epistolary form. It didn't start out that way; as I got into it, I realized that a letter from Britanna Bridgewater to her cousin Lillian Kirby informing her of a murder/suicide in their little southern town was the best way to present the tragic news of people they both knew.
People Like Them will appear in their February issue.