Cumberland

It’s a stretch of highway between rolling hills of grazing cows where you will find the thawing carcass of a yeti that tried to go south for the winter, where old wooden ships are playhouses for children, where the crane operated box of chainsaws chews foliage away from traffic, where the cleaved open mountain looms over the lanes, where you may drive through fog or deer or falling rock, where you will stare ahead blankly wishing for the road to end and when it does, you know you are almost home.

Over the Train Tracks and Through the Hood

On my way to my parents’ house, I passed a house where my childhood best friend’s husband grew up.  It’s a square cinderblock house, the kind where one side of the block is coated with ceramic asbestos paint.  It’s a terrible puke-mint-green color with a white door, no shutters, and no shrubbery.  It looks somehow naked without those things.

He hated the house, called it The Cracker Box both because it was the approximate size of a cracker box and because many people in the small, conservative community considered him and his *gasp* divorced mother to be white trash.  His mother is a first rate Hell-bitch.  She once broke her ring and pinkie fingers by slapping him with her rings turned so that the stones were inside her palm.  He came to homeroom bleeding from three cuts on his chin and laughed when I told him.  She was mean and tough but had to be. She had a strong-willed boy to raise with no help from family.  She refused all government aid.

She waited until after he graduated from high school to marry her long-time “boyfriend.”  When she did, she moved out to his lakehouse and sold The Cracker Box.  It’s now Don’s Pawn Shop.  A large fluorescent sign with a giant pistol on top pokes out of the lawn to let potential customers know that cash for Christmas is only a sale away.  It’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen.  Someone I cared about lived there, grew up there, lost his virginity there, and now there’s is a giant pistol on top of a sign in the front yard.  Strange.

Ten Year Reunion

“I’m going to be a mortician,” Heather said as she blew her plume of smoke away from the circle of smokers gathered outside.  Her former classmates stared at her. “But, I’m scared there’s a lot of math involved.”

“I’m pretty sure you have to get a medical degree,” Reuben said. “So, yeah, some.”  Reuben stuffed his butt in the stone planter filled with sand and lit another. “Why do you want to be a mortician?”

“It’s just something I would be good at, and I can do it.”

Heather launched into a story about her mother’s brother. The family wasn’t very close, but when no one heard from him for about a month, she was elected to go visit and see if he was okay. He was not.

“The cops said he had been dead for a few weeks. It smelled pretty bad in there. I remember the sound it made when they pulled him off the recliner.” The daunting task of cleaning and cleaning out his house was left to Heather and her mother. “She couldn’t handle the smell, you know?” Heather’s eyes were wide, and we watched as a wisp of smoke rose from the tip of her cigarette and went straight into her eye. She didn’t even blink. “It didn’t bother me.”

Heather helped her mother make arrangements. She desperately wanted to see the embalming process, but there are rules about that. So Heather went home, booted up her brother’s computer, and watched instructional videos.

“I really want to do it,” she said. “Mom said I could have some of the money from the sale of his house, and that’s how I’m going to use it. I used my part of the money from the yard sale to sign up for a class.”

“Were y’all able to sell everything?” Reuben asked.

“Mostly. What was left, Mom let us divvy up. I took the recliner.”

They didn’t speak for a while, and then Reuben turned to another classmate and said, “So, you’re getting married…”

T-Minus Two Weeks

Ramblin’ Rosegarten (book 4 of the Camellia series) will be out August 1, 2015! This one was my favorite until I wrote book six. It introduces one of my two favorite characters. I can’t wait for y’all to meet him.

If you haven’t started the Camellia series or you are behind, there is time to catch up. Join Camellia’s roller coaster ride of emotions and life events!

Triple D Delight!

I finally got to eat somewhere that I have seen on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives: Wallace Station. Some great friends met us there for lunch today, and oh man…truffle fries. Best fries I have ever eaten. Ever! I mean, my ham, brie, and green apple sandwich was awesome too, but the fries. The fries.

(the fries)

(the fries)