Chapter One Pleasant Day
I wanted to let loose with a good right hook to his grin. Son of a bitch was always treating me like I had nothing in my head but air, no way to reason or form thoughts. I had no purpose on this earth but to appease his need to be believed. Little bastard would never get as tall as the tales he told.
“Ain’t that something,” he said.
He stood there breathing hard, getting fat on bad news. Of course it wasn’t true, meant to scare me away from giving John Peter two minutes of my time. I raised my eyes to the sky and put my hands in the pockets of my jeans.
“You shocked?” he asked.
Mama said I was born by a stream named Sweetwater. She called me Sassy the moment she realized I was a girl. Mama said girls should be sassy, gives them sex appeal. So I was named Sassy, after an attitude, and Sweetwater, after a stream. The year was 1949 and the place was a dirty back road shack in a dusty little town in South Carolina. Mama never could remember the name of the town but she told me that it might have been Cottageville, or maybe even Ridgeville. Didn’t matter much what it was called though. I never saw it again, and as far as I knew, Mama didn’t either. S
Some people think a grey tumultuous sky is an omen of discontent, especially if one’s entry into this world is shadowed by blustery clouds and thunder’s emphatic roar. But my mama said that heaven welcomed my birth with great horns blowing and mighty cymbals clashing, and omens sent by mighty seers bring the blessings of miracles, not the doom of devils.
WHERE THE WILDFLOWERS GROW
“Will you love me forever, Pierce?” she asked as she swung his hand in hers and they walked their bikes down the path, not really wanting to get where they needed to be.
“Uh-uh,” he said. “Forever.”
It was July and they were off from school, doing nothing during that lazy summer but finding each other’s bodies to explore, swimming by the swimming hole naked, feeling the water as it came up inside them and cleaned where they had just been wet and sticky.
“Think your daddy will mind that I came for you this early?” he asked her.
“He won’t mind,” she said.
They neared the hill that dropped down to the house she lived in. It was large and white, eminent in stature, with a horse fence that ran the length of it. Large oak trees stood tall, protective armies of alpine presence, gracing the property like obedient soldiers. Manicured grass, verdurous and well maintained, proudly sparkled with the morning’s dew like crystal glass.
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DANCING BACKWARD IN PARADISE
If you drive up there near the state line, on the border of Tennessee and Georgia, you just might pass through my hometown, the Chattanooga suburb of Hixson. But you might not know you passed it, not unless you take the time to read the sign hanging near the highway. Most people only stop in Hixson for the cemeteries and the old Civil War battlefields around Chattanooga. I grew up thinking a trip to Soddy Daisy was living the high life. But it was beautiful country, no matter what Mama says. I remember the back roads mostly, and the trees. When I was small, I’d spread my arms out as far as I could and I’d try to reach as wide as a tree’s branches. I’d dance in the wind, partner to the limbs of the old oak and the sugar maples. Trees seemed to be all the poetry I’d ever need.
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LIES A RIVER DEEP
It was a day like any other. Days have a sameness, even new, they offer little beyond weather changes and sudden deaths.
“And how are you today?” Bessie asked, showing a smile that age had not yet dulled. She’d always been cute because of it. Sixty years ago, or more, she was the little girl whose cheeks you pinched, and though she was old now, she still wore her hair in curls; silver grey undulations that framed her face and brought out a blithe desire in others to pinch where her dimples dipped, even to kiss her there unabashedly.