Real Life Inspires – Cloud Wrangler (Fridays Free-for-all)

cloud wrangler

Q: Is any of your fiction true? Do you write about real life?

A: Well yes and no. For example a visit to Rockford Illinois for my granddaughter’s graduation inspired the following scene which takes place somewhere in the historical Lake-Peterson House.

Our dog Leia was the inspiration for the physical description of Gus and that is her on the cover.

Leia as Gus (1024x714)

There is some truth in the fiction I write. I will leave it up to the reader to decide where that truth lies.

 

Chapter Twenty Five

Mary paced the empty hallway on the third floor of the ancient house. She counted fifteen steps from one lamp to the next and wondered if the people below could hear her. The dark corridor seemed to grow shorter with each lap along with her patience. She considered unlocking her mind so she could tap into the thoughts of those around her but intuition advised against it. Occasionally she paused to listen at the door; each time she found the words indecipherable and returned to pacing until a gentle creak caused her to stop.

“You may go in now.” A flat voice announced as the heavy door gave way. Sunbeams flooded the hallway and Mary squinted at the figure in front of her; at the starched white cap and unwieldy dress which were as outdated as the house.

“Thank you.” Mary stepped forward and warmly squeezed the woman’s shoulders. Her affections were met with a rigid withdrawal but not before she could catch a glimpse of the nurse’s frontal imaginings.  As her eyes adjusted to the light she could better see the nurse’s features; her round face as stiff as her attire looked like a plate cemented between the pinned head covering and cinched collar.

“Thank you.” Mary reiterated with less affection as she slid past the nurse and closed the door behind her.

The floorboards groaned as Mary hobbled across the oversized space toward a single bed in the corner. Jim glanced up, forced a smile and promptly turned his attention back to his wife.

“How are y’all?” Mary anxiously inquired as she cast an eye over the new parents.

“We… we’re all fine.” Clara mumbled, straining to open her eyes.

“Where are the babies?” Mary asked, glancing suspiciously around the bare room.

“One of the nurses took them over to the hospital – said they had to be examined – tests and shots – routine stuff.” Jim explained as if trying to assure himself.  “They will bring them back as soon as they’re finished… as soon as they make sure they’re both in good health.” His voice trailed as he tenderly bathed Clara’s pale face.

“That makes sense.” Mary tried to sound convincing but the smell of sweat and panic made it difficult. She lifted Clara’s moist flaccid hand and asked, “How are you sweetie?”

“I can’t…”  Clara whispered, gasping between words, “can’t … hear… Frieda.”

“Don’t worry love.” Jim paused briefly to blot his own forehead and neck before sweeping the salty cloth across his wife’s.

“Mama?” Clara’s eyes fluttered.

“Something is wrong!” The vision appeared as red paint flowing over a white canvas and Mary yanked the sheet back. Doc! Mary opened the vault of her subconscious, honed her thoughts on the old doctor and yelled.  Doc! Hurry! Her brain was inundated with voices and images as the internal walls fell away; the extrasensory chaos proved to be too much and she collapsed on the floor.

__

When Mary came to she could see the doctor standing over Clara, pressing and massaging her abdomen. A bottle of clear liquid hung at the head of the bed and a pile of blood stained sheets littered the floor around them.

“She’ll be okay now. We just have to let the medicine do its work and keep the fundus firm.”  He spoke in a casual manner. “Fetch me another bag of special blend Gus and be careful not to puncture this one.”  The white shepherd sprinted to the door, his claws creating a rapid rhythmic tap against the wooden floor as he ran.

“Do you think he will speak to me?” Jim stood in the same spot, still sponging his wife’s face as he spoke but the scent of panic had lessened.

“Maybe.” The doctor replied suppressing any signs of optimism yet Mary could see the previous conversation between Doc and Gus.  She grinned as she raised herself to a standing position. The shepherd would soon have a new home.

“I guess the sight of all that blood got to you. Are you okay now?” Jim asked without taking his eyes off of Clara.

“I guess so.” Mary laughed, rubbing the small lump on her head. “Our girl definitely looks a lot better.” She said, running her fingers across Clara’s rosy complexion. “What happened? Why did she bleed so much?”

“That happens sometimes, especially with twins.” Mary accepted the doctor’s verbal response without debate as he knew she would. The truth of the matter would be kept secret between the two of them for the time being. If Jim learned of the attempted murder he would retaliate and that could put Doc and Gus in a dangerous situation. “Good boy!” the doctor took the pint sized plastic container from the dog’s mouth. “You rub the fundus just like I showed you James.” He said as he quickly inserted a fifty milliliter syringe, filled it with the thick crimson liquid and injected it directly into the intravenous line. He repeated the process nine more times until the bag was empty and the bottle overhead was dry.

“When can I have my babies?” An invigorated Clara sprung up and demanded, “I want Fritz and Frieda right now. If they are not here in five minutes I will go and get them myself.”

“Are you sure you are capable of handling them right now?” Doc asked.

“I am more than capable.” Clara took the salty half-damp cloth, snatched the I.V. from her arm and applied pressure. “I believe I am capable of taking this place down and everyone in my path to get to my children.”

“I believe you.” The old doctor smiled.

“What did you give her?” Jim shook his head and laughed, “An hour ago I was afraid I was losing her – now I’m just afraid of her.”

“You have nothing to fear.” The doctor’s face lit up with a shrewd grin, “As long as you are one of the good guys.”

“I’ll tell my nurse to bring the babies now.”

Within minutes a lovely petit woman entered the room with a bundle in each arm.

“I hear the new mommy is anxious to hold her little ones.”

“Oh yes.” Clara cried, extending her arms.

The nurse carefully placed the infants in their mother’s arms.  Frieda was nestled on the right and Fritz on the left. The twins instinctively turned their face to Clara’s breasts and began rooting and grunting. She in turn lifted her blouse and guided each mouth to an engorged nipple, welcoming the throbbing and stinging as they gulped.

“I have never seen anything so beautiful.” Jim’s voiced cracked as he spoke. “I have never felt so blessed.” He glanced at the others around him. Mary sniffled and held her hand to her mouth, the old doctor nodded and smiled and the white shepherd pawed at the tears streaming down his snout.

Cloud Wrangler is available at your favorite e-book store.

 

Mad Monday (Behind the Rage Chapter 12)

Chapter Twelve

Tallulah telephoned Ray and informed him of the miscarriage.
“I buried it out by the garden.” She spoke, nodding and shaking her head against the receiver. “No sir, but it sho nuff done broke her heart. She’s took to the bed right now `cause her Mama give her somthin’ ta make her sleep. Yessir, but we gonna git her better Mr. Ray.”
“Is her mother there?” he asked.
“Yessir, Mrs. Turner is upstairs. You want me ta git her for ya?”
“No, just tell her I will see her in a few weeks. Thank you Tallulah, I’ll call again in a couple of days.” And he hung up.

Mrs. Turner sat quietly beside her sleeping daughter filing her manicured nails and strumming them on the mahogany table as she planned her next move. For whatever reason her son in law had lost interest in the marriage and that must be remedied. He had told Maggie that he was delayed in Washington on state business but Mrs. Turner knew the truth. Yes, she knew all about the mistress he kept in town near the old French Quarter. The pregnancy happening so soon, probably on their wedding night, had been an unexpected blessing but with that gone now she needed to establish another strategy, just until she could be certain Maggie was pregnant again – but how long would that take? And would her rebellious daughter be able to carry an heir to full term?

“You don’t mind I go on home bein’ as you here, do ya, Mizrez Turner?” Tallulah asked tip toeing across the wooden floor.
“No dear, you go on. Thank you for all your efforts.” Mrs. Turner replied.
“Sorry I couldn’t do more. Call if you need me ma’am.” Mrs. Turner nodded and motioned for Tallulah to go.

Maggie groaned in her sleep as her mother took her hand and held it to her own chest.
“Beat of my heart, fruit of my own womb — I am so sorry for your loss… It would have been a boy, a deformed boy but an heir and the assurance that we needed.”
“He was my son, mother.” Maggie whimpered groggily, “Your grandson — the hideous thing buried in a tissue box by the garden… and for a moment I loved him.”
“Hush, hush.” Mrs. Turner whispered repeatedly until Maggie, once again, cried herself to sleep.

~o~

Within a short span of two weeks Maggie had made a full recovery. Mrs. Turner stayed on and accompanied her to the gynecologist. She was delighted by the report; her daughter could safely conceive in another two weeks. The doctor said two months but Mrs. Turner was sure she knew more than the incompetent physician.
“This is cause to celebrate.” Mrs. Turner said, “Let’s make a day of it. Are you up to it puddin’?”
“I believe I am.” Maggie replied, “I’ve had a hankering for an oyster po-boy and…”
“And what?” her mother asked
“I’d like to walk over to Saint Louis cathedral and light a candle for James.”
“Who on earth is James?”
“James Rayburn Lafont, that was my sons name Mama.”
“Oh Mag, it was little more than a lump of malformed tissue!” Mrs. Turner exclaimed with a hint of disgust. Maggie paused beneath the moss draped oak and stared at her mother in disbelief.
“I realize no one other than me and God will ever acknowledge his existence Mother, but can you allow me this one kindness and for one measly moment see me as something other than an avenue to YOUR dreams?”
“Of course sweetie.” She replied, patting Maggie on the head as if placating a small child.

Maggie felt a burden lift as she exited the church. Something about the mass of lighted candles comforted her. Whether it was the spirit of God or the knowing she wasn’t alone in her despair, as noted by the flickering prayer requests – either way it made her feel better.

“How about the Red Fish on Bourbon Street?” Mrs. Turner asked with pouted lips against a tube of taupe lipstick.
“Yummy.” Maggie replied swinging her leather purse by the silver fetter. Mrs. Turner reached for Maggie’s free hand as they strolled like school girls giggling at the street vendors and artists and the occasional con scouting his next target.
The Red Fish was crowded, as usual but Mrs. Turner spied an open table in the back.
“Excellent. There’s an empty table over there. I hate hiding in corners but we’ll take it.” She said waving to the hostess “Do you have your master card precious?” Maggie wasn’t listening. “Your card sweetie? It’s in your pocket book, right?” Mrs. Turner twisted in the direction of her daughters gaze. “Land o Goshen.” Her mother mumbled then regained her composure almost yelling, “They’re packed darlin’. What say we shop a little and come back later? It’ll be better for the appetite.”
“You should have spotted them first!” Maggie exclaimed angrily. “Take me home mother!”
The entire ride home from the city was cluttered with Mrs. Turner’s denials, followed by excuses for what they had just witnessed. Maggie stared out the window, trying to ignore her.
“I am not an idiot mother and neither are you!” Maggie finally responded. “Are you honestly going to disregard what you just saw? Did you see the way he looked at me? Like it was me… like I had done something wrong. I can’t take it anymore… I want to come home.” Maggie’s voice was quivering. The image of her husband smiling at – catering to the trollop who’s bed he warmed while Maggie suffered alone through the carrying and then the loss of their child. The lying, pretending to be hours away on business when in truth he was moments away on pleasure.
“Now don’t be rash Maggie.” Her mother persuaded, “These things happen. Men will be men.”
“No mother! I have forgiven his vulgar conduct more than once.” Maggie blurted out,
“He calls ME a whore on my wedding night, sodomized and humiliated me yet shows himself in public with his real whore? Leaves me alone to grieve our son? …NO! It is over!” Maggie sighed through flared nostrils, slapping the tears from her face, “No more tears. No more… No more.”
Mrs. Turner’s motherly instinct reared briefly at the thought of her child being molested and cursed, called a whore until it occurred to her.
“You told him you weren’t a virgin didn’t you?”
“What does that have to do with this?”
“Well it only explains everything!”
“Why on God’s green earth did you tell him? You foolish child!”
“Because he asked me! Did you expect me to lie? Never mind, of course you did.”
“You young girls! Your cherry was lost to a tampon, why didn’t you just tell him that? Dammit Maggie!”
“Well this marriage is over and I am coming home. I want you to help me get my things and I’ll ride back to Mississippi with you today.”
“You are not coming home Maggie Mae.” Mrs. Turner shot back with a glare in her eyes, bringing the car to a sliding halt before the splendid pillars of the Lafont estate. “You will stay and see this through – by god you will! As soon as you are pregnant again –”
“For Christ’s sake Mother, have you no soul?” she asked searching her mother’s eyes for a hint of compassion. The only thing visible was greed. “Don’t bother getting out.” Maggie yelled as she slammed the door of the pearl colored Cadillac and watched it fly down the oak lined path heading east.

Mr. Ray foned and tol me to tak the res of the week off. Seems hez comin home early and I bets he is bringin you sumthin real nice. May be yall have a secun hunymoon. Cawl me ifn you need to my sweet Magy gurl. –T
Maggie had to smile as she read the note from Tallulah. Though the spelling was atrocious the sentiment was more than touching. The smile didn’t last long as she opened the heavy pine doors and was greeted by a portrait of Senator Ray Lafont. She stomped up the stairs to the room filled with only sad memories and began packing.

“I’ll take a room in a hotel till I can figure out what to do next.” She spoke aloud to herself as she yanked dresses from their hangers and emptied drawers, “I’ll camp down by the swamp but I will not stay a day longer in this snake pit.” She had just secured the zipper on the Louis Vuitton luggage when Ray walked in.
“Where do you think you’re going? He asked.
“Away from here.” Maggie replied, without looking in his direction.
“And how do you propose to do that?”
“I suppose I’ll call a cab.”
“How do you expect to pay for the cab?”
“They’ll accept a credit card.” Maggie shot back, yanking the bag up and starting toward the door. “Save your breath. It is over.” In a rapid fluid motion Ray locked the door and stood blocking her access. “I don’t want to fight with you Ray. You win, now please let me pass.”
“You won’t reconsider?” he asked with a sick smirk.
“No!” Maggie answered sharply.
“I told you what to expect in the way of treatment. Didn’t I tell you Mag? You’re used goods. You’re diseased womb isn’t even fit to carry my seed, you proved that. But I’ll allow you to remain my wife under a few conditions.”
“Are you insane?” Maggie glared at him, “I no longer want to be your wife and the sooner I can put you behind me the better off I’ll be.”
Ray could see her conviction and knew that it was futile to try and sway her.
“You selfish tramp!” he spoke through gnarled lips, “Have you even thought about what this might due to my reputation? My seat in the senate or my chances at re-election?”
“Really Ray?” Maggie was aghast, “Have you considered what your public displays of affection with that trollop might do? Everyone from Biloxi to Baton Rouge knows about your real whore. Everyone in Orleans parish knows her name and address, the address that YOU supply her with.”
“You watch your mouth.” He growled.
“You don’t get to tell me what to do any more darlin’,” Maggie laughed a wicked laugh, “go back and bully your trampy brunette on Dauphine Street. She still lives there doesn’t she?” Ray was simmering and Maggie watched with delight as his nostrils expanded and the pink capillaries of his face and eyes bulged.
“Give me your check book and your cards.” He demanded. Before Maggie could extract the items from her purse, he yanked it from her and emptied it on the floor, kicking the contents away. He took two twenty dollar bills and shoved them into her cleavage. “That will get you a cab into town. I imagine you can beg enough to pay for a meal once you get there. That’s all I can do for you.”
“You bastard.” She screamed, “You worthless, low life, backwoods son of a -” Maggie did not complete the raving comment; Ray’s hand was around her neck. Without warning, her head landed hard against the heavy door.
“That kind of talk just might get you an old fashioned backwoods ass whopping southern belle.” He spoke as he slammed her skull against the antique door facing again.
“Go to hell.” She managed to say just before the room went dark.
Consciousness came and went as Maggie felt herself being dragged across the floor. She heard water running and gagged as the bar of ivory soap filled her mouth.
“What did I tell you about that filthy mouth?” Ray growled as he twisted the bar, screwing it toward her throat. Maggie could feel the white perfumed lye shave against her teeth, stifling her ability to breathe and forced herself to relax and inhale slowly through her nose. She could see herself in the bathroom mirror as Ray lifted her to her feet by the hair of her head, just before he plunged her face in to the marble sink. He held her face up beneath the tap.
I’m drowning. Dear God help me, she prayed.
Ray withdrew the soap but held her tightly in place. When she stopped struggling, he lifted her up to face him.
“Have you learned your lesson?” he asked.
Maggie could not yet speak. Each effort sent pink bubbles foaming from her blood-tinged lips. The stinging in her lungs made it hard to catch her breath, she coughed up bits of soap and tried again to speak. He held her there, in front of the mirror; one hand full of hair and the other clutching her jaw. “Have you had enough?”
Maggie nodded.
“You owe me an apology. You know that?” He said, staring down into her eyes and pressing his thumb harder into her neck. “Now do you want to say something?” Maggie nodded again and he slowly released her chin. “Go ahead.”
Maggie cleared her throat and dabbed at the bubbles with her tongue that were still forming with each gasp, took a deep breath and declared, “Fuck you.”
The first lick of her skull against the smooth stone counter brought blood; Maggie watched it spatter on the mirror as she sunk her claws deep into the flesh of his face. The second punch caused her head to spin, by the third or fourth her arms fell limp. Ray did not notice. When the punching stopped, when his shoulders were fatigued from swinging he bounced her head against the hard surface once more for good measure. Maggie fell motionless to the floor; Ray kicked her and watched to see if she would move. She didn’t.
~o~

When Maggie regained consciousness she was lying naked on the floor. Ray was gone, so were her luggage and all the contents in her purse. She inched her way through the bedroom, found the door and reached to open it. Maggie wrenched the knob left and right without success. Frantically she shook the antique hardware; she could hear the skeleton key jingle, metal against metal on the other side of the door. She called out for Tallulah before hazily remembering the note she’d found earlier. Blindly the battered woman ran her hands over and around the nightstand but found nothing. Maggie crawled back to the bathroom and reached for the vintage telephone beside the claw tub. Feeling, counting the holes in the dial she managed 911 but there was no answer. She pressed and released the receiver several times before grasping the fact that there was no dial tone. She felt hopeless. She was caged, there was no one around for miles and Ray had removed the phone cord, her last bit of hope.
Maggie dragged herself to the linen closet and retrieved a face cloth. She felt her way, by memory to the sink and began washing the caked blood from her eyes. When she was able to see her reflection she decided it was not as bad as she had feared. Her face looked like a lumpy mass of clay surrounded by scarlet colored yarn but there were no serious lacerations. She filled the tub with hot water and an entire box of fine Artisan bath salts, slid down and washed the red stain from her hair.
No tears. She reminded herself when she felt the desolation overtaking her. I can’t jump from the balcony, I’ll break my leg, she plotted, but I could tie the sheets together and let myself down from the balcony. Yes. Maggie deliberated with optimism. She eased her pain-riddled body from the bloody water and hobbled to the closet only to find it empty.
“I hate you!” she screamed. “I’ll get out of here or die trying.” There was no one to hear her scream, not while her husband punched her and cracked her skull against the unforgiving surface, there was no one then and no one now. “Look at me – I don’t need any clothes.” She said yanking the drapes from the glass door that led to freedom. She grabbed the handle and pulled but it refused to budge. Peering outside at just the right angle she could see the makeshift lock holding the door.
“Really Ray? Really?” Maggie yelled and stomped in a rage grabbing the heavy Victorian lamp perched by the settee, she sent it flying like a javelin out into the yard. “Woohoo!” she laughed as glass fell all around her. “Give me those sheets.” Maggie gave an invigorated heave to free the material from the mattress and when she did, an airborne cell phone struck her in the thigh. “Thank you Jesus.” She howled and pressed the #2 on speed dial. When Mrs. Turner picked up Maggie could not utter the words.
“Maggie?” her mother cautiously spoke into the phone. “Are you there sweetie?”
“Mama… can you come get me?” Maggie slumped to the floor and blubbered through swollen lips.
“No honey. I told you – you are gonna have to work it out.” She said firmly.
“But Mama he beat me.” Maggie broke down when she heard the words coming from her own mouth.
Mrs. Turner cleared the knot from her own throat and reiterated, “You’re going to have to see this through and that’s all there is to it.”
“But Mama…” Maggie stopped. Her mother had hung up the phone. Maggie dropped her head between her knees and allowed herself to cry for a few minutes before blowing her nose in to the palm of her hand and smearing snot on the Persian rug. She opened her phone and began to scroll through the numbers. Nearly to the end she paused, took a deep breath and pressed the green send button.

“Operator. May I help you?”
“Yes.” Maggie stammered. “Put me through to Linda Latrull in ICU please.”

“This is Linda.”
“Linda… this is Maggie Lafont, I mean Maggie Turner… I’m in trouble, can you come get me?”

Linda caught a flight to New Orleans where a car was waiting with a one-way rental agreement. She let herself in at the servant’s entrance of the Lafont mansion, breaking only one pan and raced upstairs. Ray had left the skeleton key in the door. Maggie crouched quivering in the dark as she heard the metal grating, clenching the coat hanger she’d made ready to poke out the eyes if it was Ray and stretching the spiraled cord to the cell phone charger to choke him with…
“Maggie?” Linda whispered easing the door open.
“Is he here?” Maggie asked.
“I don’t think so.” Linda said turning on the light. Nothing Maggie had told her could have prepared Linda for the horrendous site before her eyes. This was not the Maggie she had last seen at LSU.“Here put these on.” Linda said throwing a Danskin running suit at her, “I know it’s not your style but it’s the smallest thing I could find and it fit in my bag easy.”
“Thank you.” Maggie said, keeping her face down.
“Don’t you duck your head!” Linda told her, “Not in front of me. Let me look at you – see if I can spot the old Maggie.” Linda surveyed the pummeled face then stared in to the watery eyes. “Yep, there she is.”
Maggie tried to smile but the swelling in her face made it difficult.
“That’s some Lower Ninth Ward stuff right there.” Linda said shaking her head, then retracted, “No that’s some Mid-City… on second thought I don’t know what that is but it is jacked up! And Ray Lafont did this to you?”
Maggie nodded.
“I knew he had a mean streak in him but I never imagined this!” Linda looked around the room, “We better get out of here. Is there anything you want to take?”
Maggie shook her head, “This is all I have.” She said holding out the cell phone and charger.
“Lucky for you, huh.” Linda took Maggie’s arm, turned off the light and peaked out in to the hall. The coast was clear or at least as far as Linda’s pin light could see. When they reached the bottom of the staircase Linda turned to Maggie,
“I’ll ask you one more time and that’s it kiddo – are you sure this is what you want to do?” Maggie nodded. “There is no turning back” she said “and probably no coming back. People like this don’t play games girlfriend and if they do – they always win.”
“Look at me Linda.” Maggie said with conviction, “And my own mother told me to stay and work it out? Who do I have? What choice do I have?”
“Okay then.” Linda agreed. Moving forward she pressed the wooden panel of the console table in the foyer exposing a tin lock box. “We’re going out the front door and taking this with us.”
“I never knew that was there.” Maggie giggled.
“It don’t look like you ever came out of that blasted bedroom.” Linda chided.
“Not often.” Maggie admitted.
Within fifteen minutes they were on I-10 heading west.
“Can you believe it?” Linda asked, “Maggie Lafont steeling away in the middle of the night with the likes of me.”
Reclining her seat, Maggie looked up at the clear black sky dotted with stars and announced, “I don’t want to disappoint you but Maggie Lafont is dead.”

 Now if that don't make you mad...

Read the entire story Behind the Rage, Book Two in the Clan Destiny series.  Read the entire series to watch revenge unfold. Follow the links to your favorite e-bookstore.

The Sharecropper’s Son Chapter 1 (Friday’s Free-for-All)

Waiting

For hopes that hung on a chicken bones
For hearts that lived in chains
For pods of green that died unknown
While waiting for the rain

For dreams left bare on empty prayer
For souls that wished in vain
For tears unshared in mute despair
While waiting for a change

For you and I and all mankind
For worlds where peace was slain
For faith and mind no man can bind
We wait and wait again

“All eyes were on Wall Street, but truth be told, the market crash paled in comparison to the Navarro County drought.”

Cast of Characters:

Jamison Baines Weir
Liam and Coletta Weir
Jeff and Diane Flint
Bob and Maddie Hallet
D.W. and Bell Crom
Colored Dan
Ronald Gore

theatre masks
Chapter 1

The news of Black Tuesday came and went as little more than dry morsels between flapjacks and red-eyed gravy. Black Thursday was no different. Margin calls and ticker-talk; it was all a foreign language to the average man of Navarro county. New York, Chicago and any place not adjacent to the dying province could have just as well been another country – another planet.
<>Suicides headlined newspapers across the globe. Although desperate men (and women) chose gas or bullets; poison or tablets to avoid poverty the stories of men leaping from windows sold more papers and it seemed to pacify the masses, at least for a while.
<>The headlines went on and on. Tales of a brutal bearish market where stock prices were plummeting and fortunes were being dissolved. The days grew long and the soup lines grew longer as billions of dollars were lost, except for the sparse crowd who knew how to short the market and profit from despair.

<>The caste system was readjusting; the prudent wealthy settled into middle-class; the so called middle-class went back to being poor and the poor resorted to begging or starving. Even the outcasts felt the impact. Amidst all of the chaos and realigning there was one morphological thing that everyone understood; a fact that every race, creed, class and religion agreed upon – the roaring twenties had come to a crashing halt. Literally.

EIGHT MORE TAKE THE PLUNGE.

A somnolent bedraggled man stood in the doorway of Crom’s Cafe and eyed the headline of the Navarro County Herald. He thoughtlessly tapped his hat against his thigh to loosen the grit before tossing a nickel into the box that read COFFEE & TOAST 5¢. There were a dozen nickels alongside his.

<>“Thanks Bell” he grumbled to the portly matron behind the paper as he filed past the register and took a seat in the back of the diner.
Half a dozen men sat scattered about the dimly lit eatery, each one scarcely aware of the others presence. They all sat in the same fashion; silent with their elbows on the table and their heads bowed over crumbs and half empty cups. One man’s groans interrupted the silence, erupting between broken verses of prayer which quickly evaporated without regard.
<>“Here you go Liam.” Bell spoke just above a whisper as she sat the mug and saucer on the table, “If there’s anything left after breakfast I’ll send it home with you.”
<>“Thank you ma’am but that fella over there looks a heap worse than any of us.” he nodded toward the sniveling man, “Looks like he might need any scraps you can spare.”
<>“Tut-tut!” Bell shot a glance at the praying man and shook her head, “Don’t you know who that is? That is Daniel D. Starnes; the same Daniel Starnes who owns the cotton gin over at Mexia; the same scoundrel that cheated fifty men out of their wages. I know he makes a sorrowful spectacle with all that praying but do you know what he’s praying for?” the woman paused long enough to fill her lungs and did not wait for Liam to respond. “The beast! Yep, he is praying that the stock market will recover so he doesn’t lose any more money on his investments. I tell you I am at my wits end with all the moaning and groaning and killing over filthy lucre and that blasted stock market! ” Bell wiped her hands on her apron and marched toward the kitchen speaking so the entire café could hear her, “Money! That is all some folks care about.”
<>Money can’t buy you rain, Liam thought, as he quietly dipped his dry toast into the weak coffee and watched as the diner filled.
<>The usual crowd shuffled in, in their habitual manner. More coffee was poured into waiting mugs, more nickels dropped into the box, a few at the bar ordered a real breakfast and those who could afford to buy a copy unfurled their paper. Liam inconspicuously glanced at the man’s next to him. The dismal headline meant nothing to most tenant farmers. It meant even less to Liam Weir. He saw it as one less gluttonous banker and they could not die fast enough to suit him.
And greedy cotton ginners can go to hell right along with `em.

Navarro County Herald

<>If I had five cents to spend, I wouldn’t waste it on that rag. They just as well call it the New Yorker! Liam decided he had seen enough of the Navarro County Herald. There was no mention of the drought, not on the front page anyway. When the man beside him turned the page, Liam went back to watching the idle patrons throughout the diner.
From his seat in the rear he could see the entire café and a portion of the adjoining store, the same store he was determined to visit and purchase a decent bill of groceries before the day was up.
<>Liam studied the room; watched as men felt blindly for cups and sopped dry biscuits in air while soaking up the news of investors going broke. All eyes were on Wall Street but truth be told, the market crash paled in comparison to the Navarro county drought.
<>He watched as a billion dust particles danced overhead, swaying recklessly in rays of smoke stained sunshine until the weight of grease and nicotine and worry forced them to settle. The grimy mist settled on everything – on everyone. It covered every field cap and fedora. Without prejudice it landed on burnt necks and white collars alike and no one, other than Liam appeared to notice. He listened to the moans and grunts that followed each turning page. Some lingered on the specifics, others on the gruesome photographs but at the end of breakfast they all shrugged their shoulders and went back to waiting.

Get the rest of the story @ your favorite e-book store.

Paperback available @ Amazon

Thanks Y’all!!

signature0001