Friday, October 24, 2014

Polly and the One and Only World - A Shout Out


PollyarcfrontcoverMKTPolly and the One and Only World


Published October 6, 2014
Paperback: 348 pages
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0989983891

Idgie Says - I am giving this book a shout out instead of a review - not for the lack of quality in the book -  simply because though the theme is strong, I have a hard time digging into books that are more in the fantasy realm.  But this book does delve into tolerance, racial bias (in this case, witch bias), goverment and religious control and all those other good things that actually can threaten society today - just set in a different America where there appear to be a lot of spells, charms and witchcraft.
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 Book Description:
 Don’s new young adult (YA) fantasy is called Polly and the One and Only World.  His first novel, Hard Feelings, was an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults in 1977, a New York Times Notable Book, and a 20th Century Fox feature film.  We are absolutely thrilled to be publishing his new book and we support the new genre “Clifi” for this title !

Set in a much-diminished future America called the Christian Protectorates, a poor country ravaged by coastal flooding, drought, and cataclysmic social upheaval, the story features 15-year-old Polly Lightfoot, a maiden witch of rich heritage and tender ability in the craft.  When the story opens, Polly is forced to flee New Florida, where she has taken temporary refuge to escape a military purge of the country’s infidels, pagans, and followers of false creeds.  With the help of her steadfast familiar, Balthazar, a raven, and her brave teenage companion, Leon, whom she meets on the way, Polly undertakes an epic journey from the deep south to the wild north to be reunited in Vermont with her family and to save her ancient craft from obliteration.

Don Bredes is a versatile, visionary novelist.  His frightening, vividly realized depiction of our stricken land in the stifling grip of fundamentalists offers young readers a galvanizing motive for preventive action.  Not only do readers learn a great deal about witchcraft and religious oppression, but the chilling aspect of an America dominated by hateful zealots in the wake of climate catastrophe presents them with an inspiring challenge—today—to forestall the dire consequences of climate chaos.  Gloomy though Polly’s world may be, her story does not make use of the horrific realism found in dystopian novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, or even in Susan Collins’s Hunger Games.  Rather, Polly and the One and Only World gives young readers a vision of a future that will inspire them to appreciate their own freedom and their own capacity to work for positive social and political change.

We are aware that in some communities the book’s controversial themes will encounter threats of banning—which does not deter us in the least from publishing it.  This is a novel that will move youthful minds and stir valuable and timely discussion wherever it finds readers.
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Last Sister - A Young Palmetto Book Shout Out

book jacket for The Last SisterA shout out about another fascinating looking Young Adult novel that educates as it engages with a story.  The story is strong in nature so not for the younger set, but a middle school reader would be appropriate. 
______________________________________________
 
The Last Sister
A Novel
Courtney McKinney-Whitaker
A Young Palmetto Book
University of South Carolina Press

Rife with dangers, a young adult tale of jeopardy and justice set during the Anglo-Cherokee War.

Set during the Anglo-Cherokee War (1758–1761), The Last Sister, by Courtney McKinney-Whitaker, traces a young woman's journey through grief, vengeance, guilt, and love in the unpredictable world of the early American frontier. After a band of fellow settlers fakes a Cherokee raid to conceal the murder of her family, seventeen-year-old Catriona "Catie" Blair embarks on a quest to report the crime and bring the murderers to justice, while desperately seeking to regain her own sense of safety.


This journey leads Catie across rural South Carolina and through Cherokee territory—where she encounters wild animals, physical injury, privation, British and Cherokee leaders, and an unexpected romance with a young lieutenant from a Scottish Highland regiment—on her path to a new life as she strives to overcome personal tragedy.


The Anglo-Cherokee War erupted out of tensions between British American settlers and the Cherokee peoples, who had been allies during the early years of the French and Indian War. In 1759 South Carolina governor William Henry Lyttelton declared war on the Cherokee nation partly in retaliation for what he perceived as unprovoked attacks on backcountry settlements.


Catie's story challenges many common notions about early America. It also presents the Cherokee as a sovereign and powerful nation whose alliance was important to Britain and addresses the complex issues of race, class, and ethnicity that united and divided the British, the Cherokee, the Scottish highlanders, and the Scottish lowlanders, while it incorporates issues of power that led to increased violence toward women on the early American frontier.

A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Courtney McKinney-Whitaker holds a bachelor's degree in history from the University of South Carolina Honors College, a master's of library and information science from the University of South Carolina, and a master's in English from Illinois State University. She lives in Illinois with her family.

Visit her website at http://courtneymckinneywhitaker.com or follow her on Twitter @courtneymckwhit.

Ghosts, Toilet Paper, and The Preacher’s Car




            Halloween.  All hallows eve.  Don’t matter how you say it, it’s a night for teenagers to act stupid.”  Shale allowed the cruiser to coast through the subdivision. 
            “Not any more so than any other night.”  Gage watched a group of kids dressed in their costumes approach another door.  “It’s a night for kids to get candy and have fun.”
            “And a night for mischief and pranks. That’s why I call this night TP patrol.”  Shale turned out of the subdivision.
            “TP patrol?”  Gage was use to the older deputy’s cynicism.  Twenty years with the department had a way of stealing one’s compassion.
            “Toilet Paper Patrol.  At least we weren’t assigned to the Happy Hooker’s Bait and Tackle shop.”  Shale stopped behind a van unloading eager ghosts and goblins.
            Gage watched a faded gray truck pass.  He thought for a moment he recognized it as his wife’s.  Baxley had not mention going out for the evening.  He was sure she had plans to stay home and hand out candy to the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.
********
            “That was a deputy car we just passed.  You think it was Gage?” Cissa popped another handful of candy corn in her mouth and chase it with a swig of diet cola.
            “I didn’t get a look at the tag on the front of the car. I think he’s on the other side of the county tonight.  Either way you know we can’t buy our TP at the Happy Hooker. The sheriff always has a car parked there on Halloween.”  Baxley continued down the darken road that led to Vienna. 
            “I hope the dollar store is still open.  If not, we’re gonna have to go to Americus. When’s operation pumpkin patrol over?”  Cissa checked the clock on the dashboard.
            “ Gage said eleven.”  Baxley turned onto the main highway. “I thought about buying some and storing it at the house.  But..”
            “Gage would have known something for sure.  Considering you never have any TP at your house.”  Cissa dug into the bottom of the bag for the remnants of candy.  “I always know when coming to your place to bring my own. Anyway, I didn’t think you’d have the guts to roll the preacher’s house.  Especially with your momma being the head of the Southern Butterflies.  And there’s your  grandma getting arrested this year for stealing Tootsie Harper’s flowers. ”
            “I always have paper at my house. And what momma don’t know won’t cause me grief. That whole thing with Grandma was a misunderstanding.”  Baxley pulled into the parking lot of the dollar store.  “Looks like we made it in the nic of time.
********
             “I think we should park here and walk to the parsonage.”  Baxley pulled the truck into the First Baptist Church’s parking lot.
            “Wait.  There’s some car lights coming.  Duck down.”  Cissa was already slumping in her seat.  She felt more like a sixteen year old instead of thirty.
            “Shit.  I think it’s a deputy’s car. I hope they don’t stop and run the plates.”  Baxley tried to control the giggle that escaped her.  She and Cissa had been best friends long before they were potty trained.
            “I think it’s gone.”  Baxley slid out of the truck.  She stuffed her pony tail under the stocking cat. She’d worn her camouflage hunting pants with a black turtle neck.  Reaching in the front pocket, she pulled out some of Gage’s hunting war paint and smeared the greasy contents onto her face.   
            “What are you doin’ over there.  This isn’t any time to worry about make-up” Cissa whispered across the bed of the truck.
            “Did you bring any dark clothing with you?” Baxley gently shut the truck door, hoping no one noticed the interior light.  She scanned the darken street to see if anyone peered through windows.
            “You look like you gonna rob a bank.” Cissa stood holding the shopping bags.
            “Reach in the truck.  Gage’s black jacket is behind the seat.  That white shirt of yours is shining like a full moon.”  Baxley grabbed the bags from Cissa and put them on the ground.  “Here smear some of this on your face, too.  I’m gonna open the packages and put the rolls in my duffle bag.  That way no one can hear the plastic.”
            “I wonder if Gage realizes the criminal mind he married.”  The jacket swallowed Cissa. Long sleeves hung past her finger tips.  “My face is gonna be broke out for weeks from this crap.”
            “Stop whining and come on.  I just saw the light in Reverend McCurkle’s study go out.”  Baxley started to walk toward the parsonage’s front yard.  Sounds of an approaching car stopped her.  “Get in the ditch.  A car’s coming.”
            “But the grass is wet.”  Cissa protested.
            “Do you wanna explain what the church’s Choir Director and Nursery Teacher is doing on the side of the road?”  Baxley pushed Cissa toward the ditch.  “Hurry it’s about to come around the curve.
            “I swear.  I shouldn’t of let you talk me into this.”  A blade of grass tickled Cissa nose.  The car passed in time to muffle the explosion that Cissa had tried to control. 
            “You need to live a little. Where’s the girl that took any dare, could out shoot any boy in the county, and drank MD 20/20 straight from the bottle?” 
            “She became the mother of two girls, branch manager at the local bank, and wife to the town’s only attorney.” Cissa tried to not see herself through her friend’s eye.  Even she had to admit she found herself boring and longed for the carefree days of her youth.  Maybe that was the reason Baxley’s invitation was enticing. The girls were with friends.  Mumford was out of town. The only thing she had going for the night was watching reruns, surfing the internet, and trying to ignore how alone she felt.
            “Maybe tonight is a chance to revisit the ghost of your youth.  Come on.  Let’s have some fun.”  Baxley grabbed the duffle bag.  She was five steps ahead of Cissa.
            “What made you decide after all these years to roll someone’s yard on Halloween?”  Cissa caught up with Baxley. The two women stood on the sidewalk and stared at the yard.  A street lamp illuminated one side of the house, casting shadows across the lawn. They could make out the silhouette of a tall oak and the familiar sedan parked under it.
            “Guess I’m kinda like you. Tired of being this responsible adult all the time.”  Baxley sat the duffle bag on the ground. “You know my parent’s kept a tight leash on me.  I always hated hearing everyone talk about their Halloween escapades.  Who got hosed for trying to steal a pumpkin?  Which house everyone TP’d.  Then there were the egg fights. I wanted to be a part of that.  So, I guess tonight is my one night to rebel.”
            “You sure this has nothing to do with you turning thirty in two days?”  Cissa grabbed a roll of toilet paper and launched it in the air. The white roll sailed through the naked branches of the tree before plummeting back down to earth.
            “I think you’re suppose to do it like this.”  Baxley pulled a long tail from her roll before launching it. Both women watched with their heads tilted backwards.  Up…up…up, the roll climbed with its long tail streaming behind it before making its descent.
            “Maybe, it has something to do with the over and under thing.  Did you pull the tail from the bottom or the top?”  Cissa studied her roll, trying both ways.
            “I really don’t think it matters.  How is it two grown women can’t figure out how to roll a tree?”  Baxley pulled twice the amount of paper, creating a longer tail and re-launched.  This time she aimed for the center of the tree. Spindly branches grabbed at the tail, taking fragments.  Little patches of white hung from their tips.  One branch speared the center of the roll.  “I think I just lost my roll.” 
            “That takes talent.”  Cissa giggle at the sight of the roll of tissue supported by a tree branch.  “Maybe a squirrel will appreciate it in the morning.”
            “Doubt seriously squirrels care about the comforts of TP during their morning constitutionals.”  Baxley reached into the duffle bag for another roll.  “Maybe, I should have watched some online videos on how to roll a yard.”
            “You seriously think there are videos for this?”  Cissa wiped her nose that had become numb.
            “There’s videos for everything on the internet.”  Baxley studied the tree and tried to fight the feeling of disappointment and frustration. She knew the window of time was closing.
            “I say we call it a night.  We tried.”  Cissa shoved the tissue in the coat’s pocket.  It was one thing to roll the preacher’s yard but to litter was an unforgiveable sin.
            The sound of a lone acorn falling through the branches and landing on the top of the car parked beneath the tree brought a new idea to Baxley.  Everyone rolls a yard, but what about a car.  “Let’s roll the car.”
            “Have you lost your mind?”  Cissa looked at the car and saw potential.
            “Yeah, you get on one side and I’ll get on the other.  We can toss the roll to each other over the car and then roll it under on the ground.”
********
            The cruiser slowed past the parsonage and looked at the lone streamer of tissue waving in the night from the tree and the roll of tissue stuck on a branch. Kids. He thought.  Maybe the sound of his car spooked them.  Reverend McCurkle’s yard had always been a coveted target on Halloween.   
             Tollie turned into the church’s parking lot and stopped behind the lone vehicle. “Dispatch run MNC4589.”  He opened his cruiser’s door and stepped out to investigate the truck.  The long sleek handle of his trusty flashlight in hand he steadied the beam of light into the cab of the truck.  Empty.  He turned his attention to the bed of the truck. Wads of empty toilet paper wrappers and bags marked with the dollar store’s logo were strewn across the bed.
            “That’s Baxley’s plates.”  Gage looked at his watch. It was almost midnight. He turned the channel on his mobile radio to the private channel.  “Tollie you out with Baxley?”
            “No, Gage just the truck.  It’s parked in the church’s lot.”  Tollie felt the hood of the truck. “It’s been here a while the hood is cold.”
            “She must of’v had something to do at the church tonight.”  Gage searched his memory trying to think if Baxley had mention any meeting at the church or with that women’s group she went to.
            “No one else is around.”  Tollie pulled on the door handle.  “Both doors are locked.  Everything looks fine.  I’m going back to main channel.”
            “Thanks. Tollie.”
*******
            “Hit the ground.  That’s a sheriff’s car coming.”  Baxley was already pressing her body close to the ground and next to the car.
            “I think it pulled into the parking lot at the church.”  Cissa was already imagining the phone call to her husband.  “Mumford, I’m in jail. Can you come and get me.”  Her husband could make her feel like a child at times and tolerated her friendship with Baxley.
            “Crap, he’s gonna run my plates.”  Baxley knew her gig was up and that her husband would soon know she was not at home.
            “What if he sees all the empty toilet paper wrappers?  You forgot to put them in the truck.”  Cissa’ tried to ignore the ache in her left knee from hitting the pavement so hard.
            “I heard a door shut.  Can you crawl to the front of the car?”  Baxley anticipated the deputy to make another pass, slower than the last one.
            “Yes, why?”
            “Because he’s coming this way and is shinning his spot light.”  Baxley’s instincts were on target.
            Seconds ticked by like hours.  Both women watched the beacon on the side of the patrol car cast its light on the front of the parsonage, the shrubs, through the back windshield of the car that provided them refuge, and finally on the lone streamer of paper still captured in the tree accompanies with a single roll of paper.
            Neither woman moved.  The sound of the fading engine of the patrol car had long passed.  Deep in the pit of Baxley’s soul a giggle began to form.  She tried to stifle it.  But, it refused to be silenced.  Like a lone bubble making its way to the surface, a single giggle escaped.
            “It’s not funny.”  Cissa tried to sound stern in her admonishment.
            Baxley released another giggle.
            “Do you know how close we just came to getting arrested?”  Cissa put her hand over her mouth to keep Baxley from seeing the grin.
            Baxley unable to control the episodic giggles became racked with hysterical laughter.  Tears formed and spilled.  “We are pitiful.  Two grown women that can’t even roll a yard.”
            Cissa infected with the contagious laughter.  “At least we speared one roll on a tree branch.”
            “I guess that will have to be our accomplishment.”  Baxley wiped her eyes. “Can you imagine the scuttle that is going to cause?  Everyone will wonder how a roll of toilet paper got stuck in the tree.”
            “Are you quitting?  Because I’ve never know you to quit.”  Cissa grabbed her roll of paper.
            “You were right earlier. We’re adults. You’re the choir director. A branch manager at the bank. Mumford already has a strong dislike for me.”  Baxley stood.  “I’m a deputy’s wife.  My mom is the president of the SB’s.  We need to quit while we still have our dignity.”
            Cissa stared at Baxley.  Everything her best friend said was correct.  They were responsible, mature adult.  Other parents’ trusted them with their children.  Standing here in that moment was something no one would expect from either of them.  Cissa pulled paper from the roll until is pooled on the ground around her feet.  She reared back with the roll in her hand and launched it over the top of the car.
            “What are you doing?” 
            “Rolling the preacher’s car.”  Cissa was already walking to the rear of the car to retrieve the roll.  “You gonna catch it when I roll it to you from under the car?”
            Baxley smiled and gave the roll in her hand a gentle squeeze.  “Yeah, but catch mine first.”
*******
             “Pinky swear, we go to our graves never telling anyone about tonight.”  Cissa held up her pinky.
            Baxley put the truck in park and crooked her pinky around Cissa.  “Promise.  Best of friends through thick and thin.”
            “So you planning on bringing your squash casserole to the Sunday night social.”  Cissa removed Gage’s coat and reached for her purse.
            “Yep.  Am I picking you up Thursday for the SB’s meeting?”
            “Yeah.  You better get if you gonna beat Gage home.”  Cissa opened the truck door. “And start thinking of why this truck was at the church tonight.”
            “We had a meeting with the Holy Ghost.”  Baxley laughed.
*******
             Gage cut through town and drove past the church.  Baxley’s truck was gone.  He almost ran off the road when he spotted Reverend McCurkle’s car.  It sat looking like a mummy.   Not an inch of the car was uncovered by toilet paper.  On top was huge white bow and trails of toilet paper ribbons draping off all sides. The streamer of paper in the tree caught his attention. Was that a roll of toilet paper stuck on a branch?  
            Shale was right. Halloween was a night for teenagers to act stupid. He reached for his radio and went to private channel. “Tollie, you up?”
            “Yeah, Gage.”
            “When’s the last time you check Reverend McCurkle’s house?”
            “Right before I ended my shift.”
            “You still out?”
            “Yeah, why?”
            “You might want to check it again.  Looks like some kids got his car.  Damn thing looks like a mummy.  They even put a bow on top of it.”
            “Be there in a less than five.”  Tollie’s five minutes turned into two.  He pulled his cruiser up next to Gage’s and stared at the scene before him. “I’m never gonna live this down.”
            “Yep.  And I’ve got pictures to show everyone.  Already posted them on my Facebook page.  Look, it already got forty-three likes and there’s some comment about you.”
            “I forsee a lot of barking dog calls in your future.”
            Gage studied the tree.  “Wonder what made them decide not to roll the tree.”
            “Who can tell the reasoning of teenagers?”  Tollie shook his head.  “Guess I better clean it up before the Reverend sees it in the morning.”
            “I’ll help.”  Gage felt the hard object before hearing the crunch.  At first he’d thought it was an acorn.  In the low lighting he caught a glimmer.  Reaching down, Gage picked up the mangled earring next to the front driver’s side tire.  He studied it for a moment and then placed it in his pants pocket.
*******
Gage parked his patrol car in its usual spot next to Baxley’s truck and gathered some trash from the passenger side.  He touched the hood of the truck and was surprised to feel it semi-warm.  A glance in the back of the truck did not reveal anything to confirm his suspicions.
Gage opened the garbage can to toss the handful of trash but studied the contents.  There were at least twenty empty toilet paper rolls on top of the mountain of plastic wrappers and shopping bags.  He tossed his trash and closed the lid.  Baxley had some explaining to do.
The interior of the house was quiet and peaceful.  Everything was clean and in its place.  He walked into the bedroom and studied his wife’s sleeping form.  She always slept on her right side.  Percy, her tabby, lifted his head, curled his tongue with a wide yawn, exposing long white canines, before squinting his eyes at Gage. 
Gage stepped over to Baxley’s side of the bead and gently scratched the cat between the ears.  He leaned over and brushed wayward strands from Baxley’s face.  A faint trace of black grease was in the hairline around her ear.  The ear that had been home to the earring in his pocket.  He’d recognized it from the pair he’d given her for Christmas.
Baxley stirred and looked up at Gage.  “You’re home.  How was your night?”
“Usual.  You know how Halloween is.  Teenagers and their pranks.  You do anything exciting?” 
 “No. Just hung out.”
“At the church?”
“Cissa and I went for a meeting.”  Baxley had practice her response to Gage’s inquisitiveness.
“Did ya’ll have a good one?”
“One what?”
“Meeting.”
“ Yeah.  It was inspirational.”  Baxley let out a fake yawn. “You coming to bed?”
“In a few.”  Gage kissed Baxley on the forehead. “Go back to sleep.  See you in the morning.”
Baxley thought about the morning. She’d resume being the dependable and responsible adult everyone expected of her.  In two days, she would bid farewell to her twenties and welcome a new decade of her life.  But, for a few liberating hours on the night of all hollow’s eve, she and her best friend revisited the ghosts of their youth.     


           

             
           
           
           

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Friendship Ends



A Friendship Ends
by Rocky Rutherford
 
 
On the bus to school McQueen and I talked about it.

"You got a poem ready, McQueen?"
"I reckon. You?"
"I reckon. What you got?" He just looked at me and rolled his blue eyes out the window at an old cowboy chasing a cow. If he wanted to answer, he would, if he didn't he wouldn't. I guess I should tell you about him, McQueen Hamilton Dillahey. We grew up together in West Texas at a dead spot in the road called Shallowwater. Without McQueen there wouldn't have been one spark in our town. A great but aggravting thing about him was he could do anything he set his mind to. And he had a special look about him, he knew where he was going and he knew what he was doing and he didn't give a damn one way or the other. He liked everybody but he didn't give a damn if you liked him or not. Three things you noticed about him right off: his flaming curly hair, a pair of Carolina blue eyes and a smile that could play any game he needed to play. He could do all the things I wished I could.
"How about roses are red, violets are blue, shit stinks and so do you?" He giggled then leveled his blues on me.
"That's just fine, Joedon, if you want to spend the next nine hundred Saturdays in the library."
"Well, McQueen, I need some help. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to pick out no favorite poem and explicate it, whatever that means."
"You ain't even picked one out, have you?"
I fumbled at the English book on my knees. "Well, kinda." I opened the book and handed it to him. "There, right there," I pointed.
Cocking his head like a robin looking at his lunch, he read with his lips. in less than a minute he closed the book on my hand, grunted, and looked out the window again, this time at the wind whipping over the cotton balls.
"Well."
"Ain't gonna work, Joedon Billyray, ain't gonna work. She'll flunk you for sure. That's too much poem for a cowboy like you."
Now, that's what I hated about McQueen. He knew more than he should have.
"What you mean, McQ?"
"Well, for one thing, just look at that title Imitations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood! Boy, you don't even know what that means, How you gonna tell them about something you don't even understand?" He shook his head, clucking like a chicken. "You got a little time before we get there so you'd better find another one real quick."
"Shoot I know as much about it as them eggheads." He just kept looking out the window as I blabbered on about what a good feller Bill Wordsworth was and even though I don't understand them big words I do know I like something when I read it. "Besides, McQ, the only part I was gonna talk about is where old Bill talks about splendor in the grass'. I know what he means 'cause I saw it in a movie. You know, the one with Natalie Wood we saw last summer at the Emporium up in Lubbock."
"Shut up, Joedon Billyray, just shut up!" I didn't expect that so I shut up. Sometimes he exploded like that for no reason at all. I reckon I made him mad again, something else I never understood about him. How come he got mad at me so quick? You'd think he understood or at least liked this poetry stuff.
By the time we got to Miss Krazert's class I wished I had listened to him and chosen another poem.
"Mac Q is it too late to change?" I said as I sat down behind him. He shook his head sadly between his red hot ears. During the time before it came our turn McQueen printed Trees by Joyce Kilmer on notebook paper and slipped it to me. I was glad because I had heard McQueen recite it for fun
and I liked the way he did it, cutting the fool and all. He added a post script under the poem: "Don't cut the fool, fool."
What I was really hoping for was the chance I wouldn't have to explicate at all. Since McQueen was just before me there was a good chance he would upset them so bad they'd plumb forget about me.
"Mister Dillahey." I caught my breath as Miss Kratzert stopped in front of McQueen. Give 'em hell, Mac Q, I thought.
He stood up, thanked her, then strutted to the blackboard, every female eye, including Miss Krazert's on his small, rounded butt moving gracefully under his freshly starched wranglers. Give 'em hell, Mac Q, give 'em hell.


He printed evenly and quickly:
To make a prairie it takes a clover
and one bee,-
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
by Emily Dickinson


He turned smartly and smiled at Miss Krazert and strutted back to his seat, clapping the chalk dust from his hands. The room got quieter than moon glow on a West Texas winter night. Some stared, eyes wide as bumper built belt buckles, some swallowed and gulped, all rolled their eyes to the teacher. One minute turned into one hour of silence. Finally, Wimpy Jefferson, in the back of the room, snickered because he thought he had figured it out.
"Well, Mister Dillahey, " Miss Krazert said, looking sideways at McQueen,
"Could we please have your explication and analysis?"
McQueen started off but she interrupted him by telling him to stand up. In front of the class. Stand up. What that lady didn't know was McQueen Hamilton Dillahey loved an audience. Nothing he liked better than strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage. She played her right into his trap.
With the blackboard behind him he recited the poem by heart which he didn't have to do. And he smiled at Ms Krazert while he did it.
"To make a prairie it takes a clover...one clover..." He pointed an index finger to the ceiling and moved it back and forth, all the time eyeballing ever kid in the class..."One...mind you..one." He started pacing back and forth in front. Suddenly he stopped and pointed at Ellie Sue Blackwelter. "One clover and...one bee." He went on and stopped in front of Bertha Mae Doggett, looked in her eyes, then pointed over her head to the back of the room at Louise Martinez..."One clover, one bee and...revery." He strutted his stuff back to center stage.
"Now, ya'll all know what that means...don't ya'll?" By this time Ms Kratzert bugeyed the redheaded cowboy. She tried to tell him to shut up but the words got stuck.
"Now if we all know what a clover and a bee and a revery can do what makes anybody think Miss Dickenson didn't? She knew what a prairie was and she knew what it took to make one. That's all she's saying in the poem:
how to make a prairie."
"Yeah," grunted Wimpy Jefferson.
Ms Krazert froze. Mc Q went on "It's like the birds and the bees. We all know what that means, huh?"
"Oh, yeah!" howled Wimpy Jefferson. "Oh, yeah!"
"How about it, Mam?" McQueen said to Ms Krazert, "You know what it means?"
Mz Krazert tried to stand but her legs gave way and she sat down hard. Her mouth opened wide but no words came. Fear twisted her face as she grunted like a wounded bull.
"Goddamnit, man, that's enough. Can't you see she's about to have a heart attack?" The voice shook the room and when I looked everybody was looking at me. I had jumped up and grabbed McQueen by the shirt and was shaking the hell out of him. "Sit down before I knock you down," the voice said. McQueen pulled away and went to his seat.
On the bus home I tried to talk to him but he wanted nothing to do with me.
I had ruined his chance to really show old Kratzert up, show her for what she was, nothing but a big old blow hard pig who didn't like cowboys. I apologized even though I didn't think I should have. Shoot, McQueen was the best friend I had, the only friend I had.
"Ah, don't worry about it, cowboy, you did what you thought was right. And a man aught to do what he thinks is right."
"Yeah." But I could feel our friendship beginning to end.
The End