Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It'll Keep: Chapter One

As promised, here is a teaser from the upcoming book. 
I am sharing the first chapter. Enjoy!

As she sat and watched the sun rise over the hills, spreading its first rays of warmth across his land…their land…, Clara wondered where He was, probably waking up in a bunk house somewhere. Some whore’s bed was a better guess. Why was it lately he invaded her thoughts? Seldom did she have time to just sit, and this was her favorite time alone. Always having loved the sunrise, Sundays were her favorite day. It was the only day she had time to sit and watch the sun rising and not always then. This was probably the last one she would really see for at least a few weeks. They would start planting this week and any day now the babies would start coming, piglets, foals and calves. No one can stop nature from pushing ahead just so they can sit and watch a sunrise. There were two pigs ready to give birth, a cow and Isabelle, Matthew’s horse. When it’s time, it’s time, ready or not. He had been there when their children were born. This realization surprised Clara. With all the times he’d let her down, as undependable as he was, he had been there for both their childrens’ births. But sadly, she thought, that was just about all.
            “Mornin’, love!” Matt said as he stepped thru the door. “I knew you’d be out here.  Isn’t it beautiful? Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” With the way she jumped, he knew she’d been miles or years away.
            “You didn’t.” Clara replied as she wiped the spilled coffee off her apron. “Well, maybe a little.”
            “Where were you?”
            “Just in the sunrise.”
            “Oh.” Thinking about him again. Matt grimaced.
            Catching the shiver in the corner of her eye, she said: “Let me get your breakfast.  That will warm you up.”
            “I’m fine. This coffee will do it. Besides, there’s no hurry. We don’t have to leave for a couple of hours. You don’t see many like this anyway.” Matt said as he raised his cup toward the multi-colored sky.
            “Just the same, Mary Ann and Joey will be up soon enough, and I have a lot to do before services.” As she rose and started toward the door, Matt opened his mouth as if to speak and then closed it again. “What is it, Matthew?”  When he didn’t answer she asked: “Is something wrong?”
            “No, Clara. Nothings wrong. It’ll keep.” He stepped off the porch and headed toward the barn, leaving her to wonder. 

            Yes, it’ll keep. Keep silently locked in your head. I can’t believe I almost asked her. There was no need for him to ask. Why does she always find a way to get away from you when we’re alone? Always something to do that can’t wait. Wish I could go “into the sunrise” with you. But you don’t want me there. No, there’s no need to ask. You do everything so well. Cook, sew, help the children with their lessons. You’re a good mother, a good wife. Even in our bed, you never turn away. Always accommodating.  Accommodating. What an ugly word.  Why?  God!  I love you woman. Why can’t you love me, too? Hell, she doesn’t want you at all, not really. He was full of pain when he remembered her reply after he’d asked her to marry him. “Yes, my children need a father.”

            As he raised the small door to allow the chickens to get out in the yard, he wondered if the children and Clara would be better off if he’d set her free, too. She could go find him, then, maybe she’d be happy. But he couldn’t. You’re my wife, MINE!  I love you!  “I can make her happy if she’ll just let me in!” He told Isabelle while he rubbed her neck. Matt slipped the rope over her head and thought: He’s no kind of man, anyway.  And he damn sure ain’t gonna get close to Mary Ann and Joey again.    
            Matt had been tying the horse out in the pasture to graze. She was too close to foaling to just let her loose. Nathanial, Matt’s father, had turned his mares loose to graze, but one year they lost one. They figured she went off to have her baby and stumbled down an embankment. When Matt had found her two days later, both her back legs were broken; horse and foal were dead. She’d been unable to complete the birth when the time came.  Matt watched his pregnant animals much closer from then on. 

            “Pa! Pa!”
            Matt was latching the gate to the cow lot when Joey came running across the yard.  That boy runs every where. “Over here.” Picking up the pail of milk, he grabbed the boy under his back side as he jumped up on Matt’s back. “Hey slow down, I almost dropped the milk. Your Ma wouldn’t like that one bit. And you wouldn’t either.” He set him back on his feet. 
            “Sorry. Ma says to wash up.”
            “Can I ride?” He asked as he was trying again to jump up.
            “No! You know that, not when I have the milk.”
            Pouting, Joey strolls across the yard behind his Pa, dragging his feet and kicking up dust. “You’re just gonna have to wipe them off before church, you know.” Nodding to Joey’s dust covered shoes. 
            “Aw, do we gotta go? Can’t we just go fishin’ instead?” When Joey looked at Matt with those trusting eyes, Matt wanted to give in so badly. But that was something Clara would never go for.  Besides he likes church, now that he didn’t go alone anymore.
            “Now you know we go to services every Sunday.”
            “Yea, but just once couldn’t we….” Joey let the thought die in his mouth as he neared the porch and Matt stepped inside.  Setting the pail on the table, he went back outside to wash up. 
            “Couldn’t we, Pa?”
            “No, Joey. We’re going to church. Sorry, son. Now, how about that ride?”
            “No thanks.”
            “Tell ya what, I’ll ask your Ma about us doin’ a little fishin’ after the picnic. How’s that?”
            “Yipee!” Excitement filled Joey’s face because he knew Clara would say yes. She always did, unless she thought it was dangerous or there was work to do. As long as Joey could remember, there was always work to be done, except on Sundays, there was church. 
            “Now, how about that ride?”

            Breakfast was getting cold so Clara went to the back door to look for Joey and Matthew. There they were. Joey on Matthew’s back with him galloping around the yard and naying at the sky. She leaned against the door frame and watched them. He’s a good father. I need to put a can in the picnic basket.  Just then Mary Ann came out of the chicken coop. When they see her, they’ll come on in to breakfast.
            “You want a ride, Mary Ann?”
            “No, Pa. I’m too big for that stuff.”
            “Oh, you are. Are you?” Matt squats and as he sits Joey on the ground, giving him a wink.
            “Yea, and besides, I’ve got the eggs.”
            “And some fine eggs they are.  Can I see?  How many did we get this mornin’?”
            “Fifteen today.”  She said proudly as he took the basket. “There was one in every nest.”
            “So there are. Joey, look at all these eggs. Aren’t they nice?” Matt held the basket out for his inspection. Knowing full well that his Pa was up to something, Joey took it and jumped out of the way. Just then Matt scooped Mary Ann up in both arms and started spinning her around and around. “Well, how about a dance then, big girl?”
            Mary Ann’s squeal brought Clara flying thru the door. She should have known they were playing, but you can never be sure. Joey saw the look on his mother’s face and said. “It’s okay Ma. They’re just dancin’. She’s too big for horsey rides.” Matt heard him and guiltily set down his dance partner. 
            “Thanks, Pa.” Mary Ann giggled as she picked up the basket and went into the house. 
            “It’s fine, Joey. But we don’t want to be late for services, do we?”  Clara called.
            “No, Mam!”  He said running to the wash basin.
            “What’s got into him?” Clara asked Matthew.
            “Who knows? I guess it’s your cookin’ Love.” pecking her on the cheek.
            “Matthew!  The children!”
            “Oh, Ma! We’ve seen ya’ll kiss before.” Mary Ann smiled. Then her smile faded, as she realized it had been awhile. Not since that man came.
            “Yea, they’ve seen us kiss before. But…” It’ll keep.
            Matt washed up as Clara wondered again what he had started to say.

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!  CLANG-CLANG-CLANG! What is that god awful noise? Where am I? Oh, DAMN, my head! This isn’t my bunk! What’s that smell? The previous night came rushing back to him though the pain in his head kept him from opening his eyes. It was the whiskey, poker and Pearlie that gave him the headache, same as every Saturday night. He’d had a good time. Buck could tell just how much of a good time by how bad his head and body hurt. The clanging of the bell from the grub house across the street always invaded his slumber when he woke up in Pearlie’s bed or Carolina’s or Red’s or somebody’s. He forced his eyes to open and saw Pearlie standing in front of the mirror dousing her self in perfume. Did she believe it would wash away the smell of her profession?
            “God, why don’t you just take a bath? That stuff smells like horse piss.” He rolls out of bed and pulls his pearl handled pistol from its belt hanging on the foot post.  Moving to the window, with full intention of shooting the idiot ringing that bell, he moves aside the curtain and the noise stops. ‘Bout time, a woman anyway.  Even Buck wouldn’t shoot a woman. Maybe just one. Just about now, she’d be getting out of church and headed for the field outside of town where he’d found them last year. There they were sitting all cozy on a quilt that had little flowers stitched into it. He’d been searching for a year. Not really searching, just kind of asking around a little. Trying not to bring too much attention on himself. A man aught to know about his son. Married again. Maybe.  Wouldn’t that be funny? Perfect Clara, living in sin. 
His laughter brought Pearlie’s jabbering to a halt and she asked: “What you laughing at? It is French! Now don’t I smell nice?” She smiled seductively as she sauntered over to where he stood by the window.
“Yea. Yea. You smell fine. You’d smell a lot better with a bath, is all.”
“Oh, really? It’s not like I can just jump in the creek like you! It’s a lot of work hauling those buckets from the pump. Besides I always take one on Friday. And, besides, it didn’t bother you none last night!  AND when’d you take yourself a bath?”
            “Never you mind, Pearlie.” Buck replied as he began to dress. She went back to the mirror and started brushing her blonde curls. “Good thing your good at your job.”  Looking in the mirror he saw a huge smile spread. “You’d have a hard time doing anything else.” The smile faded. 
“And just why is that? I can do other stuff. I might even get married one day.”
Buck placed his hands on her bare shoulders and spoke to her reflection. “Yea, I can see you married now. Who’s gonna do all the work?” Her expression changed from hurt to anger and then settled on curiosity. “There’s a lot more to it than carrin’ water for a bath.  Besides bein’ married takes all the fun out of life.” He backed away and smacked her bottom. Buck opened the door as she turned and asked: “And just how would you know?”
He replied by closing the door behind him. Glad to be out of that foul smelling room, Buck took a deep breath. The air in the saloon wasn’t much better. Clara never wore perfume and she always smelled so good, even after they’d made love. In the middle of the night, no matter the temperature, she’d get up and bathe. One night he’d woken up and she was gone from their bed. Joseph found her standing in the middle of the kitchen shivering up a storm and soaked to the bone. Seeing her standing there, all clean and sparkling was more than he could take. She was bathing again in half an hour and he never look at the kitchen quite the same. 


  1. This is truly an amazing book, I am so lucky to have had a chance to read it! Thank you for sharing your talent with the world!

  2. Replies
    1. Glad to hear it! It's hitting the "shelf" on May 5th!