Title: Deadly Dunes
Author: E. Michael Helms
Length: 220 pages
E. Michael Helms has done it again. He’s written a fun, spunky mystery involving Mac McClellan, and I find myself crushing on him much like the overly spirited cop, Dakota. Mac is the token ex-marine turned P.I., equal parts gentleman and appropriate amounts of perve. Cunning, but not too lucky.
I like that in this installment, Helms works in the fact that private investigators don’t have the luxury of only working one case at a time if they want to get paid. Mac has to take time away from the big case everyone is grumbling about to an unseemly one that will cut him a check. As per the norm with Mac McClellan books, it was easy to get into, a breeze to read, and satisfying to finish.
My only lament was due to my over excitement at the possibility of more archaeological tidbits. I love archaeology and was anticipating Mac going a little more Indiana Jones in this book than usual due to the nature of the big case. This is to no fault of Helms, who included what was appropriate for the story and the characters, merely a personal disappointment.
As usual, I look forward to the next Mac McClellan book. He’s a personal favorite of mine and made a great addition to my summer mystery binge reading.
Be sure to follow E. Michael Helms on twitter: https://twitter.com/EMichaelHelms
Cozy mysteries are where I go to find solace when I’m too tired for anything else… when my imagination is too exhausted to fly with dragons… my intellect burned out or otherwise occupied reading homeschool material to my daughter. Cozies are for bubble baths, for “I’m so tired, I can’t sleep” nights (thanks, Sarah). And right now, I’m hooked on a few new ones.
Manor House Mysteries
So far, I’ve read Grace Under Pressure and Grace Interrupted by Julie Hyzy. The series stars Museum Curator (and mansion manager) Grace as she sleuths around a small town, helping the local police solve the murders that keep happening at her new job. Naturally, there’s an unfortunate past relationship that didn’t go well, and a new budding one with the local landscaper to keep us involved in the character’s life as she manages to avoid looking like a serial killer – because in real life, how many people are tied to so many murders? The touch of tourist seasons, southern drawls, and Civil War reenactments remind me of home.
Library Lighthouse Mysteries
I’m now in my third installment (Reading Up a Storm) of the Library Lighthouse Mysteries by Eva Gates, which began with By Book or By Crook. This series features a lighthouse that has been renovated into a library. Book Nerds and Jane Austen references abound while the newest librarian and the library cat stumble across – yep, you guessed it – one murder after another. Again, no one would dare think the Nancy Drew wanna-be is indeed a serial killer with no many murders suddenly happening right under her nose, and of course, she’s the heroine with a terrible romantic past and TWO attractive men vying for her attention. Brain candy indeed. Each book in this series have occurred within weeks of the one previously and all during summer tourist months near the beach. Southern drawls, check. Meddling mothers, check. (Booked for Trouble) Food stuffs and baking references, check. Also, weird guy who pretends to be British… this character confuses me, but I got used to him.
Next up, a Miranda James series that begins with a title called Bless Her Dead Little Heart. Seriously, how can I pass that up?
As a reader I felt the Christian themes were awkward. Having attended a Baptist University where, though I am a fellow Christian, people were constantly using breathy voices and calling on the Lord and praying over me and my sins in a manner that often made me uncomfortable. Some were sincere friends and followers of Christ, many were frauds participating in group think and social customs of the Bible Belt. Therefore, I have to say that personal experience greatly affects my ability to enjoy Christian fiction. Ironically, since my own cozy fiction – The Bookshop Hotel – has a churchy reference or two (maybe, if you look for it really hard). A testament to the fact that although it’s a completely fabricated story with no roots in any people I know personally, world views have a tendency to seep through an author’s writing.
As someone who has grown up with Bethany Macmanus in my sphere of family friends, I know that these dialogues, prayers, and sentiments were sincerely written. Something that rings false to me in the dialogue, I am quite certain was meant whole heartedly and rang true for the author when she wrote it. She is one of the kindest, loving, and God-fearing women I have had the pleasure to know in my life. I’ve never seen her without a smile and a sweet disposition.
Many with life experiences concerning physical ailments and reliance on God to get them through those ailments will find this romantic suspense novel something they can identify with and find comfort in. I, on the other hand, had a hard time relating to Wren in any way as she struggled with romantic desires for two love interests, discomfort with whether things and people she encountered were destructive to her spirit, and dealing with creepy stalkers and dead ferrets.
Characters telling each other that they needed each other, and deeming that a verbalization of love, also didn’t sit well with me. Again, I can chalk this up to personal experience tainting my ability to digest certain plot points – which is not an issue with the writing at all. Need and love are such drastically different things in my world, with need often times being the exact opposite of a loving sentiment. In my own writing, I’ve used need as a red flag to characters not being in the right place at the right time for each other, as opposed to the DTR that gets them together.
I think if you’re an avid romantic suspense or Christian fiction reader, this book will be right up your alley. I definitely read a lot of books with romantic elements and enjoy a mystery every few titles I read, but romantic suspense has never been my favorite – and Christian fiction is a genre I tend to avoid, aside from Jan Karon, whose books (crossed with, hopefully, some Kate Morton) are closer to what I strive for in my own existing series. I also have a tendency to prefer exploring religious themes in fiction within in the sci-fi genre – like Philip K. Dick, C.S. Lewis, and Mary Doria Russell titles.
These, of course, are all personal preferences and have no bearing on the merit of Macmanus’s work. I can think of many people I would recommend her books to, and I will continue to purchase her titles and support her as a friend and fellow indie author. But, as an honest book reviewer, I have to say that I wasn’t smitten with Nerve or its characters.
The editing was done well. Not that I’m known for being a grammarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I noticed no flaws in grammar or any hiccups that would distract me from the story – something I highly appreciate after a poor editing job done on my own book from the first indie publisher who picked me up (fabulously re-done and re-released by Grey Gecko Press just this month), as well as other indie titles I’ve reviewed as a blogger. It’s nice to see things so well done the first time out the gate, so there is definitely a kudos to professionalism regarding this title.
I think it is important to mention that though I consider Bethany a family friend, this title was *not* given to me in exchange for an honest review. I purchased the title, read it, and am choosing to share my honest review with my public. Some might wonder why I would share such an on the fence review regarding a friends’ work – I do it with purpose! I think people scanning reviews might come across less than stellar star ratings for this novel (very few! I only see one on Amazon as of the writing of this post) and I’d like to offer some insight to the author and the public. I strongly feel like this is *not* because there is any problem with the story or the characters, but with the perception of the readers who leave those reviews and how they might feel about people in the real world who speak this way. It’s amazing how life experience can manipulate your views on a story, even in the most light hearted of genre fiction.
Author: E. Michael Helms
Length: 207 pages
I always have fun reading an E. Michael Helms novel – but this latest one was by far the most fast paced. MacArthur McClellan is clever, well-trained, and his personality is as snugly as a bear. I enjoyed tromping through crime scenes and fishing sites with him and his side kick Just Kate Bell.
Although I’m pro-legalization of marijuana and found myself rolling my eyes at some of the locals when they discovered someone “they thought they knew” smoke marijuana or ate a marijuana brownie, the story was filled with all sorts of memorable characters and crazies.
The bookstore I work out of most often is near an international airport. I find myself selling flight reads more often than not. I highly recommend this for a quick domestic flight. I also think it would behoove the airport bookstores to carry it in stacks.
I also really liked the character of Bocephus Pickron, especially his first name. I can’t discuss my thoughts on him further without giving away too many spoilers. I’m looking forward to seeing what investigations Mac will stumble into next and wonder how many of these weekend mysteries Helms has in his back pocket. I think he could write Mac mysteries for years… I’d read them.
Author: Meb Bryant
Genre: Suspense / Short Stories
Format: Kindle Ebook
Doubles Match KILLED me! It’s so good! I have to warn mothers, however, that little Emma reminds me so much of my kiddo that the kidnapping was a rip through my gut.
Spoiler: It works out in the end – read the whole story!
Definitely worth the 99 cents as a nightcap, although I admit I received mine as a gift from the author. I’m enjoying my kindle specifically for these short gems that I’d otherwise miss.
This post has nothing to do with Guns and Roses the band. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to tease you that way. Actually I did. This is about my new book-gal-crush Rose Gardner, brain child of author Denise Grover Swank.
Title: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Genre: Mystery (Romantic Suspense)
I downloaded Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes solely because it was free and on kindle. I just recently got a kindle for the first time, because my home library is primarily in storage for the moment, and as a reviewer I couldn’t stomach adding more physical copies to a collection I couldn’t even access. So e-reader it is for now, aside from the stash of books I toted to my temporary digs with me, and if I’m going to be reviewing ebooks, I need to know how to read them.
So Denise Grover Swank’s free ebook was my guinea pig, my learning curve, my book to help me decipher buttons and technology, my reminder that I really am 105 at heart.
The first twenty “pages” (I don’t know how to quantify without page numbers) or so I HATED IT. “This is so lame!” I kept shouting at the screen. I was mostly talking to the kindle, but I took it out on the heroine Rose Gardner. Not that she needed anything else being taken out on her… her mother thinks she’s demonic and ends up dead, naturally the whole (small) town wants to pin Rose for the murder while Rose finds herself in a world where her mother is no longer telling her how to live. Insert sexy next door neighbor who might be a potential boyfriend, or… of course… the actual murderer!
I loved it. It’s gloriously cozy with less cheese than the average cozy mystery, placing it more in the romantic suspense category than the cozy realm.
By the time Rose is burying a gun under a rose bush in her backyard I was completely hooked and had mastered the art of turning the kindle page. That is a bigger feat than it might seem, as I don’t always maintain feeling in my fingertips and I kept inadvertently hitting the next button too many times. Without page numbers is was pretty difficult to find my way back. So it took DAYS for me to get to Rose burying that gun, but less than an hour to wrap up the book.
So thank you Rose (and Swank) for teaching me to read (on an e-reader). I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in the Rose Gardner Mystery series.
Title: A Reliable Wife
Author: Robert Goolrick
Publisher: Algonquin Paperbacks
Length: 291 pages
Like so many others, A Reliable Wife was a freebie I acquired somehow. A number one New York Times Bestseller that seemed to be everywhere at once, yet I didn’t know anyone who had actually read it.
When I was cleaning out my personal library to take donations to the public one, my hand was on it. It almost ended up in the bag. Something stopped me, I’m not sure what. Most likely a hoarder’s impulse. The copy was too pristine. The train on the cover too gloriously mysterious. Historical fiction written by a man, not a woman, which for some reason tends to make all the difference.
Maybe it was because of my post about my selection practices and my thoughts as to what titles concerning prostitution would be at my daughter’s fingertips. The book is highly inappropriate, but it gives a thorough view of what turns people to bad decisions. What makes someone become a person with poisonous intentions and morals.
How easily anyone could slip into this awfulness.
“Yet it was a dream he had held in his heart for so long that nothing could replace it, nothing made up for his loss and his desire for restitution.”
Who hasn’t suffered from the same sort of persistence chasing an idea that maybe should have been abandoned?
“This was wickedness, and it was fatal,” is the theme that runs through Goolrick’s riveting novel. Maybe it’s the Baptist fire and brimstone in my veins that makes a story like this appeal to me, because I don’t mind wickedness when it is properly portrayed as something evil. It’s when wickedness is disguised as something desirable that I have a problem with it in novels.
Goolrick’s novel is amazing. I couldn’t put it down and I was so glad I chose to read it instead of placing it my library donation bag this week. My husband, not much of a reader, now wants to know the story and read the book as well – suckered by the blurb on the back jacket as I was nose deep in the pages. I’ve already encouraged a friend to purchase it as well. She quickly found a copy in clearance at Half Price Books, well worth a spare dollar.
Author: John Oehler
Length: 342 pages
I should not have been surprised with a title like Aphrodesia, but ironically, I was. I had half a mind to add Erotica to the genre line, but I wasn’t quite sure if the shoe fit. Oehler’s book is definitely erotic, but there’s a story and a purpose to his rated R material, so I found myself drawn in by things that would normally repulse me. If that’s not good writing, I don’t know what is.
Oehler has managed to capture the world of perfuming in a pretty intense way. I’ve never read anything like it, and highly doubt I’ll ever find or read anything like it again. It’s truly unique.
I’ve read foodie books, coffeehouse style with baked goods, travel books with exotic cooking recipes… nothing has tickled my nose so that I could smell the story so well. It would not surprise me to discover that the author develops fragrances in his spare time as well. His descriptions are gritty, a little dirty, and down right accurate; which, for me, made the whole reading experience a little disconcerting.
If you follow my blog and have previously read Mary Reason Theriot or Kendall Grey, this might be right up your alley. Although Oehler isn’t really comparable to either one of those authors – he’s in a sub genre of all his own making. I don’t quite know what to do with him. I’m simultaneously reminded of the old classic, The Monk, written in 1796 by a guy smitten with the writings of Marquis de Sade, and Elizabeth George with her mysterious detective dramas. Needless to say, I’d like to read something else Oehler has written and see what his non-erotic mysteries read like… or if he writes non-erotically. (This is where that nasty habit of not reading the backs of books or other reviews or blurbs on books comes to bite me in the butt, I know little about an author or their work, until I’ve read most their work. But that keeps life interesting AND keeps me reading, right?)
John Oehler will be signing books at Half Price Books Humble Saturday August 24th and then at the HPB North Oaks the following Saturday. Join the event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/505154219566449/ for all the details and come out and pick up a copy of his book in person. Probably best done before you read the work, as I anticipate not being able to look him in the face after being made to blush on nearly every page for the first 100 pages of his book. We’ll see how that works out tomorrow. P.S. I’m a little bit of a literary prude, and I’m ok with that. Despite my prudishness… I like this book.
Also, sometimes I include this, often I forget but today I think it is relevant: I had Frank Sinatra playing and Ace warming (Scentsy product).
The Latest Short Story from E.B. Jones
The sun had just come up and started bleeding through the window and
into the largest bedroom of the little single-wide trailer. Specks of
dust danced in the rays of sunlight until they reached his eyes and
woke him up. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, sending the dust
scattering in all different directions. What time was it? Seven
o’clock. The entire day was free, no work. Tomorrow as well. The floor
was cold as he stepped onto it and he quickly pulled his feet up then
slowly lowered them back down, hovering his feet just above the floor
until they found his house shoes. He turned around and saw that his
wife wasn’t in bed, she must have been in the other room feeding the
The bathroom door creaked as he closed it, he didn’t bother locking
it. The faucet on the sink ran steaming water while he lathered his
face with shaving cream. He ran his razor slowly across his cheeks,
chin, jaw, and lastly, just above his upper lip. After each stroke he
dipped the razor under the running water, sending small specks of hair
and foam sliding down the drain. The mirror steamed up before he
finished and the towel he rubbed across to get the fog off left
streaks. His wife hated whenever he did that because it meant that she
would have to spray the mirror down with window cleaner and wipe it
down again. He didn’t care that it bothered her, not anymore.
The shower knob creaked a bit when he turned it on and the cold water
splashed against his hand. When the water started to get warmer he
went back to the streaky mirror and saw himself. Twenty-eight years
old, living in a broken-down trailer in a nowhere town in southern
Alabama. His gut had gotten bigger in year since he got married and
his face had filled out. He didn’t like it. If it weren’t for him
working so many hours at the sawmill he probably would be even fatter,
but the exercise he got at work helped keep a lot of the weight off.
When the room started getting warmer, he stepped into the shower and
started to wash himself off. The extra hair that had stayed stuck to
his face and a bit of foam around his right earlobe were the first to
get rinsed off. The dirt, grease and sawdust didn’t wash off until he
lathered up with soap and scrubbed with a washcloth. After about ten
minutes he turned the shower off and grabbed the towel that was
hanging on the rack to dry himself.
He came out of the bathroom and went to the dresser and pulled at it’s
top drawer. It was stuck and took a bit to get open—it had been giving
him trouble for awhile—but he hadn’t had time to fix it because of all
the extra hours he had been putting in at work. He started buttoning
up his shirt as he walked towards the babies room. His wife was
breast-feeding when he walked in.
“Button your god damn shirt up,” she snapped at him. “The baby’s fine.
Now go make some damn breakfast. Not like you’d be any help here
anyway.” The last part she mumbled under hear breath but he still
The coffee he made in the kitchen was too hot to drink so he set it on
the counter and went to the refrigerator to grab some eggs and bacon.
They were out of bacon.
“Honey, we’re out of bacon,” he yelled down the hall.
“I told you to pick some up along with the milk yesterday. Did you
forget?” she yelled back.
“I don’t remember you asking me to get anything. I didn’t go to the
market,” he yelled into the refrigerator.
“What? I can’t hear you,” she said. The baby started crying.
He turned towards the hallway again. “I said I didn’t go to the market
“God dammit, can’t you do anything right?” she yelled back at him. “I
told you we needed milk and bacon yesterday before you left for work.
You were supposed to get it on your way home.” She let out a loud huff
and then mumbled, “worthless son of a bitch.” He didn’t hear the last
The baby stopped crying just before the toast popped up. She walked
into the dining room with the baby and sat down.
“Ain’t you got it ready yet?” she groaned.
“Dammit woman, this ain’t McDonald’s. I can’t just magically go
‘poof” and have your damn breakfast ready in an instant,” he shot
“I don’t care. Just give it to me,” She sighed, looking away from him.
He set the plates down in their places at the table and sat down.
“And what am I supposed to drink?”
He stood up from the table without saying a word and grabbed a glass
and a jug of orange juice and slammed it onto the table in front of
“You burnt the toast,” she said between chews.
He didn’t respond.
The toast was still on her plate whenever she got up and took the baby
into the other room to watch cartoons.
He propped his hand up against his forehead and let the weight of his
head rest on his hand. His forehead was hot to the touch and for a
moment he thought he might be getting sick.
Was this really his life? Had she always been such a bitch? No, she
hadn’t—when did it all start? After the baby was born and she started
going out with her friends again.
It had been about six months ago. He came home from work and she
shoved the baby into his hands told him that she was going out with
her friends. He protested that he had been at work all day and was
tired, but she insisted, stating that she had been cooped up for a
year since he knocked her up, not allowed to have any fun and she was
going to go out and have fun with her friends. She was sick of seeing
his kid and besides, he needed to spend some time with their baby
He was angry at her blatant disregard for his feelings. He started
yelling that even though he hadn’t been cooped up like she had, he
spent most of his time at his job and he didn’t get to go out and have
any fun either. He spent all his time working six of seven days a week
with overtime so they would be able to have a house and food and pay
She walked out in the middle of his rant and got into a car and drove
off. There he was standing with a baby he hardly ever saw and had no
idea what to do with.
The first night this happened he started the evening by turning on the
television and watching re-runs of Star Trek. The baby was lying in
the crib and he was sitting in the recliner with a beer and a roast
beef sandwich. About fifteen minutes into the show, right before the
red shirt died, the baby started crying. “What now?” he said out loud.
He went to the crib and picked the baby up but it continued to cry. He
took it into the kitchen and sat it on the counter, then peeled a
banana. The baby stared at the banana that was in its face for a short
second and then proceeded to cry again. That’s whenever the man
noticed the terrible smell that was coming from the baby. He laid it
down on the dinner table and undid its diaper to check if the baby had
used it or not. It had.
The baby was slippery in his hands as he washed it in the kitchen sink
with Palmolive and a dishcloth. After the baby was dried off he set it
on the ground and started looking for a diaper. It seemed as if the
smelly shit diaper he had just taken off the baby was the last one so
he let the baby crawl around naked while he went back to his beer and
After about 4 more beers the baby had fallen asleep so he took it to
the crib and laid it down, then started thinking about his situation.
The clock told him that it was just after ten so he went to the curio
in the living room and poured himself a glass of bourbon. He needed
more than just beer at this point. While he stood there sipping on the
bourbon and pondering his life, he noticed a few pictures of his wife
and himself looking back at him. They were smiling. They both smiled
those days. He couldn’t remember the last time he had smiled, or the
last time he saw her smile. The pictures were mocking him. Mocking him
because of what he used to have and what he had become. He turned them
face down so their laughter would at least be muffled. With the bottle
of bourbon in one hand and his glass in the other he went and sat on
the front porch and lit a cigarette. A million thoughts raced through
his head as he sat there and drank and smoked.
Before he knew it a car pulled up and he saw his wife get out. She was
smiling and laughing like in the pictures. He started to smile as he
watched her, but her smile turned to something of a scowl as soon as
she made eye contact with him. “Get the hell out of my way,” she said.
“Have you been sitting out here on your no-good ass drinking all
He didn’t respond. She walked in mumbling about how he was a worthless
sack of shit and that she deserved better than him. She yelled at him
not to wake her up whenever he came to bed.
This had been going on about once a week for six months now. She
always somehow timed her nights out to be the nights before his one
day a week off so he was unable to go out himself and had to stay in
and watch the baby. She always did this because she knew she would
want to sleep in after she went out and didn’t want him to wake her up
early while he was getting ready for work. Most mornings the baby
would start crying while he was getting ready and she would tell him
to give it some of the formula she had made in the kitchen, and he
would have to skip his own breakfast so he wasn’t late to work.
The baby laughed in the other room and snapped him back to reality. He
stood up and picked the dishes up off the table and put them in the
sink, then refilled his coffee cup.
He didn’t want to deal with talking to her so he quietly slipped out
the door. His truck’s brakes had been squeaking so he figured he
should check them out. Besides, it was a good excuse not to be in the
house with her.
As soon as he stepped out the door he heard a dog bark and looked over
in the direction the noise came from. It was his dog Mary Bell, an old
Basset hound he had since he was twenty-one. His high school
sweetheart had given Mary Bell to him as a Christmas present. She
broke up with him that January and started dating some businessman
from Atlanta. He was going to ask her to marry him on Valentine’s day
about a month later but he never got the chance.
He liked Mary Bell because she had been there any time he needed
someone to talk to, and with the way his wife had been acting since
the baby was born, he needed someone to talk to often. She always
agreed with him—either a loud bark proclaiming that he was correct or
a sympathetic groan to confirm that he had in fact just made a very
He unlatched the dog chain and Mary Bell waddled over to him. “Hey
girl, how are you?” The dog licked his face and he laughed. “How about
you and me fix them brakes, huh?”
Mary Bell barked in agreement and started walking towards the tool
shed with her master just behind her. It was an old broken down shed
that had been there longer than the man had even been alive. The paint
was peeling and one of the walls had taken dry rot and was on the
verge of collapsing.
“I out to just knock this old thing down and get one of them metal
sheds they sell on the T.V.,” the man told Mary Bell. She barked in
“Now let’s see,” the man said to the dog. “We’ll need a jack, a tire
bar, and some brake fluid.” He shuffled through the toolboxes and
drawers and shelves. “Now I know it’s here somewhere. You didn’t steal
it off, did you Mary Bell?” He looked at the dog and laughed. Mary
Bell just groaned. Whenever he found what he needed they both walked
together back to the truck.
The truck was a 1963 Chevrolet C-10 and had been his pride and joy
since his dad bought it for him when he graduated high school. It was
the truck he had spent most of his youth in, but it was older now and
starting to show signs of its age. One of the back fenders had started
to rust and the paint had just started peeling off the hood. The
interior was mostly good, except for the floor board from years of his
boot heel digging into it while switching from the gas to the bake. He
tried as hard as he could to keep it in pristine condition like he had
been able to whenever he was younger, but the money for it just wasn’t
He slid the jack underneath the front driver’s side tire and found a
good spot. The truck moaned as he started to lift it off of the
ground. The lug nuts broke with a screech and he put them in a pile
next to him and then pulled the wheel off of the hub and laid it on
the ground behind him. He took a moment to smile at Mary Bell and then
he inspected the brakes.
“Well, this one looks good,” he told Mary Bell.
It didn’t take him as long to put the tire back on as it did to take
it off. While he was unscrewing the lug nuts on the passenger side
tire, his wife came outside with the baby.
“I’m going to town and getting the bacon and milk your dumb ass forgot.”
He just grunted.
“You need anything?” she yelled.
“No,” he yelled back.
“You know you probably just outta sell that piece of shit. Don’t work
no how and we could always use the money.”
“Don’t think so, darlin’.”
“Jackass,” she said, quietly enough for him not to hear her.
He didn’t look up as she walked to the car. She sat the baby down in
the back seat in its baby chair and made sure that all the belts and
straps were tight and secure on the seat and then made sure all the
belts and straps were tight on the baby. She then got herself into the
car and backed out of the driveway and drove away from the house and
“Well, thank god!” he told his dog. “She’ll be gone at least an hour.”
They lived about twenty minutes outside of town in a very secluded
area on a plot of land that his uncle had gifted to him from his death
bed. The closest neighbors were half a mile away. He liked the
seclusion and quiet, but his wife hated it. She was much more for the
city and refined things. Dinner parties and nights out dancing were
more her flavor.
The passenger side brake was in fine working order as well, so he put
the wheel back on and then lowered the truck back to the ground.
“No sense in wasting an opportune time to take a break while she isn’t around.”
Mary Bell barked and they both walked into the house.
The pictures were staring at him again but he didn’t bother turning
them face down right now. Besides, she would be back soon and would
raise all hell asking him why all the pictures had been knocked down
and he had no desire to deal with any of that.
A pink spine at the bottom of the bookcase caught his eye so he walked
over and pulled it out to see what it was. The cover of it was a
picture frame that showed him in a tuxedo and his wife in a white
dress. It was surrounded by red roses embroidered around the edges and
read “Wedding Memories – 1978” at the bottom.
They had wed on April 15, 1978, just a few months after his now-wife
had discovered that she was pregnant. They hadn’t told anyone that she
was until after that had married, fearing the fallout they would end
up suffering from the mostly Christian community that they lived in.
Most of the community would go out to the bars on weekends and either
get sloshed drunk or smoke marijuana. In fact, most of the unmarried
singles even slept around quite a bit, but they were able to keep that
all a secret. Then come Sunday morning, they would appear in church in
their Sunday finest and even though everyone knew who had done what
and with who, everyone kept their mouths shut about the night before.
A pregnancy, however, wouldn’t be easily hidden on Sunday morning and
would become a permanent exposure of their sin against God’s law. So
the man and his girlfriend decided to do what any God-fearing couple
would do—get married so as not to have a bastard child and anger God,
or at least the local community.
The wedding was small and simple, just their closest friends and
family at the local one-room church downtown. Whenever she entered the
room, his best man, who was also his best friend, leaned over and
whispered something about how she was hot and he would hit it if they
ever split up. The man just punched him the arm and laughed while he
to told him to shut up.
He was smiling the whole time she walked down the aisle. He had
realized in that moment that he was actually happy that they had
accidentally conceived a child and were getting married. He could get
a job at the sawmill and save up some money over a few years. Then
after that, they could move to Texas and he could work on an oil rig,
make a good living and they would live happily ever after, just like
all the stories he’d read in school.
Whenever she made it to the alter she looked at him and smiled and
thought something very similar to his own thoughts.
They said their vows to each other and to the crowd of their friends
and family watching. After he told her “until death do us part,” he
lifted her veil. They looked into each others’ eyes and smiled, and as
his lips pressed into hers, everything that was wrong in the world and
any problem that he had ever had was suddenly gone. It was the most
completely perfect moment he had ever experienced.
The reception was held at the local bar. Most of the groomsmen were
getting drunk and flirting with the bridesmaids, trying their best to
get lucky with whatever girl they could. She had grown up in a town
about thirty minutes away from him, so none of his friends really knew
any of her friends, and in their minds that meant fresh meat.
The crowd had a multitude of conversations going on that differed
quite substantially but were all about the same subject—the marriage.
Some seemed to think that they were a lovely couple and would live a
long and happy life together. Others only gave the marriage a few
months, or maybe a year at the most. Neither the bride nor the groom
heard any of these conversations; they were too busy dancing together.
That day, nothing else mattered or even existed to them.
He heard a car door shut outside and he quickly closed the photo album
and shoved it back into the book case. His wife kicked open the door
holding grocery bags in one hand and the baby in the other. He was
still thinking about the day they were married and started to smile.
“Well, are you gonna help me or just stand there and look dumb? And
why is that damn dog in the house?”
His smile faded and he looked down. “Yeah, sure. Come on, Mary Bell.”
He went out to the car to get the rest of the bags. There was one
left, with bacon and milk in it.
After he brought the bag in, he went back outside to check the rear brakes.
She made herself lunch and sat down and ate. Neither of them wanted to
be in the same room at the moment. He was happy to be outside working
on his truck and she was happy to be inside eating her lunch away from
this bastard of a man that had knocked her up and forced her to give
up her youth.
The back passenger tire was off whenever she opened the door and
walked out to him.
“Got it fixed yet?”
“Well, whatever.” She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “I’m going
out tonight. The baby’s asleep in its room so I’m going to go take a
bath. If you need anything don’t bother me.”
She walked back into the house and went into the bathroom and started
filling the tub up with water.
The rear passenger side brake had nothing wrong with it either. There
was really nothing wrong with the truck at all and he knew it. He
simply told her that there was so he would have an excuse not to be
around her on his day off. It also kept his mind off of how things had
gotten between the two of them. He wanted so badly to blame that
little baby asleep in its crib, but anytime he looked at it, he knew
he could never blame it for any of their problems. They were their
problems and theirs alone.
He was about to put the rear drivers’ side tire back on when he heard
thunder off in the distance. A storm was rolling in and he saw the
clouds rushing towards the house with lightning forking down into the
woods. It started to sprinkle a bit as he stared straight up at the
sky for a minute. Then he looked back to the storm in the distance.
“Git, dog,” he told Mary Bell quietly. She waddled back into her
doghouse and laid down with a slight whimper. Dust blew up into the
air around her mouth as she sighed.
He walked up to the front door and opened it with his left hand, still
holding the tire bar in his right hand.
He went into the living room and poured himself a glass of bourbon.
The pictures were mocking him again. He took the tire bar and flipped
them over with the bent side of it one at a time until all of the
pictures in the living room were face down.
He slowly made his way into the bedroom and used the tire bar to flip
the rest of the pictures down. He finished off the glass of bourbon
and let it drop to the floor. Inside the bathroom the shower curtain
The tire bar made a shadow as it moved across the shower curtain and
then slowly, it moved the curtain across the rod, exposing the tub to
the rest of the room.
She was lying there naked and had fallen asleep and he wondered if she
had always looked that way. She couldn’t have, could she? Where did
those disgusting stretch marks or that extra flab come from? She was a
tiny girl when they first met, just over a hundred pounds. He wanted
it to be that damn baby. Since the baby she had become something else,
someone else. It wasn’t just her physical shape that was noticeable
either—that was just the most obvious. The harder he tried to blame
the baby the more he knew it wasn’t it’s fault at all. It was her
fault, or his.
They had first met in 1977 when she had just graduated high school.
She was eighteen and he was twenty-five. He hadn’t really been
interested in any women since his former fiance had run off to Atlanta
with the businessman. His friends had started noticing that he didn’t
seem very happy with his life and wasn’t really the same guy that he
used to be. They all talked it over and decided that one of them would
invite their cousin to the next Sunday church luncheon and there, they
would introduce the two of them.
It was something like love at first sight. She was a petite little
woman with curly red hair, pale skin and eyes as green as a pasture
after an April rain. He had dark brown hair, an immaculate jaw line
and a slim but muscular frame with the most beautiful hands she had
ever seen. They spent the entire afternoon talking to each other about
their hopes, dreams, past experiences and anything and everything
else. They exchanged phone numbers and said goodbye, but as soon as
she got home she called him. He answered before the first ring was
finished. They stayed up talking until three a.m. If she hadn’t fallen
asleep listening excitedly to his plan to move to Texas and get a job
on an oil rig and become a big-shot rough neck, eventually working his
way up to owning his own oil company, they probably would have been up
all night talking.
Over the next several months they continued to spend all of their free
time together. Whenever they weren’t together they were on the phone
talking, and when they weren’t on the phone talking, they were
thinking about each other. Most of her girlfriends told her that she
was the luckiest girl ever to land such an amazing guy and most of his
friends told him that he was a lucky son-of-a-bitch to land such a hot
It was in a cold February evening whenever she approached him and told
him that they needed to talk. He could tell something was very wrong.
“What’s up, darling?” he asked.
“Well, I’m not sure how to say this really.”
“Well, girl, just spit it out! It’s getting kind of late and you know
I ain’t the partying type,” he said with a smirk.
“This is serious. I just, well, you see… I mean… the thing is…”
she looked at him and tears started to well up in her eyes.
“What is it, baby? You know you can tell me anything.” His face became
more concerned now that he knew it was a very serious matter.
She looked at him and waited until the tears slid down her cheek. “I’m
He sat and looked at her in disbelief. His body didn’t move an inch
but his mind was moving faster than it ever had before. He thought
about abortion, he thought about names, he thought about schools, he
thought about adoption, he thought about how to set the spare room up
as a nursery. Finally, after about three minutes and the longest
silence either of them had ever encountered, he stood up and walked to
the bedroom door. “Well,” he said rubbing his chin.
He turned around and looked at her and then got down on one knee.
After a few false starts he was finally able to ask her. “Baby, will
you marry me?”
“What?” she said.
“No, I mean, I love you so it makes sense that we should… you know.
And you know if we have a baby and we ain’t married ain’t no one in
town gonna talk to us or anything. You know how these folks are. So
come on, baby, let’s just jump right in. Both feet.”
“Well,” she said, tears still rolling down her cheeks.
The silence that followed was even longer than the moment before.
“Yes!” she exclaimed with a huge smile. They told each other that they
loved each other more than words could express.
Now they were here, he thought while looking down at her, laying there
in the bathtub and slowly in his mind she started to change back into
that beautiful girl that he met that Sunday afternoon and he started
Suddenly she twitched and was again the stranger that had invaded his
home and his life and taken the one person he loved.
Without thinking, his right arm rose above his head and sliced down
through the air. The tire bar smashed against her neck, tearing a hole
through the skin all the way to the wind pipe and vocal chords. Her
eyes became wide and she sat up. Her arms and legs flailed in the tub
as she opened her mouth and tried to scream, but only gasps of air
mixed with blood came from the hole in the left side of her neck. His
eyes went wild with rage and he brought the tire bar down again, this
time crushing her jaw and knocking several of her teeth out into the
water she was trapped in.
Tears slid down from her eyes and mixed with blood, flowing down her
face to her neck and down her breasts and into the bath water, turning
it to a light crimson. He continued to beat her and she continued to
flail, unable to gain any traction on the slippery sides of the tub.
The blood stung her eyes and she was unable to see anything.
He swung wildly, sometimes hitting her, sometimes just putting holes
in the porcelain walls on the sides of the tub. Blood splashed from
her face and neck and chest and landed on the curtain and the floor
and across his face and body.
She had been laying motionless for some time before he finally stopped
swinging. The room smelled of fresh blood and a crack left in the bath
tub was slowly leaking the crimson bathwater onto the floor of the
He dropped the tire bar and walked back into the living room. His
footsteps squished and left light, wet, pink marks on the carpet.
He picked up the bottle of bourbon, smearing blood across the label,
and he pressed his lips against the opening and tipped the bottle
When the bottle was empty he went to the bookcase and pulled the
wedding album out. The red on his fingers smudged the three pages he
turned before he found the image of the two of them in that wedding
kiss, forever burned into history by film and chemicals. He took the
picture out of the album and went back into the bathroom.
Her body was cold to the touch and the floor was now a half-inch deep
with bloody water. The tire bar was still next to the tub. He grabbed
it and went outside, leaving a trail of watery blood wherever he
walked. As he stood on the front porch it started to rain. He looked
up at the sky and smiled.
“Come on, Mary Bell,” he said. “We’re going to Texas.”
The door of the truck creaked as he opened it and he slid the blood
smudged picture into the dashboard next to the speedometer. The rain
came down in force as he put the back tire back on, washing most of
the blood off him. He was soaked by the time he got in and started the
truck up. Mary Bell was already inside, sitting next to him.
“Her friends will be by soon to pick her up,” he said, patting Mary
Bell’s head. “They’ll take care of the kid.” Mary Bell groaned in
He started the truck and backed out of the driveway then put the truck
into gear and drove west.
The drive was mostly just forest and cigarettes and he was able to
make it to the Mississippi border before he decided to stop and get a
motel room for the night.
The room was small. There was a bed and a small nightstand next to it.
Across from it was a dresser with a black-and-white television and an
ash tray. Next to the window there was a small table and a chair. He
walked over to the window and opened it. A cool breeze hit him and he
“Get off the bed, Mary Bell. That’s where I’m sleeping,” he said as he
pulled a cigarette out of his shirt pocket. “It’s gonna be a new day
for the both of us, I guarantee you that, girl.”
He sat in the chair and lit the cigarette. His mind raced with
thoughts of oil and money and women and fast cars. As soon as he got
to Texas, everything would come together for him.
He put his cigarette out in the ash tray and laid down on the bed next
to Mary Bell. “I ‘spose you can stay up here if you want. It’s a
pretty big bed.”
Mary Bell groaned and laid her head next to his shoulder and fell asleep.
Its been an interesting, though depressing weekend of books, while I was away from the computer. Since my modem had burned up and we were patiently waiting for a new one, I decided to sit down and have as much as a reading marathon as possible with a toddler in my midst. So between a whole lot of picture and board books, I was on a mission to tick some loitering TBRs off my end table…
…Starting with Native Son by Richard Wright. I didn’t make it. I had to stop after book one, about a hundred pages into the novel. The book seriously stressed me out, and although I plan to finish it one day, I think it will take me many months of sitting down with twenty or so pages at a time. I don’t think I would have made it reading it as a student for class, so I’m thankful it was never part of my own required reading. Keep in mind, I tried to sit down with this book immediately after finishing Of Mice and Men. Clearly too much needless killing for one sitting.
So I set it aside, but moved onto to the worst choice ever: Albert Camus’ The Stranger was next on the list, the first time in my life not reading the back cover has bit me in the butt. So I go from one fear killing to another fear killing dipped in racism and onto just plain killing with no rhyme or reason. Good thing The Stranger is only about 150 pages long, or it would have been cast aside with Bigger.
All these “helpless” humans killing other humans. I got really irritated, more than a little sad, and switched over to some nonfiction where I polished the weekend off with a whole lot of Astrology and Astronomy books for a little research project. As someone who personally knows someone in prison for two accounts of attempted murder, I just have a hard time buying into the helpless unintentional killings, unless we’re talking self defense or the mentally disabled (like in Of Mice and Men).
What have you been reading?