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I’m tempting you with excerpts

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Short Story Excerpts

“Shock Treatment” in “Stories that Need to Be Told”

“They drove him westward away from Tallahassee’s safe hills, westward through the panhandle counties where King Cotton once reigned, westward through pine flatwoods where wiregrass and fire sustained the world, through Quincy where Coca Cola money brought prosperity one hundred years ago, through Chattahoochee where a psychiatric hospital of some controversy and the Apalachicola River provided conflicting approaches of respite to the world’s cares, through Marianna where both Florida’s Caverns and the now-shuttered reform school were out of sight and out of mind, and thence straight on to the uninspiring Georgian plantation house where Mistress Harkness died of melancholia waiting for her husband to return from the Civil War.”

“The Lady of the Blue Hour” in “Widely Scattered Ghosts”

“On the band bus ride home, the stunning, first chair flute player Melinda Wallace sat beside him. She had no clue how he felt about her, not that he’d said anything. The empty aisle seat next to a clarinet was, he guessed, preferable to sitting in the back with the band’s borderline criminal element of raucous drums and tarnished brass. Melinda smelled like wildflowers and her unruly light brown hair smelled like the wind. When the band played ‘The Stars and Stripes’ Forever’ in concert and Melinda stood up into the light for her piccolo solo—the sweetest banshee cries the world has ever known—her blue eyes were frozen into ice for thirty-two measures of leaps and trills, while her hair could not be restrained.”

Novel Excerpts

Special Investigative Reporter

Jock poured a fist full of Scotch into an empty coffee mug. That’s when Chief Kruller opened the front door and stepped into the living room without knocking. Fortunately, he wasn’t leading a SWAT team or holding a warrant. He did have a 9 x 12’ mailing envelope in his hand and a smile on his face that was wide enough to display most of his cavities.

“Sorry to bust in on you like this, Jock, but your doorbell isn’t working,” said Kruller, slipping into the best chair in the room. He favored himself with a deep pull on the Scotch bottle.

“The bell usually works when somebody on the porch pushes the button.”

“Good point,” said the chief. “Here, take a look at this morning’s crime scene photograph.”

“Oh, this makes my day,” said Jock. He set down the mug of Scotch to keep from spilling it all over the boss man who, in more detail than anyone really wanted, was handcuffed spread eagle to Bambi’s bed wearing a pink thong. Jock did a quick re-write of his thoughts to clarify that one Marcus Cash was wearing the thong and that, other than the fact Bambi was standing in the foreground wearing a Cat Woman outfit, he had no proof it was actually her bed.

“She lost the key,” said Kruller. “Marcus probably swallowed the damn thing.”

Lena

“Momentarily, but no longer, the swamp was quiet before the voices of the birds returned and spoke of secret things in the cone-laden Bald Cypress and plum laden Ogeechee Tupelo branches beneath clouds carrying late afternoon storms. Spanish moss on the larger limbs fluttered like waking storm flags. Sheltered from the wind, scattered white and maroon dropwort flowers—Willie called it “cowbane”—rocked gently in their cradles of low scrubs and grasses.

“I knew from my dream travels that two swamps existed together, one that stopped short of the Apalachicola River and one that lived and breathed westward past night and death until it touched the boundary of the afterlife that Eulalie called “the Pearly Gates.” I didn’t think my conjured woman had crossed the great river.

“The gasoline-tainted water holding the trucks was foul, and that meant searching it quickly in spite the murky sediments Hoskins stirred up in his frantic thrashing about. I did not find Eulalie there. I followed the current into large mats of duckweed where progress was slower. By the time the rains came and chased me back to the road, I had found no conjure woman or gator bait traces there.

“When the swamp grew dark, a limpkin screamed near the river like a child dying again and again. Tree frogs sang, basses, altos, trebles, and tenors. Eulalie once said nighttime frogs praised the good Lord with voices as pure as sacred harp singers standing in a hollow square. In the center of that square of voices and old trees, I could not sleep, but not for the singing. The events of the day weighed heavily on my heart. Without sleep, I was blind to what a dreamtime journey could show—whether my conjure woman had lived or died.”

Thank you for reading,

Malcolm

 

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