Sample of The Woods at Barlow Bend

Book-Cover

The Woods at Barlow Bend

Chapter 1

August 8, 1933

Frisco City, Alabama

“I poured it out in the yard. If you want the whiskey so bad, go out back and lap it up like a dog.” Momma stared right into John’s eyes as she said this. Momma wasn’t a teetotaler by any means, but she didn’t like how drunk Uncle John got during these family get-togethers, so she took matters into her own hands. Rather, she took Uncle John’s whiskey into her own hands, and watered the azaleas.

It was the night of my thirteenth birthday. The house was full with friends and family, ready for music and dancing. Meg, my younger sister, played the piano while Momma. Daddy, and the others danced in the living room, but Uncle John became too handsy when drunk. Daddy got irritated when Uncle John got handsy.

“Nothin’s gonna ruin your party, Hattie.” Momma, as usual, fixed the situation to her liking.

Momma stared at Uncle John’s heavy eyelids and scruffy complexion for a moment, probably wondering for the millionth time why her older sister, Audrey, married such a worthless man. Not even really a man, but a pitiful being ready to beg for scraps.

Momma knew how proud Uncle John was of his whiskey. “A family secret passed down from my papa,” Uncle John would proudly announce, as if we all hadn’t heard that statement over a hundred times.

Pouring out the whiskey was a little mean, but I think Momma enjoyed angering Uncle John, and I loved her fearlessness.

“Audrey was pretty before John. She could have done much better for herself,” Momma told me earlier that day when we were making the cake for my party. I loved being in the kitchen with Momma. Even if it was to help make my own birthday cake, an afternoon alone with Momma was a gift. Each story she told was like a secret shared just between us. And Momma had plenty of stories about Uncle John, his whiskey, and the way he treated Aunt Audrey. Momma also thought that a real man would at least attempt to argue with her when insulted or tricked. When John’s only argument manifested as incoherent and pathetic huffing and puffing, she couldn’t help but laugh.

Uncle John stormed out the back door of the kitchen with Aunt Audrey chasing behind him.

“Jesus, Addie, why do have to be so hateful?” Audrey squeaked at Momma as the screen door slapped the frame. “John, Honey, come back to the party!”

I wondered for a second how these two completely different women could be sisters. Aunt Audrey’s face was weathered and splotchy, probably from long hours spent in the fields trying to salvage the meager profit Uncle John had promised during the spring planting. Momma, on the other hand, had a perfect porcelain complexion that would glow a beautiful bronze in the summer, but always returned to a smooth, soft cream by mid-fall. I had also never seen my mother chase after Daddy when he stormed out of a room.

“Hattie, Honey,” Momma said as she turned toward me, “Promise me you’ll never waste your time on a man like that.”

“I promise, Momma,” I said.

“That’s my girl.” Momma kissed my forehead, shook her shiny, wavy hair, trimmed smartly just above her shoulders, and turned to walk down the hallway into the living room with a pitcher of sweet tea and glasses balanced on her favorite serving tray. Daddy stopped her in the doorway and shook his head. He didn’t care for John Howard too much either, but he did like the man’s liquor. It was the smoothest in the county. Momma knew Daddy would be disappointed, but she also knew how to be forgiven: tilted chin, coy laugh, piercing blue eyes staring straight into his.

Addie and Hubbard Andrews were each better looking than the other. Who could say whose blue eyes were more powerful: Daddy’s clear, ice blue, or Momma’s nearly cobalt, like beach glass washed on the shore, smooth and shiny? I was witness to Momma’s subtle, yet mesmerizing ways of winning on several occasions. She knew exactly how to be forgiven for every impulsive action.

“Sorry, Hub, but John’s barely tolerable sober, much less lit up like the Fourth of July.”

Then, Momma made the move that made Daddy forget the whiskey. Momma gently, but intentionally brushed her body against his as she passed him through the kitchen door. Her hair brushed his chin and she her fingertips along his waist. Daddy stared at her, fixated by her every move as she exited the kitchen and disappeared into the parlor without spilling a drop of tea. The room always seemed a little darker after she left.

 

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4 Thoughts on “Sample of The Woods at Barlow Bend

  1. Jodie,

    Excellent passage to share. Love your novel. Shared on Twitter and FB and Google.

    Congrats on your success with the book. 🙂

  2. Wanza on June 9, 2015 at 12:47 pm said:

    After reading the sample, I was certain that the plot’s conflict would involve the unsavory character of Uncle John. Not exactly incorrect, but the plot was so much more. Excellent written expression….attention keeper…good work!

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