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Posts Tagged ‘Ho Springs’

72. CORA: The End

eady?” Cora asked Juliette.

The girl hoisted her suitcase and gave a wan smile.

Cora gave up. She would have guessed that Juliette would have been delighted to go back to France, but instead the girl had been sullen, even weepy, all week.

“Is there something wrong?” Cora asked. “Something you’re not telling me?”

Juliette shrugged and blinked harder against the tears that seemed always to be lingering in her eyes.

Cora sighed. She’d been so full of doubts leaving Paris and coming here, so wracked by misgivings through all the weeks of dealing with her brother and her father and George and the family business and especially with Juliette herself. But she never expected she’d feel just as conflicted — more conflicted — about going back.

“It’s time,” said Medhi.

Hugo took Juliette’s hand and led her toward the stairs.

“Did you say goodbye to your grandfather?” Cora asked.

Again, the only answer Cora got from her daughter was a shrug, though this time it was more understandable. Cora’s father, Juliette’s grandfather, sat dim-eyed on the sofa beside his girlfriend, Jimmie Sue.

“Goodbye, Pop,” Cora said, crossing the room to kiss her father’s grizzled cheek.

He looked up at her, confused. “Who are you?” he asked, sounding almost frightened.

Would this be the last time she’d see him? At least with Jimmie Sue here, she could be sure that he’d eat and not drink himself to death. But even without the bottle of bourbon each day, some light had gone out behind his eyes.

“Remember what I told you,” Jimmie Sue said.

Jimmie Sue had told Cora not to go. She’d laid out the cards the night before and advised against the trip, against Cora getting back together with Medhi, against taking Juliette across the ocean.

“Your destiny is here,” Jimmie Sue had said, talking about a man in Juliette’s future who could only be George.

But Cora couldn’t let herself make decisions as big as how to raise her daughter and whether to reunite with her husband of 20 years based on what some old cards said, could she? She might be impulsive, she might be ambivalent, but she wasn’t a complete fool.

69. TARYN: Queen of the World

ou go on out to the field,” she told him.


“You want me to send  you back to that sorry-ass farm where I found you?  Now get.”

She had his number, all of their numbers.  She knew how bone-numbing the work could be on a grim silent farm like the one where she plucked him from his bed, and how lost a boy like him would feel without any work to do.

She knew what it was like for the girls, too, the ones who’d been pawed and fingered from the time they were young enough to equate such attentions with love.  Love was what they wanted, what they’d work for above money.

And for the Mexicans, those who were here without papers, who couldn’t speak English beyond their big grinning bowing Thank yous.  They were out in the fields right now, working under the cover of darkness, building the massive tent that would be sheltered beneath the stand of trees between the fields. She understood them too, how marginalized they felt, how powerless, because that’s what life was like for an uneducated female of any race.

She didn’t need DaShawn.  She’d never needed him.  That was the old Taryn who’d gone to him, offering a partnership.  But he wasn’t capable of partnership, he just wanted to be boss.  And that’s what she wanted too.  What she was going to have.

“Mercy,” she called to one of the girls from the Go Go.  “Get me that pink polka dot dress, that one with the ruffle at the neck.  And that big ass white hat.”

This was her ladylike outfit, the one that, like magic, made people give her what she wanted.  That’s how she got the retired racehorses for practically nothing, taking a certain satisfaction in knowing George had plowed his sweat into caring for them.  How she’d gotten that shithead dentist, Wade, to fix her teeth.

But today she was after something more important than horses or teeth or anything else money could buy.

68. JAMIE: New Man

t took him at least ten minutes lying there, listening to the silence, to believe that he really might be home alone.

No babbling in French. No female voices nagging him to clean something up. No Jimmie Sue woo woo or Senior dementia. Just…..silence.

He turned over which nudged Iggy awake. The iguana lazily opened its jaws and then snapped them down, more quickly than Jamie might have believed possible, on a beetle or maybe that was a cockroach scrabbling over his covers.

He’d been working hard to lure the bugs and the dust and the chaos back into his room, just to show his sister who was boss, if only of this 12 by 15 foot patch of ghetto. Let her scrub the cracks and align the corners of the rest of this dump; she wasn’t going to get the better of his room.

Jamie got up, brought Iggy into the shower with him, then let the animal perch on his shoulder while he gulped a cold cup of coffee left from the pot and ate the ends of all the food on the plates piled near the sink, ranging from peanut butter and jelly crusts to what tasted like a roquefort and leek omelet.

Where was everybody? What time was it? What should he do, now that he could do anything?

He flipped on the TV, but it seemed as if somebody had disconnected the premium cable: No more porn on demand. He considered jerking off anyway, but he’d done that already last night. Somebody had cleaned away all the magazines and newspapers. He had the feeling he’d been reading a book, and that he’d even liked it, but he couldn’t remember what it was or where it had gone.

There was nothing left to do but go out. At least there was nobody to stop him. He went downstairs, Iggy still on his shoulder, leaving the door open since he’d long ago lost track of any keys. His poor melted crotch was feeling a bit better, he noticed, though he still limped a bit taking the steps.

The streets seemed strangely empty. Now that he was outside, where was he going to go? His default destination, the Go Go, was shut down. There were other bars in town, but not ones where he knew anybody, and besides, he hadn’t had a drink in — he couldn’t even remember how long. Plus, he had no money. No girlfriend. No friends.

No friends except the miracle of Iggy, that is. He stopped in front of the MAL, giving his pet’s hide a proprietary pat, and that’s when he noticed it. The old place looked different. Cleaner. He pressed his forehead to the glass of the front window and peered inside. Damn if it didn’t look like somebody was fixing the place up.

67. DARRELL: Kidnapping Mom

e set the alarm on his phone for 5:30 in the morning, earlier than he’d ever woken up before. It was still pitch black outside, but the birds were tweeting, he could hear, and if he listened really hard, he could make out the sound of the delivery trucks pulling up to the old Piggly Wiggly.

His mom was still asleep. Sleeping in, she would call it. Before, she’d always been awake at this hour. Studying, cleaning the house, getting ready for work. But the new reformed mom slept until it was time to get him up for school, to cook him a waffle, to kiss him goodbye and wait for him to come home.

He dressed quickly in the black tee shirt and dark jeans he’d picked out the night before, and then as quietly as he could brewed a pot of coffee, reassured by her snores from the other room.

“Mom.” He shook her awake. Her room was the smaller one, barely space enough for him to crouch in, beside her single bed. “Come on, I made you some coffee.”

“What?” she said, confused, her eyes cloudy, her breath foul with sleep. “Why?”

“I have the SATs this morning. Don’t you remember?”

He could tell she was searching her mind, more ashamed at her forgetfulness than argumentative.

“It’s all right,” he reassured her. “There’s been a lot going on. Drink up. We gotta hurry.”

He bustled around the apartment then, avoiding her, while she drank her coffee and brushed her teeth and got dressed. The best would be if she just went along with him without question and then, once they were already there, he could spring the truth on her. And she’d have no choice but to go ahead.

But damn if she wasn’t exactly like Juliette, always with the questions, always with her own ideas about what was happening, and what should be.

‘Darrell Antonio Jones,” she said, stopping stock still at the top of the stairs. “Something’s not right here. I would not have forgotten something as important as your SATs. Exactly what is going on here?”

“You’re right,” he said. “Just wait here a second, and I’ll show you.”

66. GEORGE: Didn’t We Almost Have It All?

he last thing he saw before the horse kicked him in the head was Cora, catching sight of him across the crowd of people, her face breaking into a smile so big and dazzling that she looked, in that instant, exactly like her teenage self.

And then he felt the horse erupt and before he could do anything to contain it, there was a blinding flash — not pain so much as an explosion, like a firecracker going off in his brain — and then, just like that, his old life was over.

His new life started with him lying on his back on the ground, perfectly calm except for the massive pain in his head, gazing up at Cora’s face framed by the most beautiful blue sky. She was not smiling now but looking worried, her brow knit, her mouth open.

“Oh my God,” she said. “Are you all right? Don’t move. Medhi’s gone to meet the ambulance.”

What was she talking about? Who needed an ambulance? She should lie down next to him. Put her arms around him and draw the curtain on that brilliant sky so they could be together where no one could see.

“Your kisses,” he said.


“Your kisses. They taste exactly like marshmallows.”

“Sssssh,” she said. “The ambulance will be here any minute.”

“Do they still taste like that?” he asked her.

“I don’t know, George.” She looked more uncomfortable. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He lifted his hand, beckoned her closer with his finger. “Kiss me,” he whispered. “Please, just kiss me one time.”

64. TARYN: Candy

ou could tell without thinking who was at the festival.

Car gone. Lights thriftily turned off. Dog tied up.

Everybody piled into the vehicle and went together, and nobody locked their door. Or if they did lock it, they left the key under the mat or above the doorjam.

She didn’t even try sneaking, just made DaShawn sit scrunched down, as a black man would be the one thing that would arouse suspicion out here, with the engine idling, then walked right into the house and took what she wanted.

Not the jewelry. None of these dowdy farm wives had anything worth stealing.

Not the money. Money here had already been converted into combines, or livestock, or soybeans.

It was the guns she wanted.

Some kept them displayed in the living room, in a shiny walnut and glass case. If the case was locked, she had no problem grabbing a pot from the kitchen and smashing the case, grabbing all the guns and walking out the door.

If they weren’t in the living room, they were in the basement: red tile floor, pool table, makeshift bar, a couple of stools with black leatherette seats. Her stepfather had set up a bar in their basement like this, spent all his time down there.

That was one thing she’d loved about the houseboat: no basement.

This was the first house she’d been in where she hadn’t found at least one gun proudly displayed in the living room or perched on a rack in the basement.

She might have just walked out but now it was a challenge. There was nothing obvious about this farmhouse that made it any different than any other farmhouse. So where else might they be keeping the guns?

She checked the pantry and the coat closet but didn’t find anything there, which left the second floor. Wooden stairs creaking as she climbed, she stood in the second floor hallway and took in the layout.

Master bedroom, sun streaming in the windows, girly pink and white coverlet neatly on the bed. Sewing room with daybed pushed against one wall. Dinky little bathroom. And room with its door shut tight.

63. CORA: Love Is All Around

edhi wanted to see more of Ho Springs, so Cora decided to take him to the festival. Like most residents of the town, she hated the jamboree, which drew denizens from the hills and the surrounding towns, invited mayhem along with its pleasanter pursuits. But she knew Medhi would be amused by the American-ness of it all. And now that the crisis with Juliette was past, she wanted to get out of the house and do something fun.

Indeed, there were throngs of people everywhere they went, ringing every musical act, queuing up for every fairway ride, clamoring for hotdogs and cotton candy and especially beer.

Medhi bought himself a towering cone of cotton candy, blue and high as Marge Simpson’s hair, and then walked along grinning at it, tickled by the way it looked.

“Aren’t you going to eat it?” Cora asked him.

He made a face and shook his head. “Never.”

“Can I have a bite?”

“You’ll get fat.”

“Do you think I’m fat?”

With his free hand, he hugged her to him. “I think you’re delicious.”

Despite his reassurances, that was enough to set off the old paranoia, the too-familiar alarm bells. After she hit 40, as her body accommodated the inevitable ripples and sags, was when Medhi’s eye started to wander. More than his eye. The younger women, the thinner women: They were everywhere, all the time.

“I wish I could believe that,” she muttered.

He stopped walking, handed the cotton candy to a stunned teenager who happened to be passing, and took her in his arms. “You’re the love of my life,” he said. “You know that.”

She’d been so sure she wanted to leave him. But it had been so much harder than she’d anticipated, moving here, being a parent to Juliette on her own, being alone. She wanted to believe they could be together again, the way she always wanted it to be, the way it had been, for a little while, anyway. Yet she couldn’t help but note the caginess of his statement.

61. JULIETTE: Let’s Play Kidnapper

abysitting was not how she wanted to spend her day. Hugo, who was at this very moment snoring on the couch across the room, was sure to be leaving very soon, and Juliette might never see him again. And after all their efforts to be together last night were foiled — well, she felt she had to spend every single available second with him.

And if not with him, at least with her dear Papa. And if not with Papa, at least in bed, unconscious, trying to sleep away what had happened to her in the woods.

And now here was this spooky little girl, dumped just about literally in her lap, staring up at her with eyes big and blue as robin’s eggs behind those weird thick glasses.

“Wanna play horsies?” the girl, Beth, asked, holding up one of her mangy plastic horses.

“Ummmmmmm…..no,” Juliette said.

The kid blinked.

“How about CandyLand?” she asked, her voice so soft it was almost a whisper.

Juliette examined the child. She might have been cute, if somebody had taken the time to fix her hair and get her some chic little clothes. Plus she definitely needed cooler glasses.

“How about kidnapper?” Juliette asked.

“How do you play that?” Beth asked shyly.

“I hide behind the couch, and you walk by, and then I jump out and kidnap you.”

They both looked over at the couch, where Hugo snorted and flipped over so he was facing away from them.

“I don’t know,” Beth said, sticking her thumb in her mouth.

“Come on,” Juliette said. “It’ll be fun.”

She stood up and, taking Beth’s hand, walked her over near the couch and positioned her in front of it. Maybe Hugo would hear them. Maybe he would wake up and join in the game. Maybe he would see how great Juliette was with Beth and want to marry her for real and have babies with her.

“Okay,” Juliette said. “Just walk like this, like you’re little Red Riding Hood on your way to grandmother’s house.”

“Are you the grandmother?” Beth asked.

The grandmother? This kid really was funky. “No! Can’t you see I’m young and pretty?” Juliette said.

Beth nodded, but then asked, “Are you the wolf?”

Juliette clucked impatiently. “I’m the kidnapper,” she said. “Now walk, back and forth, in front of the couch.”

59. NOT GEORGE: The Festival


58. GEORGE: The Festival

h no.

The festival.

He forgot about the festival.  Or he blocked it out.  Or he told them he needed the day off and they forgot, or he forgot, or….

Oh no.

He hated the festival, the major event of the racing season, where the horses were a sidelight to the bands and the food and the beauty queens, to the girls in wet tee shirts and muddy bikinis, to the rapping contests and the tractor pulls spilled out from the track to venues all around.

And he hated himself for hating the festival, when it was just supposed to be fun.  But the horses got spooked by the noise and the crowds.  And somebody always got hurt, a drunk toppling off the stands or some stupid kid blowing off his thumb with a firecracker.  And who had to patch things up till the real doctors got there?  He did, of course.

Jesus, he was starting to sound like his father, cranky and disapproving of everything in the world, especially if it involved laughter or frivolity.  Better to sit alone in a dark room with the TV on silent and a glass of whiskey in your hand.  Better to leave your children all alone so you could sit by yourself in a trailer parked in an empty field.

“Beth.”  He shook his daughter awake.  “Come on, honey.  Time to get up.”

On an ordinary non-school day, he’d take Beth to work with him.  She’d sit obediently on a stool and color while he tended to the horses.

But during the festival, it was just too crazy out there, too unpredictable.  People swarming in and out of the barn, emergencies popping up all over the place.  There was no way he’d be able to reliably take care of her.

He thought, inevitably, of Taryn, who seemed to have vanished into the hills.  He might have worried that she’d drowned in the lake, or overdosed, but reports had reached him that she’d been sighted so he knew she was alive, and functioning.  It was odd that she hadn’t tried to get in touch, if only to hit on him for money, or to call high in the middle of the night, ranting about Beth.

But he should be happy.  Beth hadn’t said anything about her for a few days, and the best thing would be for Taryn and all memories of her to fade away.