Black or White

Sunday morning. Seriously, I got absolutely nothing done yesterday; no writing, no reading, very little cleaning, no trip to the gym.

Nothing.

I also overslept this morning. I didn’t wake up until after ten, which is completely inexcusable. I went to bed early last night (my bedside reading is Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King, and it is riveting. We so frequently (deliberately?) forget just how awful our society was before the Civil Rights movement (awful as things can be now, sadly it was much worse back then),  that this book, and others about the Jim Crow south, should be required reading for all Americans…not that the racists would take anything profound away from it. Isn’t that always the problem? The people who should read a book are precisely the people who would never read it.

Today I may or may not make it to the gym–you never know, but sleeping so late has kind of thrown me off my gameplan (which is the problem with being so anal retentive/borderline OCD; when the plan gets thrown off I generally surrender and don’t try to make any of it work), so in a moment, after finishing my last cup of coffee for the day (I don’t drink coffee after noon; or rather, don’t make a cup in the Keurig after twelve) I am going to start reading “A Whisper from the Graveyard” out loud, followed by reading “This Thing of Darkness” out loud, and possibly “The Problem with Autofill”; I think I’ve found a place for it to be published (or at the very least, considered for publication). I also came across another place to submit a story; they are looking for historical crime stories…of which I have none, and might possibly mean having to write a new one. I might be able to find one that is in progress somewhere that might work…I have some stories set in the past but I also don’t know what they mean by historical crime. Does it have to be in the distant past, or can it be in the recent past, as I have some stories set in the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s. Of course, I could email them and ask for a more precise explanation of historical. It might even be fun to try to write something very far back in the past, like during the time of Catherine de Medici, or Michelangelo.

Which of course means I could play around writing notes in my journal, which is always kind of fun.

The next story in Florida Happens is “When Agnes Left Her House,” by Patricia Abbott.

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of two print novels Concrete Angel (2015) and Shot in Detroit (2016)(Polis Books). Concrete Angel was nominated for an Anthony and Macavity Award in 2016. Shot in Detroit was nominated for an Edgar Award and an Anthony Award in 2017. A collection of her storiesI Bring Sorrow and Other Stories of Transgression was released earlier this year.

She also authored two ebooks, Monkey Justice and Home Invasion and co-edited Discount Noir She won a Derringer award for her story “My Hero.” She lives outside Detroit. You can find her blog here.

Me

“When Agnes Left Her House” by Patricia Abbott

When Agnes left her house, she picked her moment carefully. Only the greenhorn oil trucker battling the steep road coiling around her house might have caught a flash of red gingham in his mirror.  He did not.

As she crossed the fields lying between the house and Haycock, her resolve hardened. A walk turned into a trot, and then into a sprint, as she moved as fast as she could toting Henry’s old track bag. She wasn’t sure where she was headed, having seldom been south of Lancaster and never east of Smoketown.

The boys would be home from school in a few hours and find the kitchen table scrubbed clean but no snacks laid out. Had there been a day in the last eighteen years when she hadn’t baked cookies or brownies, made popcorn, or cored apples? And dinner was usually half-made by one o’clock, the smell of soup or a stew welcoming their return. Today not a single pot sat on the stove and the oven was cold. The only sign of tonight’s dinner was the chicken in the fridge, lemon and thyme sprigs resting inside and garlic tucked under the skin. She’d prepared it before the idea of escape overtook her.  

 Last night’s words with Henry rankled until taking off seemed like the only sane course of action. Sane—that word was ping-ponged across the kitchen table in a battle lasting until three a.m. She’d successfully ducked the back of his hand and his reach for her hair, loosened in the struggle. Swinging wildly, he caught his foot on the table leg and fell hard. By the time he stood up, she’d locked him out of their bedroom. That was the last she saw of him. Surely, the kids had overheard some of their scuffle. She blushed with shame.

This story is a gem. Married to an abuser, and mother of five young sons, Agnes packs a bag and goes on the road, running away from her life. Florida is her final destination, and Abbott offers no sentimentality about how Agnes gets there and what she has to do to survive. It’s a shocking story in some ways, but utterly realistic and honest and painful to read. Women like Agnes–there’s not really any answer for them in our society, and her descent is terrible to read about….and yet never once does she think it would be better to head back home to her family. And there’s a lovely twist at the end. Stunning and brilliant.

And now, to read some of my own stories aloud.

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