Good morning campbellsworld visitors.
This morning I’d like to share with you the edited version of the first three chapters of my Miss Mazie a Summer’s Tale. Before I do though, I’d like to explain a bit more about why I’m doing this short story series.
A couple years ago, I attended a writers’ conference. I learned many things while there but one of the things which stuck with me was a suggestion one of the participants made when we were talking about writing series of any type.
She suggested that we sit down and write a short story series and if we were bloggers, we should share it onto our blog. At first, I couldn’t see how this would help hone our writing skill, so I asked. She answered with the following.
“I don’t mean write the whole story and then once it’s done publish it chapter by chapter. But rather, write it as you go, week by week, not having any idea other than the basic plot what is going to happen, where the story will go, or even how it might end.”
I asked, with some amazement, “You mean adlib it? Write by the very seat of your pants?”
She answered with delight. “Yes, and just think what fun you can have.”
Well, I must say it took me a long time to work up the courage. I wondered what would happen if I made some blundering error, like a spelling mistake I might miss or some sort of sentence structure mishap or God-Forbid a dialog flaw. But then one day I was coming home from a walk with Campbell, it was hot as all hell out, the Chemical factory which is but a stone’s throw away from my house was roaring louder than ever and some poor soul was out trying to sell magazine subscriptions and having no luck, and the story was born.
All that night I toyed with the idea, and as morning came awake, I decided, “What the heck. I shall write this as I go and post it and if some mistake happens the world will not end, and I can fix it and I can some day have a great short story to use somewhere along my writing way.
Now, here for you are those first three chapters all together, with the editing done.
I appreciate you if you read. You will see a few changes if you read the previous posts.
MISS MAZIE A SUMMER’S TALE
BY: PATTY L. FLETCHER
ABOUT THE BOOK…
Blending Adventure, mystery, supernatural, Romance, and Suspense, author Patty L. Fletcher weaves a tale of fiction, all readers are sure to enjoy.
James Landing Tennessee was a peaceful little town just trying to keep up with its neighbors, which seemed to always be growing by leaps and bounds around it. Then one day Roy Dingus took over Friedman chemicals, a lady of unknown origin known only as Miss Mazie bought the old house on the outskirts of town and as the heat of August blazed with no end in sight, what was once a city with no promise came to life.
Follow the adventures of three small-town boys, Joe, Ronnie, and Jake, and their newfound friend Billy Ray as they try to unravel the mystery that surrounds the newcomers and all the strange goings on before James Landing is no more.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to Kingsport Tennessee and its people, places, and things are simply that Similarities.
CHAPTER ONE: JOE’S WARNING
The Mid-August sun sank slowly toward the horizon like a hot molten ball of liquid fire. Sweat continuously ran into his eyes, and the wind scorched his face as if it came from the pits of hell itself.
“Why in blue blazes did I ever think this door to door salesmen job was such a great idea anyhow?” Billy Ray grumbled to himself as he trudged slowly up the graveled road toward the old dilapidated looking house at the end of the lane. “Anyone living in a house like that probably don’t have the money to buy a set.” He thought out loud, but he had to try, now more than ever to sell a case of bibles before end of the day. His worn-out station wagon had broken down a mile or two back and he had to have the money to have that old redneck mechanic he’d talked to at the gas station come out and see if he could fix the blasted thing. If he couldn’t do anything for it, he’d have to have it towed.
“WAHOO! WEE!” The three blond haired dirt streaked boys shouted as they came barreling out of the woods to his left. Billy Ray jumped back with a nay of surprise, dropping his satchel full of bibles as he did, and the boys stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of him.
“S…S…Sorry sir.” the biggest of the three stammered. “Didn’t know you was there. We didn’t mean no harm. Just havin’ a little fun is all.”
Billy Ray took a breath to steady himself and wiping the sweat from his face he said, “Ah, it’s alright. You just startled me. It’s not been so long ago since I was a young pup runnin’ through the woods with my friends like a bunch of wild Indians.”
The boy who had spoken stood looking at the salesman with mischievous curious green eyes for a moment then asked, “Where ya headed anyhow, if ya don’t mind my askin’.”
“Out to that old house there at the end of the lane.” Billy ray answered, pointing a finger in the direction of the old house, that looked like a good puff of wind would blow it down. “Last house marked on my route for the day.”
“Ah, I wouldn’t if I’s you sir. Miss Mazie aint likely to buy one of them bibles from ya, let alone a whole case.”
The other boys who had gathered around the spokesman for the group giggled shyly behind their hands.
“Don’t think so?” Billy Ray asked dejectedly. “Why not? Don’t she go to church like most other folks in town?”
“Nah. She’s a strange lady to be sure mister.” The middle-sized boy observed. “Keeps to herself, and don’t hardly talk to nobody when she comes to town to buy supplies. Says she’s gonna fix up that old house this year, but it’s middle of summer already and she aint done a thing about it yet. She keeps a big black brute of a dog out there with her too, and while I aint never heard of old Bubba biting no one, it’s a safe bet he might if she told him too.”
Billy Ray sighed. “Well, I’ve got to try. Damned old car broke down a mile or so back and I got to get it looked at.
“Well, good luck.” The spokesman for the group who looked to be about 13 or so said. “if it was me, I’d charge the bill to Uncle Harvey and move on. Some say Miss Mazie’s a witch. Say if she don’t like ya and don’t want ya on her place, she’s just liable to turn the demons loose on ya.”
“Ah now. TSK…TSK… a smart boy such as yourself surely don’t believe such nonsense?” Billy Ray chuckled as he picked up his satchel of bibles and made to head out again.
“Sir.” The oldest boy said urgently, grabbing Billy Ray’s sleeve. “I don’t know what I believe and what I don’t. All I know is that strange things been happening since Miss Mazie came here in the middle of spring and I wouldn’t go out there if I was you.”
“I’ll use the upmost caution.” Billy Ray said with a smile as he began walking again. “I’ll see you round boys. Maybe at the Friedman Chemicals Company ice cream supper tomorrow. Saw a sign for it at the gas station when I was talking to the mechanic while I was filling up. Did you say he was your uncle?”
“Nah, he aint’ nobody’s uncle that I know of, just a nice old man the town took in long time ago. See ya round, and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Momma says we’re supposed to show kindness to strangers.”
Billy Ray stopped and turned around, leveling his gaze on the boy. “Don’t that include your Miss Mazie?”
The big boy lowered his head and dug a hole in the gravel with his dirty bare toe, “Well, yeah, I suppose so, but I aint’ got to get the hounds of hell set on me in the process.”
“Well, thanks for the tip. I’ll keep it in mind. By the way? What’s your names?”
“Oh! Excuse our manners sir.” The boy said looking up his strawberry blond hair falling into his eyes, and a flush of embarrassment reddening his cheeks. “I’m Joe, the middle-man here’s Ronnie, and the runt of the pack is Jake.”
“I aint no runt!” The smallest of the three shouted squaring his shoulders rounding on his brother with his grimy hands balled into fists.
“Ah, heck Jake, I’m just messin’ with ya. Don’t get your fur up.” Joe said ruffling Jake’s dark blond hair and brushing a leaf off his chubby freckled face.
Billy Ray laughed. “Yawl sound like brothers. It’s nice to meet you, and you can call me Billy Ray. My daddy was sir.”
Gathering the younger boys around him the oldest boy said, “We are brothers.” “I’m 12, fixin’ to turn 13, Ronnie’s 10, and Jake, who aint’ a runt is 8, and It’s nice to meet you too Billy Ray. See ya round.”
“Turned on your southern talk just a bit thick didn’t you Joe?” Ronnie laughed as they walked away. “Shush. He’ll hear you.” “Yeah, and momma’ll switch you if she hears you going on with that junk.” Jake warned. “Whatever. He ought not go out there.” Joe hissed.”
Billy Ray stood watching the three boys as they walked off together, grouped into a tight little knot whispering to one another as they went. Laughing to himself he turned and started again toward the house. “That Joe’s a jokester if I ever saw one. A lot more educated too, I’m sure.” Billy Ray observed. “Well, if nothing else, maybe Miss Mazie will offer me a glass of iced tea or lemonade. Hotter than all hell out here.”
Just as he stepped from the heat baked road into the dooryard a huge black dog slowly raised itself up out from underneath an overgrown bush and lumbering purposefully toward Billy Ray began to growl and show his teeth. “Well, you must be Bubba.”
“That’s right.” A gruff woman’s voice called from somewhere ahead in the shadows, and just who might you be?”
CHAPTER TWO: OVERTIME AND FAMILY LOVE
Eddy Joe pulled off his work boots and sat them onto the cracked kitchen Linoleum floor beside his chair, then sat about pealing his sweat soaked socks from his bone-tired aching feet. “Lord, it’s hot enough to bake Sissie’s pies right on the front porch.” He sighed as Cindy handed him a frosty beer from the rumbling frig with its dented door in the corner of the small kitchen.
“Rough day honey?” She asked, rubbing his tired shoulders and leaning over to give him a kiss. “You’ve been working so much overtime lately me and the boys hardly see you. Not complaining mind you, just worried about you.”
Turning to her he snapped, “How the hell else am I supposed to feed us?” She stepped away from him, and he immediately regretted his temper. “Honey, I’m sorry.” He said, reaching out his arms. “You’re right. I’m worn out and being gone away from you and the boys all the time has me hatefuller than a bear waking up in spring. Come here, sit with me a minute.”
Settling her onto his lap and letting the cool air from the window air conditioner over the kitchen sink wash over them he asked, “Speaking of the boys, where are they?”
She laughed. “They blew in here a couple hours ago, gobbled down some peanut butter sandwiches and milk, and flew back out the door yammering to each other about some bible salesman they’d met up with as they’d run out of the woods near the edge of town. They were all excited cause he was on his way out to try and sell Miss Mazie a case of bibles.”
“Ha!” Eddy roared. “Ha Ha! Miss Mazie, buy a case of bibles? I’ll be surprised if she lets him on the place. He’s liable to come back with a good-sized hole in the seat of his britches for his trouble.”
“Oh honey.” Cindy giggled. “Old Bubba aint’ gonna bite no one. He’s a sweet old dog, and Miss Mazie’s just a different sort of lady. I’ve had her preserves, and I have to say, anyone who can put up blackberry preserves like her can’t be all bad.”
“Well,” He said, ruffling her hair, “You got me there.” Kissing her he asked, “How long you think till the boys come back?”
Wriggling closer into him she said with a smile, “Not till dark. You know how they are. Outside at sunrise, and not back till sundown. Just like we were, and to be honest, I’m glad of it. So many big city kids today are all stuck to those TV Music videos and junk. Other than missing a few conveniences, I’m glad we moved back home.”
Snuggling her close and breathing in her sweet honeysuckle perfume he asked, “Really? I’ve been so worried what with me gone all the time, and the money not as good as Friedman Chemicals promised that you’d be on the next bus back to New York.” Shocked, she looked up into his face her long golden braids falling over her shoulders, “Honey, there’s not enough money in the world to drag me back to that awful city. It’s a concrete jungle filled with crime, unhappy people, and way too much violence for our sweet boys to grow up in.”
Standing with her in his arms, heading toward the bedroom he sighed, “That thing with Joe last year really rattled you didn’t it?” Throwing her arms around his neck in mock fear of falling she said, “Honey, that mugger could’ve killed our boy. We never belonged in that place, and I was never so happy when Roy called and offered you that job. I just didn’t know how much work it was going to be for you.”
Lying her gently onto the bed, and stripping off his work clothes he said, “Well, there’s a promotion in it for me if I can help bring their equipment up to code, and we’re getting there. It’s just going to take time. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the quiet before our boys come trooping back wanting their supper.”
Later as lightning flashed over the outskirts of town, and Cindy and Edy Joe played a game of tag in the small yard of dirt and dead grass in front of their trailer with Joe, Ronnie, and Jake Eddy felt better about things than he had since they’d moved back. The time alone with Cindy earlier had helped lots, but this fun time with the boys was best of all. Not that he hadn’t enjoyed the feel of Cindy in his arms as they’d made love, but it was good to kick back and relax with the family for a change. Usually by the time he got home at night even Joe their oldest was in bed, and Cindy was ready to drop. How soon he hoped she could leave that job in Sissie’s Bakery and go back to her artwork. He wanted so much to be able to afford to build her that house with a studio attached like he promised, and…
Just then he was rattled from his thoughts by a bone rattling boom of thunder. “Holy Cow!” Jake yelled, streaking across the yard to his dad. “It’s alright son, but we’d best get inside before we’re all soaked. Eddy said gathering Jake into his arms. “Looks like a good one’s coming.”
Running for the door, Joe looked back over his shoulder and saw a large black curtain of rain falling just at the edge of town, and it was headed their way. He watched mesmerized by the unusually bright red zig zag patterns of flashing lightning arcing through the rain and then he thought, “Wonder what happened to Billy Ray?”
“Son!” Eddy Joe yelled from the door. “Come on. That’s not a storm to be fooling round outside in.”
“Coming sir.” Joe answered turning away, but somehow, he couldn’t shake the worry he felt for his new friend. “Was he a friend?” What made him think some bible salesman was his friend? But, that’s just what he did think.
Somehow, he just knew their paths would cross again.
CHAPTER THREE: MEETING MISS MAZIE
Rain slammed viciously against the little room’s windows, as Billy Ray lay flat-out on his back, arms spread above his head on the old bed in the corner. It had been one more long day, and in the end he’d not even needed to worry about going out to that old house to try and sell another few bibles because when he’d finally made it back to his car for a wonder the thing had started right back up as if it had never missed a lick. In fact, he could swear it was running better now than ever before.
Running a hand distractedly through his sweat dampened gray flecked hair, he thought again of the strange woman named Miss Mazie he’d met earlier that evening. He hated like hell to call her strange, maybe a better word for her would be unusual, but either way she was as the middle boy had said, “different.”
Making himself more comfortable he let his mind drift back running through the visit yet again.
“You must be Bubba.” Billy Ray had allowed.
“That’s right.” A woman’s gruff voice confirmed from somewhere in the shadows ahead, “And who might you be?”
Billy Ray had tried to see into the shadowed yard, but somehow, he simply couldn’t see a darn thing but the big dog moving slowly but deliberately closer and closer. Part of him had wanted to turn and run, but he’d been afraid that to do so would’ve enraged the dog and he’d have been on him before he could even make it back onto the road from the yard.
“That’s right.” The voice had agreed. “You wanta stand where you are sir, Bubba don’t fancy a game of chase quite as much as he used to but if you rile him, he’s just liable to get the idea back into his old head.”
“How in all hell had she known what he was thinking.” He wondered, replaying the scene in his mind.
“Name’s Billy Ray Ma’am, and I mean you and your dog here no harm. Just out selling Bibles for the Angel Network.”
A peel of deepthroated rich laughter had drifted out of the shadows toward him. “Me and Bubba don’t need any bibles son, but you look like you’re about to fall over with heatstroke and Miss Mazie never let anyone fall out in her yard from the heat, so you’d best come on up onto the porch and sit a spell and cool off.”
“What about Bubba here?” Billy Ray had asked. Hating himself for sounding afraid of what was very obviously an old dog.
“Bubba! Stop that! Leave It! Go on back to your nappin’ and Let the man pass son.”
The big dog had given him another hard look, shown his teeth one last time, then lumbered back to his overgrown bush settling himself back down with a satisfied sigh as if nothing whatsoever had disturbed him.
“OK. Come on. It’s hot as blazes there in the sun. Want iced tea or lemonade?”
Once again, Billy Ray had been totally taken aback. “How on earth does this woman know what’s in my mind.”
Coming up onto the porch, letting the screen door squeak shut behind him chimes overhead jingling he’d seen Miss Mazie for the first time, and he’d had to admit she’d not been at all what he’d expected. She’d stood there in the doorway of the old house dressed in a pair of faded denim jeans and white tank top, flipflops on her feet. Her long salt and pepper hair had been gathered back into one long ponytail that went almost to her waste, and her dark brown eyes had looked him over with an intensity which had seemed to momentarily look straight into his very soul. Her darkly tanned skin was as smooth as a baby’s, and she was just a little shy of six-feet tall, and heavyset in a country woman sort of way. She looked like a woman who could give any man a run for his money out in the field or anywhere else she happened to want to work.
“Well,” she demanded, hands on expansive hips, “Lemonade or tea?”
“L…Lemonade sounds wonderful.” He’d stammered, and neither then nor now could he understand why she’d knocked him so far off his game.
“Have a seat in one of the rockers there. Want a little shine in that?” She’d asked, heading through the door into the kitchen a smile flickering round the corners of her mouth.
“Shine? Oh, No thanks. Plane’s fine.”
“You sure?” She called, with a snort of laughter. You seem a bit rattled. Surely old Bubba didn’t scare you that much. If so, bathroom’s just inside here down the hall.”
“Oh, no ma’am. I suppose I’m just warn out from walking. My car broke down a couple miles back as I was finishing my sales route for the day, and I made the mistake of misjudging the heat.”
“Thought you’d just pop on in on Miss Mazie and save her soul with one of them bibles, did you?”
“Huh? I don’t reckon I’m in the business of saving anybody’s soul ma’am, I’m just trying to make enough money to get a little better place to live than the little room I live in above Sissie’s Bakery.”
“Oh goodness. You living up there?” She’d asked as she’d handed him a wonderfully frosty cold glass of honey lemonade with fresh sprigs of lavender sticking out of the top. “Hot as hell this time of year in that little room I’d bet.” Miss Mazie allowed.
“Look, Billy Ray is it?” She asked, settling herself into the rocker opposite his, tossing her ponytail over her shoulder as she began to rock. “You got to quit that calling me ma’am. You’re Makin’ me feel older than Mother Gaia and I aint’ quite that old no matter what them three boys told you.”
He’d nearly dropped his glass of lemonade. “How in all hell?” He thought again.
“You don’t happen to have any handyman knowhow, do you?” She’d asked.
“Um? Actually yes, Ma’am… um? Miss Mazie, I do. My dad and I used to have a business together, but he had an accident and passed away.
“Oh, I am real sorry to hear that. Well, anyhow, I bought this house as a fixer upper and now can’t seem to find anyone willing to do the fixing up. There’s a decent apartment overtop that old garage in back, and if you’re not afraid of the town’s folk and their talk, I’d be happy to give you a place to stay and a little pay in return for your work on the place.”
To say that the offer had taken him by surprise would’ve been a huge understatement, but he’d accepted it without even giving it any thought. In fact, it seemed to him as he thought it all over now, he’d said yes before she’d quite finished speaking.
Turning onto his side, and drifting toward sleep he thought, “Strange indeed. But beats the hell out of selling bibles and living in this oven like room.”
*** Well, that’s the end of the first three chapters. If you’ve read along with me this far, I say thank you, and I’d love to know what you think.
Come back next week for more from James Landing and all who live within.
ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER
Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer and Social Media Promotional Assistant.
She is the owner and creator of Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing, and is the published author of two books, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, and Bubba Tails From the Puppy Nursery At The Seeing Eye.
She can also be found in two anthologies which are, December Awethology Light
And A Treasure Chest of Children’s Tales
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