BassMan and I spent last night in Mobile, Alabama, while on the way home from our son’s graduation from the U.S. Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. It’s been quite a trip so far, and I haven’t had any time to work on revisions to THE SWORD SWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER.
Here’s a New Year’s Day sample from Sheila’s childhood section of the novel:
Everyone was gathered around the red Formica table playing Yahtzee on New Year’s Eve. Everyone except Ernest and Candy, who sat doubled up and leading the conversation, while Grandma, Aunt Cissy, and Mama rolled and scored. I moped over to the table, where Grandma pulled me to her side and told me I could roll for her as long as she could give the cup its orders.
The grown-ups were drinking something orange in a fancy pedestal glass. When I asked what it was, Grandma said it was hellfire and did I want a sip?
“Eww!” I told her no.
“That’s what you said about coffee and you liked it.”
Mama cocked her head to Grandma. “You gave her coffee?”
“Why not? I gave it to you at her age.”
Mama nodded. “Yeah, and look how good I turned out.” Mama took a swig of her hellfire and waved the glass. “Here’s to apricot brandy and Yahtzee.” She put the glass down with a thump, swiped the dice from the table and threw them into the cup.
“Whoa there, Edie,” said Grandma. “You’re not used to that stuff.”
“Then I should get more used to it.” She took another gulp and laughed like I’d never heard before.
I liked this happy New Year’s Eve Mama. She smiled like one of her soap opera heroines and even sparkled when we turned out the lights for the ten second countdown to the new year. When Grandma switched on the lights at midnight, Mama was gazing at Ernest like I’d seen Daddy look at Marnie. He was looking back at her with the same starry eyes. I glanced over to see if Aunt Cissy noticed, but she was refilling Candy’s 7-up glass.
Grandma picked up her hellfire, held it aloft, and said, “Here’s to the new year and new lives.” The grownups clinked their hellfire, Candy and I clicked our 7-up and then Mama grabbed Ernest and planted a long one on his lips. My heart dropped to my gut. Ernest was Aunt Cissy’s boyfriend. Or so we thought.