cambridge book review

Bad Axe

Ann Morrison

An excerpt from the novel, Bad Axe

__________

Photo: Ann Morrison

The mellifluous tones of Arnie Arneson, reading the week’s obituaries, greeted John as he entered the kitchen. Elaine was standing over the stove top, frying bacon and eggs, and Floyd was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee—black, of course—from a white stoneware cup. He was wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt, usually reserved for church.

John poured himself a cup of coffee and said, “Breakfast smells good,” as he searched the refrigerator for the half-and-half.

“Shh,” admonished Elaine. She was listening intently to the radio.

A few minutes later, after the death report, Arnie turned it over to Merle Haggard. We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee, We don’t take our trips on LSD . . . Elaine served the men their bacon, eggs, and toast and then sat down herself. John pondered the eternal question as he chewed: Was Merle Haggard serious when he wrote “Okie from Muskogee,” or was his intention tongue-in-cheek? The singer had been arrested at the Milwaukee airport several years ago for possession—everybody knew that. We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse. Oh yeah, it was Memorial Day. He thought about the cocaine stashed in his closet and the marijuana he was growing at the old Gateman homestead and felt a wave of guilt. He took a gulp of his creamy coffee and it passed.

“Stump Yanske’s funeral going to be at the Jensen Funeral Parlor or the Haugrud?” asked Floyd. “I didn’t quite catch it.”

“At Haugrud’s on Thursday. We’d better at least go to the visitation and sign the book,” said Elaine.

John continued eating with relish, bringing his fork to his mouth with his left hand, in English fashion. When he first arrived in the United States, he had made an attempt to use his fork with his right hand, like Americans did, but he was left-handed anyway and had quickly given up. He felt healthy this morning, free of the hangover he’d suffered the day before yesterday, after the senior party.

“Did you hear about the holdup at the Quick Stop Friday night?” asked Floyd.

John and Elaine nodded; of course they had heard about it. They knew Floyd’s question was largely rhetorical, but he had been to coffee at Little Chicago yesterday, after church, and was eager to share the information he had gathered.

“Apparently they had a sawed-off shotgun and got away with over ten-thousand dollars. They were wearing ski masks, so nobody could tell who they were. I bet they were some of those city people who’ve moved up here from Chicago. Chief Larson wouldn’t say a word about it. He says he’s gonna leave it up to his deputy to investigate.”

“Well, if I know one thing, there’s no way that little gas station could have had that much cash in the register,” said Elaine. “You can’t believe everything those old gossips up to the restaurant say.”

John silently agreed. The entire village of Harmony consisted of a tavern, five residences—one of them being Leroy’s tumble-down farmhouse and barn—a boat ramp, and the Harmony Quick Stop gas station. Even though it was located on a main highway, it didn’t do a big business.

“It looks like Chief Larson is finally going to retire,” said Floyd.

“That’s too bad,” said Elaine. “Let’s see if young deputy Hauge can put his fancy-pants degree to work and solve that crime.”

On the radio, Arnie Arneson introduced Pete Towner, owner of Towner’s Dime Store, who hosted the WBDX game “Man on the Street,” Pete being the Man. The Memorial Day parade was today, and John realized that WBDX was broadcasting from uptown. “Man on the Street” consisted of Pete, standing on the corner of Main and Decker, challenging passersby to guess which card he was holding up. If they guessed correctly, they were awarded fifty cents.

“Well, here’s a guy who’s quite a regular on the show,” Arnie announced. “Jeff Manning.”

“Isn’t that Leroy’s little brother?” asked Elaine.

John nodded.

“Okay, young man,” Pete Towner was saying. “Can you tell me which card I’m holding up?”

“Queen of spades,” they heard Jeff answer.

“You’re right!” said Pete. “I suppose you want your fifty cents?”

“Yes, sir,” said Jeff.

Floyd frowned. “That kid sure seems to win a lot.” John smiled. He knew that Leroy’s youngest brother had memorized the marks on the back of Pete’s beat-up old cards and wondered how long it would take Pete and Arnie to catch on.

“I heard that there senior party of yours”—Floyd turned the words “senior party” around his mouth as if he were tasting something sour—“down at Harmony Hollow Lake, turned into a downright riot.”

“I don’t know about that  … ” started John.

Floyd didn’t let him finish. “They said up to the restaurant that every single picnic table was burned down to a crisp, and that the shelter was half tipped over.” He gave his nephew a pointed look as if he were personally responsible for the world going to hell. “Somebody’s gonna have to pay for that damage, you know.”

John knew he should remain quiet, but sometimes, when Floyd exaggerated so wildly, he couldn’t refrain. “How on earth would anybody be able to tip over the shelter without a bulldozer?” he asked.

Elaine stepped in. “Do you know this long-legged hound here didn’t get home from it until ten o’clock on Saturday morning?”

“I told you, Grandma, we got stranded down there. I wasn’t planning on going in the first place. There aren’t any phones down at Harmony Hollow, or I would have called.”

“Us old ladies get worried, that’s all. All I’m asking is to know you’re not laying dead in a ditch somewhere.”

“I’m sorry. Next time I’ll walk to a phone if I have to.” Elaine and Floyd fretted about enough things already and dragged him in on their nervousness far more than he wanted. John certainly didn’t want to add fuel to their fire. He stood up to get started on his day. Elaine pulled a perfect, lattice-topped rhubarb pie from the oven and set it upon a wire cooling rack on the kitchen counter.

When he walked to his room to get dressed, Elaine called out behind him, “I don’t want you wearing those holey jeans when we go uptown later.”

He hadn’t realized he was expected to come with them to the parade and the cemetery service. He certainly hadn’t planned on it, but as he was already in the doghouse for not coming home Friday night, he decided not to resist.

“Can I at least wear jeans, if they’re not too faded?” he called out from his room.

“Ja, you can. I bought you two new pairs of Penney’s pants, the day before yesterday.”

John groaned out loud. JC Penney Plain Pocket jeans were absolutely loathsome, in addition to which the word “pants” still made him flinch. In England, pants were underwear, worn under trousers. He thought mutinously about his grandma’s purchase. Hadn’t they been over this issue enough? It was Levi’s or nothing at all. Elaine, however, couldn’t see her way to buying jeans that cost twice as much as ones that appeared, to her eye, exactly the same. So John bought his own Levi’s using the money he earned at the theater.

Looking in his closet, he spotted the reviled jeans. Draped over a hanger, with permanently ironed creases in front, they were dark, dark blue with unfashionably belled bottoms. Straighter-legged jeans were coming into style. He took off the comfortably broken-in Levi’s he had worn to breakfast and pulled on the Penney’s pants. “I look like a dork,” he said to his reflection in the mirror. He took a silky shirt with a vivid paisley pattern he liked off another hanger and slipped it on, leaving the two top buttons undone.

By the time they were ready to go, his grandma had changed into a bright red double-knit polyester pantsuit. A white blouse with blue polka dots peaked from beneath the blazer. She had accessorized with red clip-on earrings and a red, round-bead plastic necklace. Floyd wore a dark pair of cotton old-man pants, as John thought of them, and his white, rayon church shirt.

“Are you sure you won’t be cold in short sleeves?” Elaine asked.

Floyd answered with a noncommittal grunt. Elaine handed John the pie before walking out the door. Floyd folded two chrome lawn chairs and set them into his car’s voluminous trunk.

As they drove uptown in Floyd’s Oldsmobile, John, in the back seat, held the pie on his lap. The car was less than a year old and immaculate. It still had that new car smell. Although Floyd could have afforded a Lincoln, or even a Cadillac, after he sold the farm, a new Oldsmobile had been plenty good enough. He cared little for parting with his money, and like most of the older Norwegians in the area, put little store in showing off.

“I hope we’re not too late to get a decent parking spot,” said Floyd, as he pulled onto the highway. But despite his apparent hurry, John noticed that the speedometer’s needle never crossed the forty-five mile per hour mark the whole way to town.

There was ample parking available when they got uptown. A few people were scattered along the two business blocks, but probably fewer than fifty in total. Floyd parked around the corner from the State Bank.

“Are you sure this parade starts at ten o’clock and not ten-thirty?” he asked as he retrieved the lawn chairs from the trunk.

“Positive,” said Elaine. “I read it in the paper.”

“Harrumph,” said Floyd. “I guess nobody gives a hoot about this country anymore. Things have gone to hell in a handbasket, if you ask me.”

“This used to be quite the parade when I was a young girl,” said Elaine.

Floyd put their chairs on the sidewalk in front of the old Gateman Opera House. John sat down on the concrete curb in front of them, feeling fed up with their insistence that nothing in his own supposed day measured up to the past. It made him feel left out. He had missed out on knowing Bad Axe as a thriving community. He despaired of coming of age in the late seventies; it was a nothing time, not full of patriotism and optimism like the forties or fifties, or fun and social revolution like the sixties. What did his generation stand for? Nothing, he supposed, other than generalized worrying, about recession, careers, who knows what—just a general sense of malaise as they looked toward an uncertain future.

John listened as Floyd went on. “I wish the stores were still open on Friday nights instead of Thursdays. If you ask me, changing it was for the birds.” He was talking with an elderly couple who had unfolded their lawn chairs next to his and Elaine’s. “We used to come up early on Fridays to get the parking space in front of the dime store,” he continued. “We’d sit there half the night visiting.”

The man next to Floyd agreed. “Everybody was uptown on Friday nights those days.”

“We certainly had mobs of people in the store,” said Elaine, looking back at the Opera House and sighing. “There was barely room to swing a cat.”

John spotted Otto, Sirenus, and Ikey across the street, leaning against the theater’s marquee, and waved at them. He could tell Otto was trying to catch Elaine’s eye, but she was still talking with the couple next to them.

The sounds of drums and trumpets echoed down the street. A minute later, the middle school band slouched around the corner one block away. They trudged down Main Street, playing the theme from Hawaii Five-O. Their uniforms were awkwardly retailored hand-me-downs from the high school band, for whom they had been purchased shortly after the Korean War.

John remained seated on the curb as Miss Bad Axe and her two attendants rolled past, sitting on the back of the back seat of a convertible, smiling and performing their figure-eight, beauty-queen wave. Miss Bad Axe, despite being somewhat homely, was resplendent in her apricot-colored formal, rhinestone tiara, and creamy, elbow-length gloves. A satin sash with “Miss Bad Axe—1978” spelled out in glitter was draped diagonally across her chest. She was a girl in the grade below John’s, an overachiever, much like Suzanne, he thought. After all, hadn’t Suzanne been Miss Bad Axe last year? He couldn’t remember for sure; he’d have to ask her. Maybe she had been a runner-up or something. A wave of happiness and desire washed through him as he thought about their night in the tent. They were planning to meet this afternoon. He couldn’t wait. I am so in love, he thought, but quickly told himself to snap out of it. He didn’t want to look foolish and scare her off.

Jill De Garmo, in the Girl Scout formation, approached. She wildly waved a tiny American flag at him as she walked by. He smiled and waved back, glad to see she had gotten her flag.

“Stand up, Johnny,” he heard his grandma order. She and Floyd had already creaked to their feet.

Those two would force me to my feet if they thought they smelled a flag five blocks away, he thought, but he stood up.

John, having spent most of his life in Western Europe, never failed to wonder at the idolatrous reverence Americans had for their flag. But he had never spoken these traitorous thoughts aloud, not even to Leroy.

He sat back down, sprawled his long dark blue–clad legs into the street, and watched the Kiwanis, Lions, and Eagles go past, waving and grinning, perched atop decorated hay wagons pulled by pickups. He got to his feet again when he spotted the American flag leading the Bad Axe High School band up the street. They marched, far more in step than the middle school band had, playing the theme from the rock opera Tommy. That’s an odd song to pick, John thought, listening to the clarinets squeak out the too-high chorus. He waved at Leroy’s little brother Henry, who was in the fifth row playing snare drum. Henry nodded back and smiled, not missing a beat. A squad of scraggly pom-pom girls in white go-go boot—the girls who had been either too chubby or too shy to make cheerleading—performed their routine behind the band.

The parade wrapped up with the VFW and Legion color guards marching to a slightly slower beat than the high school band in front of them. The men, with the beat of Tommy in their ears, were having trouble keeping in step. John didn’t bother sitting back down; with a dozen or more American flags in a two-block radius, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. He wondered why Elaine and Floyd had bothered bringing chairs in the first place. Leroy’s father, Mooney Manning, a Korean vet, marched by carrying a rifle in the Legion color guard, next to Leland Hendrickson and a few more of his tavern buddies. Halfway down the block, they executed a backward step and, after a barked command, shot their guns straight up in the air. John jumped. I’ll never get used to that, he thought, but kept his mouth shut.

“Well, that parade doesn’t amount to much anymore,” said Floyd as he folded up the chairs. “Half of the people here didn’t even put their hands over their hearts when the flag went by. You didn’t either, Johnny. Do you think you’re too good to show respect to America?”

John shrugged. He wasn’t remotely interested in opening up this can of worms.

“Nobody respects the flag anymore,” Floyd continued, grumbling under his breath.

They hurried back to the Oldsmobile, John bringing up the rear. There were only about twenty cars uptown, but Floyd said he didn’t want to fight the traffic on the way to the cemetery.

“Keep an eye on that pie back there,” said Elaine when John got in the back seat. “We don’t want it getting smashed when Floyd goes around the corners.”

Fat chance, John thought with a smile. Floyd never drives over five miles an hour in town. He put his hands on the sides of the pie tin anyway, as if steadying it, and closed his eyes, imagining his uncle speeding around a corner so fast that his lumber wagon of an Oldsmobile lifted itself onto two wheels.

Floyd crawled down Governor Street, through the oldest residential area in town, gripping the steering wheel with all his might. Who in Bad Axe would have ever had enough money to build such gorgeous, ornate Victorian homes? John wondered. His heart softened a bit toward Floyd and Elaine. He knew it must be painful, having lived their whole lives in this town, to witness its deterioration, bit by bit, with every passing year.

“Tell Otto he needs to mow his lawn, Johnny!” said Elaine, as they passed by a slightly dilapidated white Victorian. “It doesn’t look like he’s done it yet this spring and he knows people drive around looking on Memorial Day.”

John remained silent as Elaine continued.

“If he can’t do it himself anymore, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. None of us are getting any younger, you know. He should get some kid to help him. Why don’t you do it?”

John didn’t answer. He would certainly be willing to mow Otto’s lawn, but the subject would be awkward to broach.

Floyd pulled up to the cemetery on the edge of town and parked across the street from Wyman Hauge’s sprawling new split-level house. It was an imposing, dark brown structure with a two-car garage, walk-out basement, and small aluminum windows.

John studied the basketball hoop above the white concrete driveway and noted that Doug’s Camaro occupied one of the garage bays. The backyard was totally enclosed with eight-foot-tall privacy fencing.

“What on earth are they doing back there that they don’t want folks to see?” asked Floyd.

John smiled. He had been used to privacy fencing back in London, but he agreed that it looked out of place in Bad Axe.

“What I want to know,” said Elaine, looking at the house and shaking her head, “is how on earth that man can afford to buy up half of Main Street, right after he built this great big house.”

“Wyman Hauge owes everybody in town,” said Floyd, “but I guess that’s how young folks do business these days. Sure wasn’t like that when we were growing up. He never lived through the Depression. Remember how he used to beat his kids in church, of all places?”

“Is it true he bought that trailer park south of town?” asked Elaine.

“That’s what I’ve been hearing,” said John.

“That man will do anything for a dollar,” she said. “I hear his son the police officer is building a brand-new house on the other side of town.”

That’s probably why he’s dealing, thought John. To pay for a bunch of new toys.

A pair of black, wrought-iron gates, with the year 1925 inscribed on the top, marked the entrance to the municipal cemetery. An even older cemetery sat behind the Legion clubhouse, but when Bad Axe was expanding in the early decades of the century, the town council had created a new, bigger one on the edge of town. As there hadn’t been a lot of growth since 1925, it was still bordered by farmland. John’s great-great-grandfather, Nathaniel Gateman, had originally been buried in the old cemetery, but his body was dug up and moved to this one sometime in the late twenties.

John trailed behind Elaine and Floyd, who were walking as fast as their legs could carry them toward the white gazebo where the Memorial Day services were always held. Floyd had dragged the lawn chairs with, and set them up next to the World War I memorial, a field of white marble crosses commemorating the men from Bad Axe who hadn’t made it home from France.

Elaine joined a group of brightly clad old ladies. “Those are lovely petunias you put next to Jack’s flag this year. Where on earth did you get them?” John heard one of them ask, as he sat down on the grass.

John’s grandfather, Jack, had managed the Veterans of Foreign Wars club all through the fifties and early sixties, and Elaine was still a member of the Auxiliary. She had told John that “the girls and her” had spent Friday at the cemetery, pushing hundreds of little American flags into the soil above the veterans’ graves. Jack had served as a master sergeant in the Pacific during World War II, and a lot of men from Bad Axe County had been in his unit. His army uniform still hung in the attic.

The crowd rose to their feet when the VFW color guard raised their American flag on a pole next to the gazebo. The Legion vets were somehow lower on the food chain than the VFW vets and made no move to compete for the only flagpole. John studied Mooney Manning’s bulbous red nose, watching as he juggled his rifle with shaking hands, trying to light a cigarette. He wondered where Leroy was today, and felt glad that Mooney only had blanks in his gun. A heavyset woman, from the Legion Auxiliary, stepped onto the gazebo’s platform and recited a poem that extolled, in rhyming verse, the virtues of The Flag. John surmised that there were more than a hundred people in the crowd, and noted that most had gray hair. His grandma had recently remarked on how all the World War II vets were slowing down, and he saw direct evidence of this today. Other than the members of the high school band, for whom attendance was mandatory, John realized he was the only young person present. A few middle-aged men were there, men who had come of age in the fifties, men who were a part of that conservative generation that, so it seemed to John, were afraid of breaking any rules. They paled in the long shadow of the bolder, more glamorous generation that directly preceded them—the generation that had lived through the Depression and won World War II. His father had come of age in the fifties, and John wondered how he had turned out so much more interesting than the men that stood before him. Maybe he had been different from the start. Maybe that was why he left the United States in the first place.

Then he thought about Bill, who had served a tour in Viet Nam. Bill never talked about it, even when he was drinking heavily, which was pretty much all of the time. John scanned the audience and noticed that the Viet Nam vets were conspicuous for their absence.

A freshman band kid he didn’t know stepped onto the platform and recited the famous poem about Flanders Field. Next, the minister of Bethlehem Baptist Church gave a sermon the point of which seemed to be, to John’s ears anyway, that if you didn’t believe in the flag, God wanted you the hell out of this country. John attempted to tune him out. Someone, hidden behind a knoll, played taps, and more blanks were fired. The Memorial Day ceremonies were officially over. John felt relieved.

He stood up and saw his grandma wipe a tear from her eye and suddenly felt ashamed of his impatience. For Elaine, and many of her generation, this was a day of remembrance, a way of honoring the love she had had for her husband and the many other friends who had passed away. Otto loped toward them from behind the knoll, trumpet in hand. He had been the one playing taps.

“Will I see you at the VFW fish fry later?” he asked Elaine.

“I don’t think we’ll make it this year,” she answered. “After I go visit Jack, Floyd and I are going out to put flowers on Ma and Pa’s graves down at Vangen. My circle is serving at the church dinner.”

“I’ll walk with you for a ways then,” said Otto. “I’m planning to stop by my folks’ too.”

Otto’s family was buried right past the Gatemans’ plots, so they walked along the winding blacktop path, beneath the fragrant cedars’ shade, reminiscing about bygone people of the town.

“I know them,” Elaine said, pointing at several small headstones chiseled with the name Decker.

“Yup, that old Sam Decker was something else,” agreed Otto, smiling. “He was Sirenus’s uncle, you know.”

Elaine nodded. Of course she knew.

John realized that the people in the cemetery played as big a part in their daily consciousness as did the live people with whom they dealt every day.

When they stopped at the Gateman burial area, Otto gave Jack’s stone a small salute and continued toward his own family plot. John looked down at his grandfather’s grave. It had a newer black marble marker, with grandma’s name already chiseled alongside Jack’s. Jack Eugene Gateman, 1910–1969, it said on the left, and Elaine Mae Gateman, 1913–, on the right. Seeing his still-living grandmother’s name on a gravestone made him shiver. A tall white obelisk, lichen-covered and mossy, had GATEMAN, in old-fashioned lettering, inscribed on it. It loomed large behind various individual markers, some old, some newer, like his grandparents’ modest black one.

Many of the stones in the cemetery had reddish orange geraniums planted in front of them. These were part of a “perpetual care” package offered by the cemetery board for a fee—usually paid by descendants who had moved away. Elaine filled the plastic ice-cream bucket that hung on a metal spigot nearby and unceremoniously dumped the water into a raised flowerpot next to her husband’s grave.

“That’ll do for a few days,” she said. She was always practical.

John followed as they meandered back through the cemetery, talking more about the dead people they were acquainted with. They passed back through the metal gates to Floyd’s car.

“See you later,” said John.

“Aren’t you coming to the church with us?” asked Elaine.

“I’ve got some stuff to do at the theater.”

“What could be so darn important there that you can’t come with us?” asked Floyd.

“Oh, let the boy go. He’s got his own responsibilities,” said Elaine.

“Yes, the show must go on,” said John, feebly attempting to shake the scowl off Floyd’s face.

Floyd gave him a wave as he pulled out. He was forgiven.

His new jeans swished uncomfortably on the walk uptown. He suddenly realized that he and his grandmother were the only Gatemans left in Bad Axe who weren’t six feet under. Maybe that could be remedied if he had a lot of kids. The thought made him smile.

On Governor Street he smelled the newly mown grass and looked at the expansive houses, set well back from the shady street. He loved this part of town. It had a feeling of permanence. He didn’t even mind Otto’s house. It was homey in its shabbiness, with its old stone hitching post by the front walk, and a grapevine that obscured the front porch. Otto’s garage, tucked neatly to the rear, had originally been a carriage house. Looking at the bumper crop of gone-to-seed dandelions, though, he had to admit that his grandma was right about the lawn needing a trim.

Who wants a drive-in house like the Hauges? John thought. These old ones seem friendlier. He shook his head; his mind was starting to sound like Floyd.

His heart skipped, anticipating meeting Suzanne in a few minutes. He felt a thorough and unaccustomed happiness and quickened his pace. When he got uptown and crossed Main Street at the south stoplight, he spotted her leaning against the theater’s foyer, just as he and Leroy had done for countless hours over the last couple of years. His heart went to his throat. When she caught his eye and waved, he broke into a large, involuntary smile. So much for playing it cool, he thought, full of joy.

She was wearing a rust-colored, cap-sleeved T-shirt that showed off her figure and brought out the highlights in her dark hair, and a pair of fifty-dollar Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. He became aware again of his cheap, unfashionable Penney’s Plain Pockets.

His heart beat rapidly when he opened the theater’s front door and pulled her in behind him.

__________

Ann Morrison is a fifth-generation native of Viroqua, Wisconsin, her great-great-grandfather Nathanial having been one of the town’s founders. At eighteen, she left, as did many of her peers, and attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison. After college, she spent several years in southern California, then left the United States, moving to East London, where she lived in a squatting community for over a decade.

She returned to Viroqua in 1998 to raise her daughter Judy. She has been a regular feature contributor to the Kickapoo Free Press and the Vernon County Broadcaster. Her stories have been published in the collection Spirit of America, published by Speranza Publishing of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

June 20, 2013 - Posted by | novel | , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. I love this and look forward to reading more.

    Comment by Angela Brooke | June 20, 2013 | Reply

  2. Wow! I was completely drawn into this snippet of time & felt like a quiet/ invisible guest moving along with everyone from one setting to the next. The reality of Ann’s settings and mindset of characters in a midwestern small town a quarter of a century ago is extraordinary.

    I can infer facial expressions from her characters voices/thoughts; taste the tang of the rhubarb pie; empathize with John at his grandmother’s lack of understanding about the difference in a pair of Levi’s and a pair of JCP plain pocket stiff denim blue jeans; smell the exhaust of the Oldsmobile; chuckle as I mentally step back, dodging the splash as Gram “unceremoniously dumped the water into a raised flowerpot next to her husband’s grave.” I think Ann may have created a classic treasure of time and temperament with her book, Bad Axe. Baby boomers will relate to John, and teens will be surprised to discover his feelings of frustration and excitement…are so close to what they experience today. Haven’t felt this connection to a book since reading “The Help” and “The Secret Life of Bees.”

    Comment by Maurine Fritz | June 20, 2013 | Reply

  3. Ann,
    Thanks for sending this first chapter. I can’t wait for more. Reading it feels like I’m with you and you’re telling me a story. Your characters feel very familiar to me, and I think I recognize main street. Love it. Thanks!

    Dee

    Comment by Dee Sullivan | June 20, 2013 | Reply

  4. Well done, Ann. This is a good story. I’m glad to have read the entire manuscript.
    Michael

    Comment by Michael Fedo | June 20, 2013 | Reply

  5. I truly enjoyed reading this excerpt. It captured the time and place in rural Wisconsin very well. I can’t wait to read the rest of this book!

    Comment by Rusty James | June 21, 2013 | Reply

  6. I read the entire story and enjoyed it immensely. It is a pitch-perfect depiction of small town midwestern life written by an author who perceptively chronicles the cadences and nuances of said world.

    Comment by Brian Ekern | June 21, 2013 | Reply

  7. Had the opportunity to read the entire manuscript and found that I could not put it down. Though not from the mid-west, the descriptions of the town as well as the characters jumped off the pages. So much so that in my minds eye, I could clearly see the town as it had existed. I was disappointed when the pages came to an end, finding myself wanting to read more. Looking forward to the sequel.

    Comment by Peter Fraenkel | June 21, 2013 | Reply

  8. This was great! I can so relate to the characters and the setting. I grew up in a small rural town in Wisconsin and it was fun going back to my roots. I am excited to see this book in print in it’s entirerty.

    Comment by Sara DeLap | June 21, 2013 | Reply

  9. I loved the reverence for history in this chapter, both of community and of family.
    I felt John’s respect for Elaine and Floyd. I sensed the town sliding down hill.The Penney’s jeans scenario made me squirm with my own similar memories. I laughed when the junior high band slouched around the corner.
    This is a perfect blend of all that was good and bad about being young in a small town during the 60’s and 70’s. I knew this place.
    I can’t wait for this book to hit the shelves.

    Comment by Kay Vance | June 22, 2013 | Reply

  10. After reading only this first chapter I was completely enthralled and already committed to the characters. I have found myself thinking about this book through out the day and can’t wait to find out what happens next!

    Comment by Judith Fox | June 26, 2013 | Reply


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