Thursday, August 31, 2023

Goodbye, August

Waiting for pick up

Coming attraction

                                                           Purple pickerelweed


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A Serendipitous Misplacement and Discovery


Oh, my! I recently discovered three unread paperbacks that have been languishing out of sight in my workroom. I remember buying them back in 2009  when I was one of a number of authors at Murder on the Menu in Wetumpka, Alabama. 

Deborah Crombie, Cara Black, and William Kent Krueger were among the authors, and I bought books by each of them. I devoured Deb and Cara's novels and began to follow their mystery series--one set in the UK, the other in Paris. I'd been strongly impressed by Kent Krueger's talk about his novels, set in rural Minnesota, as well as by his delightful personality, and had every intention of diving into his series. But, somehow, it didn't happen, and the books got misplaced. 

My loss then--but what a bonus for me now! Back then, there were only three books in the Cork O'Connor series. And now there are eighteen!

Total immersion in a beautiful, backwoods setting, compelling situations, twisting plots, and a continuing storyline with characters I already love. Heaven!

I spent much of Tuesday's rainy day deep in the Boundary Waters, the Quetico-Superior Wilderness, "more than two million acres of forest, white-water rapids, and uncharted islands on the Canadian-American border," with a missing country-western singer and the various men who are trying to find her--some to rescue her--others to kill her. 

This series reminds me of one of my favorites--Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee novels. Cork O'Connor is part Anishinaabe, and the Native culture is strong in these stories. 

I zipped through Iron Lake and am halfway through Boundary Waters now and glad that Purgatory Ridge is within reach. As for the rest of the series--with Kindle, I can scratch the itch whenever. 

What a treat!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Family Ephemera

What a surprise! The daughter of my (late) mother's (late) longtime friend sent me this mixed bag of clippings and photos from the Thirties and Forties. 

Many of these are familiar to me--my grandmother was an assiduous scrapbooker--but at this remove in time I am struck  by their youth. I think my father was 25 and my mother 24 when they married. 

Frances, John's mother, was even younger.

I knew (from my grandmother's scrapbooks) of my grandfather's work for war bonds and his encounter with film star Veronica Lake. I've seen pictures of him on stage with the blonde bombshell and he doesn't look nearly so stern. In fact, he appears to be enjoying himself right much.


Monday, August 28, 2023

Turkish Borek

A bit like spanakopita, Turkish Borek is really tasty and fairly simple to assemble.  We had it warm for supper, accompanied by a tomato cucumber, pepper salad. The next day, cold, it accompanied a more substantial salmon, Napa, and carrot slaw. Still delicious. Cold, it was firmer and a bit more strongly feta-flavored.

Phyllo (or filo) is such cool stuff. Thin, thin sheets that look like sheer fabric. Handle carefully, though tears aren't a big deal.

One layers it lavishly, moistening the layers with an egg/milk/yoghurt mixture. As I recall, when I made spanakopita, melted butter in large quantities was the moistener, resulting in a crackly pastry. Borek is breadier (and lees guilt-inducing.)

Lightly sauteed spinach and onion, along with feta cheese is the filling.

The filling is topped with more phyllo and the yogurt moistener, then finished off with a wash of egg yolks and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. One cuts the portions before baking. (Though they'll have to be recut to some extent.)

The whole thing can be assembled and refrigerated overnight before baking. Or frozen. This would be a nice party dish, cut in smaller pieces as appetizers.

Spinach and Feta Cheese Börek – Turkish Borek Recipe
By Aysegul Sanford (SEE HER BLOG HERE)
Yields: 12 slices
Prep Time: 30minutes 
Cook Time: 35 minutes 


 Spinach and Feta filling

1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 medium-size onion, chopped
16 oz. baby spinach leaves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Milk Yogurt Mixture

3 tablespoon olive oil or any vegetable oil such as avocado oil
½ cup whole milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 package of Phyllo Dough thawed overnight in the fridge
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
½ teaspoon Nigella seeds optional (I used black and white sesame seeds)


1. Cook the filling: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan at medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper. Cook it, tossing it every few minutes using kitchen tongs, until the spinach loses most of its volume, around 5 minutes. Give it a stir and turn the heat off. Let it cool for 15 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Make the yogurt milk mixture: Whisk olive oil, milk, egg, yogurt, salt, and black pepper in a bowl until combined.

4. To assemble: Line a baking sheet ( 12X17--though I used a slightly smaller pan) with parchment paper. In a single layer, place sheets of phyllo dough onto the parchment paper. Use as many sheets as you need to make sure that the pan’s whole surface is covered. It is okay if some filo is overhanging on the sides.
5. Place another layer of phyllo on top of the first, again making sure that the bottom of the pan is covered. Pour 3-4 tablespoons of the milk mixture on the top layer of dough and brush it over the filo sheets, making sure that it is evenly spread.
6. Stack another two layers of phyllo dough on top of the first two. Again, brush the milk mixture over the top phyllo sheet. Then, cover the top sheet with one more layer of phyllo dough—not two. Do not brush the top sheet with the milk mixture again.
7. Spread the now-cooled spinach and crumbled feta cheese evenly over the top layer of phyllo sheets.
8. Place another two layers of phyllo sheets over the filling, covering it completely. Brush another 3-4 teaspoons of the milk mixture over the topmost sheet. Then, place two final layers of phyllo dough on top of the washed layer, and brush the top with the milk mixture. You should have 9 layers of dough in total.
9. If there are sheets overhanging on the side, fold them in towards the pastry’s center and make sure that they are brushed with the milk mixture. At this point, the borek should look nicely moist and tightly packed.
10. Using a sharp knife, pre-slice borek into 12 equal pieces 
11. Mix egg yolks in a bowl.
12. Brush each slice with egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds and nigella seeds if using.
13. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until it turns golden brown.
14. Let it cool for a few minutes, slice, and serve while it is still warm.


Saturday, August 26, 2023

Outdated Words


Saw this on Facebook yesterday and thought, Yep, I'm at least that old. Then I remembered when I referred to my cell phone as a telephone and Josie corrected me. "Meema, this (picking up a vintage rotary dial phone we gave her as a toy) is a telephone."

I still say typing instead of keyboarding.

What else? I have occasionally referred to the refrigerator as an ice box--not because I remember them but because my grandmother did and that's what she called the refrigerator.

My grandparents also called a bicycle a wheel, and a blouse a waist, but I never adopted those terms. Jeans were dungarees (which is a kinda cool word--though cool is probably old school now,) and, instead of a purse, my grandmother had a pocketbook. I may still occasionally use that term, though I rarely carry anything but a credit card wallet that fits in my pocket. 

What about you--are there any outmoded words you still use?

(I'm tempted to go into a little rant about words such as truth, honesty, politeness, decency, all of which are endangered in some quarters. But I won't.)


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Puzzling with Josie

Yesterday after school. Meema had a jigsaw puzzle she wanted me to help her with. I have not done puzzles before except for the wooden ones for little kids. This one had a hundred pieces and a picture of a princess and a unicorn and a castle and a lot of flowers.

We worked hard on it and first we got the princess (most of her) and some of the unicorn and some of the big flowers. We kept making progress and I found out that I am good at puzzles. I know how to look for certain things--like the unicorn's mane or the other half of a big red flower. 

Me and Meema were a good team--though I found most of the pieces. When Meema got a text from Mama to say that she was home, we had done all but three pieces. And it was easy to see where they went.

I got packed up to go. My backpack is big but it's not that heavy.

Oh! I forgot to tell you. I have two new friends at school. And I have another friend (and his mom) who are coming to visit this weekend. 

So much good stuff is happening!


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Incorrigible Rogue


For years my friend, the writer Cynn Chadwick, had heard stories of her family's origin in the UK, as well as the interesting fact that her great grandmother Mary Anne had a somewhat checkered past. Indeed, had been officially labelled an Incorrigible Rogue.

Well. What's a writer to do? With this intriguing tidbit, Chadwick determined to find out more about her great grandmother, born in Lancashire, England in the 19th century. The author says, "She'd been known to me through family stories as: a fishwife, a drunkard, a whore, and a brawler. There were stories of a husband who fled her, a man who beat her, sons who dragged her from fights in pubs, and yet, something didn't ring true as she'd lived long and kept her family close."

So, Chadwick went to Lancashire to talk to family members and to immerse herself in the surroundings. As she pursued what bits of May Anne's history she could find, she came to the realization that what she was trying to do was to redeem Mary Anne by exploring the possible causes of her behavior.

The novel is rich in incident and the setting is beautifully realized, thanks to the author's extensive on-site research. And  Mary Anne is a terrific and sympathetic protagonist.

Chadwick does an excellent job in redeeming her great grandmother, building on fragments of family legend and imagining the circumstances that produced the woman she began to know. It's a lively tale, a roller coaster of a life, and a redemption song to touch the heart.


Tuesday, August 22, 2023


First day of first grade. When I was waiting to pick her up, 
 I saw her walking to the pickup spot, hand in hand with another little girl. In the car, I asked how her day had been.

Amazing! she said. And I made a bracelet!



Also amazing--we are at last seeing more than the occasional solitary butterfly.

Not the hordes of days gone by but a welcome presence.


Sunday, August 20, 2023

Barnett Mountain Jesus




Sol Gentry wasn’t drunk yet but he was working on it. He had just eased his pickup around a sharp curve on the narrow gravel road and was heading into the pull off where he usually finished his Wednesday six-pack, when he happened to lift up his eyes and see Jesus, shining at him from atop the Barnett Mountain.

‘. . . the hell?’ Sol jerked back his head and squinted through the dust-streaked windshield. The trees were close here along this wooded road and with the low clouds racing across the sky it was hard to get a clear view of the mountain. Sol cut off the ignition, popped the top on the fourth tall boy, and climbed out of the truck to get a better look.

The radiant form hovered above the dark clouds, shimmering white and silver. Sol pulled at the tall boy and studied the mountaintop and the sky around it, trying to get a fix on what it was he was seeing. It looked like white robes and outstretched arms, and he thought he made out that familiar bearded face. But he couldn’t be sure, the way the clouds kept scooting by. Just as quick as he’d start to make some sense of whatever it was, a big old dark cloud’d cover up the whole shebang.

Sol shook his head then pulled off his glasses and wiped the lenses on his shirttail. Still keeping an eye on the place in the clouds where the blurry shape had been, he repositioned the glasses, taking time to settle the ear pieces just so. Hell, if Jesus could put His face on a tortilla, like that Mexican feller at work had claimed, who’s to say He wouldn’t show up here in Madison County?

Barnett Mountain Jesus winked, glinting in the sudden shaft of sunlight that pierced through a scudding cloud to illuminate the mountaintop – all the electric greens of spring brilliant against the roiling purple clouds. Sol narrowed his eyes.

Jesus was pointing right at him.

‘Lord God!” whispered Sol Gentry, and fell to his knees on the gravel at the side of the road, just as the clouds closed, blocking the sun and casting Barnett Mountain into shadow.        


Sol couldn’t say how long he’d been kneeling there but the last of the sunlight was gone and even with his heavy double-reinforced Carhartt workpants, the sharp edges of the gravel were beginning to cut into his knees, which were none too good to begin with. Too many years climbing up and down the steep hills of his little farm, not to mention all the ladders at the plant.

He had to grab hold of the pickup’s bumper to get back to his feet and he found himself wondering how long it was since he’d been on his knees – how long since he’d been to church. He leaned against the truck, thinking over what he’d seen. The unfinished beer on the roof of the cab caught his eye and he reached for it and tilted it to his lips.

A thought struck him. He lowered the can and turned to look at Barnett Mountain. The entire peak was covered up with clouds, pink with the reflected glow of the setting sun. There was no sign of Barnett Mountain Jesus but some obscure sense of being watched prickled at Sol.

‘Reckon this un’s gone flat anyways,’ he muttered and tossed the half-empty can in a high, dribbling arc into the ditch.

It landed with a clink in a patch of wild flowers. Them little purple things is all over this time of year, Sol thought. Pearl’d have a name for them. That woman is a fool for flowers. He remembered how when he’d given one of the hillsides at the farm a good dose of Roundup to kill off the briars, Pearl had busted out crying, naming off all the different kinds of wildflowers he’d just murdered.

Sol looked at the discarded can, red, white, and blue in the midst of the pale purple flowers, heaved a sigh, and bent down to retrieve it. It was laying up against its twin and now that he came to look, he saw that the ditch was full of PBR cans – he’d been stopping here once a week for the past couple of years, ever since Pearl had got so set on going to church in the middle of the week as well as on Sundays.

The little flowers were growing all up and around the beer cans, like they was trying to hide his mess, Sol thought, and all at once he felt ashamed, like he’d throwed his trash in Pearl’s flower beds.

‘You ain’t no better than a pig, Sol Gentry,’ he scolded himself. And right where Jesus can see too, he thought but did not say.

When he was done, the bed of the pickup was covered with his old beer cans from this and other Wednesdays – shiny cans, mud-covered cans, half-crushed cans, cans that had been there so long the color was faded out.

Sol looked at his watch. There was still time.


“You what?’ 

Pearl had been hurrying out to where her Ford was parked when he pulled into the driveway but she stopped in her tracks at his words. Her Bible, in its fancy cover with loop handles, dangled from her arm and car keys jingled in her hand. She was dressed up pretty, Sol thought, in a skirt printed with tiny blue flowers, a crisp white blouse, and a little gold cross just visible above the buttons. He didn’t remember seeing the skirt before. And he noticed for the first time in years that, though her blue eyes had faded and her hair had somehow become more gray than brown, her smile was just the same as back when they were courting – funny little one-sided smile that brought a dimple to her right cheek. The smile and the dimple disappeared when he spoke again.

“I just said I thought I’d go with you to church tonight, Pearl. Hold up a minute while I change my shirt.”

The stunned look on her face put him in mind of something he couldn’t quite name. Then he saw her cut her eyes to the back of the pickup and the great pile of PBR cans.

‘Recycling,’ he told her and headed for the steps. ‘I’ll be right back.’


‘Recycling, he says, and walks into the house! Well, in the first place I knew something weren’t right when he come home early. And to think of him picking up them nasty beer cans when he has always said that recycling is some kind of Liberal plot. But, Louise, you could have knocked me over with a feather when he said he was going to church with me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve begged him to get right with the Lord -- begged till I was plumb wore out with asking. You know how it is – every Wednesday night I leave him some supper on the stove and go to church and pray for his soul. And every Wednesday night, I come back home, just filled up with the anointing of the Spirit and wanting to share the overflow with him and every Wednesday night when I walk in, he’s laying there in his recliner in front of Fox News, snoring like one thing and smelling like a tavern. He thinks because he don’t ever bring beer home that I don’t know . . . and nine times out of ten, he ain’t even touched his nice supper and I wind up feeding it to the dog.’

The two shopping buggies nosed against each other in the cereal aisle as Pearl and Louise held an impromptu consultation. A third buggy, pushed by a thin man with a cell phone to his ear, turned into the aisle then backed out rather than attempting to squeeze past Louise’s ample rump. He left his buggy and sidled past Louise to the organic granolas where, evidently coached by the cell phone, he pulled down one box, read the list of ingredients to the phone, then carried the box back to his buggy and continued on, phone still at his ear.

Louise watched him go with a little disapproving shake of her head. ‘Speaking of supper, someone had ought to feed that feller a little better. Them bony legs hanging out of them short pants is dreadful sorry looking, if you ask me. But back to your Sol – I’d say looks like all that praying you been doing finally worked.’

Louise scooped two packages of Frosty O’s from the shelf and deposited them atop a stack of Red Baron frozen pizzas.

Pearl nodded and reached for the frosted corn flakes. ‘Why . . . yes . . . I suppose it is an answer to prayer. . .’ Her voice wavered and she studied the picture on the cereal box. The cartoon tiger grinned at her in a knowing way and she stuck the box back on the shelf. Heaving a sigh, she reached for the plain flakes. ‘I know it must be but it’s so-’

‘Or maybe Sol come to hear how that new preacher is sweet on you.’ Louise lowered her gaze and eyed Pearl over the top of her drugstore reading glasses.

Pearl flushed and jerked her buggy free. ‘Why, Louise Cutshall, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You had ought to be ashamed of-’

‘It’s no more than what folks is saying.’ The big woman sniffed and pulled her buggy back a pace, as if preparing to ram the other. ‘We all of us saw how he come and set down by you at the last dinner on the grounds. And here Sister Davis had made her special banana pudding that Preacher had bragged on so the last time and he didn’t hardly give her the time of day.”

With a triumphant flourish, Louise wheeled her buggy around, turning her head to deliver a parting shot. “And her a widder!’

Big rump rolling beneath her purple stretch pants, Louise swept majestically down the cereal aisle, leaving Pearl open-mouthed and wordless.

As Louise’s big bottom flounced around the end of the aisle, Pearl found her voice and called after her. ‘Special, my foot! Everyone knows Sarah Davis uses instant pudding.’ But Louise kept going, making for the dairy section.

Pearl stood frozen, her indignation tinged with anxiety though, as she told herself, she had nothing to worry about. Louise was just funning her, just making guesses. There wasn’t any way Louise could know . . . .

Still, after looking at her grocery list and deciding the cottage cheese and orange juice in the last aisle could wait till another time, Pearl headed straight for the checkout. Her face was burning and she was determined to be gone before Louise finished her shopping.


Quitting time came and Sol made for the parking lot, keeping clear of Buddy and Junior who were laughing and throwing play-punches at one another as they hurried toward Buddy’s old Chevy. They had come and sat by him during lunch, as usual, but somehow he hadn’t had any appetite and when he made some lame excuse and left the cafeteria early, he could see they’d gotten their noses out of joint. “Too good to set with the pore folks, are you?” Buddy had said, only half-joking, as Sol picked up his tray, mumbling something about getting some fresh air.

Sol clicked the lock on his truck and pulled himself behind the wheel. The parking lot was emptying fast but he just sat there, hands on the steering wheel. He needed to think.

He hadn’t told anyone about what happened yesterday -- about seeing Jesus in the clouds above the Barnett Mountain. He’d hoped that going to church might of made the way forward clearer to him but setting there in the little church house in the midst of so many of his neighbors had only filled him up with questions that didn’t seem to have any answers. The preacher talked like he had Jesus in his pocket but now that Sol had seen Jesus, the preacher’s hollering seemed more like he was putting on a show instead of speaking for Jesus.

Not that Barnett Mountain Jesus had said a word, Sol realized. But in that ever how long it had been that Sol had knelt on the gravel at the side of the road, it seemed that Jesus had purely flooded his head with all kinds of thoughts – thoughts of what was right and what was wrong and most of all the feeling that somehow Jesus wanted him – Sol – to do something for Him – Jesus.

Sol blinked and pulled off his glasses to clean them for the twentieth time today. He wasn’t seeing clear, somehow. He had thought it could be that the glasses was dirty or maybe scratched but of course it didn’t do no good to look at them – without glasses he couldn’t hardly see at all.

“Probably need a new prescription,’ he told himself. ‘There goes fifty bucks.’


Driving home, Sol realized that he was just loafering along instead of racing against himself as he usually did – his best time from the plant parking lot to his driveway had been an astounding thirty-seven minutes, achieved back in January on an evening when the lights had been with him and all the law had been busy with a pileup on the interstate. He’d taken back roads out of Asheville and when he hit the new road into Madison County, he’d put the pedal to the metal – touching eighty-five at times and not falling below sixty-five till he got to the by-pass. Again, luck was with him – no log trucks or cattle trailers and he’d been able to blow past one old geezer creeping along in a Ford Escort even though there was no passing zone.

But today he’d purposely taken the long way home – the old river road that for long years had been the only way in and out of this end of the county. Now it was mainly traveled by skinny people in sissy-looking tight bright outfits, riding skinny bikes, with their skinny asses stuck up in the air. Used to be he took pleasure in seeing how close he could come to one of these fools but today he gave them a wide berth and a friendly wave as he passed.

He found himself enjoying the sparkle of sun on the river and the dark shapes of the trees along the bank. On a whim, he pulled off into the parking lot of a deserted picnic area and sat, watching the water beat against the rocks and listening to the sounds – river, birds, and the occasional quiet hiss of the thin bike tires speeding past. Usually when he was in the truck he had the radio on – Glen or Rush or one of the local talk radio boys – but somehow he hadn’t wanted to hear them today. He needed to leave room in his head for those thoughts Barnett Mountain Jesus had planted there – room for those thoughts to grow.

A discarded McDonald’s bag rustled across the parking area and without thinking twice, Sol was out of the truck and heading for the tumbling shape. He put his foot on it before it could blow into the water and looked around for a trash can.  He spotted one down near the picnic tables, and on his way to it, he picked up a Mountain Dew can. He was about to toss it in with the bag and then he remembered and brought it back to his truck. A convoy of the cyclists spun by and he watched them go, admiring the rock-hard ropiness of their calves. He’d never learned to ride a bike – no money for one and no time either – but he could see how it might feel good to fly along so fast and quiet and all under your own power.

There was a bench in the shade near the water’s edge and Sol dropped onto it, kicking out his legs and spreading his arms along the seat back. The murmur of the river and the way the light winked on the water gave him almost the same feeling he’d gotten when he’d seen Barnett Mountain Jesus – kind of filled up with something – like somehow he was in God’s creation and at the same time all of God’s creation was in him.  His eyes drifted shut and he tried to recall just what it was Barnett Mountain Jesus had said to him.

Not that there’d been anything you could call words. But Jesus had filled him with a new way of looking at things – a new way of seeing. Born again. Like was supposed to have happened when he got dipped by the preacher – back when he was fourteen years of age and in love with the preacher’s daughter. That born again stuff hadn’t lasted no longer than it took his clothes to dry out and he had gone right back to raising hell – smoking and drinking – and fucking the preacher’s daughter too.

That hadn’t lasted neither. The preacher’s daughter, after teaching him a few surprising things that he’d never yet had the nerve to suggest to Pearl, had dumped him for a football player. Thinking of that had always kindly made him feel second-best – and had made him figure that Pearl was second-best too. But now, with this new way of seeing, kind of like getting new glasses with a stronger prescription, he had realized what a fine woman Pearl was – how she’d put up with him these many years.

How many years had it been? Sol frowned. He’d been twenty-three, no, twenty-four when they married and he was fifty-three now; that made twenty-nine years. Pearl had been faithful and true all that time, even when he was at his worst, even when he’d taken up with that girl at the County Line Bar and Grill – Lord, what had he been thinking? A painted-up floozy no better than a whore, she’d taken him for all she could get before she’d moved on. Oh, Pearl knew about it all right. Her friend Louise had found out and told her, at least, according to what Louise’s husband had said. But Pearl’d never flung it in his face when he come creeping back with an empty wallet and without her daddy’s gold pocket watch that she had give him. Not a word had she said.

The sun was sinking fast and the river was a sheet of wrinkled gold. A chill laced the breeze and somewhere in the distance a train whistle sounded long and lonesome. It was time to be getting on home. Sol shook himself loose of the past and started for the truck.

A blind fool, that’s what he’d been. But things was going to change.


Pearl glanced at the clock above the kitchen sink then pulled the meatloaf out of the oven and set the pan on a pot holder while she squirted ketchup on the sizzling mound of hamburger and sausage. Returning the pan to the oven, she cut down the heat and checked the pot of green beans simmering with fatback to make sure there was still plenty of pot liquor. She’d gotten distracted one time and let all the water boil away till not just the beans but the pot as well were ruint. Lifting another pot lid, she poked at the cut-up potatoes. They were just beginning to soften some. Another fifteen minutes and they’d be done and, as usual, she would have supper on the table five minutes after Sol walked through the door. She took some pride in this.

In spite of the way Sol had done her time and again, Pearl had made it her special mission to be the perfect wife – like that one in the song Willie and Waylon had done – the one about a good-hearted woman loving a good-timing man. Everyone knew what all she had put up with, how she had prayed for Sol and had turned a blind eye to his failings. Even the preacher. . .

Pearl’s face burned from the heat of the stove – and from the memory of a few weeks back. It had been her day to clean at the little church house and she had been sweeping under the benches when the door opened and there stood Brother Thomas, framed in the light.

‘Sister Gentry,’ he had exclaimed in surprise, as if he didn’t know she always swept and dusted of a Tuesday, ‘why, the Lord must have sent you. It’s been in my mind for some time now to speak with you. Might we have a word of prayer?’

Confused and embarrassed – she was wearing that faded old housedress she kept for dirty jobs and had her hair tied up in a raggedy old scarf – Pearl had leaned her broom against the wall and followed Brother Thomas to the front of the church and the padded kneeler where folks came for the altar call. But Brother Thomas plopped himself down on a front bench and patted the place beside him. Pearl hesitated but he reached out his hand. ‘Come, Sister Gentry, let us pray.’

As he pulled her down beside him, he began, pronouncing the words slow and solemn in that special preaching voice he used for services. ‘O Lord, I ask your blessings on this servant of Thine who keeps Your House so clean and nice, this good woman who does her best to lead a godly life though sore afflicted by an ungodly spouse. A virtuous woman . . . a pearl without price. . .’

Pearl’s eyes were closed and her head was bowed but she was aware that not only did Brother Thomas still have hold of her hand but he had brushed across her thighs in reaching for the other one. Now both hands were captive in his fervent, slightly sweaty grasp as the prayer rolled on.

‘. . . protect her in her comings and goings, O Lord . . .’

Their joined hands were heavy in her lap now and the preacher was leaning in so close that she could smell the Juicy Fruit gum and cigarette smoke on his breath. Cracking her eyes a tad, Pearl found herself looking at the top of his head—short cut sandy-colored hair with a little bald spot coming. For one wild moment she thought about bending down to kiss it.

‘. . . bless her, O Lord, for she is a blessing to all she meets, and most especially to me, Your poor servant. Teach her heart to know the words I dare not speak, O Lord. In Jesus’ precious name I ask it. Amen.’

And she had said Amen . . . and he had-

The smell of potatoes beginning to scorch drove out the memories of that day, just as the rattle of Sol’s truck pulling into the gravel drive, set Pearl in motion. She was running a knife around the meatloaf to loosen it in the pan when Sol came through the door, a bunch of plastic-wrapped red roses like they sell at the grocery in one hand and a big old smile on his face.

‘Pearl, these are for you,’’ he said and leaned in to kiss her surprised cheek. ‘Lord, if that meatloaf don’t smell fine.’   


Pearl lifted the remains of the meatloaf into a Tupperware container, sealed it tight, listening for the whoosh, and put it in the refrigerator. It seemed strange not to hear the television going as she did the dishes but Sol had taken himself out to the porch where he was setting in a rocker and staring off at the distant mountains. The red roses sat in a canning jar next to the salt and pepper in the middle of the kitchen table, a stiff sheaf leaning at an awkward angle, stems still held in a tight bunch by rubber bands,

Something ain’t right, she told herself. First roses – which he ain’t never brought me flowers, not in living memory – and now this. And with his favorite program on this very minute. Either he’s feeling guilty about something, most likely another woman, or it’s the beginning of Old Timers disease and before you know it, I’ll be having to put him in diapers.

‘Sol,’ she called from the window over the sink, ‘you’re missing the start of that Fox News program you always watch.’

Sol stopped rocking and turned toward the window. ‘I believe I druther stay out here a while longer; it’s awful nice. Whyn’t you come out too, Pearlie?’

Pearl hesitated. She usually went back to the bedroom while Sol was watching his programs -- lay down on the bed with a Star or Enquirer or a People Magazine. It was her ‘me time,’ like those women who went to spas and got mani-pedis said, her one indulgence. And she was worth it. She would never sit around reading in the day time – except, of course, for the Bible of a Sunday. No, daytime was for working. She did watch her story, All My Children. She’d watched it all her life -- used to watch it with her mommy -- always ironing or snapping beans or some such while she was watching so it weren’t to say loafering. But this hour after dinner, with her feet up and her nose deep in the doings of the rich and famous, was something she counted on and it seemed like one more burden for Sol to take it away.

Still and all, she thought, I best go see what’s what. If it is that Old Timers’. . .


Sol watched as Pearl came out, drying her hands on her apron. She looked a little flustered somehow, just the way she’d looked when he handed her the roses. She ain’t used to me paying no attention to her, I reckon is all it is, he told himself. I got to go easy.

‘I been studying . . .’ he said when she was settled in the other rocker, perched on the edge of the seat as if she might be going to jump up any minute and go after something.

She didn’t answer, just nodded and looked at him with those big blue eyes kind of doubtful-like and ready to fill up with tears if he said the wrong thing.

He wanted to tell her about Barnett Mountain Jesus – hell, he wanted to put her in the truck and drive around the mountain and show her Barnett Mountain Jesus – but he was afraid of what she might say. After all, what business did Jesus have appearing to him, Sol, instead of a good Bible-reading, church-going woman like Pearl? It didn’t make no sense. So he eased into the subject.

‘That preacher, that Brother Thomas all you woman think so much of, do you reckon he’s ever seen Jesus?’

Pearl’s eyes narrowed. She drew herself up, like he must of said the wrong thing. ‘Brother Thomas acknowledges Jesus as his personal savior,’ she snapped. ‘Of course he-’

‘But has he seen Him?’ Sol persisted. ‘Like, to look at – face to face?’

She sniffed and smoothed her apron over her lap. ‘Well. if he has, he hasn’t talked about it. For if he had, Louise would have spread it all over. Like she spreads all manner of gossip, true or not. What kind of question is that anyways? Brother Thomas surely knows Jesus, whether he’s seen Him or not. Is that what you called me out here for?’ And she made a move towards standing but Sol caught at her hand.

‘It don’t matter about Brother Thomas, Pearlie. Stay with me a while. Smell that honeysuckle and hear that night bird calling. Don’t you recollect how we used to set and watch the stars come out?’


Oh, Lord, I do believe it is the Oldtimers. He ain’t hisself at all. And why is he asking about Brother Thomas? If Louise Cutshall has been gossiping . . . Oh, what shall I do?

On the kitchen table, the red roses glowed in the morning light and struggled to spread their petals. Pearl pushed the jar to one side, laid her head on her folded arms, and wept.


As the week went on, it seemed to Sol that the feeling – the Jesus feeling of being filled with contentment and good will and joy in everything he saw or did – had not slacked off. No, buddy, if anything there was even more of it till sometimes he felt tight as a tick – plumb full of Jesus. Jesus was in every bite of food, in each sup of drink. Jesus looked at him from the eyes of his co-workers, the feller at the dumpsters, even the bleach-blonde, hard-rode cashier at the Quik Stop – now He was everywhere and the world was a different place.

Of course He was in Pearl too, Sol thought, but, somehow, there it was a suffering Jesus. Ever since he’d brought her those roses, thinking to give her pleasure, she’d seemed to draw up into herself, starting to look pinched and worried. When he’d set in Saturday morning to digging there in front of the canning house, she had hustled out to ask what he thought he was doing.

‘Why, Pearlie, I’m making a start on that flower bed you wanted. Ain’t this the place?’

And she had just pinched her lips together and hurried back into the house where the red roses were dropping their bruised-looking petals amidst the clutter of breakfast dishes.


Come Wednesday night and he was home just in time to find Pearl staring at the flat tire on her Ford and just about to bust at being hindered from church. Church and that slick-talking Brother Rogers, Sol thought but did not say.

‘Get in the truck, Pearlie,’ he called, ‘I’ll run you down there. You got plenty of time.’

She flounced over to the truck looking madder than a wet hen. ‘It ain’t at the church house – it’s a revival over to Paw Paw. Brother Rogers and four or five other preachers are bringing the Word . . . was you aiming to go too?’

He wasn’t – it had come to him that he saw a lot more of Jesus outside the church house than in – but he just said, ‘Aw, honey, I’m all dirty from work and I don’t want to make you late by stopping to change clothes. I’ll take you and come back for you . . . less there’s someone can give you a ride home.’

He saw how she relaxed a mite when he said that and she climbed in and smiled so sweet that the Jesus in her looked happy too.


The road to Paw Paw was the same winding dusty road where he’d seen Barnett Mountain Jesus and as they neared the pull off place, Sol made up his mind. It weren’t right not to tell her.

‘What for are we stopping here, Sol?’ The worried look was back on her face and she clutched her Bible closer as she looked out at the trees crowding around on either side of the lonely road. ‘I don’t want to be late.’

He opened his door and slid out. ‘It won’t take but a minute, honey. Get out of the truck and come over here.’

He made his way to the side of the road where it dropped off steep. Through the trees, the Barnett Mountain was gleaming in the fading sunlight. He hadn’t expected to see Jesus again and he didn’t either but he was surprised to find that some kind of tower had been erected on the mountain top. He squinted at it through his new glasses – one of them cell phone towers they were putting everywhere these days, he reckoned.

‘Pearl,’ he called, ‘ain’t you coming?’

Pearl sat trembling in the cab of the truck. Why were they stopped on this lonely road? Why did Sol want her to get out? All the old songs and stories about husbands who’d murdered unfaithful wives were crowding into her head and she felt like she might throw up or wet her pants or both. Help me, Jesus, she whispered as she fumbled with the door handle. Have mercy on a sinner.


Sol sits at the kitchen table, his supper finished and a cup of coffee in his hand, thinking things over. Who’d have thought it – with her such a church goer? And him a preacher – though preachers have sinned before this. It ain’t surprising -- all them women making over them – so much temptation . . .

She’d fallen to her knees and confessed everything, begged for forgiveness, right smack in the same place where he’d knelt on the gravel a week before. When he’d reached down to lift her up, to tell her to hush, she’d cowered away from him and hollered Oh, please don’t hurt me.

‘Oh, Pearlie,’ Sol shakes his head and winks at Jesus who is looking at him from the bottom of the coffee cup.