Excerpt of Take Me Home by Brian Leung
(Page 7 of 8)
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He laughed. "It's a little farther than nowhere."
"Sounds like you need a wife more than a sister."
"Almost had one," he said, sitting down again. "Emiline was her
name, real pretty and sweet. But she said yes to another fella who
had better prospects."
She heard his heart in his voice, and, pushing her stool next to
him, Addie sat with her arm around his back. "Sorry to hear it,"
Addie said. "But someone will come along."
"It's for the best, I reckon." Tommy stared at the ground. "I got
this idea there's one person in the world can make you happier
than anyone else."
"Just one, Tommy?"
He looked at her and smiled. "It's long odds, I know. But it's
something to hope for. Till then," he said, tousling her hair, "it's
you, me, and eighty acres. And besides, you're the one we got to
There was a response, to be sure, but she decided to hold it. A
woman steps into a snare the day she's born, Addie had learned.
Her mother warned her about it before loosing herself, which was
the difficult thing for Addie, understanding her mother had fled
an unhappy life and at the same time wondering if she herself had
played a part in the unhappiness. If Addie had done something differently,
might her mother have stayed? Could it have outweighed
the kind of husband her father became?
She looked around the hovel in which she and Tommy were
sitting. Worthless as her father was when the drink took him, even
he, at first, managed to keep the family in food and clothes, and
the cabin mostly intact. Addie thought of the shabby town they'd
walked through to get here. There was its creek with undrinkable
water, and the coolies she'd been warned against. And if Dire
was anything like Rock Springs, she was better off alone wherever
Tommy had his homestead. She looked at her brother and then at
the sad little sack that contained everything she owned and what
money she had left. And when she found herself nodding, it was as
if her body had made up its mind before her brain. "Guess I'll need
"No," Tommy said, winking. "You'll need guns."
It was an uncomfortable night of sleep, Addie taking the carved
shelf with the wool blanket, her brother on the dirt floor with a
coat propped under his head for a pillow. He'd fallen fast asleep, but
she lay awake in total darkness. Now and then there were voices
outside, men speaking words she didn't recognize except for the
slurring quality. She'd lived with her father long enough to understand
that drunkenness was an international language.
But it wasn't the strange voices that were on Addie's mind; it
was that suddenly she was a homesteader with Tommy, which felt
like stepping backward. It wasn't an apron she was hoping for, but
something else she couldn't name. There wasn't a word for it, the
idea that she wanted to make her own way, choose the folks who
might help her along, rather than be told exactly what she was
confined to hoping for. It was an impractical thought, she decided.
It was men who owned, who needed support. Their father had tried
to carve out a living on a parcel of land in Kentucky, and that came
to nothing, worse than nothing. Her mother abandoned them,
Tommy left too, and after a few years of helping her father haul
wood into Orgull, Addie practically had to drag him into town as
well, away from the place he didn't want to leave and didn't have
the discipline to keep up with. By the end, the cabin was more
leaky and drafty than it had ever been. The elm that partially hung
over the roof split in two, coming down on the roof, to which her
father merely replied, "That was your ma's favorite tree."
After the elm, the drinking got worse, if that was possible.
On his better days her father roused himself in the morning and
headed into the woods with his ax and saw, and the mule too if
he planned to get any real work done. She could hear him out
there sometimes, the thwack of steel against green wood, the
thrush and thump of a falling tree. But even on these better days,
more and more often the woods eventually got quiet except for
the birds and chattering of bitter squirrels. Evening would commence,
and Addie knew what she had to do, track her father
down before nightfall. The scene was always the same, him sitting
on the ground, back against a felled tree. The mule watched her
approach with indifference, and it shamed her to think that her
father was the duller animal of the pair.
Excerpted from Take Me Home
by Doris Haddock. Copyright © 2010 by Doris Haddock.
Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.