I know I've heard the name before. It's unusual enough that it sticks out in my mind, although having an adjective or noun for a name that conjures up images of pretty things isn't that strange around here. I went to school with a Taffeta Tate and a Sparkle Wisniewski. Clay briefly dated a girl named Dainty Frost who had a sister named Lacey.
"What about a last name?" I ask.
"Is your dad Choker Simms?"
"Well, that explains a lot," I say under my breath.
"Do you know him?" she asks me.
"Yes, I do."
"You probably heard bad things about him because he was in jail but none of it's true. He was set up by a lady cop who had the hots for him and decided to ruin his life when he spurned her."
I'm so stunned by this explanation I laugh out loud.
"'Spurned'?" I practically choke on the word.
"You know. Spurned. When somebody tells you they don't love you."
"Your dad . . . ," I start to say, then stop as I look down into their little faces, hers daring me to say anything bad about their father so she can defend him and his full of genuine curiosity.
She holds out her hand, palm up.
"Gimme my lighter back."
I give it to her.
She returns it to her purse, grabs Kenny by the forearm, and stalks off.
It takes all of two minutes for me to drive through downtown Jolly Mount. Aside from the Snappy's gas station and convenience store, there's a Subway, three bars, one church, a drive-thru branch of a bank, a red brick post office, and a two-story abandoned corner building that used to house a five-and-dime store, and an insurance agency.
A corridor of tall, thin row homes, identical except for the amount of color and care spent on them, forms the outlying border. There's a house of flaking bubblegum pink, one of pale turquoise, one a fading canary yellow, and two painted a mint green--all the colors of a bucket of sidewalk chalk interspersed between the traditional whites and tans. Some are well tended; others appear to be uninhabited except for the lawn ornaments, and the limp curtains hanging at lopsided angles behind windows smoky with age and grime.
I take the most direct route to the interstate even though I prefer driving the forsaken, twisting side roads where the worn-down, wooded mountains lie on all sides of me like the backs of slumbering giants.
Excerpted from Sister Mine by Tawni O'Dell Copyright © 2007 by Tawni O'Dell. Excerpted by permission of Shaye Areheart Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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