Excerpt from What the River Washed Away by Muriel Mharie Macleod, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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What the River Washed Away

by Muriel Mharie Macleod

What the River Washed Away
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2013, 288 pages
    Jul 2013, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky

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Print Excerpt

I sure hope I don't get like my Mambo when I grow up.

'Arletta, feed them chickens, ya hearing me? And be good to that cockerel. He'll be needing special attention now, 'cause I'm wanting him well fed and wild this Saturday.'

She knows I'm watching her wiggling o! to parade herself, halfdressed and rouged all over. 'Cheap devil Mambo and no panties,'

that's what Pappy used to say, and about his own daughter, too.

Ain't nobody ever put no stop to Mambo when she's planning on getting wild.

It's gonna be a dark moon this Saturday, that's what she's talking about. She's gonna get outta that tight frock of hers and get herself all done up in sparkling white. Ain't gonna be nobody like her. I hear folks say ain't never been anybody like my Mambo.

Out on the front step of our cabin I finish drying my hair with a cotton rag and stop sni"ing on account of Mambo leaving me here by my lonesome again. Sni"ing ain't any use anyways. She's o! parading herself just like Pappy said she's good for, hanging out and dancing all night in one of them juke joints, and coming home to our cabin when she feels like it. Ain't got no mind about me.

We got two rooms in our old cabin. One we live in, though ain't much in it, just our table and two wooden stools Pappy made a long time ago when he was able. We got a beat-up old Tilley lamp – Mambo says it was once as blue as the sky, but now it's got all over with rust. What food we have is laid out on the other end of our table – ain't ever much – and down below is where we keep kindling for the pot. We got a big shelf stuck up above the fireplace – ain't much on that neither, except the gourd we use for washing, Pappy's Bible, real worn out with reading, and a box of matches I ain't s'posed to touch. We got an old bucket placed outside of our back door that's all chipped on the edges now, and four tin mugs, but one gets used for tallow since Grandma passed away. And wooden bowls Pappy sliced o! a tree and whittled down good till he says they got fit for using.

Pappy's rake and spade are laid out across the rafters now, gathering dust and mighty cobwebs, 'longside a rusty old wheel he was gonna use to make a handcart one of them days. Mambo keeps his saw and box of nails up there too, but she ain't never opened that box and there's a lot that needs a nail round here.

The threadbare chair we got in the corner needs fixing up too; don't s'pose it ever will be, now Pappy's gone. That's where I curl up when I need to be remembering him, even though that horsetail sure is prickly coming through all them holes. Pappy said, 'When ticking need new stu#ng, that's called upholstering, Arletta,' but ain't never get done. Only other chair we got is his rocking chair out on our leaky porch. Mambo and me share the other room in our cabin for sleeping. We still got Pappy's old closet in there, and a dresser with proper drawers down below and a big mirror on top that she got from one of her fancy beaux 'cause his folks were turning it out for burning. He brought it over here himself on the back of a cart and stayed for two days. Mambo paying it o! I s'pose, with all that giggling. She's got Pappy's bed now and the cot we used to share been moved into the bedroom as well – seems just to stu! the room up. We got too much in one room and not enough in the other, but I ain't saying nothing.

When it's fine we cook out back under the boards Pappy nailed up a long time ago. It leaks bad when it's raining though, and we take the cooking grate in every night 'cause we're feared it might get taken. We share a toilet with everybody else round here – and the flies – which the gov'ment s'posed to send a truck for emptying every week. We get water from the pipe on the side of the road, same as everybody else. When Pappy was still living, he'd haul water from the pipe to our washtub out back every day and wash me first. When it got cold he'd heat the water, but Mambo says that time gone now and I gotta be doing for myself. We're lucky having our cabin, Pappy used to say, and lucky we don't have to be sharing it like in the old days. He says it got built bad, but he fixed it up good and gave it a proper chimney and now it's gonna stand for a hundred years. He planted plenty sweet potatoes and corn out back, an orange tree and two fig trees on the side. Sometimes that orange tree don't give good fruit if winter's been real cold, but we always have figs in summer 'cause he'd keep them wrapped up from frosty mornings. He was soft on eating figs, my Pappy.

Excerpted from What the River Washed Away by Muriel Mharie Macleod. Copyright © 2013 by Muriel Mharie Macleod. Excerpted by permission of One World. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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