Excerpt from If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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If the Creek Don't Rise

by Leah Weiss

If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss X
If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss
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    Aug 2017, 320 pages

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Sarah Tomp

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Sadie Blue

I struggle to my feet, straighten my back, lift my chin, then he hits me again. This time I fall down and stay down while he counts, "…eight, nine, ten." He walks out the trailer door and slams it hard. The latch don't catch, and the door pops open. I lay on the floor and watch Roy Tupkin cross the dirt yard and disappear into the woods.

My world's gone sideways again.

"Sadie girl." Daddy's spirit voice comes soft from behind my open eyes. "You got yourself in a pickle this time. No two ways about it. That husband of yours won't stop till you and your baby draw your last breath. You don't even look like yourself no more. He broke bout every piece of sweet in you. You gonna let him break your spirit, too? You gonna do nothing?"

I'm tired, Daddy. Wore out. Roy Tupkin don't just beat me, he beats me down. Let me rest a spell. I don't know if I can lift my head just yet.

Now Daddy's voice comes from the yard where a lone wind rattles late-summer oak leaves and sounds like hollow bones. "If I could follow the bastard and kill him for you, I would, sweet girl, but it don't work like that." His voice drifts toward the rusty red truck up on blocks. "Don't lay there too long, Sadie. You don't need rest." His words fade. "You need…"

What, Daddy? What do I need? I listen but he's gone.

Percy scampers in from the hunt with a dead chipmunk. He drops his gift by my hand. When I don't move, he nudges it close till I raise a finger and touch fur that's still warm. Then he crawls on the rise of my belly and curls up. Purrs vibrate clean through to my spine.

I gotta get away, Percy, but don't know how. Gotta be careful.

Percy listens good but he's short on advice. I can't think what to do right off with my brain muddled from this morning's beating, so I gather strength to move. Shadows grow longer, and cold air glides across the doorjamb, giving me goose bumps. I roll over gentle to my side, scattering pieces of the green plastic radio I got working at Mooney's Rusty Nickel. Little Percy slides off without complaint. I put my palms on the floor and push to my knees. My arms tremble. My heart pounds in my ears. A bloody smear on the floor marks where my head landed. I brush sticky hair off my temple, hold on to the counter and pull up, dizzy, one hand on my baby bump. I don't know I'm crying salty tears till they sting the cut on my cheek.

"You know what you gotta do." Daddy's voice is back burrowing inside my ear.

I do? Tell me and I'll do it.

"You'll figure it out. You got smarts you don't even know bout yet."

Daddy loves me better in death than he ever did in life. In life, when I was ten, with my hair in crooked braids, me sitting on a overturned bucket in a corner of the kitchen, watching the men round the table gamble, he threw a night with me in I f the Cre e k Don' t Ri s e 3 the poker pot instead of five dollars he don't have. Granny and Aunt Marris never heard what he done, and I don't say cause they'd take a belt to him and take me away from him when he needs me. Daddy won the hand. Said he counted on it. But he woulda made good on his bet if he'd lost. He won't go back on his word.

Daddy hung bones on the walls inside our house like some folks hang give-away calendars or pictures of Jesus. They was mostly bleached-out skulls he found hunting or tending the still. He ran twine through their empty eyes and wound the twine on a ten-penny nail high on the wall. He had the skulls of fox, bear, bobcat, and panther, and the rib cage of a bear. Daddy even had a man's skull in the lot. Found it in a cave near a rockslide that pinned the poor soul down till he wasted away. Said it was likely a miner and a dreamer looking for rubies and stones. At night, under moonlight streaming through the front window, those bones glowed like pieces of ghosts.

Excerpted from If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss. Copyright © 2017 by Leah Weiss. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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