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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Once, when the creek was high water, that man give me his rough hand to help me cross over, and don't let go of mine right away. When he did, I wanted to grab back his hand cause mine felt safe in his. That's how stupid I was.

Another time he carried my paper poke of supplies, and another time blackberries I picked. He walked me to the edge of Granny's yard but don't come close to the house cause he won't welcome. Granny give him the hard eye and pointed her shotgun at him from her porch and said, "I know how to use this here gun. It ain't for show. Now don't you step your sorry ass on my land."

Roy Tupkin backed away with his hands up, laughing at a big ole woman with stockings knotted at her knees and her cheek bulging with chew. When he left, I cried and run up the stairs to my room and slammed the door. Granny give me a strong talking-to outside my closed door, but that don't change things cause I was young and dumb. I was pulled by the raw scent of that man, not knowing the stink below the skim of sweet.

Granny said, back then, through pinched lips and squinty eyes and hissy voice, "You knock them fake stars outta your blind eyes, Sadie Blue, or you gonna lay with the devil and live in hell. When that happens, I can't help you."

I thought she was jealous cause I was happy. I thought I was smart and loved a bad man turned good. I've been on a losing streak a long time.

~

What was funny in the mix was the man Billy Barnhill, back bent, face pocked, hair greasy. When I'd see Roy, there'd be Billy a ways off, hands shoved deep in his pockets, mostly looking at his feet, waiting. I asked Roy what Billy was to him, and he said, "Nobody."

The first time I give myself to Roy, I was weak-willed after meeting up just three times. We sat close in the front seat of his truck on the shoulder of Good Luck Pass. One of his hands rooted up under my skirt, and the other pinched a nipple through my blouse to make it rise. Out the corner of my eye, through the rear window, I see Billy in the back bed with the canvas tarps and cement blocks and gas can. He leaned against the tailgate, legs out straight, one hand working inside the slit of his overalls. His mouth was loose and lips wet, him looking at me weird.

I told Roy that Billy was a creep and I wanted him gone for now. Roy laughed that day and said, "Let him have a little fun," and pulled me to him. When I pushed back, nervous, the cool coming off my skin, me sliding over to my side of the seat, pulling down my skirt, Roy's eyes dulled over. He waved for Billy to leave, and Billy jumped out the truck bed, lickety-split, and crossed the ditch. I scooted back into Roy's arms, but I could still feel Billy's eyes crawl over me.

The thing what got me married by summer's end was the baby growing inside me through four cycles and me still living with Granny. She got meaner every day when she knew I carried Roy's baby. She found new ways to hurt me and say I was a vile sinner—when she won't even a Bible reader. She don't answer when I talk. I walk in a room and she walked out. I step out on the porch, she goes inside. She cooked supper just enough for her and left me starting from scratch if I was to eat.

I hear ugly talk. Wherever two righteous souls meet up at the Rusty Nickel, God-fearing women standing at the counter with babies on their hips and a ring on their fingers, they whispered loud enough for me to hear, "She was a promisin' girl who got ruint by a trashy man."

Prudence Perkins said in a hard whisper outside church, "The hellfires of damnation won't be good enough for you and that bastard you carry."

I flushed shameful at such hateful words, cheeks hot, heart bruised and breaking for my innocent child. Preacher Perkins and Mooney tried to stop the ugly when they was in earshot cause they are good men, but tongues let loose rattled on for spite.

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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