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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"You gonna stay?"

"That okay?"

"No…but you'll stay anyway."

My ruminating is all off with Sadie here. I grip the banister and heave myself up the warped treads. Have to stop midway to catch my breath. At the top I rest again, then head to the bedroom that's only changed for the worse in forty-one years.

This place belonged to my husband's family three generations back. A unpainted house on the somber side of Bentwood Mountain. When I come as a bride it was enough, but time's added a brittle coat of neglect. The featherbed sags deep when I climb into its valley.

While my body settles in, Sadie comes quiet up the stairs, steps over the loose board at the top, and closes her bedroom door with a soft click. Night sounds slide through the cracks in the walls. Sleep is gonna come. It always does, but so do rememberings. Sometimes they take me places I don't wanna go. Sometimes they take me places I don't wanna leave. I never know where I'm going when I climb in this featherbed.

~

"Push hard. You can do it," Birdie orders. "PUSH."

I push and push till I part the Red Sea, and out comes a tiny creature not meant for this world. Birdie's face is fuzzy, looking young way back then, and I know the little one's fate without her saying. She wraps it in a rag like leftovers, puts it on the floor, and starts to clean down there. A battle's been fought and I lost again. Birdie leaves and takes the leftovers. I wonder if she'll come back and don't care one way or the other.

My body stinks. My hair is limp on a stained pillow. I lay in my mess and study watermarks on the ceiling. One looks like a railroad track to somewhere else. I follow a crack cross the ceiling to where it meets the wall, then runs down and out the open window to the redbuds. It's bright outside. I squint against the glare.

Birdie comes back. She stands straight in midlife and gives me comfort words. "Gladys, let me clean you and finish up. Your work is done."

She set on the stool next to my bed a pan of warm water with the sweet smell of herbs and a clean rag. Like I'm the baby, she works my nightgown over my head. Takes long strokes down my arms, under my ninnies, cross my empty belly, down my legs to the calloused soles of my wide feet that got cracks in the heels. Rolls my tired body one way, then the other way, strips the soiled towels and sheet from under I f the Cre e k Don' t Ri s e 19 me and puts on clean linens. The sheets are cool and dry against my washed back. The scent of mint that grows beside the clothesline clings to my cotton gown and sheets. Birdie's face is smooth. Her hands are tender with sympathy and sadness. I appreciate the gift of her.

"You feel better now you cleaned up," she says, and at her kind voice, I squeeze my eyes and out squirt skinny tears. They slide cross my temples and into my hair and ears. She wipes my eyes and brushes my hair with her stubby fingers. The last thing she does is put a cool pillow under my head, then leaves me with my loss.

Walter would have heard and taken to his corn likker. I'll pay later for those nights he couldn't have his way with me and don't have a baby boy to show for it. For now, this clean space is mine to start to heal before he comes at me again. Tonight, this remembering don't make me wander. It stays put on a bed that smells of springtime.

I don't wanna leave.

~

At first light, I hear grandgirl Sadie in the hall outside my bedroom door, then she's gone back to where she belongs. I don't call out but let her and that baby inside her leave. I got to cause she's the only one who can clean up her own mess.

I get up slow, head to the kitchen, and pull down the can of Luzianne on the shelf. While it perks, I hear, "Yoo-hoo. Morning, Gladys. It's Marris!" My neighbor yells out like she always does when she walks into my house like the family she is and heads to the kitchen. She plops a bark basket of berries on my table, takes a chipped cup off the shelf, and pours herself some coffee before it's ready.

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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