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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"It'll start a purty day, but a big rain's coming," she says, like I give a damn.

My anger spikes. "Why you do that?"

"Do what?" Marris asks, all innocent-like, and sips the weak coffee. She holds it with both hands with joints as gnarled and swoll with arthuritis as mine.

"Say your name every time you walk in." I imitate her high voice for spite—" It's Marris"—and watch her face fall. Then I add, "Like I don't know it's you coming through the door. How many times you been here? A thousand times? Ten thousand? I know who you is, for God's sake."

"I don't count the times." Her voice loses its lightness. "Don't wanna surprise you, that's all."

Her tone turns downright dull. I'm disappointed at the easy victory. Some days, Marris fights harder to keep her sunshine. Today won't one of em.

~

Marris is second cousin by marriage on Walter's side. Since she was a girl, she's lived down the road, around the bend in a two-room house with a dirt floor she sweeps every day to clear out cobwebs. Marris used to have hair as red as coals cooked down in a fire. Walter would say in a rare time he was being funny, "You stick dough in hair that red, it woulda baked into a biscuit." Now it's gone to ash.

Not a thing's wrong with Marris cept most days she's more happy than a body has a right to be. Regular folks buckle under the piss and vinegar in this world. Not Marris. Her perky words irk me something fierce. Always have. Always will. I stand and pour myself a cup of coffee now that it's ready, then sit again.

"Since you brought them huckleberries and you standing there staring at the wall, why don't you fix a pie?" I throw at her, and the woman goes to work.

She sifts flour, cuts in lard, and adds spring water. She rolls out the pastry for the pie tin, adds the berries, sprinkles sugar on top, and is done lickety-split. While the pie bakes, she washes the bowl, the spoon, and her coffee cup and puts em away. Silence crowds the room. She hangs the apron on the nail, picks up her berry basket, and looks at me for the first time in fifteen minutes.

"Gladys," she asks, "why you boss me round like that and be so hurtful?"

She leaves before I answer and catches the screen door so it don't slam.

I stand and clutch the edge of the sink and look out the window at the garden that struggles in weak sunlight and sorry soil. The plot's gone to seed cause I don't bend the way I used to. My back and legs fail me most days. Few souls ever cross my threshold cept Marris…and she don't count cause of the aggravating she brings. Most of the time she don't even tell me gossip to lift my situation. What's a body to do when she can't care for herself no more and her house falls down? Just up and die?

When it's cooked, I pull the pie from the heat and set it on the window ledge to cool. Dern if she didn't put a four-leaf clover on top to throw the Scots Irish at me. I don't smile. No, sir. Life's too shitty. For a old woman, it's more shit than I can shovel.

I can't remember if I ever had a choice but to put one foot in front of the other and walk the line on a rocky road to nowhere. I pour more coffee, pick up a fork, and stab the heart of the clover. The first bite burns my tongue.

~

Marris was right. The rain comes late afternoon and settles in. The walls of the house get damp and stay damp, and shadows hunker down in corners and hide at the top of landings out of reach of light. I don't believe in ghosts, but they still come round and mess with me. Footsteps fade. Doors open and close. There's scratching in the walls.

I sip from my hooch that night and hope like a fool for a peaceful rest. Rain drums hard, and kitchen pots sit on the floor to catch leaks. Mad lightning and thunder howl through the holler, and branches lick the sides of the house. When I go to the bedroom, I throw a extra quilt on the bed to ward off the damp. There's no easy rest for the weary. I lay in my bed waiting for sleep when a raw memory comes calling instead.

~

"Woman, you got a lesson coming."

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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