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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Walter stands at the edge of the bed, me waking up confused. I scoot back cross the mattress toward the wall, guilty, but don't know what for.

"What I do?" I ask.

Walter unbuckles his belt. The leather slides out the loops with a familiar hiss and wraps round his calloused palm with the buckle dangling. He leans his head hard to the right. "You think I don't know?" He reminds me of the mean rooster watching a worm he's gonna peck to death. "Bout the man in my house?"

"What man, Walter?"

The belt buckle strikes, and fat welts pop up on my cheek. I whimper and lift bare arms to cover my face. Pull my legs up to make me smaller.

"That traveling man?" he snarls. "You think nobody'd see him?" WHAP! "Think a good neighbor don't watch out for my welfare when I'm away?" WHAP! Baby Girl cries cross the hall. I try to stay quiet so the child won't worry, but the belt makes the sounds for me. I'm bleeding. One eye's swoll shut, and a finger's bent odd. One more strike and he drops the belt, stumbles over the threshold, and clatters down the stairs. The screen door slaps as he heads into the day's drizzle.

Through my haze I try to remember what could have riled Walter. Yesterday… Musta been that man in a dusty suit who knocked on my screen door. When I showed my face, he stepped back, polite. Asked if he could get a drink of cool water from the well. I said that be fine. He took his drink and left with a tip of his hat. I stayed inside the screen door the whole time with the lock hook in place.

That peckerwood don't know how much his sip of water cost. I wake with my face wet with tears and my body weighed down. Feeling helpless does that to me. It would be years before fate and guts stepped in to stop Walter's beatings and save me and Baby Girl…but what for? Carly grew up in unhappy skin. Swore she'd never walk in my shoes. Swore she'd travel a different road. Find a better path. She likely ended up a fool like the lot of us.

I hear sobs cross the hall. I don't go look. That room's been empty a long time.

~

Sunday morning, Marris comes on back to the kitchen and don't shout out her name. Her face is flushed with excitement when she comes in, but it goes plain when she sees me.

"You not ready?"

I butter my third biscuit and add a scoop of blackberry jam.

"What for?"

"That teacher that's come on board this year's gonna be at church this morning. Thought you woulda heard."

"You know good and well I don't do church. And why would I give a rat's ass bout a teacher?"

"They say she's taller than six foot."

"Hmmm." I take a bite of biscuit, and the butter squirts out on my chin.

"And pretty old, as teachers go."

"Uh-hmm." I wipe my chin with the back of my hand and lick it.

Marris runs out of selling points but won't give up. She says, "Well, it'd be something different to your morning, won't it?"

I stand and say, "Let me get my hat." Scraps of last night's ugly hang round, and going to see a giant old teacher sit in Preacher Perkins's stuffy church and be stared at by the righteous might be the spice I need. I stick my black straw hat on my head, jam the hatpin in the top, and walk out the door.

Marris drives her truck with the muffler shot to hell so everybody hears us a ways off. Pieces of road rush by in rusted-out places in the floorboard; I keep my feet off to the side. We park at the Rusty Nickel and walk the rest of the way up the hill cause it looks like a homecoming crowd come to see the show.

"I ain't gonna stand," I declare to Marris, me huffing up the incline. "Need me a seat. I'll faint if need be."

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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