Excerpt from The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt

A Novel

by Andrea Bobotis

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis X
The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2019, 320 pages

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    Jul 2019, 320 pages

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Murder Stuns Distinguished Family
Quincy Kratt, age 14, sustained a fatal gunshot wound to his person in the early hours of Friday, December 20. Young Mr. Kratt was a scion of the cotton industry in Bound, South Carolina. His father, the influential businessman Brayburn Kratt, is one of our local captains of that industry. The principal suspect in the shooting is a negro called Charlie Watson, who is employed by the Kratt Mercantile Company and whose whereabouts are as yet unknown.

York Herald, Saturday, December 21, 1929

one

May 1989
Whenever I hear a train's horn in the distance, that bruised sound, I think of Quincy. He spent half his days down at the depot, true enough, but it's the nature of the sound that reminds me of him, how it's at once familiar and remote. How upon hearing it, I feel obliged to lift my gaze and weigh the horizon, but how it leaves me with less than I had before, eyes reaching toward something I'll never see. After all, where that train's headed, stretching across some unseen field, is anybody's guess. Same could always be said of my brother.

That afternoon, the train's horn made me wonder: What would remind my brother of me? I thought it might be a good question for Olva, who was sitting with me in the sunroom, both of us warming our old bones, I on the cushioned seat and she the uncushioned (her preference), our feet sharing the wicker ottoman so that, now and again, my foot accidentally nudged hers. The sound of that faraway train settled in my ear like a teaspoon of water, but Olva, eyes closed, was humming a cheery little something, and every few bars, a smile surfaced on her face.

When I asked the question "What would remind Quincy of me?" her smile fled the room.

Perhaps it was unfair of me to saddle her with the question, especially since she was ignorant of its context. The train's horn was another reminder, an urging. I opened my mouth to tell her I was planning to write an inventory of the Kratt family's heirlooms but closed it again. I suppose I wanted to savor my idea, unspoiled by others' opinions, for a bit longer.

And she had not yet answered my question about Quincy. I had expected her to say something like "Miss Judith, do you mean back when your brother was alive? Or are we referring to his present-day ghost?" Because Olva is always willing to humor me. She didn't grow up with brothers and sisters and so has a limited understanding of the vagaries of siblinghood, the way devotion is splintered with contempt, but she also has the knack for answering all manner of questions, even the type that might require her to put words in a dead brother's mouth.

I saw her face tighten around an idea, something twisting its way from her mind like a screw digging its patient way through a plank, when, all at once, her face released, and she resumed her humming.

So I asked the question again.

"What do you think anyone—not just Quincy, it doesn't matter who—would associate with me?"

Again, her humming faltered, and just at the verge of my being able to identify the tune.

"Maybe it's the scent of rose water," I suggested—just for something to say, not meaning it. "The kind Mama taught me to make from scratch. The one I let you borrow when we were teenagers."

Olva gripped and released the arms of her chair. Her eyes took a slow tour of the sunroom before finding mine. "Why, it's this house, Miss Judith," she said. "When people think of you, they think of this house."

A little oh rose from my mouth, a bright note of satisfaction.

Olva never lets me down. She was right, of course. I am inseparable from this house, its six thousand square feet sitting on four acres, not to mention the adjoining five hundred acres of our family's land that spills out to the west and north as far as the eye can see. When people think of me, surely this great structure assembles before their eyes. I would not be put off if my name called to mind phrases such as triangular pediment, columned portico, and Palladian window. Then again, most people in these parts could hardly be expected to possess even passing knowledge of architectural vernacular. If the words Colonial Revival fell out of your mouth in their presence, they'd go looking for a big white tent under which they'd hope to find everlasting salvation, courtesy of fire and brimstone.

Excerpted from The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt Kratt by Andrea Bobotis. © 2019 by Andrea Bobotis. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks. All rights reserved.

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