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Excerpt from Stealing by Margaret Verble, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Novel

by Margaret Verble

Stealing by Margaret Verble X
Stealing by Margaret Verble
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2023, 256 pages

    Feb 2024, 256 pages


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When I walked back, there was a car pulled up into Uncle Joe's yard. It was two-toned green, with a curvy line of chrome down the side that separated the two colors. It was sort of shiny, but not very. The car wasn't new or flashy, but it wasn't old either, and it looked like it belonged to somebody who took care of it. The obvious question was, did it belong to people who had moved in or to somebody else? I slowed down, thinking maybe if I could take long enough I'd get a glimpse of the hummer or the car's driver before I got directly in front of the cabin. But I didn't. Even the guineas and chickens weren't in sight, and the door was shut.

I went fishing again the next day. After Mama died, that was my habit during the spring and fall on the weekends and even on some weekdays during the summer. We could use the food and there wasn't anything else to do. There weren't many other children out in the country and Daddy didn't want me working in the fields with men and boys. My work was in the garden and the house.

The house wasn't big—a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen and bathroom—but it was painted. And there wasn't much housework to do, except cook breakfast, wash the dishes, cook supper, and get the quilts out of the closet, spread them on the couch at night, and put them away in the morning. There was a little stool in our closet to stand on to shove the quilts up on a shelf rather than leave them on the floor with the shoes. And I knew even then that we were lucky to have a closet, because some people didn't. But I never could've guessed how much of my time I would spend in one (here at Ashley Lordard, not back at home). And that being in the closet here would make me feel safer than I feel anywhere else.

At home after Mama died, the place I felt best was on the bank of the bayou. It fed into the Arkansas, but it wasn't deadly and wild like the river. It was more smooth and still and quiet, except for the sounds of the insects and the fish and the frogs hopping and flopping. If the fish were biting, they kept me busy, and I'd bring home supper. But even if the bobber wasn't bobbing, sitting on the bank was always entertaining. There were those sounds and plenty to watch. And when you stay quiet yourself, everything else starts moving.

I once even saw a wolf up close there. Wolves were always around, but generally they kept their distance. I'd only heard them at night in bed or sometimes seen a lone one way off in a field. But this one came down on the other side of the water directly across from me. He drank quick, looked up, sniffed, didn't catch my wind, and drank some more. He made me think of one of the stories Mama told me before she left. She said one day when her grandma was down at the water washing clothes, the wolves came in a pack. It was after the War Between the States. All the poultry and game had been killed for human food and starving wolves were roaming everywhere. Mama said her grandma had a baby and a sack of biscuits with her, and she heard the wolves and knew she was in trouble. She threw the biscuits out of the sack just as they appeared, then she grabbed her baby and ran. I believe that story is true. Or I hope it is, because nobody wants to think their mother lied to them. I'm also glad her grandma threw biscuits to the wolves, not the baby.

Anyway, when I went fishing the day after I first saw the rooster, the car was gone and the door was open again. But I didn't hear any humming. However, there was a long splash of wet cutting across the ruts in front of the cabin. I could tell by that wet spot somebody had been cleaning something up. There was a pump in the front yard east of the porch, and it was clear that a bucket or a little tub of water had been slung out into the road from close to the pump. I stepped right over the spot, but I looked toward the cabin when I did, thinking maybe somebody would notice. But nobody did, and I went on toward the bayou.

Excerpted from Stealing by Margaret Verble. Copyright © 2023 by Margaret Verble. Excerpted by permission of Mariner Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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