Excerpt from By Way of Water by Charlotte Gullick, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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By Way of Water

by Charlotte Gullick

By Way of Water
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    Aug 2002, 256 pages

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"Get us a pot," Lacee said, and Justy went into the dark kitchen and found one by habit. She brought it to Lacee, who nodded toward the stove. Justy placed the pot on the warm surface, aware of Dale's distance and her silent stream of prayers. Lacee dumped the snow in and it immediately began to melt. Micah emptied his hands, and Lacee brought the candle from the floor and the three of them watched the white crystals turn liquid. "Here," Lacee said, handing the candle to Micah. She went to the kitchen and fumbled in a drawer. Then she was back, a package of food coloring in her hand. A grin rode her face and she tossed back her straight black hair. "Green?"

Micah nodded, crowding close, while Lacee opened the fat tube of dark color and squeezed out a few drops. Dale shifted in the rocking chair but remained gone. Justy focused her attention on how the deep green swirled in the heated snow, on how the water danced around the strands of color until it became the color.

Lacee brought out three mugs, filled them with the green liquid and handed them out.

"It's a spell," she said, raising her cup toward the ceiling. The candle flickered and Micah scowled. "Once there was family," Lacee said, while bringing the mug back down and looking sideways into Micah's face. "This family, they were hungry. And then it began to snow white, fat flakes from the sky, and they were still hungry, and the lights had been off for days and they thought about eating the candles, especially the oldest girl child." Lacee smiled and reached her hand toward the candle and passed her finger through the flame. "Stop it," Micah said, whispering.

Lacee winked at Justy. "The children, they were smart, and they knew how to make things happen that the adults didn't. When the parents looked outside, what they saw was snow, little bits of ice on the ground, but the children, they knew it was more than that. You just had to add the right ingredient to turn the snow into the most delicious food in the whole universe." "What is it?" Micah asked. His body leaned forward, and his eyes flitted between Lacee's face and the mug. Lacee shrugged her shoulders and took a sip. "Lacee," Micah whined, and looked at Dale to see if she'd heard, "what's the secret ingredient?" "All right, then, but I can't say it very loud or an adult might hear and the spell will be broken." Lacee's face was serious and she leaned to whisper into his ear: "Green." Justy smiled. Micah shook his head, looked into his mug and smiled, too.

"See?" Lacee said. "It's a spell. A spell to make the snow stop, to make a deer show up, to have Mama make us blackberry pie." She shrugged. "Anything different, it'd be good." Micah half reached for the Bible on Dale's lap. His brown hair fell over his eyes when he looked down at his mug, considering. Lacee twisted her lips into a smile and reached a hand to his shoulder. "Listen, kiddo." She took a sip. "It's just some snow and some food coloring, and it's all we got. But we can pretend it's anything we want it to be." Justy thought about the falling snow and wondered why it couldn't turn into manna. She looked to the window and saw their reflections. They stood in a line according to their age, Lacee on the outside, Micah next to her, still staring into his mug, and Justy, holding on to her cup with both hands, the penny pressed in her right palm. Lacee walked away and brought back the can of pennies. She set it at their feet and reached in, letting the coins slide through her fingers. She sat down, and the others followed and took sips from their mugs, the warm water filling them up like magic. Even if something so simple could be the work of the Devil, it felt heavenly in this moment.

Lacee brought her mug over the red coffee can, tipping it so the water almost spilled out. Candlelight wavered over the letters that spelled Folgers. A drop fell onto the coins.

Copyright 2002 by Charlotte Gullick. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Blue Hen.

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