My new novel, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN HIGH AND LOW, is almost ready for publication. It is a book that I began ten years ago and worked on sporadically, searching for the right publisher. In the interim, it was chosen as a Finalist for The Tuscany Prize, and also a Finalist in the William Faulkner/William Wisdom Writing Competition. In addition, one of the stories in my short story collection, “Birds of a Feather,” published by WiseBlood Books, came out of this novel, as well as a story published in Dappled Things Magazine. So…I think it is time for the whole book to be finally unveiled. That unveiling should happen sometime before Thanksgiving.

The novel is southern gothic, about twins who must do without their father, and about those who pick up the slack.

Here are the important characters, along with a few of their thoughts.

 

LIZZIE:

LIZZIIE model-2405020_640

“My brother Peck and I were twins. In the darkest of watery wombs, we waited for the voice of our father, and heard silence. So, we placed our arms around each other and felt the beating of hearts, tiny sweet pulsations thumping against our skin. Wound together, my brother belonged to me, and I to him, for our breath was the same breath. Our loss was the same loss. I loved him then. I love him now. No matter what happened, no matter the distance between us, I will always love him.”

PECK:

peck

“I can’t tell Lizzie what I know– that our Mama is hooked on some drug and maybe on Hobart, too, that our house is not ours, but his, and that I never really wanted the osprey, only our father who doesn’t want us. I love Lizzie too much to hurt her like that. And I can’t let her into my room because no one, except Izear, has ever seen me cry.”

           PEARL:

Pearl

The Grandmother, always with Super Glue in her pocket to restore broken things, like fine china, radios, and even people. Pearl’s favorite adage is a warning picked up from her second cousin, the only Judge in Highlow, Alabama:

“If  you don’t want to go to Cincinnati, then don’t get on the bus.”

IZEAR:

                       (Because in my mind, he looks like George Washington Carver)

Izear george-washington-carver-393757_640

“Did you know your father?” Peck asks Izear.

“Knowed he was a full-blooded Cherokee, ugly as sin, and the meanest man I ever met. People saw him walking down the street, they crossed to the other side ‘cause he always carried a plank of wood in case somebody made him mad.”

“At least you knew him.” Peck rolls his napkin into a snake shape.

“Most fathers ain’t all they’re cracked up to be,” Izear says. “Eat your toast. I made that blackberry jelly myself.”

“But you did know him.”

Izear turned from the stove where he was frying bacon, “Lookahere, you got all you need. No reason at all for another man to be in this house, so quit whining.”

“I want just want to meet him.”

“Maybe I wanna meet the King of Egypt, too, but it ain’t gonna happen. You take what you get and thank the sweet Lord Jesus for it.”

LILA: THE DRUG-ADDICTED, ARTIST MOTHER WHO PAINTS FACES ON FINE CHINA

Lila face-painting-1976861_640

“Mama tries, again, to kill Hobart with the just-in-case gun. She shoots through her opened window as he walks toward his new car, still bandaged from the first time. I am sorry to say that all she hits is the rear-view mirror.”

 

HOBART: THE OUTSIDER WHO CRAVES TO BELONG ON HIGHLOW’S MAIN STREET

Hobart man-916498_640

“You ever shot a gun?”

“I saw how to do it on TV.”

“Well, TV ain’t real. They use ketchup for blood.”

“I’ve seen real blood. I saw Peck’s blood and it was real.”

“I told you to shut the hell up about that!”

“Okay, Hobart.”

“Look, hold the gun like this and look through that sight. When you see the damn hawk, pull the trigger and kill it.”

“Okay. . .but what if we get hungry out here?”

“When you hunt, you got to be patient. And quit that damn sniffing. Here’s a handkerchief, wipe your nose.”

“What’s that fell out of your pocket, Hobart?”

“Somethin’ D.C. gave me. Dixie sugar. It’s for Leona. I don’t use anymore; I’m trying to fix myself up for Miss Pearl.”

“My daddy loves sugar. He loves all that sugar in Izear’s pound cake. Mama says it’s why he’s got a spare tire around his waist. Peck loved sugar, too.”

“Listen Little Benedict, maybe we oughta go on back if you’re hungry.”

“But we haven’t even seen the Osprey. If Peck was here, he’d wait for it.”

“I told you not to talk about–. Little Benedict, get back in the truck, we’re leaving!”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Hell, I’ll give you a rain check, okay?”

“Okay Hobart, but–“

“But what!”

“I loved Peck, too, ya’ know.”

“Yeah. I know, Little Benedict.”

 

LITTLE BENEDICT: DEVOTED  NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR TO LIZZIE AND PECK

Peck 2

“Remember Little Benedict, “Miss Pearl says, looking down at me and pointing her tiny finger. “You and I are Highlow blood and in this together. Plus, The Judge will write down whatever you say.”

Naturally, I keep my mouth shut.

LITTLE SISTER: DESERTED BY HER PARENTS

Little SIster child-2745167__340

Little Sister doesn’t take rudeness personal;
she’s always looking for Jesus. She tip toes
toward the fruits and vegetables and comes
up just behind the Foodliner manager who’s
absorbed in checking for bruised tomatoes.
She taps his shoulder. He turns around to
see Little Sister smiling at him, and then she
gives him her best kiss, right on the mouth.
The Foodliner manager is stunned. “Jesus!”
he shouts, wiping his lips. “Jesus!”
Little Sister tilts up her chin in triumph.
“Uh huh!” she says. “I knew He was
in there somewhere.”

 

ANTHONY: THE DOCTOR WHO LOVES LIZZIE

Anthony man-1209947_640

Anthony tightens his grip over my hand. “You can do it, Lizzie. Just don’t sail directly into the wind. Zigzag a little, a forty-five degree angle. It’s called tacking. See? The wind crosses over the bow, not into it.”

The boat straightens, and stays that way as long as Anthony keeps his hand on mine. We have a smooth sail and make it back to shore, while the other two passengers barely notice.

THE BLIND ARTIST: IS HE THEIR FATHER???

blind artist nikita-shalenny-84372_640

     “Which one beat you?”
“I’m almost certain it was the kid, but I couldn’t see. By then, I was blind.”
“Well, it was the black man who went to jail for it,” I say, but he isn’t listening.
“Lila was screaming,” he went on. “She said if they’d leave me alone, she’d go back with them. The beating stopped then.   And that’s all I can tell you, except after I knew they were gone, I called the police. Of course, they couldn’t give me back my eyes.”

 

THE JUDGE WHO WRITES EVERYTHING DOWN:

The Judge thinking-272677_640 

From The Official 1950’s Archives of Pearl’s Cousin, The Judge.

Written on a single, stained page, recently discovered under a tea napkin by Little Sister, and left just where she found it.

“Lila’s twins were born today. She named the boy, Peck, and the girl, Lizzie. Their father is just another Highlow secret, best left untold. Pearl says she and Izear will see to it that Lizzie and Peck don’t feel the lack of him, but I say those twins will search the distance between high and low for their father’s love. It’s only natural.”