Two (Non-Consecutive) Chapters from the Novel, Gris-Gris

A Chapter from Part 2

1949 • Mark Guilbeau

Mamere’s skin was as pale and soft as powder, and Mark loved the cool silk of her cheek against his own and then the sweet kiss, the flutter of vetivert.   She ran her fingers through Mark’s blond hair, “I know you’ll be glad to get your own room again, cher.”  

Mark nodded, because she was right.  He was tired of having Addie always climbing into his bed.  And he was looking forward to hanging his turtle pictures and setting up his telescope without worry about Addie getting to it.

It had taken nearly two years for them to move back to Metarie after the Hurricane of 1947.  And by the time they had packed up their temporary bedroom to move home again, Mark was nine and Addie was six.

“You boys will be back here all the time.  Don’ you worry none at all.”

Mark knew this, as well.  He couldn’t wait to get back to their own house, to the sandpit in the backyard and his daddy’s tool shop in the garage.  But he wanted Mamere there, too.

He looked out the screen door from the kitchen and wondered if his father realized they were ready to go.  He seemed engrossed, ambling around the backyard, fixing Mamere’s lawnmower, pulling up weeds, moving rocks around.

“You is the big brother, Mark. “  Mamere cupped his chin, smiled down at him.  “You gonna show little Amadee how to be a good boy like you.” She lifted a plate of cookies from the white, metal counter and handed it to Mark.  “And, you is the boss of all these.”  He took the plate and she kissed him on the forehead.  “Because I know you’ll be fair.”

They were only moving back to their old house on Codifer Boulevard, and Mamere only lived in the Garden District, but he still didn’t like this goodbye, this end of nearly two years of Mamere’s tranquil care, the languid breeze that cooled the little blue shotgun house.  He’d miss his late-night access to her primeval backyard with its tangle of camellia, bougainvillea, elephant ears, bamboo, and crepe myrtle—and the mysterious susurrus of the nighttime creatures it harbored.

“Amadee,” she called, and his little brother flew into the room, giddy across the turquoise floor, his skinny arms spinning in turbine rotations.  He took deep, dramatic breaths in and out and was shining with sweat.

“What you doing, junya?” she asked.

Addie stiffened and pinned his arms to his sides.  “Winding myself up,” he said shrilly, and Mark knew instantly that Addie was thinking about their balsa wood planes.

“You just touch me,” he said to them.  “And see.”

Mark shook his head, but Mamere leaned comically away from Addie, then gingerly poked him with one slender finger.

Addie’s arms exploded in a windmill and Mamere giggled as his feet danced a crazy jig across the linoleum and to the kitchen door.  He slammed his shoulder into the screen door to make a dramatic exit to the yard, but the door did not give, and the screen split apart like a curtain.

“Goddamn it, Addie!” their father yelled from the backyard.

But Mark knew that he was the one in trouble now.  It was his job to keep Addie from inflicting just this sort of destruction and chaos upon the household.

Addie reeled backwards and flopped onto the floor.

“Oh, Addie,” Mamere laughed and laughed.  “You all right, boy?”

The tall form of their father blocked the light from the yard.  He pulled at the ripped mesh from the outside and tore it away from the frame.

Addie closed his eyes and pretended he was dead, and Mark braced himself for a scolding.

“Now I gotta fix this, too,” was all he said, though.  “Afore we can get going.”

“You want your tools?” Mark walked closer to the door, relieved to have a solution, and prodded his brother with his bare foot.

His father shook his head, slumped his shoulders, and silently turned away from them.

With their mother gone now, Mark couldn’t tell if his father was going to get really mad or really sad.  He used to get neither, or perhaps he had just saved those extremes for their mother.  All Mark knew was that, since she had left, there was a whole new way of being with this Dad.  And you never knew if things you did were bad or terrible or just nothing to him.  Mark no longer had his mother, as far as he knew, and he no longer had his old Dad.  This Dad now was a man he only half recognized.  The other half had disappeared into the unfathomable depths of grown ups.  But Mark was anticipating a big change when they got back to living in the old house.  His Dad would be happy up there.   They’d play ball in the wide-open backyard again, start crabbing again, and life would finally get on an even keel.

“You better off with no one,” his Mamere had said to his Dad,  “than with someone whose heart’s full of nothin’.”

Mark knew his mother’s heart wasn’t empty, though.

It was easy to hear them talk in the night, when the fans were turned down. Their muted voices carried along the central hall of the house, from the kitchen to the front bedroom and back again.  

“Full o’ nothing but maybe a box of lies,” Mamere added.

Mark’s father just grunted, sometimes said, “I know it, I know.”

And Mamere would keep going on and on.  “Can’t no one expect to live here, in this place, without going through some kind of natural disaster.”   Mark knew what was coming next.  “1893, 1901, 1915—that’s three hurricanes before I was twenty!  That’s what you gotta pay to live here, in this Eden.”

Mark thought of Mamere’s backyard, statues of angels covered with vines and one naked woman holding a tray who he always figured was Eve herself.

“It’s a test, honey,” Mamere continued.  “She was a faithless woman, and she didn’t survive the flood.”  She whispered next, but Mark could hear Amadee, Amadee, between the other words.

Addie was lying next to Mark, as usual, on top of the covers.  Mark didn’t like it when Addie asked to sleep with him, but they were sharing a room and he knew the sooner Addie got to sleep, the less likely they’d be to get into trouble.

His brother was so skinny and so little.  Mark looked at his flickering eyelids, the twitching nerves under his skin.  And that crazy crew cut, so short he was all but bald.

He knew he was responsible for his brother’s haircut obsession.  Mark was blond, his father was blond, his mother was blond, and they all three had blue eyes.  And then came Addie, brunette with brown eyes and nothing like any of them.

“You’s adopted, is why,” he had explained to his little brother one day after their Dad had slapped Mark especially hard across the head.  Addie had eaten an entire pan of their mamere’s fudge, and Mark was as usual held accountable.  He had even gone on to explain the technicalities of finding Addie in a trashcan downtown and his parents’ grave decision to bring him home.  His brother stood, mouth open, but not breathing.

And ever since Mark had told him that lie, Addie insisted on getting his hair trimmed nearly every other day.  It was one of his obsessions: trains, planes, alligators and getting his hair cut to nothing so it looked closer to blond.

Mamere was the one trimming it now, but Mark guessed he’d have to do it when they moved back to their old house.  He couldn’t wait to be there again.  It was big and you could run in it, and unlike Mamere’s house, it had stairs and a cavernous, cool garage where he could keep all the pets he would now be able get.   

Then he thought of the flood, and of how it was a good thing he hadn’t had pets then.  His mother wouldn’t allow it.

They had lived in a two-room apartment while their Dad was in the War, and when he came home, the U.S. government helped him purchase their nice Bonnabel house, and his Mom was wild about keeping it pretty and clean.

She hated floods more than just about anybody, which was why she left.  She went to go live somewhere that didn’t have hurricanes, and everyone knows that New Orleans will get at least one hurricane every decade until the end of time.  

He tried not to think much about his mother, because when he did he always ended up wondering why, if she hated floods so much, she didn’t think he wouldn’t want to get away from them, too.  He supposed that she didn’t take him because someone would have to look out for Addie if she was gone.  His father lacked patience and worked all the time, where Mark knew just how to get Addie to pay attention and to behave.

They’d spent almost every weekend for the last two years working on their house in Bonnabel Place, fixing up things the colored guys didn’t do right during the week.  The water had reached the top of their front door and made the house slide part sideways, like a lopsided layer cake, Mamere said, with the upstairs tilting over the downstairs and looking ready to topple.  If Mark had been asleep in his upstairs bedroom during the flood, he expected he would have slid when the house listed—bed and all—right out the side window and down the street and out into Lake Ponchartrain.  And that was only if his bed could in fact float.

But, luckily, their Dad came and got their mom, Mamere, Addie, and him and took them all to a motel in Baton Rouge where they got to watch a T.V., sit in the air cooling, and wait.

They drove silently from Mamere’s to their old house.  Their neighborhood used to be rows of neat little bungalows, but now it was a crazy mix of new, bigger houses, crashed-down piles of old houses, and some, like theirs, that looked half-new and half-the way they used to look.  There were fewer trees now, and a lot of dirt where there was supposed to be plants.  They had been to their old house many times since the hurricane, but this was the first time they were going to be back to living and sleeping in it.  All of their sheets and pillows and clothes were packed in boxes in the back of the Pontiac, and the plate of sugar cookies sat on Mark’s lap.  

It was a time for a new start, and Addie bounced up and down in the back seat in anticipation.  Mark was looking forward to his Dad cheering up and not having to fix things so much.  At the same time, it didn’t make complete sense to Mark to be returning to a place that would, as his father himself had said, just get flooded again one day.  

As his father pulled into their driveway, it suddenly occurred to Mark that the solution to everything was for him to get a boat.  Why hadn’t he thought of that before?  It didn’t need to be fancy, just big enough to fit all of them and any pets he got.  He could keep it in their big, new, painted garage.  And their mother would come home because she would see that he had provided a guarantee of safety and escape for the future.  He was sure he could set something like that up.  She’d still be sad when her house got wrecked with mud, but at least she could put her most important things in his boat.  He felt the thrill of purpose as he imagined piling her hats and shoes and mixer into its hull.  He’d just have to find her and let her know.

They sat in the car for a few moments in silence and stared at the little house with no grass still and no bushes or flowers.  But the white paint was bright, the door was red, and the gutters hung straight.  Everything was symmetrical again.  His Dad sighed.  Mark waited.

“Mom!” Addie shrieked.  “Look, it’s mom!”  He pointed to a lady walking toward them down Codifer Boulevard.   It was a black woman, probably a maid on her way home downtown.

“Oh jeeze, Addie,” their father said, “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

But Mark could see what he saw; she was tall and slender and she walked with the same queen’s grace as their mother, and she had a bright yellow scarf over her head and maybe Addie had mistaken that for her hair.

And right there, in the car before the house, in a shock of bitter disappointment, the scent of his mother’s real hair came to Mark—the gentle touch of mint, of lilacs—and he began to cry.

­~ • ~ •­ ~ • ~ • ­~ • ~ •­ ~ • ~ •~ • ~ •­ ~ • ~ • ­~ • ~ •­ ~ • ~ •

A Chapter from Part 4

1986 • Mina

Mina sat at the end of her bed and looked out her window to the pasture where the morning fog was just beginning to lift. She loved this rare time of daylight and silence. The traffic on the busy road beside the field had not started, and the only sounds were those of the birds and a distant commuter train. She saw an unusual form in the field: a cat? A crow? She watched the animal, there, a few feet from the hedge that separated the properties. And as the layer of mist lifted, she saw that it was a fox, a delicate auburn creature, sitting still, its head tilted slightly up, breathing in its own private pleasure at this spring morning that held the rare promise of sun.

A fox! An animal she had only ever seen in motion, stretched low, lean and furtive as it traversed the neighbor’s gardens in search of prey or else dead and flat in roads. It was a night animal, really, and one that avoided the open. But this one was sitting regally in plain view, thinking itself unwatched and, by all appearances, absorbing the calm and pleasure of the morning. Was that fox daydreaming, there, in its bold oblivion?

Her little black pug, Teddy, stood up from where it had been sleeping on Mina’s pillow, and stretched. He padded to the end of the bed with her and curled against her soft hip and exhaled, a gentle snort, back into sleep.

Mina stayed where she was, watching the fox. How long would he feel safe staying there, she wondered? So exposed, yet at ease, lulled by the beauty of the morning and by the smell of the clover in the field. She watched for twenty, thirty minutes, until the traffic began to pick up and people began to gather at the bus stop to go to work. Like Mina, the fox emerged from its trance and, still without urgency, trod nonchalantly out of her sight.

“Let’s go get some tea,” she said to the little dog and lifted it down from the bed. “Come on.” She walked slowly in her slippers, her legs heavy and stiff, her feet sore. The pug strutted at her heels. She hoped to get downstairs before anyone else was up, while the care home kitchen was pristine and still. She would put on the kettle, make some tea, feed Teddy his breakfast, and plan their day.

When Paige had called her earlier that week, Mina had no interest in conversation beyond the skeletal plans needed to meet. She did not trust voices without bodies, and she would rather not converse at all if given the choice. Life was better left unsullied by talk, which was so often inadequate and so often false.

The girl had of course sounded disappointed at Mina’s lack of excitement. She couldn’t wait to meet her, she had so much to tell her! But what was Mina to do? Pretend she was pleased to be found? Had she been lost? Was she to pretend she appreciated the young woman’s American tendency towards fervor? I’m your granddaughter! the girl had exclaimed, but Mina made no sense of it. “Who was your mother, then?” she had asked the American over the phone, quite thrown.

It was not that Mina did not care. It was just that the weight of this mysterious granddaughter’s expectations was new, and it put her off. She was somewhat embarrassed because she could only really remember her little girl self, the one in Ealing, with the mother dressed in furs and pearls and smelling of Joy, kissing her goodnight and tucking in her sheets. And she could usually remember what happened now, when it didn’t go away. But the middle part of life was gone. They had told her about America and her stay at the asylum. They told her there had been a daughter and she had written all of it down. But that past was just a story. She had never gained a feeling for it, often didn’t believe it, and did not like the idea of letting anyone from that blank life come into the one she had now.

She had intended to spend every dry day that spring working in the garden. And here it was, May or possibly it was April and today, the first that did not start with rain, and possibly one of only a few, and she had to devote it to preparing to meet this excitable young woman. Then there would be the actual meeting, and then she would have to recover from meeting her. It was exhausting.

The group home was well appointed, and because she was the only one who gardened, Mina had taken over the small potting shed in the back. It was tiny, but it held a tall bench, hooks and racks holding all manner of forks and spades, and, at this moment, some roots of Veronica to be divided and some hollyhock seedlings waiting for potting-up. Sometimes she and Teddy spent the entire day out there, the dog propped up on the tall bench, his back legs splayed out like an infant’s, head as high as Mina’s shoulder, watching her in a patient slouch as she worked for hours and hours on her propagators and drying racks. She had an electric fire, so even on the coldest days, the two of them could keep warm and, though there was barely room to turn around, they stayed out there even when there was nothing at all to do. Mina would open up an old director’s chair, pull Teddy on to her lap, and they’d just sit and think.

It was better than being inside with all of the wretched old people and the mentally infirm, and it was how she hoped to occupy the rest of her life, removed and in the company of plants and her little dog. How many years could be left? What was she now? Sixty-three? Seventy-five?

On warmer days, one of the two male residents, a leggy eighty-two year old named Simon, would sometimes venture out to the shed and ask her pointless and lewd questions. “My lovely pink clove, I have arrived with here my polemonium,” he’d say as he peered into her shed. “Oh, passion flower, do show me your laburnum.” He had been an actor—a friend of Larry’s—and, like Mina, had taken recreational drugs in his past.

Now, he bothered her with lines that sounded as if they were from Shakespeare, but were likely the result of his pointless and excessive reading of the reference books in their parlor.

As she poured water from the electric kettle into her teacup, Simon shuffled into the kitchen. In the mornings he was prone to forget her name, and possibly that he even knew her, so Mina preferred not to speak to him then.

“What’s in a name?” he said, as he reached over her shoulder for a mug. “That which we call a rose, we call Mina, who does smell—” he sniffed the back of her neck, and she felt a small hint of a chill—”as sweet.” And, for a few seconds, Mina left the kitchen and Simon and Teddy and she was in a warm and bright house in the middle of Virginia and could smell wood fire. A tall, lean man had his arms around her waist—she could feel the strength in his arms. “Gabe,” she said, and he kissed her neck, her jaw—and then he was gone.

Simon did not notice, if indeed she had said the name out loud. He took the kettle from her hand and poured hot water into his own mug.

“Spectacular robe,” Simon said as she backed away, cradling the teacup, and pulled the belt tight. It was indeed lovely, a pink silk kimono someone had brought into the charity shop. “Madama Butterfly.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” Mina said.

“But where is your American soldier?” he winked.

Mina was stumped, because she felt that there was indeed an American soldier there, somewhere, stirring. She could feel the wool jacket, smell the mix of sweat, tobacco, and aftershave. For a moment, she felt a breeze of excitement—that relief, or escape, was within her grasp—then it stopped. “What on earth do you mean?”

“In the opera, my dear, Simon said, “Don’t you know it?”

What she did know was that she was in a care home full of foolish people who remembered very little. “Of course,” she said. She touched her hair, pulled out a pin and twisted a small lock back up into the pale grey chignon. “Why must you talk so bloody much in the morning?”

Simon smiled. “I talk to you because you are so very enchanting, my love.”

“Come on, Teddy,” Mina said to the little dog, “Let’s go.” The pug sat impassive, silently staring at the cupboard and waiting for a breakfast that, by all measures, was not going to be coming that day.

But she lingered. “There was a fox in the middle of the field this morning,” she said. Teddy whined, but Mina was distracted in thought. “He was just sitting.”

Simon lifted his mug to his mouth, leaned against the kitchen counter, and nodded. “I suppose they must have to stop from time to time,” he said. “You know, to gain perspective.”

“Oh, no,” Mina said, “Not out in the open like that—.” She stepped away from Simon, aware that she had to move on, to get dressed, fix her hair, and put on jewelry for the American. The day was descending. “Not exposed and still like that—no—far too dangerous.”

• • •

The young woman did look remarkably familiar. “Sorry, have we met?” Mina shook the visitor’s small, cool hand. She was an interesting mix of delicacy and clumsiness. Her features were fine, her hair a graceful concoction of twists and curls and she wore pearls in her ears. But the bulky hiking boots and the blue jeans ruined the effect. It was as if she had only remembered to dress her top half for tea.

Paige smiled and shook her head. “No, Ma’am, we haven’t.” She gave Mina a bouquet of lilacs and Queen Anne’s lace.

“Oh, they’re lovely!” Mina took them from her. She took the young woman’s hand and led her from the doorway. “And your name, once more—”

“Paige.”

The young woman had a glorious smile that she could not seem to control. Her body had a sort of perpetual forward momentum, and Mina had the uneasy sense she was at risk of being hugged. Mina led her into the parlor, which was blissfully empty.

The care worker had set up a special table for the two of them in the parlor and told everyone else to stay out. Mina had been touched at how excited the carer was about the arrival of the American. “Your granddaughter!” she kept repeating, “Mina, you get to meet your granddaughter!” She had set the card table with an immaculate white cloth and china, and now, since Mina had last been in the room, plates of small sandwiches and pink iced cakes had arrived.

“Such lovely flowers,” Mina said again, because she could think of nothing else. She set the bouquet in her water glass and moved it to the center of the table. Was there something, she wondered, that they were supposed to talk about? “So you are here—”

“You look so much like my mom,” Paige said, and poured tea for them both.

She stared with such black eyes. What are they? Mina thought. Italian eyes? “But who is your mum?” She felt that she was supposed to know the answer, and Mina was relieved to see that the question did not bother Paige, who kept smiling.

“Her name is Kate, my mom. She’s your daughter.”

“Oh, I don’t recall a daughter.” Mina frowned, shook her head. She was not convinced.

Paige reached over and touched Mina’s delicate hand. “Kate. She has your skin,” she said, “and your mouth, and your voice.”

Mina froze. She tried to remember a daughter, and when she looked hard at Paige, she had the sense of one, but it could also have been the image of her younger self or her mother because even though the familiarity stirred her, it was without a name. “Kate?” And in saying the word, she felt a warm little body, a round tummy against her chest, small arms around her neck, a tiny child’s lips wet against her own. “Where is she?”

“Oh, she’s in New Orleans right now. She runs a hotel.”

“Like my mother,” she said. “She was a publican, you know. Very rare for a single woman of that time.”

“Yes,” Paige said, “I’ve heard. I went to the Old Hat, you know.”

Mina waited for Paige to continue. She liked the idea of talking about the Old Hat, but the girl had suddenly lost her tongue and frowned as if what she had just said was shameful. As if something horrid had happened there. She noticed that the girl’s lips were nearly identical to her own, a color that Mina now applied with lipstick—and the same crisp cupid’s bow.

“Yes, the Old Hat!” Mina said. This was easy going. “We had a lovely garden in the back, with a little hutch for my guinea pig.” She recalled the twitchy black nose, the alternating ginger, white, and black of the body, its sweet purring as it cuddled against her neck. How trusting the little creature was, how tender.

“I saw the garden,” Paige said.

“Yes, so many people there, and dancing in the garden in the summer time.” Mina recalled the lanterns, the shiny crinoline skirts of the ladies, the hustle of the men, so unfathomably charming and handsome. “My mother let them take the gramophone outside when it was clear…. But that was all before the war—” Mina stopped. Whenever she heard the word war come out of her mouth, she became self-conscious, aware that she was sounding like the old-age pensioners whose life seemed to freeze in 1939, as if nothing good ever happened after that. Though nothing good really had, as far as she could remember, except, perhaps, her garden shed and the acquisition of Teddy. And then this girl, out of nowhere, to add to the confusion.

There was a sharp knock on the door between the kitchen and the parlor. “Just wanted to meet the granddaughter,” Simon said as he pushed the door and stepped into the room.

Paige stood and lifted her hand to shake his.

“No need to do that,” Mina said to her, and she froze.

“Two great beauties of our time,” he said. He took Paige’s hand and kissed it. “You’re the image of your grandmother,” he said.

Mina suddenly realized there was no logic to any of this. She set down her teacup and stared at the two of them, then looked quizzically to Paige. “If I am your grandmother,” she said, “then who in the hell is your grandfather?”

Simon tilted his head, his eyes narrowing as if he were calculating a math problem.

Paige smiled, and the smile did not strike Mina as honest. “Well, Gabe is,” she said. There was a long silence.

“Yes, and you have her voice, don’t you?” Simon said.

Mina concentrated, trying to feel for something to strike her as familiar. Then she gave up and placed a small pink cake onto her plate.

“But he’s in heaven now.” Paige looked worried as she said this.

“Heaven?” Mina said. “He’s in heaven?” Then she burst into laughter. “Oh dear,” she said. “This is all so very—fantastical!” She patted the table and smiled at Paige. “Come sit back down and finish your tea.”

The American smiled her brilliant smile and returned to the table. Simon continued into the parlor, despite the fact that he had been told to stay out, and sat down to read in the opposite corner.

When they finished, Mina realized that she quite liked the young woman, who had been very interested in her life and how she spent her days at the home. She decided to take her out to the potting shed to meet Teddy.

She was wearing a wool skirt and a silk blouse and heels, but the garden was so well ordered, with hexagonal pavers set neatly in a path of tiny stones, and her shed was so tidy, that she had no worries of ruining anything except, perhaps, her tights. Teddy was a rascal when it came to tights.

“Teddy!” she called before they reached the shed.

Mina pulled the latch and opened the door. The little black dog lay curled on a pile of blankets, snoring. “Here he is,” she whispered, and let Paige enter first. When they were both in the shed with Teddy there was barely enough room to move, but it did not matter. Mina liked having this girl in her shed and it did not occur to her to feel inconvenienced. The girl was warm and was the first person Mina had actually wanted to linger since she could remember. It was a lovely feeling, knowing you truly wanted someone to stay.

The dog stood and stretched, and Paige kneeled down before him. “Hi Teddy.” The little dog sniffed her boots, then began to lick her hand with determination.

“Oh, he likes you!” Mina said, and knew the dog was drawn to Paige because she had such a gentle way about her, despite being an American.

Paige stood and Mina observed the athletic ease of her movements. She was strong but graceful, a very modern kind of girl. She inspected her tools, picking up one, then another, and lifted a weave of roots from the bench. “What’s this?” she asked. Mina couldn’t think of the name just then; she was thinking instead of the boldness of this girl, inspecting the items in her garden shed as if it were her right, and she rather liked it.

“Did you draw all of these?” Paige stood and looked at the sketches tacked to the wall. They were drawings of plants, mainly, and of Teddy, and a number of garden plans Mina had sketched out.

“Oh, don’t look at those!” she said. “I needed something to put up, you know—the bare spots.” Mina did not intend the pictures to be regarded by anyone; they were her exercises—nothing worth notice.

“They’re beautiful,” Paige said, and moved closer to a sketch of columbine. “So delicate—and realistic. This looks exactly like Teddy.” She pointed to another. “Do you paint?”

“What—pictures? Why would I?” Mina couldn’t think of a reason in the world that she would want to be an artist. Messy, self-indulgent and pointless. These sketches were simply records, memories on paper. She liked the black and white of them.

“My sister—” Paige stopped. She looked at once afflicted and drained. Then she continued. “She could draw, too. She used to imagine what you looked like and paint you—”

“You have a sister?” Mina said. Had she mentioned a sister? Would this be another granddaughter?

“Well, not now—” The young woman looked structurally unstable and bereft. “Sylvie,” she said quietly, and bent down to pet Teddy once more. She closed into a near ball around the dog, her back to Mina.

Mina did not understand all of this, but was moved to see the vibrant and intrepid young woman break down so openly there, in the potting shed, on the ground between the bench and the wall. Before she could stop herself to think or judge the action as ungainly or crass, she curved around Paige, just as she had surrounded the dog. She held her, feeling Paige’s spine against her own breast, the mess of curls against her cheek. “Oh, I know, love,” she said to comfort her granddaughter, who was warm and shaking ever so gently. “I know.”

Helen Storey

Helen Storey recently completed her first novel, Gris-Gris, while earning her PhD at Bath Spa University, U.K.Her short stories and poetry have won several awards and have been published in national journals. She is currently writing a new novel and teaching writing at Pennsylvania State University. When not writing, reading, or teaching, Helen fills her time dancing, traveling, and collecting wayward dogs.

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Author: Helen Storey

Helen Storey recently completed her first novel, Gris-Gris, while earning her PhD at Bath Spa University, U.K. Her short stories and poetry have won several awards and have been published in national journals. She is currently writing a new novel and teaching writing at Pennsylvania State University. When not writing, reading, or teaching, Helen fills her time dancing, traveling, and collecting wayward dogs.