Guide Ozark Mountains Back In The Day Short Story Series (Ozark Mountains Series Book 7)

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Mary liked the feel of his soft hand absently rubbing her stomach as they lay in bed together. He was gentle, attentive to the things that gave her pleasure. After returning from Kuwait in , Henry Swopes had left his wife and two daughters in Oklahoma City and moved to the Ozarks to find peace. And he thought he had found it in the Midway Presbyterian Church.

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When she went up to him after the service to offer comfort and gratitude, she took his warm hand in hers and looked into his moist eyes, then pulled his bowed head down onto her shoulder and hugged him like a penitent child. There on the pew beside Mary, Henry began to snore. She wondered whether she could live with a man who snored.

Will was a quiet sleeper. When an EMT stepped into the third pew to look at Henry, Mary stood and moved up to the first pew and sat beside Will. She glanced back over her shoulder at the people. Some of the men herded their families toward the back doors. Some stood and stared at the pickup truck on the stage. Someone would have noticed her going to Henry on the third pew while Will lay injured on the floor.

There would be talk. He turned and looked at her, his left eye covered with gauze wrapping, and smiled and squeezed her hand. She licked her handkerchief and dabbed at the blood still smeared on his chin. The ambulance crew took Henry away in a neck brace, but Will refused to go. He said he would stay until everything was cleared up, and then Mary could bring him to the hospital to get checked.

The stitches could wait an hour. He took his role as deacon seriously, as he did everything in his life. A state trooper led the driver of the pickup, handcuffed, limping, out the side door into the parking lot. Driving under the influence. It was an old story in Madison County. When Henry Swopes had joined the church, his deep bass voice had been just what the choir needed. For one quiet moment, Mary was afraid. Her throat tightened, and she moved her hand to the door handle in the dark.

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But in the silence, over the ticking of the engine as it cooled, Henry began to weep. He looked over at her again, his eyes moist. She was sure, later, that the eyes were what did it. She pulled his head down onto her shoulder and, only mildly surprised, when he began to kiss her neck, she pressed her face into his hair. She smelled the mildew on his shirt even then. As the state trooper led him away, the limping truck driver appeared confused, not sure what had happened. Like a fly in a spider web, caught in events he did not see coming, Mary thought.

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She tried to imagine herself behind the wheel in the truck, not sure how she got there, struggling to stay between the lines. Willie died before Mary and Will got to the hospital. The day Willie died seemed to Mary most of the time to be in the distant past, and yet in the half-waking of some early mornings it broke on her as if it were yesterday, and then she would try to remember what she had said to Willie that morning before school, after he knocked over his glass of milk at the breakfast table, as he had done so many times before. She might have said that she loved him even when he made her life harder than it ought to be.

That even Jesus worried his parents sometimes.

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That people were careless. A reporter from the Gazette stood in front of Will, writing in his notebook. She would have to tell him everything. Maybe tonight when they got home from the hospital, before the gossip reached him.

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Her heart beat hard. She imagined him lying in bed, just drifting off. She would sit beside him and say his name quietly, with no emotion, the way people do when they are about to give you the bad news. The way the doctor had spoken when he sat down beside Will and Mary in the surgery waiting room at the County Hospital. When he had said their names, Mr. Biddings, they had known by the way he said it that Willie was gone. Mary was sick before the doctor could finish his sentence. A nurse rushed over to her with a basin, but it was too late.

Too late for Mary. Too late for Willie.


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Wondered if he would be sick before she could say what she had to say. The man in handcuffs sat in the back seat. Under the influence. Too late to escape the consequences. Sophie Collins had been convicted of manslaughter for the death of Willie Biddings. When Mary thought of it, a ragged hole opened in her chest and dropped down into her stomach, tunneled down her legs into her toes.

Sophie Collins had worked nights as a janitor at the school for twenty years. She still drove the Dodge panel truck her husband, a house painter, had used before he died.

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Mary had not talked to Sophie since the trial. Sophie no longer came out of her house during the day except for the Borderline Group at noon on Wednesdays. She had her groceries delivered. A tow truck backed up to the rear of the church building, its rack of lights blinking through the gaping hole in the wall. All these flashing lights, now that the accident had happened.

Bobby still held the fire extinguisher at his side. The three men looked down at the ice chest half full of beer as they spoke; then Will pointed to the hole in the wall, and Bobby nodded his head. Bobby glanced back over his shoulder at Mary. His eyes lingered before he turned back. Will came down the steps from the stage carefully, his good eye cocked toward his feet. Will had always been good in an emergency. When Willie was killed, Will took care of all the arrangements while Mary lay in the dark bedroom, half sleeping through the Valium. At the funeral the heavy smell of the flowers had made her sleepy, but he kept his arm around her shoulders, pulling her snug to him.

At the cemetery he held her arm up against him. When they got to the car, Will laid his head back on the headrest and closed his eye. Mary drove to the hospital. When they drove through a lazy snake of smoke drifting across the street from leaves burning in a ditch, she thought of Willie running around a smoldering pile waving a stick in the air, swatting at the smoke. Maybe this was the time and the place to tell Will everything.

The scene of the crime.

It would be quiet and dark in the pine grove. Maybe the smell of the pine needles and the bleak chirp of the crickets would help him understand why she had not resisted when Henry began to kiss her neck, when his hand began to fumble at the buttons of her dress. She might tell him that she could not breathe when she tried to remember the morning of the day Willie died. The simple act that would have cost so little, squandered, suffocating her.

When Henry had reached over to her in the sweet scent of pines and the sound of crickets, his eyes brimming, it had seemed at the time so small a price to pay, to breathe again for a little while. When she braked to slow the car, Will lifted his head and groaned. He reached with both hands to hold the bandage at his forehead. He was in pain. And he needed the stitches. Her breathing slowed. She would have to tell him later. At the hospital Mary parked in front of the sign that read Emergency Only. Will sat still, his eye closed and his hands in his lap, his head tilted forward.

Mary had expected people in green scrubs to come running out to help, to see what the emergency was. But nobody came. The red letters over the emergency entrance seemed smaller than they had two years earlier, when she and Will had almost run into the glass doors that were so slow to open. She had raised her fist and pounded on the doors just before they slid apart. And beyond those doors, more machinery.

Lights blinked on and off, tubes hung from plastic bags, the click and rasp of respirators forced cold air into passive lungs. Second hallway on the left, waiting room on your right. Not enough time to get ready. If they had only been able to talk, pace the hall, build up a fragile scaffolding of hope, to recognize the numb hand of despair as it slid into their belly and gave them strength. Then a motorcycle roars by, a stray bullet Well, you need this one.

Keepers is highly focused It's the Figures as She is feisty, knowing and Austin Grossman This collection follows up her Standouts in this first collection are "Fialta," about a love triangle set It comes from a medical textbook's definition of "life. But Dan Fagin's Wedgwood is a I wasn't sure how I felt And: Just because I can't stop doing Volk introduces She has returned to investigate the death of her mentor, and once Yes, Stephen King brings us the sequel to The It's easy to get swept up in this quietly dramatic novel, an interwoven depiction of two heroines separated by With the long-awaited Battling Boy, the And the world is changed.

You might say I prefer — wait for it — scatology to eschatology. Rose Justice is an American When new regulations They are all astonishing in their wit and honesty and virtuosity. As St. Her settings evoke mysterious yearnings. And yet, there are few page novels in the She has a serious drug habit, she's been in foster homes since birth, and Dick's media-saturated worlds, and you've got the idea behind Love Minus Eighty.

This collection is ripped from the history books, but not limited to the facts; it's suspenseful, even when we all The Shining Girls is a murder Yeah, there's a reanimated She sets her sights on the Duke of In her latest book the fifth in the series , she tries to unravel a Among the He's got So the It's , Brooklyn-born author, Sara Gran, has reintroduced a distinctive His sons were told one thing; their father's obit alluded Several feature a character with a husband, family, The writer needs to bring readers into a world that they might be reluctant to enter.

Juliann Garey draws His Manchester, England, band, Stiff It tells She doesn't ask why To borrow a phrase, "This time is different. Now he's in Dallas, facing the end of his Now she's back, summoned by her family to help at their winery, and she's I sometimes forget not everything's a laugh riot. So to get my fix of the current depressing state of American Now, it's being published for the This year Erica Perl brings us Aces Wild, which matches the magic of her novel, Silent as