About the Author

Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Gail Anderson-Dargatz, whose fictional style has been coined as "Pacific Northwest Gothic" by the Boston Globe, has been published worldwide in English and in many other languages. A Recipe for Bees and The Cure For Death By Lightning were international bestsellers, and were both finalists for the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada. The Cure For Death By Lightning won the UK’s Betty Trask Prize among other awards. A Rhinestone Button was a national bestseller in Canada and her first book, The Miss Hereford Stories, was short-listed for the Leacock Award for humour. Her most recent novel, The Spawning Grounds, released in fall 2016, was again a bestseller. After nearly a decade of teaching within the Optional-Residency MFA program in creative writing at the University of British Columbia, Gail now mentors writers around the world through her own on-line forums. She lives in the Shuswap, the landscape found in so much of her writing.

Books by this Author
A Recipe for Bees
Excerpt

From Chapter One

"Have I told you the drone's penis snaps off during intercourse with the queen bee?" asked Augusta.

"Yes," said Rose. "Many times."

Before Augusta dragged her luggage upstairs to the apartment, before she checked on the welfare of her elderly husband, Karl, even before she hugged and greeted her seven kittens, she had made her way, with the aid of a cane, across the uneven ground to inspect the hive of bees she kept in Rose's garden.

"They won't mate at all unless they're way up in the sky," said Augusta. "The drones won't take a second look at a queen coming out of a hive. But when she's thirty, a hundred, feet up in the air, then she gets their interest. They'll seek her out, flying this way and that to catch her scent until there's a V of drones -- like the V of geese following a leader in the sky -- chasing along behind her."

"You were going to tell me about Joe," said Rose.

"As soon as the drone mounts and thrusts, he's paralyzed, his genitals snap off, and he falls backward a hundred feet to his death."

"I don't want to hear about it."

In late summer, hives full of ripening honey emitted a particular scent, like the whiff of sweetness Augusta used to catch passing by the candy-apple kiosk at the fall fair, but without the tang of apples to it. She should have been smelling this now, but instead the hive gave off the vinegar-and-almond scent of angry bees. They buzzed loudly, boiling in the air in front of the hive like a pot of simmering toffee. There were far more guard bees than usual, standing at attention at the mouth of the hive.

"Something's been after the bees," said Augusta. She took a step forward to examine them, but several bees flew straight at her, warning her off. "I'll have to look at them later," she said. "When they've settled down."

She turned to the balcony of her apartment, directly above the garden. "Do you think Karl remembers today is our anniversary?"

"He hasn't said anything to me," said Rose. Later that evening, though, Augusta would learn that Rose had hidden Karl's flowers in her fridge. He had walked up and down the roadsides and into the vacant lots, searching for pearly everlastings, sweet tiny yellow flowers with white bracts that bloomed from midsummer right on into winter, and held their shape and color when dried. They were the flowers Karl had picked for Augusta's wedding bouquet forty-eight years before. He had brought the flowers to Rose's apartment in a vase and asked her to hide them in her fridge until later that day.

"You'd think he'd remember, wouldn't you?" said Augusta. "Especially after everything that's happened these past three weeks."

"You'd think."

"You can hear it, you know."

"What?"

"The snapping. If you're listening for it, you can hear a sharp crack when the drone's penis breaks off."

"Oh, God."

Rose followed Augusta as she headed through the sliding glass doors into Rose's apartment to retrieve her luggage. "Can you carry this one upstairs?" she asked Rose. "And this one? I can only manage the one bag with this cane of mine."

Rose took the bags, one in each hand. "But you were going to tell me the story, about seeing Joe again."

"Not now, Rose. I want to see if Joy's phoned with news about Gabe."

"But you promised."

"We'll have plenty of time later."

"You'd go and tell something like that to some strange woman on the train, but you won't tell your best friend."

"I like Esther. I think we'll be seeing a lot more of her. I promised to show her my hive."

"You'll be seeing a lot more of her. I don't care if I ever see her again."

"Well, since neither Esther nor I can drive, you'll have to drive me, so yes, you will be seeing her again."

"Oh, isn't that just great? Now I'm your personal chauffeur."

Augusta turned around at the doorway. "Rose, what's this all about?"

"Just tell the story. About Joe. I thought you never saw him again."

Augusta shook her head and started up the stairs to her apartment. "I'm sure I told you all that already. I can remember showing you the brooch he gave me. Ages and ages ago."

"Yes, the day we met. But you never told me the story. Are you really going to give that brooch to Joy?"

Augusta had met Rose five years before, on the ferry, just after she and Karl had sold the farm. Augusta and Karl were moving to the warmer climate of Vancouver Island. Rose turned the corner into the ferry bathroom and there was Augusta, sitting at the mirrored makeup counter they have on those boats, rummaging through her big purse. Augusta had looked up at Rose in the mirror, smiled, and said, "Do you have a comb? I can't seem to find mine."

Perhaps it was an inappropriate request to make of a stranger, she thought now, rather like asking to borrow someone's toothbrush. Rose said no. "They have them at the newsstand."

"Thanks. I'll get one from there. That's a lovely brooch you're wearing."

"It was my mother's," Rose replied, and Augusta promptly caught her in a web of conversation about the brooch a man named Joe had given her, a brooch Augusta pulled from her purse and showed Rose: a silver setting hemmed a real bee suspended in amber. When Augusta held it up, it cast a little pool of honey light on the floor. "It was the only lasting thing he ever gave me, in the way of presents," she said. "And that was decades after I'd stopped seeing him. I still dream about him, you know." Rose nodded and smiled and moved slowly backward, away, to a toilet stall. Augusta, seeing her discomfort, left before she came out again.

close this panel
A Rhinestone Button
Excerpt

Once upon a time, in the land of Uz, there was a man named Job. He was a man of perfect integrity, who feared God and avoided evil. -- Book of Job

One

Job Sunstrum felt sound, and saw it. He held the hum of a vacuum cleaner in his hands: it was an invisible egg with the smooth, cool feel of glass. A sensation so real he followed its curve with his finger. He left the vacuum sitting in the kitchen, running, occasionally for hours at a time. Listened to the vacuum’s whirr with his eyes closed and smoothed the glass egg in his hands. He rose from these sessions calmed, refreshed, clear-headed. Untroubled, for a time, by the fear and guilt that dogged him.

Others might have called this pastime meditation, but not Job, as contemplation of nearly any kind other than prayer was discouraged in the circles he travelled. “It’s not good to leave the mind empty,” said Pastor Ludwig Henschell from his pulpit at Godsfinger Baptist. “An unoccupied mind is the playing field of the devil.”

The voices of the congregation as they sang a hymn produced, for Job, concentric rings of colour, like the rippling circles falling rain created on the surface of a slough. His friend Will’s voice was the deep blue-green of a spruce tree. Stinky Steinke’s was the blue-black of a crow’s wing. The sopranos’ circles were small and brilliant, in dazzling whites, yellows, peaches, pinks. Penny Blust’s was the colour of pink lemonade. The altos tended to the purples, like Barbara Stubblefield’s, the blue-violet of flowering borage. Circles of colour that rippled outward, blended with one another. A vision Job experienced out there, projected a half foot in front of him, as if onto a transparent screen through which he saw the world around him.

Job sometimes stopped singing, lost his boundaries of self to the pool of colours, in the same way that he expanded, then dissipated, into the expanse of prairie and arching sky as he drove the paved roads. He startled awake to his shrunken self when the hymn came to an end, just as he did while driving when he met an oversized stop sign or rumble strips, a series of bumps on the asphalt that warned mesmerized drivers of an upcoming intersection. But when he was submerged in the congregation’s singing he also felt a certainty, a thrill of recognition as if he had unexpectedly seen a beloved on a strange street in an unfamiliar city. The passion of aha! Of eureka! Though what it was he knew, what it was he had discovered, he couldn’t say. It was a feeling that lasted for just a moment after the song was over. A knowing. At these times he knew God was real with the same instinctive confidence with which he knew how to breathe.

It was a phenomenon he kept to himself. He had tried telling his best friend, Will Stubblefield, when they were still children. Job and Will waited for the school bus together at the Sunstrum mailbox. Sang with each other in the junior church choir. Competed against one another with their 4-H calves at Whoop ’er Up Days. Visited each other’s homes after school, slept in each other’s bedrooms, and once when they were twelve they spent the night out in the field together, though Job’s mother had made Jacob, Job’s older brother, join them to make sure they didn’t get into trouble. Plagued by mosquitoes and smelling of insect spray, they snuggled in their sleeping bags and, with Jacob snoring beside them, waited for a show of northern lights.

Just before midnight the adventure took a turn. “I’m cold,” whispered Job. “Mosquitoes driving me crazy.” He wondered at his brother’s blissful sleep, how the mosquitoes’ whine and bites didn’t wake him. At fourteen, Jacob had grown stinky and large with burgeoning manhood. Job watched his step with his brother, anticipating his moods as he did his father’s. Just as his father would inflict the strap, Jacob would trip him up or wrestle him to the ground, twisting his arm behind his back.

“Let’s zip our sleeping bags together,” said Will.

Job listened a moment to hear that his brother was still asleep. “I don’t know.”

“It’ll be warmer.”

Job, who was used to doing as he was told, or merely asked, zipped his sleeping bag to Will’s as quietly as he could for fear of waking Jacob, who, he sensed, would put an end to this sleeping-bag business. Jacob rolled over, snorted. The boys eased their way into their bed and Job pulled the edge of the sleeping bag over his face, to warm his nose, to ward off the insistent mosquitoes.

“You ever kissed a girl?” said Will.

Job weighed his answer briefly, and decided to answer truthfully. “No.”

“Me neither. Let’s practise. With our pillows.”

Job felt a queasy warning in his stomach that he felt each time he was about to step into unknown territory. The whole of Job’s sexual education, as provided by his father, had been delivered in two sentences: “Keep that thing in your pants,” and, after Abe had shot a feral tomcat dead just as it was mounting a barn cat, “That’s what you’ll get if I ever catch you screwing around.” He knew his father suspected that he had begun to abuse himself. One cold night, Job had taken his mother’s blow-dryer from the bathroom cabinet and used it to warm himself under the blankets. The warmth was a relief, but it was the hum of the blow-dryer he enjoyed most. It generated a smooth cylinder in his hand, one he could run his hand up and down. It had the feel of glass, as if he were holding his mother’s clear glass rolling pin, one of the few wedding presents that had survived the years. He closed his eyes and stroked the cylinder, visible only to him, enjoying its smoothness, thrilling at the knowing that came along with it. He didn’t hear his father’s knock and Abe walked in on him, blow-drying his thighs under the covers, stroking his invisible cylinder, his knees making a tent of the blankets.

“Stop that!” said Abe.

Job pulled the blow-dryer out from under the covers, turned it off. “What?”

Abe waved a great paw at him. “Whatever it is you’re doing.”

“I was just warming up.”

“That’s your mother’s blow-dryer, for God’s sake. It’s just sick.” Abe slammed the door shut behind him.

From the Hardcover edition.

close this panel
Miss Hereford Stories, The

Miss Hereford Stories, The

edition:Paperback
tagged : historical
More Info
Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire

A Claire Abbott Mystery
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Race Against Time

Race Against Time

A Claire Abbott Mystery
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Search and Rescue

Search and Rescue

A Claire Abbott Mystery
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
The Cure For Death By Lightning
Excerpt

THE CURE for death by lightning was handwritten in thick, messy blue ink in my mother's scrapbook, under the recipe for my father's favorite oatcakes:

Dunk the dead by lightning in a cold water bath for two hours and if still dead, add vinegar and soak for an hour more.

Beside this, some time later, my mother had written Ha! Ha! in black ink. The same page contained a tortoiseshell butterfly, pressed flat beside the cure for death so the wings left smudges of burgundy and blue on the back of the previous page. The bottom of one wing was torn away. My mother said that she'd caught the butterfly and pressed it between the pages of her scrapbook because of this torn wing. "Wonderful," she told me. "That it could still fly. It's a reminder to keep going."

The scrapbook sat on my mother's rocking chair next to the black kitchen stove and was hers just as the rocking chair was hers. I didn't sit in her chair or touch her scrapbook, at least not whe she was in the room. My mother knew where to find a particular recipe or remedy by the page it was written on, because every page was different. She compiled the scrapbook during the Depression and into the Second World War when paper was at first expensive and then impossible to buy, so she copied her recipes on the backs of letters, scraps of wallpaper, bags, and brown wrapping, and on paper she made herself from the pulp of vegetables and flowers. The cover was red, one of the few bits of red that my father allowed in the house, cut from the carboard of a box of crackers. The book was swollen from years of entries. Pages were dusted with flour, stained with spots of tea, and warped from moisture. Each page had its own scent: almond extract or vanilla, butter or flour, the petals of the rose it was made from, or my mother's perfume, Lily of the Valley.My mother didn't keep the book as a diary. If she kept a diary at all, I never found it. But she wrote brief thoughts along the margins of at the bottom of a page, as footnotes to the recipes and remedies, the cartoons and clippings -- footnotes to the events of the day. She was always adding a new page, and it didn't matter how many times I stole the scrapbook from her chair and pilfered my few minutes with it, there was always some new entry or something I'd missed.

I still have my mother's scrapbook. It sits inside the trunk that was her hope chest. I sometimes take out the scrapbook and sit with it at my kitchen table, by the stove that is electric and white. Even now I find new entries in the scrapbook, things I've never seen before, as if my mother still sits each morning before I wake and copies a recipe, or adds a new page made from the pulp of scarlet flax.

My name is Beth Weeks. My story takes place in the midst of the Second World War, the year I turned fifteen, the year the world fell apart and began to come together again. Much of it will be hard to believe, I know. But the evidence for everything I'm about to tell you is there, in the pages of my mother's scrapbook, in the clippings describing bear attacks and the Swede's barn fire and the children gone missing on the reserve, in the recipe for pound cake I made the night they took my father away, and in the funeral notices of my classmate Sarah Kemp and the others. The scrapbook was my mother's way of setting down the days so they wouldn't be forgotten. This story is my way. No one can tell me these events didn't happen, or that it was all a girl's fantasy. The reminders are there, in that scrapbook, and I remember them all.

Excerpted from The Cure for Death By Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz.

close this panel
Turtle Valley
Excerpt

1

The fire on the hillside shimmered in the night like a bed of dying embers in a fireplace. Pretty. Not frightening at all. The smell of woodsmoke in the air conjured ghosts of past campfires. Wieners and blackened marshmallows. Watery hot chocolate. But the fire was crawling across the top of our mountain, and was now beginning to head down the slope as well, threatening this valley of farms and acreages. Several huge columns of smoke loomed over the Ptarmigan Hills, blackening out the ­stars.

Across the field, Jude passed under the yard light, carrying a box from his kiln shed to the Toyota pickup. If I could see him, he could see me standing here in my mother’s kitchen in the ­T-­shirt and panties I had worn to bed. I reached for the switch intending to turn off the light so he wouldn’t notice me as I watched him, but I changed my mind and pressed my hand to the glass of the window instead. The smell of cumin on him as we danced in the Turtle Valley hall all those years ago. The heat of his hand at my waist. His thigh against ­mine.

A bird bashed into the pane and I gasped and jumped back. It was a junco, scared off the mountain by the fire, I imagined. When it flew away I saw a figure reflected in the window, an old woman standing beside the door to my parents’ room behind me. I swung around to see who it was, but I was alone in the kitchen. My mother’s whistles and Dad’s snores still rang from behind the closed door to their room. When I looked back at the window I saw only my own face mirrored hazily there, but I had seen the old woman, there had been someone in the room with me, I was sure of ­it.

I grabbed my father’s robe from the bathroom and put it on as I started my search through the house for the woman, opening my sister Val’s old room first, where my son, Jeremy, slept on one of the two single beds, his face flushed and his hair wet with the heat. Then I eased open the door to my parents’ room, careful not to bump the fire extinguisher that hung by the door, as it often fell from its housing when someone brushed by it. My mother was curled into herself and nearly falling off her side of the bed, her eyes moving beneath their lids in dream. My father spooned her; his arms and legs were outlined under the covers. Then to my childhood room, where my husband, Ezra, snored, his arm hanging off the side of the double bed. I opened the door to the parlour, which my mother used only for storage now. The boxes and bags stacked on the piano. But there was no one else in the ­house.

I checked to make sure Jeremy was all right one more time, stopping a moment to smooth his sweaty forehead, then went back to the kitchen, where I turned on a burner and placed a small pot of milk on the stove in an effort to calm myself. The Vancouver Sun I had picked up that afternoon at a gas station in Golden now sat on the table; on the front page a headline about this fire read, If you have 10 minutes to flee a forest fire, what do you take? The whole of Turtle Valley had just been placed on evacuation alert, and if the fire did take a run down that slope toward the valley, we would be given only a ­ten-­minute warning to get out. Not nearly enough time to salvage my parents’ precious possessions. So we had begun to gather them now, for storage at my sister Val’s place in Canoe, just outside of Salmon Arm, until the threat of evacuation was ­over.

All around me cardboard boxes and garbage bags were stacked ­hip-­high. But even before this fire, the house was not simply cluttered but tumultuous, each room full of my mother’s accumulated ­thrift-­shop finds of wicker baskets, dishes, bags of yarn, and stacks of books, as well as her contest winnings. My mother entered competitions of all kinds, and her mailbox was jammed with junk mail as a result. But she did sometimes win. There was a ceramic geisha from a contest advertised on a box of mandarin oranges; a barbecue from a local grocery store; an exercise bike from a sporting goods store. These items sat about the house unused, gathering dust and cat hair. She never gave them away as gifts, as both Val and I wished she ­would.

Ezra, Jeremy, and I had arrived in Turtle Valley earlier that evening, after driving all day from our farm outside Cochrane, Alberta, to help load my parents’ things and deal with their farm animals. As we passed through Salmon Arm, we had seen a crowd of tourists on the pier, watching the Martin Mars water bomber as it picked up water from Shuswap Lake to dump on this fire. Twenty or more firefighters in full gear, grimy in soot, were gathered at the Tim Hortons that we stopped at for washrooms and donuts. When we entered Turtle Valley, making the skip from pavement to the reddish gravel of Blood Road, we saw neighbours sitting out on lawn chairs, drinking beer and watching the fire creep over the hills above. The sun, shining weakly through the plumes of smoke, cast a thin yellow light over the trees of the hillsides, the pastures on the benchlands, and the farms in the narrow valley bottom. On one lawn, children jumped on a trampoline as a light dusting of ash fell around ­them.

I turned off the burner, poured the milk into a cup, and carried it to the window, where I stood for a time looking out at Jude’s yard. He carried another box to his truck, loading up his possessions for storage elsewhere, out of the path of the fire, just as we were. I hadn’t spoken to him for nearly six years. He had once come over to my parents’ place for coffee any time he saw our truck in the yard. But that last visit with him had been our first since Ezra’s stroke, and Ezra had still been very often confused, and prone to blurting out whatever thought came to mind. During a lull in the conversation he had asked Jude, “You come here to glance at Kat, don’t you?”

Jude’s cheeks reddened. “Well, yes, I came to see Kat. And you, and Gus and Beth.”

I put my hand on Ezra’s. “He comes over to visit Mom and Dad often. He’s not just here to see me.”

“You still want her, don’t you?”

Jude pushed back his chair. “Maybe I should go.”

“No, please, Jude,” I said. “He doesn’t know what he’s saying. It’s the stroke talking.”

“It’s okay. Lillian is expecting me back home for lunch. It was good to see you Kat.” He nodded. “Ezra.” I watched him walk over to his place, following the path that wound past the old well. After that I waved to Jude when I saw him in town, or as I drove by his place on my way to my parents’ farm, but he didn’t come over during my visits home anymore, and I never summoned the courage to face him or Lillian, to stop in on them and say ­hello.

The fire extinguisher slipped from its mount on the wall and crashed into the open box below. I startled and turned, expecting to find my mother, as she often knocked that extinguisher down when she left her room, but there was no one there. I listened a moment to see if the noise had woken Jeremy, but the house remained ­still.

When I picked up the extinguisher to replace it, I saw the corner of my grandmother’s carpetbag lying beneath a stack of my mother’s writings in the box. This carpetbag was the one my grandmother carried in that last photograph of her, a picture taken by a street photographer who made a living snapping shots of people as they strode along the sidewalk in Kamloops. She was not expecting to be ­photographed–­her brow was furrowed and her face was tense because, my mother told me, her hips and knees were so badly worn that each step she took was painful. Her outfit was very much of her time: the sensible black shoes, the big round buttons of her coat, the carpetbag slung over one arm. She had sewn the bag herself from flowered upholstery fabric, and fashioned it with curved wooden handles varnished the colour of butterscotch. Even though it wasn’t quite the sort of valise Mary Poppins carried, as a child I had begged my mother to let me play with it. But she always said no. “My mother was a very private woman,” she told me later, when I was in my twenties. “No one looked in her handbag, not even my father.”

“Surely she wouldn’t have minded us looking at her things once she was gone,” I ­said.

“I mind.” And she had kept it hidden from me, in her ­room.

As I pulled the carpetbag out of the box, my grandmother’s billfold and dozens of dead ladybugs fell from inside it to the floor. The insects often overwintered in this house, creeping inside in the fall through the many cracks in the door and window frames, and gathering into swarms within unused dresser drawers, just as they did outside under piles of leaves and other litter. But I had never before seen them in such great ­numbers.

I picked up my grandmother’s wallet. It was fat with bits of paper: shopping lists and receipts, the obituaries of lady friends, a few of the community notes my mother had written for the Promise paper. A tiny worn ­photograph–­not much bigger than a ­good-­sized postage ­stamp–­was wrapped inside a carefully folded news story. It showed a slim, ­sharp-­featured man, dressed in a white shirt with braces and armbands, leaning on a shovel. On the back, in my grandmother’s hand, was written: Valentine, June 1945, in his garden. Valentine Svensson, my father’s uncle. I unfolded the news story. My grandmother had written the date on the clipping: April 1, ­1965.

Press-­time News ­Flashes
Turtle Valley Man ­Missing

A private search in the Ptarmigan Hills revealed no sign of Turtle Valley resident John Weeks. ­Well-­known area woodsman Valentine Svensson undertook the search along with his nephew Gustave Svensson last night on horseback. They were doing so at the request of Mr. Weeks’s wife after Mr. Weeks failed to return from a late evening hike into the hills. Mr. Svensson says he plans to continue the search today and overnight if necessary, saying that his efforts last night and early this morning were hampered by heavy rainfall.

This newspaper story was about my family. John Weeks was my grandfather and his wife was Maud Weeks, the grandmother who had owned this carpetbag; their daughter, Beth, was my mother. Gustave ­Svensson–­Gus–­was my dad. I looked out the window at the Ptarmigan Hills where my father and great uncle had searched for my grandfather. Against the night sky the fire on the ridge was the corona of the sun seen in an eclipse: flames like solar flares licked up into the black. Why hadn’t my parents ever told me the story of how my grandfather was lost? They were both such great storytellers; it seemed so unlikely that they would forget to tell me ­this.

I searched through the rest of the contents of the purse, looking for other newspaper clippings that would tell me when my grandfather was found, but there weren’t any. Instead I was surprised to find a tiny jar of sweetly scented rouge, something I never would have guessed my grandmother ­owned. The blush still carried its vibrant red colour; its perfume was spicy, flamboyant, not words my mother used to describe my grandmother. I hadn’t known her; I was only a few months old when she passed away of a heart attack inside the greenhouse not far from the house.

I put everything back in the bag and went to the window to finish my hot milk. My grandmother would have looked out this window to see Valentine walking across his yard, just as I now saw Jude carrying another box to his truck. My parents had inherited that land on Valentine’s death and even now, more than twenty years after they had sold the place to Jude Garibaldi, they continued to graze their small herd of cattle there, as they had when they farmed the land with Valentine. I could just make out the rooflines of the crumbling log home that had once belonged to Valentine, and a second ­two-­storey farmhouse that had been left incomplete and never lived in, and was badly weathered by the time I played in it as my parents drank coffee with my ­great-­uncle. There were many loose floorboards in that house, and I would pry them up with a hammer, searching for treasure. I found one of my Uncle Valentine’s old MacDonald’s tobacco cans under there once, but it was rusted shut, and I was on the hunt for dimes and marbles, so I left the can where it was, and never thought any more of ­it.

Movement pulled my attention to my grandmother’s ancient greenhouse, a shadow dancing against the dirty glass walls. The old woman? I hunted through the kitchen junk drawer until I found a flashlight and then slipped on my runners to step out onto the porch stairs. The lilac bush beside me was strung, as always, with clear Christmas lights; I plugged the cord into the outside socket and the bush lit up, casting a circle of light around me. Jude was crossing his yard, carrying another box to the truck. When he saw the lights on the lilac bush go on, he stopped and shifted the box in order to wave. I waved ­back. He stopped a moment looking my way before continuing on to the truck.

The potting shed was the entrance to the greenhouse, and as I passed through it, I lifted cobwebs out of my way. “Hello?” I said and shone a light into the corners. The shelves of pots, the crunch of dry soil and pot shards beneath my feet, the smell of dust and smoke. A spider sped over the back of my hand and, after taking a moment to enjoy the panic and tickle, I shook it off. Then I stepped over the threshold into the greenhouse itself. But the place was empty. My mother had not grown anything here since my grandmother’s death; Maud had had her heart attack here, and my father had found her body lying on the dirt ­floor.

I heard the jingle of keys shaking within a pocket, and the crunch of footsteps on the gravel driveway, and I stepped outside. “Jude, is that you?” The footsteps stopped. I scanned the dark ­driveway–­the haze of smoke in the flashlight’s ­stream–­but couldn’t see anyone. Nevertheless, I heard footsteps, running toward me. I ran onto the porch and into the kitchen, closing the door behind me and locking it, and then listened, breathing hard, for footsteps on the porch. When I finally turned away from the door, I found that my grandmother’s chair was rocking by itself, and every burner on the stove was on, glowing ­red.

From the Hardcover edition.

close this panel
Show editions
close this panel

User Activity

more >
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...