A newspaper was spread flat across the kitchen table, covering most of the walnut surface, and leaving only a small space available for a half-empty coffee cup. Louella sat at the edge of her chair and leaned into the middle of the table, propping herself up on her elbows. Though vaguely aware of Lydia bustling about behind her, she was thoroughly engrossed in an article.
“This is so strange,” Louella said as she turned a page.
“What’s that, hon?”
“Have you been keeping up with the trial in Jackson City?”
“You know I don’t read the newspaper.”
“It’s like Ringling Brothers up there,” Louella said.
“Is that so?” Lydia asked without interest. She continued sorting through a stack of mail.
Louella turned away from the paper to look at her. “I told you about this story. This is the one I’ve been following. The one about the voodoo preacher.”
“Oh, yes, I remember. The one who got shot.”
“Killed at the funeral of one of his victims,” Louella said, returning to the article. “The story just keeps getting crazier.”
Lydia tossed a letter into the trash. She watched Louella out of the corner of her eye. “Maybe someone should write a book about it,” she said.
Louella tilted her face away from the article. “Maybe,” she grumbled.
“Doesn’t your sister live near Jackson City?” Lydia asked. She used a silver letter opener to slice open an envelope.
“Maris lives about thirty minutes from there.”
“What do you mean, hmm?” Louella asked.
“Nothing, I was just thinking. It seems like you’re interested and you were planning to visit Maris and Jarvis soon anyway. Maybe you could poke your head into Jackson City while you’re there.”
Louella slowly turned a page. “I see what you’re up to,” she said.
Lydia dropped the mail on the counter and pulled up a chair beside Louella. “It could be like Kansas again.”
Louella shook her head. “Kansas was different,” she said. “That was Cecil’s book. I just went along for the ride.”
“You know that’s not true,” said Lydia. “That book would never have seen print if it wasn’t for you.”
Louella continued to stare at the newspaper, but she was no longer reading.
Lydia stoked Louella’s back. Her voice softened. “Isn’t this the kind of project you used to talk about?”
Louella pushed the paper away. “Well, maybe I’ve changed my mind since then.”
“Sometimes I think it would be better if I never publish another book. Maybe I only had one in me.”
Lydia continued in a level voice. “Lou, every morning you go into your office, and I have to listen to your blasted typewriter clacking for the next four hours. It sounds a lot like writing to me.”
“Yes, but once I get out and start asking questions, I’m going to have to start answering questions about why I’m doing this, and that’s going to start creating expectations in people’s minds.”
“You have to stop worrying about other people’s expectations.”
“You don’t understand. I HAVE to consider other people’s expectations.”
“This one is a crime story. It’s completely different,” Lydia said. “To judge one against the other would be like judging apples and oranges.”
“Oh, it will be judged,” Louella said. “Believe me, it will be judged.”
“Give people credit. Give your fans some credit. They’ll love it because you wrote it.”
“The critics won’t.”
“You don’t write for the critics.”
“I can already hear them sharpening their knives. There’s only one direction I can go at this point. Straight down.”
“You listen here, Louella. I know you. And I know you want to write another book. I believe fifteen years is long enough to wait.”
“Exactly, it’s been 15 years, and that makes it worse. That means the expectations are going to be that much higher. For it to take this long, people will be expecting another masterpiece.”
“Why saddle yourself with that? Why not write the thing and see what happens?”
“Let’s say I do write another book. What do I have to gain? If I succeed, I get, what? Some more money? Some more praise? I don’t need either. But if I fail, it destroys my legacy and gives credence to all those stupid fucking rumors that Cecil wrote the first book. It’s a no-win situation.”
“This isn’t about winning, Lou. You’re a writer. It’s one of the reasons you were put on the Earth. You can’t not write.”
“I do write. Every day. You said so yourself. I don’t have to publish.”
“So write the book and don’t publish it.”
“What would be the point of that?”
“The point would be to be yourself and not worry about publishing or what other people would think. You write books. You know good and well you’re ready to write another one.”
“If I write it, even if it just looks like I’m going to write another one, I’ll have to publish or else I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“Lou, people already come up to you on the street every day. You already receive a three tons of fan mail every year. Do you really think anything is going to change that much?”
Louella pushed her chair back from the table. “I need to clear my head,” she said. “I’m going for a walk.”
“Just think about it,” Lydia said. She watched Louella go out of the room and then shook her head. She pressed her lips together as she contemplated what to do next, then she went over to the table and flipped back to the article. She scanned it until she found the name of the lawyer of was representing the man who killed the voodoo preacher. Then, she lifted the phone handle from its perch on the kitchen counter. She pressed her finger to the zero and then spun the dial.
“Hello, operator. I need a listing in Jackson City, Alabama. The name is Melvin Little.”
Go to Chapter 30 .
About This Novel; Chapter 1Chapter 2; Chapter 3Chapter 4; Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7; Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11; Chapter 12; Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15Chapter 16; Chapter 17Chapter 18Chapter 19Chapter 20 Chapter 21; Blood Cries at the Half-Way PointChapter 22; Chapter 23Chapter 24; Chapter 25Chapter 26; Chapter 27Chapter 28