Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cherry Bounce

It is a joy this month to have a guest author I've known for more than ten years. We wrote together at the Fireside Writer's Forum, back in the days when we met upstairs at the local Fireside Book Store. Joey has written a number of short stories, but this one, set at the Cherry Bounce Festival, is near and dear to my valley dwelling heart. This story has been expanded to a novel. A PDF copy of the novel is available for download or on CD for $4.99. Please contact the author: to reserve your copy.

Local Author J Wessier, biography: I began with playwriting. I wrote seven plays produced on collegiate and community theater levels, including a play called Slow Train A’Comin written for Arkansas’s sesquicentennial celebration. From there, I segued into writing poetry, short stories, and novels. I won the Portia Steele Award for Excellence in Prose, placed second in the North Carolina Christian Writers Short Fiction Contest, and published numerous poems and short stories over the years. I am currently marketing a southern literary novel that is an expanded vision of this short story, Cherry Bounce.


By J. Wessier

When Brody McDarey cursed a soul it stuck.

He believed Amos Sams stole his hoe and neither seed nor
weed grew in the man's fields until the day a new hoe mysteriously
showed up on McDarey's porch.

The righteous Billy Weedle happened upon McDarey's still
while hunting one fall. After the Sheriff busted it up, Weedle's
barn was struck by lightening and burned to the ground. Then
his best hunting dog went rabid. Then his wife started
talking to angels and spouting verse while dancing in the
cornfield -- in just her baggy underdrawers.

The worst curse came down on the head of Ricky Thomas.
McDarey caught him in the apple orchard with his oldest daughter.
Ricky had to marry the ill-tempered, spoiled girl. The miserable
boy counts himself among the most wretched on this earth.

McDarey was not a man to betray. If he stepped in someone's
path they crossed themselves three times, like he was a black
cat, then purged themselves with Castor oil first chance.

The only truly good thing about McDarey was his youngest
daughter, Marigold. She was pretty and smart and sweet as clover
honey. How she was born of massive McDarey and his plain, plump
wife was a mystery most folks in Golden Valley had pondered
at least twice.

Marigold tuned seventeen in spring, shortly before the
Cherry Bounce Festival. A few days after her birthday her daddy
told her in a "don't you fuss" tone that he'd had a good long
talk with the well-to-do Mason Grimm. They'd decided their
children should marry.

The blush in Marigold's cheeks drained, leaving her face
white as her daddy's Sunday shirt. She dropped the bowl
she was drying, threw her towel down on the wood floor and ran
from the cabin.

McDarey turned to his wife and said, "She'll get use to
the idea, give her time."

His wife pointed after Marigold. "You said the same thing
about her wearing a bonnet. You see anything but a mass of
gold hair on her head?"

He shook his head.

"You said she'd get use to wearing shoes. Notice anything
on her feet as she ran outa here?"

Again he shook his head.

"And you said she'd get use to not going to school when
you pulled her out to start helping 'round here after Annie
got married."

"And she did get use to that," McDarey said, sticking his
pointed chin out.

"What do you think Marigold and Missy Toney do every
afternoon in the sittin' parlor?"

He shrugged. "How should I know, I'm out workin'"

Missy comes here straight from school and teaches Marigold

the lessons she learned that day. That girl is still getting

He crossed his arms. "She ain't getting around this."

His misses turned back to the dishes to hide the smile
on her face.

McDarey went out on the porch, pulled his corn pipe from
one deep pocket, plucked a stray piece of straw off the plank
floor, touched it to the flame in the hanging lantern, and lit
it. He took a long pull on the pipe and began thinking about
how he could make sure his strong willed daughter wouldn't get
around marrying the Grimm boy. By the time he finished the
bowl he knew what he had to do.

He set his pipe on his wife's rocker, stepped to the porch's
edge, squared his stance and raised his arms skyward. With
a passion that would pale even the most turbulent of storms,
McDarey said, "I curse any love that comes between Marigold
and Grimm. Love will die less it be love for him." He held,
rigid and resolute, like a mighty granite boulder, immovable.

Marigold, crying in the garden, felt more than heard his
words. They whipped around her, a chilly dust-devil that made
her shiver.

For the next week McDarey made it known throughout the
valley that his daughter would wed Grimm and no other suitor's
attentions were welcome. The news broke the hearts of a
least four local boys, but they all knew better than to cross

Marigold moped from morn 'til night. She spoke only when
spoken to and seemed to find no joy in anything the day had
to offer. Come the Saturday of the Cherry Bounce Festival,
it took her mother two hours of coaxing and the harsh order
from her daddy to motivate her to dress and go.

"I've given my word you'll sing this day," he shouted.
"My word is stone. You're going and you'll sing."

Marigold rode in the back of the wagon, head down, bonnet
in hand, bare feet dangling off the back all the way up Cherry
Mountain. At the festival she stayed to herself, avoiding
the anemic, pasty, jitter-lip, James Grimm. She waited among
the cherry trees for her turn to step up on the makeshift stage
and sing. As she watched the dancing and gaming from the orchard
she was startled by a rich, tenor voice singing,

"My love is a rose,
A deep red rose. . ."

She walked a little further into the orchard and found
a tall young man, eyes closed, singing with the most beautiful
voice she'd ever heard. He was slender, but broad shouldered.
His hair was dark, his face angular and smooth, his mouth full,
and his eyes . . . when he opened his eyes they were the golden
brown of fresh cut wheat.

He caught Marigold peeking around the thick trunk of an
ancient cherry tree and choked on the high note he held. He
coughed until he doubled over.

Marigold ran to his side and pounded on his back. "Are
you all right?" she asked. "Are you all right?"

He straightened, his face red. "I am if you haven't broken
any ribs pounding on my back."

She covered her mouth with her hand and spoke through her
fingers. "I'm - I'm sorry. I was trying to help."

He smiled down at her. "I'm surely much better for you
being here."

She dropped her head.

He gently pulled her hand away from her face then cupped
her chin and lifted her head. "You have such a pretty face,"
he said. "I'd prefer to see it."

She stole a glance at him then looked down again. With
her eyes on his scuffed boots she softly said, "You're not from
the valley, are you?"

"Beg your pardon?"

She swallowed her shyness and looked up. "You're not from

"No. I'm from Rutherfordton." He jammed his hands in
his pockets. "I came to sing. I was practicing when you --
you --"

"Scared God's good sense outa you?"

He shook his head and looked into her eyes. "You took
my breath away."

After a long moment Marigold realized she was staring up
at him with her mouth open. She clamped it shut.

"Were you going to say something?" he asked.
"No -- yes -- I was -- going to ask your name."

"Bobby May. My mother is the daughter of Doc Bacon and
my father owns the Mercantile in Rutherfordton." He seemed
to stand a little taller when he spoke of his family. "What's your name?"

Afraid he might have heard of her daddy, she

"You do have a name don't you? Or maybe you're one of
those wood fairies my grandmother said stowed away with her
Scottish ancestors when they came over."

"I am, Sir. And if you should learn my true name -- and
speak it -- you would forever own my heart."

He grinned and it made his eyes crinkle at the corners.
"Then Miss, I will make it my life's quest to discover your

Marigold wished she was a wood fairy. She wished she wasn't
a McDarey promised to a Grimm. She wished Bobby could free
her from the bonds of her daddy's will by just speaking her
name. She reached past Bobby to a fruit heavy branch and
plucked a ripe, red cherry. Holding it out she said, "So you
don't waste your life on a fool's quest, I'll give you a hint."

He started to say, "Cherry," but she hushed him with the
tips of her fingers to his lips.

"Shhhhh. Don't speak my name 'less you're sure to the
soul you want my heart forever."

She heard someone yell, "Booooobby. Bobby May."

"I've got to go," he said. "Must be my turn to sing.

Will you come and hear?"

"I wouldn't miss it. You go. I'll be there in a minute."

He left and she followed a few minutes later. By the time she
squeezed her way through the crowd to the front a fiddler and
a dulcimer player were picking out the beginning of a song.

Bobby's full voice rose above the music, above the noise
of the crowd, above the wind. It filled the area around
Marigold like the heat off a woodstove, chasing the spring
chill from her.

Some loves come upon a person slow and low, like fog
creeping up the mountain. Some hit like summer thunder, rattling
a body to the bone. That's how love hit Marigold, leaving her

breathless and dizzy like she'd been sipping the cherry bounce.
He found her in the crowd and sang to her,

"My love is like a rose,
A Cherry red rose."

Your love is a Marigold, she thought. A scared, yellow Marigold.
She knew she didn't have the backbone to go against her daddy. She
would end up a Grimm, a lonely, miserable Grimm.

While Bobby finished the last verse of his song, she made her way to
the side of the stage and whispered to the dulcimer player there. When
Bobby stepped down, she stepped up.

She couldn't give herself to him in marriage, she couldn't even give him
any hope or promise. But she could give him every bit of the love she had
in her for the few moments it took to sing. And sing she did.

A hush blanketed the crowd, the field, the very mountain. Her voice and
song touched every ear and heart. Bobby stood at the side his eyes only
on her, his love only for her.

She took a deep breath and sang the last word and note of the song, "Forever,"
in a note high and pure, filled with all the love she had, all the pain she felt.
It hung on the wind for countless moments drawing tears and sighs from
every living thing able to hear or feel. The beautiful note faded as her breath
 left her and she sank slowly to her knees. At the end she laid gently down,
her head on her arm, her eyes on Bobby -- and never took another breath.

Since that time, if you stand still among the trees on Cherry Mountain, you can
hear a sad, lilting, pure note winding in and out of the branches, going on and on
like the last breath of undying love.

And then, following the scent of cherry blossoms, you can hear the hollow howl
of a broken man as he held his lifeless daughter.

When Brody McDarey cursed a soul -- it stuck.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September, Community Newsletter Wish that was a prettier blog link, but it's what came through on an automatic post. This is the newsletter with the community announcements: Camp McCall, Fairview Mountain Ministries, Washburn Community Outreach, Golden Valley Community Club, Hospice and an original story by our own story-teller Elizabeth Towery on old fashined dentistry in Golden Valley. You'll love it. All this and more....