Saturday, April 19, 2014

Delphine Dodd - an excerpt

My sister Olive was lighter than me, in her skin tone and hair and eyes, but also her voice. She had what people called a musical voice. She was pretty but sort of soft and pudgy. She smiled too much, I thought, even when there was no reason to smile. I used to ask her, sometimes, what she was smiling about, but she would just shake her head and laugh. That made me mad. I still don't know why.

It had been a long trip. Two days of intermittent drizzle and the usual mechanical trouble. Now we stood holding hands, waiting. Everything could change in a minute. We knew that well enough. Mama might shout out for John Dee to turn around. She might come back to fetch us. This had happened twice the year before, in Portland and then Astoria.

The toes of our shoes lined up along the border where a patch of rough moss spread out to meet the muddy road. The night rain cast its sheen across the woods, trapping spots of moonlight in puddles that glowed like paper lanterns among the ferns and cedars.

From the spot where we stood that narrow dirt path climbed gradually away, then snaked left and continued uphill. I couldn't see it any more but nearly a quarter of a mile off the automobile rattled its way into the night. The machine was a Tin Lizzy. Mama called it the Contraption. For weeks she had tried to wheedle the promise of a better vehicle out of John Dee. She had her heart set on a Marmon, but I figured she would never get one of those. John Dee and his friends were lowdown criminals. Their money came and went like water.

Even after the sound of the Tin Lizzy died away, we waited. Finally Olive spoke.

"Is she coming back?"

"No," I said. Might as well face the truth and let it bleed out. "Not this time."

-- from Delphine Dodd, second book in the Skillute Cycle

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