I had to smile at a comment someone left on my Facebook page. I shared a link to Amazon where you can pre-order my book, and a sweet lady asked the question, “Is it a good book?”
What a great question! And the answer is . . . I really hope so!
You can read through the first few pages on Amazon, but I thought I’d share a fun little taste of A View from There with you here.
In chapter nineteen, I introduce you to a little something called a bye fire.
In the words of Debbie Williams, another big personality from A View from There, a bye fire is, “what you do when it’s time to say ‘bye’ to somethin’ or somebody and get on with life without ’em.”
The bye fire scene, in all its crazy, endearing southern drama, is one of my favorites.
Debbie stepped up onto a wooden box. The wind whipped at her long, brown hair as if it had been rehearsed, and she raised her arms toward the sky.
“Ladies, please take all your memories into your hands and lift them high above the flames.”
Kate helped Modean retrieve her objects off the ground. With trembling hands, Modean lifted them towards the fire, and the wedding band glinted in the light.
Kate looked around the circle at the others. She searched their faces as they held out their possessions as dear as breath, poised and ready to toss into the flames. She felt her pulse increase, and her eyes widened.
“On my count, ladies!” Debbie shouted. “One . . . Two . . .” She raised her arms high. One of the women whimpered. Another gasped. Then Debbie lowered her arms and stepped down from the box. “Ladies, please put your memories down and take a seat.”
The women exchanged glances. Bewildered and relieved, they obeyed and lowered themselves to the ground—everyone but Delta, who propped her hand on her hip.
“Well, what in the world?” she cried. “Are you tryin’ to give me a heart attack? I thought this was a bye fire! If we’re gonna do this, let’s do it already!”
Debbie stood tall and opened the book in her hand. “Sit down, Delta, and just listen for once.”
Delta rolled her eyes but did what she was told.
Debbie took a deep breath and held up the book. “Ladies, this diary belonged to my Great Great Aunt Hildy Thomas. It’s been passed down through the women in my family for generations, and I’m about to read a passage to you, written by Hildy herself over a hundred and forty years ago.” Debbie gingerly flipped through several of the ancient pages, then cleared her throat.
“ ‘October twenty-ninth, eighteen sixty-seven. Last night I went to sleep listening to Ada cry, just like every night before. It’s been nearly six months since her fiancé was killed, but my child’s suffering grows stronger with every day that passes. I had just dozed off when I heard the crackling of a fire below my window. I grabbed my coat and ran into the yard. I’ll never forget the sight of her. Ada had built a fire and was standing there, staring at the flames like she was in a trance or had finally gone mad. She was wearing her silk nightgown and James’s old work boots, and in her hand she held the wedding dress I made her last year.
“ ‘When I screamed her name, she told me to leave her be. But I didn’t go. I stood with her a long while in the cold without saying a word, praying God would give me the words to say to my child, whose tormented spirit has endured more in her eighteen years than most could bear in a lifetime.
“ ‘I prayed and prayed, and when she raised the dress over the flames, I told her that in that dress, there was no grief. The grief is deep inside the pieces of her, and unless she was willing to throw herself into the fire, burning that dress wouldn’t change a thing.’ ” Debbie glanced up at her captive audience then back down at the diary. “ ‘I told her, until now she carried around a spark in her like all good women do. We walk around with it inside us until dark falls pitch black all around, and then it sets itself ablaze so we can find our way. This is that time for her. It’s her darkest hour, and she just found her fire. I told her that burning her dress wouldn’t ease her pain and that the only thing that needed to end up in the fire was the boots on her feet. That James’s footsteps wouldn’t carry her anymore. Only her feet alone would take her where she needed to go.
“ ‘She stared at me for the longest time, and I thought at any moment she might step into the fire herself. Then she lay the dress gently on the ground and pulled the boots off her feet. She stood tall in front of the flames and threw first one then the other into the fire without a solitary tear. Before the night had gone, we danced and sang around the blaze like two crazy women. My child had found her fire.’ ”
Debbie looked up and closed the book. All around the circle, the woman sniffed and wiped tears from their cheeks. After a lengthy moment of silence, Delta stood and brushed off her behind.
“So, we ain’t gotta burn this stuff?”
“You ain’t gotta do anything, Delta, except realize that you got a fire burnin’ in you. All of you! A fire that’s blazin’ ’cause it has to! And it’s gonna light your way even in this dark you’re walkin’ through.”
Delta dropped her face into her hands and let out a sob. Debbie hurried to her. Faye met her there, and both women held Delta in a tight embrace.
“Shhh, honey. It’s all right to cry. You got every right to.”
When Delta finally raised her head, revealing mammoth tears in her eyes and on her cheeks, she dug deep into the pockets of her fur coat and pulled out several hundred dollar bills. “I’m just so happy. I thought I was gonna have to burn all this money.”
“Oh, Delta! Good grief!” Debbie pushed her on the shoulder.
Delta’s eyes glistened with tears, but her red lips spread into a wide smile, and everyone laughed.
Modean bent, slipped off one of Lou’s boots, and threw it into the fire, followed by the other one. Then she wiggled her bare toes on the cold ground. Faye followed with Al’s boots, and one by one, the women tossed their boots into the fire. The kindled flames leapt toward the sky, their hunger quenched at last.
All eyes fell upon Kate, and she bent down, hoping no one would notice. But a snicker here and a giggle there signaled they had. Kate slipped out of both shiny, leather wingtips and held them up for all to see. She shrugged. “It was short notice.”
The group exploded in laughter. Kate tossed the shoes into the blaze as someone cranked up the stereo. Janis sang “Piece of My Heart,” and they danced like crazy women around the flames.