Stories of the Confederate South is my collection of historical short fiction, formerly published by Booklocker and recently published by Pelican. Here is a short excerpt from one of the stories entitled, “Just Another Confederate Prisoner.” This story is about a boy from West Monroe High School who is uprooted and taken into Yankee Land. (If you remember, the West Monroe Football team’s mascot is The Rebels).
Just Another Confederate Prisoner
The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is Despair.—Oscar Wilde
When my father died in Afghanistan, I think my mother lost her mind. Most nights, she’d get crazy drunk at the Backdoor Lounge, and even though she got two DUI’s, she didn’t let up. The drinking gave her a mean side, too. One night just after last call, a man called her a drunken whore, so she sliced him a couple of times with a straight razor. It’s hard to imagine one’s own mother, her eyes glazed and hard, standing over a whimpering, bleeding man like she was a Southern belle avatar of blood.
One night she brought a man home. He spent that night, and the next thing I know, he’s moved in with us. I know my mama’s entitled to have a life, and it’s not her fault that my Daddy’s Army Reserve unit was attacked, but I still didn’t cotton to the man being around. I don’t think my daddy would have liked him either.
One morning, I fixed myself some grits and sat down at the table, leafing through my Civil War Times magazine. He stumbled into the kitchen.
“Coffee’s made. Help yourself,” I said.
“What on earth are you eating?” he said.
“Grits. Want some?”
“Hell, no. I can’t believe some of the things you Southerners eat?”
Oh, great, I thought. Mama’s taken up with a durn Yankee. “Yeah, we’re Southerners. Where are you from?”
“Iowa. You know where that is?”
I stood and stacked my dishes in the sink. “Yeah, that was the Yankee state that wouldn’t let any black folk live there. I guess they weren’t fightin’ to free the slaves.”
After he left for work, Mother joined me in the kitchen. She was in a tear, scrambling around, fighting her way into her work clothes. I poured her a cup of coffee and set it on the counter. I asked her, “When is this new boyfriend of yours going away?”
“Jim’s not leaving. We’ve decided to live together.”
“You’re kidding me. Daddy hasn’t been buried two months and you want to shack up with this freeloader?”
“Don’t you get pissy with me, Joseph. You make our relationship sound trashy.”
“I don’t have to make it sound trashy—it is trashy and you know it is.”
“Well, he’s not going to leave. We could move into his apartment, but this place is bigger. We’ve even talked about getting married.”
I looked at her ring finger—seeing a white ring of skin where my daddy’s wedding band had been. “I think you’ve lost your mind. Must be some kind of mid-life crisis.”
“Well, if you don’t like that information, you’ll like this even less—we’re moving sometime next month.”
“I don’t want to go. I want to finish school here.”
“You’re only sixteen, so you will go. The West Monroe Rebels will do fine without you. When you’re seventeen, I’ll sign for you to get out on your own and you can do what you want. Now, you get your butt out the door and get to school without getting another tardy.”
* * *
At any rate, the book is now available. You can read Pelican’s press release about it here and you can get a really good deal on the price if you order it online: http://www.pelicanpub.com/Press_Release.asp?passval=9781589805187&title=STORIES%20OF%20THE%20CONFEDERATE%20SOUTH