Thursday, December 31, 2009

Not sure I'm doing much tomorrow. Was told an old Appalachian saying is that what you do on New Years Day, you will be doing all year. So...guess I'll have a good workout and schlep some firewood onto the porch. Be as active as I can be. Think I'm going to do butterbeans and rice instead of hop'n'john. Mostly because I have some. Butterbeans, that is.

Other than that, just catch up on some craft projects and watch the parade. Hope everyone enjoys their day.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I love being in Night Train. This is my second appearance there--and also a roundabout "bug" story. What is it about me, fiction and insects? I think it's how I see bugs as being such an alien, completely different sort of life form from ourselves and I can't help but draw comparisons. See the life we share--our shared creaturehood.

"Roadside Attractions" is sort of a fanciful blast back to some childhood memories for me--in an odd, entirely fictional sort of way. We used to take 17 down to St. Simon's Island where we vacationed at my grandparents home on East Beach. On the way down were various roadside attractions--you could find these all along the way down the coast to Florida. Crazy places with alligators, monkeys and parrots with weird photo opportunities. Most of them were falling into decline by the seventies and the signs advertising them decayed and faded. I think they were where old carnies went to die. We didn't stop . My family also seemed obsessed for much of my childhood with finding the perfect fried seafood platter. There was a place in Midway or Darien, GA we always stopped for lunch on the ride to St. Simons. But we would drive quite out of our way to look for fried seafood.

And then there is this memory I have of my great aunt Emmy-Jo--one of those childhood memories that is like a foggy dream seen from the corner of my eye. You aren't quite sure if it happened or not. But it is of her wearing a living tenebrionid beetle as a brooch. It was decorated with paste jewels--macabre, beautiful and gothic.

So--that's where this story comes from. Mishes of mashes of memories. And look! Here I am at one of those roadside attractions! I'm the Diver of the Day!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Friend Scott!!!
Perhaps the best Christmas present was having Friend Scott show up on my doorstep for the whole weekend yesterday. Today we drove around to different friends houses (he's much more social than I am and welcome everywhere for his funny jokes and impressions of local folks). We ate two Christmas dinners--both delicious and way off my diet. And look at that itty baby! Scott's head is bigger than her entire little body! So sweet--I got to hold her too!

He's gonna kill me for using this photo--but I love how his eyes light up--it's so Scott. We've been having a great time during our pajama party. He's already redecorating the house. We've been sitting up late and gossiping, telling stories, laughing. Such fun. I so miss him!

Today I was telling him something a little "blue" and he claps his hands over his ears and says, "Stop! It's Jesus' birthday!" Then he told me something even raunchier.

I think we're going to see a movie tomorrow after he visits with a friend in town.

Anyway, I've got him all the way until Monday and I knew you'd all love to see a picture of him. He wishes everyone a happy Christmas and a merry new year. As do I.

And since it's's some of the dreadful snow I ran into Friday on my way home. This is just turning into my road--little did I know there was a pine tree fallen across my drive just around the bend. My neighbor cut me a path. Then later that night, the ancient beech fell. Got a cord of firewood off that bad boy when it was cleared. But today was sunny and warmish.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm cold.

For the last three days, I've been part of the massive power outages that struck east Tennessee Friday. What can I say? I'm sorry. There were these pretty multi-color Christmas tree lights upstairs in my closet and I brought them downstairs thinking I might be able to put them on the mantle without something disastrous happening. (If you know me, part of my little magical thinking universe includes a moratorium on Christmas decorations--bad, bad things happen when I do this. Some of you know of what I speak). At any rate--I swear, all I did was bring them downstairs. That, was evidently enough.

So, I'm in the library in Newport right now posting this. Don't have computer access at home. I'm exhausted--have been having to stay up all night to feed the woodstove to keep the pipes from freezing. Dogs are cranky. I've been living off of sweet, hot tea and baked potatoes. I have a little enamel coffee pot I put in the woodstove to boil water and I wrap the potatoes in foil. And sashimi. See, I'd just bought the month's supply of groceries and since it was December, decided to treat myself to some fish. All my food is going bad because of the power outage.

The snow was not the most severe we have had since I moved here. We've had much worse weather than this. It was freakish in that it started falling, wet and heavy, at 3 in the afternoon and continued through the night. I was just getting home from Newport and it had only been snowing an hour--and Big Creek Road had been turned into a toboggan course for Subarus and Hondas. I made it up the mountain okay with the 4WD to find a tree across my driveway. My neighbor cut a path to me and I walked into a dark house.

Trees have been falling all over the place, electric lines down--weird, 'cause like I said, we've had way worse weather. I settled in thinking we'd have tops 12 hours down--we've never had more than that. I was wrong--three days later we still have no power off The 15th. I didn't have enough wood and had to put out an emergency call that was filled by my wonderful neighbor, Clinton. What a lifesaver. Please if you come visit, stay in his cabins. The cabins are wonderful and he and Irene are spectacular people. Scott and some other friends were very kind to check up on me--really know who's in your corner during such times.

Then, Friday night sometime, the mother of all trees fell across my driveway. It's actually three trees--one, a buckeye that is so huge you can't span your arms around it. Wesley will be coming by this evening to move it--cut it up--it needs a ginormous chainsaw.

It's been a tough few days. I've had more than a few good cries. Been bitch with the dogs who are cold and not understanding why we are rationing water. See, Fat Buddy's mouth is so vile that none of the other dogs want to drink after him. Yet Fat Buddy is always first in line to spit in the water. I've gotten some knitting done. Was time I plunked out some new tea towels. It's too dark to read and at least the knitting keeps my fingers nimble.

I'm in town today getting more lamp oil, batteries and wicks. Dogfood. Am taking a shower at the local community center--you know, I have that delicate white chick skin that needs constant washing. Never have done well with dirty. Also stopped by to tell the power company they would not be getting a payment from me this month--since their electric bill money has been diverted to firewood, lamp oil and general trying to stay alive expenses. I already feel guilty for splurging today on two pair of merino wool boot socks--takes very little to make me happy and socks and me go way back.

So, my darlings...that's the story. It may be another two days before I have power so if you don't hear from me, that's probably why. Call me if you like. I'm bored and need distractions. Send warmth, wood, lamp oil or snugglies.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sometimes I have this fantasy where I'm not broken. I don't have it often--it makes me fragile and sad more often than not. But sometimes, I like to close my eyes and imagine where life would have taken me if I hadn't had that terrible flu when I was 25--the thing that started the whole SLE spiral downward. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be breathing. Happy I outlived Flannery O'Connor, happy to see the sun rise. Happy I'm here to share stories with you and have words dancing all around me like snappish puppies.

It may be, that without the SLE, I wouldn't be doing this. I've always known I wouldn't have returned from the UK, but for the breakage. I wanted to get a little place in Normandy, a little pile of rocky Norman farmhouse. I would have had spotty cows and chickens. I might have made artisan cheeses and had a shot of Calvados in my coffee in the morning. My French would have eventually been okay-ish, but I would have always spoken it with a South Carolina accent that made my neighbors wince. I would have ridden my bike into the village each morning for bread, cheese and to see what might be good to fix for dinner that day at the market. I would have had a hard time finding a mechanic to work on that old Morris Minor I used to drive. I suppose my life wouldn't be so different from how it is now, except I wouldn't be broken.

If I was never broken, I would never have stopped dancing. The mysterious falls would not have happened. So I probably would be all crippled up from that by now anyway. Dancers get to where the only time they can move properly is when they are dancing. Not that I was much good at it ever--but it was something I enjoyed intensely and was passionate about. There's something magical about having a body that does what you tell it to do.

I would have traveled much more than I did. Worked--I'm such the workaholic--like a madwoman. Probably managed to get into way more trouble than I did--I'm such the sensualist--never met a physical sensation I didn't want to try--or try out on someone else.

If I weren't broken now, I'd hike to the top of Mt. Cammer and shout my wishes into the wind. I'd dance a crazy dance balancing on the edge of a big rock and threaten to fly. I'd offer myself, a perfect sacrifice to the sky, bare breasted and pink in the cold.

But I am broken. I guess we all are in some way. I just wish I weren't broken in quite this way. And that's how the fantasy of being unbroken usually goes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

We’re proud to present the first Writers’ Bloc free PDF anthology. This one’s got 17 of the best pieces from our first three incarnations. Featuring Laura Garrison, Katherine Jamison, Matthew Dexter, Rosanne Griffeth, Susan Krysiak Avedissian, Marina Richards, Dan Morgan, Scott Shanley, Srinath Reddy, Brian Agurkis, Marina Blokker, Joseph Meredith, Christina Weil, Dennis Mahagin, Courtney Schroeder, Stacey Balkun, and Tom Fillion.

You’ll tell people about this if you know what’s good for you.

Rutger's Writer's Bloc has been kind enough to include "The Storm in the Park" as part of their first Pdf. anthology. I'm, of course, thrilled. Can't say enough good things about Writer's Bloc--one of the most promising new journals I've run across. The graphics are consistently skillful and witty--as is the content. Keven Dickinson, the editor and site designer, has done a beautiful job with Writer's Bloc--I expect to see many great things to come.

Please download their first Supplement of the Website Here to enjoy with your tea and crumpets, with or without cute little finger sandwiches and clotted cream cakes.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Goats-911...Please clearly state your goat emergency and stay on the line....

So, I come back from a trip down the mountain to fill up my brand new tire that is already leaking air to find a message from a nice woman from down the 15th. There's a goat on a ledge midway between here and old Tillman's store. She assumes it's mine. It's not.

So, we get in touch and I drive down there. Sure enough, there's a Boer/New Zealand cross doe across the creek. Not sure how she got there. I get out and make sympathetic goat calls to her. Yes, I'm standing in the middle of a country road calling "Blaaaah. Blaaah." Me, being something of a junior goat whisperer, though nothing compared to the Goat Yoda--said goat looks across the rushing creek and answers me. She's saying something like, "Hey! I'm stuck over here and I can't get back! Hows about cluing me into how I got here in the first place."

Goats are like that. Every day's a new day to a goat. Actually, every five minutes is a new five minutes to a goat. Sort of like that thing about goldfish having a 2 and a half second span of short term memory. She's fifty feet up a laurel covered stretch of rotten rock, wet and hating it.

The nice woman and I meet on the stretch of road--we try to figure out who she might belong to. Chief suspect is the old Raines place--now rehabilitated with nice new sheds and a horse. But no one is home. There's six strand barbwire fencing--but if you know goats--well, that's just a dandy way to get your ass scratched. We agree she'll come down when she's good and ready and there's really nothing we can do.

I turn around and head back--and while we were talking, the doe has found her way back onto the main road. I stop and make more sympathetic goat noises. She's real friendly and lets me get quite close--just not close enough to grab her horns. I get the feeling she's new around here--not sure where home is. But she sure does like the goat noises I'm lobbing in her direction. Shows me her rear end like I'd be interested. I drive slowly and she follows the jeep, but gives up when a friendly horse in the pasture makes goo-goo eyes at her. Fickle damn goats. One moment they are your best buddy and the next they are running after the first pretty horse that comes along.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

So, the past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind with a busier than usual doctor-appointment-a-rama. Anyway--hope everyone had a joyous Turkey Day and a prosperous Black Friday.

So, I have a story out on Fried Chicken and Coffee. It's The Dark Hole. This is one of my rare short story length ones--4000 words--so bookmark it and sit down with a cup of joe when you have the time to sit and read. The Dark Hole was originally developed here on the blog back when I first started writing seriously. I think it was the first story that really made me feel I was ready to be a "real" writer (whatever that is). It's gone through a hundred or so rewrites, but it's still one of my early efforts that still moves me.

It's a dark tale, though--triggering for some people--dealing with what I call "the dark side of the mountain."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Monday, November 23, 2009

Thought for the day...

Oh my Lord in Heaven, Jesus Marimba and a Jesus Jello mold, will someone please remind me if I ever try to take 209 from Lake Junaluska to Hot Springs, N.C. again that suicide is a better option?

Needless to say--will not be visiting Asheville again until the rockslide on 40 is cleared. So exhausted, I'm weepy.

And by the way, happy travelers--big FYI, the Park Service has gated Harmon Den--just in case you were thinking of taking the Deliverance Special around said rockslide. Thank God, we are safe from those wily hipsters.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I left the balcony door open last night so I could listen to the roar of Big Creek as I slept. It’s always nice to sleep to the sound of violent water. One place I stayed, while working on a Tony Hopkins picture in the U.K., was up in the Lake District. We were shooting in winter—at terrible time to be fell walking and wandering around the Finger Lakes. But we were staying in a wonderful old mill that had been converted into a B & B and the stream ran right below my window. It was like that last night. The rain fell all through the day and into the night so the creek roiled and foamed, sounding as though it were just outside instead of 300 feet down the cliff.

I drove about today for a bit to see the state of the flooding—we are high up enough here that flooding isn’t much of an issue except in the hollers where the creek travels. Water is coming out of every seam. Rivulets flow down the mountains, channel across gravel roads and paths. The waterfall on my property, usually dryish, pours liquid, polishing, punishing rock.

It’s wet. It’s too wet. (Cue spooky music)

And there was another rockslide. Geologists predict more. You can see it on tape HERE.

That's going to leave a mark.

I did stop to talk to Friendly Horse. Who you might remember--he's the horse that sometimes gets loose and stops traffic looking for a sandwich. He snuffled my fingers and let me know that yes, he was indeed wet. And did I perhaps have some potato chips or a Mrs. Freshleys Pink Sno-ball Cake in there for him. I didn't. Not even a stinkin' carrot. Sorry Friendly Horse.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Okay, I know I promised to finish this on Sunday, but I've been distracted by a few craft projects. And I've finally been playing with my drop spindle. I seem to have the hang of it, but thus far it's resulted in a twisty, slubby mess. Which I'm told is okay and once I become proficient I'll be unable to create what's called a "novelty" yarn. I'm going to knit a scarf from it. Or at least that's the plan. I'm really liking it--but I'm suspicious that my sheep have gone to their final pasture--ie--are dead. Haven't seen hide nor fleece of them for a while. Either that--or they've taken permanent residence down the mountain where they were spending the summer. They should have returned by now.

At any rate, I haven't finished the story--but here's the awaited Part Two:


“I know—let’s get him out of there and take a picture of the four of us.”

It was a bad idea whose time had come. They didn’t have too much trouble getting Junior out of the casket. As stiff as he was, he slid out like a knife from a sheath. There was a little wiggling and wedging involved but overall, Junior slid out of that coffin pretty easy. Once out, they were surprised to find that the nice wingtip shoes they’d included with his suit were not on his feet.

“Well, that won’t do,” said Boo. “I bought them shoes special for him for his 80th birthday party.”

Jim fished around in the bottom of the coffin, finally coming up with the shoes. “Here they is. They just put them down there in the bottom. Let’s get them on him.”

They tried to sit Junior in his favorite chair, a green pleather Laz-E-Boy he’d got at the factory seconds store in Morristown. Junior stubbornly refused to fold into a sitting position so they put the chair in the reclining position and laid him out like a board on a sawhorse. The foot part of the recliner kept going down so Boo got a cinderblock from the porch and propped it up. However, they soon found that Junior’s feet would not go in the shoes.

“I’ll get the camera,” said Jim.

What followed next would remain fuzzy in memory for the men, given the state of inebriation of three and the relative deadness of the fourth. When the film came back from the Wal-Mart Photo Center, the record showed that they first took photos of them standing around Junior in his favorite chair, stood him up and put their arms around each other, somehow wrestled Junior into his old hunting jacket and posed him with his rifle, took him outside and leaned him against his old Ford truck, then, for some reason, tried to feed him ice cream. Throughout all the photos, Junior remained agreeably and thoroughly dead.

The real trouble began the next morning when Mrs. Bess Truholt, one of Boo’s high school girlfriends who ended up marrying the late Skeeter Hall after Boo got too fresh with her on the walk back from church one Sunday, knocked on the door the next morning. Not getting an answer, she peeked in the window and what she saw made her drop that wet coconut cake and run screaming back to her car.

Once safely in her car, Bess called her best friend, Trudy, and said, “Junior Mantooth done rose from the dead, kilt all his family and ate them!”

Actually, what Bess saw through the window was the three men passed out in the living room in various states of disarray and Junior, propped in his chair in his hunting outfit, a rifle over his lap, melted strawberry ice cream smeared all over his face and leaking from his mouth like bloody drool.

Her car peeling out of the driveway roused Ed, who looked around the parlor of their house, the recliner where Junior, despite his deadness, seemed to have had too good of a time and said, “Oh shit.”

Sunday, November 01, 2009

There are some stories that start where they should have ended. This might be just that sort of a story. For instance, I might tell you that Junior Mantooth was a righteous man who lived a righteous life and died well. That would be perfectly true. I might tell you that two thousand souls attended his viewing and the streets of Newport City, Tennessee looked like a street carnival that day with all the folks who come down out of the mountains to pay their respects and to visit with friends they hadn’t seen in many a long while. That would be true, also.

When Junior died, Clarence Huff, the funeral director came to the house and respectfully conveyed the old boy to the funeral home where they embalmed him, dressed him in his finest suit and placed him in their white “Gone to Glory” model casket with the pewter fittings. The viewing was set for a Saturday with the memorial following. Then, he was taken back to the family home where the wake was to be held. An old-fashioned vigil was scheduled all through Saturday night with the burial on Sunday at the family cemetery next to his three wives, parents and deceased daughters. All of this was in accordance with Junior’s last wishes. He always said he wanted his final homecoming to be the biggest party the mountain had ever seen.

Junior’s family, whittled down to two widower brothers and a bachelor son, had been taking care of him during his long illness and as anyone knows, menfolk ain’t good for nothing around the sick. Still they managed best they could, making Junior’s final years as comfortable as they were able. But it meant they couldn’t go down to the dump and jaw with the other old boys, couldn’t bear hunt during the season, nor fish and drink like they wanted. So, not surprisingly, Uncles Boo and Jim, and son Ed, were a bit overwhelmed by the social whirlwind that was Junior Mantooth’s funeral.

All the widow women showed up with dishes of food when the boys had been living off cornbread and beanie-weenies. A few came and cleaned up the house for them. An endless string of visitors came by the house and signed the registry at the funeral home. Junior had been a popular man and a generous one. Rumor was he had made a fortune ushering geologists around the mountains. They also said Junior had hidden gold around the place in a fleet of old junk cars and that was why the boys never could get rid of all the junk around the property, so all those widow women were smiling especially bright for all three of the fellows.

The ladies from First Baptist, Edwina Assembly of God in Jesus’ Name and Bridgeport Church of God all got together to help coordinate the wake, following Junior on his final trip from town to his home after the memorial service. The daytime headlights trailing the hearse stretched for six miles on the drive back to the house. Buddy Don’s Barbeque catered the event and was waiting in the yard with three whole hogs for the mourners. The Heavenly Hay Gospel Choir performed. It did indeed look like Junior’s last wishes were observed to the letter and his going away party was a shindig to say the least.

By nine p.m., the crowd had thinned out and by eleven p.m. only Boo, Jim and Ed’s friends were left. Junior lay in his casket in peaceful repose. A few hip flasks were produced and they began toasting Junior and recalling his long life. It started around two o’clock in the morning after many shots of Popcorn Sutton’s finest corn likker.

“You know? I don’t think we ever got a picture of the four of us together.”

“Seems a shame, don’t it?” said Ed, a bleary tear rolling down his cheek. “It’s just been the four of us these past five years since Daddy had the stroke.”

Boo reached in the casket and smoothed the old man’s hair. “Ain’t seen Brother look so fine in a long time. Clarence did a real good job of fixing the droopy part of his face.”

“I know—let’s get him out of there and take a picture of the four of us.”

It was a bad idea whose time had come...

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of "Junior Mantooth's Last Outing!"

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I haven't written some tales just for you guys in a while, so this Halloween weekend I'll be giving you two stories--one today and one tomorrow. As these things go, I'll be writing from the seat of my pants--making it up as I go along.

I offer to you two completely true tales (as true as the tail I was born with!) to confound the imagination.
There is a sixth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is the middle ground between light and shadow - between man's grasp and his reach; between science and superstition; between the pit of his fears and the sunlight of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area called The Creepy Appalachia Zone.

Red Arlington's Conversion

Some remember it only because it happened on the coldest winter these parts had seen in many a long year. They remember it because their breath fogged and froze into tiny ice crystals that shattered on the ground as they waited on the banks of Big Creek down by Sawmill Hole where Junior Tarlington’s sawmill wheel churned up the silt. When the wheel was braked, it was a fine place for a river baptism. They remembered because it took six strong men wielding mattocks and seven-pound sledges to break through the foot of ice and the bonfire built on the side of the creek barely saved Pastor Granger’s fingers and toes from falling off. They remembered because it seemed only fitting that the good Lord deemed as mean a man as Red Arlington would have to nearly die submerged in the frigid water to come up a saved man, sputtering “Hallelujah” between chittering, clenched teeth.

But the family remembered for another reason. The story started months before when the killing frosts had only just settled. It’s the story of Red Arlington’s choice, which wasn’t really a choice at all. For who would chose to dance for eternity locked in the Devil’s sulphurous embrace?

By all accounts, Red Arlington popped out of the womb mean as a henless rooster. His momma took the weed and nearly died of it—worse case of milk fever the doctor had ever seen. Some said Red was raised on rattlesnake milk because of it, but the truth was it were the milk of a contrary nanny goat. Same difference some said. At seven years of age, he wrapped a hound’s tail in tarred straw and lit it afire. At fifteen, Lucy Hall disappeared after walking home with him—not that they proved anything but there were always whispers. Then there was the time they found him sitting on Joe Lawes’s corpse while frying up a rasher of bacon. He claimed he didn’t have nothing to do with the man dying and all, but that’s a tale for anther time. At any rate, the mean little infant grew into a mean child, and the mean child into a mean adult. There’s not enough space here to chronicle the sins of Red Arlington, but suffice it to say, he was a bad, bad man.

His folks had hoped his marriage, celebrated at the business end of his father-in-law’s rifle-gun, would calm him down a bit. But after his bride popped out a few babies, Red predictably turned to making corn likker. And he was no master of the distillery arts, just in it for the easy money that come from them Chicago men who cared not a whit Red’s still was hacked together from car radiators or that once in a while a dead possum or some brake fluid added a special zing to his product. No telling how many dead Yankees adorned the endless scroll of Red’s transgressions awaiting him in heaven.

He kept his still down near Granny’s Branch, down-creek from a few homesteads—which is to say the branch water wasn’t a pure as it could be, if you get my drift. The rotgut Red made, didn’t make him a kinder man and oft was the night his wife boarded the door up to keep him out. She’d sit covering the ears of his two babes while Red cursed a streak of filth like to wake the dead from their inconstant dreaming.

It was the night of the third killing frost, and the leaves on the mile-a-minute vines had wilted, turning greeny-grey as a corpse’s toenails. The moon was setting over Sol Messer Mountain, but only a sliver and not near enough to light the footpath Red stumbled across on his trip home from the still. The lower path was near level, cut into the side of a steep ravine—one misstep would carry a man down into the darkness, dark even in the light of day, that misshapen holler. He sang into the frosty morning, that singing voice of his a redeeming feature. But when his toe stubbed against a root, he cursed, “Goddamnit to Hell!”

And that were when it happened. Those mile-a-minute vines came to life and snaked up, wrapping themselves around old Red’s ankles. They twisted and warped, dancing like a thousand whipping copperheads and pulled Red down, down, down. He screamed, grabbing onto the roots, rocks and dirt. He clawed and scratched, blood bubbling from his split fingernails. There wasn’t no one to hear him cry as the vines tortured and dragged him. Dragged him down into the cold, dark holler.

And he thought for a moment, it was a mercy he passed out.

When Red came to, he smelled the smell of land-fish mushrooms growing all around him and he felt peculiar warm for such a cold night. He tried to move, but couldn’t as it seemed he was embraced by a pair of arms holding him still.

“Ah…” sighed a sibilant voice, dry and crinkly in his ears, but womanly in tone, “Your song and words are precious to me, dear man. I fear I’ve fallen quite in love with you. Won’t you come below and dance with me? Dance a waltz to the devil’s box?”

He felt dry lips caress his ear and smelled the stink of the grave on the breath of this woman spirit. In a flash of insight, he thought to fool her and said, “My lovely, of course I’ll dance a merry fiddle dance with you. I’ll dance the night long, but let me go say goodbye to my family. I’ll return tomorrow night early and we will run away together. On this you have my promise.”

She sighed and he felt her tongue on his cheek—warm and forked. And so she released him. Red woke again on the path, shaking and shuddering, vomiting and feverish—and so stumbled back to his home just as the sun was rising—thinking he’d escaped a terrible fate.

Red stayed away from his still, the next night and the next. Until his wife tired of his laying about the house and scolded him, telling him to get his lazy self a job or cut up some firewood so they’d have money and some warmth for the winter. Red, never one to take an honest job in exchange for easy money, made his way back to the still to set up for another run of moonshine. He slept there at the still until he finally had to make his way back home one night.

This time, Red took the middle footpath home—it was a more difficult path than the lower one, but he was loath to take the same way home he had the night he dreamed (for surely it was a dream?) of the devil woman. As he climbed up and around the switchbacks, he hummed to himself—more to keep himself company and ease his nerves than anything else. At one point, the rotten rock and screed gave way and Red stumbled to his knees hollering, “Jaysus-fucking-Christ on a cracker!”

And that’s when it happened again. It seemed as though the entire mountain fell under his feet and Red was swept down, down, down past the lower path and into the cursed holler. Again, he scrabbled and scraped, grabbing onto any passing tree branch, trying to stop his fall by churning his feet, but to no avail. He tumbled and spun, down, down, down—down into the dark holler.

And this time, he did not think it a mercy when his eyes closed.

When he woke, the she-demon had her arms locked around him, but facing him so he could see her face. She was powersome beautiful in an evil way with mischievous eyes and pointed ears. The smell of mushrooms, he remembered from last time, he knew now was her special perfume. She scritched his back with her razor-sharp nails and pressed her pointy breasts against him and said, “Though you do me wrong and lie to me, I can’t help my love for you, dear man. It was naughty of you to tell me you would return and then not. But your song and your words bewitch and please me. I cannot help myself. Won’t you please come below and dance with me? Dance a waltz to the devil’s box?”

Red gave a nervous smile and thought fast. “Oh, sweet lady, I did not do you wrong, I swear,” he said. “You see, I play a bit of fiddle myself and I was composing a song to your beauty. It took me all this time to get it right and I didn’t think it worthy for your beloved ears until just this night. I was on my way home to fetch my fiddle and return to you. With this song as a gift.”

She drew a little blood with her nails, stinging him like a mankiller wasp. Then she thoughtfully said, “I will allow you to go back and collect your fiddle, since I dearly would like to hear this tune you’ve wrought. But bring yourself back to me this next night or there will be Hell to pay, mark my words.”

And with that, Red found himself back on the middle path, sick as a bluetick and stumbling home.

Red stayed home as long as he could. He did not leave his house and peered fearfully out the windows when night fell. He slept in fits and starts throughout the day, until his wife became irritable with him being underfoot.

“Why don’t you go out and get a real job?” she pleaded with him. And normally Red would backhand her across the mouth, but he watched her and womankind warily now. Still, he wasn’t ready to do such a thing, so he eventually headed back to his still. This time he stayed even longer, but finally it began to snow. It was a terrible snow that fell that winter and this was the first taste of it—and Red knew he had to make his way home if only for shelter.

This time, he took the longest way home, the upper path. It was treacherous, icy and slick. Red, not normally a praying man, found himself singing church hymns as he made his way up the steep mountainside. Closer and closer to the top he came and as the path became more dangerous, he prayed. Prayed real hard. And when a boulder came crashing down, he hollered, “Oh, Sweet Jesus, save me!”

But this time, he did not fall and the mountain did not come crashing down on his head. Instead, his demon lover emerged from the mist, rising up from the dark holler like a virago, like the possessed spirit she was. She rose until she dwarfed the mountain, wailing and rending her demon garments.

“Damn, you, Red Arlington! Damn you to Hell! You done broke my heart and I no longer find your songs sweet. You’ll make music no more, swear.”

And just like that, she was gone.

Red Arlington never made music again, and he never allowed it in his house with the exception of shape-note singing. No devil’s boxes were allowed. He was baptized that January in the frozen creek, and proclaimed himself saved—his sins forgiven.

But just you be careful, mind you what you say, if you travel the low road on a fall night when the moonlight slivers through the trees. They say the devil waits out there for you in a handsome form, waiting to take you below. Down, down, down—to dance to the devil’s box.


Happy Halloween!

I think I’ll dedicate this story to Pastor Jimmy—because I think he’d enjoy this churchy little cautionary tale. And it’s based on a story I collected from Friend Scott about one of their mutual relatives.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you the strange tale of Junior Mantooth’s Last Outing. It’s sort of an Appalachian zombie story. Based on truth. I swear. You can read it in the paper.

Monday, October 26, 2009

...By an enormous rockslide!

Yes, it's true. In an attempt to prevent hipsters from leaking into Cocke County from Asheville, an enormous wall of rock slid down the mountain blocking all lanes of I-40 at mile marker 3 in Haywood county. Geologists blame the slide on wedge failure, where two planes of rock are levered apart by rainfall, freezing and thawing and having their respective underwears pulled up around their armpits by more physically fit rocks.

It is estimated it will take three months to completely clear the highway of debris and so will not impact the yearly hipster mating season beginning in May. The last major slide occurred on July 1st, 1997.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Little Dude

So, I didn't make it to the Popcorn thing today. My body has just given out and demanded a day of rest. Good unmedicated sleep with lots of stage IV (or stage N3 if you are going by the 2007 revision)--the type of sleep I've been missing and the most beneficial for my lupus. I'll check with Betsy and see if she got any shots of the hearse with the horses. She always hears the best local gossip.

But it wasn't a total loss. The leaves seem to be at their peak and the dreary day popped the saturation. And look! Little Dude found the sunflower seeds! I was having a lie-down and saw him scampering across the porch rails and was able to snap some quick shots through the window. Their species name, Tamias, means "storer" in Greek. He's really going to town here--look at his widdle cheeks all puffed out! Now that he knows where the sunflower heads are, I'm sure he'll be back for more. Maybe tell all his friends.

That's one of the reasons I love sunflowers so much--they are so beautiful while growing and an easy fall feeder for birds and wildlife.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Suborder: Sciuromorpha
Family: Sciuridae
Tribe: Marmotini
Genus: Tamias

Friday, October 23, 2009

Boy, am I tired! Just got back from the Asheville Animal Fiber Festival. Rode in with Betsy the Goat Yoda, her daughter and grand-baby. Lots of cool stuff. I bought a drop spindle and am going to try to learn to use it. Took some piccies and will report more on that in another post.

Saw something amazing driving in. An albino wild turkey. That's not something you see every day. Turkeys are everywhere this time of year.

My insomnia has been kicking my butt in a major way and swore I was going to use Saturday as a sleep day--even if I had to drug myself into insensibility. But it's a busy and predictably bizarre time in Cocke County and it looks like I'm going to hit the road to cover even more Popcorn Sutton craziness. His widow had him dug up and is having another memorial service. She's having him buried at a secret location--because she was afraid his grave up on Mount Sterling would be vandalized. Hank Williams Jr. is attending the memorial in Dandridge. I'll probably try to make the procession through Parrotsville. History Channel will be there--they can't seem to get enough of Cocke County.

Anyway--off to bed with me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ugg Lust

Okay. So there are these boots I'm seriously lusting for (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). Most of you know comfort is a serious concern for me--and for most of you guys too. You obviously don't come to this blog expecting to see me all dolled up on the farm. I'm definitely not the Eva Gabor type--no, I'm Eddie Albert to the max. Heels are a serious hard limit for me. When my feet hurt, I can't think, can't write, can't sling my chainsaw around or shoot at stuff.

Ugg boots are my latest object of desire. They originate in Australia and like most Aussie footwear are supremely comfortable (my friends, Tree and Lorna, gave me a pair of Blunnies and they have been one of my favorite pairs of shoes). Ugg boots are also supposedly the warmest boots in the world. Yet also the coolest. Anyway, they are made of Merino sheepskin with wooly fleece on the inside.

And then there's that intoxicating new sheepskin boot smell. I remember going into a Merino sheepskin store in the U.K. and just wanting to bury my face in everything. And no, I don't think that's weird.

I don't usually plug products on the SMB, but I really, really love these boots. I can totally see me kicking back in front of the wood stove with my toes all cushy and toasty. The folks at Whooga have offered me a coupon to pass on to you guys. If you get your uggs from them and put in the key code "smokeymoun" you'll get a 20 dollar credit to spend at their store. It will more than cover the shipping from the U.K.

Mutton gives ugg boots his seal of approval because they are made from Merino sheep and he is a Shetland. He hates those close-cropped bastards with their fine yet impossibly dense fleeces. Personally, I think he's a little jealous.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


A friend emails from the city, telling me to watch the Orionids this morning. Of course, I will do this, I replied--boasting You know, I can see The Milky Way here. Though I'm really more of a Perseids kind of gal, the sort to laze on my back on a steaming August night, a curious goat thoughtfully nibbling my hair--hoping that wasn't a night-flying mankiller wasp just landing on my thigh.

At 3:00 a.m., lately my usual bedtime, with dogs grudgingly settled on their side of the bed (but eying my pillow like a leftover snack), I turned out the lights and stepped onto the balcony with a lawn chair. I settled, opening my night eyes. Directly above were the Pleiades, always the most easily recognizable star grouping for me. When I was a child, my mother would take me into the night, resting my head in the crook of her elbow and point out the constellations, giving the stars names. In those days, you could see The Milky Way, even in Bluffton.

"That is the Pleiades, also called The Seven Sisters," she said.

I felt impressed and self-important, because my grandmother had six sisters and I thought the stars were named for my grandmother and great-aunts. What a thing that was, to have one's family written on the fabric of the night. It would be several years before I figured out my great-aunts weren't moonlighting as Artemis' retinue and we were not so grand after all.

As a tween with a bursting heart, I'd go out and lay on my back on the lawn, staring up at the stars until the world fell away and the hurting stopped. I felt sometimes I was floating in the sky, only coming down to shine a red flashlight on my star chart. When I wrote "Saturniides", that was the feeling I was describing. In workshop many people said they didn't know what "falling into the stars" meant. I don't know. Often I take my life experiences and how I see the world for granted. I imagine everyone must have come across the feeling of being consumed by the night. But there are places where the stars don't shine like that and where lovesick girls don't turn to the stars for solace.

I looked toward Betelgeuse and a white knife sliced the sky. It's not too showy, but enough for me to reach out, catch it and put it in my pocket.


I need to make a correction on my Snowbird post. My brother tells me I have it backwards. The FAA facility on Snowbird is for flight navigation with instruments. It uses VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range) which is outdated but still commonly used by most planes. Newer planes use GPS. They'll probably close the Snowbird facility in a few years when all planes make the leap to GPS.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Very late on Tuesday--actually Wednesday morning around 12:30 a.m.--headlights come up my driveway. Never a good sign. So I put on some pants (What?! You don't lounge around in your underwear after hours in the middle of nowhere?! Get over yourself!) and grab a gun. I slam on the porch lights so the intruder can see I'm in full possession of both pants and gun, which I firmly believe are important things to have in one's possession during any late night backwoods encounter. Yay! Pants! Yay! Gun!

Dogs are going nuts--but it's sort of a joyous nuts, especially on Max's part.

A long, deep drawl floats out of the intruder's truck window, "Hey, you got a couch in there for me?"

It's Friend Scott! Completely unexpected visit. I was sort of expecting him to come Wednesday day, but his schedule is sort of crazy and I don't always expect him when he says he's driving up. So this was really great. There's not a single thing about Scott that makes me uncomfortable--from his six-foot-nine frame to his languid Carolina drawl, everything Scott reminds me of home. I really miss having him live just up the road. I realize Scott is sort of my muse, in a way. I never lack for stories when Scott is around.

We sit up talking until four-ish or so. Scott tortured Max with a laser pointer--any tool that can distract ADD-Dog is welcome. We talk about many things, but there's this story he tells about him climbing out of The Red Claptrap of Death and this little man telling him, "You a twelve foot man in a two foot car!"

We get up at the crack of the afternoon--Scott swears he tried to wake me up but couldn't--and we take off driving around in his new truck. He hasn't had a chance to play with the 4WD so we grab a few corn dogs and waters at the Citgo and head up to Waterville, taking the road that goes by the AT Outpost--the back-back-back way into Grassy Fork. We natter the whole way, rummage through an abandoned house, see and chase veritable herds of turkeys. There's a long conversation about how come turkeys are so hard to hunt but if we tried real hard we could run one over with the truck. How come?

We end up driving all the way to the top of Snowbird to the FAA facility. My brother, the airline pilot, has told me about this--what it is for. It's a way for pilots to navigate without instruments. They have places like this all over the country. He's only seen it from the air. It's an unimpressive little building with a round roof and a big cone on top. The locals have many fanciful theories for what it's for. A "secret military installation," they'll say. Homeland security. And sometimes there is military activity related to this little place.

It's a long, bumpy ride to the top, and like a Roman road, it goes straight up. We've been living in the cloud cover for the past few days--it's like living in the rain rather than having it fall. On Snowbird, the fog is thick and the wind is high. You can see ribbons of cloud streaming by--so solid you could grab them, maybe stick your tongue out to taste them. It's sort of a shame since on a clear day, I suspect we could see to Clingman's Dome or the skyline of K-town from up there. It's 4623 feet above sea level. Scott checks his cell phone, then spreads out his arms like a giant bird and drinks the wind.

On the way down, we have to stop the truck to let the brakes cool.

Anyway, we visited a few of his friends and then he was off, back to Greenville. Usually my posts have some structure to them. Usually I nail my endings on my blog posts. Not gonna do that here. I just really miss my big friend. He's a great big irresponsible man-child, he redecorates my fucking house if he's here for more than a few hours, he places things on shelves out of my reach, he often lies (and badly), he gossips like an old woman, he's always in some sort of trouble, he's gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide--and completely irreplaceable. I miss him.

Monday, October 12, 2009

For those of you who were wondering when I was going to write another fishing story--or another Lowcountry story--I offer "Shiners" up on issue #28 of Right Hand Pointing.

Right Hand Pointing is "an online literary journal of very brief pieces for smart people with short attention spans." While you are there, check out Len Joy's .pdf form piece, "Harlow Comes Home." Those things make my eyes hurt, but this one is worth the eyestrain. Check them all out--there's some wonderful work in this issue.

"Shiners" is set on a dock at night--perhaps somewhere in Beaufort County, S.C., perhaps even on the May River--and is about the thrill of vulnerability, stolen almost kisses, bluefish and bad boys. It's about that thing that joins moths, shiners and teenage girls--all flirting with a beautiful destruction.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rusty Barnes' Fried Chicken and Coffee has one of my Appalachian stories up right now you may want to check out.

"Errid* and Delilah" came out of the history of a building over on the Old Asheville Highway. The stretch of highway outside of Newport has a history of truckstop prostitution. It's close enough to the NC/TN state line to have attracted the attention of the Feds. This is the old style truckstop prostitution--not the current "lot lizard" type. They shut down two houses of ill-repute in 2005 as part of Operation Rose Thorn. I'd driven by both of the buildings many times and had just thought them to be bars--the sort of bar I grew up calling a "juke joint."

A bit of time passed and one of the cathouses got a new coat of paint and reopened as a church. If I'm not mistaken, Pastor Jimmy's brother serves as preacher.

"Errid and Delilah" is a "what if" scenario prompted by this history. I owe a great debt to the culture of my adopted home for much of my writing. It's part of what I love about it--this long tradition of lawlessness. Quite often there is a letter to the editor in the Newport "Pie Hole" decrying news about the corruption and crime here. But it's part of the culture--it's what makes us different and special. It's what attracted the attention of The L.A. Times and Esquire Magazine. Surely there is a way to celebrate this history while continuing to move forward?

*Errid is most commonly a woman's name of Australian origin. When I first heard it, it struck me very much as some of the old variations of Appalachian names of Scots/Irish origin. When I found it meant "chariot warrior"--it seemed a natural choice for my lovelorn truck driver, regardless of gender.
Charles-Edwards, T. M.(2000). Early Christian Ireland. Cambridge University Press. p. 70

Friday, October 09, 2009

This week certainly has turned into the Magical Mystery Insomnia Tour for me—haven’t been to sleep until 4:00 a.m. all week. I even set my alarm to 9:00 a.m. this morning so I wouldn’t sleep until 2 in the afternoon. Yet here I am. 3:15 a.m.

The moon was particularly splendid this evening. Nibbled off on the upper right corner and framed by fluffy blue clouds. A regular My Little Pony of a sky. It needed unicorns or something. Something. I was on the way home from a Pagan Goat Wobble Potluck over in the Rocky Flats community where The Goat Yoda lives. Anyway, I was busting for a pee and pulled into Cabbage County Road on the way home to relieve myself and there was something about that moon that called to me. Not a soul around on a deserted, remote mountain road and the light breaking over the trees.

Anyway, it was a good crowd of people and I had a fine time. It’s always good to see Betsy and her lovely family. She has a new grand baby who is the happiest little cuss I’ve ever spied. We talked a bunch—I’ve missed that with her. And I learned something new from her husband, Chris, who is a big Josh Whedon/Firefly fan. It's now official. Twilight fans have usurped the Furries in the rock bottom (and continuing to dig...) placement in the hierarchy of fandoms.

And I thought Furries was just like a sex thing. Evidently not. You know--I used to make furries. Scary, huh?

Here’s one of the drummers from the gathering—cool tats, yes?

This is Betsy’s Nairobian Twirling Goat. Very rare. Don’t see one of these little buggers every day. They are so-called because in their native country, they chase their tails when a storm approaches. It’s some sort of genetic anomaly—like the Fainting Goats (youtube link of fainting goat fainting--never gets old), but instead of the myotonia, they have an inner ear abnormality that is sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. Really. I swear.

That was so much fun to write I think it may be time for another installment of Rumor Control.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Last night, I'm coming back up the mountain around 8:30 or so--on my way home from the gym, still half wet and stinking of chlorine from the pool--when this little creature ambles out into the road in front of me. I slow down since my brain registers something like Skunk! Skunk! Don't hit it or you'll be hosing the undercarriage of the jeep off for the next six months!

I manage to avoid hitting it--despite the fact it waddles into the middle of the road, sits on its haunches, smokes a cigarette then turns back the way it came--back in front of the jeep. Since I had a good bit of time to observe it while it was enjoying the cigarette, I noticed it didn't look like the skunks I thought I knew. That's because it was a Eastern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius). He was much smaller than the familiar Striped Skunk and had spots. Most definitely recognizable as a skunk--just not what I was expecting. Anyway, he was absolutely adorable--just not something I wanted to tangle with.

Appalachian terminology note:

Have I told you guys about "weed"? It's the term some of the older women use for mild mastitis. I did find a reference to it as a colloquialism in a 1916 medical journal but it's still in use here--at least by the "old folks".

Thursday, October 01, 2009

'Twas brillig and my slithy toves have been gyring and gimboling all over my effing wabe. Which is to say, it's been a warm fall day with sunshine and good air quality. I was a bit worried first thing this morning since the Smoky's signature fog enveloped the house and my rocks were coming today. But the sun burned off the low cloud ceiling and the day bloomed.

The foggy morning provided some foreshadowing. It would have been more obvious with a foreboding soundtrack. I get the call the rocks are on the way and I hop in the jeep to make my way down the mountain to meet the truck. I meet the truck down at the Pigeon River Smokehouse and lead the 25 ton truck gleefully up the mountain. A girl has never been more ready for her rocks.

We get to the house and I pay the man--we'll call him "Daryl" (not his real name)--and tell him where to start dumping the rocks. The concern all along was how far one 20 ton load would spread. It's a pretty long road. I tell him about the clayey bits right in the middle. He tells me a couple of times that he ran the truck off the mountain when his brakes went out last week. But there wasn't any harm done. Yeah, yeah--let's get to spreading some rock--I swear I'm like a second grader with one of those tapes of big trucks, just so thrilled to have this manly bit of machinery on my property. I'm such a sucker for big tractors and earth haulers. Daryl's not nearly as decorative as the road scraper guy--but hey! He's got rocks and lots of 'em. He asks me if I have any transmission or steering fluid--but I don't since I get all that stuff done in town. Still, I'm not hearing the scary music that surely must be playing.

Have you seen one of these things in action up close? It's awesome! The container part of it rears up like a freaking tyranasaurus rex all hydraulics hissing and snapping. The rocks come out of it as he drives this monster down my road--they fall like hot, noisy pudding completely covering the road. And he keeps going. Daryl rocks my entire road--that we were thinking would take two loads--in one smooth stretch of giant rock truck driving genius. I'm so impressed, I'm thinking, Daryl--you totally rock, buddy!

He disappears around the curve and I get in the jeep to catch him so I may praise his masterful application of gravel. When I get to the foot of the road, the truck is there. With a tree-sized limb jambed between the now stuck truck bed. Evidently, Daryl forgot to take note of the great whopping buckeye when he drove in and took off a sizable portion of said tree.

"Oops. That's gonna need a chainsaw," I say.

"You got one?"

"Yeah, but it won't start. Haven't taken it into Dean's yet this season."

We stare at the tree a while.

"It hit the cab."

"Yeah, but you did a fabulous job rocking the road," I say. I hate this for him. The rear glass is out of the cab and it's got a big ding.

He gets in the jeep and I drive back to the house. I call his office for him, and I can see he's relieved I'm doing the calling. And his dispatcher is a bit peeved, I can tell. I give them directions and tell them to bring a chain saw.

"Can't he just push it out of the way?"

"Well, no," I say, "the limb is as big as my thigh and I got pretty big thighs. It's a tree shaped limb."

I hear her telling someone in the office what has happened. Peeved. Really peeved.

"But he did a wonderful job with the road. A better job of dumping out rocks, I have never seen. Really."

So, I'm looking at the pretty white rocks stretching down my road and thinking about Daryl. Hoping he doesn't take too much flack for the unfortunate dump truck vs. tree accident. Guess somebody's going to need to reset the "We have gone ___ days without an accident!" sign.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The day was well underway by the time I rolled out of bed at the crack of afternoon. Dogs restless, eyes bleary, nightgown twisted--I'm hung over from too much sleep. Fall is such a sleepy time of year, but it didn't hit me until today. The quality of the light changes, becoming more golden and somnolent.

I make a pot of lapsang souchong, steeped exactly 6 minutes--it's my special tea, different from the Middle Eastern Assam Earl Grey I drink on a daily basis. I have to drive to Asheville to find it unless I'm having formal tea at The Gallery. Don't know why I decided to drink the Sunday tea on a weekday, but it tastes like fall--tastes like a faraway fire. I go and sit on the bench looking out over my view--the dogwood is just beginning to turn over on Sol Messer Mountain.

I close my eyes then open them, focusing on the tiny bits of thistle and motes blowing through the air. It's one of those things I always look for in spring and in fall--the change of materials shuttled on the back of the wind. The wind column coming from the holler 300 feet below carries chaff stirred up by the bush-hogging in those fields. The air sparkles with seeds and small lives.

A pair of blue-tailed skinks have taken up residence on my mantle. Not sure how they got in, but I've enjoyed their company, these two small beings. Every once in a while, one will lose balance and fall, sounding like a pencil dropping. I wonder if skinks feel embarrassment somewhere in their lizardy brains. Surely, it's a cause for shame to lose footing when your prehensile toes fail to grip? I don't know why I haven't put them outside. They have poisonous tails, they say.

It's just one of those days, I guess. Sparkled and sleepy, where somewhere between Zen seeing and skink tails, you dance on the head of a pin. Alone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The God of All Blackberries appears today on Dew on the Kudzu: A Southern Journal.

Idgie was the first editor to notice my work and publish it, so I really owe her a debt. I'm not sure I would have started subbing my work had it not been for her. I've got another one coming up there soon, an all new one. And something on the next issue of Right Hand Pointing.

Lookit! I got's wild turkeys in my pasture this morning! All hens, but close enough to shoot from the front porch. Not that I'd do that. Okay, maybe if there was a tom, but only because I love the feathers.

Of course, once Max noticed them, they ran for the hills.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Well, my birthday is tomorrow and I decided to splurge big time. Hey, I'm going to be eating ramen noodles for the next five weeks, but I got's me a big rock. Actually, I got's me a lot of rocks. 20 tonnes of rocks in a great whopping truck. Yay, me!

I'm actually pretty excited. My road has been washed out so badly by the heavy rains that I've thrown the jeep way out of alignment. It's a good thing.

I think Bravo needs to do "Real Housewives of Grassy Fork." Just a random thought.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Time moves swiftly now--I remember when a summer seemed an eternity. When fall came unexpected, as though it snuck up upon us. Goldenrod was always that first sign and my mother's favorite precursor to fall. She'd point it out growing on the verges of the Highway 17, big clumps of yellow. A prettier yellow I did not see until I moved to Europe and saw the fields of rapeseed blooming. Goldenrod makes me a child again each time I see it. I'm sitting in a station wagon with bumpy clear plastic seat covers--thighs sticking, wearing shorts that will soon be thrown in the attic with hopes I can fit into them again next year. If not, they'll add to the house insulation. I'll find those same shorts fifteen years later and remember that afternoon. The goldenrod blooming and my mother's face glowing in anticipation of the coming fall. Oyster roasts and hooking night trout under the dock light.

Here, it has some medicinal uses. It's an anti-inflamatory and sometimes used for kidney ailments and tonics. Though here in Grassy, the old folk tell me roots of Queen-of-the-Meadow are preferred. Queen-of-the-Meadow blooms at the same time here--same plant sometimes called Joe-pie weed (though they swear it's a different plant--it's not). Not to be confused with Meadowseet that blooms at the start of summer and is also called Queen-of-the-Meadow in some parts of the country.

Queen-of-the-Meadow (Joe-pie weed) (Eupatorium Purpureum)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I have a story up on Writer's Bloc, Rutger's University's online literary journal. It's a newish journal, only in its third issue, but I like the clean look of the thing and I appear in some good company--Roxane Gay, Michele Reale and Dennis Mahagin to name a few.

The story, "The Storm in the Park: A Flash in Five Acts," is a series of five vignettes, each telling the story of five interconnected individuals who, for various reasons, are in Forsythe Park at the same time before a storm breaks. The characters are completely fictional (though I did actually know a guy whose pets intentionally matched his carpet) with the exception of the dog...who is modeled on a much beloved dog that belonged to some close friends of mine.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Friend and noted Appalachian playwright, Gary Carden, has a clip up on his blog, Holler Notes, of his play Nance Dude--perhaps the most popular of his works. You've probably seen or heard Gary narrating documentaries on PBS and the Documentary channel if you are an Appalachia buff as I am. He's a lovely gentleman, accomplished and talented out the wazoo. (I've got a bit of a crush on him, truth be told!)

I first heard a bastardized version of the Nance Dude tale told here in Cocke County. The actual story happened in neighboring Haywood County just across the state line. I considered it a story fragment at the time and did base a short story loosely upon it. It's a archetypal tale, Medean and horrible--just the sort of thing they love here in Cocke County. So, of course, they co-opted it into their own mythos. I've been here long enough to have some of my fiction told back to me as fact--it's all part of the rich Appalachian storytelling tradition.

Here's some background from Gary's post on the Nance Dude story:

Nance Dude is a "real person" who was charged with the murder of her two-year-old granddaughter back around 1913. She was sentenced to 30 years of hard labor and was released after 15 years. She was 80 years old and came home to find that her own family rejected her. She ended up living in a one-room shack on Conley Creek in Jackson County. She remained a social outcast and was considered a witch by many of her neighbors. Her only companions were a pack of stray dogs that followed her. She supported herself by splitting kindling which she sold to "the Floridy folks." She died alone at the age of 104.
Pretty amazing, eh?

So, go visit Gary's blog and check out Elizabeth Westall performing her monologue from Gary's play. She's been performing the role of Nance for 12 years. Check out some of his other posts while you are there--he's a wonderful writer.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

blossombones is a literary e-zine that prides itself in featuring work that in some way deals with the female experience.
And, if you've been following my writing--I tend to show up more often than not in publications like this. It's not that I ever try or consider myself to be a "women's writer." But I've noticed my stories are sometimes polarizing--often by gender. The theme for Blossombones' Summer '09 is "Marked."

The narrator of Batik is a woman with hands so beautiful she must hide them in gloves. This is one way in which she is marked. I don't think I mention that she is a woman--it's one of my lesbian stories. And it's not really important that she's a woman--or a man--I'm just attracted to characters who have one uncommon and exceptional feature that stands out. And lesbians have this thing about hands. The story is about an encounter she has on the ferry crossing the Channel. She's the sort of woman I would fall hard for. Courtly and aloof.

The title of the story always draws attention. When I wrote it, the title just jumped into my head. It refers to the technique of dying cloth using wax to protect areas between dyes. The wax protects the fabric from dye, much like the woman's gloves protect her. And there is other marking going on here involving a batik design rendered in an unusual fashion.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I am so behind in my promos it's not even funny. So, the lovely folks at The Fabulist had this to say about my story, "The Skin Shop"....

You'd think Ms. Griffeth's home "on the verge of the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park" would give her work a pastoral bent. Yet
this wicked bit of flash fiction is sharp-edged, gristly and
grinning, packing some casual consumer biotech and a wryly
fashion-conscious narrator.

I loves me some blurbs.

The thing I love about The Fabulist is the edgy nature of the material they publish. It's not your momma's spec fic--it really goes more into the high literary, magically realistic, surrealist fiction. And when I jump into spec--that's usually where I'm going. When I found them, I was 99 percent sure I'd found the perfect landing place for "The Skin Shop."

Monday, August 24, 2009


I totally get why that crazy bastard Van Gogh was so nuts for them. I have to take pictures of mine every summer and it just never gets old. I especially love how the fat bumble bees dance around on them. They were particularly good this year. I planted them around the house and I expect them to draw the birds all fall. The heads are huge! They are big and droopy now, but I snapped this when they were really lovely--the petals soft, fat and lemon drop yellow.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I've been planting moon vines every season since 1992 and have only just now been successful in getting them to grow. No doubt, the lack of goats has been a good thing for my horticultural endeavors. But finally, I have these dinner plate sized blooms twining my porch rails. They start crumpled, like tissues thrown out after a crying jag, and unfold into the twilight. Very O'Keefey, don'tcha think?

I just found out through The Google that my chapbook of queerish themed shorts, "Dancing Dogs and Other Forgotten Tapes," was a finalist in Gertrude Press' 2009 Chapbook Contest. It's nice to know these things.

Happy Sunday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Set your Tivo for the Travel Channel tomorrow for 10:00pm. If you aren't familiar with Samantha Brown, she's sort of like everyone's favorite BFF-girl next door--very entertaining gal. And she's going to be covering some places we all know and love--LeConte Lodge, Natahala Outdoor Center and Tuckaleechee Caverns to name a few.

Erin Pickard with The Travel Channel sends me the following release:

I work with the Travel Channel's online community team and thought you might be interested to know that Travel Channel's Great Weekends with Samantha Brown, will be featuring the Smoky Mountains in this week's episode, which airs Saturday, August 22, at 10pm E/P.

What is Travel Channel's Great Weekends with Samantha Brown?
This series serves as the definitive guide to the very best in weekend getaways. From Sundance to Montreal, or Philadelphia to Savannah, "Great Weekends" will have Sam traveling to destinations all across the U.S. and worldwide, and this weekend, she's in your neck of the woods!

Smoky Mountains Details

Sam’s tapping into her rugged side and trailblazing her way through the great outdoors of the Smokey Mountains. This weekend she’s joining a local outfitter and getting a Backpacking and Camping 101 primer in the most visited National Park in the United States. Whether it’s seeing the underworld that exists in the caverns beneath the park or taking a daring night hike in pitch black, Sam’s taking outdoor vacationing to the max. This is a roughing it weekend as it was meant to be. No cell phones or pots of honey allowed.

Some places Sam visits in the Smoky Mountains:

THE LODGE AT BUCKBERRY CREEK- Samantha stays and enjoys the view before a day of hiking.


LECONTE LODGE – Samantha has a rugged stay here after hiking up Mount LeConte.

TUCKALEECHEE CAVERNS – Samantha explores the underground caverns and formations.

NANTAHALA OUTDOOR CENTER- Samantha goes rafting and kayaking on The Nantahala River.

Tune into the Travel Channel this Saturday, 8/22 at 10 p.m. E/P to catch the all-new episode.

And in case you haven't already, find us on our Facebook page or on Twitter. Hope to see you there!


You can become part of Travel Channel's Great Weekends online community by becoming a fan of our Facebook page or following us on Twitter. Hope to see you there!

Thanks, Erin!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This is the best time of year--on into the fall--to spot insects. I've already seen the first Tuliptree Silk Moth. Anyhow, this huge fellow was munching through a weed I'd kept in the border because it had big, okra-like leaves. He'd eaten quite a lot too. I love the markings on his back legs. Isn't there a children's story where the fairies ride grasshoppers? I can really see that with this guy.

He's a Spur-Throated Grasshopper:

Category: Grasshopper or Cricket
Common Name: Spur-throated Grasshopper
Scientific Name: (Melanoplus ponderosus)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera
Family: Acrididae
Genus: Melanoplus
Species: ponderosus

I got punked at our little one room post office today. I dropped by to mail my netflix movies so I could get movies on Saturday. Our regular mail guy was not visible when I walked in and the guy who takes the outgoing mail was kicked back in Tom's chair. He goes into this jaw dropping story about how he was left there to keep the post office open because they came and trucked Tom away in a straight-jacket, kicking and screaming--how he'd gone completely crazy--and, well--it is the post office. And I'm thinking, damn, these people in Grassy Fork will gossip about anything and Tom's family sure didn't need this getting around (while simultaneously wondering who I would tell first). We all had a good laugh. He was really believable.

I've so lived here too long already.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Okay. I must interrupt my planned, Oh-gee-my-sunflowers-are-amazing, OMG, have you read Kim Crawford's book or what the editor of The Fabulist said about my writing made my nipples hard and my Hitachi Magic Wand jealous--to talk about effing Miracle Whip.Link
There are some ad campaigns I can't be silent about. No. Really. I will not tone it down. Miracle Whip, the white trashiest of white trash cooking ingredients--that secret ingredient to everything from seven layer salad (The Miracle Whip cooks the frozen peas...really!) to the mysterious Miracle Whip Cake--that erstwhile companion to lime jello has decided it wants to be hip.

Christ on a cracker, it's like watching your grandma take out her teeth to do some crunking. Can Miracle Whip ever truly be X-treeeeme? Cheese-Whiz, the beee-otch--yeah, I can see it making the crossover--it's got that slutty cheese in a can thing going for it--but Miracle Whip? I'm just not feeling you, MW.

They hired Hardee's slacker dude to do the voice over--which is even more embarrassing.

I'm relatively certain I'm not violating any corporate secrets by telling you that if you take a half cup of regular mayonnaise, add a teaspoon of sugar or high fructose corn syrup and an extra squeeze of lemon juice that you have Miracle Whip. It's mayonnaise. With sugar and extra lemon juice in it.

See, Kraft has this fantasy that Miracle Whip's demographic looks like this:

But see, Miracle Whip eaters are my peeps. They live in my hood. They look much more like Mickler's cover girl.

And you will find truly surprising uses for Miracle Whip in WTC--but, you know, it's never going to be Baconnaise or some shit like that. 'Cause, you know--it doesn't go well with Jägermeister.