The Village of Useless Women

“You no longer please me,” Tarik said. “Gather your things and go.”

And with those words, I was banished.

I did not cry. I did not beg. All that would have gotten me was a beating, and in the end, nothing would have changed. My husband no longer desired me, so I was of no use to him. I could either walk away with my head high or be dragged from the village with the promise of Sobro if I returned.

Mosie stood behind and to the left of Tarik, as was proper for a wife. Her smooth round face held nothing but scorn as she watched me. I wondered if she would remember this day when she was standing where I was now, when she had lost the blush of youth and was turned out. Probably not. When I had been brought into Tarik’s hut six summers ago to replace one of his aged wives, I am sure the same contempt had shown in my eyes.

Head down and lips pressed together, I shoved my few dresses and leggings, my combs and spare boots, into my pack. Then I turned to Kaia, who was nursing my son and hers, tears running down her cheeks. She did not look up at me. I no longer existed. Continue reading “The Village of Useless Women”

Yon Side of the Canes

Sheriff Tackey drove by a while ago, eyed me sitting out here on the front porch, drinking, watching the sun going down. I saluted him with Mr. Wild Turkey and yelled out a “howdy.” He acted all casual-like, pretended he didn’t see me.

But I knew he did.

He’s been watching me. He thinks I was the one who did it. I tried to tell him what happened, but him or nobody else believed me. Mayhaps if I’d been in their place, I wouldn’t of either.

Let me tell you how it went down…

Last Sunday morning, Merle and me went hunting down along the slough where the rabbits and skeeters are nigh on the same size. Most folks were in church, but since God had let the cancer take my Lisabeth last year, me and Him had parted company and I’d become real good acquainted with Mr. Wild Turkey. Continue reading “Yon Side of the Canes”

Contentment

I don’t write to be famous. I don’t write to make money. I write because I have to. The words are there inside me, whispering, cajoling, whining, and sometimes screaming to be let out to dance upon the page.

They’re not always pushy, though. I go through periods of time when the words are relatively silent; and there were a couple of occasions I thought they were dead and buried, but like in The Walking Dead, the zombie words rose again. Guess it would take a head shot to quiet them for good.

I have no illusions anymore of having a novel published (though that was never the main reason I wrote/write), for I’m too old and undisciplined to see it through. I write when I feel like it. To be a successful author, one has to treat writing like a job, show up and do it whether one feels like it or not. Life, whether it’s going smooth or bumpy, can’t get in the way. One’s moods can’t get in the way. Absolutely nothing can get in the way—at least not in the long term. I let practically everything get in the way—books, TV, YouTube, Facebook, walking, shopping, cooking, etcetera, etcetera. And that’s why I’m not successful.

But that’s okay. There’s more to life than being successful. I suppose it’s possible that contentment may make for a better life than success.

Did you notice I said contentment, not happiness? Happiness is such a fleeting thing, coming in short, infrequent bursts throughout one’s life, balanced by bouts of heartache and hard times. Years ago when I was a twenty-something and coming to the realization that my parents were people too, I asked my mama if she was happy. She told me that she didn’t know if she would say she was, but that she was content with her life. Once I passed through middle-age into old, that’s what I started shooting for: contentment. I can’t say I’ve always hit the mark, but I keep striving for it.

I’m content not to be a rich, famous writer. I’m content to write when and if I feel like it. The words are accepting of that. As long as I keep channeling them, let them be heard when they need to be, they too are content.

The new year is almost upon us; in a few hours, 2019 will give way to 2020. Lord, how the years have flown by. I have a lot less years ahead of me than behind, and I choose to spend whatever time I have left being content. I hope whatever your age, you do the same.

May 2020 bring you more sunshine than rain, more laughter than tears, and more happiness than sorrow. May you be content.

Happy New Year!

©️2019 KT Workman

Images via Pixabay

Red Rover

Avery saw the small door on the back wall of the chicken house. It hadn’t been there yesterday evening when she’d gathered eggs. Or at least she hadn’t noticed it then. It was so dark underneath the roosting bars, she might have overlooked it. But she didn’t think so.

Had her daddy made the opening between the coop and adjoining shed where the feed corn was kept when she was at school?

“When did you put the door in the chicken house, Daddy?” she asked him at supper that night.

“What door?” he said around a mouthful of cornbread.

“The one in back under the roosting bars.”

He washed down the cornbread with a big drink of buttermilk, and turned his full attention on Avery. She squirmed under the gaze of his narrowed blue eyes. They always seemed to see right through her and not like what they saw: a girl, not the son he had wanted. His only child, and there’d be no more since her birth had messed up Mama’s insides so bad she couldn’t have any more kids.

“You’re seeing things, girl, there ain’t no door. Why in hell would I put a door there anyway?” Continue reading “Red Rover”

My Way

Not long after I pitched the last of Ted’s fingers out the Winnebago’s window, I saw the mean man and the sad woman.

Still on I-10, I had stopped to fill the gas tank when they pulled in beside me at the pumps. Now, I’m usually one to mind my own business, but they made it kind of hard, screaming and carrying on like they were. You could hear them even though their windows were rolled up. Him, at least. His voice was loud and pissed and carried a ways.

I tried my best to ignore the goings-on in the dusty red car. I had always figured what went on between a man and his wife-or whatever they were to each other-was their business, and nothing good ever came from sticking your nose in. So I stared out over the desert, thinking about Ted, while the gas went glug glug glug into the tank.

The slamming of a door pulled my attention back to the car. The man, a banty rooster runt of a thing, stalked around the front of the car and grabbed the nozzle on the other side of the pump I was using. He screwed off the cap, shoved it inside, then palmed his sweaty dark hair back from his forehead. His eyes met mine, narrowed. “What the hell are you looking at?” he growled. Continue reading “My Way”

The Right Way

“You’re not doing that right,” Ted said, crowding up against my side at the sink, using his considerable bulk to nudge me out of his way. He opened an upper cabinet, swinging it so wide it almost hit the side of my head.

I moved a step to my right, pausing the round and round motion of the paring knife circling the potato in my hand. Taking a deep, calming breath, I stared out the small window at the distant mountains. The sun was sinking behind the jagged peaks, painting the sky in swaths of red and gold and orange. A hot puff of desert air found its way between the two panes of roll-out glass, riffling the sweaty tendrils of fading auburn hair sticking to my cheeks. I sighed.

He thunked down a cup on the countertop, then snagged the carafe brimming with fresh brewed coffee, sloshing some onto the Formica I had wiped down not five minutes ago.

“You need to use the peeler like I do…”

And just when’s the last time you did that? I thought. Continue reading “The Right Way”

The Faded Woman

Martha was a ghost of a woman. She disappeared into her surroundings, blending in as if she were no more than a sheet of wallpaper, sporting bras, hose, and socks, pasted behind the pegs of merchandise she stocked. Like a chameleon, her form merged with her environment.

Day after day, her soft, pasty body trudged up and down the lingerie aisles of the superstore, pushing a shopping cart bristling with a flashy array of leopard-print panties, bright red teddies, and other exotic intimate apparel; but unlike the garments she put out for sale, Martha was anything but colorful.

Thin, straight hair the shade of week-old coffee hung dull and lifeless to her shoulders. Stringy tendrils obscured her downturned face. Pale and rounded and malleable, she was kneaded dough, punched down and waiting for a rise that never happened. When she spoke to a customer—and she only did that when forced to—Martha’s eyes stayed on the wood-laminated floor. Even her “May I help you?” and “Have a nice day.” were smothered things spoken barely above a whisper on good days, and on bad days, a tired, almost-inaudible sigh of sound.

And there were plenty of bad days, days when her head felt as if it were a ball of unmitigated pain that had been created for no other purpose than to punisher her because she wasn’t a good enough daughter, a good enough wife, but most of all, a good enough mother. Martha endured the frequent migraines without complaint, a firm believer that her suffering was atonement for past mistakes, and when God thought she had paid enough, the attacks would cease. And though she told none of her coworkers when she was in the throes of a migraine, a glimpse of her features told the tale—red-rimmed eyes sunk into dark hollows on an otherwise skim milk face.

But regardless of how she felt, Martha plodded through the days, doing her job and doing it well so that at the end of the week she could collect her meager paycheck. Not for herself, but for her two grown daughters and their children. She was determined that her daughters would never do without as she had. Yes, she would always be there for them, paying their rent, buying their groceries, providing whatever their respective husbands didn’t for as long as she had a breath left in her body.

Martha’s children and grandchildren were her life. Only in their presence did her eyes sparkle, her lips curve in a smile, her round shoulders square. Other employees took note of Martha’s transformation when her daughters came into the store; it was like seeing her for the first time. One worker said, “You know, I never realized it before, but Martha’s kind of pretty.” And another remarked on the lovely green shade of her eyes.

Then her family would leave, and Martha would fade away once more, becoming as translucent as the pantyhose tucked inside the packages she placed neatly on shelves. A see-through woman. Barely there at all.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

7 Mile Road

Wow! I didn’t realize so much time had passed since my last post—almost four months. Looks like my intended short break from blogging turned into an extended time off.

But I have been writing. Two of my short stories have been recently published, “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are” and “Birds of a Feather”, plus one poem, “Red”, will be later this month. “Come Out, Come Out…” was published in Tell-Tale Press, clicking here will take you straight to the story, and “Birds of a Feather” was published in The Literary Hatchet, Issue # 24. I don’t have a direct link to it, but you can go to their website here and download a free PDF of Issue # 24 if you wish to read it. I also have three brand new shorts I’m currently trying to place, so wish me luck.

And in my WordPress absence I have started a novel in my preferred genre when writing long pieces: Southern Gothic. According to a web search, characteristics of Southern Gothic literature include:

  • Isolation and marginalization
  • Violence and crime
  • Sense of place
  • Freakishness and the grotesque
  • Destitution and decay
  • Oppression and discrimination

I think my novel will include everything on that list, and then some. Truth be told, every novel-length piece of fiction I’ve turned out has been Southern Gothic to a greater or lesser degree. I am drawn to it, perhaps because it’s what I know, especially the sense of place. I am rural Southern through and through.

The working title is 7 Mile Road. And a lot of bad things happen on 7 Mile Road.

On a side note, the title was inspired by an actual road sign I saw on a recent vacation. Traveling along a state highway in Arkansas, I saw a turn off for a road called “4 Mile Creek Road”, and I grabbed my phone and typed it into my notes app (which has taken the place of the pen and pad I used to carry with me). The name intrigued me, and when I got home and sat down a few days later to work on my novel, 4 Mile Creek morphed into 7 Mile Road. I like to put a title to a piece early on; it grounds me to the story. And in this case, it served as inspiration; it cemented the setting, allowing the flow of additional plot details.

I don’t know if this novel will ever venture forth into the world, be it by the traditional route or self-publishing. I just know that it’s in my head, the characters yacking back and forth, wanting their story to be told.

Well, I’ve got some catching up to do on WordPress. I know I can’t read all the posts from all the blogs I follow that I missed. Not enough time. But at least I can get back in the flow. I’m a capricious person, and as such might drop off WordPress again in the future. But at least for now, I’m back.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Self-Publishing—my experience

A few years ago, I decided to try my hand at self-publishing. Starting out, I used Amazon exclusively, but when I didn’t get good results, branched out into Smashwords. Both were a disappointment. The whole experience was a disappointment. As to why, there were several reasons.

First off, I didn’t get the sales I expected. Mind you, I didn’t have any illusions, thinking I would be an overnight sensation; I would have been happy selling an occasional e-book with hopes of modestly growing my readership over time, enough so that I could make a little money doing what I loved. That didn’t happen. Friends and family shelled out to purchase my e-books—I published a total of four—but other than a few exceptions, the only time I sold my work was when I ran deals and hawked them on my website/blog.

And that comes to number two: I hated, absolutely hated, self-promotion. To me, it was akin to begging everyone to please, please, please buy my book. For now, I’m moving on, but will come back to self-promotion later on.

Number three comes from a personal experience that was the tipping point. A blogger friend who had self-published for a number of years asked me to contribute to a science fiction themed anthology she was putting together, and I happily accepted. When the e-book was published on Amazon, I purchased a copy and started reading. And cringed. The stories were not that good, and many needed editing. Only one stood out as being both interesting and well-told. (I’m not referencing my own story here; it’s hard to be impartial regarding one’s own work as we writers can overestimate or underestimate our abilities, so I’m leaving it out of my critique of the anthology.) And I realized I should have read some of my friend’s work before I agreed to participate. My only excuse for not doing so was that she wrote in a genre that didn’t remotely interest me. I didn’t do my homework, and now my name was linked to what I considered a subpar book.

That experience opened my eyes to the world of self-publishing. After extensive research and a lot of reading, I realized that for every self-published gem out there, there were hundreds of duds. Some actually tell a good story, but sink under the combined weight of bad grammar and typos. When reading such a book, I would think, Why didn’t someone tell them they needed to hire an editor? Or in the case when everything was bad, Why didn’t a friend or family member tell them their writing sucks?

And I had an “ah” moment: No one spoke up because they didn’t want to hurt the budding writer’s feelings. I should have known because I had also been guilty of keeping silent.

That awareness caused me to take stock of my own abilities and marketability. And that was when I pulled my books off Amazon and Smashwords, and vowed that if I were to be published, it would be by traditional means: submitting my work to publishers who had no qualms about hurting my feelings.

Now back to my hatred of self-promotion—
Getting traditionally published is now a whole different ballgame than it was in the past. Authors are expected not only to write a good book, but to vigorously market it as well. They are expected to have a website, Twitter account, and Facebook page, all with a healthy following before their book even hits the shelves. And did I mention self-promoting, how one has to get out there like the hucksters of old, waving their book and shouting “Buy my book! Please!”?

All this led me to the realization that I am not cut out to succeed in today’s publishing environment. I don’t have the drive, the utter belief in my talent, to keep banging my head against a brick wall with the hope I’ll somehow, someway, knock it down. And if by some miracle I do, spend as much time branding myself as writing.

So I decided to write not for accolades or money, but for my own enjoyment, my own need. When the mood hits, I send out short stories and poetry, and have placed a few. It’s a sideline, though, nothing serious. But this blog (and previous ones) is metaphorically my garden where I plant what germinates, sprouts, and bears fruit in my mind. Sometimes my garden flourishes and the writing flows, and sometimes it hits a dry spell and the words wither on the vine. I just take it as it grows…er…flows. And when it flows, most of the time I share it here for others to read or not, whichever they choose. And I don’t have to yell, “Buy me, buy me, buy me, please!”

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Norma the Bitch

Norma was a bitch no matter how you looked at it. A god-awful, razor-tongued, snooty-nosed bitch.

Of course, Squinch Campbell hadn’t known that when he married her. Like everyone else in town, he had thought he was one lucky son-of-a-gun to be getting such a fine, upstanding woman for a wife. How could he have known that behind her angel face hid the daughter of the devil himself?

God almighty, the woman was downright mean. She was gonna drive him to an early grave, most likely planted right beside them other three husbands of hers.

If he didn’t get rid of her first.

Squinch had never contemplated murder before marrying Norma Bindie; why he couldn’t even so much as squash a bug. But he’d never had anyone pick and peck at him constantly, criticize every single thing he did and didn’t do, all the while looking at him like he was a pile of dog shit they had stepped in. Continue reading “Norma the Bitch”