Wow. I am so out of it lately and working so close to my deadline that I almost forgot to post a sneak peek to Let's Be Friends. (I also almost titled this post "Sneak Peak..." like it's a cheeky mountain, or something, which is one of my pet peeves. Did I mention I'm out of it?)
We're still hard at work developing a cover, so I don't have that to share yet, but you'll be the first to know when I do. I'm super-excited about that!
One thing I do have is words. Soon, you'll have all 95,000+ of them. But for now, I give you a measly 1,300, or so. Yeah, I know. I suck. Also, I realize that makes for a long blog post, so I'm going to shut up now and get right to it. Happy reading! (Back to making those crazy edits!)
(First things first, a blurb for some background:)
Nate and Betty’s long-distance relocation has shrunk their pesky problems like specks in a rearview mirror… or so they think. But small-town life in sultry South Carolina includes its own challenges, and the Binghams soon discover their northern hometown doesn’t have the monopoly on frustrating co-workers and dysfunctional families. Add in a bit of culture shock, and the result is a thick, hilarious pot of outsider gumbo. Plus, some people—and decisions—can follow you anywhere you go, for the rest of your life.
Let's Be Friends
On the floor, I pull Georgia into my lap and focus on the animated performance of the librarian at the front of the room. I’ve never heard Where the Wild Things Are recited quite like this (“Lyeet the wahld rumpus stahrt!”), but it’s entertaining. And Georgia doesn’t care. She loves it. In fact, she’ll probably learn to talk with a drawl befitting of her name.
No, that’s okay. My brother will have a field day with that, but screw him. I’d much rather my daughter have a bit of a twang to her speech patterns than have her eat, sleep, and breathe football. That is, if I had to choose.
I look down at her, settled in the nest made by my crossed legs as we sit on the shaggy rug with a dozen other kids and their parents. She’s enthralled, her jaw slack as she listens to the hypnotic cadence of the storyteller. Taking her cues from the older kids around us, she occasionally claps her hands or kicks her feet when the other children react to a particularly exciting part of the story.
At the end of the book, she joins the chant of “More, more!” and “Again, again!” but the librarian, whose name tag declares her to be Gwendolyn, simply laughs and says, “Now, y’all! It’s time to pick your own books to take home and read!”
This launches the junior attendees into motion. They tug impatiently on the hands of parents who don’t have the agility to hop from the floor to their feet in one easy motion, and they implore, “Hurry up! We gotta find the good books before they’re all gone!” They spout the characters’ strange names like they’re best friends. “Let’s find Caillou!”
Betty lifts Georgia from my lap, then kindly averts her eyes as I less-than-gracefully stand after sitting in the same position for too long. I tap the circulation into my sleeping right foot and say, “Well, George, what’s it gonna be?”
“Cord’roy!” she immediately replies with a toothy grin up at me.
“We have Corduroy at home, though. Let’s find something new.”
Betty tilts her head and smiles. “This oughta be fun.”
Not ready to give up yet, I grab a display book from one of the low shelves nearby. “How about this one? It’s about a bear, too. But we’ve never read it.”
Her volume is decidedly louder than the typical “library” range, so I kneel down and say quietly, close to her face, “Okay, okay. Shhh. We’ll find Corduroy. And some new friends, too.”
“Hi, there!” comes from above us.
“Hello,” Betty replies with an embarrassed smile.
I stand at my full height, coming face-to-face with the perky Gwendolyn. “Oh, hey.”
“Did I hear that someone wants to take home a copy of Corduroy?”
“Pretty sure they heard that a hundred miles away in Charleston,” I mumble, rubbing the back of my neck.
Betty laughs. “Yeah. Sorry about the noise.”
“What? Oh, heavens no!” the librarian says with a gentle swat to Betty’s arm. “We’re not bothered by happy voices, especially in this part of the building. We love ’em! Means someone’s excited about readin’!” She lowers herself to Georgia’s level. “Hi, I’m Gwen. What’s your name?”
Georgia buries her face in my knees.
“Georgia,” Betty and I supply at the same time, then chuckle nervously. To give myself something to do, I lift our daughter into my arms and hold her against my side. She transfers her face to my neck.
Gwen rises. “Well, Georgia, that’s a pretty name. And I have some great news for you. I saw Corduroy this morning, when I was puttin’ him back on the shelf. Let’s go grab him for you.”
This prompts Georgia to look up and kick her feet, almost tagging me in my bean bag. “Down, pwease!”
I gladly set her on her feet and watch her run to keep up with her literary guide. Betty and I follow closely behind, linking hands and smiling proudly at our budding bibliophile.
Could we be any cuter? We’re like the perfect family in a literacy ad.
When we catch up to the two G’s, the librarian is peering at the spines on the shelf and rubbing her lower lip, her forehead crinkled. “Hmm… It was right here. I shelved it myself.”
Distracted, Gwen smiles. “That’s right, Sugar. Your buddy is…” She trails off and frowns. “Oh, dear. It looks like…” Turning to us, she winces and mouths, “It’s checked out again.”
Dread spreads through my abdomen and climbs my ribcage to my breastbone. Foreseeing an ugly scene, I pick up Georgia, who wriggles in my arms and yells, “Cord’roy!”
My tone remains light. “He’s playing hide and seek today, but I have an idea where he might be.” Close to her ear, I whisper, “He’s at home, waiting for you.”
She pulls her head away from my lips and gives me the clearest, Bitch, please, look I’ve ever seen from a kid her age—but one that I’ve received from her mother more times than I care to count. And always before some major unpleasantness. This time is no different.
“I. Yaunt. Cord’roy!”
“Yep. I get it, baby girl, but—”
“Not baby guhl! Cord’roy!”
Gwen edges away from us. “I’ll, uh… leave you guys to…” Obviously at a loss for how to finish that, she points to the circulation desk. “I’ll be right over there if you need anything else.”
I need flippin’ Corduroy, lady. What kind of library only has one copy of that classic? Huh? HUH?!
Instead of yelling that, I smile tightly and blink against the baby blows falling on my shoulders. Betty takes charge, pulling Georgia away from me and saying, “Georgia Lou, that’s enough. Now, let’s pick some other books, or we’ll leave now, and you’ll go straight down for a nap when we get home.”
“Cord’roy!” she wails.
I blow a sigh through my lips and try to pretend I don’t care that everyone is staring at us. Like their kids have never had public meltdowns over a book about a teddy bear. I chance a peek at another dad openly gaping at us and shoot him a sheepish half-smile. He turns away from me to say something to his perfectly-behaved sundress-clad princess. Probably telling her, “If you evuh act like that, Little Miss, I’ll cut you out of the will. With God as my witness.” (Or something. For some reason, he talks like Scarlett O’Hara in my head. So much for abandoning those stereotypes.)
“Okay, let’s go,” I say to Betty.
“We can’t carry her through the whole library like this,” she hisses back at me. “She’s hysterical.”
“Well, take her into the bathroom, then.”
“They’re by the doors. We might as well leave, at that point.”
“Let’s do it, then.”
“This is humiliating.”
“She’ll calm down in a second.”
“I YAUNT CORD’ROY! I YAUNT CORD’ROY!”
Desperate to end this whole thing, I snatch Georgia from her mother, toss her over my shoulder like a sack of fertilizer, and, red-faced and sweating, haul ass for the exit.
Just as I think we’re home free, pushing through the doors to the parking lot, Georgia bellows a parting “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!” behind us.
There goes the neighborhood.
Let's Be Friends releases this month (don't try to pin me down on a date; I'll crumble under the pressure). More news to follow.