by Lad Moore
Lad Moore won a house. Got it free just for being
able to express himself so very, very well. [Perhaps?]
But instead of finding a comfy house with picket
fence and rambling rose, he discovered the place was
"clinging to a rock like a tick on a Catahoula." Here's a
hoot of a story. Now, just picture this . . .
Moving to West Virginia was something I hadn’t thought through when I entered the contest. It was an essay-auction by mail. The prize--a free house—“sitting atop majestic Tallmansville Lick.”
“Send your essay of 500 words--describing why you would be the perfect couple to own this home.”
I first tried rhymes, but quickly gave in to my specialty, prose. I was excited. A free house would permit me to devote full time to writing. I could make money by entering those contests that promised cash for something I longed to do anyway.
Two months later the phone rang. It was startling news. I won! How could the sordid account of my courtship with Beth touch the judges so? It was so graphic—all those sweaty details about drive-in movies and the fogged windows of my daddy’s Buick. I knew the story was something my wife would rather forget, but now it was on public display in the Tallmansville Bee. Beth’s sister said I should be ashamed to compromise our privacy like that.
We made the trip in two days. The photos of the house were misleading. The place was clinging to a rock like a tick on a Catahoula. Its three colors of flaking paint made it look like a forgotten billboard. The rest of the view was monotone---coal dust palette, if you will. The black hillsides reminded me of Uncle Oney’s teeth after a lifetime of Cannonball Tobacco. It was my best and my worst day ever.
My first task was to pick up the keys at a place called Queens Grocery. Inside the store was a rusty teller’s cage that reminded me of something Clyde Barrow robbed. A crude sign read, “Marriage Blood Test/Tax Collector.” A woman sat in the cage--a Sears catalogue opened to the corset section.
“I’m Carl Renfro, the guy who won the contest house. The instructions said to pick up the keys here.”
“Yep,” the woman said. “Been ‘specting you of a mornin’. First, let’s take care of the taxes, then the keys.”
She scribbled on a pad I couldn’t see--stopping frequently to lick the pencil lead.
“Comes to nine hundred dollars.”
“Taxes?” I said, “Nobody said anything about taxes--this is a free house! I’m sure you heard about it. The contest story was printed in the Tallmansville Bee.”
“Yep, but it’s still nine hundred dollars.” She placed herself on hold---popping Juicy Fruit and clicking her abused nails on the counter that was dished from years of hand traffic.
I was miffed. “Ma'am, I've got a moving van idling--charging me by the minute. Let me see the head guy.”
“No head guy,” she said. "He’s over to Stonecoal, fishing. Called in Monday---caught six big trout.”
I decided to shift my tactic. Perhaps charm might soften her up and free the keys.
“Oh, that was a nice catch! Did he filet them?”
“Nope,” she said. “He was using worms.”
The author is a former corporate vice-president who left the boardroom in 1999 and returned to his roots in "Deep East Texas." He lives on a small farm near mysterious Caddo Lake and the historic steamboat town of Jefferson, the fountainhead for much of his writing. In the solitude of the piney trails amidst the muscadines, the spines of his stories emerge---stories that are said to "rage with imagery."
The author enjoys more than two hundred publishing credits in print and on the web. His work has appeared in The Danforth Review, Adirondack Review, The Paumanok Review, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, The Virginia Adversaria, Carolina Country Magazine, Eclectica, Amarillo Bay, and America’s Intercultural Magazine, among others. Many new stories await the release of his memoir/anthology, Firefly Rides.
His winning story “The Firmament of the Third Day” was included in the Univ. of Washington’s Best of Carve Magazine Anthology. “Burger Recollections,” a burger-shop memoir, was published in the Food Encyclopedia, “ABC’s of Food” by Peach Blossom Press. In addition, Mr. Moore was a 2000 winner of The Wordhammer Award and the Silver Quill. His short story “The Day Hunter” was nominated for a 2001Award at The Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact Lad Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lad writes to Ye Editor: "I live in Woodlawn, Texas, a bubbaburb of Jefferson, Texas, which has a population of 34.
I was invited to participate in the Greater Wooodlawn Christmas Parade last year. I felt honored. I thought they probably needed my new Corvette to carry the Soybean Princess or something. Actually they wanted me to pull my barbecue grill behind my Ford 8N tractor--a big barbecue pit on wheels, and the constable wanted to ride atop it like a bareback pony, doing lasso tricks. The other participants were a 1934 John Deere pulling Santa on a hay trailer, six riding mowers, five horses, and the volunteer firetruck. People lined the highway the whole distance from Jerry Berry's store to the post-office double-wide, about 120 feet."
Ye Editor only wishes she could have been there to ride on the firetruck.
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