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Denise Hildreth is a novelist and international speaker. Her first novel, Savannah from Savannah, and her recent novel, Flies on the Butter were both featured in Southern Living. Three of her novels have been Pulpwood Queens Book Club Selections. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
T he racket coming from behind the black painted wooden doors declared mayhem had stopped by. But me and mayhem had become friends years ago. Why not? I had two options: become permanently addicted to a drug of choice, or just open the door for mayhem when he arrived and pat him on the back as he left. I chose the latter. Well, okay. The former and the latter. Why make choices? While mayhem was around, I'd sit on the front steps, drink a Coca-Cola, and hope he didn't hang around too long. And truth be told, mayhem always provided me with a great story by the time he left. The only unfortunate part was, my mother usually found a way to insert me inside his story.
I opened the large door and peered inside cautiously. "What's that yapping?"
Dad was standing by the wrought-iron console, laying down his morning paper. "It's your mother's new friend," Dad informed me while Duke, our golden retriever, sat whimpering at his feet.
My eyes narrowed in on the recently purchased creature as it rounded the corner of the foyer at full throttle and came to a halt on the Persian rug, way too close to my feet. It looked like a white rat but barked up at me like a Rottweiler seeking lunch. "How in the world did you let that happen?"
Dad talked as he headed to the kitchen. We all followed. "You moved out. She moved in. Plus, your mother's a grown woman, and this is her house as well as mine. I wasn't going to tell her she couldn't have a dog."
"That's not a dog, that's a . . . a . . . a . . ." I lifted my heels so it couldn't take a bite out of my ankle. Duke barked his own thoughts. "Yeah, like Duke said, that's a"--I cocked my head--"well, it looks more like a disheveled bag of packing peanuts." I hopped on top of a stool.
The white ball of fur looked up at me, a pristine pink ribbon holding back its scraggly puppy bangs. Its toenails matched the color of its ribbon. If I hadn't known better, I would have sworn Amber Topaz Childers, the recent first runner-up (again) to Miss Georgia United States of America, had just been reincarnated as a Maltese dog. Duke leaned against me while the little white mongrel yapped at me like a broken car alarm.
I plugged my ears. "How long will she do that?" I hollered.
"Until Duke helps her realize he's the alpha male." Dad eyed him curiously. "At the rate he's going, it could take a while."
I laid my hand atop Duke's sinfully beautiful honey-blond mane. "Buck up!"
He hacked in my direction.
The hacking noise, however, stopped the little white yapper. Her head cocked.
"Hack!" Duke offered again in her direction with a slight glint in his eye.
Her tail tucked between her legs, and she started backing into the foyer.
Duke let one paw extend beyond the others in her direction. "Hack!"
"Did you know he's a genius?" I offered my father.
He raised his eyebrow with the upturn of his lips. "I knew he'd realize his power eventually. So, sure you don't want to come with us?"
The heels clicking on the foyer hall reinforced my original decision. "Jake!" my mother hollered.
"I'm certain," I said
Mother rounded the corner in full vacation regalia, her linen dress flowing behind her as her hand patted down her pearls. "What's my boo-boo-baby-sweetie-pea-pickin' little pooh bear up to?"
"Mother, please, I'm way too old to be talked to in--"
"Savannah darling, I didn't hear you come in," she said through muffled tones with her lips pressed against the top knot of her latest acquisition.
"I'm not surprised." I could see only the right eye of the yapper peeking from behind Mother's red lipstick.
"Are you sure you can't make the trip with us?" Mother asked, echoing Dad's question regarding our yearly vacation to Seaside, Florida.
I stood and pushed the stool back under the black soapstone countertop. "I know it's hard to believe that I have a real job, but I do. I can't just take a week off from the paper."
"You've been there for ten months, Savannah," Mother said, as if the time frame of my job was somehow lost on me.
"I know, but I don't get vacation time until I've been there a year. Plus, this is a really busy season for me."
"Those two articles a week are killing you, aren't they?" Dad said with a chuckle.
"Those two articles a week take time and energy to produce. And I take great pride in what I do, so with my work ethic, it is very important that I make sure my commitment to my employer and to my craft is unquestionably clear."
They both cocked their heads at me.
You would have thought I was speaking Greek. "What?"
"Well, that's okay. Amber's going with us anyway," Mother said nonchalantly. "She can take your bedroom."
Duke and I looked at them simultaneously. "Amber's what?"
Mother turned to pull down her picnic basket from the top shelf of her pantry. "Didn't I tell you?"
"I think you forgot that little detail."
"Well, it's no big deal. Your father and I just thought it would be good for her. Eating at Criolla's." The woman was vicious. She knew that was my favorite restaurant. The lump crab meat over saffron rice in the flaky phyllo shell, drowned in butter.
"You might want to . . ." Dad wiped his lip to insinuate the need to wipe my own.
"We'll take her to the beach and let her enjoy your father's wonderful grilled specialties and my phenomenal chicken salad." She was a sadist. "Amber's just had such a rough time, you know, with her loss and all . . ." You'd have thought Amber's grandmother had just been laid to rest.
"It was a pageant."
Mother's eyes darted in my direction. "It was a dream."
I looked at Dad for sanity. "You agreed to this?"
He walked over and patted me on the hand. "We'll miss you. We'll really miss you." He turned to leave the kitchen.
"Well, you know, there is this story that the paper really needs to address. I've been pondering it for . . . well . . . a while now." Two minutes was a while longer than one. "With all the hurricanes last year, it might be . . . no, in fact I think it really is vital to hear some of the stories of revitalization and restoration on the Gulf."
Dad stopped and turned around. "We're going to the panhandle. They came through okay."
"But, they were . . . well . . . they were close, yeah, really close, to all of the devastation. The psychological effects alone are just unfathomable. And I think we've neglected their story. In fact, we don't need to neglect it a day longer. I slapped the counter for effect. I'm letting Mr. Hicks know today that we have wasted entirely too much time neglecting these people and their trauma. I'll be back in thirty minutes. Let me grab my stuff, stop and see Mr. Hicks, and I'll be ready to head out with you."
Mother and her new canine friend glanced at my father, then back to me. "Are you sure, darling? It's very sudden." I ignored the glint in her eye.
"Of course. It's essential. Give me just a few minutes."
I headed through the garage with Dad. "My, my, my, how quickly a while can alter a morning."
"This city would want to know," I said, continuing my gait toward my car.
"I have no doubt." He chuckled. "I have no doubt."
The vibration startled me. I reached over to grab my bouncing cell phone, which I had left on the seat of Old Betsy.
It was Thomas.
"Where are you ?" I asked. "Our parents are leaving in about an hour. I thought you and your new friend were going with them."
"Are you alone?"
"Can they hear you?"
"Dad, no. Mother, I've never completely ruled out telepathy. But I am in my car, almost two blocks away, so I'd say your chances are good."
"I'm not leaving today."
"What?! Mother will freak!"
"Me and Mary Francis broke up." I could hear him pacing. A pitiful habit he had learned from me. Thankfully that was the worst one.
"Mother will freak again! She thinks that girl is the cream of the College of Charleston. She hated Charleston until Mary Francis. She has your children named."
"Yeah, well, so did Mary Francis, and we've dated all of three months. But she's not coming."
I jerked Old Betsy to dodge a tourist. However, with that attire, a quick jaunt to the ER might have resulted in something more fashionable. "So, you're like broken up, broken up?"
"Like, there's a box in front of my door with all of our pictures cut in half. She sent me my half."
That made me laugh. "I guess she thought she looked too good just to give all the pictures to you."
"Well, she is a fine specimen of a woman."
I could see his face. "Don't succumb. She was crazy."
He was faltering. "She was beautiful."
"Your son was going to be named Jethro Seville."
"You think that's bad, you ought to have heard what she was going to name our daughter."
"You know you will have to tell Mother."
He adamantly protested. "No way. Not until our vacation is over. I'm not ruining a perfectly good vacation because Mother has no self-control."
I glanced up at my rearview mirror. "You can't lie about it."
"I don't have to lie, I just don't have to reveal everything I know."
"You'll regret it. It never works. You should know from me."
"You're just not good at it."
"Oh my word!" I yelled into the phone.
"You don't have to take it so personal."
"I'm not talking to you. Amber just passed me in her little Mercedes doing close to 45 around the square. Ooh, here comes the cops. Sick 'em, tiger!"
I hollered again. "You have got to be kidding me!"
"Well, you are pitiful."
"Not you! I'm getting pulled over! Can...
Would highly recommend this book.. It is funny and most enjoyable... We need more books like this... No sex and violance and most of all no profanity and vulgaraity... Read morePublished 11 days ago by bird lady
Oh my goodness!! I just finished this last book of Savannah by the sea and all I can say is "When is the next one coming?" I'm addicted for sure. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Kimberly Roberts
Wonderful book !!!! She is a great writer!!! Love her books!!! She has so far 3 in the Savannah series. This is the 3rd .Do read in order.
1. Read more
It's been a while since I read this book - but I remember well that this is definitely a series worth purchasing.Published 18 months ago by Anonymous Annie
Like a mini Tybee Island vacation - can't you hear the surf, and feel the sugary sand between your toes??!Published 18 months ago by Karen West Bruton
Another real life story with a lesson included for all of us. Thoroughly enjoy her books especially because i recognize many of the locations she mentions. keep on writing.Published on October 5, 2013 by didi