Is This An Interesting Cover?
As I continue to gear up for a possible release of a new novel in January…. pending the insights of the many kind folks who are reading the novel… let me know what you think of this potential cover…
Also, below the cover is a bonus… the beginning of chapter two, which introduces Angus Hardgrave, a character that noir readers usually find irresistible.
The walnut tree told me when Emeline Margulies turned eighteen. Law-wise in Pennsylvania, a girl burns her ships at eighteen. Her daddy was dead and she was alone, so I bound her with spells, talk of blue spruce situated off the front porch, small-mouth bass jumping bugs at the lake, and how sunshine bounces from the water to the orchard and turns pear blossoms gold. She bought every word and wiggled close. I took her wrist and got my hand on her neck and I couldn’t think of nothing save the bones inside her.
I stand with her in a stone church a block from Madison. Pastor Denny thumbs to a folded page and Emeline presses a fistful of daisies to her heart. I look at the white petals and she looks at me. My eye patch still throws her. She pretends, but she sees it first and switches to my left eye. She blinks three times. Rubs her hand down her side.
Pastor Denny says, “From Ephesians we are told, ‘Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.’” Denny faces Emeline and says, “That means you got to do as he says. Angus—you got a ring?”
I drop my hand to my pocket. Emeline’s face is pale.
Denny says, “…to be your lawful, wedded wife, until by death do you part?”
“Yes sir,” I say. “’Til one of us is dead.”
Denny repeats the oath to Emeline. She peers hard into my eye. Movement flickers at my extreme peripheral, but I don’t turn my head.
Emeline gulps air. “I do.”
I ease the band onto her finger. She lowers her arm and curls her hand. I’ll see a jeweler at some point, get the ring resized.
“You can kiss her now.”
I take her elbows, press my face to hers. She ain’t been kissed much, I suspect. Every time I get a grip on her skinny arms my mind goes elsewhere and I see things I want to take right now. I don’t close my eye, and she don’t close hers, and maybe she understands and maybe she don’t. I glance back and a fella I don’t know leans against the wall by the entrance with his leg hiked up like James Dean. He slips out and next I look at Emeline her eyes are closed.
Pastor Denny nods; I take Emeline by the hand and face the witnesses. Her older sister Martha, in town to collect inheritance. George, summoned from the barbershop with shaving cream on his ear. The pastor’s wife Nancy, dense as a sack of soggy cowshit but topheavy enough it don’t matter what she says.
I step from the platform, Emeline in tow. As we pass Martha shakes her head and Nancy Denny says, “It ain’t right, Emeline. Think what you’re doing.”
My fingers tremble and I clamp my hand to the door jamb.
“Don’t worry about them.” Emeline shades her eyes, faces north and south, then lingers a moment on a new 1957 red and white Fairlane gleaming at the curb. “What’d you expect from a pair of hens but a bunch of clucking?”
I spit on the church steps. “Not much.”
She looks at the spit puddle, blank. Then, “How old are you, Angus?”
“Forty-six, I think.” I check my pocket watch and lead her across the macadam road to the First National Bank of Walnut, Pennsylvania. We step onto the speckled stone floor. The door swings closed and I release her wrist. She trails me to the lone teller and our footsteps echo from the marble walls. I push my passbook below the brass grill.
“Move her money to my account,” I say. “We’re married.”
“All right,” says the teller.
Emeline pulls my sleeve like a small bird might, if it wanted my attention. “Angus, I don’t have my pass book.”
“They don’t need it. You come in here just yesterday.”
She leans to me. “We didn’t talk about this.”
“Everything?” the teller says.
“Close the account.”
He notes a ledger. “I’ll just need Missus Hardgrave’s signature.” He passes a slip through the slot and I scribble, “Emeline Hardgrave.”
“But—” She clenches fists at her sides and her brow is jetted up like a mad blue jay’s.
“We got to put her name on this account,” I say. “Make it joint.”
“I’ll draw up the papers. Money’s moved, account’s closed. And congratulations on the wedding.”
“Gimme a ten spot.”
I wink—looks like a regular blink, I suppose. “We got to celebrate.”
Emeline watches me fold the ten. I take her hand and lead her to my truck, open the door for her. She stands outside and I walk to the other side, swing under the steering wheel. She climbs in, slams the door, plants her hands on her lap.
“I don’t brook sass in public,” I say.
“I apologize,” she says. “I haven’t had a man in my corner since Papa… I apologize.”
I start the F-100. “Not in public, not nowhere.” My temple aches and I press it. She rolls down the window. Her head tilts toward her knees and her lips move. In the weeks I’ve known her she’s prayed five hundred times and that’s good. More she talks to him, less she talks to me.