Most of my days start out the same way, and I like it like that. I leave my curtains open at night, so that I don’t miss the dawn. As soon as my eyes open onto the first graying of the day, I swing my legs off the bed and my feet hit the rag rug. After I stretch and clear my throat, I sit on the side of the bed for a few seconds to orient myself. For a while after my wife, Jeanne, died it took me longer to put my thoughts in order in the morning. But gradually I made my peace with being alone when I woke up, and now I get moving pretty quickly.
When I was younger, I’d start the coffee before I hit the bathroom, but age has a way of rearranging your priorities. I still love the first cup of the day, though, the strong, warm smell and the bitter sting of it on my tongue.
With a cup in my hand, I slip out the back door, always with a moment of feeling like I’m a boy again, anticipating what the day will hand me. I head through the back yard, the grass heavy with dew, to the pasture where my cows crowd up to the fence to greet me. You wouldn’t think cows would have much personality, but they do. Some are greedy for the feed and push their way to the front; others stand staring over the fence, seeming to be lost in daydreams. There’s one that tries to boss me around, and I have to set her straight every damn day. I always spend more time than is absolutely necessary checking to make sure nothing bad has happened to the cows in the night. They look like such solid creatures, but things can creep up on them—a stone in a hoof, footrot, parasites that live in the soil, and more obscure diseases that can attack and fell them without warning.
By the time I get back to the house my old friend Loretta Singletary is often sitting on my porch waiting for me. The front door is unlocked, so she could go inside, but she has an idea that it wouldn’t be proper. This morning she has a smarty-pants grin on her face.
“You know the old drugstore on Main Street that’s been closed for twenty years?”
“Of course I know it.” Boarded up in a haphazard manner that has always stuck out, it’s not something you’d suddenly forget was there.
“Somebody bought it. I believe you’re going to be tickled to death.”
“Well, spill it. Who is it?”
“What is it about two women you think would tickle me? They opening a bordello?”
She sits bolt upright. “Samuel Craddock. Of all the things you could think of! That’s just plain vulgar.”
I laugh. I said it because I knew she’d be scandalized.
“I have half a mind to leave here without telling you another thing about it.”
“Go ahead,” I say, to tease her a little bit more.
She juts her chin out and gives me the deadeye. “They’re opening an art store.” She gestures toward my front door. “You’ve got all those paintings in there, and now you can buy some right here at home.”
Loretta’s attitude is pretty typical of people who don’t know anything about art and don’t really care to know. They think you just stop in a store, see a picture you like and buy it. Bring it home and hang it up. On the contrary, Jeanne’s and my art collection took years of careful selection.
But there’s no reason for me to worry over it because that old drugstore location has been the source of rumor since the day it closed. The likelihood that an art gallery is opening there is slim to none.
As soon as Loretta leaves for her church auxiliary meeting, I head out for Bobtail to look at a couple of cows that an old boy wants to sell. He’s moving to Houston to live with his daughter and her family. I don’t have kids, and maybe I don’t quite understand all the ramifications properly, but moving to the city is the last thing in the world I’d want to do.
Negotiating for the cattle, loading them up and getting them squared away in the pasture takes the rest of the day, and wears me out. For supper I poke around in the refrigerator and make do with a bowl of chili and some stale cornbread. I sit down in the front of the TV, intending to watch the last few innings of the Astros baseball game before I head off to bed. Next thing I know I’m staring at a soccer match. It’s time for me to haul myself off to bed. My knee has stiffened up, still not fully recovered from the surgery that repaired it from damage done to it when one of my cows knocked me down and stepped on it. It takes me a minute to rub out the stiffness before I can get up. I go around turning off the lights and locking the doors. I pause at the front door. The tree frogs are making a mighty racket tonight. Good music to sleep by.
Her debut novel, A Killing At Cotton Hill, Seventh Street Books / Prometheus, will be available July 16, 2013. It is the first book in the new “Samuel Craddock” series set in the fictional town of Jarrett Creek, Texas, featuring ex-Chief of Police Samuel Craddock.
Terry is giving away one (1) copy of A KILLING AT COTTON HILL. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. The book will be shipped directly from the author. Contest ends July 17; US entries only.
Bonus giveaway. Terry will randomly select a winner, who will receive a trio of fine Texas barbecue sauces, from those who correctly identify the car on the front cover of the book. Contest ends July 17; US entries only.
Meet the author
Raised in the wild state of Texas, at age six, Terry Shames began a life of crime, stealing money from her grandmother to buy a notebook—beautiful blank pages where she could write a story. A terrible liar, when her mother grilled her, she confessed and the notebook was confiscated. Although her criminal career was short-lived, her life of crime writing was launched.
Terry financed her BA from the University of Texas and her MA from San Francisco State University with numerous jobs–waitress, maid, assistant to a notorious law professor, computer programmer/analyst and real estate agent. Meanwhile, she kept writing, dreaming of publication day.
Reviews for A KILLING AT COTTON HILL:
“Shames’ novel is an amazing read. The poetic, literary quality of the writing draws you into a small town and its interesting, secret-carrying residents.” -RT Book Reviews, August 2013. FOUR STARS
Readers will want to see more of the likable main character, who compassionately but relentlessly sifts the evidence. Convincing smalltown atmosphere and a vivid supporting cast are a plus. – Publishers Weekly
“…if you’re as fond of good writing as I am, it will be the characters in Cotton Hill that will keep the pages turning until late in the evening, or maybe even early into the morning…Each and every one of the people in this book is a human being, as perfect and as flawed as you or I, starting with Craddock himself” – mysteryfile
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.