Penny liked her days to be predictable but they never were. Sometimes it was her daughter Sarah, dealing with some personal crisis and showing up with her two-year-old, and asking her to take Seb for the day. Or someone died, likely as not, murdered, and her friend Derek of the Shagbark County Sheriff’s Dept. would turn up, all solemn, with his clipboard, to interview her before she had her second cup of coffee, the one she drank after Kenneth went off to his job at the hardware store. She took the rest of the morning to write in her diary and clear her mind for the day. They already had a murder and she needed to give it some careful thought.
Her days were even more interrupted during their current political campaign to get her dear friend Rick Clegg elected to the county commissioner board. He was such a truth-teller, which set off love in some and hatred in others. She couldn’t refuse to help him or to take in her grandson when Sarah’s crises came along. Too many things Penny couldn’t say no to.
She wrote in her diary until eleven and then went down to the garden to weed, thin the lettuce–the thinnings to go into their supper salad–pull some leeks and onions, and pick sugarsnap peas. By noon she was starting her homemade rye-soy bread in her extra large mixing bowl. She made a sponge first, of the rye, blackstrap molasses, water, and yeast, and let it rise until after supper. She’d have a sandwich after she started the vichyssoise for supper. The phone rang as she was simmering the chopped leeks, onions, and potatoes in chicken broth. Sammie, saying Rick had been arrested that morning for killing his cousin Devon, who was campaign manager for one of their opponents’ candidates.
“Yes, again. Okay to come over? Cathy, Malvina, and I want to consult.”
“Okay, but I’m low on bread.”
“We’ll get pita bread, cheese, and sliced turkey. You have lettuce?”
“Thinnings. And sugarsnap peas. Onions, two tomatoes, and vichyssoise in process.”
“Half an hour okay?”
See you soon.”
There went her supper plan, but she’d have to help. Cathy, Rick’s wife, always panicked when Rick was arrested. He had been at his cousin’s house that night, but Rick was no killer. If anything, he was too good. Malvina was Rick’s campaign manager and would probably want to send a press release.
The lunch and strategy session went until four. They had called Kate, Penny’s neighbor, who had gone to help Rick, and Cathy would visit him. Then Penny knew she’d better walk to keep her knees and hips in good shape. Her friends had done the dishes and left pita bread, several kinds of local goat milk cheese, enough soup for her and Kenneth’s supper.
As she walked around their neighborhood of small homes, she wondered how she herself could help Rick. Kate would work to get a probable cause hearing set. Malvina would send her press release to raise outrage. There couldn’t be any real evidence. Because Rick had been there that night, it didn’t make him a murderer, but he might know something that would help Derek find the killer. He sometimes told Penny things he didn’t tell anyone else. She’d visit him tomorrow.
Kenneth was back at five, and she caught him up as she served up the soup and sandwiches.
At seven she was stirring in the bread’s other ingredients: oil, salt, soy flour, and bread flour, when Sarah knocked and entered, holding little Seb.
“What’s up?” Penny asked, as she put down her big spoon and reached for Seb, who was leaning toward her from his mother’s arms, saying, “Gamma, read book.”
“Can you keep him two hours, Mom? I have something urgent. I can’t take him. He’ll sleep by eight. I’ll be back by ten. Promise.”
Penny remembered other of Sarah’s urgencies. Predictability was not one of their traits. Kenneth came forward, took Seb. “What is it, Sarah?”
“I can’t talk about it.”
“We’ll keep him, Sarah,” said Penny. “Be careful.” Sarah put down Seb’s plastic bag of clothes, and rushed out the door, calling back, “I will.”
Kenneth took Seb and let him choose a book while Penny finished the dough, which she covered with a towel and pushed to the back of the stove. Then she arranged blankets on the floor in the corner and sat down by Kenneth. He put his other arm around her and pulled her close. He nodded at the bed she’d made, and minutes later lifted Seb and put him down, pulling a blanket over him.
The phone rang. Kenneth leapt to catch it. He shook his head, then said, “I’ll be there at nine.”
“Penny, Derek wants me to come in on this case of Devon’s murder,” he whispered
Seb raised his head. “Gamma, read book?”
Penny laughed and settled herself by Seb on the floor, picking up Goodnight, Moon.
You can read more about Penny in Political Peaches, the fifth book in the “Political Peaches” mystery series.
Penny Weaver and her friends are engaged in a tense political campaign to elect new Commissioners in imaginary Shagbark County, N.C. One of their opponents’ campaign managers is killed, and their own leading candidate, African American Rick Clegg, is arrested. Then the campaign turns nasty. Their computer files are stolen. A big public relations firm is hired by Phoney Alway, Rick’s opponent, to print sleazy postcards. Penny and her friends differ radically about how to deal with their opponents below the belt and illegal behavior. The Sheriff’s lead detective is baffled, so Penny and her friends solve the murder.
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Meet the author
Judy Hogan was co-editor of a poetry journal (Hyperion, 1970-81). In 1976, she founded Carolina Wren Press. She has been active in central North Carolina as a reviewer, book distributor, publisher, teacher, and writing consultant.
Her newest publication is Grace: A China Diary, 1910-16, which she edited and annotated, and Political Peaches; The Fifth Penny Weaver Mystery. Six other mystery novels, Killer Frost (2012), Farm Fresh and Fatal (2013) The Sands of Gower (2015), Haw, Nuclear Apples? and Formaldehyde, Rooster (2016) are in print. She has published six volumes of poetry with small presses, including, Beaver Soul (2013) and This River: An Epic Poem (2014). Her other published prose is Watering the Roots in a Democracy (1989) and The PMZ Poor Woman’s Cookbook (2000). Her papers and 25 years of extensive diaries are in the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, Duke University. She has taught creative writing since 1974 and Freshman English 2004-2007 at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh.
Between 1990 and 2007 she visited Kostroma, Russia, five times, teaching American literature at Kostroma University in 1995 and giving a paper to a Kostroma University Literature Conference in March 2007. A second paper was published in the 2013 Literature Conference proceedings at Kostroma University. She worked on five exchange visits, as well as cooperative publishing with Kostroma writers and exhibits of their artists. Judy lives and farms in Moncure, N.C., near Jordan Lake.
All comments are welcomed.
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