April 6, 2020

Checkers? Amelia Island's Mark of a Man Excerpt

Families play games and have been forever.  One of these games is checkers and so checkers is a natural choice for the fictional Dunnigan family from the late 1800s in Fernandina on Amelia Island, in north Florida. Through the magic of electronics, we offer a passage from a particular day in the lives of the loving and complicated Irish American Dunnigans.  

Amelia Island's Mark of a Man Excerpt:
Pat Dunnigan
     More hours churned past to solidify into days and no further word of Pat was forthcoming. Peeper was physically and mentally less than chipper. Her right foot, bothering her, with a single length of rope under her arch, she'd fashioned a sling. 

Pulling on both ends of the line to help lift her foot, it took the pressure off her aching hip. Settled in the rocker on the front porch, she cogitated upon her pet, the lad she'd alternately hollered after then rewarded ever since his birth. Until she was able to ply him with her potions and plasters, she would not and could not relax. 
     The white thread with which she sewed a mother-of-pearl button onto Pat's shirt was being difficult. "This danged thread is gonna be the death a me. If'n this string don't stop atwistin' and I git one more knot—" Frustration was all, and she set aside her labors.     
     "Come on, Peep," Nugget whined at her a fourth time. "It won't hurt any to play checkers with me. My Daddy said checker playin' is a good way to pass the time. I like to play Chinese checkers, too, but Blackie White Spots eats too many of the marbles."
     Peeper took a sip of the rose water she'd brewed earlier and concentrated on the cool of it, feeling it slither past her gullet, clear down to her empty belly. She felt only slightly better, but not enough to take away her misery.
     Clover walked past as she reminded, "Clove, put on your list that when it's time ta cut some-a them lavender spikes I been ababyin' all winter's long, you'll need ta spread 'em out on your tack room floor. It takes most a my grownin' powers ta make 'um sprout in pots, 'stead a the ground, but if'n it's the only way ta get that sweet smell fer ya, I'm awillin' ta do it. Now, the more ya walk about on the lavender, the more odiferous it 'ull be."  
     "You're so good to me, Peeper, but how about we bundle the stocks for the girls to hang in their rooms and maybe you can fill some fancy-work little bags with lavender for their drawers, too. The truth of it is the last time, it made my place and 'specially me, smell like a fancy house, for true!"
     "What's a fancy house, Clove?" asked an always-curious Nugget.
     "Ah, it's a—Peep, would you tell Nugget? You might-could describe it better."
     Not missing a beat, she explained straight away, "A fancy house is where men goes ta drink whiskey and dance with girls and it's no place fur ya ta ever set foot in. Remember we was awalkin' downtown Tuesdee last and I went ta coverin' your eyes? That was when we crossed afore one-a them places.  They shoon't allow such sinful spots in our town. You do like I'm atellin' ya now!"
     "Yes'm, Peep," Nugget said, remembering they'd passed the loud banjo music and sour smell of whiskey coming from what he thought might be a fancy house. Uncle Pat liked to drink whiskey. If whiskey was good for Uncle Pat, he would give it a try when he got bigger. Peeper just worried too much.
     Peeper looked to Nugget, the boy in whom she saw the same coloring and sweetness as her Bird of the Earth, Pat. She turned her head away so he would not see her crying. He did. "Git your Peeper a hankie, would ya, lamb. My glass is adrippin' onta my skirt. Then I'll play ya one game and I'll be abeatin' ya in half a dozen moves. I wanna be red.  Red's my faver-rite color." 
     So happy Peeper was willing to play, Nugget was gone in a shot to get her the requested handkerchief. Rushing up the stairs to her room, he wondered why she didn't use the one tucked in her belt or the one stuffed in her sleeve.
     Peeper dried her eyes with the pink edged hankie from her cuff.  In these difficult times, she needed the security of an extra handkerchief. She gathered up her sewing once again and as she struggled to re-thread her needle, her eyesight no longer sharp, she decided she had no business sniveling like Aunt Noreen. "Enough of this here silliness," Peeper scolded herself.  "Don't give up, old gal. Jack Patrick  'ull come home. I know that certain. He just has ta." She squeezed her eyes shut and when she opened them, there stood Nugget, holding out a linen napkin, watching her.
     "Glad you found your sleeve hanky 'cause I couldn’t find your pile in the u  sual spot. I snatched up this thing from the table so I wouldn't be so long."
      "Thank ya, kindly." Setting her sewing back into the pine needle basket on the side table, she said seriously, "If you're afinished lolly-gaggin', I'd like ta win me a game a checkers."
     "Yes, ma'am!" They were still setting up the board, when Nugget announced, "I'm gonna have more king-mees than you, Peep!" His wide grin showed straight baby teeth, a precursor of what would be a beautiful but impish smile.
     She smiled back.  "Just like my Pat."
     From his office window, Michael watched his grandson and Peeper engrossed in activity. Ella, Carolena and Breelan were with him, discussing the drop in passenger revenue, due directly to the Spanish madmen. Although Pat's name was not mentioned, he was uppermost in all thoughts.      


Ebooks and Paperbacks in The Goodbye Lie series available now:

The Goodbye Lie 

Amelia Island's Velvet Undertow

Amelia Island's Mark of a Man

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