“I’ll Take Those Odds” Part Two

Last week I returned to my blog and the writing world. I also started an in-process story inspired by the current pandemic that continues to rage around us. Here’s where we left off last week on the fist installment of “I’ll Take Those Odds.”

“Tell it to me, please?” Albert asked again. “Grant the wish of a dying man?”

Death licked their lips and leaned forward. “Seeing as you’re on your way out and can’t tell another living soul, here goes.”

And now, here’s the next part. Happy reading.

January 17, 1919

Charlotte poured two glasses of whiskey and placed them on the table by the window. She looked out at the night, but it seemed bleak and cold as ever. Charlotte took a swig out of the bottle before setting it between the glasses. She fought the urge to spit it out and swallowed against the burn. The amber liquid danced in the light of the oil lantern. The small room was hot with the wood stove burning in the center. Albert was quiet in his crib, save for the constant wheezing. At least he was finally asleep, she told herself.

Charlotte walked to the chest of drawers in the hallway. Her fingers shook as she fought to open the top drawer. The drawer started to squeak at first, and she stopped, terrified she’d wake Albert. He was still asleep, though, so she pulled the drawer open slowly and took out the well worn deck of cards. As she closed the drawer, her eyes looked up the wall to the picture that hung there. The man in his uniform stared back at her, his eyes unseeing but seemingly judging nonetheless. “You’d do the same thing,” she told the picture. “You have no place to judge.”

Charlotte took the deck to the table and placed it next to the bottle. She fought the urge to take another drink. A hoot owl called outside and she startled. Oh, screw societal norms she thought and took another drink. Charlotte gagged on the liquor. She placed the bottle back and stole a look into Albert’s crib. He was asleep, thankfully, but his breathing was uneven. He was covered in sweat and the area around his nose was encrusted with mucus. If she wiped it off now, he’d wake up, and this was the first time he’d slept soundly in days.

She took a steadying breath and returned to the table, sitting in the chair beside it, her eyes searching the darkness that waited right outside. Her hands absentmindedly picked up her knitting. She was working on new socks for Albert. He would need them soon. He had stopped growing when he fell ill, but he would get better, and he would need the clothes then. Another bird or perhaps a stray cat made a sound outside and Charlotte’s head jerked up. She almost stabbed her finger with her needle. Silence once again followed, and she took another breath.

Charlotte returned to her knitting, trying to lose herself in the task at hand. Then, she heard it, the unmistakable noise of a porch board creaking. Her breath caught in her throat, and she returned her knitting to its basket. The porch creaked again, and then she heard the screen door open. She bit her lower lip as the front door knob turned. Charlotte jumped to her feet and moved to the crib, positioning herself between the crib and the door.

The old door opened slowly. She had not locked it, but she was certain it wouldn’t have mattered if she had. In walked a person, impeccably dressed in a gray, four piece suit with a bowler hat to match. The person closed the door and turned to size the room up in a perfectly casual manner. Charlotte wrapped her hand around the top of the crib and waited. The person looked at Charlotte and the face wasn’t cruel. It was shockingly kind and extremely amused. “Well, hello,” the person spoke with a warm and open smile.

“Hello,” Charlotte tentatively replied.

“You’re up past your bedtime,” they quipped.

“Haven’t been getting much sleep.”Her hand tightened around the crib.

“Usually I sneak in unseen, much like Santa Claus.” They smiled again, but this time it wasn’t as warm.

Charlotte took a steadying breath and assumed her full, five foot two frame. “I know why you’re here, and you won’t be taking him.”

“I don’t think you have any say over that.”

“You already got the Millers down the street, took all four of ’em, and the Turner’s two boys. You don’t need mine, too.”

The person cocked their head. “Again, I don’t think you have any say over that.”

Charlotte managed to stand a little taller. “I’m his mother. I think I do have a say.”

The person laughed lightly and removed their hat. “I know all about you, Charlotte Massey Reeves. Youngest of five, only girl in a house of boys. Grew up rough and tough. Never wanted to be a wife, or mother, but you were willing to become both when you married Frank Reeves in the spring of 1917. But then came the war, and Frank had to enlist. He went to France and you stayed here, had a son.”

Charlotte was not so steady on her feet now. “How do you know all that?”

The person smiled a third time, and this time it was anything but warm. “I’m Death. I know all kinds of things.” They looked around the room a second time. “Where is Frank now?”

“You took him,” she spat back at the figure.

Death laughed and it was far from comforting. “I assure you, ma’m, I have not.”

Charlotte’s heart sank. The telegram from the Army had said missing in action, but it hadn’t said dead. But as the months had drug on, Charlotte had just assumed. The last letter Frank had written her had been concerning. Frank had not been happy with the war. He had told her that if anything were to happen to him, that she was to move on, find another God-fearing man to raise his child. Charlotte was afraid he’d gotten himself killed on purpose.

“Do you know where he is?” she summoned the courage to ask.

Death looked at their hat, moving it from one hand to the other. They looked back at her, looking her directly in the eyes. “I don’t know everything, but I know he’s not with me. Could still be unidentified in a foreign hospital, or some prisoner camp?” they shrugged.

Charlotte shook her head. Frank had run off somewhere. That was the first thought she’d had when she’d received the telegram, but than death seemed easier to accept. Frank had loved her, sure enough, but he did have a wondering eye. She’d known that and had married him anyway, despite her better judgement. He’d probably found some French girl in need of help and . . . No, she couldn’t think about that now. Albert was all she had, she was sure of it, and she was all he had. Death would not be taking him tonight, she was sure of that.

“As pleasant as this all is, I do have business to conduct.” Death put their hat back on and set their jaw.

Charlotte inched back as far as she could, until the crib was against her back. “I’d like to propose a change.”

Death laughed full and loud. “This is different. I’m so amused, I’ll entertain your little game. What do you propose, Charlotte Reeves?”

Charlotte swallowed hard. “A drink and a game of cards.” She indicated the table set up by the window.

Death followed her gaze. “That does look inviting. What are the stakes?”

Charlotte released the crib and folded her arms across her chest. “I win, you don’t take Albert. He gets better and he lives a full life.”

“And if I win?”

Charlotte swallowed again, but her voice was clear. “You take us both.”

“You would do that for him?”

“We’re all each other has in this world. I won’t go anywhere without him,” Charlotte insisted.

Death smiled. “I’ll take those odds.”

Copyright Anne G’Fellers-Mason, 2020

 

I have to hop off and go prepare a gelatin-based salmon salad from an old, Knox Gelatine cook book. It’s job related, don’t ask. Being a historian is never boring. Watch for that video on the Chester Inn Museum’s YouTube channel next Saturday. I’m sure I’ll be linking it to next week’s  blog.

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Next weekend my work will be hosting our first ever Taste of Tennessee event featuring lots of local, foodie goodness. Check it out! The full program for August 22 is available at our website here. 

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See you all next week!

Featured Image – Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

2009: The World of The Summer Between

I wrote The Summer Between during the summer of 2009. The story is set in that year, the final breath of the aughts. Here is a quick glimpse of that year and the world that is Brendon’s reality.

In 2009, MySpace is still king when it comes to Social Media. Facebook is open to the non-collegiate public and is slowly gaining speed, as is Twitter. There is no Snapchat or Instagram. iPhones were just released in 2007 and not everyone has a smartphone. Most people aren’t used to updating their social media status at a moment’s notice or getting news instantaneously.

iPods are still a thing, and music is stored on them and not a smartphone. Pictures, for the most part, are still taken on digital cameras. Cellphone photos are notoriously awful and grainy.

Fun fact, 2009 gives birth to the first “viral selfie.”

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(Melissa and her husband Jackson Brandts were exploring Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Canada, when a ground squirrel photobombed their timed picture. )

The Great Recession of 2008 is still going strong, but it hasn’t impacted Brendon’s immediate reality. (He’s lucky.) It will definitely impact his future, though. He’s still facing the pressure to go to college and pick a career. But should he pick a career he loves, or one that will guarantee security?

Brendon lives in the suburban mountain South I know so well and grew up in. It’s not a small town, it’s not a large town, but it’s big enough to have a downtown, and a decent mall.

Avatar is the biggest movie of the year and American Idol (pre re-boot) is the biggest TV show.

And this is the 2009 version of Miley Cyrus, which will matter when you read the book.

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Get a copy of The Summer Between and enter Brendon’s world! Order now from Barnes and Noble or Amazon!

#TheSummerBetween #YAfiction #teenlit #teenfiction #teenlife #friendship #siblings #music

 

Welcome, Readers!

Hello, all! This is my first blog post on my first, professional website, so bear with me. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Anne G’Fellers-Mason, and I live in a small town in Jonesborough, TN. My mother is a librarian, principal, teacher, and perpetual scholar. I was surrounded by books from an early age. In fact, I spent most of my summers at the middle school she worked at, stamping new books for the classrooms and school library. I loved it!

The summer after sixth grade, I sequestered myself in the spare room upstairs and wrote the first chapter of my very first novel. I can distinctly remember sitting there, etching the title into the front of the red notebook with my Lisa Frank pen. (It changed colors between purple and hot pink.) That was the first time I ever started with the title. Usually, I write half the story and then try to decide what I’m going to call the darn thing. I finished my first book that summer, and it was magic. As I was writing, I felt completely in place. Every part of me knew that I was born to write, to create worlds. Of course, as I grew older, the book went through many revisions. It’s about to go through its next revision and will be published next November, but more on that at a later date. I won’t reveal too much about my very first book, but I will say this…dragons.

Since then, I’ve started many different books. My hard drive is filled with multiple stories. I’ve completed short stories, poems, and plays. My studies have taken me to Mars Hill University, East Tennessee State University, and Hollins University. In my day to day adult life, I work as the Special Projects Coordinator for the Heritage Alliance. We’re a small non-profit that specializes in history, museums, and preservation. I get to play with history every day. I’m very lucky that my job lets me combine my three degrees in theatre, history, and playwriting. I get the chance to research the people who once lived in Jonesborough and share their stories in my plays. It is an awesome responsibility.

Work keeps me busy, and unfortunately I don’t get to read or write as much as I’d like to. Still, there’s nothing that makes me happier, except maybe my spouse…and our cats. I am surrounded by a sister who writes and a mother who writes in a family compound. Future blogs will cover some of my inspirations, influences, and more humorous anecdotes. For now, I just wanted to say hello. Thanks for following me on this author journey.

Oh yeah, and most important part, my first published novel is coming out this October! The Summer Between is my second, completely finished book, but it will be my first published. Lots more on it to follow.

Here are some places where you can read other works of mine.

Great Expectations: Eight Short Plays About Teens Under Pressure (Published by YouthPLAYS)

by Nicole B. Adkins, Will Coleman, Anne G’Fellers-Mason, Laura King, Wendy-Marie Martin, Marshall N. Opie, Jeri Weiss, and Ricky Young-Howze

Please Say Yes: Short Plays About Promposing (Published by YouthPLAYS)

by Nicole B. Adkins, Will Coleman, Anne G’Fellers-Mason, Megan Gogerty, Neeley Gossett, Adam Hahn, Laura King, Samantha Macher, Wendy-Marie Martin, and Ricky Young-Howze

You can visit YouthPLAYS online at https://www.youthplays.com/.

A Mourning Hollow (Published by The BookPatch LLC)

by Liesl Ehmke (Author), Eric Eidson (Author), Kevin D. Ferguson (Author), Anne G’Fellers Mason (Author), Taylor Gruenloh  (Author), Laura King (Author), Wendy-Marie Martin (Author), Caitlin McCommis (Author), Shane Strawbridge (Author)

You can get a copy of A Mourning Hollow on Amazon.

And you can read a fabulous fanfic I wrote about Sherlock (BBC). I only write quality fanficiton. My professional wrestling fanfics used to get requests, all the way from Germany. I also wrote an amazing episode of the X-Files once. Too bad that computer crashed and the floppy disk fried. Sad times.

More to come!

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This photo, courtesy of Charlie Mauk, is the cast of A Spot On the Hill in October of 2016. A Spot On the Hill is a new play I create every fall that shares the stories of those buried in the Old Jonesborough Cemetery. We perform the play inside the cemetery. I really do love my job!

Headshot at top courtesy of Cassandra Snow.

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