Showing posts with label NC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NC. Show all posts

Friday, May 20, 2016

In case you missed him, here is a video of Bob Grove reading a selection of his prose at Coffee With The Poets and Writers, May 18, 2016, at the Moss Memorial Library, Hayesville, NC.

Bob Grove

Here is a video of Bob reading a selection of his prose from the May 18, 2016 meeting of Coffee With the Poets and Writers, at the Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville, NC. This program was sponsored by the North Carolina Writers' Network-West.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Open Mic and CWP in Sylva, NC February 18, 19th

Upcoming Events at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC

Coffee with the Poet Featuring Catherine Carter

02/18/2016 - 10:30AM
The Coffee with the Poet series continues on Thursday, February 18th at 10:30 a.m. at City Lights Bookstore. The February gathering will feature poet and professor, Catherine Carter. She is the author of Growing Gills, Swamp Monster and the chapbook Marks of the Witch. She is the Jackson County Rep for NCWN West.

Catherine directs the English Education program at Western Carolina University. She also teaches education, writing, and literature courses, and publishes and researches in poetry, American literature, and English Education....

NetWest Open Mic

02/19/2016 - 7:00PM
The NetWest program of the North Carolina Writers Network and City Lights Bookstore will host an open mic night at the bookstore on Friday, February 19th at 7 p.m. Folks are encouraged to bring their poetry or short pieces to share. The North Carolina Writers' Network connects, promotes, and serves the writers of this state. They provide education in the craft and business of writing, opportunities for recognition and critique of literary work, resources for writers at all stages of...

Ann Miller Woodford Presentation

02/20/2016 - 3:00PM
Ann Miller Woodford will present her book, When All God’s Children Get Together on Saturday, February 20th at 3 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Her book celebrates the lives and music of African American people in far western North Carolina. Ann Miller Woodford grew up in Andrews, NC during segregation. She is the founder One Dozen Who Care Inc., a nonprofit that works to create leadership capacity and build community unity in far western North Carolina. ODWC partnered with Ann to...

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fall Conference in Asheville NC - Put this date on your calendar now

November 20-22,  2015 in Asheville, NC - The Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. 

Conference faculty include professional writers from North Carolina and beyond. Held every year in a major hotel, the conference rotates annually.

Rates TBA

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Coffee with the Poets and Writers July 8 at Joe's Coffee House

The NC Writers’ Network-West will hold the monthly Coffee with the Poets and Writers at Joe’s Coffee House, 82 Main Street, Hayesville, NC. This group will meet Wednesday, July 8 at 10:30 a.m..

Coffee with the Poets and Writers is open to the public at no charge. Bring a poem or short prose, 1000 words or less, and read at Open Mic. Joe’s Coffee House serves fine coffees and teas, as well as bagels and snacks. Cindy and Norma make all feel very welcome at Joe’s. Two local members of NCWN-West, Estelle Darrow Rice and Glenda Council Beall are featured on the program this month.
Estelle Rice
Estelle Rice is a North Carolina native who has lived in other states but came back to spend retirement in the mountains in Cherokee County. She holds a BA degree in Psychology from Queens University, Charlotte, NC and a MA degree in counseling from the University of South Alabama, Mobile AL.

Her short stories and personal essays have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. Her book of spiritual poems, Quiet Times, was well received and highly praised. She has taught writing for NC Writers’ Network-West and for Writers Circle around the Table in Hayesville, NC.

Glenda C. Beall
Glenda Council Beall began Coffee with the Poets and Writers in 2007 and continues to facilitate the event. Her poetry and prose have been published in newspapers, anthologies, online and academic journals, and in her chapbook Now Might as Well be Then published in 2009. She published a family history book Profiles and Pedigrees, Thomas C. Council and his Descendants, in 1998. She is a Georgia native, a graduate of the University of Georgia and a former elementary school teacher. She now teaches writing for adults at Tri-County Community College in the community enrichment program and at her home studio, Writers Circle, in Hayesville. Beall maintains two personal blogs, and
Her poetry is inspired by memories of the past, her large family and her impressions of what she sees and hears in the world around her. She writes about everything from growing chickens to dealing with grief.

The community is invited to Joe’s to listen to the readers, to read, to mingle with the writers and poets, and all are welcome to join us for lunch across the street at Angelo’s. Contact NCWN-West Representative, Glenda Beall, at 828-389-4441 or  for information

This is a program of the state literary organization NC Writers’ Network.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Large Turnout For Karen Holmes, Poet, at Coffee with the Poets and Writers, Hayesville, NC

Coffee with the Poets and Writers met Wednesday at Joe’s Coffee House in Hayesville, NC. We had an overflow crowd. Our hostess, Cindy, brought in chairs from outside to seat everyone as they continued to enter.

A lovely day here in the Appalachian Mountains invited us all to get out and enjoy the sunshine, low humidity, and a poet who has blossomed this past year.  Karen Paul Holmes, a resident of Atlanta and Hiawassee, Georgia, published her first book of poetry, Untying the Knot, last year. Reviewers praised her work and she has read to large groups in Atlanta as well as other places. Her book is for sale online. To get an autographed copy, find Karen locally at Writers Night Out in Blairsville, GA on the second Friday night of the month. The event takes place at the Union County Community building at Butternut Creek Golf Course.

After Karen’s reading today, we held Open Mic, a time for our guests to read a couple of poems or a short story. Paul Schofield chose to read a chapter from the upcoming fourth book of his Trophy series. Paul writes Future Fiction. Find his books on

Dr. Eugene Hirsch was with us today and read two poems. Dr. Hirsch, along with Nancy Simpson and Janice Moore, were major players in the creation of NCWN West. Nancy read two poems from her most recent book, Living Above the Frost Line published by Carolina Wren Press.

NCWN West (Netwest) appreciates Joe Powell of Joe’s CoffeeHouse, 82 Main Street, for giving our writers a place to meet. We thank Cindy who is the perfect hostess.

After our meeting several of us walked down the block and had lunch at Angelo’s, on the corner of the town square. We discussed Hayesville, Netwest, and plans for the future. Our literary community in the far western part of North Carolina is thriving.

We invite others to join us on the second Wednesday of each month, 10:30 a.m. at Joe’s. In June our featured readers are Joan Gage and Mary Ricketson. We look forward to another enjoyable day.

Joan Ellen Gage

Mary Ricketson

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thanks to the writers in Henderson County for the 2014 Netwest Picnic

It was a good day and lots of fun when we gathered for the Netwest picnic in Hendersonville recently.
photo by Ellen Schofield
 In spite of a slight drizzle most of the afternoon, under the cover of a large pavilion at Jackson Park, the writers, including Jack Prather, Emilee Hines, Susan Snowden, Lana Hendershott, Pat Vestal, Betty Reed, Paul M. Schofield, Susan Lefler, Martha O. Adams, Karen Luke and others enjoyed the array of sandwich fixings purchased from Ingles, which included their cold cuts, artisan breads and condiments, along with chips, fruit and cookies.

When Lana gave a quiz on NCWN and NCWN West, long time members knew most of the answers, but Ellen 
Schofield, Program Coordinator for NCWN West, and I had the highest scores. Surprised?

A number of books had been donated as prizes and I was delighted to win a copy of Jack Prather's book, Twelve Notables of Western North Carolina. I learned that we can expect another book on notable women. I look forward to reading that one.

My thanks to Lana, Pat, Martha and all the writers who helped with the picnic, and who made me and my guest, Rebecca Gallo, feel so welcome. Once again I was reminded that the writers of NCWN West (Netwest) are some of the nicest and most supportive people I've ever met.

Friday, September 7, 2012

NCWN Fall Conference venue in Cary NC

The NCWN 2012 Fall Conference will be November 2 – 4 at the Embassy Suites on 201 Harrison Oaks Boulevard in Cary, NC
Members will soon receive the NCWN Newsletter with all the details about this annual conference. 
Charles Fiore checked for me and the Embassy Suites said we can request the room we reserve NOT be sprayed with "air freshener" if that bothers us.  If they have the chemical fragrance automatically spraying into the halls and elevators like the hotel in Asheville last year, people with multiple chemical sensitivities, and I am not the only writer with the problem, will still be in danger of becoming ill.
This conference lineup of speakers is certainly enticing, but Cary is a long way from south western NC. Many of the writers we hear about and read about will be on the schedule for this event. Once again I wish we had the technology to stream those sessions to some place near us. Wouldn't that be cool? 
Visit for more information. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review of Ron Rash's new poetry book by Gary Carden

If you haven't heard of Ron Rash, author of Serena, and other popular books, be sure to google him, and visit Gary Carden's blog, Holler Notes.

Read his excellent review of Ron's new book of poetry, Waking. This review will also be in the Smoky Mountain News this week.

If you live in the area, you will want to know that Ron Rash will appear at City Lights Books to read from this book on Sunday, August 28th, 1:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 20, 2010




WHEN: SATURDAY, MAY 15, 2010—FROM 10:00 until 4:00


A USED BOOK TABLE (donations appreciated)

A TABLE OF DISCOUNT BOOKS (one book from each attending author)






Contact Celia Miles for more information: Celia Miles

A $10.00 participation fee is required.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Coffee With the Poets at Phillips and Lloyd Book Store on the square in Hayesville

Poet Dorothea Spiegel was featured and honored with a fond farewell at NC Writers' Network West's Coffee With the Poets on Dec. 9, 2009. She is leaving the area to live with a daughter in Tennessee.

Someone asked her, "How long have you been a member of N C Writers' Network West?"

Since the beginning." she answered.

It's true that Dorothea Spiegel was the first Georgia representative back during the founding days of the writing program that was established by N.C. W.N. to help the isolated, mountain writers of North Carolina and the north Georgia mountains.

Part of Coffee With the Poets also featured an open mic reading.

Karn Holmes reads a new poem

Blue Ridge Poet Brenda Kay Ledford read a poem.
Founder of Coffee With the Poets, former Program Coordinator, read poems from her recently published poetry collection Now Might as Well Be Then, Finishing Line Press.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


(City Lights Bookstore, along with The Friends of the Jackson County Library and numerous other volunteers, helped make the Bookfair a reality.)

This year's Great Smoky Mountains Bookfair was a smash hit! We had more people come to visit than ever before, and our authors on display were busier than I've ever seen them. I can vouch for that! I hardly had time to look at the book displays or to visit with friends like Kerry Madden, Pam Duncan, Vicki Lane, Allan Wolf, Fred Chappell--well, the list could go on. The event was held once again at the First United Methodist Church in Sylva, an ideal facility that feels both welcoming and capacious enough for a bunch of writers and readers to hang out for a day, indulging their love of books. We appreciate the church for opening its lovely downstairs rooms to us.

Alas, I forgot to bring new batteries for my camera, so I don't have photos of my own to share, but I do have one, taken in my kitchen, of the beautiful wall sconce, with an ear of corn on it (of course!), by my dear friend Gayle Woody, the one who created the gorgeous corn batik that I featured a few weeks back. Gayle teaches art at Smoky Mountain High School now, and her energy and spirit always makes me feel more alive.


(Sconce hand-made by artist and friend Gayle Woody)

I wrote a lot of poems for both children and adults, including a couple for babies named Eason and Sean Adam. I had a lot of fun writing one for a woman who rescues St. Bernard's, the breed of dog I've always wanted! With four "mutts" living with me these days, I'm glad I don't have the dog of my dreams, though a keg of brandy around his neck would be welcome on cold nights.
The highlight of my day was Allan Wolf's Poetry Alive performance and the readings by our student poetry contest winners. More about that tomorrow. They were fabulous. What poise they all had! I could never had stood up to read my own poem when I was in the second grade. Or the twelfth!

(Photo from Allan's website, )

And yes, I bought books, so many that my friends Harold and Jane Schiffman had to help me carry them out to the car!

Then we joined Fred and Susan Chappell for a glass of wine at Mill and Main,, basking in the afternoon light on the restaurant deck.

All in all, a great day for writers, readers, and our region.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Reflection on the Summer of 1968 - Remember?

Recently Lana Hendershott submitted the following to her hometown newspaper when the editor asked for glimpses of life in the summer of 1968. Many of us remember that summer. Where were you and what were you doing then?

A Girl's Take on Summer of '68
by Lana Hendershott

I was in love with a boy I dated during my freshman year at Northwestern, and I was not excited about returning to Enid, Oklahoma. Going home meant trading an active social life for monastic mores and gainful employment.

The employment angle didn’t pan out. Boys harvested wheat, mowed grass or had paper routes. Their jobs paid well and left time for swimming at Champlin’s pool. My choices were babysitting, waitressing, or car hopping in miniskirts and roller skates at the A&W.

Babysitting paid fifty cents an hour and entailed caring for a neighbor’s three children all under the age of seven. I’m talking ten hours a day, Monday through Friday, with laundry service and ironing thrown in as freebies for Mrs. T. I actually slaved away at that job the previous summer and decided surrogate motherhood was not my gig.

I was eager to carhop or wait tables. Those jobs offered shorter hours and paid three times better than babysitting even if customers didn’t tip. I began fantasizing about my soon-to-be-earned wealth. Managers, however, expected experience, and I had zero. They questioned whether a ninety-eight pound novice, regardless of enthusiasm and robust health, was a good fit for transporting weighty platters of food and drinks. My mother ended my job search by declaring, “She’s worth more than $1.50 an hour to me.” I suspect she didn’t like the miniskirt idea.

Plan B was attending summer school at Phillips University and helping Mom with errands, meals, and housework. I enrolled in General Psychology taught by Dr. Jordan, Biblical Religion with Dr. Simpson, and U.S. Government, a requirement. I don’t remember anything about government—not the teacher, not classmates, not one discussion. I had no interest in politics. Dr. King was murdered in Memphis, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in California, and the evening news was all about Viet Nam. The violence appalled me, but the broadcasts were like watching movies or events happening in a parallel universe leaving me uninvolved.

Psychology class started at seven o’clock A.M. Sipping coffee, I watched the sky lighten as I drove east on Broadway with the windows rolled down. I listened to Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” on WKY and looked forward to watching Dark Shadows in the afternoon.

An earlier version was printed in the Enid News and Eagle on Sunday, July 13th, 2008.

Lana Hendershott represents NCWN West in Henderson County. Anyone who lives there can contact her for information about Netwest and writing events in that area.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gary Carden's play, Birdell, a smashing success for Netwest

Live theater came to Murphy, NC last night with Bobbie Curtis, actress from Lenoir, NC emerging from behind a black curtin as Birdell Tolley, octogenarian, outside her mountain cabin. At first she seemed a bit nutty, but in moments the audience was enamured with this small woman with the long white hair, telling in her delightful mountain twang, the story of her life beginning as a young girl falling in love with the man she married when she was an innocent fifteen.
Although we lacked a professional stage setup and had no back drop, Bobbie's props were perfectly placed for her act. Once Birdell was on stage and speaking, the missing set was forgotten and the listeners were caught up in the spell that is Birdell.
We learned about the early 20th century history of western North Carolina in that hour with Birdell.
I was asked after the play, "How did he know this woman? Did he interview her to know so many details about her life?"
Bobbie Curtis made the woman come alive on the stage and some thought she had to have been a real person, not a character made up in Carden's mind.
Others said, "It is hard to think a man can write about a woman and understand how she would have these deep feelings."
When my eyes filled and spilled, I thought it had to be because I'm an emotional mess these days, but I glanced around and saw others mopping away their tears as well. Within minutes, Bobbie Curtis changed the mood and had us laughing over some wild tale Birdy's husband used to tell. My favorite was the swinette he described to the TVA man.
We are all sorry Gary couldn't be with us last night. That would have been icing on the cake -- to hear how he came to write this play. Maybe we can persuade Gary to give us some background here on the blog.
Thank you, Gary and thank you Bobbie Curtis.
And many thanks to our Cherokee County Netwest members.
We'd love to hear from anyone who has seen Birdell. Please comment and tell us what you think.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Saturday, May 3, Hayesville, NC All Genre Workshop with Darnell Arnoult

This lady, Darnell Arnoult, is fun and smart. Her workshop in Hayesville, NC on Saturday, May 3, will be great. Register now and be sure you get in.
Contact for registration information.

One of the 4 A's to avoid, according to Darnell:

1) Authorial Intrusion – When you write a piece of fiction, you create the voice of a narrator. It may be a first person point of view narrator, or it may be a more omniscient voice of the story itself. But it is not the author talking, and the author’s opinion or explanation should not come creeping into the lines of your narrative. Present you story and let your reader be the judge. If you want to write fiction, your job is to part a curtain on your characters and expose them at a moment when they reveal themselves for good or bad. Then the reader makes the ultimate judgment of them. If you want to write so you may convey a social, political, or religious opinion, among others, write nonfiction. If you are true to your characters, and they are true to you, then most likely, by the choice of story you wish to tell, a certain world view may show through. But be wary of this. Do not manipulate your story to express your theme. Write your story and see what themes show themselves. (from Darnell's website:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Lonnie Busch, writer and author of award winning Turnback Creek

Lonnie Busch’s novella “Turnback Creek” won the 2006 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize and was published by Texas Review Press in August of 2007. Short stories of his have appeared or are forthcoming in such publications as Southwest Review, The Minnesota Review, The Baltimore Review, Roanoke Review, The Southeast Review, Flint Hills Review, The Iconoclast, The Worchester Review, The Portland Review, Willow Review, and others. He makes his home in the mountains of Franklin, North Carolina.
(Lonnie is a member of NCWN and Netwest)

Princess of Hub Cap City

“There’s a child dancing on those old junker automobiles out there!” the woman screeched, horrified, standing in the doorway of my office with an eye on me and an eye on the junker automobiles. She was referring to my auto salvage just beyond the chain link. The woman had come inside to pay for the shifter knob in her hand. While she craned around the door jam, I slid the sawbuck from her fingers, smiled, and slipped her back a little less change than I should have. That old shifter knob she found on the table wasn’t worth more than fifty cents, if that, but it appeared to have a story and that’s all anyone cares about anyway, a story.

“Yeah, mister, a young girl, jumping around from hood to roof,” the husband chimed in, eager to be a part of something important—all the while their own little yard-apes were running wild through the parking lot, knocking over my columns of stacked caps. Cooped up in the car too long, I suppose. I don’t much care; nothing but junk anyway, as long as they don’t hurt themselves.

“What was she wearing?” I asked, but I already knew the answer.

“A blue dress with little yellow flowers,” the woman said, her face pinched with disapproval and looking like a weasel. “And she’s bare-footed!”

I could tell the woman was perturbed with Anna Beth’s appearance, her unkempt hair and filthy dress. I’ve had complaints before, worse than this.

“That’s my daughter, Anna Beth,” I said. “She’s out there dancing on those junkers every day about this time. I don’t know how she does it, frankly. The child must have soles made of asbestos. That metal out there is hotter than a griddle iron in a 24-hour diner.”

The woman’s eyes grew bigger than baby moon hubcaps. She glared at me for a second, then shot an “aren’t you going to say something?” look at her old man who couldn’t recall how to shift his brain out of park, so conditioned he was to rephrasing the little woman’s thoughts. Probably couldn’t remember the last original idea he had. He just stood there slack-jawed, slumped over like he might have hit his head on the windshield a time or two.

“Oh, no need for concern, ma’am,” I tried to assure her by standing up and walking toward the door. “Anna Beth is a little ballerina. Never so much as a bruised toe!” I tugged on my trousers to lend authenticity to my statement, even though I was wearing suspenders.

Of course by now her two little boys were into some sort of mischief out by the Studebaker front ends that my granddaddy had welded together. He thought it was funny, and I must say it is humorous to see a car with two identical front ends facing in opposite directions. Anyway, the taller boy was poking on the little one’s head or something, making him cry. The wife huffed out of my office and the husband slinked out behind, dragged along in her wake. Pretty soon those folks were in the parking lot hollering at their little renegades, shooting glances over in Anna Beth’s direction and shaking their heads. They hustled the boys into the Explorer, spit a little gravel as they left the lot, and continued on their vacation. I always get a lot of folks on vacation this time of year. My place is a novelty, I guess, though it’s nothing special, really, just home to Anna Beth and me.

The big sign next to the highway is what brings them in. Made it myself. Twenty feet high and sixty feet long. HUB CAP CITY. All capital letters made out of hubcaps. All caps!

Listening to cars rush by up on the highway, I felt the sun hot on my head where my scalp’s gone to seed. The sun can get hot here, even in June, especially when the sky gets wide and blue like a million miles of ocean. Today’s one of those days, without a breeze, and I usually wear a cap if I’m gonna be out very long. But I try to stay inside if I can, where it’s cool. I glanced over toward the sea of wreckage wedged in beyond the chain link, looking for Anna Beth, even though I knew I wouldn’t see her.

I wasn’t much more than a kid when Charlene got pregnant with Anna Beth, maybe nineteen, twenty at most. We weren’t married, but we pretended to be in the backseat of my Chevy. The day she told me she was pregnant, I said, “Charlene, if I don’t love this child, I can’t stick around!” Charlene just smiled, but I was dead serious. It may sound like a cruel thing to say, like I should’ve been more responsible-minded and all, but I had plans. Big plans. And they didn’t figure to include a wife and child.

I was headed for Nova Scotia to work on the fishing boats. Met a fella once who told me about the job, said it was hard work, fourteen hours a day, four or five months during season, but after they rolled up the nets and docked the boats your time was your own, and you had enough cash to last you the rest of the year. I loved tilling the sea. Back when I was in high school, I worked a few summers in Charleston on the fishing boats and took to it like a gull on a mullet. No seasickness for me. Some of the new boys spent the afternoon bent over the rail studying the food they had for breakfast. And not all of them were boys either; some were men shouting their grits into the brine. But I just hauled nets and laughed. I guess God blessed me with the constitution of a humpback whale.

One day, a cold snap whipped the ocean into a fury, waves spitting and spewing, had been since three that morning. Several of the men were on the rail, but one boy in particular had done run out of menu. The boy looked terrible, green as seaweed, and dry heaving nothing but foul air. The Captain walked over to him, turned him around, and said he saw something peculiar inside the boy’s mouth. “Boy, I’m not sure what that red ring is in there,” Captain said, with a grave tone, “but you better swallow hard, I think it’s your asshole!” Captain and I laughed until we about fell off the deck. That was the life for me and I knew it.

But it didn’t work out that way, of course. Life happens while you’re making other plans and I married Charlene and ended up hanging drywall with my old man. Not bad work, but hard work, and dirty, and I imagine my lungs look like broken sacks of flour from all the plaster dust. Probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway, the Nova Scotia thing. I would’ve spent the off season stewing my liver in Jack Daniel’s and losing all my cash playing stud in the back room of Ruby’s.

So I ended up with this place. My granddaddy owned it, called it “Bill’s Auto Salvage”. Name wasn’t a real bell ringer and when he died my daddy got it and quickly passed it off to me like a sack of copperheads. It was ten acres of has-been vehicles when it landed in my lap, an automobile graveyard all the way back to the sycamores. A few years after I got it, I decided to sell hubcaps, so I pried them off every wheel of every car beyond the chain link and stacked them out front. Stacks of hubcaps everywhere, like columns in a palace; hell, it was a palace, still is.

Eventually I put out some folding tables, made a little flea market, and filled the tables mostly with useless junk: little glass bottles, farm tools, shifter knobs and what not, but that’s what people want, long as it has a story. From time to time folks will buy a hubcap or two, but mostly caps are a curiosity. Folks like to look at them because they’re shiny and odd, and they see their reflection in the chrome. They hold them like a steering wheel in their hands, rotate them slowly, watching their reflections slip around the swells and valleys like fleshy pools of quicksilver. But they can’t figure what to do with caps other than what they’re doing, so they smile and put them back on the stack.

Now Charlene would never have moved here to live in a junkyard, but then neither would I if she was still with me. It was sad when I committed her to Harris Gloams Hospital, leaving her with folks that were screaming at walls and eating checkers. It broke my heart, what was left of it. But she had to go before she hurt herself again and I couldn’t stay home from work every day to make sure she didn’t. I only visit a few times a year now, not near as much as when hope was still an option.

So now it’s just Anna Beth and me, most times it’s just me. I remember when Children’s Services came out here to check on Anna Beth a couple years back. Had it fixed in their mind to take her away from me. Seems that one of my customers had called them after seeing Anna Beth dancing barefoot across the junkers, thought it was irresponsible of me, that I was unfit to have such a beautiful child. Hell, they might be right.

The woman from Children’s Services showed up wearing a tan skirt and jacket with a blouse the color of a canary and matching high heels. She had white hair as straight as a waterfall that ended at her narrow shoulders and little blue eyes that were so close set that it looked like the thin bridge of her nose was the only thing keeping them from a collision. She was friendly, in an institutional sort of way, but her smile was kind of sad, like the grill of a ‘53 Buick Skylark.

“I’m Trudence Galloway, from Children’s Services,” she said. “Are you Mr. Wiley Tiller?”

I nodded. She held out her hand and I took it, even though I had just finished jerking a carburetor off a ‘68 Mustang for a fella. She grimaced when she saw the grease on her manicured fingers. I handed her my rag, but it was dirtier than my hands. She pulled one of those wet wipes from her purse and cleaned her fingers. I figured she must have had plenty of run-ins with junk dealers to be that prepared.

“Mr. Wiley…I mean, Mr. Tiller, we’ve had a complaint about your little girl running around barefoot in your junkyard, playing unattended on the wreckage? Is that true?”

I didn’t know what to say to this poor woman, so I shrugged. I think she took it as a sign of moral ineptitude and demanded to see Anna Beth at once.

“I don’t know where she is right now,” I said, scratching my head and leaving a big greasy spot on my scalp.

“Where is Mrs. Tiller?” she asked.

“She’s indisposed indefinitely,” I told her, and she didn’t appreciate that answer either, putting her hands to her hips, obviously vexed.

Her features seemed to be shrinking, sucking in tighter toward the center of her face.

“I must see that child at once, Mr. Tiller!” she said, rigid as a fence post.

“Why don’t we walk outside,” I said. She followed me into the sunlight.

“There she is,” Trudy shouted, pointing, and looked appalled. “Mr. Tiller, that child hasn’t been bathed in weeks, and her hair, does it ever get brushed? She’s filthy and she…she is not wearing shoes!” That just made her madder than a moth in a street lamp. She stomped off stammering about tetanus and infection and germs and said she’d return with the law. She held to her word, I’ll give her that.

Pretty soon, here come two patrol cars and her green Impala screeching into the parking lot kicking up dirt like a stampede of wild horses. Doors are slamming and people are muttering but mostly I hear Trudy’s shrill voice like a train whistle coming through the door. She’s all fired up, high strutting ahead of this pack of lawmen like Wyatt Earp with a lynch mob. Trudy plants her feet in front of my desk and shoots a bony finger straight out at me, then looks over at the officer.

“Mr. Wiley, I’m Officer Duncan. Sir, we need to see your daughter, now!”

“Well, I can’t help you. Like I told Trudy, I mean Ms. Galloway, I don’t know where Anna Beth is right now. But if you’ll follow me out to the parking lot….”

Officer Duncan took my comment as proof that I was lacking parental fortitude and moral fiber, and that I mustn’t have a booger’s worth of humanity anywhere in my old wreck of a body. He promptly escorted me into the backseat of his patrol car and commenced to making calls and running checks while the other officers searched the premises. Poor Officer Duncan spun like a dervish in the front seat of the patrol car when the news came over the radio. He glared at me around the headrest. All I could offer in the way of explanation was a shrug.

Still waiting in the backseat of the patrol car, I could see the color drain from Trudy’s face when Officer Duncan explained that Anna Beth had been nine years old when she had been reported missing, and that had been over twenty years ago. Never heard from since. Trudy shook her head, pointed out beyond the chain link, moved her lips in defense of her eyes, and rattled her head some more. She was starting to remind me of Charlene—just before I took her to Harris Gloams. Officer Duncan escorted Trudy to her car and she drove off slowly, but not before sending her eyes over the chain link several more times.

Officer Duncan warned me that even though he didn’t know what was going on, he would ‘upend the dirt’ until he found out. Well, Officer Duncan never returned and neither did Children’s Services.

For years folks had been stopping here and seeing Anna Beth dancing out on the wreckage, and for the first four or five years I’d run out to see, too. But I never saw her, even when folks said they were looking right at her. I wished I could, though, before Charlene got so bad. Maybe she could’ve forgiven herself, not that there was anything to forgive. Charlene just got caught in traffic on her way to pick up Anna Beth from dance class, got there ten minutes late. Ten minutes—that’s not much time, but enough to change the bearing of someone’s life forever. Anna Beth had been wearing the blue dress Charlene made her, the one with the little yellow flowers, and was waiting on the street. When Charlene got there Anna Beth was gone.

Charlene took it hard and I wasn’t much help. We grieved like opposite ends of a candle. She grieved fiercely, her hope and heart burning away steadily while I was the cold end, hiding at the bottom, beneath the residue of her sorrow. She grieved for both of us, I suppose, until the flame went out behind her eyes.

“Charlene, if I don’t love this child, I can’t stick around!” What a dumb thing I had said to Charlene that day in the Chevy when she told me she was pregnant. Hell, I didn’t even know what love was until Anna Beth was born. When I came to the hospital and looked at her through the glass, my heart melted like warm sap in a maple tree. I couldn’t stop looking at her, like the part of Wiley Tiller that was lost at sea had finally come home to port.

Anyway, for years I wished I could see Anna Beth the way strangers did, and I didn’t understand it. One night, long after Charlene was gone and I had moved here, I couldn’t hold a composed vigil anymore. I ran out in that parking lot in the middle of the night and started screaming at the stars, hurling hubcaps at God until it looked like Hub Cap City was under siege by UFO’s. The hubcaps seemed to hang there in the night air, flying and circling overhead, but not coming down. Finally, one by one, they landed in a crooked row between the chain link and me, the last cap falling at my feet. I closed my eyes a second, to let my soup settle, but when I opened them, Anna Beth was dancing across the caps like they were stones in a creek. I sat down on the gravel, waiting for her to come near so I could hold her, clean her face, brush her hair, but she didn’t. After an hour or so the sun came up and she was gone.

Sometimes Anna Beth is sitting at my kitchen table, 29 years old now I guess, that’s how old she’d be---is---I don’t know. I picture her at the sink, her two children at the kitchen table eating their cereal, rushing off to school. Sometimes I see Anna Beth reading under a tree; a fine young woman with blond hair wearing a summer dress, bare-footed, looking so much like Charlene it squeezes at my chest. But it’s the only way I see Anna Beth now, through a quirk of the brain cells, a trick of the heart.

I still can’t and haven’t to this day been able to see Anna Beth the way strangers do, during the day, dancing across the hoods and roofs. But on the nights I can’t sleep, after I’ve coaxed the last bit of novocaine from the television, I take my lawn chair out on the parking lot, cozy up near a stack of hubcaps, and toss them one after the other toward the chain link, toward the sea of wreckage, and they sail away, shiny and bright like moons.
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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gary Carden, storyteller and folklorist

Gary Carden graduated from Western Carolina University near Sylva, NC. He taught literature and drama for fifteen years, worked for the Cherokee Indians for fifteen years and has become well-known as a playwright.
His popular play "The Prince of Dark Corners" has been made into a movie and has received high ratings from around the state. To learn more about Gary Carden, see his website,

By Gary Carden

I live in an old farmhouse that is literally falling apart. Each spring, clouds of termites rise in the bathroom and the bedroom, coating the windows and covering the kitchen stove and the mirrors in the bathroom with tiny wings – wings that clog my vacuum cleaner for weeks. In the winter, the wind woofs in the eaves, pours through the attic and seeps into my bedroom like an ice-laden river. All of the doors hang off-balance and a tennis ball, dropped in the living room will roll slowly from room to room – like a cue ball looking for a pocket – until, eventually, it find its way to the kitchen, always coming to rest behind the sink.
But, with each passing year, my affection for these canted floors and leaning walls deepens. I came to live here when I was two years old, and now, seventy years later, I still sleep in the same bedroom – the one my Uncle Albert dubbed “the North Pole.” The entire house bears testimony to the lives of my grandparents, and when I walk from room to room, I hear lost voices and sense fading warmth.
Just here, beneath this old flue, my grandmother tended her Home Comfort stove. And over there, on that cracked cement hearthstone, that once fronted a fireplace, I used to lie whimpering on winter nights – my cheek pressed against the warm hearthstone (I was plagued with chronics earaches) while my grandmother poured warm cod liver oil from a tablespoon into my ear. There, where my computer now sets, my grandfather used to tune the old Silvertone radio, listening to “Renfro Valley” on Sunday mornings. It is also where his coffin rested (for I lived in a time in which the dead came home for a final farewell).

The old house seems to be slowly sinking into the earth, dragging with it a roofless canning house and a derelict barn. Yet, there are brief moments – usually in the morning – when this dim space seems filled with a kind of tangible energy. There are mornings when I wake in the chilled air of my bedroom, sensing that I am not alone -that this empty shell has become an echo chamber. In the kitchen, my grandmother’s Home Comfort radiates warmth while she conjures red-eye gravy from a black skillet; cathead biscuits bloom in the oven and a tin coffee pot chuckles on the back burner. I feel my Uncle Albert’s discontent (he suffered from migraines) as he sits leaning back in a cane-bottomed chair at the dining room table, his chair legs gouging little half-moons in the linoleum. My grandfather is milking the cow, and any minute now, he will stomp into the kitchen with a bucket of steaming milk. From the living room comes the strains of Jo Stafford’s “You Belong to Me,” followed by the banter of Reed Wilson, WWNC’s popular early morning d. j.

Fly the ocean in a silver plane,
See the jungle when its wet with rain.

But when my foot touches the floor, it all vanishes … recedes like an ocean tide withdrawing down the corridors of the years; carrying away warmth, biscuits and my grandmother’s hands through the draft of a broken window. Sometimes, I move quickly to the barren kitchen, hoping to capture a belated fragment of what was here a moment ago – perhaps the last vestiges of Albert’s complaint lingers. (“Ahhh, God! I didn’t sleep a wink,” he says, as he massages his head). And here…who is this tow-headed creature in his peppermint striped pajamas? My God, it’s me! I’m on my way to Albert’s bedroom, where I will find a stack of lurid magazines beneath his pillow…Captain Marvel, Plastic Man, Black Hawk and The Blue Beetle.

Is it possible that there are past moments that have taken refuge in these rooms? Are there moments that were fueled by such intense emotion, they hang suspended like banks of summer clouds, waiting for an alignment of hours, months and memory? My mother’s grief for my father’s murder is somewhere in this bedroom; my grandmother’s loss of a “blue baby;” the return of two sons from WW II haunts the front porch; an old, broken fiddle that played “The Waltz You Saved for Me” resonates faintly in the attic – are they all here like eavesdroppers in the next room, waiting for their cue to enter?

Perhaps a night will come when moonlight will penetrate the cobwebs on the attic window, touching the faded portrait of my father’s face; and he will turn to my mother, whispering – and the two of them will laugh. Then, a dozen specters will awake causing this old house to shudder as music, heat and the smell of red-eye gravy
floats in the summer darkness. Then, children’s footsteps will mingle with the slow trudge of the elderly, and blasts of snow, wind and heat will batter these walls as spring and winter collide and this old house finally explodes leaving nothing behind but the buzz of a solitary wasp freed from its prison behind an attic window.

Finally, this old house will mingle with fog and moonlight, drifting through the stand of hemlocks that encircles this dim cove where my homeless spirit will rise to meet the morning sun.