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Walk About: Chapter One
Darlene Franklin-Campbell's new novel, Walk About, is being posted online chapter-by-chapter, for people to read for free. "It's quirky. It's wild. It's four sisters turned fugitive. It's a walk-about."
By Darlene Franklin-Campbell
ROSIE PACED. Her late husband's body was in the kitchen, lying under a mountain of fabric.
"Get a tarp," she thought, but Rosie didn't have a tarp. Maybe James Allen Putt had a tarp out in the garage, but she couldn't risk the neighbors seeing her drag one in.
She thought fast and set her sewing machine on the kitchen table then unwound yard after yard of fabric to make it look like she had been indecisive and just threw it in the floor, which was how she sewed anyway.
James had screamed at her for making a mess like this once, the second time she did it, he had bloodied her nose and blacked her eye. Now he was a corpse under the mess that he hated so much .
She glanced at the clock, 8 p.m. James had been dead since four o'clock. Where were her sisters? She had paced. She had screamed. She had cried. Then she had started all over again.
The sound of the doorbell made her heart beat so fast that she thought she might join James in death, but instead she took a deep breath and peeped out the pantry door. It was at the back of the house and obscured from neighborhood eyes by a large rose covered wooden fence.
A curvy blonde in a low-cut purple top stood on her back doorstep, smoking a cigarette.
Rosie flung the door open, yanking her sister into the pantry.
"Oh, Ace," she sobbed, throwing her arms around her.
Ace held her for a moment, giving her time to get her composure.
Rosie had made some whoppers of mistakes in her life. The biggest one, in Ace's mind, had been marrying James Allen Putt in the first place.
Rosie pulled away and wiped her eyes. She took Ace by the hand and led her through the dining room and into a smaller room that could have been a page out of a magazine where the table was white with a red ceramic watermelon in the middle. The wall paper had little watermelons all over it. All the cabinetry was white and the curtains were lace. It was a quaint kitchen, except for the enormous pile of fabric in the floor and the sewing machine on the table.
"Is he under there?" Ace said.
Rosie nodded. "You can't smell him can you?"
"Not yet," Ace said.
"Oh, Ace, what am I going to do? Maybe I should just call the police. I mean I'm getting you all involved...."
"No," Ace said. "We took a vow and we aim to stick to it. Anybody been by today?"
"No, but the assistant coach, Bryant, called and wanted to know why James Allen didn't meet him back at the college."
"What'd you tell him?"
"I didn't tell him that James Allen was dead in the kitchen floor," she said. "I told him that he wasn't feeling well and that he had laid down for a nap. He offered to come by but I told him not to. I've been on pins and needles all afternoon, afraid that he might."
Ace nodded. "Okay, we need to buy ourselves some time. And get rid of the body."
"How?" Rosie asked.
"Well, you and I could just sew him up in that material. That way we can drag him out to my car after dark."
"Drag him? Drag him?" Rosie squawked. "He's my husband, Ace, not some dead dog you found on the side of the road."
"I wouldn't drag a dog off the side of the road," Ace said. "He's dead weight, Rosie. We've got to drag him. Look," she picked up a roll of quilting cotton. If you're concerned about us banging him up, we can wrap him in cotton then sew him in."
Ace began to uncover James Allen Putt's body and when she got to his face Rosie sobbed. He had already turned colors and his blue lips were parted as if they might speak. "Oh, he is so dead. He really is so dead."
"That he is," Ace said. "Did you try CPR?"
"I did," Rosie said. "I started to call the ambulance then I realized what had happened and I knew there was nothing anybody could do to bring him back."
"Rosie, you are a moron. If you had called the ambulance, perhaps they might have saved him and even if they hadn't, it would have looked like you tried."
"No. No. You don't understand," Rosie said. "They know. Everybody in this town knows how he treated me. They'd say I killed him on purpose, that I staged the whole thing just to be free of him and inherit his money. Only there is NO money."
"What do you mean no money?"
"I mean I signed a pre-nub agreement saying that if anything ever happened to James Allen his possessions were to go back to his father. In other words, I only had access to James Allen's wealth as long as he was alive."
Ace stared at her sister, taking in the view of Rosie for the first time since her arrival. Rosie's breasts were disproportionately large for her body, making the rest of her look thinner than it was. Clad in shorts and a V-neck, sleeveless blouse, her breasts were the first thing anyone noticed when looking at her, be they man or woman. They were just enormous and the truth was that Rosie figured out how to use them to get attention when she was just a teen. However, her face was also gorgeous, her hair luxurious, her voice soothing and if there was one thing Rosie was good at, it was getting attention.
James Allen wasn't her first husband; he was just her richest and the most abusive. He had called Rosie a hillbilly hoe in Ace's presence one Christmas and Ace had threatened to drive a pool stick through his heart and called him a sex vampire just like his cousin, but he had been more. Ace knew it. She had always known that there was corruption beyond spousal abuse in the Putt family; she just didn't know where the root of it lay. She suspected they had an altar to the devil somewhere in somebody's basement.
Rosie had played the dumb broad, the helpless woman, her entire life to get what she wanted and the truth was that Rosie would put out. Ace threw the scissors down and walked out of the room. "Rosie, you really are a moron. I can't believe we share the same genetics."
"No, I'm not," Rosie said, following her. "They wouldn't have believed me no matter what. James Allen beat me and everybody in his family knows it. If they find out I killed him, even by accident, I'll go to prison for life or worse, get the death penalty. I don't want to be dead, too. James Allen's daddy is the chief of police, his brother is the judge. His other brother is a lawyer and two of his cousins are, too. Three out of the six lawyers in this town are kin to him and the other three are old friends of his. They drink, gamble and go out on their houseboats together. They scratch each other's backs and none of them would lift a finger to help me."
Rosie took in a deep breath, "James Allen's momma is the county court clerk. His sister is the high school principal. His grandpa owns the bank and half the town. You pick any position of prominence in this town and somebody in James Allen's family, uncle, an aunt, a cousin or somebody he's kin to, owns it, runs it or is having it shut down. Every bit of money and power in this town is in the hands of James Allen Putt's family. Why do you think I married him?"
Ace knew all of this to be true. She had been married to James Allen's second cousin once removed and even two counties over, and even there the Putt family held tremendous sway. If there was a country club or a theater or a hospital or an anything, a Putt relative owned it and if a Putt didn't own it, they owned the owner.
Ace stared at a photo of Rosie and James Allen that hung on the living room wall; both were smiling, both being deceptive. It was a marriage made in Hell. For a moment Ace reflected on her own short stint in the social club. She had been married to Joseph Caldwell Putt Steinbach III for three whole years. She had gone to finishing school to make him "proud" of her. She had done everything possible to soften her hillbilly Gypsy up-bringing and now, she regretted it. She had regretted it ever since the day she came home from one of her classes and found good old "Joe" on top of the housekeeper, humping like a dog in heat. She walked out that day and never looked back. She didn't need Joe and she didn't need his money. In fact, if her short marriage to Joe had done anything, it had given her a bad taste for society, for "nice" people. "Nice people will kill you," she had once told her business partner, Georgie. "I'd rather rub shoulders with the outcasts and the crazies any day of the week."
She turned back to Rosie. "Come on. Help me sew him in there good."
Rosie and Ace were tying the final knots on James Allen's homemade body bag when Rosie stood to stretch her aching back. She shrieked as if she'd seen a mouse.
"Shhhh..." Ace scolded. Then she froze. There was a black-clad figure in a ski-mask standing under the arch between the kitchen and the dining room. The figure spoke into a walkie-talkie and whispered, "Come on in Clyde. They're alone."
To be continued.....
Darlene Franklin-Campbell, an Adair County native, holds an M.A. from Lindsey Wilson College but has also done post-graduate work in storytelling and literacy at Western Kentucky University and is an alumnus of Campbellsville University. She is a member of the Elizabeth Maddox Roberts Society, the Adair County Arts Council, The Adair County Genealogical Society, The Green County Genealogical Society, Phi Theta Kappa, and the Mysterium Society (an IQ society for linguists). She has attended the Appalachian Writers Workshop, WisCOn, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. She currently teaches Art at the Adair County Primary Center. You may visit her webpage at https://www.dardet.com or her writer's blog at https://whisperingwind.blog to check out more of her work.
This story was posted on 2021-11-20 11:19:45
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