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Ann Hite ’s “Life on Black Mountain” contains over 15 stories and the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature is going to publish one every other day throughout the month of May. Oh, shades of Poetry on the Odds, now we’re doing short stories on the evens. The symmetry of odd-to-even really appealed to Val. Like her dear friend Janis Owens, Val MacEwan (editor of the Mule) watches way too many “Monk” reruns. The Mule is planning on offering the entire collection Of Hite’s stories as a .pdf download by mid-June so ya’ll can have everything in one nice place. More on that later…

A taste of our Black Mountain tales — this clip from “The Sight” which will be available May 10th.

Mama always said Shelly had the sight, ever since she was two and saw Daddy standing behind the cabin. He died two weeks before she was born, selling corn whiskey for Hobbs Pritchard, a mean white man down the mountain a ways. Mama always believed Hobbs killed Daddy, but there wasn’t no proof, and Hobbs got what he had coming to him in the end. So, it all came out in the wash.

Shelly never gave spooks and such much thought until the summer of 1944. The war with Japan and Germany threw Black Mountain into the real world. Mama had worked for the Dobbins family since she was old enough to help her mama make the beds. Shelly Parker started even earlier because Elizabeth Dobbins—the only child of Pastor Dobbins and his wife—took a liking to her as a baby. Elizabeth turned six the month Shelly was born and used her for a play toy. The girl was everywhere Shelly went so Shelly didn’t even notice the change from adored toy to personal maid. She fell into caring for Elizabeth real natural: washing her clothes, making her bed, and later when she went off to college, readying her room when she visited.

Miss Elizabeth came home that summer moaning and groaning about a vacation. Mrs. Dobbins reminded her that the war was serious and it just wasn’t time to have fun. Pastor Dobbins preached at Black Mountain Baptist Church. Shelly never heard him preach because colored folks couldn’t attend. Her and Mama had their own beliefs and read the Bible regular. But, Shelly could imagine his sermons, dry as three day old bread with hard crusts. But, something about Miss Elizabeth made that man bend over backwards. So, he decided to take the family to the coast of Georgia. Some friend of his had a family house on the beach. Shelly heard all this talking from her perch in the kitchen where she chopped greens and radishes for a salad.

“I will die of boredom. Who in the world goes to Darien, Georgia?”

“It’s settled Elizabeth. We’re going to have a nice family vacation.”

Mrs. Dobbins sounded so sweet, but an edge rode her words.
Shelly snickered as she tossed the salad.

“Shelly Parker, you know not to use your bare hands on Mrs. Dobbins’ food. She’d faint over dead.” Mama named her Shelly because she always wanted to leave the mountain and go to the ocean. . . .
Come back to the Mule tomorrow to read Ann’s introduction, under Fiction. Oh, how we love our Mule! 🙂

April 2008