Quicksand, Chapter One

I have been editing my second novel Quicksand. Here is a mockup of the cover, which may or may not be the final cover. I am interested in feedback.

QuicksandThe image used on the cover is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license by anyjazz65 on Flickr.

The first chapter of the novel can be found after the break.

Jasper’s hands shook as he took the jar of moonshine out of Cooper’s hand. He handed Cooper the lead. He turned and walked away without looking back, though he could hear the cow lowing. He knew it wasn’t close to a fair trade, and likely Delia would carry on like Jack’s mother in the story about the magic beanstalk, but there would be no happy ending with a goose that laid golden eggs. Jasper would just get tight again and have to figure out how to get more whiskey. And the cow would just be gone. She might leave this time, and Jasper had to admit she’d be right to do it.

The drink, the drink! I am poisoned, he thought. It might be killing him more slowly than whatever Claudius put in that goblet, but it was killing him nonetheless.

When he opened the door and walked inside, Delia was not inside, but little Imogen was sitting on the floor poking a stick between the floorboards, trying to unearth something or other that had slipped down between them.

“Divine Imogen, where is your momma?” Jasper felt in his coat to catch the jar before it slipped.

“Hanging the clothes,” Imogen replied, turning back to her work.

He could tell Delia now, or he could turn around and walk out the door, down the street and out of her life a few minutes sooner. She would find out anyway. He supposed she had the right to throw him out on his ear personally.

He found her out back, a clothespin in her mouth as she fixed his other shirt to the line. He could smell the clean linen snapping on the line. He ran a hand shakily through his hair.

“Cooper’s wife was just up this way. The way I see it, Jasper, you ain’t never going to change your ways,” Delia said, fixing the clothespin to his shirt.

“Delia, I’m sorry.” Jasper looked down and traced a circle in the dirt with the toe of his boot.

“Yes, you are. This ain’t dry, but once it is, you can pack it and get on out. I reckon we can’t afford to keep you if your idea of helping out is trading the family cow for a jar of whiskey.”

“I reckon you might be right, Delia.”

“Is that all you got to say?” Delia put her hand on her hip in that way she had when she was mad.

“What else can I say, Delia? Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia, the gods themselves throw incense.”

“Horseshit,” she replied.

“Delia, I understand how things are. Keep the shirt. Maybe you can get something for it. It’s in pretty good shape.”

“Jasper Medley, get the hell out and don’t never come back.” Delia turned her back on her husband and hung a pair of her underdrawers on the line.

Jasper couldn’t even muster up the sadness he knew he should feel. It had always only been a matter of time.

He walked back inside and scooped Imogen up, then sat down in the rocking chair he’d built. For a moment he just rocked with her, watching the dust motes swirl in the patch of light that shone through the only window in the room, then he cleared his throat.

“I got to go, Im,” he said.

“When are you coming back, Daddy?”

“Oh,” he said, hesitating, “who can say when things will happen? In the meantime, you got to mind your momma and listen to your grandpa. You’ll start to school soon, and you need to listen to your teacher, too.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go get my guitar, and I’ll play you a song before I go. Don’t wake Junior.”

Imogen scuttled off his lap and went into the other room, quickly returning with the guitar in her hand.

“I was so quiet, Daddy. I never made even a tiny noise.”

“I know. I heard. Which one you want to hear?”

“You pick, Daddy.”

He picked “Wildwood Flower,” watching Imogen as she looked, rapt, up into his face. He wanted to remember her just like that, deep brown eyes—his eyes—looking so intently at him, he might have sworn they were the only two people in the world, at least for a moment.

“You pick that as good as Maybelle Carter,” she said once he’d finished.

“Well, not exactly, but I hope you remember it that way.”

He picked her up and held her for a minute. Or maybe it was a lifetime. He couldn’t tell which.

“I love you, baby girl,” he whispered, taking in the earthy child smell of her hair.

“I love you, too, Daddy.”

Delia stepped into the room and crossed her arms. He let go and took Imogen’s hand, slipping a nickel into her palm. He glanced over her shoulder at her mother glaring at him from the doorway, then looked back into Imogen’s eyes and winked. He closed her fingers over the nickel and patted her hand. Standing up, he leaned down to kiss the top of her head, slung his guitar over his back, and walked out the front door.

Imogen had been the only good thing he’d ever made. He half-hoped she would remember him, but it might be easier all the way around if she didn’t, at least for her. He walked for a while, then took out the jar and took a gulp of the whiskey. He wiped his mouth with the back of his shaking hand and kept walking.

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