Sample Part of a Story from the Woodcliff Anthology

In "Jewel’s Unexpected Friends," we meet a girl living in an isolated area; her mom died when she was a small child. Her father, a cruel and bitter man, spends his life drinking. After learning wolves are nearby, Jewel becomes concerned for a stray dog and her newborn puppies. She promises to protect them from the wolves, even if her heartless father beats her. Sometimes unexpected friends make our lives better.

Enjoy,
D. A. Blankinship

Jewel's Unexpected Friends

D. A. Blankinship

I have never hurt or killed an animal just to see it suffer. That’s as honest as I can be about it. I have never wanted to be cruel to any living thing, though I know every living thing is cruel to other living things. That’s the way of the world. It is the order of things. To keep living, all animals must kill and eat other living things; it is a necessity of life.

My Dad liked the idea that killing, butchering, and eating animals are natural acts. He set traps to snare rabbits, squirrels, or groundhogs, and he didn’t always keep what he caught; sometimes he just killed it and threw the body into the bushes. He enjoyed hurting and killing animals. He thought he was tough, a mountain man; other people thought he was wise in the ways of the world. I thought he was mean.

We lived in a cabin made of yellow pine and lodge-pole pine timbers. The place smelled of pine all the time and Dad told people he built it. He told them he cut the timbers and hauled them into place all by himself. No one believed him; I didn’t either.

My Mom died when I was four or five years old; I’m not exactly sure how old I was, I just know that’s when Dad got even meaner.

The day after Mom’s funeral, Dad burned her Bible, smashed her crucifix, and cursed the sky. He said he was sending God a message, putting God on notice. Dad wasn’t going to do anything God wanted him to do. Dad was angry with God and God had better watch out, because Dad would get even with Him someday.

I hid for most of that day. In the evening, I listened to my Dad cry himself to sleep. Sometime during the night, I heard him asking, “What am I going to do with a worthless little girl? The animals will get her or something.”

I was awake all night wondering what kind of animals would get me and where they would take me.

My Dad kept me at home until I was seven years old. Then one day, the Sheriff came to the cabin and told him I had to go to school. Dad told the Sheriff he was home schooling me. He had told that lie to everyone for more than a year.

The Sheriff asked to see the books Dad was using. Dad got mad, but he didn’t let the Sheriff see how mad he was—he just whipped me after the Sheriff left. Dad couldn’t read or write, I couldn’t read or write, and neither of us owned a book. Dad knew that when I showed up at school, everyone would know he was an ignorant man.

When I was ten years old, my Dad’s sister came to visit us and for a few days, Dad did not shout at me or hit me. He called me his “little Jewel,” and helped me gather firewood and on one night, he even washed the dishes and swept the kitchen.

I thought he had changed, but after my aunt left, he went on a drinking binge. He came back two days later, still drunk and cursing the world. He scarred his cheek the first night he was back. He tried to use a burning stick to light a cigar. He missed the cigar and pressed the fiery end of the stick against his cheek. At the time, he laughed, dropped the stick on the floor, and slapped his cheek. Later, when he sobered up and saw his face, he began throwing things and accusing me of burning him in his sleep. I ran out of the cabin and stayed gone for the rest of the day.

My Dad and I never had good times together, just a few times that were less bad. I never knew when he was going to start yelling and throwing things, or just sit in his chair and cry all night. On most days, he was mad at the world and I just happened to be in it; on other days, he was mad at me, specifically—those were bad days, they were terrible days.

End of the Sample

 

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