Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Bayou La Batre, Alabama

Chapter One

There are all sorts of unflattering things I could say about my hometown. I know because I've practiced. You might even say it was my major course of study during my high school years.

Eventually I graduated and, finally, had the whole world in front of me and no obligations to hold me back. So, naturally, I immediately married a hometown boy with family ties deep enough to be genetically suspect.

It was not at all unusual to be in the Walmart with Gary only to find that every single person in the store was a relation of some sort or another. With no living family to speak of and only one half of one generation residing below ground, you can imagine how thrilled his family was to add me to their tree. When we got married, Gary's mother, Irene – an aggressively thin woman with hard gray eyes – told me that their family bible had been lost during hurricane Frederick, but I'd always suspected she'd hidden it rather than add my name to that most sacred of genealogies. That was actually fine with me, since I have terrible handwriting and never had developed a satisfactory trademark signature.

Everyone suspected that I was pregnant when we made the announcement (complete with short engagement period) about a week after I graduated, and my size did little to dispel that rumor. It was Mrs. Harris, my friend Jolene's mama, who convinced me to lose weight before the big day. She said that my wedding photos were the most important pictures I would ever have taken so it was important to look as much like the movie stars in the magazines as possible. She's a hairdresser and has been married three times, so has a lot of experience with weddings.

For the six weeks before the wedding I worked my ass literally off and, on the big day, I managed to close the zipper of that size twelve dress. It was the thinnest I had ever been. I thought my improved appearance might help ingratiate me with my stick-thin mother-in-law-to-be, but instead she'd been horrified by each dropped pound. My decreasing waistline could only mean that I was not, as she suspected, knocked up. Gary was not marrying me out of some noble, if misguided, sense of duty or responsibility. He had, as she saw it, simply settled.

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