Peonies and Peppermint

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. Molly, a young girl from a neighboring farm comes to fetch Jennie’s help in birthing a baby for her mother. When Mr. Rider arrives home, he’s not so pleased to see the women there, despite his wife needing assistance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘island.’


“We don’t need you Northerner’s here meddling in our business.”

Jennie hesitated before answering, trying to remain polite, despite the man’s rudeness. “Molly came to fetch me. Your wife needed assistance.”

“Oh, fiddle-cock she did. Now…skedaddle. Git on out a’ here.”

Eliza looked on anxiously as she gathered her mother’s supplies and tucked them back in the basket.

“Now…John…” Martha protested weakly from the bed where she lay nursing the baby. “Mrs. Barnes only…”

“Hush, woman,” the angry husband commanded. He tightened his shoulders and banged his fist on the table shaking the pail of water remaining from birthing the baby. Water sloshed over the sides and ran down the crude hewn legs, leaving a damp circle of wetness in the packed dirt floor. “They did enough damaged here during the war. She needs to just git on home. Better still…” His face turned a bright shade of scarlet as he continued his rant. “Git on back to Missouri. We don’t need you and yore likes here.”

Mr. Rider took a step closer to the bedside and Eliza scurried to her mother’s side, clutching her mom’s basket tightly in her hands, as if the woven basket could protect them from the wrath of an angry, six foot tall man.

Jennie started to open her mouth – then thought better and clamped it shut. Grabbing her daughter’s hand, the two fled the tiny abode, unsure how far Mr. Rider’s temper would flare.

The two women hurried back to their own property, arm in arm, not saying a word until they were clear of the Rider’s rickety cabin. Their stride was harried and purposeful, making the return journey almost as quickly as when they’d rushed to their neighbor’s aide.

Jennie was the first to break their silence. “Doesn’t he know the old saying about ‘no man is an island’?” she muttered, more to herself than to her daughter.

“Probably not, since I don’t know what you mean by that. I’ve heard you say those words before though. Just never gave it no mind to what you meant by it.”

“Simple enough. Merely that no one is self-sufficient. Everyone relies on others. Even if its neighbors you don’t like ‘cuz they’re from the north.”

“You make them fancy words up yourself?”

“Not a chance.” Jenny laughed and the stress lines around her mouth eased a little. “My granddaddy used to say it quite a bit. Came from one of his treasured devotion books. The one he read most often, after his Bible. Think it was an English author. Way back before his time even.”

log-cabin-inside“Surprised you even remember the saying. You must have been a small tyke.”

“Indeed I was. Barely knee-high to a grasshopper. I loved that old man to pieces.” A gentle smile appeared as Jennie seemed to step back in time, fondly recalling memories of her younger years. “Used to sit on the floor by Granddad while he read scriptures and devotions to us in the evening.”

The women didn’t tarry and kept on walking. Each seemed lost in their own thoughts. As they rounded the final bend before their property, Jennie burst out suddenly. “I remember! ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.’ It came back to me…just as if Granddad were reading aloud to me.”

“And that is what being neighborly is all about,” Eliza replied.

“It surely is, daughter.”

David stood in the open doorway of their log structure, watching his wife and daughter return. “I was worried. You’ve been gone quite a while since Eliza fetched your remedy basket. He stepped back and let the women enter. “Everything alright at the Rider’s?”

“That hard headed, obstinate man!” Jenny spit out. “You’d think we gone done and killed his favorite hog, the way he was going on. Why, just remembering what all he said has me all worked up like a wet hen again.” She moved to the wash basin sitting on the table and started scrubbing her hands as if she could wash the angry words from her mind. “Wantin’ us to go on back to where we came from. And with us just there to help his wife,” she sputtered.

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.


June 2018
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