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Sera Taylor's store is the one place in Lakeville, Texas, where individuals from all walks of life share a universal love for music and a respect for the gypsy-like woman behind the antique glass counter. Readers get a taste of the unorthodox connection between Sera and Mack, a young local cowboy and musician, and Sera’s previously untested devotion to her husband Bill. They learn of her relationship with Ruby D., the vibrant but misguided mother of five; with Louie, the shy high school band director; with Beverly, the religious, upper-class socialite; with Antonio, a local bar owner striving to make a life for himself; with Tommy Lee, a rich and directionless gigolo; and with Wes, the only out-of-the closet gay man for miles. As Sera battles a serious illness, the characters must overcome long-held stereotypes to save Sera’s store, and in the end, large parts of themselves.
Musicians were drawn to Sera like June bugs to porch lights. At least that’s what Bill always told her. It seemed true tonight. Sera watched Bill as he leaned against the trunk of the Cadillac, his hand resting on her thigh. Sometimes just looking at him, his quiet and sure confidence, made her smile. She sat next to him, black sandals hanging from her toes just over the car’s bumper. Gathered around them were Mack and three other members of his five-piece band. The drummer, Vince, passed around a bottle of Wild Turkey. The stiff aroma of the whiskey drifted around them after each swig. Mack crouched next to Sera’s side of the trunk, etching lines in the sand and weeds of the parking lot with a beat-up wooden drumstick. Each time the occasional truck or car left the parking lot, a garish glow from the headlights illuminated Mack’s dirt doodling. A hot breeze tickled the hair on the back of Sera’s neck. The welcome wind, probably coming from out along the plains near Amarillo, had finally nudged the humidity away, for the evening at least.
“That last song, Sera. Too much bass?” Mack spoke to the ground.
“Maybe a little heavy at the end. Was that one of your new ones?”
“Sounded good to me,” Vince said.
Mack didn’t look up. “I thought it dragged a little.”
Sera leaned back onto the trunk, hands behind her head. Her stomach ached, but she knew if she mentioned it, Bill would insist they head home. And Mack had another set to do.
“You are your own worst critic, Mack,” she said.
“I guess,” he said, looking at her from under his straw Stetson.
“Stars are out tonight,” Sera offered, gazing up at the sky and swatting away a mosquito from her face.
Mack stood up and followed her gaze. Vince offered him the bottle. “No thanks.”
“But that Bob Wills tune ... man, we hit the nail on that one,” Vince said.
Sometimes the between-set conversations ran around in circles. Usually, Sera enjoyed their banter. But tonight, she tried to block out their voices and listen to what she knew was out there beyond the dance hall. She heard the bawl of a cow in a nearby pasture, and Sera stiffened. She knew that lonely cry meant a calf had been taken to auction that morning.
Mack rubbed his arms as if he’d heard it, too.
Vince lit another cigarette. The first exhale burned Sera’s nose a little more than usual. A truck full of teenagers raced through the parking lot. Sera held back a sneeze and watched a cloud of dust rise and fall in the halo of a streetlight.
“Stupid kids,” the steel guitar player commented.
In the distance, Sera noticed the faint blinking red of the county’s radio tower, the one all the kids liked to gather around to drink their parents’ liquor. She aimed to get to the top of that tower one day. Why hadn’t she done it already?
Sera interrupted the conversation around her. “Mack?”
He looked up.
“I liked the song you did earlier, that other new one of yours. It seemed to really touch on something, I don’t know. I really felt … I mean, it’s something we ought to all be thinking about, and …”
Everyone, including Bill, looked at her as if she’d just walked into a room sporting purple hair. She felt their stares and sighed. “You should write more like that—is all I’m saying.”
Bill cleared his throat and spoke for the first time since the group had gathered during the break. “We better be getting back in.”
Kathy Lynn Harris is the author of two novels: Blue Straggler, a former Amazon #1 bestseller in three categories, and the award-winning A Good Kind of Knowing. In addition, Kathy has written magazine and newspaper articles, an online column on mountain living, short fiction, essays and really bad poetry. Her work has also appeared in numerous published anthologies. In April 2013, Kathy will release her third children’s book, Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas. Kathy grew up in a South Texas ranching family, but made the move from Texas to the Colorado Rockies in 2001 to focus on her writing and soak up All Things Mountain. Kathy’s blog, You Can Take the Girl Out of Texas, But …, can be found on her website, kathylynnharris.com. She lives west of Denver in a haunted (she’s sure of it!) 1920s cabin with her husband, son and two fairly untrainable golden retriever mixes.
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*Read my review of Blue Straggler HERE
*Read my Q&A, along with a guest post my Kathy Lynn Harris HERE
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