“Days Untended” is the short story that inspired my novel, A Soft and Thunderous Noise. About a young widow with three children and a farm she can’t tend alone, this story speaks to the strength of love and the depths of its loss. The novel goes on to explore the lives, loves, miseries and moments of magic of the townsfolks who inhabit the gorgeous piece of land we call the North Carolina piedmont.
Here’s an excerpt from “Days Untended” which you can find in my short story collection, Out Across the Nowhere.
She didn’t mean to be sad, she just was. Widowed young, out where the kudzu covered over what might have been. She was backed in by tobacco barns and soybeans and forgotten rows of corn full of spiders and field mice. She longed for the times when the fields burned. Great blazes of freedom, scorching the ground and making it new.
A farm wife in the vast Sampson County piedmont, she had known the time of day by the coming and going of the deer in the peanuts fields. She measured the seasons by seed bud and harvest and passed the years with pen scratches on the wall—marking the three of
us girls taller and older. While she worked we filled our afternoons rattling the pecan trees and collecting up enough to make a good sale. We’d catch a ride into Clinton and waste our earnings on Hollywood and buttered popcorn. But that had been back when things
Once, in the broken moonlight, we watched her slip out into the yard. She kneeled in the spot where she’d found him and put her hands over her face. From the window we watched her shoulders heave—unbearable sobs that shook the whole world.
There’d been a man or three come around to see if he could fill our Daddy’s shoes, but she hadn’t given any of them a chance. In the kitchen she cooked, wearing a yellow apron and humming some tune from so far back that it made us sad. It must’ve made her sad too because she paused by the sink and put a hand out to steady herself, even though she was not about to fall. Some nights we’d catch her huddled in the corner of their closet where she breathed in blue overalls that he once wore, white shirts worn thin, straw hat with a hole in the back of the brim. We planted ourselves like tiger lilies outside her bedroom door when she cried—tried to spread out and make her happy. We were three little
girls like stair steps, high enough to raise her up, too small to take her anywhere.
You can find the rest of the story and more in my short story collection, Out Across the Nowhere, which I’m relaunching in celebration of the upcoming novel. Get a signed copy here! Make sure you enter the contests below to win some Out Across the Nowhere merchandise and fun literary items!
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