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Preview What Matters in Mayhew

October 2, 2016

 

Chapter One – Beatrice Bradsher

 

Will Thaxton followed Beanie down the grassy aisles of polished granite headstones as she silently stopped at first one, then another. The morning was quiet, if you didn’t count the occasional logging truck roaring down the highway or the soft swish of Beatrice Bradsher’s crinoline petticoat.

“This one’s kinda pretty,” Beanie said as she pointed to a low rectangular stone with two small entwined hearts engraved at the top.

“I think that one’s meant for two people, Bean,” Will said.

“Oh, that’s why there’s two hearts,” Beanie sighed. “But there’s only one of me.”

“Are you sure you want to do this now?” Will asked.

“I done made up my mind on this one. It ain’t every day a body wins twenty-thousand dollars on the lotto. I aim to do something smart with it.”

Will wanted to tell her to do something fun with it instead. He wanted to tell her to take a cruise to the Bahamas or buy herself a car or, hell, at least a new bicycle, but he didn’t waste his breath. She rode her red Schwinn bike everywhere she went. If she needed an occasional trip to Walmart in the neighboring county, she’d tag along with Will on Fridays, like she’d done today – except this time they stopped by the Suwannee Monument Company to pick out a headstone. Otherwise, everything she needed was within a two mile radius of downtown Mayhew Junction. She did not need to drive a car even if she wanted to, which she did not.

“Why don’t you put it in the bank and think about it a while? There’s no reason to be in a hurry about this, is there?”

“I should hope not,” Beanie snorted. “But you never know about these things. I ‘bout got creamed by a chicken truck the other day. Them truckers are plain crazy, barreling through town like they ain’t got good sense. I don’t know why Charlie don’t do somethin’ about it. Somebody’s bound to be killed, though Lord knows I hope it ain’t me. Leastways not anytime soon… What was we talkin’ about?”

Will laughed. Beanie was a breath of fresh air. Honest to a fault, pure in the truest sense of the word, with very little reason to filter anything that came through her lips. She marched to her own beat; that was for certain. Some people – LouWanda Crump, for one – would say Beanie was a spectacle, riding through town on a bike that had seen better days, a wire basket on the handlebars filled with groceries or fabric from the quilt shop or a stack of Avon catalogs to deliver. That she rode a bike wasn’t so bad. It was how she dressed that gave everyone pause. Beanie Bradsher made her own clothes. Western wear was the only way Will knew to describe it. Skirts with layers of crinoline, as if she were headed for a square dance somewhere, though he’d never seen her dance a step. Button down shirts, yokes decorated with hand-beaded trim, ruffles, or Beanie’s personal favorite – rhinestones. And always, without fail, a matching cowboy hat covered her pale reddish hair which hung in gentle curls down her back.

Her face was pale, though her hands and legs sported a healthy tan. She wore enough makeup to compliment her lightly freckled features and army green eyes, but not so much as to outdo her daily attire. And, though no palette went untouched in her repertoire of outfits, her lips were always painted the same shade of Avon lip color: Rose Gold #3, which was a slightly muted shade of red.

Cowboy boots completed her ensemble. There were two rows of them in her closet. Will knew this only because she rented a room from him at the Château and he occasionally went in to make repairs, change the light bulbs, or deal with the temperamental old plumbing.

“We were talking about how you should spend the money you won,” Will reminded her.

“Well, I’ve already decided how to spend it. I’m gettin’ my affairs in order. Ain’t no one to do it when I’m gone, unless you count my cousin, and quite frankly, I don’t. There is no tellin’ what she would do if she took care of buryin’ me. Prolly just stick me in a pine box with one o’ them tacky roadside crosses for a marker and call it done. Or, Lord help me…” Beanie gasped and clutched the mother of pearl buttons at the base of her neck. “What do you call that when they put your ashes in one o’ them urinal things?”

“Cremation?”

“Yeah, cremation. Lord, the very word makes my butt draw up. I don’t wanna be burnt to a crisp and stuck in a urinal for eternity.”

“Well, it’s not a urinal, Beanie; it’s an urn,” Will said, stifling the urge to laugh. “But I get your point.”

“Whatever,” Beanie said. “I don’t wanna die without layin’ eyes on my gravestone. Better to buy it now and have a few years to enjoy it myself. Besides, I don’t think I’m ever going to see this much money at one time again.”

“You talk like you’re on the cusp of infirmity, Bean. You’re forty-two and healthy as a horse. Why don’t you do something for yourself for a change?”

“This is for me. Ain’t no one goin’ in there with me, as you just pointed out. So, this is all for me. Besides – my mind’s made up. Reckon they can do me a pair of boots up there like they done them hearts? I can get this smaller stone for my name, but see where that one heart comes up outta the top there? They could draw me a pair of boots and stick ‘em up there in the heart. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?”

“Real nice, Beanie. I think it would be lovely and it would always remind me of you.”

“Ha! Now there’s some positive thinkin’, Will Thaxton! You reckon you’re gonna be around when I’m gone? You got ten years on me if’n a day.”

Had anyone else said that, Will would have been offended, but he knew Beanie meant no harm. She was only stating the obvious.

“Point taken, Miss Bradsher. Except that it’s more like fifteen. And if you’re buying it today, I won’t have to wait until you’re gone, now will I? Let’s go talk to Mr. Henshaw and see if they can put a pair of boots in that heart before I put one of mine on your rear end for calling me old.”

Beanie’s laugh rang out across the field of polished granite.

“I didn’t mean it like that, Will, really I didn’t…” Beanie protested, choking back giggles.

Will feigned offense and led her by the arm toward the office at the back of the yard.

“You’re not old, really. I mean, just ‘cause you’re a widower don’t mean your bones is getting’ brittle or anything.” Beanie laughed at her own joke, stumbling a bit as Will tightened his grip on her elbow and pulled her along.

“Better stop now before you have to find your own way back home,” Will said, grinning in spite of himself.

“Wait, I gotta figure out what it’s gonna say,” Beanie said.

“You can work that out with Mr. Henshaw later. He has to order the stone before he can sandblast the inscription on it, so you have plenty of time.”

“Here’s hopin’,” Beanie chuckled. “Long as I steer clear of chicken trucks anyway.”

 

Find my blog on Goodreads.com for another chapter of What Matters in Mayhew!

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