Saturday Snippet – OKATIBBEE CREEK

okatibbee creek cover front JPEGOkatibbee Creek takes place in Mississippi during the Civil War and is based on a true story. Our heroine, Mary Ann, has been left alone with the children while the men in her family are off fighting. I don’t think she’s as fragile as the Yankees assume.

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I can hear Charlie screaming for me as he runs up the road. He flies in the front door of the store, shouting that the Union Army is coming down the street. Oh, no, here we go. Apparently I am now in the middle of this war. Unfortunately, on this day, I have all of the children with me: my three, William’s four, and James’s five.

I order the boys to run to the field in back and chase the hog and the horse into the woods. I order the girls to take every jug, every crock, and every jar of food from the store and the cellar, put them in the attic, barricade the door, and stay there. Then I load my rifle. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let these disgraceful, plundering Yankees ruin my life any more than they already have. And I will kill every last one of them before I let them harm the children. When the Yankees arrive, I will be more than ready for them.

I watch for them out the front window of the store. My palms are sweating. My heart is pounding out of my chest. My breathing is heavy. I can also feel my anger rising like flames from the very depths of Hell. My hands are shaking, though I don’t know if it is from fear or rage. I can hear them coming before I can see them. Their horses are clomping on the dry road and there is a jingling sound from their spurs and saddles. Sure enough, they stop right in front of my store. There are three of them on horseback dressed in their blue uniforms. They are filthy and unshaven and a bit thin and weary. I slowly emerge through the doorway onto the wooden front porch with my loaded rifle in my hands.

“What do you want?” I yell to the Yankees.

“Do you have any food here?” one of them asks, though it sounds more like a demand than a question.

“No, I don’t have any food,” I say, surprised at the sound of the strength in my own voice even though my statement is a bold lie.

“Is your husband home?” the second one asks.

“No. You already killed him,” I reply, with venom in my tone that would scare off any other man, but they don’t move.

“Is there a man of the house here?” the third one asks.

“No, there are no men here, just me.” I raise my gun slightly.

“You need to put that gun away, ma’am. We just want some food. We’re not here to hurt anyone. You have to have some kind of food in that store,” the first one says with a cocky smile on his unshaven face, as he climbs down from his horse. He removes his dusty hat and takes a couple steps toward me.

“I already told you, I don’t have any food,” I say slowly without raising my voice. I do, however, raise my gun to my shoulder and point it squarely at the man’s face. The two Yankees still on horseback put their hands on their pistols.

The man on the ground stops moving and holds up his free hand to the other two to keep them from drawing their weapons. Again, he starts to move toward me.

I cock the hammer. Again, he stops.

We seem to be at a stalemate. But what he doesn’t know is that the rage inside me will have no trouble blowing his damn head off. We stare each other directly in the eye and neither of us moves.

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Lori Crane Books at Amazon and audiobook at Audible.

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