Friends joined me to present my newest book, Our Mothers and Daughters, at a July book signing. Linda (left) read an excerpt from the touching Angels With Only One Wing, a story about two lonely people, a little girl and an elderly, immigrant woman, who form a strong bond. Dan did a reading from The Pinch, which looks at a poor Irish family during the Memphis 1878 Yellow Fever epidemic. They did a terrific job, and the event was fun and successful.
This excerpt is from my new book, Our Mothers and Daughters. The story is The Pinch, set in the immigrant section of Memphis during the 1878 Yellow Fever epidemic. The book is available on Amazon.
“Fee was everyone’s best friend. She was adored, and Kate was never jealous because she knew, more than anyone, just how special her sister was. Of all the redheaded children in the family, Fiona’s coppery hair shone the brightest. Her ruddy cheeks were like summer apples. She ran and skipped instead of walking. She moved so lightly that she nearly took flight, but her blue eyes were deep, and had the look of an old soul. The air around her seemed to shimmer. She laughed and giggled, and was Ma’s little helper, particularly with the new babies. Though he loved all his children, Fee was the light in Michael James’ eyes. She was the air that filled his lungs. A sprite who gave him hope. Fiona ran to him when he came home from his job. They played games, and she danced and twirled in circles when he sang. When the other babies died, it was Fiona who sat in Da’s lap, and kissed his tears. Mary Elizabeth and Michael were certain that she was an angel, and a great blessing to their family. They quite nearly worshipped the celestial being who lived in their tenement apartment.”
Great news. My newest book, Our Mothers & Daughters, is now available on Amazon and will soon be in select book stores. The book is already on the reading schedule of a Memphis book club. Happy reading!https://www.amazon.com/s?k=diane+thomas-plunk&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
Diane Thomas-Plunk’s newest short story collection, Our Mothers and Daughters, is now available for pre-sale orders on Amazon.com.
The relationship between mother and daughter is like a silken ribbon occasionally dotted with thorns. The independence of one increases as the other’s diminishes. The vibrancy, the beauty of the younger blossoms as the older fades. Top down advice becomes bottom up resistance. There is always the push-pull between them, yet the bond forever endures whether from devotion or guilt.
I tell stories on Scarlett, and I tell on myself, so do you think I’m going to let my husband escape? You need to know that, for most of you, he’s been hiding a wicked sense of humor.
Way back when Mike was touring with Grammy-nominated sax player Ace Cannon, the band traveled in a large van that pulled an equipment trailer.. Mike usually drove; Ace rode shotgun; and the other guys grabbed seats and benches in the back. On this particular night, they had left one gig and had driven through the night to the next one. Everyone was asleep except Mike, who was bored.
Some time after sunrise, he spotted a tow truck ahead that was hauling the disabled cab of a tractor-trailer rig. The “broken” vehicle was hooked up so that the front of the cab was facing back. Glancing up, one might think that a big rig was staring them down. And that produced Mike’s evil thought.
Mike moved over into that lane and closed in as near and as safely as he could to the front bumper of that backwards 18-wheeler cab. At the right moment, he hit his brakes and screamed for effect. Guys in the back flew awake yelling. Ace let out a yell and grabbed his chest. Mike – well, he was the guy laughing for the next several miles
The good news was that Ace did not have a heart attack, and Mike continued working with him for a long time thereafter.
(See Ace Cannon below.) See LessEdit
The first time I had to speak in public was in the 11th grade at East High. I’d won the senior high essay contest, and I was supposed to read it in front of an all-school assembly. I’d heard the expression “so nervous that my knees were knocking,” but I didn’t know it was real. I was so grateful that I was standing behind a lectern because my knees were shaking so badly.I’m also grateful that I got off light compared to some really famous people. Sarah Berhnardt, said to have been the finest actress of the 20th century, is said to have had such stage fright that she threw up before each performance.Helen Hayes, the First Lady of the American Stage, experienced nervousness that took the form of selective deafness. When on stage, she could not hear any audience sounds — no applause, no laughter, etc. She only heard her colleagues on stage with whom she must interact.It would be funny if not for the terror that caused it for the incredibly famous Sir Laurence Olivier. Readying himself for a performance, he was frequently found pacing backstage and muttering “you bastards!” at the audience. A paralyzing attack of stage fright late in his career forced him to give up the stage completely.Yep, I got off easily with just my shaky knees.
(see Sir Laurence Olivier below)
There was a time when my husband, Mike, declared that some of my purely accidental “mis-steps” looked a lot like episodes of I Love Lucy. Here’s one of them.
Way back when Mike & I were planning our first wedding, we were out apartment hunting. We spotted a small complex of one-story apartments and pulled into the parking lot to check it out. There was no resident manager, but there was clearly an empty unit. We peeked through the living room and kitchen windows and then discovered that the kitchen door was unlocked. We considered for about two seconds and in we went. It’s not breaking and entering if the door’s unlocked, right? It was a surprisingly small apartment. You couldn’t even open the back door if the oven door was open. On the other hand, it was freshly painted and the carpet looked new. We left it on our list of possibles, but before leaving to check out the next one on the list, I decided to use the bathroom there. Mike determined that everything was operable, so there I went. For some reason, I flipped on the doorknob lock as I closed the door behind me. As I started to exit the restroom moments later, I found that the doorknob didn’t work. It had no traction. Just turned aimlessly. Naturally, that somehow affected the lock and I couldn’t unlock the door. So now we’re trespassing AND I’m locked in the bathroom. I tried everything I could think of to get out, but nothing worked. I finally had to call out to Mike. Now it was his turn. None of his attempts worked either. The hinges were on my side, but they wouldn’t budge, and I had no tools. Last resort. Mike said to check out the window. It was above the tub and sort of high. It was horizontal and not very tall. But it would open. Mike told me to crawl out and that he’d go around the building to catch me. That was going to be easier than me getting out there.Stepping on the edge of the tub, the only next move was to step one foot on the small side of the tub’s rim and what little of my foot I could get into the built-in soap dish. I could open the window. I put all my weight on the soap dish and elevated myself a little.Mike saw the window open and called up to assure me that he was there. I told him the window was too high. “I can’t get up there!” No choices, he said.Fortunately, I was only 20 and not a weakling. I managed to pull myself up so my head, shoulders and arms were out. I was hanging from the window sill. But from there, I could see that the terrain sloped down, and the distance was much greater than I expected. I wondered if my broken neck would heal in time for the wedding.I continued to pull myself up and scoot myself farther out the window until I was half in and half out. I felt like a kid’s see-saw. But I had faith. I continued to scoot and held out my arms. Mike grabbed my arms, then my shoulders, and dragged me the rest of the way out. I did not die.My feet finally hit the ground, and we ran like hell for the car. We rented a different apartment.
I’ve reported before that Scarlett has an unusual affinity for my headbands. I mean, they don’t even fit her, for Pete’s sake! But anyway, she knows that they are kept in a particular drawer in a little chest in the bedroom. Occasionally, she (when she thinks she’s undetected) opens that drawer, digs around for the headband she wants, removes it, and then sometimes closes the drawer to hide her mischief. This time the mischief was more bold. One morning last week, I was getting dressed, and Scarlett was on the bathroom counter watching me wash my hands. She must wonder why we do that with our fur-less paws instead of cleaning them as she does. She finds it intriguing. I was through, and she moved to the corner of the counter, presumably thinking about what she was going to do next. I opened a drawer, removed the headband I keep in the bathroom, placed it on the counter, and dug around in the drawer looking for my comb. When I looked up, there was no headband and no Scarlett. Obviously an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. I have more headbands, Scarlett. I can win this game.
Once upon a time when I was in high school, my mother decided to make a quick, solo trip from Memphis down to her sister’s in Vicksburg, MS. Mother hadn’t been driving very long. She only learned when I was in about the fifth grade. For the longest time, she made me ride in the back seat because I made so many faces and gasped so much due to my terror of her driving.I don’t know where she bought that first car. It must have been cheap, and she came home with a bucket of green stamps. It seems like the car was a 1949 Kingsway Custom. Made in Canada, the engine, etc. was a Dodge and the body was a Plymouth — or the other way around. Anyway, it was a pitiful-looking oldster, but it got us around. So, off Mother went to V’burg.She was driving back to Memphis near midnight that Sunday when she got pulled over by a state trooper. She was confused because she wasn’t speeding. That car probably couldn’t speed, but the officer was very serious. License and registration handled, he told Mother to step out of the car. He walked around the car some more, looking it over. “Open the trunk,” he directed. Mother did so. I was a majorette with the band at that time, and we were collecting for a newspaper drive. The trunk was full to overflowing with stacks of old newspapers. Mother explained why. He looked around again, laughed, and sent her on her way.Took a while for Mother to figure it out — really old car, riding very low — he suspected that she was transporting moonshine. Yeah, that’s my mom.
Here is a true, touching Christmas story for you this week that I wrote some time ago. It’s a story of the innocence of a child and the true meaning of Christmas. ‘Tis the reason for the season.