Publication Year: 2012
Learn more about Karen Osborn at www.karenosborn.net.
Published by: West Virginia University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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On Main Street sunlight fell through the four large windows that made up the storefront of Greenly’s Drugstore. A golden haze moved through the store, spreading like liquid poured from a gigantic cup, as George Fowler carried a brown paper sack inside and stood next to a display of birthday cards. ...
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Ten thousand years ago, glaciers receded across the Midwest of America, leaving the land flatter and laced with streams, lakes, and rivers. Thousands of years ago, on that same land, an ancient people constructed large, earthen mounds. On the flattened earth, they could be seen from miles away. ...
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Standing in front of the fire, Jack Turnbow struggled into his firefighting gear. His hands fumbled as he pulled the protective pants over the slacks of his police uniform and fastened them around his waist. Fire Chief Morgan strapped an air tank to his back as Jack fit the mask across his nose and mouth. ...
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A block from the drugstore, Elizabeth Greenly was lifting her three-year-old daughter, Izzy, into the backseat of her car. The car was a new, dark-blue Oldsmobile station wagon with a silver luggage rack on top and an optional third seat in the back that her husband, Carlton, had recently bought for her. ...
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Reverend Edwards sat writing his sermon in his church office. Because the church itself was small, the brick house next to it that had once served as a parsonage was used to hold church meetings and the minister’s office. When Reverend Edwards had first arrived in Centerville as the newly appointed minister of the Methodist church, the congregation hadn’t filled the pews, ...
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Sandi had been sitting against the wall of the courthouse with Bert for more than an hour by the time the minister found them. “Sandi!” She heard her name being called and saw him moving toward her as she stood up and was pulled into a tight hug. ...
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Elizabeth Greenly glanced up at the clock on the mantle above the fireplace in the Edwards’s living room. It had just turned six o’clock. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting on their couch, and she couldn’t remember all the steps that had led to her being there. ...
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On Saturday night, Jack Turnbow was still lying on a bed in the hospital’s emergency room. After being thrown when the hardware store exploded, he had been carried out of the fire by two other firefighters. His oxygen tank had fallen off, and he’d inhaled too much smoke. ...
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What happened next didn’t get printed in the newspapers, and even though a small town can be a mill for gossip, hardly anyone who learned of it later talked about it. Late that night, after the fire had been put out, a man came to the church office where Reverend Edwards had fallen asleep on his couch. ...
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After Reverend Edwards made the phone call to the police station, he sat at his desk staring at the sentences he had written for his sermon. Then, a few minutes later, when he heard the police cruiser drive into the parking lot, he got up, opened and then closed the curtains. ...
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At close to ten on Saturday night, Jack Turnbow was released from the emergency room. The nurse, who was across the room by then with another patient, glanced up and waved to him as one of the orderlies pushed him in a wheelchair to the entrance where his partner, Martin Beckley, was waiting with the squad car to drive him home. ...
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Off and on all day Sunday and into the night, Elizabeth worked on her kitchen wall, fitting one piece of glass after another into a pattern, blue pieces from the plates she’d broken next to green pieces from the beer bottles—a field of green and an ocean of blue. ...
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In the school cafeteria, Sandi sat with four girls she knew from last year. Usually she sat with Bert. She hated walking into the big cafeteria and seeing a sea of faces, and now without Bert there, it was worse. The four girls she was sitting with were mostly ignoring her. ...
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It was seven-thirty that night when the minister walked into his office after the meeting at the larger church to plan a group memorial service. At the meeting, he had been asked to deliver the sermon. He knew everyone who had died. Carlton Greenly had invited the minister and his family over for barbecue each summer. ...
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“What’s going on?” his wife asked as he pushed past her and took the stairs two at time. Upstairs, he opened the door to Sandi’s bedroom. Quickly, he surveyed the empty room, then turned and went back down the stairs too fast, stumbling. ...
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Upstairs, Sandi was lying on her bed, her history book face down on the floor where she’d dropped it. She lay on her side, staring at a page from Tiger Beat magazine that she’d just taped to her wall, which showed Herman of Herman’s Hermits riding a bicycle with a girl sitting on the handlebars. ...
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Elizabeth was sitting cross-legged on her kitchen table examining her wall. It was just past midnight. A while ago, Carl had come downstairs to see Harry out. “Thank you, Harry, for finding out where Bert was,” she had called out when she heard them in the front hallway. ...
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After Jack and Beckley left the minister’s house, they stopped in at the station and then patrolled the area around the church and Reverend Edwards’s neighborhood, driving slowly up and down the streets. Jack was so tired he hardly saw anything. ...
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Long after the minister had gone inside and the officers had left, he lay awake, aware of Nancy also lying wakeful next to him. Prior to going to bed he’d walked through the house, checking the locks on the windows and doors. Then he’d spent twenty minutes or more at the front window, watching to see if the police were driving past the house as they’d promised. ...
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Sandi had waited until her father drove away from the high school and the parking lot was empty of teachers before walking away from the school and toward the downtown. She wasn’t sure where she was headed or what she was going to do. All she knew was that she was furious, and the feeling made her want to be somebody completely different than she was ...
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“I don’t know. I called the hospital, and they said he was being treated. They wouldn’t tell me anything else. Also, there was a police officer found shot. Can you believe it? His empty patrol car was on the side of the highway. Ron called me about it. The county sheriff found his body in the bushes.” ...
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On Saturday Sandi attended the memorial service for the victims of the fire with her mother, and then they drove to the hospital to bring her father home. By now it was known what had happened to the young black officer who had helped her and Bert the afternoon of the fire. ...
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On the day of Officer Beckley’s funeral, Reverend Edwards woke early and drove to the other side of town, to a small church where the funeral would be held. His doctor had warned against his going anywhere, but he was determined. He had missed the memorial service, and he would not miss this. ...
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After Jack had gone back out to his car, Elizabeth carried the box of dishes into her kitchen, still feeling surprised by what had happened. She set the box on the kitchen table. The rain was coming soon, and it was badly needed. Patches of grass had gone brown, and her flowers, which she’d neglected, were beginning to wilt. ...
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After Jack left the funeral service, the minister sat in the parking lot of Reverend Thomas’s church. The final hymn of the funeral service had been “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and it played on in the minister’s head. Everything felt broken, and he couldn’t imagine being whole again. ...
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The characters, the town, the references to Methodism, and the events of Centerville are fictional, but the novel’s impetus is a childhood memory. In 1967, I witnessed the bombing of a drugstore in a small Midwest town. Like Sandi, I had made a sudden, inexplicable decision not to enter the store moments before the bomb exploded. ...
Questions for Discussion
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1. Sandi turns away from the drugstore at the last minute, a decision that saves both her and Bert’s lives. Later, she doesn’t know why she didn’t enter. Discuss how this lack of understanding haunts her. As a fourteen-year-old, how does she cope with the unexplainable? ...
About the Author
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Karen Osborn is the author of three previous novels, Patchwork (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year) Between Earth and Sky, and The River Road. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with her husband and teaches fiction writing at Mt. Holyoke College and for Fairfield University's low residency M.F.A. program. ...
Page Count: 191
Publication Year: 2012