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Excerpt: 'Ferris Beach'

Ferris Beach Cover

It was dark by five o'clock when Misty and I went out on the sleeping porch to get my transistor. "Why is it out here anyway?" Misty asked. "It's too cold to sit out here." She flopped down in the rocking chair and propped her foot up on the railing. She was wearing lace-up boots with heavy treads, like what a mountain climber might wea, and bright red-and-yellow striped socks.

"Hey, look" she said suddenly, and sat up straight. I followed her hand as she pointed to Merle's house, and I focused on the water-pipe sounds coming from below, where my mother was in the kitchen.

"So?" I finally asked.

"Why, you can see right in their windows," she whispered. Then she slapped at me in the same way a cat might toy with a lizard. "Don't try and tell me that you don't ever look over there." She paused and crossed her heart with her hand to indicate a solemn swear. "If you do, you're a liar and will burn in hell."

"Shhh," I whispered, and pointed to the floor of the porch, though I knew there was no way my mother could hear us talking because the windows were all closed.

"All those times I've called, and your mama said you were sitting on the porch." Misty could mimic my mother to a tee, and she did it then with her shoulders thrown back and mouth sucked in. "You sit here and look at the Huckses' house. It's like Rear Window. You spy on your neighbors."

"No, I don't." I sat down in the glider and then followed her gaze, a bar bulb sharpening the walls of the Huckses' kitchen.

We both just sat, watching like a movie, and then Merle came out the back door and, in the yellow glow of the outside light, started moving around some old tires and other junk that was stacked back there. Dexter came up on his Harley and sat in the dark driveway gunning the engine.

"There he is," Misty whispered, ignoring my attempts to go inside. "He is kind of cute in a real rough way, isn't he? Sort of like a small Charles Bronson." I started to say "or Charles Manson" but bit my tongue.

From Ferris Beach by Jill McCorkle. (c) 1990 by Jill McCorkle. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

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Jill McCorkle