Title: Dust and Roses
Author: Wes Brummer
Genre: Historical Fiction
Losing everything was only the beginning.
Unlike many in Depression-era Kansas, 23-year-old, single, Sara McGurk has a comfortable life, but a trip to the doctor reveals she is with child. The results are banishment from home and a violent argument with her lover that leaves her bleeding and abandoned in front of a forbidding limestone house. A group of social outcasts takes her in. Now, Sara must face the future and protect her child while coping with her strange fellow residents. What will happen to her baby? Can she make peace with her father and escape her shame to find love and hope again?
The structure faced an adjacent road about thirty yards to the left of the Roadster. The construction looked like a fortress, three stories tall, built of rough-hewn limestone. On the other hand, it resembled a Victorian cathedral but with a stark, imposing air. Front steps ran up to an expansive porch with six windows. The massive edifice extended back by a good two-hundred feet with an arching roof covering a lofty attic. A steeple towered in front with a small attic window placed where the bell should have been. On the ledge of the window sat a small feminine figure.
“Look!” Sara pointed, her fears at bay for the moment. “In the steeple! It’s a girl!”
“I’ll be…” Larry’s eyes flashed. “I think she’s about to jump.”
Her jaw dropped. “Oh, dear God.”
The figure remained still.
Sara stared in fascination. “What kind of place is this?”
“I’ll tell you later.” Larry tore his eyes away from the girl. “First, let’s get a few things straight. You drove me to this. It’s all your fault. If you hadn’t gotten pregnant; if you had agreed to an abortion; if you didn’t scheme to take my job, things could’ve turned out better for us. Even if you weren’t after my job, the Old Man would’ve demanded we get married, and you would’ve taken over the business. I can’t have that. It’s mine.”
She held her arms out to him. “I understand your feelings. I’d never do that. Larry, this is insane!” Exasperated, she lowered her arms. Her left palm landed atop the gear shift. The metal knob fitted snugly in her hand.
“Funny you should say that.” His smirk turned to a scowl. “The bottom line is this: you’re staying here. They’ll have to take you in because you’re with child. And if you don’t like it here, go somewhere else. I don’t care. But if you return to Wichita, I’ll hurt you. I’m a desperate man, Sara. I’m prepared to do anything to keep what belongs to me.”
The gearshift knob felt loose. Probably from all the shaking the car took. Sara twisted the metal lump until it came free, nestling in her palm like a stone. She grew up with two boys and knew how to throw a punch.
With her left fist cupping the round handle, Sara straight-armed Larry in the face, missing his nose but slashing him across the cheek. The edge of the knob ripped skin from nose to ear.
Blood spurted. Larry grunted, knocking her arm aside. The heavy chunk of metal shot across the interior of the car, cracking a window. Larry punched her twice in the side and then threw a fierce jab to the temple.
Sara yanked on the door handle, trying to get out. Locked! She fumbled for the latch as more blows hit her in the ribs. Larry raised a foot and kicked as she threw open the door. She landed hard on the gravelly dirt road, eyes closed against the stabbing pain. A car door creaked, and measured footsteps crunched, circling the back of the vehicle, stopping behind her. Another door squeaked, and her carpetbag and purse landed inches from her head. More shuffling, then a shadow loomed over her.
Sara remained motionless. Finally, the passenger door closed, and the footsteps retreated to the driver’s side. The door slammed, and the engine roared to life. The Roadster backed away, turned, and retreated, its engine diminishing to nothing.
An intense, visceral bubble throbbed inside her head. Sara opened her eyes to see the strange house and the figure watching her. She struggled to her feet, but a thousand knives jabbed at her side. A moan escaped her lips as she collapsed to the ground.
Lying on her back brought the stabbing knives down to a hundred. How could she communicate with this girl? Could you get me a glass of water? Sara tried to shout, but her words were a faint cry.
Gritting her teeth against the pain, Sara pulled the purse beneath her head. She’ll try for the house later.
The last thing she saw was the girl climbing back into the window.
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This story of redemption is about a young woman banished to a county poor farm full of social outcasts.
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Wes Brummer was born in the rural Midwest in a family that liked to tell stories of growing up on the farm during the Depression. Much of these twice-told tales went into the background of Duct and Roses. He went on receive an M.S. in Rehab Counseling, worked for a time as a Rehab Counselor for the State of Kansas and helped his wife and business partner in food service. In 2018, he retired and is currently working on his third novel.
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