Title: Legend of the Last Ass
Author: Karen Winters Schwartz
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
The missent text I think we should take it through Guatemala inspires agoraphobic adventure novelist, Colin, to leave the safety of his NY apartment. First stop is Brownsville, Texas, where he meets the sender of the text, a half-Mayan woman named Luci, who, at thirty, has yet to confront her role in the death of her father when she was six. They instantly find each other annoying. He also meets a bright orange Kubota tractor named Miss Mango and Luci’s ancient but feisty Great Uncle Ernesto. It’s Ernesto’s dream that Miss Mango be driven to Belize as an atonement to his family, which he abandoned nearly seventy years prior.
In 1949, British Honduras, seventeen-year-old Ernesto falls painfully in love with Michaela, an American redhead nearly twice his age. Their brief but intense affair changes everything Ernesto has ever known. When she leaves, Ernesto is devastated. Determined to find her, he “borrows” a donkey from his uncle and starts off for Texas. He meets a flamboyant fellow traveler, and the three of them—two young men and the donkey they name Bee—make their way to the States.
Past and present unfold in two parallel journeys where newly formed friendships and circumstances resolve past traumas, responsibilities, and sorrows.
Miss Mango cooled in the shade of a Montezuma cypress. The tree was large and dominated the flat landscape. Off to her left and straight ahead were rows and rows of browning corn, the stalks heavy with ears, dry leaves rattling in a slight fall breeze. Within days, the miles and miles of corn would be harvested and ground into silage. As far as the eye could see, tiny green tufts of winter wheat were laid out in pretty lines between the dying corn. Over to her right was the rambling ranch house, and just beyond that was a vast metal barn, which had replaced the old wooden one. Various outbuildings dotted the flatness: the feed barn, several pole barns, the bunkhouse, a small chicken coop, and three modern silos. The house was weathered cedar with red shutters; the new barn was red, its stainless steel roof glistening in the Texas sun. Two hawks glided in circles over a couple dozen head of cattle and the one gray donkey, which grazed in the pasture behind the barn. Three ranch hands were stretched out like afternoon shadows near the barn, plumes of smoke trailing from their cigarettes.
Under the shade of the cypress, the old man seemed oblivious to it all. He sprayed a fine stream of cool water over Miss Mango’s body. Texas dust ran in rivulets down her sides, disappearing into the dry, cracked soil beneath the tree. Then he soaped her gently but firmly, rinsing and soaping until all traces of the morning’s work were gone. After she was dried with soft cotton, he stood on a ladder and meticulously applied wax to her orange hood and fenders and the metal parts of her cab. Then he rubbed and rubbed before starting on a second coat of wax. With tears in his eyes, he continued to rub until she shone brighter than she had when she was spanking new.
He stood back and looked at what he’d done—her shining orange, the rows and rows of dying corn and new wheat, the rambling house, the new barn, the couple dozen Brown Swiss cows, the one lone donkey, and the sun setting over it all.
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Karen Winters Schwartz wrote her first truly good story at age seven. Her second-grade teacher, publicly and falsely accused her of plagiarism. She did not write again for forty years.
Her widely praised novels include WHERE ARE THE COCOA PUFFS?, 2010; REIS’S PIECES, 2012; and THE CHOCOLATE DEBACLE, 2014 (Goodman Beck Publishing). Her new novel, LEGEND OF THE LOST ASS, was released by Red Adept Publishing on July 21, 2020.
Educated at The Ohio State University, Karen and her husband moved to the Central New York Finger Lakes region where they raised two daughters and shared a career in optometry. She now splits her time between Arizona, a small village in Belize, and traveling the earth in search of the many creatures with whom she has the honor of sharing this world. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Author website: http://www.karenwintersschwartz.com/
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