For the next few weeks, we will be hosting authors from Bienvenue Press who will be sharing scenes from their books that highlight their settings. This week, Carrie Dalby stops by the Front Porch to share some of her young adult novel, Fortitude. So, sit back, have a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy!
On the Front Porch with Fortitude
Many thanks to Bienvenue Press for hosting me on the porch—and welcoming me back as I’m kicking off a six-part series focusing on the porches in each of my novels. As way of introduction, I’m Carrie Dalby. I like to refer to myself as the Southern Gothic branch of the Bienvenue Press family tree—and so far they let me. Maybe they’re scared to say something because I’ve written some creepy stuff, but I promise I play nice.
To start off, I’d like to stop at the front porch of the O’Farrell family on Dauphin Island, Alabama. Their story takes place in 1898 and is told from the character Claire O’Farrell, a feisty first generation Irish-American teenager. See what happens when a visitor stops by their home on a spring night.
A knock on the front door startles me.
Pa removes his hat and steps toward the seldom used entry. The light from Mama’s oil lamp reaches far enough to illuminate the shaggy head of Joe Walker himself.
“What brings you here this time of the night, Joseph?” Pa doesn’t like shortening someone’s Christian name, and it makes him sound cross.
“Well, I found this post here for Claire.” Joe holds out a fish-fouled envelope. “Lamar handed it to me when we were unloading, and it must have gotten mixed up with my pack ‘cause I found it when I got back to the boarding house.”
Mama nudges me with her foot. “Take a lamp from the kitchen and go on out to the porch to get your letter.”
Joe rocks back on his heels like he’s the cock of the walk.
I sit down on the front stoop and set the lamp between me and the post so Joe has to stay standing. I hold out my hand. “I know it’s not an accident you happened to tote that envelope home, so hand it over.”
“I thought you’d be happy, me saving you another whole day of waiting for this here note.”
I jump up and step toward him. “Like the blazes I am!”
He clasps the letter behind his back and closes the space between us.
“You think I have to snoop to come over to see ya? I’ve been planning to call on you since you got back.”
“And ya haven’t ‘cause you’re a snaky coward!” I’m so riled up, I sound like a backwoods school girl.
“You’re even prettier when you start talkin’ like the rest of us.”
We’re almost nose to nose. I see his move coming but I’m too steamed at myself for playing into the trap to prevent it. Joe’s wind-chapped lips meet mine and stick a second more than comfortable. I assess my opportunities and choose to snatch the letter rather than slap him.
Letter in hand, I wipe my mouth to remove the residue of his kiss. To make sure I’m understood, I turn my head and spit on the ground.
Kevin, around the corner of the house, guffaws like a donkey and slaps his knee.
“You better get!” Joe hollers at Kevin, covering his shame.
“And the same goes to you.” I sneer at Joe, clutching the envelope to my chest.
He yanks the hat off his own head and slaps it a few times on his leg. “You get my dander up something fierce, but you’re the sweetest thing on this island, spitting or not.”
I want to scream, cry, or hit something. Instead, I take the lamp off the step and stomp into the house.
To read more about Claire O’Farrell, find her in Fortitude, a coming-of-age Southern Gothic novel listed with Grateful American Foundation as a “Best History Book” for kids (grades 5-10th). I’ll see you next time with an excerpt from The Possession Chronicles.
Carrie Dalby, a California native, has lived in Mobile, Alabama, since 1996. She’s published several non-fiction articles in national and international magazines, served two terms as president of Mobile Writers Guild, worked as the Mobile area Local Liaison for SCBWI from 2012-2017, volunteers with Metro Mobile Literacy Council events whenever possible, and helps coordinate the annual Mobile Literary Festival. When Carrie’s not reading, writing, browsing bookstores/libraries, or homeschooling, she can often be found knitting or attending concerts. Find links to all her social media accounts and more on her contact page.