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Authors: Judy Christie

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The Glory of Green

BOOK: The Glory of Green
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The Glory of
Green

Other Books by Judy Christie

Gone to Green

Goodness Gracious Green,
book 2, The Green Series

Hurry Less, Worry Less

Hurry Less, Worry Less at Christmastime

Hurry Less, Worry Less at Work

Hurry Less, Worry Less for Families

Goodbye, Murphy's Law: Whatever Can Go Wrong,

God Can Make Right

Awesome Altars
(coauthored with Mary Dark)

T
HE
G
LORY OF
G
REEN
The Green Series
Judy Christie

The Glory of Green

Copyright © 2010 by Judy Christie

ISBN-13: 978-1-4267-0056-9

Published by Abingdon Press, P.O. Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202

www.abingdonpress.com

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, posted on any website, or transmitted in any form or by any means—digital, electronic, scanning, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without written permission from the publisher, except for brief quotations in printed reviews and articles.

The persons and events portrayed in this work of fiction are the creations of the author, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Published in association with the Books & Such Literary Agency, Etta Wilson, 5926 Sunhawk Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95409, www.booksandsuch.biz.

Cover design by Anderson Design Group, Nashville, TN

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Christie, Judy Pace, 1956-

    The glory of Green / Judy Christie.

        p. cm.—(The green series)

    ISBN 978-1-4267-0056-9 (pbk. : alk. paper)

    1. Women journalists—Fiction. 2. City and town life—Louisiana—Fiction. 3. Community life—Louisiana—Fiction. I. Title.

    PS3603.H7525G56  2011

    813'.6—dc22

2010038257

Printed in the United States of America

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 / 15 14 13 12 11 10

To Paul, with love
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Annual Golden Pen Awards Given from
The Green News-Item
with many thanks from Lois Barker and Judy Christie

Thank you to all the wonderful readers who keep going to Green! Many supporters help Lois Barker on her journey, and deep thanks go to
The Green News-Item
community correspondents, who contribute great local news.

The most recent Golden Pen Award for outstanding reporting for the Green newspaper is shared by Melanie Pace and Virginia Disotell. Runners-up, for adding fantastic touches to the news from Green, are Carol Lovelady, Pat Lingenfelter, Annette Boyd, Karen Enriquez, Ginger Hamilton, Frances Derreck, Paul Christie, Kathie Rowell, Alan English, Craig Durrett, Mary Ann Van Osdell, and Don Walker. Fine reporters, all, keeping you up-to-date on what is happening in Green.Heartfelt thanks to each of you!

In addition, the staff thanks the newspaper supporters who went above and beyond to help with
The Glory of Green—
Kathie Rowell, Paul Christie, Pat Lingenfelter, and Mary Frances Christie, my wonderful agent Etta Wilson, and fantastic editor Barbara Scott. Lois and I could never make it without you.

1

A neighbor in the Ashland community wants the hoodlums who took his U.S. flag from the pole in the front yard and replaced it with boxer shorts to return his flag. However, the perpetrators should not expect to get their shorts back. "The red hearts aren't my style, but Martha Sue seems to like them," he told this correspondent with a wink. If you ask me, it's a sad day when Old Glory gets undermined by underwear.

—The Green News-Item

C
hris Craig was so kind and fun—and good-looking—that I could scarcely believe he would be my husband in less than a month.

But I was having a hard time believing what he had just said.

"Don't you think that's the perfect solution?" he asked, a big smile on his face. "We don't need this place, since we'll be living in your house."

My fiancé was supposed to give away his catfish collection.

Instead, here I sat, at his kitchen table, with woven, ceramic, and stuffed catfish everywhere. And there he stood, drinking coffee out of a mug with a fish handle, tossing out a suggestion that was bigger than his heart. And Chris had a big heart.

"It hit me last night after I dropped you off," he said. "Those boys deserve better than that shack back behind the church.This trailer isn't worth much, but they'd have room to run and play, and the roof doesn't leak."

While Chris talked about changing lives, my thoughts strayed back to that catfish collection. Getting a husband at age thirty-eight was one thing; taking all his things was something else. My cozy cottage, with its mix of antiques and modern art, was arranged the way I liked it.

I looked around the paneled room and wondered who thought the catfish pillow on the couch had been a good idea.Just because Chris raised the whiskered fish part time didn't make him a fan of the creatures as art objects.
Did it?

"So, what do you think?" he asked. I pulled myself back to his brainstorm.

"It's a generous gesture," I paused.

"Why do I feel like there's a 'but' coming next?"

"I assumed we'd rent or sell it, bring in a little money," I said, squirming inside as I heard how the words sounded. "I thought you were going to have a garage sale and get rid of a few things. Then we would decide about the trailer."

"There's no need for a garage sale," he said. "Let's move everything down the road. Your house is plenty big for all this." He swept his arm around, sloshing coffee onto the gold linoleum. Holly Beth, my four-month-old puppy, scampered over to it.

"Holly, stop that," I snapped, grabbing a paper towel with one hand and scooping her up with the other. "You're way too young for caffeine."

She licked my face and burrowed under my chin, and Chris laughed. I wasn't quite sure what to do with the dog, our first wedding gift, a surprise from Mayor Eva Hillburn.

Chris leaned in to kiss me, but Holly Beth moved between us, nuzzling his cheek.

He stroked her soft white fur, still focused on his grand plan. "I can get a couple of buddies to haul my stuff a few days ahead of time. That way Maria and the boys can be in here before our wedding. Mama will be thrilled if I stay with her and Daddy for a while."

"It's all happening so fast," I said. "I see now why they recommend a year to plan a wedding."

Chris placed Holly gently on the floor with her favorite toy, a squeaky rubber newspaper, and pulled me over to the tweed plaid couch, similar to one my friend Marti had when we met twenty years ago.

"You're not getting cold feet, are you?" he asked, wrapping his arms around me. "I'll get rid of my junk. I love you much more than my wagon-wheel coffee table."

"I didn't realize all the decisions we would have to make.Maybe we should have eloped."

"No way. I intend for all of Green to be there when Pastor Jean pronounces us husband and wife. It'll be a day to remember."

"No doubt the locals will talk about it for years." I cuddled next to him, his arm draped around my shoulders. "They'll tell how that hussy from Ohio stormed in here and took the town's best catch."

"Are you snuggling or stalling?" Chris asked after a couple of moments.

"Both. Let's talk about the house later. I need to check on Iris Jo. Will you take care of the little princess while I'm gone?"

"Of course I will." He picked the puppy up as he helped me into my jacket, lifting my dark ponytail over the collar and kissing my neck, while Holly licked Chris's face and yelped as though she had never been happier.

"I was afraid that was going to happen," I said, opening the door. "She likes you better than me."

He made a big smooching sound, pretending to kiss the puppy and then giving me a little peck on the cheek. "Surely you're not jealous of your own dog."

"Don't be silly."

His three dogs jumped around us when we stepped outside, and I reached into my jacket pocket for treats. "But I'm not above bribing your dogs to love me more."

Walking the short distance down the gravel road, my steps slowed as I worried about Iris, undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. A key newspaper employee and confidante, she lived between me and Chris, our places spread out on Route Two. Tiny Grace Community Chapel sat across the road.

The winter air was chilly but the signs of early spring were evident: a flock of robins migrating through, the tiniest of green leaves on trees, and jonquils budding in the shallow ditch. Spring was about to burst forth, and everything would be new and fresh for our wedding day, a symbol of my new life in Green and the roots I had put into the red Louisiana clay.

When Chris had proposed on Christmas Eve, we wanted a short engagement, egged on by family and friends who had tried to push us together for more than a year.

"Don't you think you've dragged your heels long enough?" asked newspaper clerk and photographer Tammy. "You're not exactly a spring chicken."

"Speaking of spring," Iris Jo, peacemaker of the group, said, "how about March or April? You love North Louisiana in springtime."

"Don't plan it too close to the Easter cold snap," Katy, a high school intern, said. "Spring dresses look silly under coats."

"Katy's got a good point," Tammy added. "The weather's pretty unpredictable that time of year."

"When's the weather not weird around here?" I asked.

Before the New Year rolled around, my mind had turned to planning a spring wedding, a beautiful late March day, the perfect time to become Lois Barker Craig, an honor I did not take lightly. I could see flowering quince in big urns at the front of the church, mixed with mock orange and early dogwoods, and maybe a redbud branch or two. I would carry lilies, and ask Miss Barbara, a cranky advertiser who owned a clothing store, to find me a dress.

A journalist for more than two decades and owner of
The Green News-Item
for more than two years, I thought the deadline of a wedding would be easy.

Had I only known.

My mental to-do list added item after item. I woke up in the middle of the night and jotted notes on a tablet I kept by my bed, and taped notes on doors at home and work. With less than a month to go, I needed to finalize my family's travel plans, empty a closet for Chris, and plan coverage to fill the upcoming editions of the newspaper, not completely trusting anyone else. Tammy called me bossy, but I preferred to think of it as leadership.

Now I had another issue to consider. I had spent months looking for ways for our community to serve people in poverty.
Was I too stingy to offer shelter to a precious family?

The mobile home was not much by the standards of many of the people I had worked with in Dayton, nor in the eyes of those who lived in fancy houses on Bayou Lake in Green.When I first met Chris, widowed five years earlier, I wondered why a man who taught school and had land with ponds would not choose a better house.

"I like it out here," he told me when we started our evening walks, the strolls that turned into romance. "The bright stars.The open space. I'm not a fancy guy and I don't need a fancy house." We had never spoken of it again.

As I drew near to Iris Jo's house, Stan, all-around production guy at the paper and recent boyfriend to Iris, backed out in his giant blue pickup, his window whirring down when he saw me.

"I brought a little breakfast, but she's puny," he said. "Thanks for coming. You always make her feel better."

I waved and walked around the house, tapping on the door to the den, a room made from an enclosed carport. "It's me," I yelled, going in without waiting for a reply.

Iris, only slightly older than me but wiser and, well, more mature, was propped up in the overstuffed recliner she had bought before her surgery. She gave a small smile when I entered.

"I'm here to hold your hair back as needed and ask for marriage advice," I said, leaning over to give her a careful hug.

"I'm past the throwing-up stage today and don't have enough hair to hold back, so I'll pass," she said. "But I'm happy for your company."

I sprawled on the couch, at home in her small ranch-style house. I tried not to wince when her cat, Earl Grey, appeared from the kitchen, climbed up on the back of the sofa, and swiped at my hair. What was it with me and animals?

"Early, baby, leave Lois alone," Iris Jo said. "You know she's not your biggest fan."

"He's OK," I said, scooting over slightly. "As long as you don't give me a kitten for a wedding gift."

"Holly Beth still wreaking havoc?"

"I never knew how much work puppies were," I said. "She's not an A student at housebreaking, and you've seen what happens when I take her to the office. Tammy and Katy spoil her rotten, and she cries at night to get out of her crate. Don't tell Chris, but she sounds so sad that I've let her up on the bed."

"Have you taken Mayor Eva off the guest list for springing a dog on you?"

"It's hard to hold it against Eva when Holly's so sweet. She's more lovable than her mother." Sugar Marie, the mayor's Yorkie mix and Holly Beth's mother, had bitten me on the face last year and had a bit of an attitude problem, if you asked me.

"You mentioned marriage advice," Iris said. "Since you've only been engaged three months, isn't it a tad early for trouble?"

"My loving husband-to-be thinks we should give his trailer away. I'm not so sure."

"Does he have a recipient in mind?"

"Maria, from the Spanish service at church, and her sons."

"That sounds like something Chris would do."

"So you like the idea?"

"He's not going to be my husband," Iris said. "Your opinion is the one that matters."

"Chris says if they lived closer, the church could help more.Doesn't that seem a little over the top?"

"What's over the top?" Tammy waltzed through the door right as I spoke. Iris and I waved and said hello, and Earl Grey jumped down to rub against Tammy's leg. She picked him up and tickled him on the throat, the cat purring as loud as the hum of an old refrigerator.

"Traitor," I muttered.

"Lois is not trying to outdo me and Walt with a big wedding maneuver, is she, Iris?" Tammy said, sitting next to me with the cat on her lap. "I had the Florida-beach-wedding idea first, and we're going on a cruise for our honeymoon. Late summer.Mark your calendars."

Tammy had grown up in Green, worked at the front counter and took pictures for the
Item,
and was used to being in the middle of everything. If she wasn't the center of the action by happenstance, she put herself there.

"What's over the top?" she repeated, looking from me to Iris. Today, the budding photojournalist seemed closer to Katy's teens than her own late twenties, sitting on the couch in tight jeans and a long-sleeved chiffon shirt.

"Chris wants to give his trailer away," I said.

"Wow," Tammy said, her eyes widening. "I hope Walt doesn't do that with his house because I'm not sure where we'd live. My apartment's tiny."

Tammy's future move pained me, so I ignored the comment.Her fiancé was an attorney in Shreveport, about an hour away, and I thought it unlikely she would commute.

"It's possible I'm not all that excited about my groom's giveaway idea," I said. "I should be . . . I have a great house for Chris and me."

"A house that Aunt Helen
gave
you," Tammy said. "You can help someone the way she helped you." Twirling a big bracelet on her arm, she played with the cat, unaware that she also played with my emotions. My beloved house on Route Two had been a gift from Helen McCuller, deceased friend, mentor, and former owner of the newspaper. It anchored me in the little community. Chris and I could do the same for Maria and her children.

"How dumb can I be?" I asked.

Iris and Tammy looked at each other and smiled.

"That's a rhetorical question."

"You're the smartest person I know," Tammy said.

"I'm a hypocrite. I've preached to everyone for months to help newcomers, and I'm miffed that Chris wants to do just that."

"Welcome to engaged life," Tammy said. "You aren't used to Chris making decisions that affect you. That's hard, especially for a woman like you."

"A woman like me?"

"You want to call the shots," she said.

BOOK: The Glory of Green
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