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Welcome to Jody’s Journal!

November 27, 2022 - SECOND EDITION

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Hope your Thanksgiving was delicious and bountiful!

Christmas and Hanukkah are just around the corner. I don’t know how you feel, but I think it’s too fast. I’m still catching up from the summer, working on my new book, Lies in the River. I’ve got my story, got my characters, but putting it all together doesn’t come easy. It’s a labor of love, however, some days I have to make myself sit in front of my laptop. Set in the 1980s, the story is about the Campbell family and their secrets, and takes place in the fictitious town of Sequoyah, Georgia, a small town in the North Georgia Mountains. The protagonist, Piper Campbell, is a Special Agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who must come home to Sequoyah to investigate the discovery of skeletal remains found buried near a Cherokee Indian mound. The body could be that of her sister, who disappeared from the area four years ago. Hope to have a draft completed by the first of next year.

Have you done any shopping yet? Not me. Not a thing. I guess I had better “get on the stick” as my dad used to say. This year, I’ve decided against gift cards. I know they are easy and convenient, etc., but I’ve missed the actual wrapping process. It used to be part of my own way of getting ready for the big day. I’ve got young adults and teenagers to buy for and that ain’t easy. Amazon and I will do our best.

How about your holiday dinner? Do you have a plan? How about dessert? I’ve got an idea for you. Here is the recipe for my Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting. This, my friends, is always a hit with my kids and grandkids. I’m not a “from scratch” baker, so this recipe is easy.

Inside the cab of the truck, Eli switched on the ignition. He drove down Highway 41, the identical route the girls took earlier that day. Approaching the Everglades Wonder Gardens, he deviated onto a dirt road that dead-ended at the gate. The single streetlamp’s glare directed them to the delivery entrance. Eli swerved the truck, easily backing into the opening. Shifting into gear, he honked the horn.

Gil O’Brien appeared from a nearby building and tore across the lot jangling a loaded keyring. The long-limbed night manager unlocked the gate. When he spread the enormous chain-link doors apart, he stumbled causing a shiny metal flask to fall from his pocket. Gil brushed himself off and retrieved the whisky.

Eli killed the engine. Pulling on work gloves, he leaped from the truck. “Jess, stay put until I call you.”

On her knees and doubled over the driver’s side window, Jessy observed the men transfer the trashcan from the truck to the pavement and finally out of sight. She tapped her fingers on the Chevy’s side door while combing the heavens for any sign of the Big Dipper. A howl from inside the property spooked her. I’m not scared. I’m not scared. With her eyes shut, she said a prayer, just in case.

Within minutes, her father scuffed across the gravel to the truck. “You ready?” He muscled open the heavy door.

“You bet.” Jessy jumped to the ground. Walking next to Eli, her heart fluttered. She’d witnessed this spectacle several times; she knew what to expect.

Primed to take in the experience, the child stretched on tiptoes at the four-foot concrete wall. On top of the structure, another two to three feet of interwoven wire safeguarded onlookers who might lose their balance. In the pit below, ravenous gators, too many to count, feasted on Aunt Prissy’s tasty leftovers. Mesmerized, Jessy clutched her father’s hand. “I could stay here all night. Skip couldn’t do this; neither could Rita May. I’m the brave one.”

Eli squeezed her hand.

Gil appeared from behind a door adjacent to the pit and ambled over to Eli and Jessy. Removing his ball cap, the man scratched the top of his head where a slight clump of greasy hair remained. Twice, in between chomps of what appeared to be a hunk of chewing tobacco, he opened his mouth, spat on the ground, and attempted yet failed to converse. At last, he uttered, “Uh, how’s tricks, Elijah, I mean, at the diner?”

Dropping Jessy’s hand, her father stepped back from the fence. “Running smooth as clockwork. You ought to stop by more often.”

Gil, who usually spoke in an easy manner, strained to raise his voice above the chaos resonating from the pit. “Yep. I really should. Uh, tell me, how’s that good-looking waitress? The yeller-haired one, uh, Delilah?”

“She’s fine.” Eli’s tone sobered. “I suppose.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask her to the picture show. She’s as pretty as a peach, that one. She’s got gumption, too.” Gil’s grin broadened enough to reveal both rows of tobacco-stained teeth. “I like girls with lots of gumption. Yes, I do.”

Eli straightened his posture. “Yep, she’s a looker all right. Hear tell she’s got a boyfriend though. Um, lives in Naples.”

Jessy rotated toward her dad’s voice. Delilah has a boyfriend. Her stare locked in on Eli.

“Ah, now that’s a pity. A real pity.” Gil turned his head, spat a wad right on the concrete, and then reached into his pocket for a pouch labeled Red Man. “Hell, I’m always a day late and a dollar short.”

“Thanks a lot, Gil. We’ve got to get on home. Remember what I said. You come on by the diner. Coffee’s on the house.”

“Will do, Elijah. The gators and crocs thank you. They sure do love your table scraps.”

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