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In spite of themselves and their families ten year old Janiece Addison and fourteen Year old Icey May Watkins become friends one summer.
Growing up in Love, Okalahoma was a wonderful experience for Janiece but Icey may had the misfortune of being born on the wrong side of the tracks.
Love, Oklahoma, August 1954
It’s getting hot already. Janiece lay quietly on the rough ground. The dead filled the air with their chatter; on the other hand, it could only be the wind moving the weeds and the stiff branches of the cedar trees.
Dressed in old faded jeans, sweat rolled under her shirt of red and white checked cotton. The shirt was tight across her budding breasts, but Janiece was too young to pay any attention to her changing body as it matured. Her feet were protected from the Oklahoma stickers with Roman sandals and she was anxious to get them off and go barefoot in the warm sand. Because the dirt in the cemetery was hard, and there were sticker burrs, it was impossible to go barefoot here. There wasn’t any grass on this grave where she was lying, and the red dirt clods poked her back making it uncomfortable to lie there any longer.
Janiece wiped at her face. It wasn’t sweat running down her dirty cheeks. Once again her parents were fighting, this time their argument was about her sister’s getting married. The cemetery was peaceful and she could get away from their fighting for a while.
Studying the clouds, Janiece tried to make forms from their shapes. So far this morning she’d spotted a giraffe, an Indian’s head, and two ducks.
But she was tiring of this game and when she heard a voice echo through the old cemetery, it startled her. Quickly she ducked into the weeds to hide from the intruder and, cautiously, she peeked around the gray tombstone adorned by an angel holding a little lamb. She held her breath afraid the person singing would hear her breathing. It sounded awfully loud to her ears because Janiece was scared. When she dared to look she was amazed at the sight she was seeing.
Coming through the old gate was an angel with red hair. Janiece didn’t know angels could have red hair since all the angels she’d ever seen in her Sunday School Quarterly and her mama’s Bible had golden curls, just like Judy’s.
She has to be an angel, Janiece thought, no one comes to the cemetery unless they have to, except me.
Shafts of light from the morning sun bounced off the angel’s long red tresses blowing slightly from the wind. The angel was wearing shorts, which was more alarming to Janiece than her red hair.
No decent Baptist girl is allowed to wear shorts. Janiece thought. Either she is a Catholic angel or she is a devil and not an angel at all.
Janice knew one thing was certain--she wasn’t a Baptist. She remembered once Brother Grishman shamed two girls at Sunday preaching after he’d seen them playing in their front yard wearing shorts. The girls were terribly embarrassed and Janiece was glad it wasn’t her. Of course, her mother would never let her wear shorts anywhere, even their own front yard.
The redhead was tall, with a straight back, and much older than Janiece. She was too far away for Janiece to see the color of her eyes.
With my luck her eyes will be blue. Everyone has blue eyes but me
The angel’s arms and legs looked blotchy but maybe the weeds dancing in the light August wind could cause shadows on her body.
Janiece listened carefully trying to make out the words to the song the angel was singing. It sounded familiar in an odd sort of way. She thought she’d heard Donna and her friend sing that same song while they were drying dishes once.
As the angel drew nearer Janiece could hear the words clearly now because the angel had a strong voice.
Chandler, Oklahoma has been the home of Kowanda Stroud for twenty-eight years. However, she grew up in the small town of Fletcher located in southwestern Oklahoma. For many years she entertained friends by telling stories about some of Fletcher’s more colorful characters. After a published author and friend read some of her short stories, she encouraged and mentored Kowanda to write a novel. Kowanda never dreamed that she’d be able to write an entire book about growing up in Fletcher during the 1950s. Much to her amazement, she has written four adult novels, Killing Time, Icey May, Too Small For A Gate, and The Best Of The Worst Times.
She married her high school sweetheart Dewey forty-five years ago in Fletcher. They have two daughters, Kathy and Kim, and seven grandchildren. Kowanda is very proud both of her daughters are schoolteachers.
Kowanda is also an artist and finds inspiration for her writing from painting.
The Best of the Worst Times is a delightful depiction of life in a small Oklahoma town in a simpler time, when everyone knew their neighbors and doors were left unlocked. Kowanda Stroud weaves the story of Janiece Addison’s coming of age amid the struggles and joys of everyday life. Those of us who grew up in any small town in the late fifties will remember fondly our days at the local movie theatre and sodas shared at the Rexall. Stroud’s story will leave others longing for memories of life in a town like Love, Oklahoma. --Linda Rettstatt, And the Truth Will Set You Free, Wings ePress
Polish up those saddle oxfords and shake out your poodle skirt! In The Best of the Worst Times, author Kowanda Stroud takes the reader on a nostalgic tour of small town life in the 1950’s. In Love, Oklahoma everyone has a secret or two and teen-ager Janiece Addison knows most of them. Though her life is full of the teen trials of the day, such as winning a lock of Elvis’ hair, getting a brand new mouton coat, or getting a kiss from the cutest guy she knows, others in Love don’t have it so easy. Many of the small-town folk who pass through Janiece’s life are flawed but possess the strength to remain hopeful and, as a reader, you find yourself cheering for them. Ms. Stroud has a wonderful mastery of the language and tone of the times and captures the essence of small town life beautifully. I heartily recommend this wonderful book. --Rita Thedford, Author of Tempted (Wings ePress), One Dependable Man (The Wild
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 270
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