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When Janiece felt the familiar thump of the railroad tracks under her car she knew she was back home. She looked at the forbidding funeral home as she passed and prayed she would be strong enough to handle the new challenges in her life.
Near her corner where she would turn towards her parents’ house little rocks hit her feet and she thought her feet must have turned them up until she felt one ping off her ankle. She looked toward Billy Pettigrew’s grandparents home and smiled. Billy was sitting in the shade of the old porch throwing rocks at her.
“Hey, Billy, just like old times,” Janiece said walking toward the porch. “Being mean to me just comes naturally for you, doesn’t it?”
Billy chuckled and walked down the steps of the porch to meet her. He still had a slight limp from his polio.
“Not exactly like old times,” Billy said. “You would have given me a good cussing for that back in those days. The way I remember it, you never were good at throwing rocks though.” He gestured for her to follow him into shade of the porch.
“Boy this brings back memories,” Janiece said after hugging him. “So how’s the red-headed terror of Love doing after all of these years?”
“Been pretty good lately,” he said, “You know I’m City Judge here? That’s a laugh, huh? My law practice in Lawton pays the bills; the City Judge stuff is just for revenge. You know there were a few in this town that said I’d never amount to anything” He smiled in a lazy way.
“Well it does seem I’ve heard a few statements like that. Daddy would get so mad at you for throwing rocks and knocking out his street lights.” Billy laughed until she added “He was almost ready to tell your grandma on you.”
The smile left Billy’s face immediately. “I’m sure glad he didn’t do that! Why, Grandmother would have skinned me alive!”
Janiece sat on the porch railing. “Yeah I know and I guess Daddy did, too. He had a lot of respect for your grandma and I think he really liked you and decided to wait and see if you ever grew out of that ornery stage.”
“Sorry about your Dad,” Billy said sympathetically. “You know he was a client of mine?”
He said this with a straight face so Janiece knew it was true, but she was surprised. She told him, “No.”
Billy cleared his throat and spit into the flower bed. “Nick’s will is at my office and I’ll need to read it to ya’ll before you leave. But the main thing is this,” he said as he pulled a key from his pants pocket.
Janiece asked taking the key from him, “What’s this?”
“Well, it’s a key to a safety deposit box in the Union Bank in Lawton. Nick gave me strict instructions to give it to you if something happened to him before he saw you again. You knew he’d been sick, didn’t you?”
Frowning at the key Janiece answered, “No. Well maybe, but not this sick anyway. Why does he have a safety deposit box in a Lawton bank? Daddy always did his banking here. What do you know about this? This scares me but I don’t know why.”
“The box probably has the answers to your questions and there’s no need for me to tell part of it. Just go down there when you have time. I’ll call them and they’ll be expecting you. Ask for Alice.”
Billy eased back into the large white wicker chair. “My wife’s making some food and we’ll bring it down to your house later.” He looked at Janiece. “ You haven’t changed a bit. You look just like you did in high school.”
It must be his turn to tease, Janiece thought.
The porch railing was always her favorite spot to sit and she leaned back resting against the post. She brushed her hair from her eyes. “My neck is sweaty and I know my face has to be red. Let’s face it, Billy, I look a mess.” She leaned forward and pinched his cheek. “But you are a sweet liar. Thanks for this, I think,” she said looking at the key. “I’m so curious about it I don’t know if I can wait until after the service. When do you think I should go?”
His long legs stretched in front of him and he folded his hands across his stomach, “I’d go when I was ready.”
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 ePress
No. of Pages: 309
Paper Weight (lb): 12.9
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