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Mary Beth Craft
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In June of 1930, when Maybe Rose Tucker is five years old, her mother is murdered, her father is a suspect, and if looks as if the murderer is after Maybe. Much of Maybe’s time is spent on a swing hanging from a limb in the old pecan tree in the front yard of the Tucker mansion in Blue Valley, Mississippi. Maybe struggles to fit into the nightmare world she occupies. She daydreams, worries and eavesdrops and all the while is a little girl eager to please the adults in her life while in a situation she cannot possibly understand.
I sat back down on the steps and watched the little lights going on and off in my jar and then let the bugs go so I wouldn’t have to see them lying dead at the bottom of my jar in the morning.
I remembered going back in and up to my room. I called out “Night-night” to Momma and Poppa who were already in their room across the hall from mine. Momma opened their door and hugged me good-night and Poppa called out “Night-night, baby.” But neither of them came over to read me a story, so I crawled up on my window seat to wait. I must have fallen asleep among the cushions on the window seat, because later Poppa came in and moved me over to my bed. On that spring night, when Poppa left my room, he didn’t close my door all the way and soon I heard loud voices from Momma and Poppa’s room-Momma’s voice loud and weepy and Poppa’s voice gruff and almost weepy, too.
I heard Momma almost yell out, “Aren’t you a little bit happy I’m pregnant?”
And Poppa answered as though his teeth were clenched. “I would be if I thought the baby was mine.”
My heart jumped. We were having a baby at our house? I’d been wanting a brother-sister for a long time but didn’t say much about it because Momma always looked sad when I mentioned babies.
There was dead silence across the hall for a while, then Momma’s voice said in a wail, “You know a woman can get pregnant just by messing around like we do. This has to be your baby, Ross.”
My heart felt like it stopped when Poppa answered her. “I told you when Maybe Rose was born that I’d never put you through something so painful for you again and I couldn’t do that except by not doing it all the way with you so how do you expect me to believe this is my baby? And baloney about that messing around stuff.”
Momma didn’t answer. She just gave a loud sob.
Poppa went on. “And sometimes I even wonder if Maybe is really mine.”
Momma screamed. But Poppa continued. “Look at all that red curly hair. You don’t see any curly red hair on my head, do you? Or yours either, for that matter.”
It was amazing how on this day in June I could remember almost word for word what I heard on that spring night. After Poppa said those words, instead of feeling like my heart stopped, it felt like it was pounding against my chest so hard I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t listen any more, but I couldn’t not listen, either. I slid out of bed and tiptoed over to my door and sat down on the floor with my knees up to my chin and my arms holding my legs tightly. I rocked back and forth and wanted to digest what I had just heard, but I had to go on listening for fear I might miss something else dreadful being said.
After a moment, Momma said, in a loud stern voice, “Ross Tucker, you turn my arms loose. You’re hurting me.”
Poppa’s voice changed. When he spoke, his voice was so soft that I could hardly make out the words. “Oh, Rosie, I am so very sorry. I love you so much that thinking about you with another man makes me crazy. Please forgive me. And what if having this baby makes you as sick as having the first one did? What’ll we do then? Will you have to spend another month in the hospital getting over it?”
Momma answered at once. “With a different doctor this time, things will be better, you’ll see. Old Doctor Finley must have botched things up that time. Willy Sherman will take care of me and this baby, I just know.”
Then Poppa said something strange. “Okay, sweetie, since I can’t get you pregnant now, let’s see what we’ve been missing all these years.”
Momma gave sort of a strangled moan and things got quiet across the hall.
I remember I had nightmares all that spring night.
Mary Beth Craft is a native of Mississippi, is retired and living in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she enjoys writing, attending St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, and being with her family and friends. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of many.
“Mary Beth Craft’s The Maybe Tree pulled me into another time and place---a Mississippi small town during two weeks in June of 1930---so thoroughly that I could see the fireflies in the dusk, hear ‘the little squeak the swing and the rope made as it went back and forth, back and forth,’ and smell the perfume on a letter that a small girl finds, sent to her, she believes, by her mother in heaven. While the police swarm her home and grounds for clues to her mother’s violent death, she hides the letter until September when she’ll be in first grade and will (as if by magic) learn to read.
“Entering the mind of an intelligent child without sentimentality, Craft has a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue and Maybe’s thoughts. The tonal territory Craft works, between tragedy and comedy, had me tearing up and laughing at the same time. Once you begin this book, you won’t be able to put it down.” --Patricia Barone, author of Handmade Paper and The Wind
The Maybe Tree: “Mary Beth Craft’s carefully written novel set in a small Southern town in 1930, is a very engaging and suspenseful account of a murder as experienced and related by precocious five year old girl, Maybe Rose Tucker. Maybe’s Tree is a place to which she goes to contemplate life’s mysteries. The tree too gets involved in the tangled murder plot. In a book which engages some of life’s horrors, Mary Beth Craft’s characters reveal that these can be dealt with a remarkable childlike faith, which is neither simple nor childish, but evokes the best of the human spirit in family and community.” --The Rev. Walter J Baer, Chaplain, St. Martin’s Episcopal School, Metaire, Louisiana
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 417