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Morgan Callan Rogers
A captivating debut, introducing a spirited young heroine coming of age in coastal Maine during the early 1960s.
When her mother disappears during a weekend trip, Florine Gilham's idyllic childhood is turned upside down. Until then she'd been blissfully insulated by the rhythms of family life in small town Maine: watching from the granite cliffs above the sea for her father's lobster boat to come into port, making bread with her grandmother, and infiltrating the summer tourist camps with her friends. But with her mother gone, the heart falls out of Florine's life and she and her father are isolated as they struggle to manage their loss.
Both sustained and challenged by the advice and expectations of her family and neighbors, Florine grows up with her spirit intact. And when her father's past comes to call, she must accept that life won't ever be the same while keeping her mother vivid in her memories. With Fannie Flagg's humor and Elizabeth Stroud's sense of place, this debut is an extraordinary snapshot of a bygone America through the eyes of an inspiring girl blazing her own path to womanhood.
Morgan Callan Rogers is a native Mainer who grew up in the shipbuilding city of Bath and splits her time between coastal Maine and South Dakota. This is her first novel.
What happened with the fire was this. We made a mess, and we got caught.
The night the whole muddle started, Dad and Carlie were having a familiar argument. I waited in my bedroom for Dottie, Glen, and Bud to show up and listened to them talk. Our house was small. Their bedroom was off the kitchen, and my bedroom was kitty corner to theirs, so I heard most everything pretty easy.
The problem was this. Daddy hated going anywhere, but Carlie loved to travel. She and Patty went on a yearly trip up the coast, but she wanted Daddy to take us somewhere as a family.
Daddy said, "Why do you want us to go somewhere else? Most folks want to come to somewhere like this."
"Because we do the same damn things every day. Get up, eat, work, eat, sleep, and get up. Let's do something we've never done. Go somewhere we've never been."
"I don't do the same damn thing every day," Daddy said.
"You're right. You wear a different shirt on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Look, honey, we don't have to do anything expensive, and I've saved some tips."
"I got to paint the house. I got to paint Ma's house. I got to get in the wood. This is a bad time. We can do it next summer, I promise. We'll make it work, somehow."
"Oh, Leeman, it's always going to be a bad time. Let's just do it, honey."
The sharp knock on my bedroom wall made me jump. I waited a few seconds to see if my parents had heard it. But they talked over it, so I slid up the window screen and dropped four feet to the ground. Glen, the tallest of us so far, reached up and pulled down the screen to keep out the mosquitoes.
"Let's go," Bud said. We took off up a worn path close to my house that led to the woods. At the edge of the woods we scrambled over The Cheeks, one big white boulder that was cracked down the middle. Bud switched on a flashlight, and we followed him. I was in back of him, Dottie was behind me, and Glen brought up the rear.
The four of us were 12, though Bud would turn 13 in November. Brought up cheek-by-jowl in houses that hunkered down on granite ledge, our families had fished from The Point for generations. We knew each other well, but during the summer of 1963, tempers flared, people stomped off, and eyes darted like minnows trying to avoid becoming lunch. Small bumps took up space on Dottie's wide chest, while Glen's bathing trunks sported a lump in the front. A smattering of brown hairs made themselves to home over Bud's upper lip. Nothing appeared to be changing on me, yet, but I felt as strange as the rest.
The motley crew we made that night sneaked behind the wobbly beam of a flashlight through the State Park's woods along its walking paths. On summer days, the Park swarmed with families eating lunch at picnic tables, playing in the little playground, and hiking the paths. I had never been here at night and it was creepy. The ghosts of those who had been there that day brushed against the hairs on my arms and I crossed them over my chest to keep out the dark.
Glen's sneakers creaked like old hinges, and one of my anklebones snapped. When something blacker than the night flashed across the path right in front of Bud, he stopped dead. Dottie bumped into me so hard I pushed him down. He thrashed around underneath me as I struggled to get up. Glen finally grabbed me and set me on the path while Bud righted himself and brushed dirt off his shirt and shorts. "Get back a little ways, for chrissake," he said to me.
"Don't stop so fast," I said.
"Don't stand so close."
"Thought I was fighting a friggin' skeleton," I said. "You got to eat more."
Dottie moved me between her and Glen. "Now you both got cushion," she said.
We went on, and a short time later, Bud's flashlight picked out a path almost hidden by brush placed there by the Park Rangers to separate it from the park. This path led to the big private summer cottages. We'd traveled this path during winter days, when the Park was quiet and the cottages were boarded up, but that summer night was a first for us.
We'd planned a simple firecracker raid. Get in near some cottages, light them off, run like hell. The firecracker raid was Glen's idea. His father, Ray Clemmons, owned the General store on the road to town. His customers ranged from The Point folks and the surrounding areas, to tourists and summer people. Sometimes, Ray wound up with goods that might not be considered legal. But the local Sheriff was Parker Clemmons, Ray's brother and Glen's uncle, and every summer, boxes of fireworks and firecrackers found their way into Ray's backroom. Most of the stuff disappeared after July 4th, except for a few boxes of this and that that Ray always held over for some makeshift celebration.
That year, a box of firecrackers had found its way into Glen's grubby hands.
"We should pay a night visit to the cottages," he said, "Set ‘em off. Shake ‘em up."
"You foolish?" Bud said. "Why rile ‘em up? They're them and we're us. Should keep it that way." He had a point, yet here he was, leading the way through the woods.
The trail to the cottages wound around trees so thick the sky couldn't bleed through the branches. The skin on my head crawled as I imagined a vicious Fisher cat leaping from a branch above me and digging its teeth and claws into my scalp. But the sound of adults laughing shattered my fear like glass. Lights from the cottages pierced the trees and Bud shut off his flashlight.
I never understood why people called these places cottages. They were monster mansions with perfect green lawns that spilled just so down to private docks and private coves with private brown-sugar beaches. Sometimes, we caught sight of one of the people who owned these houses in Ray's store. When they talked, they bent their ‘R's' like willow saplings. The women favored lime-green skirts and carried wicker bags with whales on them. The men wore old, faded clothes that always looked ironed. Soft moccasins covered their tanned, blue-blooded feet. They bought shitloads of lobsters and groceries all summer, and that made the men on The Point happy. But as Bud had pointed out, they were them and we were us and we lived in different worlds.
from Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea