Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Skipworth Summer by Jan Netolicky

Young Adult
Cover art by Pat Evans, photo by Jan Netolicky
Ebook or print; 162 pages
Ross Benedict is a 9th grade teacher who breaks his vow never to return to a small Arkansas town and the memories that live there. He wants no reminders of the hurt and loss he experienced when he was a troubled, scared teenager. But the inescapable pull of that long-ago time draws him back to the home of his unlikely mentor, 75 year-old Luther Skipworth, and Ross recalls a tumultuous, ultimately heartbreaking summer.
A unique work of fiction, The Skipworth Summer is inspired by actual details from the real life of Luther Skipworth.

With no help from Fred, Sheriff Stoner sized up the situation. Although the guys and I had long since vamoosed to the corner booth at the Berryville Drug, Stoner was like a bloodhound. He found us eating potato chips and drinking Dr. Peppers and trying to keep straight faces.

“Okay, buzzards. Who’s the wiseass?” Stoner demanded.

“Sir?” D.J. snickered.

“Who dyed the water in the fountain?”

“Give a guy a break, sheriff. We’ve just been relaxing. You know we like to make the most of our Saturday visits, sir.” D.J.’s inflection made the “sir” sound like a four-letter word.

“Oh, yeah. I got it,” snorted Stoner. “And you get this. I’m through with the lot of you. So help me God, I’ll get the county attorney to issue an injunction to keep you and the rest of the creeps at that school permanently. If that doesn’t work, I swear I’ll look the other way when the people of this town get a craw full of you low-lifes and take matters into their own hands.”

Big deal, I thought. The sheriff had no proof. Nobody had actually seen me dump the ink, and even if someone had noticed a dark-haired kid perched on the edge of the fountain, so what? Berryville kids met at the center of town all the time to hang out, especially on the weekends, and there wasn’t much to distinguish me from them. I may have been a little scrawnier than other fifteen-year-old guys, but because I don’t look too intimidating, that probably works to my advantage. That, and my best feature—hazel-colored eyes that seem to disarm people. I’ve been told when people look me in the eye, they’d believe me if I said I was President Ford. Trust me, I wouldn’t be the first guy picked out of a lineup, and that ain’t bad. Without an eyewitness who could mark me as guilty, Sheriff Stoner couldn’t do a thing. The smirk on my face must have irritated him something fierce.

He slammed a fist on the table in front of me and shoved his big ugly face in front of Major. “Go ahead and laugh, scumbags. I’ll see to it you’re processed in my jurisdiction instead of Eureka. We’ll quit screwing around with this kid glove treatment.”

It was an empty threat, but something spooked Major. I knew he was a big talker, but when the pinch was on, he usually was out to save his own skin. “I swear I didn’t know what he was going to do,” he mumbled.
Stoner pounced. “Okay, spill it, moron.” He was practically spitting at Major.

K.D. and Bo kept quiet. I knew they would have stuck by me even if Stoner shoved bamboo under their nails. But the sheriff wasn’t going anywhere. Not this time. I had to set things straight before Major had a coronary. Technically, the ink was mine and so was the responsibility. Besides, we were drawing quite an audience, including dark-eyed Sara Greenwoldt who worked behind the lunch counter. Might as well play this to the hilt.

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