The Southern Festival of Books Was Awesome!

I was standing there, waiting to go on stage, talking to a dude from Memphis and I looked up and said, in a confused voice, “I think that’s my brother. It is my brother! And my nephew!” and it was! They had sneaked up to listen to me read.

The reading went really well! There were a bunch of people there I knew and a bunch of people there I didn’t know and I read a bunch of stories.

And then we went to Red Lobster.

And now I am so very, very tired. If you came out, thank you so much. If you sent good vibes, they worked.

The best part? I brought twenty books to the Festival. When I went up to check at four, there were only eight left. Later, someone told me there were only five.

9. The Man in the House on Sigler Street

It was well-known that Dalt Patton’s wife haunted their house. They had fallen in love young. She was 19, he was 24 when they got married. Their first child was stillborn just a month after Mrs. Patton’s 20th birthday. And then, for whatever reason, it seemed like they could not have children.

Everyone agreed that this was a terrible tragedy in itself. They were such a beautiful couple.

Sometimes, when he would get home from work, she would be down at the park, talking with the mothers in the neighborhood, watching their children play, and she would seem to almost sense that he was on his way and she would take off running for the house.

Everyone got such a kick out of that, watching a woman in full skirts, hiking her petticoats out of the way and running full bore for home. “Oh, young married folks,” they would say. “Do you remember when we were like that?” And they would all laugh and smile.

Her death was so terrible. He came home from work and found her in a broken heap at the bottom of the grand staircase. The one shoe still on her foot was broken at the heel. And it turned out she was pregnant.

He was only 38, but he never remarried.

“She was my gal,” he would say, sitting in the porch swing, a glass of whiskey sweating in his hand. “She was my best gal.”

Patton couldn’t even bear to throw out her clothes.

“I like feeling like she’s still here,” he said, though to most folks, it was apparent she still was. People would see lights on in the house when he wasn’t there. When he was there and people were visiting, they would swear they could hear her laughter in the kitchen.

“Dalt,” they would ask. “Is that your wife?” and he would tear up and nod. For the whole rest of his life, he lived there, with little changed since she passed. He stayed there with the ghost of the one woman he ever loved, with the woman he dearly, dearly missed.

The Gameplan for the Southern Festival of Books

I have an hour to fill while I’m on stage, so here’s what I think I’m going to do. I’m going to read “All the Same Old Haunts” and “Dodge City” because folks really like them and then I’m going to read all of the Devil stories. I think that will keep it interesting for me and keep it somewhat coherent for listeners unfamiliar with the book.

I’ll talk some about the book and about the stories and stuff, so it won’t just be me sitting up there reading. So, I think that will be fun and interesting for folks who are familiar with the stories and folks who are not.

Ha, I had this weird dream that someone needed an exorcism at my reading today and, of course, the only holy dude there was my dad and he ran over to the afflicted and knelt down by them said “Bring me a casserole!” And it was so weird it kind of woke me up. Not completely, but enough that I was out of the dream and my first thought was “My god, do Methodists think a potluck can fix anything?!”