You got dirt in your ears boy? – Friday Fiction
“You got dirt in your ears, boy?” Butch Wheeler shouted in a booming voice.
Lost in the thumping of tires against the road and thoughts of how to explain himself to this never-before-seen grandpa, Ethan Allen looked over. “Dirt in my ears?”
“Yeah. Four times I asked, whatcha thinking about Jack, but you sit there like you’re deaf as a stone.”
“Oh, sorry,” Ethan said with a sheepish grin. Obviously, he was gonna have to keep an ear open for answering to the name of Jack Mahoney.
“No harm done.” Butch Wheeler signaled for a left hand turn, then pulled into the line of cars waiting for the ferry to dock.
Ethan craned his neck, checking out the cars on both sides of the truck. He saw plenty of Fords, Plymouths, and Pontiacs, but, happily, no police cars. All he needed now was another hour or two of luck. Once he made it to the mainland Scooter would never find him. Never in a million years. Even if Cobb nosed around the truckers asking if they knew anything of Ethan Allen Doyle, they’d say no and shake their head. Good thing he’d thought to say his name was Jack Mahoney.
They sat there for another twenty minutes, the chickens squawking and the motor grumbling like it was in need of some oil. Finally the line of cars began to inch forward. They’d moved two, maybe three, car lengths when Ethan spotted a uniformed man up ahead. His heart came to a standstill—no beating, no pumping blood in one side and out the other, nothing. It could be they had his picture. If that was the case it wouldn’t matter what name he was using. A faint heartbeat started up again and he slid closer to the door, looping his fingers around the handle. He could run if he had to, if his heart held out long enough, but maybe… He turned and in the high-pitched voice of a castrated canary said, “Okay if I squat down under the seat when that policeman gets here?”
“Policeman?” Butch roared. A cascade of laughter slid down his chins and set his belly to bouncing. “Why, that man’s just a ticket taker!” He laughed again, then said, “But you…well, now, you got the look of a lad who’s up to something.”
Ethan’s mouth flew open. “Not me,” he stammered. “I ain’t up to nothing!”
“Is that so?” Butch said, a chuckle still rumbling through his chins. “Could be you robbed a bank. You got the shifty eyes of a bank robber. Yes, sir, robbed a bank, or maybe stole that dog. You do either of those things, boy?”
“No, sir,” Ethan Allen answered in earnest. “I never robbed no bank, and this here dog was a birthday present from my mama.”
“That so?” Butch laughed again, then stuck his arm out the window and handed the uniformed man his ticket. Once the ferry was underway, he turned to the boy and asked, “You running away from home, Jack? Is that why you’re so skittish about the police?”
Ethan Allen had now tuned his ear to listening for the name Jack and answered, “No, sir.”
“Your mama, she knows where you’re headed?”
“And she allows for you to be hitching rides on chicken trucks?”
Ethan could make up stories quicker than you’d imagine possible, and he could tell them in a way that was most convincing. He also knew when he was skating too close to the edge of believability, and the look on Butch Wheeler’s face indicated it was time for him to move back. “Truth is,” Ethan said in a heavy-hearted voice, “my mama’s dead. But when she was breathing her last, she told me to go live with Grandpa.”
“Honest! Look here.” Ethan fished in his pocket and pulled out a card that read “Love, Grandpa.” “See, this is who I’m supposed to go live with.”
“Oh? And where exactly does this grandpa live?”
Ethan showed the back flap of the envelope with Charlie Doyle’s return address.
“Doyle, huh? He your mama’s daddy?”
Still tuned in to using the name Mahoney, Ethan nodded.
Butch handed the envelope back. “Where’s your own daddy?”
“He got shot in the war and died.” Ethan thought about adding that his daddy had been a hero with all kinds of medals, but he decided against it. Sometimes saying too much was what could get a fellow in trouble.
“That’s sure enough a rotten break,” Butch said, “but it don’t explain you being so afraid of the law.”
“If they get hold of me, they’ll lock me up in an orphanage. This kid I know got sent to an orphanage, and he said it was God awful. They make you sleep on the floor and eat things that ain’t fit for human consumption.”
“It ain’t quite that bad,” Butch said with an easy smile, “but it sure enough ain’t pleasant. Anyway, you got no worries. You got blood kin willing to claim you.” He glanced over at the way one side of the boy’s mouth was sloping toward his chin. “Your grandpa knows you’re coming, don’t he?”
Ethan forced a happy-looking smile onto his face and nodded.
After that things went along smooth as a pig’s belly. Butch Wheeler unloaded the crates of chickens in Richmond, then turned west onto Route 33 and drove Ethan Allen all the way to Wyattsville, right to the front door of his grandpa’s apartment building. “You want me to go in with you?” Butch asked, but the boy shook his head and hurried off.
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FROM A USA TODAY AUTHOR OF WOMEN’S FICTION BEST SELLERS comes an Award-Winning 20th Century Historical Mystery!
In a family saga now available on Kindle, Spare Change has been compared to John Grisham’s The Client. Eleven year-old Ethan Allen Doyle has witnessed a brutal murder and now the boy is running for his life. In the time-tested tradition of Southern Fiction novels, Crosby unveils the darkest side of human nature and then rewards her readers with this beautiful tale of love, loss and unexpected gifts.
Olivia Westerly is the only person Ethan Allen can trust, and he’s not too sure he can trust her. She’s got no love of children and a truckload of superstitions—one of them is the belief that eleven is the unluckiest number on earth.
Psychological fiction that will keep you turning the pages.
Literary Awards for Spare Change –
USA Today Bestseller
Barnes & Noble Bestseller
Reviewer’s Choice Award Winner
FAPA President’s Book Award
Royal Palm Literary Award
Readers View Regional Fiction
Eadon Contemporary Fiction Award
Book Bundlz Finalist
Independent Author Network – First Place Winner for Outstanding General Fiction Novel
Praise for Spare Change –
Midwest Book Review
“Skillfully written, “Spare Change” clearly demonstrates Bette Lee Crosby’s ability to engage her readers rapt attention from beginning to end. A thoroughly entertaining work of immense literary merit and strongly recommended for community library literary fiction and mystery collections, “Spare Change” is especially recommended for fans of well-crafted storytelling populated by memorable characters caught up in equally memorable circumstances.” – Julie Summers.
Seattle Post Intelligencer
Bette Lee Crosby’s Spare Change is a quirky mix of Southern flair, serious thoughts about important things in life, madcap adventures of a young boy and a late change of heart that made all the difference in the life of an unusually independent woman. More than anything, it is a heartwarming book, which is simultaneously intriguing and just plain fun.
Olivia Ann Westerly has always refused to conform. Instead of marrying and raising a family, as her father expected her to, she left home and found a job, rented a flat and had tons of fun. Oh, did I mention that she did that in 1923, when she was only 25-years-old? While today that would not have been anything extraordinary, she certainly was an exception back then. And then she decided not to marry and to continue her career, living in this manner quite happily all the way until 1956. It was then that she met Charlie Doyle and fell madly in love, agreeing to marry him without any hesitation when he asked her to.
But then Charlie had to go and die while they were on their honeymoon, and Olivia seemed to have lost all her will to do anything. Until Ethan Allen Doyle, Charlie’s grandson, showed up on her doorstep. Olivia never wanted children, so why would she change her mind now? And to make matters worse, Ethan Allen was 11-years-old and number 11 has always been a bad omen for Olivia. To top everything else, it was clear that Ethan Allen was hiding something. Was there any chance of a happy ending here?
I truly enjoyed this imaginative and very entertaining story. Told from many different perspectives, it kept my interest from beginning to end. The voices of the characters were very distinct and the good ones were easy to like, just like the bad guys were easy to hate and fear. It does not happen very often that I truly like the more minor characters in any book, since most of them never get the chance to develop enough to be really interesting, but Clara was one of my favorites here – heart of gold and brassy manners, what more could one want in a friend? She was just one in the substantial line-up of supporting characters who kept Ethan Allen’s presence in Olivia’s building a secret, or at least they thought so. Every one of those characters was well-defined and completely believable.
Furthermore, I enjoyed the storyline and the lively dialogue, as well as the rapidly unraveling mystery of the secret Ethan Allen was trying to keep to himself. And I am going to do my best to keep the beginning of the story, as told by Olivia, in mind for the future. Here’s what she had to say..
“I don’t suppose there’s a person walking the earth who doesn’t now and again think if I had the chance to live my life over, I’d sure as hell do it differently. When you get to a certain age and realize how much time you’ve wasted on pure foolishness, you’re bound to smack yourself in the head and ask, what in the world was I thinking? Everybody’s got regrets; myself included.
Some people go to their grave without ever getting a chance to climb out of that ditch they’ve dug for themselves, others get lucky. Of course, the thing about luck is that you’ve got to recognize it, when it walks up’ and says hello, the way Charlie Doyle did.”
Those two paragraphs alone would be enough for me to like this book and recommend it, yet they were truly just the beginning. If you want to know more, you will simply have to read Spare Change yourself, and I am certain you will not regret that. – Olivera Baumgartner-JacksonRead the Book Discussion Questions for Spare Change Read an excerpt from Spare Change
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