The Good Nearbyby Nancy Moser
Sometimes good things are nearer than expected. Margery has a nothing job, a nothing marriage, and zero self-esteem. Angie has everything she could ever want, except a life of her own making. Talia is overwhelmed by her pregnancy, by handling her career, and by caring for her toddler and a home-bound husband who needs a new heart. Gennifer has a high-powered career
Sometimes good things are nearer than expected. Margery has a nothing job, a nothing marriage, and zero self-esteem. Angie has everything she could ever want, except a life of her own making. Talia is overwhelmed by her pregnancy, by handling her career, and by caring for her toddler and a home-bound husband who needs a new heart. Gennifer has a high-powered career and a family that's learned to fend without her. Gladys has never been married and approaches her golden years alone with failing eyesight. For the patrons of Neighbor's Drugstore, the key to a rich, fulfilled life is closer than they think, if only they can open their hearts to the good nearby.
- Tyndale House Publishers
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The Good Nearby
By Nancy Moser
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2006 Nancy Moser
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHe makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. EPHESIANS 4:16
I was happy.
Sitting between Mama and Daddy in the pickup, driving to Great-Grammy's for Thanksgiving dinner ... I wondered if Grammy would have a turkey with funny legs on it, with even funnier socks like I'd seen in pictures. My friend Susie had told me what her family was having for dinner, and though I didn't know what yams were and couldn't imagine eating a pie made out of a pumpkin, I nodded and said, "Me too. I can hardly wait."
From the sounds of Mama and Daddy's arguing, Grammy had been asking us to come for years, but we'd never gone. I wasn't sure why we were going this year, except I heard Mama say something about Grammy being gone soon and us needing to get in good with her. Was she taking a trip? I'd sure like to go with her.
They also talked a lot about an in-her-tence. Daddy said we shouldn't expect one of those, but Mama said we'd better get it because she'd married him to move up in the world, not down. "You promised," Mama said way toooften. "You promised me the world and I'm tired of settling for less."
Daddy got real quiet when she brought up the promise thing. He'd been kind of sad lately. He'd gotten laid off from his office job. I did like having him around more but it made Mama huffy. Last week Daddy got a job as a gofer for a house builder. Now, when he comes home from work he's so sore from lifting and moving things he can barely move. Mama says it's beneath him. I just wish it wouldn't make him so tired.
Mama may have worried about getting in good with Grammy, but I didn't have to worry about that 'cause Grammy always smiled when she came to visit me. And today, going to her house for the first time, I imagined her giving me one of her very biggest hugs. "I'm ever so glad to see you, Gigi girl. And my, my. Seven years old and getting so big!"
I couldn't remember ever seeing my parents hug Grammy. I liked hugs a lot, but I knew Mama and Daddy didn't care much for 'em because whenever I tried to hug them, they'd pull away and say, "Go on, now. There's no need for that."
There was, but I couldn't argue with them. At least I'd be hugging Grammy soon.
I dug in my coat pocket and got out a slip of paper to look at Grammy's address. Daddy had made Mama write it down: 96 Maple. When I first saw that number, that 96, I got all excited. Grammy lived in a house that had my special number on it! I knew right then this was going to be a good day.
Mama was reading one of her fancy fashion magazines, Vogue. The clothes were way too weird and fancy for anything she'd ever wear so I wasn't sure why she liked looking at it. Besides, she didn't need many clothes. She sold makeup at a department store and wore a pink smock every day. And we never went anywhere that made us get dressed up. Except today. Today Mama had told me to put on my red jumper and a blouse because Great-Grammy was old-fashioned. I didn't know what one had to do with the other, but I was glad enough to wear it. 'Cept it was hard sitting like a lady in a truck, in a jumper.
Mama liked helping the rich ladies who came in the store spend tons of dollars on face cream and eye shadow. I thought spending that much was dumb, especially when they could get a lipstick at the drugstore for cheap. But what did I know? ChapStick was enough for me. How I loved the smell of that stuff.
Even if Mama would never be wearing the magazine clothes, she did know how to use makeup. Her skin was soft and creamy, the color of a fresh-peeled potato. Her eye shadow was blue, and she had a brown line drawn around her eyes and a red line around her lips. I loved watching her put her makeup on. She was an artist. I thought she was every bit as pretty as the women in any old magazine. Especially when she was all done, when she smiled in the mirror and posed. She looked happy right then.
I looked out the window at the world whizzing by. The snow peeked through dead plants in the fields and was piled along the edge of the road. Part of the road was covered with it, and I liked watching the snow slip across the highway in front of us like it was running to get away from the tires. I'd run too. We were going really fas-
The back of the truck went right.
The front, left.
We headed into the other lane-
"Watch it!" Mama yelled.
The truck got straight again with a jerk like the road had reached up and grabbed the tires.
"You're going to get us killed," Mama said.
"Don't even start." But then Daddy flicked his cigarette out the window and put two hands on the wheel. That made me feel a little safer. Daddy usually drove with one hand on the top of the steering wheel, not really holding it, but his arm just resting there, bent at the wrist. I wasn't sure how a wrist could drive a truck, but Daddy seemed to make it work.
But now he was using two hands and was sitting up real straight. I saw the muscles in his jaw twitch. Mama sat straighter too. I held on to the corner of Mama's coat, but I don't think she noticed. Anyways, she didn't tell me to let go or anything.
"It's this stupid truck," Mama said. "No weight in the back. I will never understand why you traded your car for this piece of-"
"I need a truck for work."
"What you need is different work. Office work. You do not need to be a delivery peon."
"A job's a job."
She huffed. "You going to tell your grandma about your new job?"
Mama laughed. "That'll impress her."
Suddenly, Daddy slammed on the brakes, making the truck slip and slide some more, until we stopped right there in the middle of the highway.
I looked over my shoulder and was glad to see there was no one behind us.
Daddy glared at Mama. "It was your idea to go to my grandma's today. We've never gone before. I don't know why we have to go now."
She slapped her magazine shut. "You know very well why." She tapped a pink-painted fingernail on the model's face. "If I'm ever going to get a life like in these magazines, we need some real money."
"I'm working my tail off."
"So am I." She shook her head. "But it's not enough. You need to be a vice president or a manager to make the bucks we need."
"Things like that take time."
"Gigi's seven. She needs the best schools. Private schools."
"Since when?" Daddy started driving again. "I'm doing the best I can, Joyce."
I was glad Mama didn't repeat her line "It's not enough" even though I knew she was thinking it. Nothing was enough for Mama. Ever.
After a few miles Mama sat up straight and pointed out the front. "Look! Lights. There must be an accident."
I saw the lights too. Red spinning lights on a cop car and a white van.
The cars on the highway in front of us slowed down and we had to slow down too. There was a blue car upside down in the ditch. People in dark coats were bent over a person in the snow.
"Ewwwww," Mama said. "That one's dead." She pointed to a person lying every which way by the edge of the field. The snow was red.
I sat forward and leaned on the dash to see better. I wasn't interested in the person with the people around them, but the dead one off alone, by themselves. "Why isn't anyone with her?" I asked.
"Because she's dead," Mama said.
"You shouldn't be so blunt," Daddy said. "She's just a kid." Daddy pulled on the back of my coat. "Sit back, Gige."
But I didn't want to sit back. I had to see the person who was dead. "What does dead mean?" I asked.
Mama snickered. "Dead, dummy. Not alive. Gone. Outta here."
"Cut it out, Joyce," Daddy said.
"You want me to lie to her? Tell her some baloney story about being asleep, or being up in heaven, or turning into an angel? Give me a break."
"You don't have to be so crude, that's all."
"Where's heaven?" I asked.
Mama snickered again. "Not anywhere near here, so don't think about it."
But I did think about it. If the lady was dead and dead people went to heaven, then heaven had to be close. Didn't it?
The line of cars was moving now, and I got on my knees and turned around to see out the back window. I looked past the lady all crumpled in the red snow and looked for heaven. Shouldn't I be able to see something going on between here and there?
Mama yanked on my coat. "Sit down! Little girls aren't supposed to want to see things like that."
"Stupid crash," Mama said. "Now the traffic's all bogged up. Stupid crash."
"They didn't do it to make you mad," Daddy said.
Mama called him a nasty name and told him to shut up.
Mama was right. Heaven wasn't any place close to here.
* * *
Grammy did just what I'd imagined Grammy would do: she hugged me and even gave me three kisses instead of the one I'd expected. She tried to hug Mama and Daddy, but ended up touching cheeks with them more than giving them a real hug.
The turkey didn't have socks, but the food was yummy. And I could eat pumpkin pie every Thursday from now on.
I'd never seen Mama so helpful. She kept saying, "Let me get that, Grandma" and was between the table and the kitchen a dozen times. At home she always sent me to get things. Grammy seemed glad to let her do it. She looked kinda pale and sank into her chair more than just sat on it.
There was lots of laughing and good talk until Mama brought up the accident we'd seen.
"Don't talk about that," Daddy said.
"There was a dead person in the snow," I said.
I hadn't meant to say it, but since Mama had started the whole thing ...
"I'm sorry to hear that," Grammy said.
"Is there a heaven?" I asked.
Grammy reached across the table and put her hand on mine. "Of course there is."
"Mama says it's no place around here."
Mama's jaw dropped. "I said no such-"
"It isn't," Grammy said. She sat back. "And yet, it is. Heaven doesn't have any boundaries like the walls of a house, or even a neighborhood." She spread her arms wide, crossing them over her head. "It's everywhere."
"You shouldn't tell her things like that," Mama said.
Daddy chimed in. "You'd rather not tell her anything."
"As if you have all the answers?"
Daddy looked at Grammy. "I do know a few things about heaven and stuff. I learned 'em. Way back."
Grammy smiled at him. "I know you did. Your parents and I tried to teach you ..." She looked at me. "So you could teach your children."
Daddy took another helping of yams. "These sure are good."
"I could give you the recipe if you'd like," Grammy told Mama.
Mama just sat there, shaking her head. "Who cares about yams?" She sighed loudly. "We've gotten way off track. I brought up the accident because I wanted to make a point." Grammy passed her the cranberry salad. Mama set the bowl down hard, making a bit of cranberry jump over the side. "My point was ... that one never knows when the end will come. That's why it's so important to have your affairs in order. So your loved ones will be taken care of."
Daddy cleared his throat.
"Well, it's true," Mama said, glancing at him. She passed him the salad. "That poor woman in the snow ... what will her family do?"
"Do you have a will?" Grammy asked her.
"Have you written a will so Gigi is provided for in case-"
"We're not going to die!" Mama said.
"But you yourself just said one never knows."
Mama tossed her napkin on the table next to her plate. "I wasn't talking about us!"
Everybody was quiet. I heard the furnace kick on and felt a whoosh of warm air creeping up the floor behind my chair. We didn't need it. It was plenty warm.
Then Daddy stood. "I think we'd better go."
"No! I don't want to go!" I said.
Grammy patted my hand again. "Sit down, Jay. There's no reason to leave. I'm not offended." She looked at Mama. "I just wish you'd said it plain. The only thing beating around the bush gets you is a messy yard and sore muscles."
Daddy sat back down and Mama put a hand to her chest. "I wasn't beating-"
"You want to know if I have a will? I do. You want to know whether you're in it? You are. But so is the Plainview Baptist Church, the Red Cross, and a few other charities. Not that I have that much to leave anyone, but I figure you and my grandson are doing just fine. You both have good jobs, and-"
"Not anymore," Mama said.
Daddy shook his head and spoke under his breath. "I can't believe you sometimes."
"You have something to tell me?" Grammy asked Daddy.
He rearranged the fork on his plate. "I lost my job-but I've gotten another one."
"As a gofer for a house builder."
"It pays the bills."
Daddy stood again and pointed at Mama. "You want too much. Why don't you accept that we are never going to go on fancy vacations, drive new cars, or live in a big house like this."
Mama looked around the room. "You call this big?" She tapped her temple. "This is nothing compared to the house I have in my head."
"I wouldn't dare guess."
"There is nothing wrong with having dreams," Mama said. "Just because you don't have any."
"I have plenty of dreams. I'm just not obsessed with pipe dreams."
"That, you're not. You're just intent on making us live a nightmare."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Grammy got out of her chair, took my hand, and led me into the kitchen, leaving my parents to duke it out alone.
"They're loud," I said as we moved to sit at the little table by the back porch. From a chair she picked up a red pillow with fringe on it that said Home Sweet Home and held it in her lap.
"I'm sorry you have to hear them."
I glanced toward the swinging door leading to the dining room. "Oh, that's nothing. You should hear 'em when they really get going."
Grammy looked toward the door too and we both listened. There was a deep crease between her eyes. Then she patted her lap and drew me onto it, letting me hug the silky pillow to my chest. Her lap was warm. She smelled like flowers.
"I don't want you to die, Grammy."
I expected her to tell me she wasn't planning on doing any such thing. Instead she talked softly into my hair. "Dying ain't so bad. Not when a person knows where they're going. We're all born to die." Born to die? What did that mean?
I felt her shake her head, then hold me extra close. "I may not have money to give you, child, but know this: I love you more than anyone in the world, and I want you to know you're special. You're going to do something important someday. It may not change the entire world, but it'll change the world of the people around you. You'll be the good nearby."
"The good nearby. People don't realize good is closer than they think. Good people. Good things. And chances to do good." She nodded once. "The good nearby. That's you, Gigi. I know it."
I moved back an inch to look at her. "How do you know it?"
"Because God said so. He said, 'I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born I set you apart.'"
"Set apart how?"
She looked me right in the eye. My, she had a lot of wrinkles around her eyes. Mama should get her some fancy face cream for Christmas. "That's for God to decide. But you listen to me, child. You grow up, find yourself a wonderful husband, and have beautiful babies. That's a good place to start. You have some babies that have already been set apart in their own special way."
I giggled. "Me? Have babies? Grammy, I'm only seven."
"But someday you'll be grown. I want you to be happy, Gigi. I want you to feel your life means something. I want you to have bigger dreams than those of your mama and daddy."
It seemed to me Mama and Daddy had big enough dreams for us all.
She seemed to read my thoughts because she added, "I'm not talking about a fancy house or vacations or bigger cars. I'm not talking about wanting more; I'm talking about giving more. I'm talking about really big dreams ... of making a difference in this world. Of being that good nearby because you can be. Anyone can be, if they keep their eyes open to chances. I want you to take care of the here and now the best you can so you can rest easy in the hereafter." She let me go and gave me one of her special smiles. "I wish big dreams for you, Gi-"
She stopped talking when Mama yelled extra loud, "You don't like the way I'm doing things, then I'll leave. Is that what you want, Jay?"
Excerpted from The Good Nearby by Nancy Moser Copyright © 2006 by Nancy Moser. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Nancy Moser is the best-selling author of fifteen novels and three books of inspirational humor including "Mozart's Sister", "The Seat Beside Me", the Christy-award winning, "Time Lottery", as well as the Sister Circle series coauthored with Campus Crusade co-founder, Vonette Bright.
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I made the mistake of reading the dedication page and I got a hint at the ending. As I read, I was disappointed to see how the strong beginning turned exactly toward the ending predicted in the dedication. This book was not a story about people, it was a story about an author with a clear goal in mind and a clear message to send to the reader, and ended in a way I hate; tied up too conveniently with nearly every character having a "come to Jesus" moment.
This book was amazing!!! I loved it. It really touched me. I'd definately re-read it.
This book makes you feel good after you are finished. All of the characters of the book get you drawn in. This book makes you look at your life and see what truly matters most. You will laugh and cry!!!
Margery has two desires in life she wants to be considered a loving equal by her spouse and she desperately wants a child. Angie loves her spouse, but his obsessive need to control her every action is driving her crazy she just wants his love and trust. Gladys has been so independent and strong, no one has ever gotten close to her now she is going blind and fears the darkness, her lost freedom, and no one to love her. Gennifer is so ashamed of her health problem she cannot tell her loved ones what ails her instead her behavior is driving her spouse to another woman and her daughter seeking solace elsewhere. A bone weary Talia feels like Job had it made as her husband is dying unless he obtains a heart transplant she needs to be there for him and their baby while also bringing in money and by the way is pregnant. Gigi feels all alone since the only person who loved her, Grammy died years ago she ponders about being with the Lord and her Grammy as death seems her only salvation unless she learns her Grammy¿s message that all lives are sacred to the Lord who is always THE GOOD NEARBY.--------- The beauty of this terific inspirational tale is in spite of the woes facing this ensemble crew, the story line never turns maudlin or soap operish although Nancy Moser goes deep into the fragile psyche of her female cast. Each of the key six characters are unique and fully developed so that even with so many players (including extended family members), the audience knows who¿s who. The message summarized by Grammy (when she was alive) to her beloved granddaughter is even in the darkest moment God is the GOOD NEARBY to help you.------------ Harriet Klausner