In Front of God and Everybodyby KD McCrite
If God wanted April Grace to be kind to her neighbors, He should have made them nicer! Growing up in the country is never easy, but it sure is funny---especially if you happen to have a sister obsessed with being glamorous, a grandma just discovering make-up, hippie friends who never shower, and brand new neighbors from the city who test everyone’s patience.See more details below
- Checkmark Kids' Club Eligible Shop Now
If God wanted April Grace to be kind to her neighbors, He should have made them nicer! Growing up in the country is never easy, but it sure is funny---especially if you happen to have a sister obsessed with being glamorous, a grandma just discovering make-up, hippie friends who never shower, and brand new neighbors from the city who test everyone’s patience.
Read an Excerpt
In Front of God and EverybodyConfessions of April Grace
By K.D. McCRITE
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Kathaleen McCrite
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSomething New This Way Comes
* * *
I was sitting on our big front porch, reading a book and minding my own business, when a big black car gleaming like a new mirror pulled into the shady, narrow lane that leads to our farmhouse. I flipped my red braid over my shoulder and squinted hard. You just don't see shiny, new vehicles on Rough Creek Road, or even in Cedar Ridge—the town we live near here in Arkansas, right in the middle of the Ozarks. Folks here don't have money for fancy-schmancy automobiles, especially brand-new 1986 models, which I was sure that one was.
The minute I laid eyes on that car, something unpleasant shivered across my skin, the way the air feels before a bad storm. Worst of all, it dragged me back to a time three years ago when I was eight years old and saw something I hoped never to see again.
Here's what happened. I'd been invited to spend the weekend with Crystal Tomlinson, a new girl at school who'd moved to Arkansas from someplace up North. We became friends right off.
Her family lived in a brand-new, huge house with a swimming pool and a maid, and I had never seen such a thing in my life.
One weekend, a bunch of Crystal's relatives had come to visit, but they were all adults, and she didn't have anyone to play with. That Friday night, while the grown-ups gathered downstairs, Crystal and I sat in her pink-and-white bedroom, playing with about two dozen My Little Ponies. I was thinking I'd dream of multicolored plastic horses for three weeks when suddenly, Crystal grabbed my hand and tugged me to my feet.
"Let's get something to eat!" she hollered. Crystal was a bit chubby around the edges, so getting something to eat right then wasn't totally unexpected. In fact, we'd had supper in the kitchen with the maid only an hour or so earlier. But this was an adventure, so I merrily went along with her.
We ran down the back stairs to the kitchen, where we ate tuna sandwiches and potato chips and slugged down Pepsi-Cola until we belched like truck drivers.
"Now let's get some cake," Crystal squealed. I followed her into the dining room, where many people sat at a long table full of flowers and candles. They didn't see us as we went to the sideboard that held two kinds of cake.
While Crystal cut us big hunks of each cake, I looked at the adults. That was the first time I'd seen a table like that. It was covered with a bright white tablecloth, a bunch of sparkly goblets, and a zillion pieces of silverware next to each plate. And I had never in my life seen people all dressed up that way just to sit around and eat supper. The men wore dark suits, and the women's big hair was all stiff and poofy. Their jewelry glittered in the light from a big chandelier.
At our house, we wash our hands and comb our hair before we sit down to eat. If our clothes are dirty, we put on clean ones, but that's it. No high heels or ties or dangly earrings.
Everyone was laughing at something Crystal's dad had said, when her mother piped up in a nasally kind of voice.
"I'm not sure how much longer I can take living here," she said. "You cannot believe these people. They think Fifth Avenue is nothing more than a candy bar. And the last time any of them went to the theater, it was to the Grand Movie House in Cedar Ridge. They've no idea what real theater is...."
About that time, she spied Crystal and me. "Oh, here's one of them now. Come here, little redhead. Tell us your name," she said.
Everyone stared at me, and I felt like I didn't have my clothes on, but I said, "April Grace Reilly."
She looked at the others, and all of them laughed.
"Isn't that name too much?" Crystal's mom laughed. "April Grace. And the way she says it, as if she's proud."
They laughed some more.
"Come here, dear," she said. "These people want to meet an actual little hillbilly."
I approached the table slowly, not liking the way those folks smiled.
"Say something," said a woman on the other side of the table. She had a long face with deep grooves running down both sides of her mouth.
I looked at her, then at Crystal's mother. Then I looked at Crystal, who shrugged.
"Say something, April Grace," Crystal said.
"I don't know what to say," I said.
"How about a poem?" asked a man near the end of the table. He pronounced it "pome." The man had a narrow, pointy head. In a voice that sounded like it came from his sinuses first, and which I suppose he thought sounded clever, he said, "Can you-all recite a poem?"
"Yes, sir," I said.
Every last one of them snickered.
"Go ahead," said the pointy-headed man.
I figured if I said the poem without a single mistake and without talking too fast, they'd quit looking at me that way. I cleared my throat and stood straight and tall, the way Miss Carmichael had taught us.
"I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree," I began.
I was the only one in third grade who'd been able to remember that entire poem by Joyce Kilmer. I recited the whole thing right to the end, but the people at that table were all laughing their socks off.
"What's so funny?" I asked. "I did it right."
"It's the way you talk, April Grace," Crystal whispered right in my ear.
"See?" said Crystal's mother to her relatives. "That twang is just too much!"
She clapped her hands together, and I saw her long, red fingernails and a bunch of rings on her thin, white fingers.
"I actually overheard a woman the other day say she 'lived a right far piece from the Walmarts.' Oh, and that's another thing here. Life seems to revolve around trips to Walmart. Or church."
The pointy-headed man leaned away from the table and eyeballed my feet. "She's wearing shoes!" he said. "Her family must be rich."
Well, that got a big, fat laugh.
A youngish woman across the table had a long face and a long, pointy head. She must have been the daughter of the other two. "Which one of your cousins will you marry when grow up?" she asked.
"Angela!" gasped Crystal's mother. "Shame on you." But I noticed she laughed as hard as anyone else.
"I don't have any cousins," I told her.
But that only made everyone laugh even harder.
"What's so funny about that?" I asked.
"One thing more, Daisy Mae," said the pointy-headed man, smirking as he said the name. "Is your house a single- or a double-wide?"
They all hooted like that was the funniest joke of the night. I didn't live in a trailer, but why would it matter if I did? I couldn't understand why they laughed and said all those dumb things, but something inside me got tight and burned like fire.
"What's so funny?" I demanded, but no one told me.
I looked at Crystal. She was grinning like a big goof. She probably didn't understand it any more than I did, but all of a sudden I couldn't stand the sight of her, or that big house, or those fancy, sniggering people.
"I want to go home," I said. Then I marched into the kitchen through a pair of swinging doors, found the telephone, and called for my daddy to come get me. I never went to Crystal's house again. A year or so later, her folks moved out of the Ozarks and back to whatever city up North they'd come from. Good riddance, I'd say.
So now, anytime I see some slick car or uppity, dressed-up people, my hackles rise in defense.
It was too bad about Crystal, because I had liked her well enough. In fact, maybe we still would have been friends. Maybe not. Sad thing is, my new best friend, Melissa, had gone away to summer camp at the end of our fifth grade year, and I didn't have a blessed thing to do that summer. As it turned out, though, things happened that made the summer of 1986 the most memorable time of my whole entire life. And it all started with that gleaming black car pulling up in front of my house.
Chapter TwoIan and Isabel Look for Their Roots
* * *
On that warm July day, while I watched from the porch, that car just sat there, paused in our driveway. I could see two people inside talking to each other. They looked toward the house for a bit; then the car sort of oozed up the driveway and stopped near the porch.
Daisy, our big white dog who is older than dirt, slept in her favorite sunny patch by the porch steps. She woke up and looked up long enough to take note of the visitors. Then she thumped her tail once or twice, yawned, and lowered her head to her paws.
"Some watchdog you are," I told her.
I was wearing a baggy, raggedy pair of red terry cloth shorts and a yellow T-shirt with the arms cut out because I'd got into poison ivy chasing Grandma's spoiled white cat, Queenie, who is not supposed to get out of the house but does anyway. Just because of her, I'd spent the better part of that week begging God not to let me itch completely to death.
Mama and Daddy had gone over to Ava in Douglas County to pick up a part at the tractor place because in all of Zachary County, that particular part was not to be found. Although my grandmother lives just across the hayfield from us, my sister and I were home alone right then.
The blond-haired, pink-faced man in the car blasted his horn. It was as loud as a freight train and startled me so bad I jumped. Daisy lumbered up and woofed once.
The man motioned for me to come to his car door, but I didn't do it for three good reasons. Number one: he might've been an ax murderer for all I knew. Though from the looks of that spiffy car and the diamond ring winking in the sunlight on his pinky finger as he beckoned me, he looked more like a banker than a crook. Number two: my poison ivy itched worse every time I moved. Number three: I was pretty put out that he just sat in our driveway and honked for me to come running like he was King of the World. Plus, Daddy and Mama have talked to me and my sister about being careful around strangers.
I looked at the scrawny boy in the seat beside him. Boy, that kid was some kind of ugly with a mug that was all ghostly white cheekbones and forehead. His black eyebrows dipped down toward a long, pointy nose. He wore his short, dark hair all slicked back so his face was just hanging there, and you just had to stare at it, kinda like a bad wreck on the highway.
The way that pair glared at each other, you could see they were both madder than a two-edged sword.
They began to argue, but I couldn't make out the words. Finally the man's window slid down, smooth as you please.
"You! Girlie! Is that creature vicious?"
I glanced around, expecting to see Grandma's cat, who has been known to bite the hand that feeds her, or anyone else's hand for that matter. Then I saw him eyeball Daisy, who had plopped back down in the sun and was lying there like melted ice cream. I laughed out loud. That dog would rather lick you than sic you, and that tight-faced man was the only person in the world who ever thought good ole Daisy might be vicious.
"No, sir, she ain't mean," I said when I finally quit laughing fit to be tied.
The man turned to the boy and said something. This time, with the car window down, that boy's answer came out loud and clear.
That's when I realized the homely kid was actually the most unpleasantest-looking woman I've ever seen in all my life, and that's putting it nicely. And let me tell you, she had a voice shrill enough to crack the Arctic ice cap.
"I am not getting out of this car, Ian! That child is covered with sores, and there's no telling what rural diseases she has."
Well, she didn't need to make it sound like I had the cooties. We Reillys take a bath every single night before bed. My sister, Myra Sue, who is fourteen years old and is in love with herself, bathes about five times a day even though she's too lazy to do a blessed thing to get herself dirty.
"I got poison ivy," I hollered at the woman, who continued to gawk at me as if I were something disgusting. "It's not catchy, like the measles or head lice."
There was just the tiniest silence, as if they were both surprised I could speak. After a moment, the man gave me a big plastic smile that stretched his lips halfway to both ears. He obviously didn't wear dentures because they would've popped out from all the grinning.
"Well, then," he said heartily, "can you tell us if this is Rough—"
"What's the matter with you, Ian?" screeched the woman. "She's a child. She doesn't know anything!"
Ian jerked his head around to look at her, and I got a real good view of his bald spot turning a peculiar shade of purple.
"Isabel! Be quiet! You haven't shut your yapping mouth since we left San Francisco."
Well, I hate to say it, but watching this business was almost better than reading. I put my book down so I could pay attention. What were those people, anyway? Crazy?
The woman shrieked as if she had been goosed.
"Don't you tell me what to do, Ian St. James," she said. "This whole move is your idiotic idea. I was perfectly content at home, in the middle of civilization!"
His next words came out like little soldiers in a row, all stiff and even.
"Kindly remember that our home is gone."
"And it's all your fault!" she screamed.
The little soldiers continued to march forth. "I told you that someday I wanted to get back to our roots," he said.
"Roots? Back to our roots? We were both born in Marin County. California, Ian. California!"
"But my grandfather came from West Memphis."
She looked so mad I thought her eyeballs would pop right out. She leaned into him.
"Have you ever looked at a map?" she asked. "West Memphis is at least two hundred miles from this odious place. We don't have hillbilly roots!"
They glared at each other for a spell and cussed each other out pretty good, then she slung herself back against the car seat, crossing her arms.
By then it seemed evident they weren't ax murderers or dangerous in any way except maybe to each other, but all that screeching and cursing made me itch and gave me a headache. I'd had an earful more than I could stomach. I got up and went into the house, letting the screen door bang shut behind me. Then I latched it, just for good measure and for safety's sake.
The car horn blasted again, three times.
In the living room, Myra Sue lounged on the sofa with a pile of clean, unfolded towels all around her, as if she thought she were a princess and the laundry were velvet cushions. With her mouth hanging half-open, she had her eyes glued to the TV, watching Days of Our Lives. She didn't have anything better to do, I guess, because her two best friends, Jessica and Jennifer Cleland, were spending the summer with their grandparents in Hawaii.
I settled carefully into the soft, old rocking chair Grandma uses whenever she comes to visit, which, if you are interested, is every single day.
"Is someone outside?" Myra Sue asked, coming up for air during a commercial. My sister has wavy blond hair and bright blue eyes and thinks she is so all-fired gorgeous that it's like her feet are glued to the floor in front of the mirror. I bet she'd stare at herself 'til the Second Coming if Mama would let her. I even caught her kissing her reflection one time, and she like to pulled me bald-headed when I couldn't stop laughing.
"You could say that," I muttered.
Outside, Daisy gave another low, lazy woof. Someone squealed. A car door slammed loud enough to wake the dead in Cedar Ridge Cemetery eight miles away.
Myra Sue gave me her usual dirty look.
"Did you lock the screen?" she asked. "We don't want a lunatic or a salesman in the house."
With one foot, I set Grandma's chair to rocking and ignored her. I opened my book and plunged myself back into the world of Oliver Twist, which I like way, way better than that series about junior high cheerleaders all the other girls my age love so much.
"Hey in there! Girlie!" The man's voice came from outside, somewhere in the region of the porch steps.
Myra Sue didn't move, and neither did I.
"He's hollering at you," she said. That girl is so lazy she wouldn't move if the towels caught fire.
Excerpted from In Front of God and Everybody by K.D. McCRITE Copyright © 2011 by Kathaleen McCrite. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >