Tenney's Landing: Stories

Tenney's Landing: Stories

4.3 3
by Catherine Tudish
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The lives and histories of the denizens of Tenney's Landing, a small Pennsylvania river town, intersect in ways both incidental and intimate as the townspeople learn that their capacity for hope and forgiveness is greater than they thought. In "Where the Devil Lost His Blanket," Elizabeth Tenney embarks on an unexpected journey to return the remains of her deceased

Overview

The lives and histories of the denizens of Tenney's Landing, a small Pennsylvania river town, intersect in ways both incidental and intimate as the townspeople learn that their capacity for hope and forgiveness is greater than they thought. In "Where the Devil Lost His Blanket," Elizabeth Tenney embarks on an unexpected journey to return the remains of her deceased neighbor to South America. In "Jordan's Stand," a gruff old farmer forms an unlikely friendship with a young widow. In "The Springhouse," a woman decides to leave her husband and return to Tenney's Landing, where she becomes the unofficial guardian of all manner of community secrets.

Evocative, resonant, and exquisitely tender, these stories capture moments of change — upheaval, renewal, and the quieter revolutions inspired by the small eventfulness of everyday life. Catherine Tudish's remarkable debut illuminates the shared human condition through the particulars of a small American town.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Some connections survive by virtue of history, some by family, and others purely by chance. Such connections serve as the basis for Tudish's interlocking collection of stories that centers on the women in a small Pennsylvania river town. Tenney's Landing is a rural community, a place where lives intersect and closely held secrets are the exception rather than the rule. The main character in one story may be incidental in another, but they are inextricably bound by a shared place and time. In "Where the Devil Lost His Blanket," Elizabeth Tenney inherits the remains of neighbors she has barely known and fulfills their final wishes to be brought home to South America, where a chance encounter transforms her bizarre journey in ways she could never have foreseen. In "Dog Stories," a newly single mother and her two girls share rare moments of laughter and absurdity with a shy but accommodating stranger. And in "The Springhouse," an unhappily married young woman returns home and is surprised -- and dismayed -- but what she comes to learn about love.

Meticulously crafted and beautifully written, these are stories true to the individual and important moments in our lives, filled with a simple, timeless wisdom. Like the best chroniclers of small-town life, Tudish has created characters whose lives will resonate long after the last page is turned. (Fall 2005 Selection)
Publishers Weekly
The evolution of a landscape and its inhabitants binds together the tales in this eloquent, emotionally authentic debut, set in a fictional Pennsylvania river town. For the denizens of once-prosperous Tenney's Landing, the past remains at hand: prodigals both fleeing and returning explore the repercussions of childhood cruelties, tragic accidents and betrayals, as well as acts of kindness and heroism. "A clean break, wasn't that what she wanted? As if such a thing existed, as if fate might slip you a little silver hatchet and let you cut yourself free," muses the narrator of "The Springhouse," a woman who leaves her emotionally remote husband in Chicago and circles back to her parents' home. In "Jordan's Stand," a relative newcomer is appointed surrogate deer hunter by her elderly friend and neighbor, Jordan Eastman. Perched in a tree, she awaits her prey, pondering her husband's death and her new connections: "I think my widowhood draws us closer, as if the confluence of grief and old age were inevitable." Elizabeth Tenney, the protagonist in "Where the Devil Lost His Blanket," accompanies her Colombian neighbor's remains home to Bogot in a story that highlights her provincialism at the same time it imbues her prosaic life with meaning. Rendered in graceful prose and abounding with epiphanies, Tudish's stories make a lovely, mournful collection. Agent, Nat Sobel. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A series of nine loosely related, fairly bland debut stories about a southwestern Pennsylvania town and its mild-mannered inhabitants. In a prologue, Tudish describes how Tenney's Landing was founded: fur trappers and veterans of the French and Indian War established Fort Duquesne around 1765, upriver on the Monongahela, where the town of Pittsburgh grew. Eventually, nearby Tenney's Landing became a thriving place, later declared a historic site. In the stories, Tudish visits the current denizens of Tenney's Landing, with a tone that moves between sentiment and edge. In "Dog Stories," a young native returns from college in Ann Arbor and learns about the marriage of a handyman, Eugene Eastman, whom she remembers keenly from the summer she turned 11 ("One of the good things about Eugene: he wasn't going anywhere"). Eugene was the hayseed foil to the girl's parents' marriage problems that summer, when the narrator's professor father, John, left home to live with a McClelland College student he'd fallen in love with, and Eugene appeared every day at the grieving house to help with yard and garden work. In "Pigeon," long-time native Aggie Moffat hears that her retired husband of many decades, Jasper, is flirting with an elderly widow in another town. Aggie follows him and learns that it's true, and yet her own indifference, and his wanderlust, were always evident right in front of her, and she'd managed to surmount her own need for a life of her own. In the first story, "Where the Devil Lost His Blanket," a well-to-do local woman, wife and mother, Elizabeth Tenney, has been selected by her dying Colombian friend Margaria Flores to represent her American life at her funeral in Bogota.Admittedly, Elizabeth knows little about Margaria, yet she learns of her friend's deep, rich, sensuous roots that resonate with her own. A collection as eerily hard to sound as are its characters, heartfelt yet with plenty of puzzling white space.
From the Publisher
"The women of Tenney's Landing are the sort I'm always wishing I'd meet more often in real life — smart, large-hearted, soulful, brave." — Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and Straight Man

"The narrators are storytellers, and with perfectly pitched simplicity of prose Tudish elevates the role stories have in a community. Through the writing, we are moved by community legacy and are reminded of the ties that bind." — San Francisco Chronicle

"A remarkable debut collection, Tenney's Landing is wise, funny, memorable and a delight to read." — Burlington Free Press

"In a world filled with postmodern acrobatics and meta-fiction, Tudish offers unself-conscious tenderness. These are serious and ambitious stories, and one can only wish that more will come." — Nashville Scene

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743267670
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
05/31/2005
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Dowry

I heard Ed coming up our hill. I couldn't see him yet, but he'd just hit the steep part about halfway, and I recognized the low growl of the engine as he downshifted. Ed was our closest neighbor, and he'd stop by to visit from time to time, maybe drop something off on his way back from town. I finished sweeping the oats where Starboy had kicked over the bucket that morning and hung the broom on the peg in the grain room and walked across to the house to wait.

I was standing on the porch steps when I saw his old blue pickup turn into our road, the dust swarming up behind it. The lane's about a quarter mile long, so at first I wasn't sure if someone was with him. As soon as I made out the girl, though, something about her made me think of back home, which was strange enough. Then there was the sky that morning -- the mackerel sky we get in the early summer, a great sweep of pearly clouds that makes you think you're floating when you look at it. It was the same sky as the day I looked up and saw my father riding in on a pack mule. The lane was all ruts then, and him just a speck down at the end of it, but I knew him right away. He was the sorriest sight, never had ridden before and didn't like it much I could tell. So rumpled and dirty he was, coming on toward the cabin -- it wasn't really a house yet -- and hanging on to that pack saddle for dear life.

Ed hopped out of the cab, grinning. "Brought you a relative, Frances," he said. "Didn't know you had any." He hoisted a big brown suitcase out of the back. "Met her at the post office asking about you, and since I was heading this way, offered to give her a lift."

The girl sat there for a minute, taking me in. All I could think was, Good Lord, my cousin Hillary has died and sent me her daughter to raise, left me this child in her will. Then the girl climbed out and walked up to me, offering a handshake. When I saw her closer, I remembered that she would be too old to need raising.

"Aunt Frances?" she said. "I'm Carrie MacKemson."

"That's plain as day," I told her, taking her hand. "You look exactly like your mother and father put together."

Ed sidled up to the porch and plunked her suitcase down. He pinched the brim of his hat and said, "Be seeing you, ladies," and took off in another swirl of dust before maybe I could come to my senses and send this girl and her big suitcase back into town with him.

So there I was, watching the back of Ed's truck, elbow to elbow with Hillary's girl. It was like she had dropped out of the sky.

"Wait until Jack sees you," I said. "He's up in the high pastures, checking on the sheep."

"Jack's your husband?"

"Yes he is." Jack and I have been keeping house together for twenty-five years, which isn't a bad record. "We had two hundred lambs this spring. It's a lot to keep track of."

"I always imagined you had a sheep farm."

"Ranch," I corrected. "Anyway, come on up and have a seat."

She sat down in the rocker with a big sigh, like she had some bad news to deliver -- which she did, before I could say another word. "Your father's dying," she told me. "He might be dead already. It took me nearly three days to get here."

"Well now," I said. "You aren't one to beat about the bush, are you?"

Starboy and Pan kicked up their heels all of a sudden and started prancing around the corral, sniffing the wind. I'd gotten a letter a couple of weeks before. My mother wrote to say that the old fellow had had a stroke, but he was out of the hospital, home in bed. She thought he might get better. The girl, Carrie, was staring at me as I watched the horses.

"Did they send you out here?"

"No, I came on my own," she said. "On the train."

"What's your idea?" I turned and tried to smile at her. "You planning on taking me back?"

"I wanted to meet you, that's all." She scratched her cheek and glanced over at the horses. "I was at the farm, visiting my grandparents, and I went into town with them to see your parents a few times. And then I just thought it would be good to find you."

She seemed like an honest, well-meaning girl, and I was sorry to be making her uncomfortable. I took a seat in Jack's chair.

We sat rocking on the porch, and she started talking about the town, Tenney's Landing, as if I would naturally want to hear all the news, such as it was. Her voice sounded the way Hillary's used to, a skittery young voice that ran up and down a couple of octaves in every sentence, a voice with a sense of humor in it.

She told me about going with her grandparents -- my uncle Walter and aunt Marian -- to visit and take dinner for my mother. While they were eating, my mother kept a plastic nursery monitor on the sideboard so she could listen in on my father. Carrie said they could hear him breathing.

"It was a huffing and puffing sound, a little weird. Anyway, one night last week, your mother put down her knife and fork and said, 'Aggie Moffat stopped by today, with a peach pie for Owen.' And she rolled her eyes at the ceiling. 'He can't eat anything like that,' she said. Really, it's pretty much soup and pudding for him. All of a sudden she looked around and said, 'You know what, I can't remember where I put it.' Right then there was this little chuckling sound on the monitor, and I imagined Uncle Owen sitting up in his bed, polishing off the last bite of pie."

Listening to that voice of hers, I could just about smell the linoleum in my mother's kitchen, the pink-and-gray-speckled linoleum she was so proud of. She used to scrub it twice a week with some pine cleaner my father said gave him a headache. By that time, Hillary's family had moved out to the farm, but she would come home with me after school on Fridays and spend the night. Her parents would pick her up the next day when they came to town to buy their groceries.

Hillary and I always asked if we could have fried chicken for dinner. We liked to watch my mother making it almost as much as we liked eating it. She'd get the Crisco smoking hot in her big black skillet, and while the chicken popped and sizzled in the oil, we'd set the table. Once my mother said, "I'll tell you a little secret, add some baking soda to your flour when you coat the chicken." When everything was ready, my dad and my brother Barrett would come to the table. My dad always said the same grace: "Thank you, Lord, for these gifts we are about to receive." He didn't joke around as much as Uncle Walter, who sometimes said, "Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub." After we cleaned up the dishes, we'd play gin rummy until bedtime. Hillary and Barrett always played as a team, because he couldn't figure out the cards by himself.

"Carrie," I said, "I haven't got any peaches, but how do you like cherry pie?"

"Oh, fine," she said, looking a little wary.

"It's Jack's favorite," I told her. "Come and help me pit these sour cherries."

Jack, he's something. He came riding in around five o'clock, all sunburned and tired out. When I said, "Jack, meet my cousin Hillary's daughter, Carrie MacKemson," he threw his arms around her and gave her a hug, as if her showing up here was the most wonderful thing in the world.

"I'm awfully glad to see you," he said. He asked about her trip and invited her to come along while he took care of his horse. The next thing I knew, they were out at the corral talking about this and that. Well, I considered, she must think I'm a cold fish.

We ate supper out back, under the trees, where it was cool. Jack rooted around in the cupboards until he found a bottle of wine, and then he made a big fuss over opening it and toasting our guest. She only drank a few sips, so I guessed this wasn't a regular thing for her. But the wine gave us a little glow, and it was pleasant having company. Except that it was so damn peculiar to see her sitting there. She did look like Hillary and Dan both. She had her father's dark green eyes and her mother's copper-colored hair. We weren't used to having young people around, either. Next to Jack and me she looked fresh and shiny, like a bright new penny dropped into a jar of old dingy ones.

"I used to wonder about Ludlow, South Dakota," she said, getting up the last bit of cherry juice on the side of her fork. She had an appetite, I have to say.

"Not many people do that," Jack said. "Wonder about Ludlow." "I remember when I found it in my seventh-grade geography book. There it was, in the upper-left-hand corner of the state, just below Little Nasty Creek." She laughed. "The population given was ten, so I figured Aunt Frances had nine neighbors."

"That sounds about right," Jack said. "But I think we have a few more these days."

"South Dakota, the Coyote State. The part around Ludlow was colored tan for sheep raising, so I could see a problem there. I used to imagine Aunt Frances wearing a fringed leather jacket, taking aim with her double-barreled shotgun, coyote eyes gleaming in the dark." Aunt Frances. She said it so naturally. And yet I could hardly believe that this girl back East had been trying to imagine my life while I was out here living it, no more mindful of her than of the Atlantic Ocean. I only knew she existed because Hillary wrote when she was born and mentioned her and her brothers in the yearly Christmas letter. Maybe I had some school pictures in a drawer somewhere.

"Frances has been known to take down a coyote or two," Jack said, "when they go after the lambs. With a rifle, though. Shotgun's not powerful enough." He winked at me and gave my knee a squeeze.

"You know," I said, "technically, I'm not your aunt. Hillary's my first cousin, so I believe that makes you my second cousin. Isn't that how it works?"

"Oh," she said, looking down at her empty plate. "I'm not sure. I've always called your mother Aunt Louise, so I just thought . . ."

"Well, I think Aunt Frances sounds fine," Jack said, squeezing my knee again, this time to suggest I mind my manners.

"There's one really nice picture of you in your parents' upstairs hallway," she went on. "It's you and Barrett, wearing your skates, standing on the river. In my mind, I made you taller and gave you the fringed jacket and put a gun in your hands. Kind of dumb, I guess."

"I was twelve when that picture was taken. That was 1952, one year the river froze all the way across -- before they dredged it. Can you imagine, having the whole river to skate on?" I remember that day because it was so cold our skates made a skree sound on the ice. I'm standing beside Barrett with my hand on his shoulder. We're both wearing heavy parkas with fur around the hoods, and Barrett looks like a tiny Eskimo, his face circled in fur. He's holding his arms out to steady himself on the ice. When we got the picture developed, I wished I had put my hood up too, because my hair was all windblown and tangled. Sometimes I think about writing to my mother and asking if I can have that picture, but then I don't want to stir things up.

"Well, Barrett," Jack said. "The poor devil."

"He did love to skate on the river, that's for sure." I stood up and started stacking the dishes.

Jack's snoring woke me in the night, and I couldn't get back to sleep. I kept thinking about Hillary and Dan's daughter right here in my house, practically a stranger. Finally I went outside and sat down at the table where we'd eaten. It was warm out and clear, the sky crowded with stars. When I first moved out West I couldn't stop looking at the sky, it was so big. It took me a while to get used to it.

The summer I was sixteen, the year before I left home, I used to sneak out of the house at night and go down to the ferry landing to smoke a cigarette. Hillary went with me a couple of times, but mostly I went alone. I liked being out on the streets after the rest of the town had gone to bed. The only lights would be in the Mon-View Lounge, a sort of greenish yellow glow. Maybe four or five men would be sitting at the bar, drinking beer and listening to the radio. I used to wonder about the "View" part, since from inside you couldn't see the river, just the houses across the street.

At the ferry dock I'd lie on my back and look up at the stars and listen to the water slapping against the wood, smell the river and the trees. The night sky was a comfort then. I'd light my cigarette, watching the fire ring burn around the end of the paper and the smoke spiral up in the dark air. I got to know Evan Sayers that way. He was the blind man who lived in our town, and he didn't have any friends to speak of. He got around pretty well -- you'd see him walking down the street with his broom, whistling some tune or other. He earned money sweeping out the Mon-View and Chessie's Market and Wright's Pharmacy. He was neat as a pin, and people liked him, but his eyes looked like cloudy blue marbles and he made odd gestures with his hands. It could put you off.

One time I was lying there on the dock, and I started hearing a sound like the beginning of a dance tune when the drummer starts off easy, playing over the drums with those little wire brushes. Then I noticed steps in between, so the sound was tch step step, tch step step. I sat up and peered into the dark, and pretty soon Evan stepped onto the dock, using his broom as a cane, with the bristle end down.

"Hello, Evan," I said. "It's Frances Wyatt."

"Ah, Owen's girl," he said, sitting down near me. "You old enough to smoke?" he asked, but in a friendly way.

I took the pack of Pall Malls from the waistband of my skirt and lit one for him and handed it over.

"Nothing like a summer evening down by the riverside," he said. In the dark, his voice sounded deep and soothing.

After that, I met him down there lots of times, and we'd have a smoke and talk. He told me about being a soldier in the First War, as he called it. He'd been blinded by gas in the trenches and got sent home with a medal. Once he reached into his pocket and took the medal out and told me to have a look at it. I held it between my fingers and rubbed my thumb over its surface, tracing the outline of the heart and the profile of General Washington and the coarse grain of the tattered ribbon.

"I used to wish I'd been killed," he said. "It's a grand idea, dying for your country. But coming home without your sight, you're only a bother and a strangeness to other people."

One night, later on, I told Evan about Barrett, how it got hard looking out for him all the time. "Mostly, I worry about what kind of a life he's going to have."

"His life might be better than you know," Evan said. "There's pleasure of some kind in every day, if you notice." When he got up and left, I sat there listening to the tch step step, tch step step of his progress home.

That night, when I let myself in the back door sometime after midnight, my father was waiting for me. I saw him in the dark, sitting in his chair, and was about to make up some reason why I'd been out. But before I had a chance to speak, he said, "Enough of this, Frances," very calmly. "I will expect you to be at home in your bed at night from now on."

So I missed Evan's big moment a few nights later. Everyone was talking about it the next morning, how a car went out of control at the top of Sterling Hill and how it screeched all the way down, the air reeking of burnt rubber. The car, a 1947 Ford, belonged to Roland Dibbs, a boy from Rownd's Point. He and three of his friends -- they were all about eighteen or nineteen -- had gotten drunk and Roland was showing off. They shot over the crest of the hill at about sixty miles an hour, and the brakes failed. The car ended up in the river, right near the ferry landing.

Evan was out there, and he heard everything. As he told the reporter from The Messenger, he took off his shoes and dove into the water. He went deep, feeling his way along the bottom, until he bumped into the hot metal of the car. The doors wouldn't open. When he pounded on the windows, he couldn't hear anything from inside. So he went up and groped along the riverbank until he found a good-size rock. He took it down and smashed a window. One by one he pulled the four dazed boys through the opening and carried them to the top. By the time the volunteer firemen got there, three of the boys were sitting on the grass, coughing and sputtering. Someone had called Doc Brooks, and he got there in time to save the fourth boy by artificial respiration. The next week the town had an Evan Sayers Day with a picnic in the park and a bright red banner he couldn't see.

I managed to speak to him for a minute and explain that I wouldn't be able to meet him at the dock anymore.

"I understand," he said. "It's too bad, though. We had some interesting talks."

* * *

The sun shone through the bedroom window, warming my face, and I knew it was late. The aroma of coffee and bacon drifted up from the kitchen, along with stifled laughter and snatches of song. Jack and Carrie fixing breakfast. When Jack and I had gone to bed the night before, I told him that she'd come to tell me my father was dying. "It's still a mystery, though, why she had to tell me in person."

"I'm sorry, Frances," he said, taking my hand and kissing the back of it.

If he had more to say, he had the good judgment to keep it to himself. Jack understood as well as anyone could why I had left my family. I had told him about it at the beginning, and then we'd gotten on with our life together. Every few years, he suggested making a trip east, but when I said I wasn't interested, he never pressed it. Maybe, being an orphan, he thought I'd been too extreme, but it wasn't a question I cared to explore. As I got up to dress, I wondered again why Carrie had brought such a large suitcase.

From the hallway I could see Jack stirring batter in our big yellow bowl and Carrie melting butter on the griddle. They were singing "O Susanna," harmonizing as if they'd been singing together for years. Jack would have made a fine father -- I always thought so, but kids weren't in the cards for us.

"Hey," I said. "You two are busy this morning."

"Oh, darn," Carrie said. "We wanted to bring you breakfast in bed."

"And you were planning to serenade me too?" I watched as Jack poured blueberry pancake batter on the hot griddle.

"Sorry about the noise," she said. "We were trying to sing quietly."

"In case you don't know, that was one of your mother's favorite songs," I told Carrie. "My dad got the biggest kick out of singing it to her when she was little, because she'd always stop him. 'Wait!' she'd say. 'How could he freeze to death if the sun was so hot?' And my dad would laugh. 'What's the problem, miss?' he'd ask her. 'Do you think I got the words wrong?' "

"Little Hillary," Carrie said, and Jack raised his eyebrows at me. About halfway through breakfast, Jack got the bright idea that I should take Carrie out for a ride and show her the ranch. "Take all day, if you want," he said. "Pack some sandwiches and go up to the high pastures. The sheep will be glad of a visit."

"First of all," I said, "Carrie probably doesn't know how to ride. And besides that, we have a slew of chores to do around here."

Jack looked at Carrie.

"I can ride," she said.

"And I can do the chores," Jack added. "So it's settled."

Carrie rode ahead when we started out, following the trail. How, I wondered, did this child who grew up in Philadelphia learn to ride a horse? I let her take Pan, who was a good old soul but cranky too, and she charmed him so that he was nuzzling her ear by the time she got him saddled up. From behind, she looked exactly like Hillary -- sitting up straight, her copper hair tied back beneath the white hat I'd loaned her. She was on the skinny side, the way her mother had been at that age. I could see her shoulder blades sticking out, like little wings tucked inside her shirt.

When the trail widened, I caught up to her. "Where'd you learn to ride, anyway? I would have figured you for a city slicker, and you turn out to be Annie Oakley."

"I owe it all to my violin teacher," she said, laughing. "My parents had a rule that each of us kids had to learn to play an instrument. Well, I picked the violin for some reason, and my teacher lived in Merion Station, just outside the city. He used to have me play duets with a girl named Margaret, whose parents were horse trainers, and we got to be good friends. It made playing the violin a lot more fun, because I knew we'd go riding afterward."

"Now that I think of it, I suppose your grandparents had horses too. I remember your grandfather bought a Tennessee walker not too long after they moved out to the farm. Sandy, he called it. Lord, he was crazy about that horse!"

"My mother has a picture of him riding Sandy," Carrie said. "He was dressed up like a banker, and Sandy's mane was braided too. I don't know what the occasion was."

"You know what happened, don't you?"

"Shooting him, you mean?"

"Maybe an hour after that picture was taken, another horse kicked Sandy and broke his leg. My dad said the other horse was jealous because your grandfather was making a big fuss over Sandy, getting him ready for the county fair. And then he had to shoot him instead. He cried, Hillary told me, stood out in the field and cried."

"He said later he never should have bought Sandy, that's what my mother told me. He said he had no business with such an expensive horse."

I decided we shouldn't go to the sheep pastures but should ride up higher. In our part of the state, the plains run into the northern edge of the Black Hills, and on a day as clear as that was, you can get up into the foothills and find a good view to the south. It's fairly dramatic, the way the hills in the distance look like ocean waves, their tans and grays gradually shading to smoky blue near the horizon. We found a spot of shade for the horses between two spruce trees and tied them there while we went to have a look.

"It's a different world out here, isn't it?" Carrie said, shading her eyes with one hand. "This could be another country."

"How old are you?" I asked her.

"Seventeen. Eighteen almost. I graduated from high school two weeks ago."

"That's how old your parents were the last time I saw them." I was having trouble picturing Hillary and Dan as middle-aged -- thicker, grayer versions of the people I'd known.

"When you left home, did you know where you were going? I mean, did you have a dream of South Dakota?"

"Not exactly," I said. "But tell me something -- what brings you here?"

She dropped her hand and turned to look at me, as if it were a rude question. "I could say I wanted to do something for your father." She told me how they put him in Barrett's room, in the old sleigh bed, when they brought him home from the hospital. My mother was reading Treasure Island to him. She must have picked it off the bookshelf beside the bed, because that was the book I brought home for Barrett when he got sick.

"He can't really talk, you know," she went on. "He makes sounds, but no one can understand him. So your mother printed up cards with words like 'ice' and 'blanket' and 'bedpan.' If he wants something, he holds up a card to let you know. When I told him I was coming out here to find you, he picked out the 'ice' card. At first I thought he wanted some, but when I brought it to him, he shook his head. He pointed at me, and finally I understood that he was trying to tell me what to expect if I ever got here."

"I guess he wasn't far off," I said. The idea of my father asking for a bedpan made me flinch. The last time I'd seen him, he couldn't have been more than forty-five. "So how's my mother holding up?"

"I'd say pretty well. The Banashevskys -- their Russian neighbors, maybe you didn't know them -- help out a lot. Mrs. Banashevsky brings over her famous beet soup, and Mr. Banashevsky fixed their hot water heater last week. And my grandparents go in to see them pretty often."

"Oh, I remember the Banashevskys. I went to school with their sons, but they lived on the other side of town then. Anyway, I'm surprised your parents let you come. It's a long way, especially all by yourself." Besides, in their experience, people who came out to Ludlow never went back.

"They weren't thrilled about the idea, but maybe they're trying to give me a little slack to make up for the other stuff."

"What other stuff?"

"We're sort of fighting these days." Carrie took off her hat and fanned herself, sat on an outcrop of rock and looked down the valley.

I glanced at the horses, who were standing nose to nose, nodding off in the heat. "Now don't take this the wrong way, but you're not thinking of staying here, are you?"

"I'm thinking of moving to New York." She sounded a little huffy.

"I see."

She turned and looked at me over her shoulder. "You might understand," she said. "I want to be a photographer, but my parents think I should go to Columbia and study English, then maybe journalism. I applied, to please them, and I got accepted, too. But I've decided not to go."

I went and sat near her, in the temporary shade of a passing cloud.

"I wouldn't be so quick to thumb my nose at an opportunity like that. What's your idea? You're just going to show up in New York and start taking pictures of people on the street?"

"Hey, give me a little credit," she said. But she laughed, too, and seemed to relax. She told me about her friend Valerie, who was going to acting school in New York. They wanted to get a studio apartment in the Village, and Carrie would study photography. "I really want to try it out," she said. "And if I need to, I can earn money waiting tables."

"Now you've hit on something I know about," I told her. It was pointless to say how young seventeen is, how the world is not so anxious to bend to your will. "You should probably think twice about waitressing."

"Is that what you were doing -- those two years you were missing, before you showed up here?" She put her hat back on and gave me a long look.

"Maybe you should become a detective," I said. "You'd be good at it."

She smiled at me and shook her head and leaned back on her elbows, as if she were waiting for me to begin.

Meet the Author

Catherine Tudish is the author of the acclaimed short story collection Tenney's Landing. Tudish taught writing and literature at Harvard for eight years before moving to Vermont to work as a journalist and fiction writer. She now teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English and Dartmouth College.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Strafford, Vermont
Date of Birth:
August 3, 1952
Place of Birth:
Waynesburg, Pennsylvania
Education:
B.A., Southern Illinois University, 1973; Ph.D., St. Louis University, 1979

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Tenney's Landing 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Volumes of short stories are not in vogue, so a new author needs to show exceptional talent to have a collection published, and so it is with Tenney¿s Landing. Catherine Tudish is a master of writing about everyday lives and imbuing them great power and depth. She also has a delightful, but very understated sense of humor. These stories are built around a small town, Tenny¿s Landing, and major characters in one story often show up with smaller roles in another. This gives a sense of continuity, but any one of these stories stands on its own and all are excellent, each offering a very different perspective. I found Tenney¿s Landing a pleasure to read and it left me with a feeling of great satisfaction.