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A stranger comes to Jackson’s Pond and everything changes.
Marva Cope, the fourth novel in the Jackson’s Pond, Texas Series, brings new elements to the story of the small town in the Texas Panhandle.
Marva arrives as the new postmaster in 2017. She brings with her a lifetime of hesitancy to open herself to others. It is here, while living with her elder Aunt Violet, that she comes to appreciate the value of true friendships. With new relationships, long walks, and conversations with herself, she comes to terms with her difficult past…the loss of a beloved teenaged brother in a tragic farm accident, her father’s death from a broken heart, and a distant mother who had no love for the young teenager.
Troubled teenage years followed as a flawed young man lures her to New Mexico, then left her alone with their newborn daughter. With her newfound courage of trusting others as friends, she reconnects with her daughter and a college dorm-mate she had deserted in years past. In Jackson’s Pond, she finds the ability to consider what to do with the rest of her life.
EXCERPT, PART ONE OF CHAPTER 1 FROM
MARVA COPE BY TEDDY JONES
June 10, 2017
Marva Cope startled, looked up from staring at the SCRABBLE tiles lined up on her holder. Her aunt, Violet Steel, sitting across from her at the kitchen table, clicked down seven tiles across the center squares on the board. R E T R A I N laid out vertically, the R situated on the pink double word star. Violet said, “I’ll keep score.”
“That’s retrain not bingo,” Marva said. She looked back at her tiles. Q B N W I H X
Marva’s aunt said, “I assume you know the rules of this game. If you need a refresher, there they are printed inside the box lid.” Hardly stopping for breath, she said, “Fourteen points for the double word plus fifty for Bingo, all seven tiles used at one play. If you’re going to live in this house, to coexist amicably with me, it’s important that you play SCRABBLE. By that I mean that you do your best each game to beat me.” She pointed at the board. “All champion players shout Bingo when they make that play.”
Marva said, “Uh huh. Well.” She spelled out whine connected to the e. “Whine, that’s what you won’t catch me doing in this game. Fifteen points.”
Violet snorted a little laugh as she drew a new set of seven letters. “Glad to see you’re up to it. The old gals in our weekly game will only play cards with me, not SCRABBLE. I always win.”
Marva said, “Watch what you say. Could be there’s a new sheriff in town.” She drew four new tiles; J O E P, and smiled across at Violet who was busy making her next play.
“Thirty-four,” Violet said. She’d made grazing using the r at the top of retrain.
She and Violet had worked out details of her renting a room, kitchen duties, sharing grocery costs, and other routines last week before Marva moved her clothes into one of the extra bedrooms and spread her toiletries in the guest bathroom. Violet had insisted that rent wasn’t necessary, but Marva convinced her that there would be extra expense with her living there. Violet had emphasized that Marva should stay as long as she liked, but that she would understand if she chose to eventually find a place of her own. After that initial discussion, Marva felt their arrangement would work. Moving in with Violet was the perfect excuse for Marva to give her second-hand furniture to a women’s shelter and travel almost unencumbered to Jackson’s Pond.
It seemed like a perfect situation, at least for now. She spent the week opening a bank account, stopping by the post office to meet the retiring Postmaster, changing her address on her driver’s license. She’d also gone to the grocery store, using a list from Violet and adding several items of her own—almonds, celery, pimento cheese. She’d also made a trip to Calverton to buy wine. They both enjoyed a glass in the evening. Until tonight, there had been no mention of SCRABBLE.
Violet made no comment as Marva connected b and o above the final g in grazing. “Four points.” Marva said. She closed her eyes and drew two more tiles, then leaned back in her chair. “What happens if I lose?”
Without missing a beat or looking up from the board, Violet said, “I’ll come up with some penalty. I have a great imagination.” A second later she laid out nauseate attached to the n of retrain. “Bingo! Fifty for that and double word for fourteen. That’s sixty-four.” As she wrote the score on the pad at her left hand, she said, “The Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary 5th edition is the authoritative source, in case you decide to challenge a word.” Marva looked up from scouring the board for possible plays. Violet held the book up and pointed to the word Official.
When she’d been offered the promotion to the Postmaster job in Jackson’s Pond, Marva was more than ready to leave Plainview, Texas. She’d been there ten years, and there was nothing to hold her. The fact that her aunt lived in Jackson’s Pond wasn’t the deciding factor; Marva would have taken the job regardless. She had occasionally been in touch with Violet over the years—she called her aunt a couple of times after her dad’s funeral, and Violet had sent a note saying she wanted to come to Marva’s high school graduation, but had a required event at the high school in Austin where she was teaching. Since then, they might have exchanged some Christmas cards and maybe there had been some phone calls. But just the same as with others she’d known or was kin to, Marva had let Violet fade into that space she thought of as The Past. That lack of contact didn’t mean she didn’t love her aunt. Thinking of her always gave Marva a positive, expectant sensation. If Violet had come to see her, even as a surprise, Marva would have welcomed her. She hadn’t known that Violet lived in Jackson’s Pond for the same reason she didn’t know a lot things about her relatives. She had let life pass by at a rapid pace, her head down, doing what was needed to take care of her daughter and herself. That was what she told herself, anyway.
READ PART TWO OF CHAPTER 1 ON THE 3/8/23 TOUR STOP WITH LONE STAR BOOK BLOG TOURS.
Teddy Jones is the author of five published novels, as well as a collection of short stories. Her short fiction received the Gold Medal First Prize in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2015. Jackson’s Pond, Texas was a finalist for the 2014 Willa Award in contemporary fiction from Women Writing the West. Her novel, Making It Home, was a finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2017 and A Good Family (not yet unpublished) was named finalist in that contest in 2018.
Although her fiction tends to be set in West Texas, her characters’ lives embody issues not bounded by geography of any particular region. Families and loners; communities in flux; people struggling, others successful; some folks satisfied in solitude and others yearning for connection populate her work. And they all have in common that they are more human than otherwise.
Jones grew up in a small Texas town, Iowa Park. Earlier she worked as a nurse, a nurse educator, a nursing college administrator, and as a nurse practitioner in Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. For the past twenty years, she and her husband have lived in the rural West Texas Panhandle where he farms and she writes.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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