The Card: ♦♦♦♦♦Five of Diamonds
The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “contemporary Indiana authors”
The Selection: “It Came from Burr County” from the story anthology, “The Worst Book in the Universe” (don’t worry; it fails to live up to that lofty title)
The Author: Marian Allen (pictured at left, visit her web Page at http://marianallen.com ) I’ve actually featured one of her stories in before, the delightful “The Warmth of Midwinter” in Deal Me In 2015)
What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this
year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.
First off, there is no “Burr County” in the State of Indiana. I googled it to check. I also knew there was no sculpture from Burr County at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, which features sculptures from all 92 counties. So, Burr county is fictional and so is the character from this story, Aunt Gingy, who comes from there. But this story is real. I own it as part of the anthology, “The Worst Book in the Universe” – a collaborative effort of The Southern Indiana Writers Group. (Find more info about them here )
Below: (from wikipedia) Indiana’s 92 counties. I’m writing this just a few miles above that second “N” in Johnson county.🙂
***SPOILER ALERT*** (this review contains spoilers, so I recommend reading the story first – if you can spare $2.99, that’s all the Kindle version costs, and I’m sure there are many other worthy stories in addition to this one; most (all?) of the stories are woven around the fictional town of “Wurstburg” thus the title of the collection🙂 )
“It Came from Burr County”
This is a story that probably everybody can relate to. At least everybody who was ever a child so, yeah, I guess everybody. Haskell Tilford (a.k.a. Haskell Jeffrey Tilford when his mom’s mad at him) is our first person narrator, and he goes by the nickname “Husky.” He’s beside himself that his aunt’s coming for a visit will deprive him of his room and privacy even if just “for a couple days.” Added to this situation is the fact that Husky and his young pals are in the midst of a juvenile plan to obtain some “literary contraband.”* It is the hiding place of this contraband which drives the story to its climax.
Seems Husky has “chosen poorly” (see obligatory screen capture from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at right) when it comes to the hiding place, selecting a hidden compartment in one piece (a “train case”) of a set of luggage stored in the attic that hasn’t been used in years. Disaster strikes when Husky returns home and and learns Aunt Gingy is planning a longer trip and has inquired of his mom if she might borrow that very luggage set. Thinking quickly, Husky solicitously offers to retrieve the set from the attic for them (no doubt after moving the contraband to a newer, better location) only to hear – to his horror – that they’ve already brought them down to her room (actually his room).
Husky quickly comes up with a “Plan B” – have one of his operatives sneak in the house while he keeps his mom and aunt occupied. Seems like a great idea, but when the plan is carried to conclusion, his friend reports back that the contraband was no longer train case! At last Husky’s hours of anxiety are resolved when Aunt Gingy tells him that, not to worry, she found the book and is not going to rat him out to his mom. Now this was a twist neither I – nor Husky, certainly – was expecting.
I liked this story because it reminded me of how often in childhood you think something is The End of the World or at least of much, much greater magnitude that it truly is in the world of grownups. It also calls to mind a favorite expression of mine, “Nothing’s ever as bad as you think it’s going to be.” This,naturally, may not be true for everyone, but I’ve found it is true for me – at least when it comes to things I spend a lot of time worrying about.
*what is this contraband? Just a book, but one Husky fears will land him in deep, deep trouble if his parents discover that he’s reading it:
“Geez,” Snake said, “what book is it? The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition or Playboy or what?” “Worse than that,” I said. “It’s a Manga. You know Manga?” and, later, upon relating that it’s a manga version of The Bible(!) “I’m telling you, guys, it ain’t Sunday School material. It’s the worst book in the universe!” (So now we know [again?] where the collection got its title)🙂
Though there is no Burr County in Indiana, it’s fictional existence in this story made me think of one famous Indiana “Burr.” The Council Oak tree in South Bend (above photo credit) – a “Burr Oak” as I’ve been told – was a state landmark until lightning ended its >400 year existence in the ’90s. It was a truly majestic tree, in the shade of which the explorer LaSalle made a 17th century treaty with the local Indian tribes to stand together against Iroquois “aggression.” One side of my family comes from the South Bend area, and I have a personal link to this tree since one time on a visit to South Bend we secured one of its acorns and planted it in our back yard. Sadly, that tree never really made it past tree adolescence as it fell victim to disease and had to be cut down.
There’s also a Burr Oak Township in Indiana, in Marshall County. Maybe that’s where Aunt Gingy of the story really came from…
Card image above from https://playingcardcollector.net