Friday, March 05, 2010

Saddle Store Redux: More on LeRoy Tucker's "Cadillac Pie"

Saddle Store in the 1980s

In my Ozark Mountain post for the last day of February, I showed a borrowed newspaper photograph of Saddle Store but implicitly lamented the tiny picture. Perhaps Mr. LeRoy Tucker noticed this, for he has posted not just one, but even two photos of this store in Saddle, Arkansas, the factual site of his fictional story "Cadillac Pie," along with some images of the dam at the mill pond fed by springs that offer a cold, inviting pool of water for the protagonist Winfield to dive into on a hot day and lose his heart:
Leaving a window slightly open to avoid the gathering of heat he carried his bathing suit the second story of the gin where uncertain of the privacy, he sought out a dark corner and changed hurriedly. Standing at the opening of the window he gathered his courage and leapt full into the water twelve feet below.

It took his breath. He had tried to steel himself against the shock but the terrific change simply could not be anticipated. "I've swam here dozens of times, maybe hundreds," he reminded himself, "but you just can't remember what it's like -- "you just cannot remember it," he thought as he surfaced gasping, treading water waiting, adjusting to the change and then he saw her. She was sitting on the dam smiling at him.

"It's a shock," she said, "but it's great when you get used to it."

"I know, I growed up here, I'm Winfield," he answered, adding "but dang it's a shock at first." He was treading water and starting to breathe normally. And it was then that her beauty struck him. Her face was perfect. She was smiling, the warmest, friendliest smile he had ever seen. At that instant something struck Winfield and somehow he knew that his life had changed permanently, forever. Her modest swimsuit was high and unrevealing but he couldn't help observing that she was shapely even though her lower body and legs were under water, distorted by the waves generated by the swimmers.

"I'm Doris," she said, "Doris Sutherland, I remember you now. I don't suppose that you remember me." She added knowingly, "I was little then -- before you went off to work I mean."

He knew that ordinarily the sound of her voice would be drowned by the noise of the falling water, "but I can hear her, that ain't natural," and he knew that her voice was soft and subdued but mysteriously he heard every word clearly, perfectly and he felt magic in the very air and there was the glow of a sensational wish for the impossible, he wished that magic, for that moment to last forever. He heard the always before unnoticed sounds of birds in the marsh upstream and the sound of the playful children. And he was suddenly aware of a painful aching longing and of one thought almost discernable, "I'm lost, I like it, I don’t even care."
That was the end of Mr. Tucker's first post on the story at his literary blog, Folk Liar of the Ozarks. For readers interested in the entire story, go here. If you do read the entire story, you'll notice that I've very slightly edited the passage quoted above, mostly to distinguish the speakers clearly, for I think that in Mr. Tucker's copying and pasting his story from a computer document, some of the paragraph divisions were lost.

But not as lost as Winfield's heart . . .

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