Bright lights flicker in the dark evenings of summer. Pinpoints of hope float against the black descent of night. The sweetest of small and innocent creatures finds its way through the shadows. Fireflies seem to dance on sheer air, illuminating the space between heartbeats.
Children give off a similar brave glow, despite the challenges of their young lives. The lessons of childhood are often painful, the shedding of fragile wings in the gloam of an uncertain future. These rich novellas are small jewels reflecting the essence of what it means to grow up dancing among the shadows of life, carrying a brave, small beacon because you know that even the brightest days always, always, end in darkness.
Childhood can be so sweetly sad and sadly sweet, profound and deceptively easy to categorize, yet poignant to remember.
New York Times bestselling novelist Sarah Addison Allen (GARDEN SPELLS, SUGAR QUEEN, THE PEACH KEEPER) anchors THE FIREFLY DANCE with her wistful and funny novella about Louise, a North Carolina girl whose keen observations of the lives around her weaves an unforgettable spell with just a hint of everyday magic.
Phyllis Schieber's Sonya, a child of Holocaust survivors, is confronted with the responsibilities of her legacy when she has a poignant encounter with a classmate, another child of survivors, and her mother, in a local shop in their 1970's New York neighborhood.
Kathryn Magendie’s Petey deals wryly with her family’s move from the cool blue mountains of North Carolina to the hot flatlands of Texas.
Augusta Trobaugh’s stoic Georgia girl leads us through her surreal encounter with a mysterious backwoods toddler who turns out to be anything but ordinary.
Excerpt from THE STOCKING STORE by Phyllis Schieber
I was seventeen the last time I went with my mother to the Stocking Store. I have more important concerns now than the simple errands of childhood. I am busy protesting the war in Vietnam and listening to rock music. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy have both been murdered within a few months of each other. I am devastated by these losses, but I am also in love for the very first time. When I tie my hair back with a scarf, he says I look like a gypsy. Still, I say yes when my mother asks me to accompany her to the Stocking Store. I think she is even more surprised than I am.
I still call it the Stocking Store because I do not know it by any other name. We call the store where we buy all our buttons the Button Store, and the small cave-like shop that both repairs and sells umbrellas the Umbrella Store. I still long for the red umbrella with the pink ruffle and the appliquéd poodle with its rhinestone collar. I often dream about that umbrella. I can see myself twirling it before a crowd of admirers.
These small shops are part of our daily lives. The Cheese Store, the Pocketbook Store, the Hat Store, and the Toy Store are places that need no other identification. But it is the Stocking Store that I love best. It is in the Stocking Store that I first come to know exactly what it is that makes me different from others.
Excerpt from PETEY by Kathryn Magendie
Before Daddy and the other men lost their jobs at the textile mill, Petey Graham’s parents had money for plenty of good groceries, every other year a beach vacation to the outer banks, and Momma went to the beauty parlor once a month. Sometimes Momma’d get Daddy to drive the whole family to Asheville, where Petey and her little brother would turn into an aching steaming whining heap of bore while Momma shopped for a dress, high-heels, and spiced perfume from J.C. Penney, or to Waechter’s to find the perfect material to make her own dress. She’d buy Hill and Petey new clothes, even though they couldn’t care less. Petey liked to wear her dungarees or pedal pushers and either Keds or flip flops. Hill said his fur was fine by him; he was always silly like that. The best part was when shopping was over and they’d stop to eat at S&W Cafeteria before driving back home to Haywood County.
When Momma worried about Daddy finding another job, Daddy said what he always said, "It’ll all work out. I’ll make it work out.” Even though he said he was afraid more textile mills were on their last legs and he’d have to think what came next.
Momma answered as she always did, "I know you’ll do what’s right.”
Meanwhile, he set out to do odd jobs painting houses and fixing porches, a temporary job at the local Esso filling station while Old Man Joe was out with pneumonia, at a diner washing dishes, and on Saturday evenings at a tourist shop pretending to be what the tourists thought was a Hillbilly. Those jobs didn’t pay near what he’d been making, but he said it was better than nothing at all.
Petey had wondered what her parents would come up with for their Plan for the Future. What they’d come up with was another baby on the way, and that didn’t seem like much of a plan to Petey. She figured she was getting too old to be a good big sister to a new baby. Not like how it was being a big sister to Hill. Eleven and six were just-right ages for sister and brother to play together, and when she needed to, for her to boss him around. Momma said the baby coming was bad timing, but her words didn’t fool Petey, for Momma had a sweet smile play on her lips, rubbing her stomach that held a tiny secret no one could see but Momma knew was there.
Excerpt from RESURRECTION by Augusta Trobaugh
The whole summer, Papa can’t think about anything except my big brother, Danny, and how he is starting high school in the fall and trying out for the football team. Papa’s been waiting almost all Danny’s life for this, and early on, he brings home a big box of frozen steaks from the Piggly-Wiggly store down in Louisville and tells Mama to cook one up for Danny—rare—every single night, so he can get beefed up for the tryouts. The rest of us go on having okra and tomatoes and butterbeans and fried chicken and corn bread, like always. But Danny has to eat a steak on top of everything else.
Mama fixes the steak every evening, just like Papa says for her to do, but she goes around wiping her face on her apron almost all the time. Maybe the smoke from all those steaks bothers her eyes. Or maybe she doesn’t like to think of Danny playing football. Not one little bit.
Excerpt from IN MY DREAMS by Sarah Addison Allen
I watched my house from the second story bedroom at Great Aunt Sophie’s. I could see that the lights were on in my living room. A shadow passed by the windows there, and the curtains moved like fingertips had brushed them.
My mom was slowly walking around our house next door, in and out of each room, like she was looking for someone. The kitchen light went on once, then flicked back off.
"Louise!” Great Aunt Sophie called from the next room, and my elbows jerked off the window sill where I was kneeling. "Go to sleep.”
There was no door, just a doorway, between Great Aunt Sophie’s bedroom and the one I was sleeping in that night. As I knelt at the open window, pretending I was in bed asleep, I could hear her turning the pages of her book, the low mumble of the radio station out of Asheville that still played big band music, and sometimes I even heard the rattle of ice cubes as she poured iced tea into a hard plastic cup from the thermos she brought up from the kitchen. They had the easy, sleepy echo of sounds repeated night after night. Great Aunt Sophie herself was like that. She was worn in the best possible way, like the way your oldest shoes fit, the shoes that wouldn’t slip when you ran on dewy grass and gave you traction when climbing hickory trees.
I ignored Great Aunt Sophie with the hope that she was just checking to see if I was asleep. If I didn’t say anything, she would surely believe that I was. I turned back to the window I was kneeling in front of and continued to watch my house. The night outside was the thick black of a new moon, and lightning bugs ticked away in backyards as far as I could see. My bedroom next door was dark, but suddenly light spilled faintly into the room, as if the switch in the bedroom across the hall from mine had been turned on. The light covered my doorway and outlined the toy horses I’d placed on my window sill that very morning.
"Louise,” Great Aunt Sophie called. "Don’t make me say it again.”
I should have known that she knew. She knew everything. She knew things nobody else knew.
I got up and walked to the doorway separating the two bedrooms. Her room had side-by-side twin beds, both covered with pink, quilted polyester bedspreads. She slept in the one on the left, farthest from the door and nearest to the open window. The bedroom I was staying in had one full bed with a knotty pine headboard pushed against the wall. The mattress was an old featherbed, and it felt a lot like sleeping on a nest of pine needles. I knew this because I fell out of a pine tree once and landed in a pile of needles, breath gone, thinking I was dead, and I looked up to see Great Aunt Sophie in her straw hat. I thought that was a horrible way to go, lying in resiny needles with Great Aunt Sophie’s frown the last thing I would see. She told me to go home because she was in no mood for my antics and she hadn’t raked that pile of pine needles just for me to jump in. I thought she had no respect for the dying, so I went home to tell my mother, who didn’t believe me because I was breathing again.