Man in the Blue Moon is my fourth novel and it is my most personal.
When I was five, my mom and I fled my abusive biological father. We moved into a trailer in the backyard of my maternal grandparents’ home. For me, their home was a sanctuary and I spent a lot of time with them. Every evening my grandmother’s widowed sister would join us for supper. While the meal simmered on the stove, the two sisters would sit at the table and talk about local news that never seemed to make the newspaper or the ancestors who came before me. Most of the time I’d sit in the hallway, eavesdropping on their tales, picturing the scenes I heard as movies in my mind.
My grandfather was a ‘talker’ and whenever he’d enter the room, he’d join in the conversation, disputing some of the women’s stories and adding details to others. Hands down, he was the best story-teller I have known.
One story from my grandfather’s childhood has long fascinated and haunted me. In 1920 when my grandfather was ten, he and his older brother were sent to pick up a delivery that was arriving by steamboat down the Apalachicola River from Bainbridge, Georgia. Since their father owned a mercantile in a crossroads community, such a request was not unusual. The boys were always being sent to Apalachicola, the county seat, for deliveries.
After the dockworkers in Apalachicola had loaded a crudely constructed box onto their wagon, my grandfather and his brother traveled back home guessing what was inside. My grandfather bet his brother that it was a grandfather clock.
Back at the family store with the box now unloaded from the wagon, my great-grandfather used a crowbar to pop the lid open. My grandfather was so scared at the sight he saw that he stumbled and fell backwards, tearing the seat in his britches. A man, soiled with filth and caked with mud, climbed out of the box.
The man who had been nailed shut inside the box was shipped during the night to his cousin, my great-grandfather, for safe keeping. The man was on the run for supposedly killing his wife and her lover. Even though the court had exonerated him, the wife’s family sought vengeance. They had made it known that they would hunt him down and kill him.
My grandfather and his brothers were instructed not to ask any questions and if they were asked by the people in the village, they were told to simply say that the visitor was a worker their father had hired. After about three months, my grandfather awoke one morning and the man was gone. He had moved on.
Man in the Blue Moon is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Curtis Whitfield. He died last year but because of his storytelling, his story lives on in the pages of this novel. My grandparents were not wealthy people but because of them I have a rich inheritance. They gave me unconditional love, a sense of who I am and where I come from and a love of storytelling.
MAN IN THE BLUE MOON is our November book club selection. If you haven’t picked up a copy there’s still time to get one before we discuss the book later this month. And don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaways.