The Autobiography of Mary Frances Earp: a sample
Here's the opening of the first chapter, just to give you a taste. There's a larger sample at Amazon if you click on the link.
or The Goldilocks Zone,
in which Mary Frances Introduces Herself
My name is Mary Frances Earp. I was borned in 1862 near a little fart of a place called Ravanna in Mercer County in northern Missouri, right near the Ioway, line, in the second year of the Great War of the Rebellion, but I was raised in Clio, that is Wayne County Ioway, the next county north. I was the first daughter of Reverend Martin Van Buren Wright and his wife Hannah, so my maiden name was Wright. I died in Stroud, Oklahoma, in 1961 at the age a ninety-eight. If I’d a lived another six months, I’d a been ninety-nine and bound to make my centenary but both escaped my grasp. That don’t make me no nevermind. I was aiming for a greater glory.
It’s hard not to feel a little vanity in having lived so long, but it may have just been cantankerousness on my part. I don’t know why I couldn’t die at three score and ten like ordinary decent people and stop blocking the sunlight from the young plants wanting their hour in the sun. The good die early and the bad die late, they say.
“We spend our years as a tale that is told,” says the Psalmist. “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their length labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” My length of days wasn’t labor and sorrow. In my sixties I hit a plateau and leveled off, and the rest of it was just coasting along and eating the gravy. Well, it’s possible that I’m one of the lingering bad ones, but if I have lingered it may be it’s cause I have a tale to tell.
Reader, I’ve got to say this to you plain. You may not like my story, you may not like the way I talk, but if you don’t cotton to it all you got to do is close this book and git. I’m crotchety and crabby, as you might expect from someone of my years, I’m gabby too, and my command of good grammar is here again gone again. In my posthumous years, I’ve learned some grammar, but I don’t always abide by it. It’s all according to the way I feel, and the old ways of talking is more comfy to me like an old shoe is for walking. I write this for them as wants to hear my story. If you don’t like the way I talk, if you don’t like my grammar, then go ahead and close the book. That way you’ll git shut of me.
When I was quite small, maybe eight, us kids was outside playing when my brother Matt just a year ahead a me happened to knock up against me. Keeping my balance with a quick side shuffle and putting my arms akimbo, I said to him indignantly, “Matt, you mite near pushed me over!” Gentle reader, this is who I am—or rather who I ain’t. I ain’t someone to be pushed over.
For you readers that choose to stay the course, first, don’t be impatient with me. I lived ninety-eight years on earth, I have continued in another parallel world nearly sixty more, and I’ve got a few things to say here at the outset. My memory works fine when it works. It’s just headstrong like an unbroken colt and spotty like sunshine on a cloudy day back in Ioway with the prairie wind ablowin. I know my married name is Earp, and that Earp’s my legal name, the one they wrote on my gravestone. Well, I loved Will Earp and bore him a dozen kids, but in a way I cain’t explain Mary Earp is not the real me, not the inmost me, not the me that I am when I’m most myself. That’s a fact I felt now and then during the forty years a my married life, and now it’s a settled conviction. This is what paradise is, if I understand a thing, it’s being Mary Frances Wright, eight years old again, and a transparent eyeball.
The normal human eye sees a field about 135 degrees to the front and sides. A transparent eyeball sees the full circle of 360 degrees in every direction like a kid’s marble tossed upwards, a little ball of colored glass spinning through space. Of course I’m dazzled, frazzled, and dizzy, and my vision is dotty and clotty as buttermilk, but so what. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face. That’s what we were told, but we weren’t told what the words mean. See what face to face?, I ask you. The glory of God? You might as well try looking direct at the sun. I see a lot more than I ever thought I could, but when it comes to the sun, I still need that smoked glass.
When I was a child, I used to think I would live forever. Most young folks believe that—it’s the coursing of the life energy in them. Then I lost that baby in Guthrie, on the trail from Nebraska to Oklahoma, and when that sweet creature, the child of my bowels, perished like a summer midge I knew I wasn’t immortal. Now I believe I have already lived forever, I’ve just forgotten most a the parts that happened before I was born.