On October 11, 2022, I read the Prologue of my story “Hope for Boats” to the Rotary Club of Elba, Alabama, on which the fictional town in the story is loosely based. You can read the excerpt along with me below.
The town of Elbo was built in a crook of the Pea River. If you think that’s where it got its name, you’d be one of the many that are misinformed about this town’s origins. One of the area’s early residents was reading Herodotus’ Histories, in which he describes an island “ten furlongs by ten furlongs, built of ash and earth.” Elbo is named after this island as it was drawn from a hat before any of the other suggestions.
And if you have a joke about the Pea River, save it. From Linda Blair to urinal cakes, we’ve heard them all.
The water flowing by in that crook in the Pea River sometimes tries to straighten out, flooding the town of Elbo, but not before the area around its original downtown intersection becomes an island. The citizens have built bridges and walls, but when those two sides wish to meet, there’s no stopping them.
Two warring families settled in this area before there was a town. As there often are, a young son and a young daughter from each just had to be together in spite of their families’ differences. That young love, the fires of which have long since ceased to burn, belonged to Fannie Demer and Thomas James Hickok. Theirs was a short courtship, but a long engagement. As Thomas James was fond of saying, “I can put a ring on her finger, but I can’t make her an honest woman.” More than anyone, they are responsible for establishing what we now know as Elbo, Alabama.
Have you ever watched a bird build its nest? They gather pieces of limbs, leaves, detritus, debris, dirt, mud, and plastic—piles of the past culled for a cradle for the future. Birds put all of their eggs in one makeshift basket.
That was him.
Have you ever watched a spider weave its web? They’re as meticulous as they are calculating. Once they pick the right spot between the limbs of trees or fence posts or poles, they spend as much time as it takes building their lattice trap. Spiders then hang in the middle, waiting. The very picture of patience.
That was her.
Today is his funeral.
Today there is a parade in her honor.
Either event would halt the town for the day. Both will bury it. The lines are drawn. Sides must be chosen. Maybe it won’t flood again.
Many thanks to Courtney Pelham for setting this up, the Rotary Club for their time and interest, Malarkey Book for publishing this Prologue, and Cindy Bayer for filming.
The story remains in-progress.