Miracle of the Concrete Jesus and Other Stories

Miracle of the Concrete Jesus and other Stories ($10 for paperback; $2.99 for Kindle e-book) is a collection of previously published short fiction. Many of these stories appeared in my now-out-of print books, The Girl Who Raced Mules and Other Stories and Where There's A Will, as well as in some regional publications.

What are the stories about? One woman’s surprise gift for her church produces an unexpected result, another woman gets advance warning of an ice storm, another gets down and dirty at the grocery store, another finds a mystery in library books. Add a few mules, a pig in panties, a kiddie beauty pageant, an escaped convict, a Thanksgiving gone wrong, a couple of unexpected Christmas celebrations, a wannabe best-selling author, and a jar of ashes—and you have fifteen down-home stories featuring resolute womenRecycled from previous publication in e-books and print, these (mostly) prize-winning stories include:

Miracle of the Concrete Jesus,” in which one woman’s surprise gift for her church produces an unexpected result, won the 2002 short story contest sponsored by the Traveler chapter of the Virginia Writers Club and eventually became this collection. The opening:

“I realize the Lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,” Elveena Mooney said to console herself after she’d gotten home from church and settled her nerves with a cup of chamomile tea, “but I be dad-blamed if I ever before heard of Him jumping off the back of a Dodge pick-up truck to do it.” 

Still, she admitted what happened was a wonder and maybe even a full-fledged miracle. Fully aware that pride was one of the seven deadly sins, she nonetheless felt proud to have played a part in God’s work. It was just a shame, she’d only admit to herself, that what happened wasn’t at all what she had planned.

Angel on Ice,” in which an elderly woman gets advance warning of an ice storm, was orginally published in THEMA, Vol. 8, no. 3, and nominated for a 1997 Pushcart Prize. It was later reprinted in Blue Ridge Traditions. The opening:

I know what I seen even though there’s some folks might tell you otherwise. Take Marsella Pettibone, for instance. She’s still spreading it all around Sandy Ridge—I know for a fact she is—that I’ve gone senile, and she counts herself a good Christian, too. I ought never to of told her.

I won’t tell nobody else a thing, that’s sure, even though every Tuesday and Thursday when we have these little talky sessions, Miss Waddley—who’s some kind of counselor because she ain’t no doctor—keeps after me to share my feelings with the bunch of perfect strangers I’m cooped up here with. If you share it, it ain’t your feelings no more, is how I see it.

I’ll keep my feelings to myself, thank you. I may be old, but I ain’t senile and I ain’t deaf. I heard Miss Waddley whisper to one of the attendants that I’ve got “latent hostility” or some-such. Well, call it what she likes, I ain’t cooperating with the likes of her or no other earthly being, now that I know what I know.

Down and Dirty,” in which a stressed-out mother dances at the grocery store and gets arrested, begins: 

I never meant to embarrass Dwayne or the kids. Of course, Tiffany Sue is embarrassed by anything I do or say, but she’s nearly fourteen so that’s natural. If it hadn’t been for her birthday next week, this whole Harris Teeter situation might never have happened. But I’d never in a million years tell her that. It would ruin her self-esteem. No good mother wants to see her own daughter suffering from poor self-esteem, at least not when the child is already having problems with raging hormones, pimples, the need for orthodontia, and the fact she doesn’t look like Miley Cyrus—not that I would let Tiffany Sue dress like her no matter how it might hurt her self-esteem. I have attended every program the PTA has had on “Self-esteem and What Parents Can Do,” so I know where to draw the line.

But I’m getting a little off track here. I’ve been getting a little off track about a lot of things lately. I’m at the age where my own hormones are doing a little raging of their own. Sometimes, in the midst of a hot flash, I have to give myself a little pep talk. I say, “Daphne, pull yourself together. Put on a happy face. Hope for the best. You’ll get through this.” And I usually do. When I go to trial, I’ll just pull myself together and tell the judge what happened and hope for the best.

Miracle of the Concrete Jesus and Other Stories also includes the following stories: 

The Mystery of Emmaline Carter,” in which a reader becomes obsessed with messages she finds in a library book, was originally published in THEMA, Vol. 10, No. 1.

Insult to Injury,” in which a girl who wants to be Roy Rogers becomes a hero in an unlikely way, won the 2001 Wytheville Chautauqua Short Story Contest.

Fixing the Blame,” in which elderly siblings try to find out whose fault it was for incidents resulting from dressing up a pig in their aunt's underwear, placed third in the 2003 Wytheville Chautauqua Short Story Contest.

Eye of the Beholder,” in which a young woman helps her mother and sister in the kiddie beauty pageant circuit,  placed third in the 2000 Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest and was originally published in Virginia Adversaria.

Query Letter From Helen,” in which a clueless writer-wannabe mixes up her domestic situation with the plot of her novel, won the 2010 Christopher Newport Writers Conference  short story competition and was originally published in Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Vol. II.

The Girl Who Raced Mules,” in which a mother tells her daughter about her rural childhood, won the 1994 Lonesome Pine short Story Contest and was originally published in Blue Ridge Traditions.

Chosen Child” is about a teenager whose life changes in an unexpected way when she has a child. 

Burning Bridges,” in which a woman manages to humiliate her daughter, alienate her mother-in-law, get kicked out of the PTA, start a fire, and get arrested, won the 2002 Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest.

You Ain’t Buck Nekkid,” in which a young girl realizes that she is more fortunate than she realized, won the 1996 Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest and the 1998 Women in the Arts Contest. It has been published in Blue Ridge Traditions and numerous other places including my blog.

The Best ’Un Yet,” in which newcomers to a rural community who try to change the annual Christmas program with unforeseen results, received an honorable mention in the 1997 Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest and was originally published in Blue Ridge Traditions.

Phoenix Rising,” in which a stressed-out widow re-invents herself, was originally published in In Good Company, Vol. 1.

Rat-Killing,” in which a terminally ill elderly woman takes matters into her own hands, was originally published in Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Vol. II, and republished in Voices From Smith Mountain Lake.