“Mrs. Lovebright” by Lonormi Manuel

Craft Vickers, attorney, desperately needed a client.

His landlord and the power company had their hands in his empty pockets. The bar association had called, again, about his dues; he’d pleaded a death in the family and an out-of-state funeral, but he knew the girl on the other end of the phone knew he was lying. And to top it off, Doris had clomped into his office this morning, thrown down the mail, and announced that if she didn’t get paid in full, this Friday, she’d find another job and file a bar complaint.

Craft riffled through the mail – all bills – and tossed it, unopened, into the trash. He couldn’t very well drag people in off the street and force them to sue somebody. He’d tried listening to the police scanner, showing up at wrecks and fires to hand out his card; but the cops had made it clear that his presence was unnecessary.  

The usual lineup of DUI mugshots stared at him from page four of the paper, and he winced at the thought of going back to criminal law. He’d done some of that across the river in Ohio, before a bit of unpleasantness had led to a bar complaint, a hearing, a suspension, another hearing, a permanent disbarment, and a divorce.

Just before lunch, Doris stuck her head in the door. She’d used an at-home highlighting kit over the weekend, which left her looking like Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein. “C.V., there’s a woman here to see you.”

Craft folded the newspaper into sloppy thirds and stuffed it into a drawer. “Show her in, Doris.” Maybe this one had money, or a boyfriend with money, or a daddy with money, or something he could pawn for money. Maybe she had something else he could take in trade; he’d not had any of that in a long time, either.

The sight of the client killed that hope. Craft swallowed his disappointment and hoped it didn’t show. She was petite, with solid white hair. The navy linen suit she wore was at least thirty years out of date, but it was good fabric and had cost a pretty penny back when it was new. The shoes and purse were likewise old but of good quality. She wore a ridiculous little hat: white straw with pink flowers and a navy bow, the kind of thing you find in a church charity shop or the closet of your dead aunt. Craft stood up and smiled at her.

“Good morning, ma’am, I’m Craft Vickers.” She took the hand he offered with a grip of surprising strength. “And you are?”

“I am Mrs. Frances Lovebright.” Her voice was reedy but resolute. She released his handshake and clutched her purse against her waist. “I need your help.”

“Well, that’s why I’m here.” Doris still hovered in the door. Craft gave her a tight smile. “That’s all, Doris.”

Doris shot Craft a look over the old woman’s head – for God’s sake, don’t screw this up – and slammed the door.

Craft settled Mrs. Lovebright into the more comfortable of the two worn chairs that faced his desk, then took his seat. “Now then,” he said, steepling his fingers and using his most persuasive tones, “tell me what’s bothering you, Mrs. Lovebright.”

“Young people with cameras are coming around our place. They won’t leave us alone.”

Craft picked up a pen and grabbed a legal pad. “Do you know who these young people, are, or why they’re bothering you?”

Mrs. Lovebright fidgeted and looked at the floor. “They want to interview my husband.” She jerked her gaze back to Craft, eyes blazing. “But I won’t let them! They’re nothing to us!”

Craft reached across the desk and stilled the bony, thin-skinned hands that fretted with the purse. Depending on how much money she had – and she had at least a little, Craft could tell – she might be the answer to his urgent, faithless prayers. “I’ll help you any way I can, Mrs. Lovebright. Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thank you.” She opened the purse and brought out a handkerchief of thin linen, with cornflowers embroidered in one corner. “I’m sorry to get so upset. It’s just the two of us, and we’re both getting on. We don’t have any children, and we keep ourselves to ourselves.”

“Why don’t you tell me all about it?” Craft made himself comfortable. It would take her at least twenty minutes to tell him what could be summed up in two, and every second of those twenty minutes was billable.

Mrs. Lovebright dabbed at her eyes. “A few days ago, Mr. Bickers, this young man came to the door. We live well off the main road, and don’t get many visitors.”

“Go on.” Craft didn’t bother to correct her about his name. She could call him Howdy Doody for all he cared, as long as her check was good.

“He said his name was Kyle Culliver, and that he has this television show called Where There’s Smoke.” Her faded cheeks colored a bit. “We don’t even own a television, Mr. Bickers, never have. So that means nothing to me. Anyway, he said that he needed to interview my husband for his investigation.” Her fingers played with the clasp of her purse. “I said he had the wrong people, and he gave me this nasty smile and said, ‘I think not, Mrs. Lovebright, if that’s your real name.’”

Craft shook his head. “No manners.”

“I thought so, too. So, I asked him, as nicely as I could, to please leave our property.”

“Did he?”

“Yes, but he said he’d be back with cameras. I can’t have that, Mr. Bickers! My husband is in poor health, and this stress like this is bad for his heart.”

“Of course, it is.” Craft made a few notes, then put down the pen. “Forgive me for asking, Mrs. Lovebright, but do you have any idea what this Culliver boy was talking about?”

Craft Vickers had spent enough time among guilty people to know a guilty look when he saw one, and he was seeing one now. An unhealthy flush burned Mrs. Lovebright’s skin from the top of her collar to the brim of her hat. “Maybe,” she said, dragging the word between lips that barely moved.

“Just ‘maybe,’ Mrs. Lovebright?” He hid his jubilation behind a compassionate face. There was a secret here, and this woman wanted it kept. All that remained was to determine how much it was worth to her for him to keep it. “I’m on your side, you know.”

“Yes, Mr. Bickers, I know.” She raised the handkerchief, and the scent of an old-fashioned
cologne wafted across the desk. “It’s not something I like to talk about.”

“I understand, Mrs. Lovebright, but it would be a great help to me.”

She drew a deep breath and exhaled a long, thoughtful sigh. Craft watched her face. People with something to hide, he knew, couldn’t help telling that something to someone else, whether they craved admiration as a baby craves its mother’s milk or needed absolution to hush the thoughts that kept them awake at night. He said nothing, waiting for her to speak

 “My husband,” she said at last, “had a very troubled youth.”


She fidgeted and stared over his shoulder at a washed-out hunting scene in a cheap frame, seeming to stare backward through time. “He never knew his father. His mother abandoned him before he was able to crawl; she left and never looked back.” Her face told him what she thought of a mother who would do that. “He managed right well. He didn’t starve, at least not for food. He had plenty of food and a safe place to sleep. But he had no love, Mr. Bickers. No firm guidance.”

“Boys surely need love and firm guidance, Mrs. Lovebright.”

“They do, indeed. So he grew up with no concept of consequences. Am I clear?”

“Perfectly,” Craft answered, making a mental list of possible felonies.

“He wasn’t a criminal, Mr. Bickers,” she said, leaving him to wonder if she could read his mind. “He pranked people, that’s all. Courting couples in their cars along lonely roads. Gravediggers in a remote cemetery on a dark fall day. He never meant any harm.”

“Did anyone ever get hurt by his pranks, Mrs. Lovebright”

Her answer was as firm as a granite tombstone. “Not once. Oh, they yelled and screamed and took off running, but he never hurt a soul.” Her forehead puckered. “But then folks began to talk, and to blame him for things he didn’t do. Terrible things. That was right around the time we met.”

Craft looked up from his notes. “How did you meet your husband?”

The smile that lit her face gave Craft a glimpse of the impish girl behind the veneer of old age. “It was spring, and I was hunting morels. He tried to scare me.” The look she gave him was downright mischievous. “I don’t scare easily”

“I’ll bet you don’t.”

“We met often after that, and got to know each other. When he found out that I’m not very tolerant of practical jokes, he started talking about doing something useful with his life.” She fingered her wedding ring, twisting it around her finger. “My people would never have approved of someone like him, so I left. I gave up everything. I’ve never once regretted it.”

“So, this Culliver guy knows about your husband’s history and wants to expose it, is that it?”

She nodded.

He jotted a few notes. “Is your place fenced, Mrs. Lovebright?”

“Well,” she hesitated, “not as good as it once was. We kept stock for years, but we don’t keep any now. To be honest, the fence isn’t in very good shape.”

“But it’s still a fence. Do you have any ‘No Trespassing’ signs posted?”

“No, we never needed them before.”

“Well, you need them now. Doris! DORIS!”

Doris popped her skunk-striped head inside the door. “Yes, Mr. Vickers?”

“Get Jasper Hicks on the phone. Tell him I’ve got a job for him, and I’d like it done today, if possible.”

“Yes, Mr. Vickers.”

“Now, Mrs. Lovebright,” Craft said, when they were alone, “I’m going to send Jasper Hicks out to your place today, if he’s not busy, to post some ‘No Trespassing’ signs around your place. He won’t bother you or Mr. Lovebright at all.”

“And do you think a sign will keep them away, Mr. Vickers?” she asked, finally getting his name right.

“No, I don’t. But posting signs will help establish your case, if we have to go to court.”

The hand that held the handkerchief trembled. “We can’t go to court, Mr. Vickers. We can’t. My husband couldn’t stand it. I don’t think I could, either.”

Craft captured her hand in his. It would be just his luck for this little husk of a woman to keel over dead. “You wouldn’t have to appear, Mrs. Lovebright, I promise you that. I’ll take care of everything. That’s all part of the contract.” He opened a drawer and rummaged beneath fast-food napkins for a generic form from Musick’s Office Supply. He filled in the blanks and gave her a smile. “Now, as to my fee…”

She opened her purse and pulled out a bundle of hundred-dollar bills wrapped in a violet band. “I only brought ten thousand dollars with me,” she said. “Is that enough to start?”

A great weight slid from Craft’s shoulders. “Ten thousand is far too much, Mrs. Lovebright,” he said with a smile. “Five thousand will do. Let me get you a receipt.”

After Mrs. Lovebright left, Craft Vickers ate a hearty lunch. He paid his rent, paid the electric bill, made a sizeable deposit at the bank; he returned to his office and wrote checks that, for once, he knew were good. He slipped a hundred-dollar bill into an envelope with Doris’s paycheck; he handed her the unstamped envelopes, told her to go to the post office and then take the afternoon off. She was astonished, but she didn’t argue.

“By the way,” she said, as she was leaving, “Jasper’s going out to post them signs you wanted.”

Alone in the office, Craft fired up his computer and searched for Kyle Culliver. It didn’t take him long to find out what he wanted to know. Culliver had a scruffy charm and the gift of making a six-figure living out of stirring up shit. Craft admired a man like that.

Admiration aside, Mrs. Lovebright had paid him five thousand dollars to get rid of Kyle Culliver. Craft greased his rusty mental wheels and drafted a cease-and-desist letter that quoted statutes and threatened severe penalties, both civil and criminal. If he could get it to Gritton’s Hardware by two o’clock, he could send it FedEx and have it in the hands of Culliver’s attorney by the same time tomorrow. The Lovebrights would be at peace, and he could keep the lights on until another client turned up.

Friday afternoon, just as Craft was thinking about knocking off early, Doris stuck her head in the door and said, “That Mrs. Lovebright’s on the phone, and she sounds like she’s about to bust a blood vessel.”

Craft picked up his phone. “Mrs. Lovebright, how – ”

“They’re here, Mr. Vickers!” Her voice teetered on the edge of hysteria. “In the driveway, and on my front porch! That Culliver boy is out there talking into a microphone –”

“Mrs. Lovebright, please calm down, please. I’m worried about you. Is Mr. Lovebright there?”

“Yes. He’s agitated, and that’s not good. What should I do?”

Craft put his hand over the receiver and hollered for Doris. When she looked in, he said, “Get the sheriff up to the Lovebrights’ place ASAP. Tell him there’s some Hollywood types harassing the old couple. Now, Mrs. Lovebright,” he said, when Doris disappeared, “I’ve called the sheriff –”

Not the sheriff, Mr. Vickers!”

“Yes ma’am, the sheriff.” He spoke as firmly to her as he dared. “You and Mr. Lovebright stay in the house and let the sheriff deal with this. Lock the doors, close the curtains if you have to. The sheriff will run them off and charge them with trespassing, if that’s what it takes.”

“But won’t that mean going to court, Mr. Vickers?”

 “I already promised you, Mrs. Lovebright, that you won’t have to attend. I’m your attorney. That’s what you pay me for. Now you do exactly as I say, all right?”

 “If you say so, Mr. Vickers.”

“I do say so.”

“All right.” She sighed. “How long before all this is over?”

Craft consulted his calendar. “I’ll be in court on Tuesday morning with an emergency motion for a permanent injunction against Culliver and his crew.”

For the first time since he’d picked up the phone, her voice sounded hopeful. “Do you think we’ll get it?”

“I’ll do my very best, Mrs. Lovebright. You have my word.”

Much to Craft’s disappointment, the sheriff reported that Culliver and his group, after a quick game of Do you know who I am and Son, I don’t give a squat, had departed peacefully. The emergency motion for an injunction, filed just before the courthouse closed, was first on Judge Joyner’s Tuesday docket. Craft was pleased. Judge Joyner had won eight successive terms with his “man of the people” platform; he hated rich outsiders with city lawyers. Kyle Culliver surely fit that description.

Craft arrived at the courthouse Tuesday morning to find Mrs. Lovebright sitting on the bench outside the courtroom, looking more frail and more troubled than she had the week before. She wore a spring dress in a blue floral pattern, and the same thrift-store hat with the pink flowers and the navy ribbon.

“Mrs. Lovebright, I thought we agreed that you didn’t need to be here.”

“We did,” she said, “but I wanted that man to see that I’m not afraid of him.”

Behind his concerned visage, Craft was exultant. The juxtaposition of the Hollywood upstart and his elderly victim couldn’t fail to help the Lovebrights’ case. He silently thanked a god he didn’t believe in for the opportunity he hadn’t expected. “Well, let’s go in. Do you want to sit in the gallery, or do you want to sit at the table with me?”

“I’d rather sit with you, Mr. Vickers.”

Craft opened the tall paneled door to let her precede him, noting the curious eyes that observed their entrance. He guided Mrs. Lovebright up the aisle to the plaintiff’s table and held her chair while she sat down.

“Have you ever been to court before?” Craft asked his client. She shook her head. “Well, it’s simple. There’s only three rules.” He counted them off on his fingers. “Stand up when they say ‘all rise’, don’t speak unless you’re spoken to, and address the judge as ‘your honor’.”

“Will I have to testify, Mr. Vickers?”

Craft, seeing her chin tremble, regretted not asking about her own health, but it was too late now. He hoped she wouldn’t succumb to the stress of the hearing, but he made a mental note to file a wrongful death suit on Mr. Lovebright’s behalf, if she did.

“I’ll do my best to keep you out of the witness chair, Mrs. Lovebright.”

An excited murmur that rippled through the courtroom, interrupting the rest of his reassuring speech. The court reporter, who was fifty if she was a day, ran her fingers through her hair and tucked stray locks behind her ears. The clerk of court, of similar age, pulled a lipstick out of her pocket and used the judge’s water pitcher as a makeshift mirror. Unlike the Lovebrights, most folks in town watched television, and Kyle Culliver had arrived.

Craft watched Culliver and his group make slow progress through the courtroom. Culliver had pulled his hair back into a sleek ponytail, and had traded his usual t-shirt and cargo shorts for an open-collared shirt, a pair of chinos, and a sport coat. He looked very much at ease. A blonde woman walked beside him to the defense table. Her silky dress clung to her too-thin figure like the paper on a straw. She looked across the aisle to where Craft and Mrs. Lovebright sat; her eyes raked Craft up and down, then she gave him a thin smile and a curt nod. So, she was the attorney. Her resemblance to a praying mantis was unsettling; she probably cultivated it for effect. They’re on my territory, though, Craft reminded himself. He wasn’t much of a lawyer by town standards, but he was on how’s-your-missus terms with Judge Joyner, and he knew how to play to the judge’s hand.

“All rise!” the clerk called. Shoes shuffled and fabric rustled as the assembly rose to its feet and Judge Joyner huffed and puffed through the door behind the bench. His black robe was just a bit too tight and a bit too long for his short, round body; he lifted the hem to mount the steps to the bench with the same genteel grace of a Civil War widow. “The honorable Leonidas Joyner presiding.”

Judge Joyner wedged himself into his chair and put on his half-moon glasses. “Y’all be seated,” he said. “Get this show on the road, Nancy.”

The clerk peered at her computer screen. “Lovebright versus Kyle Culliver and Culliver Productions, Incorporated. Emergency injunction.”

The judge looked over his glasses at the counsel tables. “Appearances?”

Craft stood, resting his hand on Mrs. Lovebright’s shoulder to prevent her from rising. “Craft Vickers, your honor, for the plaintiffs.”

Across the aisle, the praying mantis unfolded and said, “Stella Campinera, your honor, representing the defense.”

“Are you admitted to the bar of West Virginia, Miss Campinera?” the judge asked.

“Yes I am, your honor. And it’s Ms. Campinera,” she added, as she sat down.

“Don’t you know if you’re married or not?” Judge Joyner asked. His heavy jowls wiggled. Someone giggled in the gallery. Craft pinched his tongue between his teeth.

“I am not married, your honor.”

“Huh.” The judge swiveled his stare to where Craft sat by Mrs. Lovebright. “Well counsel, what’s this all about?”

Craft rose and buttoned his jacket. “Your honor, my clients seek a permanent injunction against the defendant, Kyle Culliver, both individually and in his corporate entity, Culliver Productions, which will prohibit any further trespass, communication, or harassment by the defendants.” Craft slipped one hand into his jacket pocket and recited the brief history of the Lovebright-Culliver clash: the first meeting, the posted signs, the cease-and-desist letter, the trespass, the sheriff. “Since Mr. Culliver can’t seem to understand simple English as spoken by a peaceful private citizen,” Craft said in closing, “we are hoping he will hear, and heed, the voice of justice as represented by your person.” He sat down, pleased with how it had gone. He had spent hours working on that last sentence.

Judge Joyner consulted the papers before him, then looked at the defense table. “Well? What does Mr. Culliver have to say for himself?”

Stella Campinera unfolded her long body and rose to her feet. “Your honor, my client is a television journalist, whose work may be known to you. He acknowledges that he has been, perhaps, a bit aggressive in pursuing this story; but he contends that the story is of such interest to the general public to warrant such doggedness.”

“Objection,” Craft said. He looked at the judge. “Mr. Culliver argues that the prurient interest of his anonymous audience excuses his violation, by intrusion, of the Lovebrights’ privacy. A criminal misdemeanor in our state code, true, but one that may also be addressed in civil court.”

“The Lovebrights are not what they appear, your honor,” the defense attorney argued. “They possess knowledge specific to my client’s investigations, which, if revealed, would substantively put to rest a matter of great curiosity to the public for several decades.”

Craft turned to face the defense attorney with what he hoped was just the right amount of righteous indignation. “You want to invade the privacy of two aged and ailing people just to satisfy the public’s curiosity?”
“Do you know what they’re hiding?” Kyle Culliver half-rose from his seat, shrugging off the restraining hand of his attorney. “Have you met her husband?”

Judge Joyner slammed his gavel against the bench. “Sit down, Mr. Culliver.”

“Your honor, the public has a right – ”

The pop-pop of wood on wood made everyone in the courtroom jump. “I said sit down, you jackass,” Judge Joyner said, dropping the gavel with a clatter. “Miss Campinera, if your client can’t behave himself, I’ll have the bailiff see him out. We don’t act that way around here.”

“No, your honor, of course not.” Stella Campinera bent toward Kyle Culliver and whispered urgently in his ear. She straightened her posture and resumed her cool demeanor. “Your honor, my client is offering the Lovebrights – Mr. Lovebright in particular – the chance to set the record straight, so to speak, regarding certain incidents in the past –”

“Objection, your honor.” Craft jumped to his feet, leaving his jacket unbuttoned. “Counsel for the defense now proposes to vilify an old and ailing man – one who is unable to be here today – without giving him opportunity to refute her client’s assertions.”

“Can you say clutching at straws?” the defense attorney said.

“Can you say invasion of privacy by false light?” Craft asked. “That’s two separate civil actions, counsel.”

The gavel cracked again. “Seems to me you all are forgetting who’s in charge here!”

“My apologies, your honor, but the crux of this matter,” Craft said, “is that my client, in his adolescence – over half a century ago – committed a few juvenile indiscretions –”

“‘Indiscretions?’ Are you serious?”

The gavel banged. “Sit down, Mr. Culliver! That’s the last time I warn you. Go on, Mr. Vickers.”

“– indiscretions that injured no person and damaged no property,” Craft continued, as if the interruption had never happened. “Mr. Lovebright committed no criminal acts. He was neither arrested, nor charged, nor convicted, nor jailed. In short, your honor, Mr. Lovebright was a young man gone astray. But he reformed, and now that he is weakened by age, this Mr. Culliver, in his unholy pursuit for the almighty dollar –”

“He’s Mothman, goddamnit!” Kyle Culliver pointed to Mrs. Lovebright. “Your husband is Mothman, and you know he’s Mothman! That’s why you don’t want us to interview him!”

Craft positioned himself between the raving reality star and his client. Hands reached out to urge Culliver back to his seat, but he threw them off and came toward Craft. “Didn’t hurt anybody? What about the Silver Bridge? Forty-six people died!”

It took two bailiffs and a state trooper, there to give evidence on another matter, to subdue Kyle Culliver. Even after he was secured hand and foot, he spewed accusations and obscenities; spit foamed in the corners of his mouth and dribbled onto the wine-colored carpet. The star-struck spectators goggled at this fall from grace. Craft remained standing, shielding Mrs. Lovebright. When the producer had been removed from the courtroom, Craft sat back down and curved his arm around Mrs. Lovebright’s shoulders. He could feel her trembling. It would make a great photo for the daily paper.

“Good god almightly,” Judge Joyner swore, slamming the gavel against the bench until the crowd fell silent. “What a ruckus. The plaintiffs’ motion is sustained.” He removed his half-moon glasses and looked at Mrs. Lovebright with sorrowful, hound dog eyes, and slowly shook his head. “Next case, Nancy.”

“Hemphill versus Venable,” the clerk called.

Craft rose and offered his hand to Mrs. Lovebright. “We’re done,” he told her.

She got to her feet, keeping hold of his hand. “Is it over?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am. Let’s go outside.”

The sunshine reflecting off the white marble steps was blinding after the gloom of the courtroom. Mrs. Lovebright tugged at the brim of her hat, and Craft used his briefcase as a sunshade until his eyes adjusted to the light. Craft caught sight of “Griff” Griffiths hovering at the edge of the courthouse porch, clutching a digital Nikon camera. Craft remembered when the budding reporter for the local rag had been a holy terror; somewhere between high school and now, Griff had found Jesus and enjoyed the benefits of a permanently-sealed juvenile record.  Craft lowered the briefcase and smiled at the camera as the shutter click-click-clicked; but when Griff pulled out a notebook, Craft waved him away, reveling in the last drops of victory. Kyle Culliver would make bank on this, no doubt, filming a special about the hick judge who derailed the First Amendment as part of a county-wide cover-up. But if he played his cards right, Craft Vickers could make bank on this, too; he could embrace a new role as champion of the downtrodden, for the right fee.

Craft and his client crossed Main Street to the municipal parking lot. “Mrs. Lovebright, are you all right to drive? I could run you home.”

“That’s kind of you, Mr. Vickers, but I can manage. I’m just glad it’s over.” Her bony, birdlike fingers rested on the sleeve of his jacket. “But it’s been a dreadful ordeal.”

“Yes ma’am, I know it has.”

“Actis would have spoken to them, just to get them to go away. But I said that if he spoke to them, then more somebodies would come, and it would never stop until we were both dead and in our graves.” She paused and took a deep breath. “That’s right, isn’t it?”

“Yes ma’am, afraid so. Rumors of that sort tend to burn for a long time.”

Her fingers clutched at the flesh beneath his sleeve, reminding him that while much of her was old and frail, her grip was not. “And bringing up that Silver Bridge business! Actis was there, Mr. Vickers, but he was trying to warn people that the bridge was unsafe. But I doubt Mr. Culliver would have believed that.” She fumbled with her purse and found her keys. Craft took them from her and unlocked her door, holding it open while she lowered herself into the seat. He closed the door and she rolled down the window. “I wanted to set him straight, but I didn’t. That was the right thing, wasn’t it?”

Craft stepped away from the car and fiddled with the loose change in his pocket. He wished she’d leave, so he could walk down to the Stanley Hotel and order something fancy off the lunch menu. People who mattered lunched there, people whose good opinion could bring in some money. “That was exactly right. Men like Culliver can’t recognize the truth.”

She cranked the ignition and wrestled the shift lever into reverse gear. “But Mr. Vickers,” she said, with the impish smile that he remembered from their first meeting, “except for that Silver Bridge foolishness, everything he said was true.”

And with that, she rolled up her window and backed out of the parking space.

Craft’s mouth took a few seconds to catch up to his brain. When it did, he chased her car, waving his briefcase, hollering for her to stop. By the time he got to the sidewalk, her tail lights were already disappearing beneath the railroad bridge.

One phone call, he thought as his feet carried him to the Stanley Hotel, and I’d never have to work again. He’d have to throw attorney-client privilege to the wind, but people would forget that, in time. He thought about the money, and the fame; he thought about Mrs. Lovebright.

By the time he reached the hotel, he’d made his decision.

“And how are you today?” the hostess asked as she led him to a table.

He put his briefcase in one of the seats and eased himself into the other. “I’m low, but not that low,” he said.

Born in eastern Tennessee and raised in southwestern Virginia, Lonormi Manuel has called Kentucky home for over thirty years. Her writing, both fiction and nonfiction, addresses universal themes in Appalachian settings. She writes not only about, but for the Appalachian people, and seeks to celebrate her native culture through her work, which has been published in Still, Barely South Review, Roanoke Review, Wraparound South, and Change7. You can read more of her work at her website, www.lonormimanuel.com.