Authors: Patricia Hickman
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2003 by Patricia Hickman
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover design by Beck Stvan
Cover photo by Hulton Archives/Stone
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First eBook Edition: December 2008
PRAISE FOR PATRICIA HICKMAN'S FALLEN ANGELS
“A humorous and poignant parable of how man plans and God prevails. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
“I was instantly charmed! No writer can transport a reader to the South quite like Patricia Hickman. Touching, funny, and filled with love, FALLEN ANGELS will be one of the best books you'll read all year.”
BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF
“A new book by Patricia Hickman is always an occasion for delight. She is a gifted author with a deft touch for all the elements of fine storytelling.”
“Captures the desperate joy and hope-filled sorrow of the Depression era to perfection…. Patricia Hickman's prose rings with gritty authenticity and stark, lyrical description…. A glorious story of grace, told with a skilled pen and an open heart.”
“I love Patty Hickman's vivid language and rich descriptions. Her characters pop off the page, and in this latest novel, steal your heart.”
“Hickman's story is as gritty as a plate of homemade hominy—and just as filling, just as sweet, just as true.”
“In a carefully and beautifully written story of home and family, Hickman reminds us that even when we hide, love finds a way.”
“Only Patricia Hickman could move from humorous simplicity to poignant epiphany on the very same page. FALLEN ANGELS will charm its way right into your heart.”
BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF
“A haunting tale of innocence, greed, and spiritual awakening.”
WARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF
“A heartwarming read, both humorous and achingly real. A beautiful testimony to the truth of the human condition and the parts we play. Her characters are artfully unmasked to reveal ourselves.”
BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF
IAMOND OF THE
“Inspired and inspiring, FALLEN ANGELS is a kaleidoscope of emotional hues—especially the emotions of laughter and joy. Can a story of the Great Depression lift your spirits? Can a con man teach you truths about life? Read this novel. It will make a believer out of you.”
“Patty's innate ability to dish up a captivating tale with authentic Southern flavor is truly impressive!… This charming story is truly unforgettable.”
To my mother-in-law, Gaye Hickman, who reads every word of every book I write and makes me believe I should keep trying. It is for her and readers like her that I, with love and humility, dedicate this book.
riting a story set in the Great Depression in Arkansas was as natural to me as breathing. Although the characters from
in the Millwood Hollow series and the town of Nazareth are fictional, the mood of the period, and the color and pulse of the setting come from the stories told to me as a young girl sitting at my grandpa's knee. It was in my grandparents’ home that I absorbed both the harshness of sudden poverty as well as the love of family that infused the Great Depression years. I am indebted to my family, mother and father, uncles, aunts, and great aunts who, although gone from this life, gave me a peek into a history roiling in change.
In interviewing those still living today who survived this period, I was surprised to find hardly any embittered people, and most lives changed for the better. From strife sprang stories of wonder and courage, faith and tenacity that left me with no fear of what may come. Whatever life may drop on the plains of American soil, always present is the courage to pick up our plows again and be transformed.
I'm thankful to my father-in-law, Kenneth Hickman, for providing the small tidbits here and there that make this story true. I'm indebted to Mrs. Lenny Betts and Mrs. Nelle Jean Dawson of the Camden Historical Society for their exhaustive facts and history of this era and setting in southwest Arkansas. The meticulous care they lend to the history of their hometown is enrichment for the rest of us.
I'm also grateful to Rolf Zettersten and Leslie Peterson of Warner Faith for believing in this project. Also thanks to my gifted editor Lisa Bergren who, so far, hasn't tired of me.
is one of the most rewarding stories I've had the privilege of penning and it is due entirely to the community of friends and family who have contributed from the heart. I hope to pass this heart-felt wonder and love of story on to you, the reader.
He had never been sure but that there might be something to the doctrines he had preached as an evangelist. Perhaps God really had dictated every word of the Bible. Perhaps there really was a hell of burning sulphur. Perhaps the Holy Ghost really was hovering around watching him and reporting.
bit of trouble with attempted murder sent Jeb Nubey over the Texarkana border in the unfortunate direction of hunger. Everybody from the Texas side had gotten the wrong idea about the matter. If he had been a man of means, he would've been thought of as a stand-up guy instead of feller-on-the-run. That was all stand-up men were, he figured—the ones who could stand up with their pockets full of pay-offs and get fellers to see things in a new light. But now none of the itinerant boys—buddies he'd on many nights shared a bottle of the good stuff with—would talk to him. Once word spread of problems with the boss man, they just turned their sorry backs and walked away.
He'd never thought he would hear his name preceded by “no account,” as in no-account scum, no-account filth-of-the-earth. Worthless. Shiftless. Twenty-two years after his momma had given him the good name of Jeb, he'd descended to the rank Leon Hampton had awarded him—Leon and his son, Hank, who could never keep a gal on his tight-fisted leash due to his alcohol-infused temper.
The gal, Myrna. The Betty Boop gal. Round hips. Red lips.
“Last night, I nearly killed a man. Maybe I did kill him. Now no one will talk to me,” said Jeb.
“Hank got was coming to him,” Jeb's brother Charlie said. “But you got to hide, lay low until things simmer down in Texarkana. Until Hampton forgets your name.”
Hamptons owned everything in Texarkana, from the burlesque girls no one admitted worked for a nickel a dance down at the Biscuit and Bean, to the banking king who kept his doors open on Black Monday when the other Savings and Loans had closed.
“It's cowardly, Charlie. I ain't a running-away sort,” Jeb said.
Charlie packed up two work shirts along with all the Cash the two of them had earned picking cotton and handed it all to Jeb. “That's why Hank's laying near to death, because you don't run away. He came at you first. We all saw it. But you got them killer fists.” Charlie gave the air between them a hefty punch and then handed him the bag he'd filled with the cash and such. “We don't have no clout in Texarkana. Without clout, you got no witnesses—not none that a-body would listen to.”
Jeb wondered if Charlie had finally lost every bit of good sense. “Hank would have killed you, too, Charlie, if he had caught you with her. Don't give me eyes. I know'd you slept with Myrna, like we all did.”
Jeb had memorized Myrna. Myrna, the girl that pretended she loved him when she loved most of the starving gaggle of sharecroppers’ sons in Texarkana. Sweet skin, like the girls that posed for the better calendars. Paled by the blue of night, her hair spread against the hay bale, flaxen corn silk like the breath of moon and stars. Touched by Jeb. Myrna had her own perfume and the kind of girl's fragrant hair that wrapped her white dewy shoulders with an aroma like petals. Mind fogging. But not worth a killing. “It was you, Brother, that did the doing.”
“I didn't, don't you see.” Charlie's face gentled, faultless. “We never. You know I got Selma waiting for me in Oklahoma.”
“You expect me to believe you keepin’ yourself for Selma? I believe that like I believe we's going to wake up a Rockefeller.”
“Myrna loved you, Jeb. Said you cast a spell over her. Told me that over a bowl of beans. Now if that don't mean somethin’, nothing does.”
Jeb knew the truth. “She never belonged to Hank. Gals like her don't belong to nobody.” He shook out the insides of the bag and stuffed Charlie's money into a leather satchel his grandfather had once toted across the plains. He listened to the bearish sounds of the sleeping itinerant workers, hard sleepers fallen on their cots from a week of picking. Blood dried on boll-torn fingertips perfumed by corn liquor. “You think Hank will die, for real?” He could not breathe himself.
“Either way his daddy's gone after the sheriff. You got to get out of here!” Charlie's face was wet with worry.
“If I leave, they'll believe I meant to do him in. I stay, they at least hear my side.”
“You got no clout.”
“Stop staying that, Charlie, like I got no name!”