The debut novel by Marlboro, Vermont’s Robin MacArthur (previously interviewed by Junction in August 2016) will be published on Tuesday, January 9th. Robin will appear at 118 Elliot in Brattleboro on Thursday the 11th (find full details for all upcoming appearances at the bottom of this page). We’re very excited to share the following excerpt from Heart Spring Mountain.
4 P.M., AUGUST 28, 2011
Tropical Storm Irene
Maple and oak branches lash the windowpanes, sirens scream all over town. The power went out an hour ago, and all Bonnie and Dean can see are those branches, their wind-thrashed, mottled leaves, and heavy rain. A hurricane! They said it was coming on TV, and here it is. Here it is.
“All yours, baby,” Dean says, handing Bonnie the needle. She’s on the couch, shaking, not hungry, thinks she might vomit in the kitchen sink. Instead she lifts the sleeve of her nightgown, winds the band around her left arm, and searches for a vein not hardened. She slips the needle in. Ah! There it is: immediate heat, warm breeze.
She tips her head back against the couch cushion and closes her eyes. Poppies from Afghanistan: she sees them waving in a bright field in her mind. The mysterious source of this magic. Bonnie smiles and she’s a young mother again, Vale in her arms, spinning on the shore of a lake, fireworks in the distance, laughing. She puts her chin into the rolls of fat at Vale’s neck and breathes in. That sweet-sour milk: homegrown yogurt.
Divine, Bonnie thinks, smiling, her eyes still closed, listening to the rush of wind.
“I’m going out to wet my feet,” she calls out to Dean, rising from the couch. “Explore the fray!” He nods, lining up packs of smack and fentanyl on the table. Bonnie slips out of her nightgown, tugs on jeans and a sweatshirt with a neon-pink wolf across its front, pulls Reebok sneakers over her bare feet. How long has she had these sneakers? They are Patti Smith sneakers. Motherfucking Joan Jett sneakers. She laughs. Glances at her face in the mirror. What’s happened to it? Pockmarked. Drawn. Ghost version of her former face.
“I’ll see you,” she says to Dean, walking out the door and down the three-story exterior staircase to the ground below.
The water of Silver Creek, usually running languid twenty feet away, has climbed the concrete embankment and crossed the parking lot, is kissing the soles of her sneakers. “Holy water,” she whispers, kneeling to touch it. It’s cold and rust orange—a color she’s never seen water before. It’s climbed ten feet, at least, maybe fifteen. It crashes against the basement windows on the far side of the building, deafens the air with its roar.
There’s a woman across the street standing on her rooftop taking pictures. She waves to Bonnie, shouts something Bonnie can’t hear, and Bonnie waves back. Grins. Turns and walks parallel to the creek.
A barrel shoots by. A child’s plastic truck. Three car tires.
A hurricane! Just like they said on TV. Bonnie and Dean had filled the bathtub with water and waited all day for the wind, but it was peaceful, eerily mild, just a steady rain and the branches gently striking the windows. But the river— who knew? The storm they’d all been waiting for. Bonnie does a little dance, her body warm, electric.
She walks onto the Estey Street bridge—concrete piers, green iron—and stands in the middle of it, facing the surge, her arms spread out on either side of her. Like Jesus on the cross, Bonnie thinks, raising her face to the rain.
She’s found him of late: Jesus. The tall preacher, in that concrete church at the edge of town where Bonnie makes it some Sundays, hollers: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” His blue eyes flickering.
She sits in the back row, her head in her hands, nodding.
Bonnie looks upstream at the roiling river. Rain pours down her cheeks, her neck, her lips, slips under the collar of her sweatshirt. A warm rain! A Bahamas-scented rain. A southern-scented rain. Like in that city where her daughter lives—too far away. Bonnie tips her head back, bares her teeth, lets the water seep through onto her tongue. Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst, it says in Matthew.
Bonnie wrote that on her wall with a black Sharpie.
“Wild, baby girl!” she shouts into the roar and din, imagining this same rain pouring down Vale’s neck and chest in New Orleans. The water answers back. A deep and glorious bellow. The asphalt below her feet shakes. Bonnie laughs. Whispers, “Holy water,” heart thundering below her rib cage.
From HEART SPRING MOUNTAIN by Robin MacArthur. Copyright 2017 Robin MacArthur. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
About the Author: Robin MacArthur lives and works on the farm where she was born in Vermont. She is the author of Half Wild: Stories (winner of the 2017 PEN/New England Award), the editor of Contemporary Vermont Fiction: An Anthology, and one-half of the indie-folk duo Red Heart the Ticker. (Photo courtesy Robin MacArthur)
Catch Robin on the following dates in Vermont:
Thursday, January 11th, HEART SPRING MOUNTAIN launch at 118 Elliot, Brattleboro, VT, 6-8 PM. Whetstone CiderWorks Cash Bar, music, fundraiser for The Story of Words Project.
Saturday, January 20th, HEART SPRING MOUNTAIN reading and discussion with Megan Mayhew Bergman, Northshire Books, Manchester, VT, 6 PM.
Saturday, January 27th, Next Stage Arts, Putney, VT, 7 PM, with VT Poet Laureate Chard DiNiord and Lauren Markham, author of The Faraway Brothers.
Friday, February 2nd, reading at Vermont College of Fine Arts with Miciah Bay Gault. Cafe Anna, Montpelier, VT.
Thursday, February 8th, Howard Frank Mosher Tribute, Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT, 5 PM.