A New Novel by Gary Gautier
Drenched in the sights and sounds of mysterious New Orleans, this story is heartwarming, funny, and serious all the same. Three kids searching an abandoned house for hidden silver find themselves confronting long-forgotten ghosts and the house’s dark memories of racism, loss, and betrayal. The quest for the silver is especially nerve-racking for Annie, the kid who actually sees the ghosts, both of her deceased mother and of the bygone denizens of the house. Her friends want to believe her but can’t, and she herself is torn between running away from it all and following the ghosts into the house’s dark history. With the help of assorted old characters on the block, the kids restore order to the community and lay bare the bones of what makes a neighborhood: the ability to work together while accepting some differences as absolute, maintaining an organic connection to the communal past, and having some kind of unity of purpose for the kids and the old people of the neighborhood.
Sample page (midpoint):
The kids moved slowly into Mr. Jimmy’s dimly lit house. The two steel-hooped barrels sat fat, glum, solid as ever, like surly guardians in the dismal light, but with the incongruous festivity of tiny gadgets and figurines on their heads. The dark painting hung in its place, but the broad strokes of purplish-blue waves seemed oddly different, as if they had moved a few paces toward edge of the canvas. The bedroom, dining room, kitchen along the shotgun path of the house were otherwise just as they had seen last time, as if no one had lived there in the interim. Instead of conducting them to the back porch, Mr. Jimmy sat them in the kitchen this time, at one of the interchangeable thrift store tables that seemed to sprout up in various rooms and porches of this fantastic setting. Mr. Jimmy had apparently been engaged at the table a short time ago. A photo album, some loose photos, and reading glasses lay on the scored and pock-marked wooden surface. Mr. Jimmy put the reading glasses on and eyed a photo for the album, like Melissa and Annie weren’t there. But then he spoke.
“You know the silver in Mr. Robert’s house?” faltered Melissa.
“I told you about it, didn’t I?”
“Well, we kinda been looking around for it.”
“I know you been looking. Well quit looking.”
Mr. Jimmy took a photo into his gnarly black fist, installed it into the album, and eyed another. Even Melissa remained daunted at his demeanor.
“Some people,” continued Mr. Jimmy, “knows more than you kids about that house. Some people knows more than he’s saying right now. That silver is tainted. Cursed. Blood money. Touched by the devil’s own hand. You understand what I’m saying?”
The speaker paused and let the question float. Then a heaviness descended on his countenance. With a delicate movement he took off his glasses and stared at, or through, the kids with a fixed intensity that pushed a chill up their spines.
“’Cause this is the last time I’m saying it.”
The kids hesitated, immobilized by dread but eager to forge on. Mr. Jimmy put his glasses back on and installed another photo.
“There’s more, Mr. Jimmy,” Melissa said.
Mr. Jimmy continued to fiddle with the album.
“Well, what more?”
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