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I have a book spotlight for you today.
Fifteen-year-old Budda (Butter with a souther drawl) Jessico leads an unremarkable and anonymous life in suburban St. Louis. He’s not unpopular, because someone would first have to notice him. Except for the tormenting by his older brother, however, Budda is content. He follows his father’s rules and stays out of trouble. Then, at the urging of Blood Mama (his birth mother), a voice only Budda hears, he catches a bus to Kentucky to rescue his former foster sister, Addie.
As soon as Budda reaches Louisville, he goes to a McDonald’s for the first time in his life where he meets the resolute Baresha, a fellow runaway on her own adventure. Then Budda’s mission to find his sister goes downhill. He hitches a ride to Valkyrie, Addie’s hometown, in hopes of saving her from some danger Blood Mama won’t reveal. Instead, Budda encounters her blood kin, led by the ominous Odyn Starkwether and his violent brother Dickie.
A drug shipment controlled by the Starkwethers has disappeared and so has Addie. The brothers have a mess to clean up, and Budda is soon in the middle of it. At first, Budda goes along willingly, if it will help him find Addie. Before long, though, Budda realizes it’s sometimes better to stay put.
The Night Budda Got Deep in It
Ellie had the cigarette lit before they made it out the front door. She began to relax immediately. It wasn’t so bad smoking outside where she could enjoy the fresh air in her lungs.
Exhaling a plume of smoke, she asked, “You say you’re looking for Addie, huh?”
Budda nodded. He was momentarily less interested in finding his sister than watching this girl put her lips around the cigarette. Even the smoke couldn’t overpower the smell of cleanliness about her. He would from then on see her in his mind when he smelled bleach. But he had to get that out of his mind, because that wasn’t what brought him to Valkyrie.
“I just need to find Addie.” he said.
“She’s inaccessible at the moment,” Ellie said, blowing a plume of smoke upward.
“Inaccessible in what way?”
“The kind where she can’t be accessed.”
Told you so.
Ellie sized up Budda, but she couldn’t make him fit as Addie’s brother, even a half one she didn’t know about. Addie had moved with her mom a long time back to Missouri where her mom had an aunt or some such. Ellie hadn’t heard anything about Addie until she showed up back in Valkyrie a few months earlier, broke as the day she was born. Addie didn’t talk much about all the years she’d been away, and it didn’t matter enough to Ellie to ask.
“I guess her mom got knocked up with you after she left here,” Ellie said, going with the most obvious possibility.
“Addie’s my foster sister,” Budda said absently. “How long before she can be accessed?” He began to think Blood Mama was right about Addie needing help.
Ellie took a long drag, and then exhaled the smoke in bits like a chugging train as she answered. “I wouldn’t hold my breath. Could be awhile. Sorry you came all this way for nothing.”
This here girl’s a lying liar. She knows where Addie is, all right, Blood Mama said.
Am I supposed to just accuse Ellie of lying? That’s not going to make her too happy, Budda said.
You’re thinking with the wrong part of your anatomy. You’re not here to make this girl happy. You’re here to save your sister.
About this author:
I started my adult life as a journalist, but gave it up when I realized I wasn’t going to become Walter Cronkite. I grew up in small towns in Missouri and Iowa, which make my adopted hometown of Louisville look like Manhattan.
I envy the dialogue of Daniel Woodrell, the sense of place of Silas House, and how Wendell Berry makes writing seem deceptively easy. I appreciate Elmore Leonard for being Elmore Leonard. I don’t write like anyone but me.