Ellen Morris Prewitt’s debut novel TRACKING HAPPINESS is the exuberant story of a young woman’s cross-country journey to exonerate her dad from an exploding drug scandal, while hopefully figuring out the secret to happiness along the way.
The quirky characters in Cain’t Do Nothing with Love get themselves in the worst pickles, thanks to love. Can love get them out? Join these men and women, dogs and the Devil, as they travel the wandering, unpredictable path of love.
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This is CHAPTER 12 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.
Ok. Last we left off: Lucinda had suddenly realized that she herself might have led folks to believe her dead dad was involved in the drug scandal. She did NOT spew mashed potatoes all over the Gminsky’s dining table, but she almost did.
You might wonder in reading this chapter, how the word “quest” came to be in a modern fiction novel. Truth tell, it’s from Don Quixote. During the LONG period when I was writing this novel, I read Don Quixote. Don Quixote, the total title of which is Don Quixote: The Ingenious Nobleman Mister Quixote of La Mancha, was published by Cervantes in 1605. That’s 400 years ago. And there I was reading about Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho (who is lots smarter than poor old Don) and laughing like the thing was written yesterday. I find that amazing. That humans have changed so little in 400 years that I still find the same durn thing funny that Cervantes did.
Critics have said Don Quixote is a work of nihilism (this is in the Wikipedia description that I’ve included in the footnotes below), which is really interesting because critics say the same thing about Celine’s novel Journey to the End of the Night. This is the novel I gave to Lucinda to buoy her spirits right after her daddy’s death because I found it full of exuberance . . . and it’s known for its unrelenting pessimism. Oh, well. We all see the world in our own way. Let’s move on.
Here, we get to some train talk. A tip: Don’t talk about riding the train unless you’re prepared to have people look at you like you’re a talking porpoise. “You rode the train when?” “Do they still have trains?” “With passengers on them?”
This may only happen in the South where, thanks to line closures, it’s almost impossible to get from here to there on the train. I understand the train is much more common on the Eastern Seaboard. They’re more sophisticated on the Eastern Seaboard. Here in the South, you talk about riding the train, folks look at you like you’ve just admitted you enjoy role-playing The Lone Ranger. With cap guns. My advice: talk about riding the train only amongst friends or people you know very well.
Okay. That’s enough preliminary information.
Helpful Train Hint: An idling train may or may not blow its whistle before it moves again. If you for example, are lifting your bike and shoving it between the train cars because you’re impatient as hell to get to the other side, you may get no warning you are about to be squished. Please do NOT mess around with trains.
Now go read Chapter 12 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE
NOTES SECTION for Chapter 12
Don Quixote: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Quixote
This is CHAPTER 11 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.
Ok. Last we left off: Lucinda had just had sex with Augie Green, the stranger she met on the train. It went well, physically, but the experience left her wanting the emotional serenity she sees in Augie. As our current chapter opens, Augie is telling Lucinda a story from his childhood, and Lucinda is trying to sort through the underlying message he’s sending her.
I could talk about how difficult we make life by encoding our conversations with hidden points, particularly between men and women, but I’m gonna give you a hint instead: this chapter has chicken names in it. Pay attention. They become important later on.
This chapter gives you the low-down on barbecue contests, important information, particularly if you’re from the Pacific Northwest where they NEVER have barbecue contests. Which, by the way, in Memphis is called “BBQ” or simply “the Q” for short, even though the word “barbecue” has no Q in it. I didn’t know this until I moved to Memphis. I thought it must be spelled with a Q, or why not call it BBC? Life. I’ve included in the footnotes the link for an application to enter the Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Contest, if you’re interested.
Speaking of moving to Memphis, in this chapter we encounter firsthand what we’d been forewarned about: Erick’s mom doesn’t like Mississippi OR people from Mississippi. This is not that unusual. When I used to live in Mississippi and I’d travel, people would ask where I was from, when I answered Mississippi, they’d give me the stink eye. Or the cold shoulder. Or the open-mouthed, “Oh, really?” Then I moved to Memphis, and I answered the ‘where are you from question’ with ‘Memphis,’ and people loved me. They’d start gushing. I LOVE Memphis. I LOVE Elvis. Memphis is my FAVORITE CITY. I am undyingly grateful to Memphis for making it easier for me to travel.
Okay. That’s enough preliminary information.
Fun Chicken Fact: Breeding chickens for single selection factors has really messed up roosters. I’m not gonna say any more than that because it’s really, really sad what breeding has done to them. Just know that if you’re raising chickens and your rooster acts TERRIBLE, it is not normal. Blame it on genetic manipulation, and keep him away from your hens. You can research the rest of it yourself.
Now go read Chapter 11 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE
NOTES SECTION to Chapter 11
Y’all! I realize I don’t get out much, but I’ve just discovered that Michigan—a state—is made up of two noncontiguous land masses. The Upper Peninsula, or “The UP” as they call it, isn’t even attached to the rest of the state. It’s the top of Wisconsin. But it’s, you know, part of the state of Michigan. How did that happen, you ask? Well, hold onto your hats because I’ve discovered the mythic War Between the States.
It wasn’t fought in the South.
It was fought between Michigan and Ohio. They both wanted Toledo (right, times change.) That led to a war. Michigan against Ohio (no wonder the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry is so fierce). Actually, it wasn’t much of a war—some guy got killed in a bar fight. But to settle the “Toledo War,” Michigan swiped the UP from Wisconsin. Poor ‘ol Wisconsin was only a territory and couldn’t defend itself. My husband says, “Everyone takes advantage of the cheeseheads.”
So now the UP is sitting up there on top of Wisconsin separated from the rest of Michigan like Hawaii floating off to the side of the United States. A woman in downtown Mackinac Island (which is where I am, which is how I learned of this geographic anomaly—I mean, everyone knows what a state looks like. It’s a blob. Various shaped blobs, but still a blob. Apparently not. In the case of Michigan, it’s a blob plus another state’s wind-blown toupee), she said the UP periodically threatens to secede from Michigan and become its own state.
Well, no s**t. I mean, what if Arkansas up and claimed Mud Island for its own self (“So, Memphis, I see you’re not using that land mass; why don’t we just say it’s part of The Natural State?”) and Tennessee let them do it. If that happened, Mud Island would probably say, to hell with both of y’all—we’re now the grand state of Mud Island.
The UP folks (“Yoopers,” they call them, which I don’t think is a slur, but “Trolls,” which is what the Yoopers call the rest of Michigan—because they live under the Mackinac Bridge—sure sounds like one) would be the State of Superior. Which seems to me like a pretty awesome name for a state.
Secession would serve Michigan right. They’re all over that “we look like a mitten, aren’t we so cute?” business. But what about the UP? Could be a dog sniffing a mitten, I guess. Don’t tell my husband this—it will, without a doubt, lead to him telling you about a drunken disaster of a fraternity float: “Watch the Snowman Catch the Dog.”
I knew this trip had its perils (When I first met my husband, he told me two things: (1) don’t be bringing those beef ribs into this house, and (2) don’t be telling this STAX boy nothing about that pretender Motown.) But it was worth it to venture to the island my grandmother summered in to escape the heat of the Mississippi Delta and revivaled in when Moral Rearmament experienced its heyday.
Little did I know it would shake my faith in what is—or isn’t—a state.
We, the most Southern couple on earth, are going to Michigan! Mackinac Island, to be specific, which my grandmother Bigmama talked about all the durn time when I was a kid. I’ll share photos.
We’re having a book launch at Novel Bookstore in Memphis this July for The Hart Women! The Hart Women is a different concept (a limited edition hand-sewn novel). I’m grateful to Novel for viewing “different” as exciting.
My mother is about to have a very significant birthday! Y’all have to join me in my joy without knowing Mother’s exact age—I know better than to blurt that out.
Two very fine agents are reading HARBORING EVIL! (A formerly homeless man uses his street smarts to prove the kind woman who helped him get housed didn’t murder her husband—only to discover she might be involved in a deadly gentrification scheme.) Fingers crossed, y’all.
I planted a mimosa tree! Most nurseries don’t carry mimosas because they consider them “trash trees.” Never smelled the honey scent or seen a mimosa blossom twirling in the sun like a tiny ballerina, I guess.
An incredibly talented artist and I led the world-premier of the Stations of the Resurrection at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral Sunday! It was fabulous. It was Dean Laura’s idea. The artist and I made it real, totally from scratch, my kind of endeavor.
And this one is without an exclamation point: I sometimes feel like a small craft on a large, unfathomable ocean. The swells lift me high where I feel myself soaring toward the horizon with the white-winged gulls. Then my little raft rides the face of the wave into a trough that frightens me in its bleakness. I share here with you the buoying peaks. Please know that if you are in a trough, your raft will rise again.
A novel about love, grief, and being kind to chickens. Join Lucinda Mae Watkins on the wildest—if slightly ribald—adventure of her life
In this delightfully simple book, discover the odd new prayer practice of using broken and found objects to get closer to God.
7 years of writing. 2 years in the making. A lifetime in the living. The story of an extraordinary group of men and women who wrote their way out of homelessness. Edited by Ellen Morris Prewitt.
Love is connecting with the man in the maroon Bonneville who killed your Big Naked Guy. Love is responding to grief by inviting the Devil into your home. Love is finding yourself sitting Zen in an Elk’s Lodge. Love is learning your mom is boinking a dude in a squirrel costume.
Word and photo images reflecting the life I’ve lived — so far. Some of it I had control over, some of it I didn’t. I’m glad for all of it. Click Achievements if you want to see it formally presented. View Me to see my life in all its incarnations. Read Stories and Essays for the truth told as well as I can do it. Keep up with my happenings by following the swirling synthesis of my Blog. Settle in with one of my Books—Cain’t Do Nothing with Love to hear my voice reading stories about the
unpredictable path of love; Writing Our Way Home, A Group Journey Out of Homelessness to learn how a writing group of men and women who know homelessness wrote their own book; and, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God to discover how a non-artist wrote a book about an artistic prayer practice. Reading, listening, doing. Enjoy what you can; let the rest float away. Thanks so much for stopping by.