Cousins Billy and Roy were just two mischievous boys--probably meaner than most--but still just bored, country kids looking for some adventure and excitement. During the nights they spent with their grandmother, their favorite pastime was spying on the tenants of their grandmother’s rental houses. Over the years, the two had spied on all of their grandmother’s tenants at one time or another, but the one who provided the most fun and excitement was a lonely, desperate woman named Annie Atkinson. Not for the squeamish!
From the time I was around eight until I was twelve years old, my cousin Roy and I would spend nights with my grandmother who had several rental houses in the neighborhood. To entertain ourselves on warm summer nights, we’d spy on the tenants of the rental houses and, over the years, we witnessed the lives of a host of colorful characters. There was Mr. Robinson, the one-legged traveling salesman with the crazy wife that would repeatedly throw herself on the ground. There was the Turley family who made plastic flowers they sold to churches and often killed wild birds for their breakfast. There was Alton Cline, a former concert pianist, who lost his right hand in the Korean war and could never play again. Finally, there was Annie Atkinson, the dignified, haughty retired actress who was married to a homosexual “okra man.” For me and Roy, Annie was the more fun than all the others!
“What a story! John Isaac Jones is a singularly unique storyteller. Each short story is packed with fascinating characters, rich settings, and singularly unique endings. He uses the omniscient third person point of view to move the perspective from character to character, but Billy, the eleven-year-old, is the ringleader in this show. He may be young, but, as my grandmother used to say, ‘he has the devil in him’. His friend Roy goes along, but he lacks Billy’s cunning, deviousness, and even outright ability to raise holy hell. His grandmother rents out cabins to make ends meet. There is a house she saves for ‘ne’er-do-wells and Annie Atkinson is the latest tenant. The woman has a colorful past, life dictated by the abject poverty created by the Great Depression. Her husband, who eventually visits, is another interesting character. As always, I can’t give too much away, but I did love the ending. Always beware of terrible smells and black cats.” -Reviewer Erryn Barrett
“Southern Gothic lives on! Southern Gothic is alive and well in this intriguing short story. I can’t give anything away, so I will just say that this is a slice of life of the South during the fifties, although perhaps this particular slice of life is a tad unusual. A good story, a twist for the ending and a very enjoyable read!” - Amazon reviewer