Last year, I enjoyed Crystal Wilkinson’s short story “Humming Back Yesterday” so when I found her book Water Street on display at my local public library in the “local” section, I decided to pick it up and give it a try. Not surprisingly, I’m glad I did.
We are almost Southern but not northern at all. Stanford’s black children root here. Some of her white ones, too. This street is our homeland.
We have streetlights but we are not quite country. Not city at all.
These opening lines set the stage for a series of related vignettes that revolve around Water Street in Stanford, Kentucky. Though Stanford is a real place (I looked it up on a map), the stories and characters are fictional. Each story is about a different resident and may be set in various timeframes. The reader might hear a minor mention of a charater in someone else’s story and then get a larger story about that character later on. The interrelationship between the stories mirrors the relationship between the characters.
The story that Jeanette Stokes tells intrigued me because it almost stands alone unlike the other stories. She tells of her mother leaving her when she was a girl – not physically but mentally after Jeanette’s father dies. Her mother continues to talk to her father setting them apart from the other neighbors. She gets ridiculed at school for living in a haunted house. Eventually, Jeanette deals with the death of her mother:
In the weeks that followed, I kept my eyes peeled for Mama’s second coming. I had hoped she would come back a sprightly vision, her and Daddy two-stepping around the old couch. But I don’t think we have choice in the spirits who haunt us. We have to settle for what we get. And I have.
In a slightly happier story, Pearline, the elderly mother-in-law of Lois Carter (who has her own story), tells about having to move in (for health reasons) with Lois and Pearline’s son, Roscoe. The ladies don’t really get along. They do try to put on their best faces for each other, though:
“Bye, Honey, You are so sweet.” Pearline could act too. She was Lena Horne made over.
Pearline watching TV with her friend Hazel over the phone makes for some good laughs, too. I enjoy the way Pearline isn’t giving up – especially with her morning walks.
Wilkinson beautifully manages to show the individuality that exists on Water Street as well as the community. She shows the uniqueness of Water Street compared to the rest of the world but she shows the sameness, too.
Another Wilkinson story is on my list for Deal Me In 2017 and I’m looking forward to when that one shows up in my deck.