The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 12.8 MB
Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Her work has been anthologized in the audio collection Southern Voices and in A Glimpse of Heaven, an essay collection featuring works by C. S. Lewis, Randy Alcorn, John Wesley, and others. As a freelance writer and editor, she was the lead writer for Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. Luesse earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and her master’s degree in English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Harpersville, Alabama, a rural community in Shelby County, and now lives in Birmingham.
After WWII and a family tragedy, Peyton Cabot seeks connection with his troubled veteran father by retracing the trip he’d taken from Savannah to Key West at the same age. The adventure forces Peyton to come to terms with his identity and decide how much he’s willing to risk for the girl he loves.
The center of activity was the lower front porch of his grandparents’ Greek Revival house, which crowned a gently sloping, half-acre front lawn, parted down the center by a hundred-year-old live oak allée and bordered with deep pink azaleas almost as tall as Peyton. Lacy white spirea and more azaleas framed the house with its eight soaring columns. The white wicker porch furniture had been in the family for years, and while his grandmother frequently complained that it was old and needed replacing, his grandfather had it painstakingly repaired and restored every year. For whatever reason, he could not let it go.
Right now the porch was full to overflowing with relatives. Peyton leaned against one of the columns, watching a flock of his little cousins chase each other across the pristine carpet of zoysia grass that was his grandfather’s pride and joy. Though he had two gardeners, George Cabot still surveyed the zoysia daily, bending down to pull an offending weed here or dig up a wild violet there. The aunts fretted over his weeding. He was not as spry as he used to be and was starting to repeat himself more than usual. Now, Daddy, if you fall and break a hip you’re gonna be in a mess. Still, he weeded.
With his back to the family, Peyton could listen to all of their conversations, tuning in and out as if he were turning the dial on a radio.
His father’s two sisters, Aunt Camille and Aunt Charlotte, were sharing the porch swing closest to Peyton:
“Could you believe that dress Arlie Seton wore to her own daughter’s wedding?”
“Ridiculous. It was cut clear to here and twice too short for a woman half her age.”
Uncle Julian, the middle son, was doing what he always did—trying to sell Granddaddy Cabot on one of his big ideas: “We could parcel off a thousand acres over by Reidsville and turn it into a residential development. We’d make a fortune. Can’t you see that?”
“Julian, Reidsville’s not close enough to anything—not Atlanta, not Savannah. All those vets settin’ up housekeepin’ want to be close to a city where they can find work.”
Nothing about Peyton’s Uncle Julian was genuine—not his smile, not his concern, and certainly not his devotion to the family. Whenever there was any heavy lifting to be done, you could count on Uncle Julian to be needed elsewhere. Peyton’s mother had once said that he was “doomed to go through life feeling cheated” because he believed any good fortune that fell on someone else rightly belonged to him. He fancied himself a statesman but so far couldn’t even win a seat on the Savannah city council.