Ruth Coe Chambers

author

“Chambers’ House on the Forgotten Coast left me in awe — of the well-crafted mystery and of the setting, a house filled with history and passion.”

House on the Forgotten Coast
by Ruth Coe Chambers
Fiction | 264 pages
Print: $16.15 | ISBN 978-1-63152-300-7
eBook $9.95 | ISBN 978-1-63152-301-4
She Writes Press
September 2017

Changing Places


an excerpt

The day of Eben’s funeral Emma, his widow, and Liz his sister, rock on a concrete slab turned summer house in Emma’s front yard.
 

EMMA:  You should of looked at Eben, Liz. He looked so natural, just like he was gonna open those big blue eyes and talk to me.

LIZ:  I couldn’t look at him, Emma. I didn’t want to remember him like that.

EMMA:  You wouldn’t of minded. He looked like he was sleeping. So natural. I took a picture of him with color film. I got all the flowers too. 

[partially covers her mouth to conceal a smile.]

I could of sworn at times they smelled like coffee.

LIZ:  Coffee! Don’t be ridiculous.

EMMA:  I know it’s silly. I know they didn’t. I was smelling memories, that’s all, just memories... 

[closes her eyes briefly and takes a big indrawn breath through her nose.]

But have you ever seen so many pretty flowers?

LIZ:  I expect they’re all withered now, Emma, in this heat. I hate to think of Eben lying out there in the hot sun, not a bit of shade anywhere around.

EMMA:  Well, I didn’t have a tree to put over him, Liz. I don’t think he’s feeling the heat anyhow.

LIZ:  You say he took sick late at night? 
[takes the black fan from her skirt pocket and slides it gently back and forth between her cupped palms.]

EMMA:  Yeah, it was pretty late. We’d eaten supper and were getting ready for bed. I asked him if he didn’t want to go out to the summerhouse for a breath of fresh air, but he said no. His arm was a hurtin’ him, you see. At first he thought that’s all it was, just his arm a hurtin’ him from carrying all that coffee, and he always had poor circulation. We thought that’s all it was. Poor circulation. Then he started sweatin’, and he got worse so sudden.

LIZ:  Did he wear his good suit to the hospital, Em? The one I bought him last summer? That pale blue grey suit with the slenderest of stripes? He looked like a million dollars in that suit.

EMMA:  Huh?

LIZ:  Did he wear his good suit? Was he dressed properly when he went to the hospital?

EMMA:  
[squints her eyes and leans in toward Liz]

I don’t know what he wore! That boy was sick! I’d of sent him in his long underwear if he’d had it on. He was SICK!

LIZ:  I know that. Don’t be crude. I just wondered how he looked.

EMMA:  He looked sick. That’s how he looked. SICK!

LIZ:  You said he died AFTER you got him to the hospital?

EMMA:  Yes. After. The ambulance came lickety split when I told them Eben was in a bad way. It may not be Savannah, but Eben was well known and loved in this town. It may have started out being the coffee, but in the end it was Eben they loved. All those beautiful flowers people sent.

LIZ:  Eben had one of those donor cards, didn’t he? I remember him telling me he wanted to get one of those new donor cards as soon as they came out. I couldn’t do that.

[gives a mild shudder] 

Just the thought makes my skin crawl.

EMMA:  Eben was proud to have one. That’s the way he wanted it. Always trying to help somebody else. You know how good hearted he was. And with his daddy dying of cirrhosis of the liver... 

LIZ:  He was my daddy, my papa too, you know. I’m surprised Eben told you that. Not many people knew. We never talked about it. Any number of things can affect the liver, you know. Don’t jump to conclusions.

EMMA:  I don’t have to jump to anything, Liz, but I was sure glad coffee was Eben’s drink of choice. 

LIZ:  How dare you insinuate... 

EMMA:  I’m not insinuating anything. But even before they came out with donor cards, Eben talked about leaving his body to science. Now that bothered me. I just couldn’t bear to think of Eben’s body laid out on a table some place and people poking and staring at him. I was glad when he got a donor card and wanted to give somebody his liver and kidneys. He said if nothing else they could study his liver and kidneys and see if coffee had any effect on ‘em. He said he might not have anything else worth giving, but he wanted somebody to have his liver and kidneys. See, Liz, some part of Eben is still out there. Part of Eben didn’t die. 

LIZ: 

[Liz leans forward in her chair, her eyes fixed intently on Emma and speaks softly, barely above a whisper.]

You don’t suppose he was still alive when they started cutting on him, do you?
 

EMMA:

[jumps up from the chair, her flat white sandals making a dull slapping noise on the floor. Puts her hands on her hips and leans over Liz.] 

Liz, are you sick or something? What a question to ask. Of course he wasn’t alive. You sure you’re feeling all right?
 

LIZ: 

[sighs heavily and touches outer corners of her eyes with her handkerchief. Long pause.]

No. No, I’m not feeling all right. There’s something I need to tell you, something important, but first, this heat’s making me thirsty. Do you have a little something in the house?

EMMA:  A little something?

LIZ:  You know very well what I mean. Maybe some sherry or bourbon. Just a little something. Eben always kept something on hand. 

EMMA:  Liz, you sure you want to start that? I got a big pitcher of iced tea made.

LIZ:  Oh, Emma, for God’s sake. We just got back from Eben’s funeral! Let’s go in the house. I’ll fix a toddy or something. 

EMMA:  You go ahead. I’m feeling kinda dizzy.

LIZ:  Can I bring you anything? 

EMMA:  Just some tea is all. The pitcher’s in the refrigerator. 

[Liz walks toward the faint outline of a house at the back of the set. There is a slight rustling of leaves. Emma looks up at the sky.]

Lord, I’ve never asked for much, but I need your help real bad. Please help me get through this day. And not just get through it but get through it and still have a shred of self respect left. Liz is a hard woman, Lord, but I guess you know that. Amen