Excerpts from Isaac's House
Jane Bennett Gaddy
copyright 2011

The porch was shadowed except where the final rays of sun drew an occasional slatted beam through the spindly sweet gum trees that grew close together. The leaves stirred, speaking in their autumn tongue. Face clean, still burning but covered with salve, Isaac walked out onto the porch and sat down on the swing beside his mother, bracing himself for whatever she had for him. He would respect her. Always. And he would allow her to flail him if she saw the need. That was absurd. It would never happen. Not Rachel’s style. But she had a way about her, and the more pleasant the words, the hotter they stung. As usual, her voice was clear and southern, her words cultivated and smooth. Isaac loved all of that about his mother. Her predictability made it easier to know where she would head with this conversation.
            “Jonathan whipped you—”
            “Yes’m. I deserved it.”
            “From all I’m gathering, I allow you did, Isaac. Are you angry with him?”
            “No ma’am. Who could ever be mad at Jonathan?”
            Isaac leaned back on the swing, squared his shoulders and drew in a long breath. He released it and leaned in toward his mother, looking her in the eye. It was best that way. His relationship with her meant more to him than most anything he could think of. He needed her. Like he needed his brothers. They were his life. 
            “How long will you stay, son?”
            “Just a week this time, Mother. I need the money, and then I need to get back to Slate Springs. I’ve got to finish the house before winter and I need to get a measure of sanity about my life—now.”
            “And your grandfather?”
            “He’s willing to let me work a week at a time until I finish the house and make some decisions about what comes next for me.”
            “Are you satisfied with it, the house, that is?”
            “Mother, it’s my dream. I don’t know how anyone else would view it, but I say it’s splendid. Just splendid.”
            Rachel nodded, smiled, and said, “I’m proud of that, son. I’ll be happy to see it. And what about Jennie?”
            Until now there had been no discussion of a subject that had once been on Isaac’s lips every waking moment, but he knew it was coming. He leaned over, resting his elbows on his knees, and tucked his head.
            “I miss her. In fact, I’m sick from missing her. She laid into me like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t think she loves me anymore.”
            “What did she say, Isaac?”
            He repeated the conversation word for word, for by now it was stuck permanently in his memory.
            Rachel laughed.
            “What’s funny about it, Mother? Jennie scorned me and you’re laughing. Is there something I don’t know about women?”
            “Apparently so, Isaac. Jennie was not scorning you. She was telling you what you needed to hear. What you knew already. You left. Without a word of goodbye or I’ll be seeing you soon. Nothing. You just left. What were we all to think?”
            “I had my reasons, and it had nothing to do with my love for her or you or any of my family.”
            “I know. But not everybody knows you the way I do, Isaac. It had to do with—”

Isaac's House is a post-Civil War novel 
set in an era when the Old South is still 
outside the Union.The complexity 
of the times leads to infiltration 
of the carpetbaggers, 
reinforced by the scalawags 
and funded by the 
Radical Republican Regime 
bent on stirring in the ashes 
of the defeated southern dog. 
Isaac, home from the War 
that took his father and brother, 
beleaguers himself with an agenda 
that becomes too weighty to bear.