Based upon Philippians 4:4, "rejoice always!" A Blessing in it Somewhere entices readers to join Lissa Massey and Brandon Fall in their struggles during the Great Depression. Brandon wants to be a preacher and Lissa desires nothing more than to be his wife, but poverty thrusts them apart. Old Ozark Aunt Gusty strives frantically to bring them together, but Marla Maggler, bent on undermining Lissa, cuts a vicious swath in her own efforts to claim Brandon.
Concluding the conditions are hopeless, Brandon believes that Lissa would be better off marrying widower and minister, Wardley Stafford. This is a story of captivating courage and devotion, presenting a timeless message that love endures all things.
ISBN Number: 0-7414-5850-0 (softcover)
When Lissa Massey closed the weathered Blue Vale schoolhouse door, she glanced at her mother's Model A parked along the rusty fence. "Oh, no. Not Aunt Gustie tonight," she mumbled.
Stony-faced Aunt Gustie waved her crochet-edged handkerchief as she peered out the right window of the Ford parked between the leaning fence where the Virginia Creeper twined and the ragged sumac bushes.
"Evening, Aunt Gustie," Lissa said. She yanked open the driver's door and tossed her imitation leather satchel in on the cloth-covered back seat.
"Evening, Niece. My, ain't it a hot evenin? I bummed a ride back from Lit Watson's store with Melvin Pempton in one of his used tin Lizzies. Bought me a can of salmon and soda crackers at the store." Aunt Gustie's face split into a self-satisfied grin.
Lissa hoped Aunt Gustie didn't think she was a burden. It was just the weariness causing Lissa's shoulders to droop after wrangling with the sixteen pupils at Blue Vale, corralling and cajoling them to settle down and focus their brains on their Strayer Upton arithmetic books and Elson Grey readers in such heat.
Lissa knew Aunt Gustie, living alone in her three-room cabin, overgrown with trumpet vine on the banks of Towley Creek, had a heart mellowed to a golden goodness by the upshots and valleys of her life. Only a flooded Towley Creek would keep her from a Wednesday night supper at the Massey table.
On the western horizon a turquoise cloud with a black underbelly boiled in the sudden upshot of wind. Thunder rumbled. The little Ford shook.
"Big black cloud yonder toward Four Crossing." Aunt Gustie peered out the window, eyes bulging, wrinkles on her forehead matching the ripples in the washboard lane. "Respectable rain over at Lit Watson's store. Better get this high-powered Lizzie across Towley Creek before the water rolls over the ford." She stroked the wart on her bony chin.
They rocked down the rutted lane leading to the gravel road as Lissa tried to keep in mind her mother's words, "Be patient with her, Lissa, Aunt Gustie's like a lizard plastered in the sun too long, she needs a shady and restful place."
So Lissa remembered that patience was a virtue, according to Preacher Supple over at White Oak Church, east by the burr oaks on the shady banks of the creek. He admonished the country folk on Christian living as if he were unrolling a never ending scroll.
Lissa steered the gunmetal-colored Model A down the road past the plum thicket. Brother Supple was right. Her mind wandered as she thought of how much longer he would have the strength to preach for them. Surprised them one Sunday by having hollow-cheeked, dark-eyed Brandon Fall try out by giving them a sermon.
"Better'n `em old timers," the church folks said. Lissa wasn't surprised. She'd always known Brandon Fall as a serious thinker, buying Old Testament history and worn New Testament commentaries from used book stores up in Springfield, pouring over them by lamplight.
Since then Brandon, who some folks believed looked like Abraham Lincoln, had been preaching once a month. She wished his suit wasn't so threadbare, pinching his shoulders and hanging like a gunny sack on his frame. She smiled, remembering how the ceiling seemed to lower when he stood behind the old plank pulpit. Some folks thought Brandon was shy, but you could hear his reverberating voice on the back bench, that is, if the women weren't making too much noise with those pasteboard fans.
Lissa's mind wandered as Aunt Gustie hunched in her seat and peered over the wind-blighted countryside where the corn leaves rattled like starched ribbons. Brown heads of coneflower and broken sunflowers raked the hot air. No, Brandon doesn't look like Abraham Lincoln to me. Eyes sad as Lit Watson's beagle, but who wouldn't have sad eyes, scraping sandrocks on that forty acres, calling it farming? Lissa knew Brandon's mind was focused on going to seminary some day.
When President Roosevelt brought this great old U. S. A. around from the brink of the Depression, Brandon would get on with his Bible studies. Lissa knew it. She hoped he wouldn't cave in and join the Civilian Conservation Corps President Roosevelt set up to provide work for the starved-faced young men leaning on porches and hickory trees waiting for work, just as the cracked land waited for rain.
Lissa wished Aunt Gustie wouldn't tease her about marrying, now that she was twenty. She knew that would have to be postponed with the drought, the bank closings, and the money her mother owed on the farm at the Trumpet Bank.
The car lurched over a sandrock as Lissa turned to enter the half-mile-long stretch where the sycamores overshadowed the yellow-ochre road by the east bank of Towley Creek.
"Look at the way them grasshoppers et up that corn, what survived the dry weather." Aunt Gustie's sun-spotted hand with its berry-stained fingernails stroked her inverted pyramid chin. "These got to be the worst times since them bushwhacker and Bleeding Kansas days."
"Hard times, Aunt Gustie, hard times. I'm thankful for my teaching job."
"Well, that's another matter, ain't it?" Aunt Gustie chuckled and turned her road map face toward Lissa.
Lissa had tried to follow Preacher Supple's admonition about humility and not gloat over the fact that she was a schoolteacher with twenty college hours and a teaching certificate to her credit. Well, so was Marla Maggler a teacher. That was another matter, Marla turning thirty, lying about her age.
Lissa checked her tightly pinned hair with her tanned hand, glad her blonde hair had stayed up all day in spite of the fact that she had raced across the schoolyard playing King of the Mountain with the students during recess.
The cloud with the turquoise bottom loomed closer.
"Better step on the gas, raining over yonder." Aunt Gustie's glassy eyes shifted as she stared at Lissa's hair. "You ain't gonna get one of them ugly bobs are you, Lissa?" Aunt Gustie sealed her wrinkle-etched lips above her jutting chin and focused her gravel eyes at Lissa.
"No, not yet," Lissa said, eyes narrowing as she noticed the cloudbank darken in the west. She thought of Marla Maggler's short bob. "Cicily Woodburne styled Marla's hair," Lissa said.
"Well, coarse hair don't bob good," Aunt Gustie continued. "Can't saw off a horse's tail with a butcher knife and `spect it to look like anything." Her eyes took on the look of an old hen surveying a dried toad.
"Why, Aunt Gustie, I think Marla's hair looks fine." Lissa knew that if she ever bobbed her hair, Aunt Gustie would unload on her. Her fine-textured hair fell in wavelets, she knew it would easily take a curl, and not a spit curl like Marla's, which stuck on her forehead like a black question mark.
"Question mark and questionable character," Aunt Gustie simpered, freckled elbow jiggling on the thin window ledge.