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Watt Key

Fourmile

Watt Key Fourmile
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Biographical note:

WATT KEY lives in southern Alabama with his family. Fourmile is his third book.

Excerpt from book:

1
 
 
I heard Mother calling, but I didn’t answer. I lay in the scattered hay and stared at the afternoon sunbeams angling through the big bay doors of the barn. Against the wall were damp, moldy bales that had been in the same place for over a year. They smelled more of wet dirt and decay than anything fresh-cut. Two sheets of tin had blown off the roof during the winter and the place was rotting. There was too much to do now. Mother and I couldn’t keep up.
I rolled over and faced my dog, Joe. He lifted his chin and nosed the chewed-up stick lying in front of him.
“Not right now,” I said.
Joe rested his chin on the ground again. He was patient.
“Foster!” Mother called again.
I stood and walked into the sunbeams with Joe following. I stopped just outside and looked across the yard at her. She’d known where I was, but she wouldn’t come after me. She didn’t like the barn now.
She said there was nothing we could do about it.
“Dax’s here!” she called. “Come get washed up before dinner!”
I looked over the rail fence at the pasture beyond. The cows had been gone for several months, sold to the farmer behind us. Johnsongrass grew waist-high, looking like something that would be a giant briar patch in another year. Daddy’s farm truck and Kubota tractor sat under the shed. The place had grown still and quiet and lifeless. There was nothing we could do about any of it.
*   *   *
I left Joe waiting at the back door and stepped into the kitchen. Mother was pulling a baked chicken from the oven and I smelled her perfume over the roasted meat. I never knew her to wear perfume until Dax Ganey started coming around. The smell of it made me queasy.
He leaned against the sink, working a can of old Milwaukee beer like it was hinged on his hand, watching her. It seemed he was always leaning on something, skinny and hungry-looking. He wore his blue work pants and white button-down shirt that said RIVIERA UTILITIES on the pocket. He was nearly five years younger than her and wore his hair long in the back, sometimes pulling it into a ponytail.
Mother said she’d met him about two months before when he was surveying an underground power line in front of our house. The first time she’d had him over to eat I thought he was as cool and smooth as a movie star. Gradually I came to realize how he really was when Mother wasn’t looking. The only thing I liked about Dax was that he worked most evenings during the week. Since Mother worked at the post office during the day, Saturdays and Sundays were about the only time I had to see him.
Dax flicked the last swallow of beer into the sink and dropped the empty into the trash. Then he turned to me and studied me until I looked away. He wouldn’t smile unless Mother was watching him.
“How you doin’, Foster?” he said.
I started past him. “Fine,” I said.
I heard the oven door shut and sensed Mother’s eyes on me. “Shake his hand, Foster,” she said.
I stopped next to him and held out my hand without looking at him. He had a snake tattoo on the bottom of his wrist. I didn’t like shaking his hand. I didn’t mind the tattoo, but his fingers were strong like cables and he usually squeezed my knuckles until it hurt, like he wanted to warn me of something.
This time his hand was limp and clammy.
“Look

* "Suspenseful and introspective." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "Key has crafted another powerful, riveting coming-of-age tale. . . . Foster’s first-person voice is richly authentic as he gradually acquires the wisdom that will eventually lead him to a believable though heart-wrenching resolution to some of the crushing conflicts in his life. Confrontations between Dax and Gary are vivid and violent enough to disturb some readers, the violence expertly serving to define yet distinguish their characters. Deeply moving and fast-paced, this life-affirming effort is a worthy addition to the bookshelves of sturdy readers." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "Simultaneously poignant and suspenseful, the story will keep readers on the edge of their seats." —School Library Journal, starred review

"An original and satisfying coming-of-age tale." —The Horn Book

"Written in the tradition of classics such as Old Yeller and Shiloh but with a decidedly contemporary setting and tone, this will appeal to a broad range of readers." —BCCB


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