Tommy Hays The Pleasure Was Mine: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780312339333

The Pleasure Was Mine: A Novel

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9780312339333: The Pleasure Was Mine: A Novel
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Prate Marshbanks proposed to his future wife on a muggy July night at Pete's Drive-in back in '52. "She said yes to me between bites of a slaw burger all-the-way." A college graduate and daughter of a prominent lawyer, Irene was an unlikely match for Prate, a high school dropout. He lived his married life aware of the question on people's minds: How in the world did a tall, thin, fair-skinned beauty and one of the most respected high school English teachers in all of Greenville County, in all of South Carolina for that matter, wind up married to a short, dark, fat-faced, jug-eared house painter? That their marriage not only survived for fifty years, but flourished, is a source of constant wonder to Prate. Now he faces a new challenge with Irene.

From the author of In The Family Way, a novel the Atlanta Constitution called "an instant classic" and the Charlotte Observer praised as "a lovely, moving book," comes a powerful story of hard-earned hope. The Pleasure Was Mine takes place during a critical summer in the life of Prate Marshbanks, when he retires to care for his wife, who is gradually slipping away. To complicate things, Prate's son, Newell, a recently widowed single father, asks Prate to keep nine-year-old Jackson for the summer. Though Prate is irritated by the presence of his moody grandson, during the summer Jackson helps tend his grandmother, and grandfather and grandson form a bond. As Irene's memory fades, Prate, a hardworking man who has kept to himself most of his life, has little choice but to get to know his family.

With elegance and skillful economy of language, Tommy Hays renders an unforgettable character in Prate Marshbanks. The Pleasure Was Mine is at once a quietly wrenching portrayal of grief, a magical and romantic story about the power of love, and an unexpectedly moving take on the resilience of family.

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About the Author:

Tommy Hays is executive director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and creative writing chair for the Academy at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. His novel In The Family Way received the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award in 2000 and was a choice of the Book-of-the-Month Club. He is a graduate of Furman University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife and two children.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

My wife has gone. I can’t say that I blame her. After fifty years, Irene had probably had enough of keeping up my end of the conversation with family and friends, while I slipped outside to weed the garden or drove over to Pete’s for a piece of pie and a cup of coffee and talk that didn’t send my blood pressure through the roof.

She had probably had enough of my temper, my dark moods, my foul mouth, my all-around disagreeable self. She had probably had enough of me coming home reeking of turpentine and flecked from head to toe with latex or enamel. She had probably had enough of what most everybody wondered and some, over the years, were rude enough to ask: How in the world did a tall, thin, fair-skinned beauty and one of the most respected high school English teachers in all of Greenville County, in all of South Carolina for that matter, wind up married to a short, dark, fat-faced, jug-eared house painter—a high school dropout, who when he first heard about semicolons, figured they had something to do with digestion.

Not that she ever complained. Never once did she even hint at being sorry about that muggy July night back in ’52 at Pete’s, when it was still a drive-in, when she said yes to me between bites of a slaw burger all-the-way. Over the years, whenever she mentioned anything about us, it was always how glad she was she had married me, what a good fit we had been, and how easy we had had it compared to most couples. I could have said all that back to her and meant every last word, but I never got around to it. Maybe she’d had enough of that, too.

I don’t mean Irene wished for this. If she had had any say about her demise, losing her mind would have been about last on her list. It is hard on an English teacher to forget her words. It’s hard on a woman who prides herself on order to have the objects of the house mutiny against her, like the time she couldn’t find the iron, and I came across it days later in the freezer, or when her missing watch turned up in the sugar bowl.

The doctor agreed that the sudden death of our daughter-in-law might have brought it on, but he also said she probably would have come down with it eventually. He said it was hereditary, even though neither of her folks lived long enough to come down with it themselves.

Still, I can’t help thinking if I had not been such a cranky bastard, if I had taken her to the pictures or out to the S&W Cafeteria more often, if I had gone along with her on her evening walks, or if I had just sat around with her at night reading or watching a little TV, things might have been different. If I had worked harder at keeping her company, her mind might have not been so quick to wander.

The doctor prescribed medicine that was supposed to slow it. I managed to keep her home for a couple of years, when she was forgetting telephone numbers or where she set her glasses or how to sign her name. But it wasn’t long before she forgot bigger things like how to drive, how to cook, how to take a shower. One time I came home late from a job. It was already dark when I pulled in front of the house. I saw her through the window. The shades were still up and the lights on, and she was sitting in the living room watching TV in her underwear for all the world to see, like she had started to get ready for bed but forgotten midway. She would have been mortified if she had been in her right mind. That was when I hung up my brushes for good and shut down my little painting company. I was afraid to leave her alone.

Then in December, the day after Christmas, the phone rang at three in the morning. I felt for the receiver in the dark.

“Who is this?” I asked, keeping my voice down. Irene had had more and more trouble sleeping, and once she was awake, she was awake for hours, wandering the house.

“It’s Mildred.” Mildred Smeak had been a math teacher at Greenville High and was a friend of Irene’s. She lived up the street. Irene and Mildred had both retired five years ago.

“You know what time it is?” I whispered, reading the glowing numbers on the electric clock by our bed. Then I remembered she had called like this in the middle of the night once before, when her husband had his first stroke. “Is it Herman?”

“Irene is sitting at my kitchen table.”

“What?” I turned on the light, and my heart dropped when I saw Irene’s side of the bed empty. I hadn’t even heard her get up. “What’s she doing there?”

“Wants to borrow a couple of eggs, at least that’s what I finally figured out. She kept saying she wanted some of those things in which chickens are involved. Says she’s making a cake. Says it’s somebody’s birthday.”

“I’m sorry, Mildred,” I said.

“It’s all right, we have been having a good talk.” Then Mildred lowered her voice. “Except she might think I’m her mother.”

“I’ll be right there.”

“Bring her overcoat and shoes.”

On a nineteen-degree December night, Irene had walked barefoot down to Mildred’s in her nightgown.

“It’s nobody’s birthday,” I had said as I drove Irene back home. This was when I still believed that as long as I kept the facts in front of her, she had a fighting chance.

“It feels like somebody’s birthday,” she said, looking out the van window. I had wrapped the coat around her, but her teeth were chattering.

“Even if it was somebody’s birthday,” I said, “and even if it wasn’t the middle of the goddamn night, we have two whole cartons of eggs in the frigerator.” I knew, because I had been doing the cooking for a good while. And what I cooked was eggs, so I made sure we had plenty on hand.

“Whose . . . residence is this?” she asked, as I turned into our drive.

I thought she was pulling my leg, the way she used to. But when I looked at her, her face pale and blank in the streetlight, I saw she didn’t know where she was.

“I want to go home,” she said, sounding lost like a child.

“We are home,” I said.

“This little . . . dwelling?” she asked, looking toward the house. “Where’s the big porch? Where’s the man who takes care of me?” She was talking about her father and the house she grew up in on Crescent Avenue.

“Mr. Blalock has been dead for forty-five years,” I said. “This is where you and I live, where we always lived.”

We passed nearly half a century in that house—alone together, with our boy, Newell, and then alone again. Its crumbling brick, sagging joists, and cracked plaster were the sum of us, and for Irene to not recognize it was like a plug had been pulled and our lifetime together was draining away.

When I came around and opened the van door for her, she didn’t move. “This isn’t my house,” she said.

“Of course it is,” I said.

“I’m not going in,” she said.

“You can’t just sit out here all night,” I said. “You’ll catch your death.”

“This is not . . . where I’m from,” she said, sitting back in her seat, folding her arms, and looking straight ahead. By the porch light, I could see her breath make little clouds in the cold night air. She looked like a lost little girl sitting there.

I felt a wave of tenderness toward my wife. “Now, Irene,” I said in a softer voice, “we need to go inside and warm you up.” I started to take her arm.

“Let go of me, you son of a bitch!” She slapped me.

I raised my hand to my stinging cheek. In all our years together, Irene had never hit me. Yet it wasn’t the slap that shocked me so. What really shook me up, what really told me we had entered a world I did not begin to understand, was her cursing me the way she did. Never in our fifty years had she cursed me. I’m not saying she hadn’t been aggravated with me plenty over the years, but never had she called me anything worse than a stubborn old goat.

I stood there in the freezing cold, wondering what to do. I couldn’t leave her where she was. I looked around the neighborhood, not a light on anywhere up or down the street. I didn’t want to have to wake neighbors; besides, I didn’t want them to see Irene in such a state. I could handle this on my own. I considered starting the van back up, turning on the heater, and waiting out the night with her, but I worried about carbon monoxide.

My ankle ached, so I sat down on the porch step. “What are we going to do?” I asked aloud.

Irene looked straight ahead, like she was traveling somewhere, keeping her eyes on the road.

“We can’t stay out here all night,” I said.

Irene didn’t budge, didn’t even blink.

I sighed and crossed my arms against the cold. I could drag her inside, but I hated to think of the struggle she might put up, and all the commotion might wake the neighbors. I wondered if maybe Mildred might still be up. Her house was too far down the street for me to make out if her lights were still on. Maybe she wouldn’t mind coming over to help get Irene inside. I started into the house to call Mildred and was in the kitchen dialing the number, when I heard the van door slam and footsteps cross the porch. When I went into the front room Irene was closing the door behind her. “It’s freezing out there,” she said, rubbing her shoulders. Then in a voice sounding like her old self, she asked, “Why’d you leave me out there?”

I looked at her. She wasn’t kidding.

“You didn’t want to come in,” I said, helping her out of her coat.

She yawned...

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Book Description St. Martins Press-3pl, United States, 2006. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English. Brand new Book. Prate Marshbanks proposed to his future wife on a muggy July night at Pete's Drive-in back in '52. "She said yes to me between bites of a slaw burger all-the-way." A college graduate and daughter of a prominent lawyer, Irene was an unlikely match for Prate, a high school dropout. He lived his married life aware of the question on people's minds: How in the world did a tall, thin, fair-skinned beauty and one of the most respected high school English teachers in all of Greenville County, in all of South Carolina for that matter, wind up married to a short, dark, fat-faced, jug-eared house painter? That their marriage not only survived for fifty years, but flourished, is a source of constant wonder to Prate. Now he faces a new challenge with Irene.From the author of In The Family Way, a novel the Atlanta Constitution called "an instant classic" and the Charlotte Observer praised as "a lovely, moving book," comes a powerful story of hard-earned hope. The Pleasure Was Mine takes place during a critical summer in the life of Prate Marshbanks, when he retires to care for his wife, who is gradually slipping away. To complicate things, Prate's son, Newell, a recently widowed single father, asks Prate to keep nine-year-old Jackson for the summer. Though Prate is irritated by the presence of his moody grandson, during the summer Jackson helps tend his grandmother, and grandfather and grandson form a bond. As Irene's memory fades, Prate, a hardworking man who has kept to himself most of his life, has little choice but to get to know his family. With elegance and skillful economy of language, Tommy Hays renders an unforgettable character in Prate Marshbanks. The Pleasure Was Mine is at once a quietly wrenching portrayal of grief, a magical and romantic story about the power of love, and an unexpectedly moving take on the resilience of family. Seller Inventory # APC9780312339333

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Book Description GRIFFIN, United States, 2006. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Prate Marshbanks proposed to his future wife on a muggy July night at Pete s Drive-in back in 52. She said yes to me between bites of a slaw burger all-the-way. A college graduate and daughter of a prominent lawyer, Irene was an unlikely match for Prate, a high school dropout. He lived his married life aware of the question on people s minds: How in the world did a tall, thin, fair-skinned beauty and one of the most respected high school English teachers in all of Greenville County, in all of South Carolina for that matter, wind up married to a short, dark, fat-faced, jug-eared house painter? That their marriage not only survived for fifty years, but flourished, is a source of constant wonder to Prate. Now he faces a new challenge with Irene. From the author of In The Family Way, a novel the Atlanta Constitution called an instant classic and the Charlotte Observer praised as a lovely, moving book, comes a powerful story of hard-earned hope. The Pleasure Was Mine takes place during a critical summer in the life of Prate Marshbanks, when he retires to care for his wife, who is gradually slipping away. To complicate things, Prate s son, Newell, a recently widowed single father, asks Prate to keep nine-year-old Jackson for the summer. Though Prate is irritated by the presence of his moody grandson, during the summer Jackson helps tend his grandmother, and grandfather and grandson form a bond. As Irene s memory fades, Prate, a hardworking man who has kept to himself most of his life, has little choice but to get to know his family. With elegance and skillful economy of language, Tommy Hays renders an unforgettable character in Prate Marshbanks. The Pleasure Was Mine is at once a quietly wrenching portrayal of grief, a magical and romantic story about the power of love, and an unexpectedly moving take on the resilience of family. Seller Inventory # BZE9780312339333

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Book Description St. Martins Press-3pl, United States, 2006. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English. Brand new Book. Prate Marshbanks proposed to his future wife on a muggy July night at Pete's Drive-in back in '52. "She said yes to me between bites of a slaw burger all-the-way." A college graduate and daughter of a prominent lawyer, Irene was an unlikely match for Prate, a high school dropout. He lived his married life aware of the question on people's minds: How in the world did a tall, thin, fair-skinned beauty and one of the most respected high school English teachers in all of Greenville County, in all of South Carolina for that matter, wind up married to a short, dark, fat-faced, jug-eared house painter? That their marriage not only survived for fifty years, but flourished, is a source of constant wonder to Prate. Now he faces a new challenge with Irene.From the author of In The Family Way, a novel the Atlanta Constitution called "an instant classic" and the Charlotte Observer praised as "a lovely, moving book," comes a powerful story of hard-earned hope. The Pleasure Was Mine takes place during a critical summer in the life of Prate Marshbanks, when he retires to care for his wife, who is gradually slipping away. To complicate things, Prate's son, Newell, a recently widowed single father, asks Prate to keep nine-year-old Jackson for the summer. Though Prate is irritated by the presence of his moody grandson, during the summer Jackson helps tend his grandmother, and grandfather and grandson form a bond. As Irene's memory fades, Prate, a hardworking man who has kept to himself most of his life, has little choice but to get to know his family. With elegance and skillful economy of language, Tommy Hays renders an unforgettable character in Prate Marshbanks. The Pleasure Was Mine is at once a quietly wrenching portrayal of grief, a magical and romantic story about the power of love, and an unexpectedly moving take on the resilience of family. Seller Inventory # APC9780312339333

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Book Description St. Martin's Griffin. Paperback. Condition: New. 272 pages. Dimensions: 8.2in. x 5.4in. x 0.9in.Prate Marshbanks proposed to Irene on a muggy July night at Petes Drive-in back in 52. A college graduate and daughter of a prominent lawyer, Irene was an unlikely match for Prate, a housepainter. That their marriage not only survived for fifty years, but flourished, is a source of constant wonder to him. Now Prate faces a new challenge with his beloved Irene. Tommy Hays has rendered an unforgettable character in Prate, who, as he copes with his wifes illness, establishes new bonds with his widowed son and grandson. This is a heartfelt, redemptive story about the power and resilience of family. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780312339333

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