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Sweet Baby James - by Barbara A. Whittington

I've been away from my desk for too many weeks. First, the wonderful West Virginia Writer's Conference in Ripley, WV, where I went with good friend Jill S. My book Vada Faith was finally in the book store there and we had great fun at the workshops, renewing old friendships and making new. June also saw the publication of my second book Ezra and Other Stories, then there was the rush of summer, enjoying the long sunny days. The Null family reunion in August was one of the highlights of summer. Too, I had one great day at a book signing for both my books at the Tamarack in Beckley, WV. I talked to travelers from all over and sold quite a few books.

The highlight of September was a book signing at the Pickaway County Library in Circleville. Quite a crowd came. I gave a workshop on getting published, using my own experiences to hopefully make the pathway easier for someone else. Even sold a few books, which is always fun. I had a great time and so did the participants.

Recently, I started back on this novel, and fell in love with the story all over again. It was fun being back with Vada Faith and her family, which now includes her young son, James.

However, at the end of the month, R had a cerebral stroke and was taken to the hospital. All writing went by the wayside as I traveled back and forth to the city for two weeks, over 800 miles total. I'm a caregiver once again. It's a role which has spanned many years. And one that takes some getting used to each time it occurs. I'm still in the getting used to stage. R is now having in home therapy and I'm putting on my creative hat once again. At least for short spaces of time - for now.

After saying all that, I want to offer the beginning of my next novel, Sweet Baby James. It's the continuation of the story of Vada Faith. I'm doing this to hopefully entertain you and to solicit comments. All are welcome, good, bad, or indifferent. I want to know your opinion on this piece. It helps when I write the final draft of the book. Many thanks for reading and for your help! I appreciate. Blessings and hugs, Barb

Beginning of Chapter One, Sweet Baby James, Shady Creek, West Virginia

“What if Mama dies?” Joy Ruth wailed as Vada Faith ran another caution light on the way to Memorial Hospital. “It can’t be good. The squad took her in.”
“If you don’t get off my arm and let me steer this car, we’ll be in a bed beside her.” Vada Faith pushed at her twin who had a death grip on her right arm.  “Are you ten? Get off!” 
“Don’t you care if she dies?”Joy Ruth loosened her grip on her sister’s arm. She busied herself wiping her tears and staring down at her soaked tissue.
“She’s not dying. She passed out.” Vada Faith shook her arm to get the feeling back.
As the hospital loomed before them, Vada Faith pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the emergency room. She had barely stopped the car when Joy Ruth jumped out and headed toward the entrance. 
“We’re not in a competition here,” she yelled. She grabbed her sweater and hurried after her sister. She knew it would do no good to yell at her. They were always in a competition.
Inside, a nurse guided them back through the double doors of the emergency area and pushed aside blue curtains to reveal their mother sitting up in bed. Helena Warfield appeared cool and collected but her hands were shaking.
“I should have known you two would be here.” The woman groaned and fingered the sheet around her. “Bruiser can’t keep anything to himself.” 
“Bruiser didn’t call us, Mama. Blame the hospital for that,” Joy Ruth said.
Vada Faith was relieved she was well enough to complain. She leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. Joy Ruth did the same.
“Well, Bruiser was with the squad when they picked me up.” Mama sniffed. “I figured he’d report to his wife and she’d report to her sister. No secrets between you two. Now the whole town will know.”
“Are you saying we would tell everyone?” Joy Ruth’s eyebrows shot up.
“Did you two close that beauty shop to come here?” Mama ignored Joy Ruth’s question. “That’s a good way to lose customers. I’m fine. See.” She waved her hand in the air, as if waving away all concerns anyone might have. “I don’t know why the squad hauled me here. It’s all Bruiser’s fault. That son-in-law of mine. I told that boy. I don’t need to go to the hospital. Did he listen?” She adjusted herself in the bed. 
“How about because you passed out cold.” Joy Ruth said, and leaned over to brush a strand of auburn hair from their mother’s forehead. “Thank God Albert had the good sense to call the squad and that my husband, your smart son-in-law, Bruiser, insisted on bringing you here. You could be dead on the floor.”  
Albert, Mama’s longtime boyfriend, cleared his throat. They turned to where he sat by her bed between an IV pole and a heart monitor. “That Bruiser, he sure knows his business, honey.” He nodded at Joy Ruth. “You should be proud of him. We owe him for reacting so quickly. All the men on the squad are professionals.”
“Horse feathers.” Helena coughed into the tissue she’d yanked from a box on the night stand. As she coughed her skin seemed to take on a bluish tint.
“You can horse feathers all you want, Mama. Him and his team have the best emergency team in the state. They have awards to prove it. If he hadn’t been on duty, your skinny butt might still be laying on that new hardwood floor in your living room.”  
“Do we have a Helena in here?” A nurse popped her head inside the curtain.
“Yes,” Mama said, waving her in. “That’s me.”
The nurse brought her ample self inside the curtain and slapped a wrist band on mama before she could say one word. “There.” She smiled at her accomplishment. “No chance we’ll lose you now.”
“You’re losing me all right.” Mama put one foot over the side of the bed. “I’m going home.”
“Oh, I don’t think so, sweet cakes. Not right now.” The nurse turned to go, “For now you put those little feet back into that bed. The doc’s getting you a room upstairs.” As she left she closed the curtain with an efficient swoosh.
“Humph.” Mama said, pulling herself back into the bed and fingering the neck of the green hospital gown.
“Is that gown too tight, Mama?” Vada Faith leaned over prepared to fix it.
“No, it’s just uncomfortable. If I stay here I’ll have to have my gowns and my make up case from home.”
“I’ll go over later,” Albert said, “and pack a bag for you.”
Mama turned to Joy Ruth. “I know your husband is a fine man. However, I believe all those medics practice on well people. How else could they try out all that new equipment? Why, they had me hooked up to every kind of machine. Even administered an IV.” She looked down at her arm where the IV was still in place. “They did an EKG right in the squad. I’m sorry. I know Bruiser means well. However, he shouldn’t work on well people.” 
Joy Ruth rolled her eyes and continued to listen to her mother. 
“Why, Wilma Dunlap over at the senior center said if one of those old people passes gas the squad drags them to the hospital. For what I want to know?” She shook her head. “Are they getting a kickback? Personally I think they get off on hearing that siren.” She coughed loudly. “Maybe they all wanted to be doctors, just weren’t smart enough. Bruiser almost needed a stretcher when he saw me on the floor. I tried to tell him Albert could get me up off the floor. Mr. Hero Himself here,” she nodded over at Albert, “he had to call the squad. Make a big deal. Now here you two are making things worse.” 
“Making things worse?” Now, Joy Ruth was not happy.
“I wouldn’t let you get up,” Albert interrupted, “because I knew you needed to be checked out.” Albert’s voice was strong as he defended himself. “Furthermore, you are staying right here until you feel better. I’ll be staying with you to make sure of it.”
“Well, that squad had better not send me a bill for this trip, that’s all I can say. My insurance rates are high enough.” She sighed wearily. “It’s all about money. Everything today. Isn’t that true, Albert?” 
Vada Faith watched as mama put her hand on her chest and struggled to take a deep breath. 
“That’s right, Babes,” he said, using her pet name. “That’s right.” Albert looked pained each time his girl drew a difficult breath.
“I might have to stay here but you girls don’t. So go on home. You need to be with your families. Especially you,” she nodded at Vada Faith. “You’ve got the baby to take care of and the girls. Go on now, shoo.” She waved her tissue in dismissal.
“The kids are fine, Mama.” Vada Faith spoke up. “Cindy Brewster is babysitting James. The girls are at school.” She rummaged through her purse and pulled out a snapshot, handing it to her mother. “I took this of the twins and James last week.” 
Mama took the picture and held it to her breast, tears coming to her eyes. “James is the most beautiful baby. Ah, the girls too. Look at them. On the porch swing. James sure loves his teddy bear. The children remind me of you, honey, with that blond hair.” She held out the photo. “Here, Albert, look.”
“They’re growing fast, that’s for sure.” He studied the picture a few minutes then held the photo out to Vada Faith.
“No, that’s for Mama to keep.” 
Helena took the photo from Albert and propped it against her purse on the night stand.
“When you get well,” Vada Faith said, “you can bake James another batch of those teething biscuits. They’re so much better than the ones I buy.” She patted her mother’s hand. “He’s already passed his ten month birthday but we’ll celebrate when you’re well. Teething biscuits with frosting.” 
“Okay then you girls go on home. I’ll stay right here and be good.” 

“First, we want to know what’s wrong with you, Mama.” Vada Faith pushed the issue.

TO BE CONT. NEXT WEEK - Remember comments welcome!


  1. You've got my attention! I loved Vada Faith and I'm excited to meet up with her and her family again. This first chapter is great! I want more..thanks for sharing this tidbit! I hope your hubby is doing good and you both can enjoy this beautiful Fall.

  2. I'm so glad that you are getting back to continuing Vada Faith's story! I'm anxious to know how things worked out with the new child in her and her family's lives. Loved this little tidbit....hope you have the time to keep it coming! Give my regards to R, and tell him we are keeping him in our thoughts. Take care and good luck with the rest of the story!

  3. I was just thinking about you the other day, that I hadn't seen you around in such a long time. I'm glad you had a good time over the summer. I'm sorry you're in the caregiver role again.

    I love the beginning of this, Barb. You have a way with sucking a reader in to an already made family and making us feel like we're part of it. Great job.

    1. I love all of you guys for saying you like the beginning. Many of you know, after you work on something so long it seems boring. I'm at that point.
      Thanks for reading and next week I'll post a few more pages. Every week til I write the end. Hang in with me! Hugs. B

  4. It's so nice to have you back here. So glad to hear you're enjoying author life to the fullest and now back to writer life.

    This is another wonderful story. I can hardly wait to read the rest.

  5. Wow! That is sure different from your other beginnings, but I love it. And you introduce another element to the story with her Mama being in the hospital. Can't wait to see the next installment.

  6. Thanks for all the comments. Getting the next few pages ready to put on sometime tomorrow. Hugs.


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