Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors shed light on their recently released books by comparing them to weird things. This week Meagan Lucas writes about Songbirds and Stray Dogs, her debut novel out now from Main Street Rag Press.
If Songbirds and Stray Dogs were a bird, it wouldn’t be a songbird; there are no flashy feathers or sweet songs here. It’s more like a Cornish Cross, heavy in the breast, thick in the thigh, and stubborn as hell. The hen that makes your Mama’s lip curl into a smirk when your Daddy says he feels like fried chicken.
If this book was a fried chicken supper it wouldn’t be a sit down deal with a fork and a glass with ice, but a leg stolen off the platter and bare feet running down a red dirt road, and fingertips licked clean before dancing over the heads of red clover or black-eyed susans, and wandering in the sunshine until your skin tightens and tingles and thirst sends you inside for a drink.
If this book were a drink, you’d pull it out of a cooler on the porch and press it to your flushed cheek and sweaty neck before pulling the tab and climbing into the tire swing to watch your children slowly suffocate grasshoppers in jelly jars in the yard.
This book would be a second can.
And a third, too.
If this book was jelly it’d be peach, with a splash of bourbon that granny thinks no one knows about.
The grasshoppers would turn to fireflies, you’d sigh and stretch and let the sweet night air soak into your hair.
If this book was a scent it’d be honeysuckle, and sweat.
The kids get bored of the tortured bugs and start poking sticks into the holes under the old oak, looking for trouble. You send them to the tub while you unscrew lids and whispering to the insects, leave the jars in the kudzu, where you hope they are safe from birds until they recover, as safe as anything that small can be. This book is a pep-talk to struggling miracles.
This book is the bleach brisk sheets that you tuck around your still damp Ivory soap children, and the quilt, washed soft with time stretched tight across their chests. The deep breath you take as you kiss their foreheads and rub the pad of your thumb across their cheeks.
This book is a finally quiet house and a dog waiting for you.
Songbirds and Stray Dogswouldn’t be a stray dog, but a mutt for sure, probably a pit-mix since that’s what you see most in the shelters around here. A little worn, a little tired. Unlikely to actually chase that bunny across the yard, but mean enough in the face to make that Jehovah’s Witness/Meat Salesman change their mind at the bottom of your driveway. Loved like your children, sometimes more, despite the muddy footprints across the freshly scrubbed linoleum and the nose prints on the windows. Your favorite time of day is when her head is heavy on your knees, as you watch the stars arrive over the trees from the front porch steps, the silky peach fuzz of her backside beneath your scratching nails.
Meagan Lucas is the author of the novel Songbirds and Stray Dogs. Her short work has appeared in The Santa Fe Writer’s Project, The New Southern Fugitives, Still: The Journal, and The Blue Mountain Review, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she won the 2017 Scythe Prize for Fiction.Meagan teaches English at a technical community college and is the Fiction Editor for Barren Magazine. She lives with her husband and children in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She tweets: @mgnlcs.