Ron Rash is the 2002 winner of the Novello Literary Award. His novel, One Foot in Eden, was chosen for publication out of more than 100 manuscripts. The book impressed the selection committee, not only with its captivating story line, but also because Rash's voice lends such authenticity to the story's characters and setting.
Rash grew up in Boiling Springs, N.C., in the foothills of the Blue Ridge chain of the Appalachian Mountains. He graduated from Gardner-Webb College and Clemson University. Currently, he lives in upstate South Carolina. He is a professor of English at Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton, S.C., and he teaches poetry writing in the Queens College M.F.A. Program in Charlotte, N.C.
In 1987, Rash's fiction won a General Electric Younger Writers Award, and in 1994 he was awarded an NEA Poetry Fellowship. His poetry and fiction have appeared in the Yale Review, Oxford American, Southern Review, Shenandoah and Poetry, among others.
He is the author of seven previous books: three books of poetry, three short story collections and a children's book. One Foot in Eden is his first novel.
One Foot in Eden (2002)
Raising the Dead (2002)
Eureka Hill (2001)
The Shark's Tooth (2001)
Among the Believers (2000)
The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth and Other Stories from Cliffside, North Carolina (1994)
One Foot in Eden
When deep summer comes and the dog star raises with the morning sun, the land can scab up and a man watch his spring crop wrinkle brown like something on fire. It's the season snakes go blind. Their eyeballs coat over like pearls and they get mean. A rattlesnake allows no warning and a milk snake that would have cut the dust to the tall grass in June quiles up and strikes at anything that steps its way. It's a time when foxes and dogs go mad. They'll come shackling toward you, their lips snarly and chins white with slobber. You'll raise your gun and they'll come on like they just want to get it done with.
Sometimes that time of year a man will act no different. A man who any another time would step around trouble, a man who, if his truth be known, might be a bit of a coward, will of a sudden turn mean and crazy. He'll do something nobody, even himself, would reckon likely. He'll even kill a man.
"You couldn't give me a child. I had to be with one that could," Amy said the first week of August when her stomach swelled like a muskmelon and neither of us could counterfeit any longer not to know.
By then that baby was about the only thing growing. Corn stalks stood dead in the fields, the beans half-buried in gray dust. The only crop that looked to make it was tobacco I'd planted beside the river, that and some cabbage, if the groundhogs didn't get it.
"Whose child is it?" I asked, like when I'd been down by the river that spring plowing I hadn't looked up to see Holland Winchester saunter past the big white oak that marked the property line between his family's land and mine, and like when I came back to eat my noon-dinner that day my beans and bread wasn't ready and Holland had left his mark on Amy, a spot on her neck purpled like a fox grape.
I waited for Amy to answer my question, my mind taking me back a month to the July afternoon I first suspicioned her being with child. The weather had turned summer by then so the wash tub was out back near the well. After supper Amy had got her towel and such and went to bathe while I took my whetstone out and sharpened my scythe. She'd drawed her water early afternoon so it'd be sunny-warm come evening. All she needed was to take off her clothes and get in.
When I'd got my scythe sharpened I tarried by the window and watched Amy bathe, because that was a sight so pretty as to make my heart ache, not so much in a lusting way but something somehow above that. A woman is never more pretty than when she's bathing or so it was when I looked at Amy. A man bathes just to get dirt off him but it seems more to a woman than that. Amy bathed in a slow, easeful way like the soap and water washed away every care the day had laid on her. Then she took the tin and sloshed water over her head and her yellow hair darkened to the color of honey.
The sun had been slaunchways over Sassafras Mountain so when Amy raised from the wash tub the water streamed off her like melting gold. There's no angel in heaven more lovely than this, I told myself. Then Amy turned as she stepped from the tub. I saw the curve of her belly, a curve no more than the scythe blade I held in my hand but enough to wonder me about her and Holland Winchester. I raised my finger to the blade and ran it across the edge. I felt the steel cut right through. Drops of blood bright like holly berries had spotted the floor.
Excerpted from One Foot in Eden, copyright (c) 2002 by Ron Rash and published by Novello Festival Press, an imprint of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. All rights reserved.