Williwaw (excerpt)


Thomas Pettigrew suffers from a bad case of ancestor worship that smoulders untended until the day he reunites with his cousin Rodney, the glittering avatar of his family’s grandeur. That is, until Rodney casually involves Thomas in a scandal that will force him to choose between loyalty to family honor and his own conscience. When Thomas makes his fateful choice, nothing will ever be the same.

Here’s a taste of my unedited manuscript. If you’ve got the stomach for more of this, let me know in the Comments and I might share the whole story.

In the Holy City of Charleston, it is manifestly evident that a decent pair of shoes and a good hat signify the presence of a member of the legal Bar, and so when young Rodney Lesesne strode into Truluck’s one morning in January at eight, his customary table was already set and waiting. His favorite waiter, a man older than his own father, the eminent attorney, took his hat and poured fresh ice water into his glass, made a quiet joke about the weekend’s football, then receded into the kitchen. Rodney was, if anything, a young man of remarkable consistency and his breakfast was invariable: two eggs, scrambled, a side of toast with marmalade, a rasher of bacon that he took extra crispy, and a fresh pot of coffee. If he seemed to be in an especially gregarious mood, he might ask for a thimble-sized cup of orange juice, but in nearly every respect, his dependability and utter lack of interest in novelties were hallmarks of his clan, a family that had supplied lawyers to the city’s shipping interests for as long as there had been commerce.

In his personal appearance, Rodney was tall and angular, with a handsome shock of hair that would have marked him as a prize-fighter if not given away by a prominent nose and rather delicate hands. He carried himself with the familiar comportment of many of our young, swash-buckling princes of the Lowcountry, and had a natural inclination to stand a head taller than anyone else and absorb all the reflected light whenever he entered a room. It wasn’t so much that he was handsome, but that there was nothing that subtracted from his air of entitlement or potential, and he projected the confidence of a young person who already knows everybody worth knowing.

I suppose then, that I should count myself lucky to say that Rodney and I were acquainted and that we had been acquainted for most of our lives. First cousins on our mothers’ side, we’d met a few times as children at large family gatherings back when the Lesesnes and Maybanks could properly be called large families. But Rodney was nearly four years my senior and he paid no attention whatsoever to his younger cousins, who wrestled and ran buck-wild beneath the oaks at whichever grandmother’s place we’d caucus. In those days, I knew him only as a serious boy who moved easily among adults, exchanging compliments and courtesies with our widowed and unmarried aunts, and sitting quietly as the men held forth with exaggerated vehemence on local politics or the parlous state of things up in Columbia. Sometimes, I’d watch him when he wasn’t looking, wondering if he’d slip up and fart or spill something or otherwise wear out his welcome and be sent back among us heathen young. But he never did, and so it was no surprise a few years later after Mother and Father had finalized their divorce and my mother and I had moved into the little house in Mount Pleasant, that I heard her tell someone that Rodney had been sent off to St. Albans boarding school on that morning’s train. She said that he had taken his leave like a perfect young gentleman, sporting a fedora hat—a nostalgic bit of theater I never understood—and doffing it repeatedly to the friends and family who had come to see him off the quay. I had not laid eyes on Rodney for over a year by that time, and although I did not know it on the day of his departure from the Lowcountry, I was not destined to mingle among my Lesesne kin for a long time afterwards.