Two Days in July
by Courtney Hartnett
The day my sister came to town was just like any other day in summer. The air hung heavily over my shoulders as I sat on the front porch, listlessly tracing circles in the dust with my toes. It was quiet and I was quiet, and I sat with my head propped despondently in my hand, watching a soft coat of dust dull the bright pink polish that had been gradually chipping from my nails for the past week.
There were no other houses around for miles, just the little dirt road cutting through our swatch of South Carolina low country. The palmetto to my right rustled a little in the faint breeze. I yawned and kicked a pebble.
I was jolted out of my empty reverie by a sudden rumble far off down the road. Who would come this way at this time of day? Or ever, for that matter? I turned my head to see if I recognized the vehicle, but it was still too far off. I rose slowly to my feet and cautiously traversed the front lawn, going up on tiptoe and shading my eyes as I strained to see. In a second, I recognized the familiar rounded roof of my sister Paloma’s antique lima-bean green Bug, riding toward me on a cloud of Carolina dust.
Paloma had never been quite real to me. She was more of an abstract of pieced-together memories, like the peaceful thoughts I would have after awakening from a pleasant dream. In actuality, Paloma was my half sister, the only child my father had had with his ex-wife from Mexico. She had been the one to insist on the name; my father had tried to dissuade her, offering up the sensible Barbara, Kimberly, Paige. In the end, her mother won, and the little half-Hispanic, half –Anglo-Saxon girl became known as Paloma Kimberly Gates. Paloma hated her middle name.
To me, my sister was near-mystical, an itinerant preacher of the simple beauty and quiet glory of the world. I said she was, like her name, a dove: to my father, she was a feather floating aimlessly on the breeze. Paloma was every parent’s dream gone sour, the prodigal daughter who never came home. She was brilliant; I knew that. All through high school, she had been a model student: straight A’s, president of this and that, star volleyball player, you name it. After graduation – I always wondered why she waited – she left home with a duffel bag, her Spanish guitar, $500 in cash, and a box of Saltine crackers. My father told me she’d come running back home in a matter of days: small, graceful Paloma, with her gentle fluttery voice, liquid brown eyes, and delicate hands, would never make it alone in the world.
She never returned. Her mother heard from her rarely; I heard even less. I gathered glimpses of her world from our meager correspondence: she haunted coffee houses and pubs in the evenings, mystifying her audiences with the sparkling tones of her guitar and the lilting, half-Spanish cadence of her voice. By day she worked odd jobs and somehow managed to scrape together a living. But Paloma never stayed in one place for long. I’d get a letter postmarked from New York, then one from Chicago, one from Richmond. Paloma was a restless soul.
So when her car rolled and coughed into the driveway, I puzzled over why she had decided to come home. Or to my home, at least.
“Hey, Lila!” She smiled and rolled down the window as if she’d only been gone an hour. Her white teeth contrasted sharply with her raven-black hair and her dark aviator sunglasses. The picture was complete with the old Bug: she looked like snapshot straight out of the sixties.
“Paloma,” I said simply. How do you greet someone you haven’t seen in years?
“How’ve you been?” She stepped out of the car, smoothing a charcoal-gray silk sundress as she rose to her feet.
“I’ve been…alright,” I said. “What – why are you-“
“Why am I here, right? I just thought I’d drop in, you know. Catch up.”
Drop in. After five years. She was 22.
“Well,” I said. “You might as well come in. Can I carry anything?”
“Sure.” She opened the back door despite its harsh squeak of protest. Out came a black guitar case. “Here.” She grabbed a duffel bag and shut the door.
I lugged the guitar case up to the door. “Dad!” I called. “You’ve got a visitor!”
“What? I – hold on a minute.” Hesitation. Footsteps. He stood at the top of the steps, looked down.
“Paloma?” I read the worry behind his wire-rimmed glasses.
“What are you doing here?”
“Just wanted to drop in. Long time, no see, you know?” I detected a faint trace of a Spanish accent in her voice. It came and went, tucking itself into the occasional rolling r, sometimes hiding in a word.
“Come in, then,” he said, not looking her in the eye. “You can stay with Lila.”
“I can sleep on the couch if it’s easier,” Paloma offered. My father wasn’t a fan of spontaneous visits.
“No,” I said hurriedly. “I want her to stay with me.” I turned to Paloma. “As long as it’s fine with you.”
“Thanks, Lila,” she smiled, a little more at peace.
“I’m sorry about Dad,” I said as we walked down the hall to my room. “He doesn’t do well with change.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” she said, with a smile that made me feel like it was. She turned to the duffel bag and pinched the zipper between her tanned fingers, opening it gingerly. She pulled out a rolled woven mat and unfurled it over the floor. “I guess I’ll take over this side of your room, if you don’t mind.”
“It’s fine,” I assured her. “But you can have my bed, you know. You are my sister.”
She laughed suddenly: a light, spontaneous laugh. “I’m used to sleeping on the floor, Lila. I think I can manage.”
“Well,” I said, a little puzzled, “make yourself at home, then.”
“I think I’ll wash up,” she said. “Maybe take a shower. The AC in my Bug is broken” – I figured it would be – “and I’ve been driving a long way.” She walked down the hall, leaving me alone in the room.
Her guitar case was still resting on my bed where I had left it. I had never played a guitar in my life, had never heard her play, or at least since I could remember. I ran my hand over the worn black of the case and flipped a rusted silvery latch. I shut it, then opened it again. Then the next latch, which squeaked, and the third. Carefully I opened the case and looked inside.
The guitar rested in the soft velvet interior. There were patches where the varnish had come off in swatches. The fretboard looked tired, the strings strained. It was beautiful. I pulled a string and let go. It snapped back almost reproachfully, then resonated with a rich, full, melodious tone that suddenly captured my ear. I plucked the next string, and the next. Each had its own sound, its own voice. I was mesmerized. The sun slanted through the window and illuminated the beautiful polished wood.
I turned to her little corner and looked at the worn duffel bag, rubbed at the corners and threadbare in patches. It rested on her mat with what seemed to me like relief. I swiveled and looked at the guitar again. How did she live this way? How did she eat? Where did she sleep? Paloma was a paradox to me. She was a poor, homeless, vagrant musician. Yet she kept about her an inexplicable air that made her more than that: while others were too poor, she simply lived frugally. When others were shortsighted dropouts, she took the longview and chased a dream. While others were starving musicians, she was a traveling messenger who seemed to sacrifice herself for the sake of her art.
I walked back to the guitar and looked at it again. The day was getting later and the slanted rays of sun that bathed her guitar were taking on a rich and honeyed hue. Dust particles rose and swirled in the golden light, then sifted off through the heavy air.
“Do you want me to play you a song?”
I whirled around, startled by her voice. She stood in the doorway, her damp hair gathered in a loose bun at the nape of her neck, her dark body swathed in the same charcoal dress.
“Sure,” I said. “That - that would be nice.”
“One of yours. One that you wrote.”
She smiled and lifted the guitar from its velvet bed. She ran a small finger over the strings, making sure it was still in tune. It settled in her lap like a sleepy cat. Deftly, almost before I knew it, the song began. She plucked the strings in a dark and gentle cadence. It sounded to me like the deserts of Mexico, the wind’s whisper through the pampas of Argentina. The words began in Paloma’s rich, soft Spanish:
“Yo no puedo decirte,
Yo no puedo decirte,
Yo no puedo decirte,
Yo no puedo…no
I cannot tell you where I came from
I cannot tell you when or why
But I can tell you that I’ve followed
The gentle whispers of my mind
I cannot tell you where I’m going
I cannot say when I’ll return
But you’d be better off for knowing
That I will come around in turn
Yo no puedo decirte
Yo no puedo decirte
Yo no puedo decirte
You no puedo…no”
After that came more Spanish – I couldn’t tell exactly what she said – but it was beautiful, all of it. Her voice and her guitar would weave and harmonize as I was silent, mesmerized, watching in wonder as my half-Mexican half-sister sang her song and her life story before me.
When the song ended, I didn’t know what to say. “Wow,” I said quietly. “That was beautiful, Paloma. I loved it.”
“Really?” One eyebrow arched ever so slightly. “That’s a new one. I guess I’m glad I tried it out on you first!” She smiled and settled the guitar in the case.
“Well,” she said, straightening up, “I suppose we ought to have some sort of dinner soon. It’s five o’clock.”
“How’d you know that?” I asked suddenly. She wasn’t wearing a watch, and there was no clock in my room.
“The sun,” she said coolly, making a vague gesture toward the window. “You can always read the sun.”
With that, she turned and walked out to the kitchen, where my father stood, drinking a glass of iced tea and looking absently out the window.
“Dad?” said Paloma.
“Hello, Paloma.” I could tell he was making an effort to be cordial.
“It’s been awhile,” she began, and then stopped. “I’d forgotten what it was like to be home.” Her voice quieted and she looked around the house, at the walls, at the ceiling, as if she weren’t used to the feeling of a roof over her head.
“Tell me, Paloma,” he said, “Why did you decide to come here?”
“Like I said, I just wanted to drop in.”
“Drop in? You leave home and now you just decide to drop in? What do you think this is, an express hotel?”
She was quiet for a moment. Her smile faded. Her arms hung limply at her sides.
“Why did you leave in the first place?” I pictured my father as a train gathering speed. “Why, Paloma?”
“I – I just knew I had to.”
“Had to what? Leave us? Me? Lila? Your mother?”
“No,” she said softly.
“Then what? You just had to follow your heart, didn’t you? Your head’s too full of sixties music, Paloma. Sixties music and air.”
“Dad,” she said, “I’m a working musician. Not a starving artist.”
“You look pretty thin to me.” My father’s eyes looked different. I wondered if it was like this in his final days of being married to her mother.
“Dad,” I said, stepping forward, “Stop.”
He looked like he’d forgotten I was there. He opened his mouth and shut it again.
“Well,” he said, glancing at the clock, “it’s about time for dinner.”
“I’ll make a salad,” I said. “It’s too hot for the oven, I think.”
I walked to the fridge and pulled out a plastic container of cold chicken, a bundle of romaine lettuce, a tomato, a cucumber, celery, carrots. My dad brought out a glass jars of olives and a red onion and a bag of shredded Parmesan cheese. I sliced the hard boiled egg I’d cooked and forgotten to eat that morning.
“I’ll start chopping the lettuce,” Paloma said, breaking our silence. She pulled a cutting board from the wall as naturally as if she had lived here her entire life.
“I’ll grate the carrots,” said my father. A peace offering. I began chopping the other vegetables.
“You have a very nice house out here,” Paloma overtured.
“Thank you,” replied my father, focusing intently on the shredding carrot. “It’s pleasant.”
“So how have you been?”
At that moment, I wanted to leave the room, to run away. I hated the stiff conversation between them, hated how my father and my sister, the two people I loved most in the world, became like zombies who wouldn’t smile or laugh or look one another in the eye. I wanted to bring them back to a time when they were happy, when things were okay.
“Dad?” I said.
“Can you tell me about the day Paloma was born?”
He paused a moment. I couldn’t tell what exactly he thought. It was part anger, part reluctance, part something else.
“Okay,” he sighed reluctantly, pushing his glasses further up on his nose.
“Your mother,” he said to Paloma, though he still didn’t look at her, “wasn’t expecting you so early. It was a few days, really, so it wasn’t too early. Her water broke while she was out in the pepper garden.”
I pictured it in my mind. Paloma’s mother was short and slight, draped in a woven shawl. I could see her, stooping gingerly to touch the jalapeños, firm and green in the blazing afternoon sun.
“She called me over and told me we had to get to the hospital. She was so calm. I was the one freaking out about the whole thing.” Maybe I imagined it, but he seemed to crack a smile. “It was over almost before I realized. And soon, I was holding my beautiful baby girl.” He smiled at the memory but still wasn’t looking at Paloma. I watched my sister as the faintest flicker of a smile fluttered over her face. By the time my dad turned to her, she had gone back to cutting the mushrooms into thin slices and stacking them gingerly, one over the other, as if she could make them whole again.
* * *
That night, I had a strange dream: it was like a silent movie and all in black and white. Paloma, my father, and I stood in a square white room. I was in a corner. My father was by the door. Paloma was playing her guitar a few feet from him, but of course there was no sound.
My father looked at her, then looked at me. I can’t hear, he mouthed. There was something else, too, but I couldn’t read his lips. Paloma went on with the silent song and I tried to both watch her and reassure my father, but he kept insisting: I can’t hear. I can’t hear. Above us, a stark, uncovered lightbulb cast our separate shadows across the tiled floor.
* * *
The next morning was Sunday. I had told my dad that Paloma really ought to come to church with us, and he’d agreed more quickly than I might have guessed. I thought maybe he still felt guilty for the way he’d spoken to her the night before. Now we stood in a pew a few seats back from the front row: I was wearing a soft yellow gingham shift, Paloma was dressed in an airy paisley frock with her hair up in a French twist, and my dad had put on a shirt, tie, and long khaki pants despite the heat. The church had no air conditioning, and it was sweltering. Babies took turns wailing over the preacher’s words as their mothers tried in vain to comfort them. We were all hot and uncomfortable, and I tried to distract myself from my own discomfort by focusing on the preacher, with his elegant vestments and high, starched collar. How sweaty, warm, and weary he must be!
My father wiped his brow as the little child nearest to us dropped a toy and began to cry loudly. Paloma gritted her teeth almost imperceptibly. I focused intently on the preacher, willing him to finish, to deliver us not from eternal damnation but from the immediate and currently more pressing matter of the interminable stickiness of the July air. At long last, it was finally over, and the church seemed to heave a sigh of its parishioners’ collective relief.
It had been announced that all were welcome, after the end of the service, to come to the Fellowship Hall (which had air conditioning), where iced sweet tea and fruit and cookies would be served. Half the churchgoers went for the tea; the preacher’s wife made the best sweet tea in South Carolina, or so said anyone who had ever attended worship at the Redeemer Baptist Church.
After I’d internally said ten or so prayers begging God to please let the service end, it did. Dad, Paloma, and I walked over to Fellowship Hall amidst the brightly-colored horde of sweating and thirsty parishioners. I imagined there was already a line at the sweet tea table.
When we were inside, I took a deep breath of the cool, clean air and looked up at the vaulted ceiling, sparkle-white above the nondescript beige-tiled floor. Dad disappeared quickly into the crowd. I looked at Paloma. She surveyed the room with a sort of eager apprehension, almost as if she were looking for someone she knew. She glanced over at me, gave a crooked little smile as if to let me know that she was okay, and disappeared into the gathering throng. I wanted to see who she’d talk to, how my sister, who had seemingly fallen from her ethereal world into our comparatively mundane one, would handle herself in a room full of deep-Southern conservative strangers. I lost sight of her when I turned toward a light touch on my arm.
“Lila, dear,” said the elderly woman who always served as a lector, “how have you been?” I could never pronounce her name – it was vaguely Slavic, I knew, and there were faint traces of an accent that cropped up in the middle of my mental portraits of Jesus and his followers. She’d done readings since I could remember, and as a result, the Jesus in my mind spoke with a quivering old-woman voice.
“I’m well, thanks,” I replied cautiously, remembering all too well the time she’d admonished me for saying “good.” “My sister’s here, too,” I added, fishing for something worthwhile to say.
“Your sister?” Her eyes widened and her heavy beaded earrings rattled faintly on her drooping earlobes as she absorbed the apparently unknown fact. I had forgotten that Dad didn’t like to mention his other daughter. “Has she been away at school?”
“She’s out of school, actually,” I said. It was true - Paloma had left school a long time ago. “She’s working now.”
“What does she do, Lila?”
It was a simple question. I tried to think of ways I could truthfully answer while making the art of being a street musician seem like something an old woman would grant her approval. I couldn’t think of anything.
“She’s a musician,” I said, “She writes her own songs and plays them for people.” I waited.
“Ah, I see,” she replied, “You young people and your music. She ought to play some hymns for us. It’s about time this church had some real music in it.”
It actually struck me as a good idea. “I’ll ask her about it,” I said. “I think she might like to, actually. She played a song for me yesterday. I liked it a lot.”
“Please do ask her,” she replied with a grandmotherly smile, then turned toward another older woman approaching from her right. I took a minute to glance over the still-packed room for any sign of Dad or Paloma. I didn’t see them at first, but suddenly I heard something from the far side of the room. There was a sort of halfhearted hush descending upon the crowd; some of the people were turning their heads to see who was playing the dusty upright piano in the church hall. I didn’t need to look to know who it was.
I hadn’t heard the song before; it was floating, haunting, ethereal, even. Paloma could make the bass beat of the song thrum, the high notes sparkle over it, the middle notes form a bridge to connect the two. It was intricate, beautiful, surreal. I found myself walking across the room, standing on my tiptoes to see above people’s heads to the spot where my sister, bright-faced, sat at the piano. There was a small semicircle of people surrounding her, nodding their heads, tapping their feet. They smiled to one another sometimes, occasionally leaned toward one another to make a comment on her playing. I wasn’t sure how, but my half sister, whom nobody knew, was sitting here in the church hall playing a song nobody had heard, and somehow she had brought people together. More heads were turning – I knew that the piano hadn’t been played in so long that many of us had forgotten it was even here. I couldn’t tell if Paloma liked the attention, if she wanted it or was even aware. She didn’t look up the whole time she played – just focused on the worn ivory keys as if they alone could tell her what note came next.
She finished the song with a little flourish, tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, stretched her fingers, and launched into another song. This one was familiar:
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin' for to carry me home;
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin' for to carry me home.
I looked over Jordan,
And what did I see,
Comin' for to carry me home,
A band of angels comin' after me,
Comin' for to carry me home.
By the time she came around to the chorus again, the whole room was singing with her. It was like nothing I’d seen before; the room pulsed with an energy that defied the heat outside, the languid drag of our tired minds, the starched formality of our traditional Sunday best. Groups of parishioners clapped in time to the music. Our voices rose in what felt to me like one part campfire singalong and two parts collective prayer. When the song ended, everyone clapped, smiled to one another, thanked Paloma. She smiled shyly, stood up, smoothed her skirt gently, and left the piano bench. The sunlight coming through the window illuminated the still keys as the last note hung in the air a moment and dissipated.
* * *
The rest of the day passed in a dreary haze of July heat. Thankfully, her unexpected piano interlude had provided much-needed conversational fodder between Paloma and my father. Over dinner, he managed to compliment her on her playing (“It was good, Paloma, really good; I think people liked it.”) and then, hesitantly, he asked about her work.
“What is it exactly,” he began, running a hand through his hair and glancing downward slightly, “that you do?”
“Well,” Paloma began, an eager but subdued smile crossing her tanned face, “I’m a musician. I play on the streets. I play in bars. I play in restaurants.”
He looked a little uneasy still as he pondered her answer. Paloma’s eyes darted across his face, over to me for a split second, and then back to my dad. “So do you record anything? Have an album or something?”
“No, not really,” she replied, twirling her fork absently amidst her green beans. “Music is best when it’s free, I think. It’s not that I’m against recording, but when you take something you’ve written to the studio and play it, it gets put through so much editing and cutting and pasting and mixing that by the time it’s finished and trapped in a shiny little CD, it isn’t yours anymore. I like playing live. It’s real.”
“Real,” he echoed, absorbing her answer.
I knew what she meant. Real wasn’t the sound of filtered guitars and synthesizer beats pulsing through a pristine stereo. Real was the echo of the last note inside the body of Paloma’s worn guitar when she finished a song. Real was the sound of the church hall coming together to sing with her as she sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” on the dusty piano. Real was Paloma’s work, making its way from her thoughts to her guitar to her voice to the world, where she set it free and let it grace the air, if only for a little while.
“Paloma,” I said suddenly, “once dinner’s over, why don’t you play your song for Dad?”
I regretted it the instant I said it. Paloma had played it for me and I had loved it. Who was I to tell her to play for anyone, especially Dad? He didn’t understand her. I knew that. She knew it, too.
“Sure,” she said. “I’d love to.”
* * *
In the wake of cleared dishes and the emptied table, Paloma carried the guitar case from my room and set it on the leather couch before us. Dusk was settling in, and the sound of crickets blended with the squeak of each latch as she carefully, lovingly opened it.
“What’s the song about?” My father was trying to fill the silence. I wondered if his nervousness was because Paloma was so much of an unknown – she was his own daughter, but he could barely converse with her. She was unpredictable, a wild card in his ordered deck of life.
“You’ll see,” I told him. “Listen.”
She tuned up in a few seconds and strummed a single chord, let it hang. She straightened a thin silver bracelet clasped lightly around her wrist before the song began. It was just as haunting as it had been the first time I heard it – maybe even more beautiful now that the sun was setting outside the window and the clouds were a brilliant hue of red with a little orange and yellow mixed in. Like fire, I thought.
I glanced over at my father. He pushed his glasses back a little, listened. I could tell he knew the Spanish parts – his eyes stayed focused, his mouth started to form what could have been a knowing smile and stopped. Paloma was pouring more feeling into the song; her eyes fluttered shut a moment, her dark lashes like birds coming to rest on her face. When they opened again, her eyes were full of some emotion I couldn’t name but knew, deeply, and understood. I looked again at my father, who seemed to relax a little as he followed the song. He looked as if he was far away, lost in his nearly-estranged daughter’s intricate tapestry of words and sound.
His eyes never left her face.
* * *
That night, when the moon was high and the stars shimmered through the clear night sky, Paloma and I talked in my room. I was sitting cross-legged on my bed; she held her guitar on her mat and absently plucked the strings in between words. A lamp on my bedside table cast a faint light over us, bringing out the shadows.
“Where do you think you’ll go next?” I asked her.
She paused a moment, as if deciding for herself. “I don’t know,” she said finally. “Memphis, I think. Something’s been telling me I should go to Memphis.”
“Where were you before this? Before you came here?”
She laughed lightly. “I’ve been lots of places, Lila. Before here I was in Charleston. It’s tourist season, you know – people come out there even though it’s hot and muggy and downright oppressive. They ride the little mule-carts through the city on tours and look at the old houses with the porches and dip their feet in the harbor. Sometimes I’d sit on the side of the street with my case open and just play and sing whatever came to mind. I’d play in little restaurants, sometimes – people liked that. Before Charleston it was New Orleans – that was before the hurricane. And for a little while I was in Chapel Hill. I liked it there. Quaint.”
“Wow,” I said. “Where do you sleep? How do you eat?”
“It just depends,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll stay with a friend. Sometimes I’ll sleep on the street. I just take each day as it comes.”
“I couldn’t do that,” I said. “Doesn’t it worry you?”
“Why would I worry? I love this, Lila. I love waking up and not knowing where I’ll be by the time the sun sets. I feel like as long as I’ve got my guitar with me, everything else will fall into place. And it does.” She ran her fingers down the strings and brushed a patch of dust from the guitar’s side.
“Do you think you’ll come back?”
“Probably. I’m not sure when. You never know. But you’ll be seeing me again.” She cracked a smile as if to give some substance to her answer.
It was quiet for a moment. The crickets were louder now, their collective song carried on the balmy evening breeze. Paloma yawned.
“Are you tired?” I asked, realizing the stupidity of the question as soon as it left my mouth. She nodded. “I’ll turn out the light.”
“Thanks,” she said quietly. “Good night.”
The switch made a little click as the room went dark. The guitar settled into its case. The crickets and Paloma’s even breathing were all I heard.
“I’m glad you came by.”
“Thanks, Lila.” I imagined I could see her white-toothed smile through the dark. “I am too.”
* * *
In the morning she was gone. No note. No trace that she had even been here. For an instant, I wondered if I had dreamed everything. That was how she lived, I thought to myself as I stood before the mirror and ran a brush through my hair. Here one day, gone the next. She was probably on her way to Memphis by now if she hadn’t changed her mind already. I walked to the window and looked out. Her Bug was gone from the driveway. It occurred to me that I hadn’t even heard her pull away.
I opened the window to let in the faint breeze that still remained from the night before. I imagined it lifting the last of the dew from the grass and carrying it skyward, where it would hang heavily for the rest of the day.
The house was quiet. I figured my father was still asleep, tired from the unexpected visit. But Paloma, undaunted by distance, had stayed, landed here for two days, and moved on. She was, I thought, the proverbial rolling stone.
My little reverie faded and I stood a moment at the window, watching the morning unfold. I breathed in deeply, letting the air settle in my lungs before I exhaled into the soft light. I watched the fronds of the palmetto nodding, whispering against one another. In the quiet surrounding me, each sound, each movement was like music, a note sounding and settling. I heard a mourning dove’s call, distant and beautiful, lilt through the gentle rays of the rising sun.
I'm a student at the University of Virginia, and I'm an Echols Interdisciplinary Writing major - my major is self designed and involves poetry, fiction, journalism, and screenwriting. I'm the author of a poetry collection, Eleanor's Angel (2009, Wild Leaf Press), and my poems have appeared in The Virginia Literary Review and in the contest-based Writer's Eye anthology. I'm a columnist for The Cavalier Daily, and in my spare time I enjoy playing mandolin in my parish folk choir, playing guitar, running with friends, and horseback riding.