Saturday, January 25, 2014

Emily by Eric Lanke

A little while ago, I made my novel, Columbia, available for download from this blog.

Columbia is the story of Theodore Lomax, a nineteen-year-old Union solider in the American Civil War, and as committed as any to the ideal of human freedom. After being assigned to the army of William Tecumseh Sherman, shortly after the general’s infamous March to the Sea, he willingly participates in the destruction of civilian property in Columbia, South Carolina, believing his acts are justified by Southern resistance to the Northern cause of emancipation. But when the destruction escalates into violence against the civilians themselves, he becomes disillusioned, and feels compelled to strike out in opposition to his own countrymen.

The novel is told from Lomax's point of view, but there are ten other supporting characters, each with a story of his or her own. "Emily" is one of these stories, centering on the character of Emily Andrews, and describing the confusing tangle of desires, memories and fears from which she constructs her perception of the outside world and the people in it.

There was a time when I thought these stories should alternate with the chapters in Columbia, presenting a richer but perhaps more tangled tapestry of the lives that painfully converge in the novel's climactic scenes. But Columbia is clearly a more coherent narrative without them. Still, they were valuable to me as an author, and I hope you find them useful and enjoyable as a reader.

Emily by Eric Lanke - $3

Clicking the "Add to Cart" button will take you through a short payment process and provide you with a PDF download of the story that you can read on your computer or tablet, or which you can print at your convenience. The story is about 14,000 words and the document is 51 pages long. Given its theme and historical setting, the work reflects the racism of the time, and includes episodes of violence and strong language.

Want a sample? Here's are the first thousand or so words.

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It was a nice house and a nice family that lived there. Both were large. The house had three floors and nine different rooms. The family had Mommy and Daddy, and six children. Emily, her sister, Sally, and her four brothers: Zebulon, Marcus, Frederick, and Reuben. They spent a lot of their time sitting in the small wooden chairs, or laying on the little wooden beds—beds with fluffs of cotton tied up in little sacks for pillows and fabric swatches, hand cut and hemmed, for comforters—or bouncing up or down the staircases that connected the three levels. They were seldom all together in one place, and when they spoke to each other, it was inevitably in groups of no more than two or three. Emily was always among them.

“Hi, Sally,” Emily said.

“Hi, Emily,” Sally replied. “How are you today?”

“Emmy’s fine,” Emily said, feeling fine.

“That’s good,” Sally said.

“Sally?” Emily said.

“Yes, Emily?”

“Where Mommy go?” Emily loved Mommy.

There was the face again. The kind, gentle, beautiful face Emily loved. Emily didn’t know who the person with the face was. Emily didn’t even know her own name was Emily or what to call any of the soft and unfamiliar objects she felt all around her. But she did know what love was, and she knew she loved that face. Peering down on her from above with its happy and sparkling eyes, Emily herself could not consciously keep the smile from coming to her own face. When she smiled, the face smiled, and when they were both smiling, Emily’s tiny and infant world was filled with joy.

“Here she is,” Sally said just as Mommy flew into the room and stood next to Sally.

“Hello, Emily,” Mommy said, her voice a falsetto version of Sally’s.

Emily laughed. Mommy didn’t really sound like that. “Mommy, Emmy wants to make cookies.” She loved cookies.

The cookies were warm, still not completely cooled from the time they had spent baking in the oven. Emily stood mesmerized in the middle of the kitchen floor, staring with abject longing at the sheet of cookies, breathing deeply the aroma-filled air.

“You stay away from dem cookies,” Bessie said. “Miss Victoria said you can’t have none until after supper, you hear? You mind your Aunt Bessie, now.”

Emily did not hear Bessie’s words, lost as she was in the hunger of desire and anticipation. She wanted the cookies, wanted all of them, wanted to gorge herself on their sweet goodness until they filled her up and she became a cookie.

“You want to make cookies?” Mommy said, her head bobbing back and forth and her sewn-in hair flapping around her face.

“Yes!” Emily said. She loved cookies, especially oatmeal cookies with raisins.

“Mom!” Frederick cried. “Emily’s eating my raisins!”

Emily chomped blissfully on a mouthful of raisins, a mixture of their skin, pulp, and her saliva running down her chin.

“Well, we’ll have to go to the kitchen for that,” Mommy said.

“Okay!” said Emily.

They were all in the dining room and had to move back to get to the kitchen. Mommy and Sally just flew around the wall but Emily was careful to go through the door that swung freely on two small hinges. Using her head to push it open, she came through and let it swing shut behind her.

“What kind of cookies do you want to make, Emily?” Mommy asked.

“Oatmeal cookies with raisins and peppermint,” Emily said. She loved peppermint.

As soon as they entered the store, Emily’s eyes were riveted on the big glass jar of peppermint candies kept on the front counter. Every time Mommy took Emily to market, the storekeeper would give her one of the peppermint candies from that big glass jar. They were sweet like sugar and they tickled her nose and Emily would do just about anything to get one, even wear the short dresses and uncomfortable shoes she hated but which Mommy insisted she wear whenever going to market.

“And how is little Emily, today?” the storekeeper asked, looking down into Emily’s wide face but really speaking to Victoria. “Does she want a peppermint?”

Emily stretched out her arms at the sound of the word ‘peppermint’ and flexed and unflexed her fingers like tiny claws.

“Raisins and peppermint?” Mommy exclaimed. “I’m not sure we’ve ever made that kind before. Do we even have any peppermint in the house?”

“Yes!” Emily said.

“We do?” Mommy asked. “Where?”

“In the cupboard,” Emily said. Peppermint candy was yummy.

With the peppermint candy in her mouth, Emily rolled it rapturously over and under her tongue, its sugary sweetness dancing across her taste buds and making her heart beat faster. She loved the thick, syrupy texture her salvia took on while sucking on a peppermint candy, and she noisily moved the liquid around in her mouth, relishing the feel and the taste of it all.

“Okay,” Mommy said. “Let’s take a look.”

Mommy moved next to the cupboard that stood over the little wooden prep table and it opened to reveal a stack of thin metal discs that were to be used as silver plates in the dining room.

“Hmmm,” Mommy said, peering into the cupboard. “Looks like we have everything we need to make cookies—sugar, butter, eggs, oatmeal, and raisins—but no peppermint. Sally, will you run down to market and get some peppermint for Emily’s cookies?”

“Yes, Miss Victoria,” Sally said, and then flew out of the kitchen.

“Emily,” Mommy said. “Will you help me get the other things down from the cupboard?”

“Okay, Mommy,” Emily said, moving next to Mommy and watching as three of the flat metal discs came down to rest on the prep table.

“Should we start mixing the batter?” Mommy asked.

“No!” Emily said. “Wait for Sally and the peppermints!” Some would go in the batter, but Emily would eat some of the peppermints when Sally got back.

“Oh, Emily,” Mommy said. “We can add the peppermints to the prepared batter when Sally gets back. They’ll mix right in. Okay?”

“Okay,” Emily said. It was okay. She would still eat some when Sally got back.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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