Can’t anyone in this family tell the truth?

Set in a small town in Florida’s panhandle, this riveting 1950’s and 1960’s coming of age story exposes three generations of two families entangled through marriage, violence, and their shared murky past.

Young Mickey is determined to uncover the secrets his mother, Dixie Mae, and his family have long hidden. He relentlessly exposes the murky past of two families through three generations entangled by marriage, betrayal, and violence. But in trying to protect his brother and mother from the brutal man who raised him, Mickey does something he fears God can never forgive.

Mike E Reynolds weaves a jarring yet moving 1950’s and 1960’s coming of age story set in a small town near Florida’s Apalachicola River swamp and the crystal-clear waters of the Florida Keys. Filled with grit and grace, this riveting tale reminds us that faith and forgiveness are ultimately more powerful than the darkness within.

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Excerpt from Darkness Dwells in Dixie © Copyright 2023 Mike E Reynolds

I gave the signed letter to Mr. Brazzini first thing when I got to school on Monday. Later that day, he caught me outside the gym and told me that a meeting with Darlene, her parents, my Mama, and me had been set up for Wednesday at eleven in the morning. When the day came, I was as nervous as cat in a room full of rocking chairs, even though I knew I was innocent. The thought of facing Darlene’s father and mother was frightening. Her dad was a big man and known for his temper, and her mother was a humorless shrew. Add my mama to the mix, and well, fiery hell was about to rain down on us all.

I was the first to arrive and was directed to a seat in the small conference room in the administrative building. Darlene and her parents walked in five minutes later. Glaring, her daddy practically snarled when he saw me. Mr. Brazzini’s secretary seated them as far away as possible from me, hoping to avoid a murder she might have to clean up later. Shortly, Mr. Brazzini walked in, all smiles and handshakes. “Looks like we’re all here except your mama,” he said, looking at me.

Just then, Dixie Mae Crow walked in dressed in tight fitting capri pants, high heels, a flowered print blouse that showed ample amounts of cleavage, and wearing enough perfume to outfit an entire French whorehouse. Walking over to where Mr. Brazzini was sitting, she leaned over to shake his hand, holding it a moment longer than necessary, giving him a good look down her blouse. In her best southern belle accent, she said, “Good mornin’, everyone. How are y’all today?”

“Well, good, Dixie Mae,” he choked out.

Mama turned to greet Darlene and her parents. “Bless yo’ heart, Darlene. It’s sure is an unfortunate set of events that done brought us here today, ain’t it, sugar?” Darlene quickly looked away.

She approached Darlene’s father next, also flashing her cleavage. “Hi there, I’m Mickey’s mama, Dixie Mae. What’s yo’ name, darlin’?”

Stammering, this tough looking man was thrown for a loop. “David, Dave, Dave Sealey.” Almost as if it were an afterthought, he said a little too quickly, “Darla, this is my wife, Darla,” not taking his eyes off my mama.

“Nice to meet y’all, Darla.” Mama’s eyes, though, were saying just the opposite. Looking at me and nodding, a little stiffly I thought, she acknowledged my presence.

“Mickey.” Then she walked around the table and sat next to me.

“All right, then, we’re all here, so let’s get started,” Mr. Brazzini said. “We’re here today because Darlene has confessed that she’s pregnant and claims Mickey’s the father.” Everyone

tensed, except Mama. Her gaze was glued to Darlene, who was fidgeting. Darlene’s father was turning a deep purple, ready to explode.

Mama interrupted. “Why don’t we just dispense with all the bullshit, shall we?” She sounded as sweet as could be. “I believe the boy did diddle y’all’s innocent daughter. Y’all know, my mama always told me that every nasty, dirty thing a boy knows, he learned from a girl.”

“You bitch!” Darlene’s mama yelled, standing up and ready to fight for her little girl’s honor.

“Calm down, the both of you!” Mr. Brazzini said. He was attempting to hold the meeting to a certain standard.

“So sorry, Marcus,” Mama said. “Please let me finish. I say, let’s just get a pregnancy test, and if it shows Darlene’s gonna have a baby, then we can get a paternity test. That way we’ll soon know who the liar is. Y’all agree?”

Everyone stopped talking. “Paternity test? What the hell is that?” Dave Sealy was obviously behind the times.

“Oh, Dave, sugar, it’s simple, really. A doctor takes a little blood from Mickey, here, and some from y’all’s little princess. Nothing to it. Now, have y’all already taken her to a doctor, you know, to see if she really is gonna have a baby?” Mama behaved like an expert witness.

“No, not yet. Why would she lie ‘bout somethin’ like this?” Darla asked.

“We don’t know if she is lyin’, Darla. Hell, little Darlene here pro’bly’ is tellin’ the truth.

Mickey’s done this befo’, you know,” Mama said.

“What the hell,” I said, looking at my mama like she was crazy.

“Well, everybody, that sounds like the best idea to me. Why don’t you folks take her to her doctor today, and we’ll see what’s what?” Mr. Brazzini said. “If it turns out she is with child, then we’ll go to the next step and get a paternity test. If it turns out Micky is the father, then we’ll deal with that at the time. What do y’all think of that plan?”

Darlene’s father was obviously uncomfortable with how this was going. “Hell, no, we ain’t gonna put Darlene through all that! Just forget the whole damn thing! We outta here!” As they got up to leave, Darlene just glared at me, hate radiating off her like an oven. But the jig was up, and she knew it.

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