A terrified teenager is on the run from her father when she collides with an escaped bank robber in a railroad station, completely unaware that this collision will bring a little unexpected magic into a rundown watering hole by the railroad tracks far into the future.

Bertha must choose. Kill her father in his sleep or run.

She runs.

A large, ungainly girl with a wild mop of curly red hair and a crop of freckles dotting her skin from head to toe, it won’t be easy for Bertha to fade into a crowd and hide, but she has to try or someone will die, and it could be her.

Bertha sets out on a desperate journey that will change not only her life, but the life of an inept bank robber running from the Chicago police when she violently collides with him in a train station. Little does she know that the consequences of this rude encounter will reverberate far into the future in ways she could not have foreseen.

She will never know Shirley Schmidt, for one, who has returned to town after being banished when she stabbed a student in the neck.

Nor will she know if Shirley can bring a little unexpected magic into a few alcohol-steeped lives or will her own life end too soon with its burden of shame and regret?

If you are fans of Fannie Brice’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café or Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, you will want to savor this captivating read.

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Excerpt from Unexpected Magic in a Rundown Bar and Grill © Copyright 2024 Nancy Guenther


Bertha’s Choice

Bertha Kunklemeir had long thought of killing her father, which he richly deserved, but she couldn’t stand the sight of blood. She couldn’t even bring herself to kill a chicken, knowing that her stomach would rebel if she did. There was a lot more blood in her father than there was in a chicken, so taking an ax to him while he slept was out of the question. Still, she had to do something about the situation and there was little time to waste. She would soon be nineteen and could not bear the thought of staying on her father’s farm any longer.

The days were hard enough with her endless chores, but her nights were far worse, especially since her mother died a little more than a year ago. Bertha was terrified that she might end up pregnant from her father’s nightly visits and would have to kill not only her wretched father but herself, too. Her only other choice was to run, and run soon, before it was too late.

It would not be easy for her to get far enough away from the farm and her father’s wrath to be safe. She was an ungainly girl close to six feet tall with a curly halo of carrot-colored hair and rampant freckles decorating her pale skin from head to toe. She was likely to be noticed. She couldn’t even try to disguise herself as a man. Her outsized breasts ruled that out. Oofta!

On her nineteenth birthday, barely two weeks after she had decided that she didn’t have it in her to kill the lecherous old bastard, Bertha took her chance—the only one she was likely to get—to run away from the farm and her father’s gross intentions. She got up extra early on a rare morning that her father had been too tired to come to her bed the night before, and filled a flour sack with the things she would need for her escape as soon as her father went out to milk the two cows and the goat.

Her brother, Will, had agreed to help her. He was barely twenty, but he understood what their father had been up to, and he supported Bertha’s decision to run. He planned to get away someday soon, himself, maybe as soon as the harvest was over. It was a decent crop, at least as compared to others in that nearly rainless year, and he didn’t want it to go to waste. He was needed until then, not for the sake of their father, but for Will’s love of the land. He didn’t want his family to lose the farm as so many of their neighbors had. Between the drought and the Depression, survival was neither easy nor assured.

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