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Tumbleweeds, p.43
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       Tumbleweeds, p.43

           Leila Meacham

  “We had some good times, Cathy.”

  “Yes, we did.”

  “He loved us, you know.”

  “I know.”

  “Do you forgive him?”

  “In time.”

  They spoke profile to profile. John did not turn his head to her when he asked, “When did you fall in love with me, Cathy?”

  She should have been shocked that he knew, but she was beyond shock. She had kept her attention diverted as well, watching a scrap of paper pirouette in the gentle wind as if twirling to a song. Jack’s in love with someone who loves my brother Jim, and he’s in love with someone not in love with him.

  Such was life.

  “I don’t believe there was an exact moment,” she said. “One day, years ago, the feeling was just there. How long have you known?”

  “For some time. One day the knowledge was just there.”

  “It wasn’t by default. I want you to know that.”

  “I’ve always known that.”

  The heat of the metal was soothing to their backs. The day was crystal clear. After a while, John said, “I’m leaving, Cathy. I’ve asked to be reassigned to teach at Loyola.”

  She looked off across the road to where the prairie began. The wildflowers were dying. Didn’t they always? But they’d bloom again in spring. “When?” she asked.

  “In a week’s time.”

  “Why so soon? Classes don’t start until fall, do they?”

  “They want me for the summer session.”


  He unlocked his arms and took her hand. “What are you going to do?”

  In that instant, she made up her mind. “Turn the café over to Bebe, and use money from the sale of Trey’s condo to go to medical school.”

  She felt his surprise but his lack of it, too. “Trey would like that.”

  “At fifty, I’ll probably be the oldest doctor on record to graduate.”

  He squeezed her hand encouragingly. “And the finest one, too.”

  They would share holidays and vacations, summer breaks, outings, and Sunday evening telephone calls. Distance would not separate them. They were family. She could live with that.

  She heard a rumble at the gate far down the road. Silva shot out from under her hand as Will’s Wrangler came into view. Father and son sat in the front. Will had been helping his dad pack. The Silverado had been turned in to the parish, and in a little while Will would be driving John to New Orleans. Lunch was waiting, their last meal together for a while. Cathy stood to greet them and lifted her hand to shield her eyes from the sting of the sun.


  Pour 2 cups of yellow cornmeal into a good-sized mixing bowl.

  Sprinkle the top with salt.

  Pour boiling water over the mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it resembles soft mush.

  Drop by tablespoons into hot oil. Fry until brown and crispy. Turn over and cook the other side until brown and crispy.

  Drain on paper towels and serve with molasses or honey.



  Embarking on the idea for this novel meant entering territory I had never been before or ever thought to enter. A Protestant, I knew nothing about the Catholic Order of the Jesuits. An armchair reader in the room my husband and I share while he watches football games on Sunday afternoons, all I knew about the sport was that the teams wear differently colored uniforms. Yet somehow I felt the urge to write about a priest and a quarterback and a girl who serves up hamburgers, and so my journey into the unknown began. I will be forever grateful to those who shed light on my way and left me with an understanding of and respect for worlds I would never have known. Without their input, I could not have accomplished my tale. Any errors in details and information rest at my feet alone. I am in debt to the following:

  Michael S. Bourg, executive director for advancement, Jesuits of the New Orleans Province. Mike, our time with you in New Orleans and later in San Antonio at Our Lady of Guadalupe and points beyond… magical.

  Father Martin (Marty) Elsner, SJ, who long ago and far away counseled the difference between a Hollywood ending and the real deal.

  Reverend Richard A. Houlahan, OMI, Chaplaincy Services Administrator of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (U.S. Department of Justice), retired. Father Richard, this is what you get for being charming.

  Paul Jette, Jr., defensive coordinator and secondary coach for the Miami Hurricanes, 1985. Paul told me when I expressed my gratitude, “I didn’t do anything but answer the right questions you researched,” to which I thought, Bull. In your explanations, you suited me up and sent me out to the field.

  Christopher Palmer, offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, quarterbacks coach to the likes of Drew Bledsoe, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, and Mark Brunell, and wearer of a Super Bowl ring earned as quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants in 2007. Chris, there are no words to express my gratitude (or room to list all of your accomplishments).

  Along the way, too, there were those whose simple professional courtesy and assistance meant so much to the novel. Thank you, Mary Jo Sarkis and Regina M. Morales. And, in step with me always, my husband, Arthur Richard III, in whom I have two kings, and Janice Thomson, my friend for all seasons.

  And, of course, as always, my enduring appreciation for the cast of three whose roles in my writing life make me feel God has kissed me between the eyes. They are, incomparably, my treasured agent, David McCormick; my intrepid editor, Deb Futter, editor-in-chief of Grand Central Publishing; and her lovely assistant, Dianne Choie.

  And, finally, I am grateful to my late brother for the recollection I have of his high school quarterback year. From time to time, it cast a glimmer of light upon the trail. Semper Fi, Leiland.




  Front Cover Image





  Part One: 1979–1986

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Part Two: 1986–1999

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-One

  Part Three: 2008

  Chapter Forty-Two

  Chapter Forty-Three

  Chapter Forty-Four

  Chapter Forty-Five

  Chapter Forty-Six

  Chapter Forty-Seven

  Chapter Forty-Eight

  Chapter Forty-Nine

  Chapter Fifty

  Chapter Fifty-One

  Chapter Fifty-Two

  Chapter Fifty-Three

  Chapter Fifty-Four

  Chapter Fifty-Five

  Chapter Fifty-Six

  Chapter Fifty-Seven

  Chapter Fifty-Eight

p; Chapter Fifty-Nine

  Chapter Sixty

  Chapter Sixty-One

  Chapter Sixty-Two

  Chapter Sixty-Three

  Chapter Sixty-Four

  Chapter Sixty-Five

  Chapter Sixty-Six

  Also by Leila Meacham

  Emma’s Hot-Water Corn Bread




  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  Copyright © 2012 by Leila Meacham

  All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  Grand Central Publishing

  Hachette Book Group

  237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

  First e-book edition: June 2012

  Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  The Grand Central Publishing name and logo is a trademark of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

  The Hachette Speakers Bureau provides a wide range of authors for speaking events. To find out more, go to or call (866) 376-6591.

  ISBN 978-1-4555-0925-6



  Leila Meacham, Tumbleweeds



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