When Everything Was Whiskey Creek
Anna Craig

Middle Grade Winner, Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult & Children’s Writing

One

Santa Ynez Beach, California
1976

Mandalay Bates skipped across the sidewalk, so white hot, it scorched her sandals. Sun blistered the eucalyptus trees, setting their leaves a-shiver. The Santa Anas gushed through Mandalay’s hair. They weren’t playing, these winds. The Santa Anas carried electric shocks in them. The Santa Anas sparked wildfires.

“Better go home to Mama, baby!” a boy at the playground shouted. Heat rose in wiggly waves that danced between her and them. Wind held the crying, low-hovering seagulls, and dust devils scratched at the ground.

I’m not a baby!” Mandalay hollered back. She yelled this with all the fierceness she could muster. So ferociously did she shout, she pitched her whole self forward, clenching her knuckles tight. She screamed at those kids like seafoam churned from the depths of a stormy sea. Then her throat burned, and she gave a little cough. That part, they didn’t know.

Just because she liked to skip didn’t make her a baby.

Laughter rang from the park. Like it was just the funniest thing in the world that a ten-year-old girl would say the word she had said to those big boys. Ha, ha, ha.

Mandalay lifted hot fingers to hot cheeks, brushing away tears. Kids were so mean. She wished she’d gone to the pirate ship park this morning instead. The park on the beach with the zip-line that sailed you from way up on the gang plank all the way down to the ground, till your toes dug into the sand.

Or she could have gone to the Strand. If only she’d had a pair of tennis shoe skates, she could have rocketed along that endless strip of palm-lined sidewalk, breathing the salt air. Really, Mandalay wished she hadn’t gone out at all. Mama would have made her stay inside on such a day, a day when the winds whispered wildfire.

And then, she heard it.

Uh oh.

Mandalay would know that sound anywhere—that rattling and grinding of Aunt Tiny’s very big, very old, and very rusty car.

Oh no, thought Mandalay. Did the neighbors overhear? Did they call Aunt Tiny from their kitchen wall telephones? Did her aunt already know the terrible word Mandalay had screamed? In public? To a bunch of seventh graders?

Wheels screeched to a stop, but it wasn’t Aunt Tiny who rolled down the window. “Get in.”

Two

Gwendie

It wasn’t Auntie at all. Instead, Mandalay’s sister, Gwendie, sat behind the wheel. Their dog, Honey, sat next to her drooling.

“Hey, Gwendie. How come you’re driving?”

“Get in. Hurry up.”

“But where are we going?”

“Just, get, in.”

Mandalay glanced back at the park where big kids still jeered and shouted terrible things. She opened the door and climbed up onto the bench seat, so hot it burned her bare legs. Honey, who somehow made the whole entire car smell like dog, lumbered into the back. “I thought you had to be sixteen to drive,” Mandalay said, pulling the door closed—twice, to make it stick—and sitting on her hands.

“We’re going to see Nana and Granddad,” Gwendie announced as she peeled out, hair lifted by the wind. She snapped on the radio in the Buick that had once belonged to their grandparents. Rock music thumped so loud, Gwendie had to yell over it. “Never mind how old I am.”

Mandalay considered the dirt on her calloused palms. Nana and Granddad. The sisters didn’t visit them very often. Christmas, Easter. Valentine’s Day, when the adult care home put out fake candles. Not real ones the old folks might light the table on fire with—but they looked real. Each table was decorated with red paper cutout hearts, and the residents got to eat just a little bit of candy. Anyway, the ones with teeth did.

The last time Mandalay and Gwendie visited when it wasn’t a holiday, they were with their parents. That was two years ago, before the crash. “I remember going with Mama and Daddy. You know, before.”

“Yeah, well, we’re going to go a whole lot more now that I’m in charge.” Gwendie straightened the collar of her blouse. Usually Gwendie wore a tube top and shorts. “Stupid old hag. Couldn’t be bothered. Couldn’t lift her sorry self off the couch to take us to see our own grandparents. We have one pathetic aunt, Mandalay.”

Mandalay lifted her left eyebrow and her right shoulder. She didn’t exactly love Aunt Tiny. Auntie had moved into their house after Mama and Daddy died, and she was supposed to do all the things Mama had done—vacuum, cook, sew up their clothes. Instead, she took a liking to their color TV, and their liquor cabinet, and their most-of-the-time working car. Mandalay didn’t like her overflowing ashtrays or her messy hair. Auntie never wanted to play, either, the way Mama sometimes would, and she didn’t call her niece Moon Bay Mandalay, the way Daddy always did.

Mandalay lifted her shoulder an inch more. “She’s not really my aunt, you know. Not exactly.”

Gwendie slanted her white eyelashes at Mandalay. “Oh, now don’t start with that.” She gripped the wheel. She didn’t quite look tall enough to be driving, and her matching white hair was so long, she sat on it. And she definitely didn’t turn sixteen until wintertime. “We’re in this together, Mandalay, you may as well get used to that right now,” Gwendie said, her voice a mixture of gravel and steel. “You don’t need to remind me that Aunt Tiny wasn’t your aunt.”

Gwendie gulped back a sob. Mandalay’s alarm grew as a tear streaked down her sister’s tanned cheek. Gwendie never cried. Ever. But now Gwendie, who was crying, blinked tears out of her blue, blue eyes. Honey licked his nose, nudging her. Mandalay had never felt so alarmed. Her big sister was crying.

“We’re family, Mandalay,” Gwendie said. “Sisters. You got that? Just you and me. Just you. And. Me.” Gwendie’s eyebrows met in the middle, and she wept. Honey, from the back seat, lifted his head and gave a mournful, nose-to-the-sky howl.

“Gwendie?” Mandalay scooted over to grip her sister’s arm. They were all crying now—the little sister, the big sister, the dog. “Gwendie, are you okay? What happened? Where’s Aunt Tiny?”

Gwendie heaved two sobs then held her breath, focusing on the road ahead through her tears. Honey whimpered. He licked the girls’ cheeks, back and forth. “Aunt Tiny is nothing but a drunk,” Gwendie said. “I’m not going to let her use our food money to pour tequila down her throat, ever again.” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I kicked her out.”

For a second, Mandalay’s whole world tilted. She didn’t know what that meant, kicked her out. She pictured her sister pushing their aunt out the screen door. Kicking her with a shiny red cowboy boot, the one with silver snakeskin.

Mandalay looked out at the palm trees bravely enduring the sun. A guy biked over the sun-bleached, sand-strewn sidewalk, carrying a surfboard under his arm. His bare back was brown and muscled and shiny with sweat, and he pedaled wearing flip-flops. Waves thundered gently on the shore.

And that’s when it hit her—if Aunt Tiny didn’t live with them, who would take her to the beach? For that matter, who would cook her dinner?

“But …” Mandalay said, “who’s going to take care of us? Who’s going to take care of me?”

Gwendie sniffed and hardened her gaze. “I am.”

Mandalay glanced up at the vinyl roof, torn and gaping, and for a long minute her eyes traveled from one side of the car top to the other. She wished she could skip. Instead, she tapped the toes of her sandals together. “Are you sure you’re allowed to, Gwendie?”

“No! I’m not allowed to,” Gwendie wailed. “And you can’t tell Nana and Granddad. Not one word, Mandalay. I mean it. No one can know we’re alone.”

Three

The Gatekeeper

The Whiskey Creek Adult Care Home was a one-story row house with tiny lawns sporting Santa-hatted gnomes. Nana and Granddad lived in Room #34, but you had to check in with the receptionist before you could see them, and you had to have an appointment. At least, you had to pretend you did.

“Gwendolyn Townsend? No, I don’t have you on the list,” the receptionist said, running a sharp pink fingernail down the clipboard. “No, you’re most definitely not on my list.”

“There must be some mistake,” Gwendie said, crossing her arms. “Check again, please.”

“We are here to see Nana and Granddad since we no longer have parents of our own,” Mandalay said, to be helpful, but Gwendie ribbed her with a sharp elbow. “I’m just telling them,” Mandalay whispered, wiggling her tooth. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

She skipped in a circle. It wasn’t like she had just said the word she’d said at the playground in front of those big kids. And she did so want to be helpful. Here they were, all by themselves, and poor Gwendie having to act like a grownup. Mandalay hopped quietly on one foot, ghosting a hopscotch outline.

“Ahem,” Mandalay said after a minute, pulling herself to her full height, just tall enough to see over the counter. She was bored waiting for the lady to decide. She was ready for something to happen.

“For your information, we have a very important thingy with our grandparents. They’ll want to see us—we’re their only grandchildren, you know, except that we have different dads. And just so you know, my sister Gwendolyn drove us here, all by herself. And she is wearing her pretty pink blouse, even though I came straight from the playground. See?” Mandalay said, gesturing grandly toward her sister.

This time Gwendie didn’t elbow her.

The lady tapped the sign with her pencil. “Appointment required, honey,” she said. But she didn’t say it nicely.

“I’m not Honey, I’m Mandalay,” Mandalay told her. “Honey is our dog who’s a part-lhasa-apso-part-poodle-part-German-Shepherd mix, and he’s tied to a tree, just outside the car. Can’t we pleasepleaseplease just visit with Nana and Granddad?” Mandalay clasped her hands together, like she was praying. “Pretty please?”

The lady looked at her, then at Gwendie, who tapped her teenaged foot and looked scary-mad, but at the lady, not at Mandalay.

Four

The Great Escape, Take One

“Well, will wonders never cease,” Nana said, setting down her knitting. “Visitors!”

Mandalay clapped her sandals over the shiny floor and leapt square into Nana’s lap. She snuggled into her grandmother who smelled just like she always did, like vanilla and peppermint. What a relief to inhale Nana’s familiar scent, instead of the cold, awful smell of the nursing home. “Nana! Aren’t you glad to see us? We haven’t been here since Easter.”

Nana kissed the top of Mandalay’s head. “I am glad to see you, honey. How are you? How’s school?”

“What’re you two doing here?” Granddad accused, folding down a corner of his newspaper.

Gwendie stooped to kiss his cheek. “We’ve come to take you out for lunch. Your charming receptionist says they can’t get you to eat anything, Granddad. Says you’re wasting away to nothing.”

Granddad gave an angry scrunch of his chin and shook his newspaper. He was very short, and thin and crusty as burnt toast, but his knuckles were giant-size marbles. “They can’t make me do nothing I don’t want to. They can’t!” he barked.

“Can we go to Now-That’s-A-Burger?” Mandalay asked, picking at the callouses on her hands. She played on the monkey bars so much, thick callouses lined her palms. She was always proud to show them off, and now she showed them to Nana.

“How has everything been going?” Gwendie asked their grandparents, ignoring both Granddad and Mandalay.

“Right as rain, right as rain,” Nana said, pressing a finger into her granddaughter’s palm. Small like Granddad, Nana wore a thick white sweater that matched her thick white hair, the color reflecting the ghostly glow of her face. “Can’t complain.”

Granddad kicked his foot out. “I can.”

“He just wants to be home,” Nana said, dismissing him with a wave of her hand. “But it’s all right here. I don’t mind it so much. They cook for us, and twice a week someone comes in to clean. I always envied the ladies who had someone come in to clean. Those ladies are all dead now.”

“Well that’s … good,” Gwendie said. “That you like it here, I mean.”

“They’re ripping us off, that’s what,” Granddad grumped. He hid behind his paper. Mandalay read the headline: President Ford and Ronald Reagan go toe-to-toe in Republican Primary.

“Don’t you listen to him,” Nana said, reaching out to pat Gwendie’s arm. “He’s just mad he has to depend on someone this way. He wants to be home, mowing the lawn and tinkering with his car. We’re fine.” She stretched out her fingers. “The Queen of England is coming soon to pay a visit.”

The girls exchanged a glance. Nana was forgetful at times. Sometimes she got things mixed up. Mandalay hoped the day wouldn’t come when she would forget her.

“No, Nana,” Gwendie said, “you know the Queen isn’t coming here. She’s coming to America for the Bicentennial celebration, but not here to the Home. You’re getting confused again.”

“I’m hungry,” Mandalay said again, not really interested in queens and garden parties. Princesses, yes, but definitely not queens. Best of all, a princess in tennis shoe skates.

Just in time, her stomach gave a dramatic growl. “I am a growing girl, you know,” she said, climbing from Nana’s lap. “All I had for breakfast was half a Pop Tart. Auntie snuck the other half while I was watching cartoons.” Mandalay scowled at the memory. What an injustice, to have half your breakfast stolen by the one person who was supposed to be caring for you.

“Yeah, well you can kiss Pop Tarts goodbye,” Gwendie said. “From now on, you’re eating whole wheat toast with mashed avocado for breakfast. And milk. And fresh squeezed orange juice from the Citrus Man.” Mandalay grinned. She didn’t love the idea of mashed avocado on any breakfast, but she did love the Citrus Man. She loved it when he drove his truck down Las Palmas Avenue, where their big blue house took up an entire street corner. Almost as much as she loved going to the strawberry stand at the edge of the huge strawberry field that stretched out like a red and green ocean, and carrying a flat of farm-fresh berries to the car.

Every time the Citrus Man drove down their street, a cry would go up in the neighborhood, same as when the ice cream man jingled by. All the kids on the block would bike, skate, or run home to get fifty cents for a bag of oranges. The whole process electrified Mandalay.

Still.

“Whole wheat toast and avocado?” Mandalay complained, plunking herself on the edge of the bed. She remembered the Citrus Man telling all the neighborhood kids that the greenish oranges were the most flavorful ones. The ones that made the best orange juice. “Can’t I have cereal? Can’t I have Cap’n Crunch?”

No,” Gwendie said. She looked first at Nana, then at Granddad. “Aunt Tiny may have been all about junk food, but not me. Don’t you remember the healthy meals Mama used to make us? That’s what we’re going back to. Junk food is only for once in a while, like lunch with Nana and Granddad.”

Why was Gwendie talking about Aunt Tiny like that? Mandalay wondered. It was almost like she was waiting for their grandparents to catch on, and ask why Aunt Tiny wasn’t with them. But they didn’t. Granddad just shook his paper as if trying to drown them out.

“Anyway, what do you say, Granddad, lunch?” Gwendie counted the money in her coin purse. “I have enough for four cheeseburgers, and maybe some fries—okay?”

Nana looked at Granddad, who ducked behind his paper.

“Oh, brother,” Gwendie said, throwing up her hands. “Well, you talk it over. I need to pick a daisy.”

She sighed mightily, disappearing behind the bathroom door and clicking the lock shut. Mandalay shuddered. The old-folks’ bathroom—lined with silver guard rails, smelling like Mr. Clean. It wasn’t pretty like her bathroom at home, or green-tiled like the bathrooms at school.

To tell the truth, the old folks’ bathroom frightened Mandalay. She felt a sad ache thinking of her grandparents being stuck in this cold, lonely room with the air conditioner that cranked on like a jet engine—with this bathroom. Nana and Granddad never even got to go to the beach.

“She’s not really picking daisies,” Mandalay whispered to Nana, to be helpful. “That just means she has to go.”

“Quick!” Granddad said, leaping from his seat and crouching low. Without warning, he crab-walked across the room. “Mandalay, grab Nana’s purse. You’re going to help us.”

Mandalay startled.

“Help you?”

“Yes, that’s right. Help us. Get us out of here.” Stretching his neck, Granddad peered into the hallway, left to right. His freckled bald spot gleamed under the fluorescent lights.

Mandalay stole a peek at Nana, who stared straight ahead, wild-eyed.

“But … how am I going to get you out of here?” Mandalay hissed. She had never done anything of the sort, and she pictured the stern receptionist chasing them with her clipboard as they bolted out the big double doors.

Shhhhh!!!!” Granddad hissed back. He closed the door and opened another, yanking something from the closet. He plunked an old brown suitcase on the bed and snapped open the locks. “You’re going to help us escape.”

The sink started to run. Any second, Gwendie was going to return. She was going to catch their grandparents running away, and Mandalay helping them!

With a horrified fascination, Mandalay watched as Granddad shoved his striped shirt and a spotted bowtie along with Nana’s sweaters into the suitcase. He slammed the top down and pressed the locks closed. Click.

“We’re going back home where we belong,” Granddad barked. Mandalay remembered when the family had all lived together. Daddy always said the four of them would move into their own house once they could afford to, but Mandalay had loved living with her parents and grandparents and sister, all together in the big blue house.

Just then, Gwendie re-emerged and Mandalay watched, riveted, as her grandparents arranged their faces into perfectly mild expressions. Granddad sat on the suitcase, staring straight up at the ceiling, tapping his chin.

“What.” Gwendie closed the bathroom door behind her, aiming those blue eyes on her sister. “What’s going on?”

Mandalay caught a fierce look from Granddad, so she, too, stared up at the ceiling, tapping her chin. “Oh, nothing.”

Gwendie grabbed her purse. “Well, come on, then,” she said. “Let’s go get lunch.”

Five

Not Whiskey Creek

“Why does that say the Santa Ynez Beach Motel?” Granddad asked as they pulled into Now-That’s-a-Burger. He peered out from the car window. “Should say Whiskey Creek.”

“Because that’s what it’s called,” Gwendie explained, gingerly steering through the drive-through. “What does everyone want?”

Mandalay waited while everyone in the car studied the menu she had long since memorized. She wondered if they would be able to get Granddad to eat. She worried that he really might waste away to nothing.

Gwendie pulled up to the giant clown head and ordered. She waited as the take-out girl punched their order into the cash register. “You know that, Granddad. They changed the name of the hotel when they changed the name of the town. It’s 1976. Nothing’s Whiskey Creek anymore. It’s all Santa Ynez Beach now. What do you want to drink?”

Granddad shook his head sorrowfully. “Used to be called the Whiskey Creek Motel.”

Granddad wasn’t the only one who worried. Sometimes it kept Mandalay awake at night, snug beneath her blankets, staring at the moonlight as it moved across her bedroom walls. Mama and Daddy only knew their town as Whiskey Creek, California. If they ever looked down from heaven, how would they find Gwendie and Mandalay in a town called Santa Ynez Beach? For that matter, how would Santa Claus?

“How about a milkshake, Granddad?” Mandalay, who had no desire to see her grandfather waste away to nothing, asked. She wanted to hang on to the little family she had left.

Seagulls hovered near the windows crying, eager to snatch any scrap. “Mmmmm mm. I sure do love chocolate milkshakes.” Mandalay rubbed her tummy and licked her lips, for good measure.

“I. Don’t. Want. Nothing. To eat!” Granddad shouted. He’d worn a jacket for the outing, even though it was so hot there was a pink blush of sunlight on everyone’s cheeks. He continued looking out the window, shaking his head, gazing at all the new Santa Ynez Beach buildings and shops. “I remember when everything was Whiskey Creek.”

Mandalay reached forward to pat his shoulder, and he didn’t brush her aside. “That’ll be a dollar twenty-seven more than you gave me,” the Now-That’s-a-Burger girl said, withholding the fat, grease-bottomed bag. Gwendie stuck her nose in her coin purse, scrounging up more nickels, dimes, and pennies. She counted them out into the girl’s hand.

“All right, then. Four cheeseburgers, four fries, and four milkshakes—two chocolate, two strawberry,” the girl said. “Any ketchup?”

“You want ketchup, Granddad?”

“Look at those boys with their long hair and sandals,” Granddad scoffed, wagging his finger at some teenagers skateboarding by. “They look like girls!”

“Lance has long hair,” Mandalay offered. “That’s Gwendie’s boyfriend, and he doesn’t look like a girl. Boys don’t cut their hair short anymore, Granddad. Boys and girls can look the same now. Right, Gwendie? I am woman hear me ROAR!”

Hippies,” Granddad jeered.

Gwendie handed him the food bag. The whole car lit up with the smell of French fries. “Here you go, Granddad.”

“Don’t want nothing,” he grumped, taking the food from her.

The Santa Anas whipped through the windows. He craned his neck at the eucalyptus trees, shaking his finger at them. “One of these days, those winds are going to start a wildfire no one will soon forget.”

“Pass those bags back here to us,” Nana said. “We’re hungry, aren’t we, Mandalay?”

Granddad passed back their lunches. Mandalay tucked into the fries as he placed a straw in each of the shakes, and passed two back.

“They can’t make me eat,” he said. “Nobody can make me do nothing!”

“Well, give one of those fries to me, then,” Gwendie said, exasperated. She rolled her eyes. “Never mind the food, Granddad. Mandalay will tell you something interesting, right, Mandalay?” She pulled carefully out of the drive-through.

“Me?” Mandalay chewed as she considered this. She searched her memory for a good story. “Oh, okay. Sure.” She thought some more. All that came to mind, though, was what had happened at the park this morning. It wasn’t exactly the story Mandalay wanted to share, but they were all waiting.

“Well … this morning at the playground,” she began. They listened, Nana in her sweater, Gwendie in her visiting clothes, Granddad in his jacket. Honey nibbled on Mandalay’s salty fingers as if hoping they would magically turn into fries, and Gwendie made a careful turn into the parking lot of the soccer field.

“Well …” Mandalay tried again, pulling her hands away to wring them together, “there were some big kids there and, well, I sort of called them a … a sort of a bad name. But they were being mean!”

“Really? What did they do?” Granddad asked. He tilted his ear up, like he might actually be interested. Mandalay saw him, up in the front seat, reach for a fry. The car coasted to a stop.

“They were smoking on the monkey bars, and they were teasing us little kids,” Mandalay said. “They made fun of Felipe Dominguez when he fell off the swing.”

“Oh, that’s not nice,” Nana said with a frown. “Not nice at all.”

“No,” Mandalay said sadly, remembering how bereft she had felt when all the other little kids fled the playground. It had been scary to have big kids teasing and yelling when she was there all alone. Mandalay didn’t know what had made her stand her ground, even after all the other kids scattered. Everyone may say she was a baby, but something in her had refused to stand down, at least easily. “And then—” Mandalay said, swallowing twice at the memory of her humiliation—“and then those kids chased us!” That last part wasn’t true, but she was holding their attention, and Mandalay noticed Granddad shoveling French fries into his mouth, ripping open a ketchup packet to pour over the rest. She couldn’t stop now.

“Chased you, little kids!” Granddad said. “Then what happened?”

“I-I had to stop them,” Mandalay said. “So I said . . . ”

“What?”

“I said a bad word.”

“Really?” Nana said. “What bad word did you say?”

“Well …” Mandalay took a deep breath, knowing that what she was about to say could land her in the biggest trouble of her entire life. It hadn’t been her proudest moment, and she really did wish she was making it up, but, sadly, this part was true. “I called them a damn butt crack!”

Granddad laughed, right out loud. Threw his head back and hooted. Then he fairly shouted with laughter, louder still. He laughed so hard he started slapping his knee, then coughing.

Nana giggled, hiding her teeth behind one hand. A warm, tingly feeling blanketed Mandalay as Granddad let loose with a guffaw that rolled out the open window, so loud that people at the park turned to see what was so funny in their big, rusty old car.

Then she watched as Granddad unwrapped the cheeseburger and, wiping away tears, snuck a bite.

“That’s showing some spunk,” he said. “You showed those kids.”

Suddenly, just as if an evil spell had been lifted, it didn’t seem like such a big deal to Mandalay, what had happened at the playground. Not only was she not in trouble, but telling the story seemed to make everything all better. All that mattered in the great wide world was that her family was with her, and they were laughing.

The silver wrappers glinted in the sunlight. From the distance came cheers from the field. The French fry containers lay empty. Granddad ran his finger inside the bottom of the bag and licked the salt.

“We’re going to be visiting you a lot more from now on, Nana and Granddad,” Gwendie said, putting her hand on Granddad’s arm. “You can count on that.”

“Yeah, because Gwendie kicked Aunt Tiny in the butt!” Mandalay said, but this time, nobody laughed. Nana and Granddad just stared out at the park.

“Not in the butt,” Gwendie assured them.

“Well … out,” Mandalay said. “You kicked her out.”

They sat in silence.

“That’s a good thing,” Granddad finally said, picking at his teeth with a toothpick. “That auntie of yours was nothing but trouble. You raising little Mandalay all alone, then, Gwendie?”

Mandalay reached over the backseat and gripped her sister’s shoulders. An electric bolt passed between them.

“I am, Granddad,” Gwendie answered a little shakily. “I kept the car. It was the only thing Tiny cared about, but I kept it. I’m going to take good care of Mandalay.”

“You say you’re going to come see us now and then?” Granddad said.

Gwendie turned to him. “Will you eat some dinner if we do?”

“I will not,” he said, crumpling the bag and hiding it under his seat. He looked out the window and rubbed his chin. “But I sure would love to hear what Mandalay says next to those hooligans. That’s all.”

“Well, good, because we’re going to be back on Saturday,” Gwendie said, starting up the car.

Mandalay watched the park fade as they drove back to the Whiskey Creek—not Santa Ynez Beach—Elderly Adult Care Home, the one thing left with the town’s old name. She watched Nana brush crumbs from her lap and Granddad peer out the window. She watched Gwendie grip the steering wheel with both hands as if she was sixteen, and old enough to drive.

Mandalay couldn’t wait to skip, just as soon as they got out of the car. Just as soon as she and Gwendie and Honey were home.

Anna Craig lives in Bonney Lake, Washington, where she spends her time playing tennis, baking, and trying to forgive her children for growing up so fast. Her work has twice placed in the Katherine Paterson Prize, once as Special Mention,  and has once placed in the top twenty of the Southwest International Writing Contest. She holds an MFA from VCFA where Café Anna is named after a ghost, not after her, which is good because Anna-the-ghost probably has everything all figured out, while Anna the not-ghost still has much to learn.