Shari Smith, author of I Am a Town, stories from her adopted hometown of Claremont, North Carolina, and a contributor to The Shoe Burnin': Stories of Southern Soul also is the producer of the “Shoe Burnin’ Show”, stage production of authors and music. She has been published in “Thicket Magazine“, “Wildlife in North Carolina“, “Western North Carolina Magazine“, “O. Henry Magazine“, “Pinestraw Magazine” and “Abilene Living“; and has written for BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated). Shari is the creator of Trio, a traveling exhibit of art and original songs created from the inspiration of each of the fifteen books featured in the project.
Excerpt from I Am a Town
In seventeen days it will be three and a half years, three years and six months to the day since the house I loved died.
The memories of that day don’t fade as much as they are kept in a different box, a place further back in the attic of the things I remember. But, I don’t relive them anymore. I don’t smell the smoke and I don’t hear the voices or the sirens or my own screaming.
I am spared that, now.
I still see Walker’s friends, Cole and Cody, running across a yard, hurdling fire hoses and ignoring demands that they get back, to come and stand next to my son as he watched his home burn away. They took off their own shoes on a cold and rainy Carolina November to provide Walker something to stand on, his bare, size fifteen feet being too big for their Nikes. The three of them stood together, leaning on each other for balance, sharing four shoes. You don’t forget sights like that.
Jeff Bolick was manning a water hose. He likes to remind me how hard I fought the efforts of the rescue squad as they attempted to give me oxygen and wrap blankets around me. He likes to remind me that even in my darkest hour I can cuss a blue streak without batting an eye. On the night we gathered in his restaurant to hang the football helmet of Greg Issac on the wall of a bar he got kicked out of on more than one occasion, Jeff whispered to me, “I knew you would be alright when I heard you cussin’. I thought, ‘she’s still in there’.”
It’s quite a reputation when folks measure your mental health by how many swear words you can fling in a single sentence.
I ought to be ashamed.
“Sometimes when you sit still and listen, sounds sweet as sorghum and lyrical as the rhythmic tymbal song of a cicada float by on a breeze smelling of honeysuckle and magnolia. Words grown from black dirt and red clay, simmered in humid swelter are served in a classic preparation; straight up, nourishing our very souls. Such are the words of writer Shari Smith. The South – her South – is a place where the mid-century and modern collide and she invites us in, as any good Southerner would do, to this world rich in character, humor and insight. Reading Shari Smith is like drinking good bourbon. Smooth, slightly intense, full flavored and ultimately intoxicatingly satisfying.”
—Robert Cross, KUTX Radio, Austin, Texas