Stevenson Tennesseean by birth, former college
football legend, coal miner's grandson, and now a corporate executive in
a small, south Georgia town.
When Troy's personal weaknesses impact
his family, his struggle to confront the problem unleashes the law of unintended
consequences, with harrowing repercussions for himself and his wife, son,
A devoted family man is targeted by an amoral young woman and her
An Intimate Look at the Chaotic
and Kaleidoscopic Baby Boomer Generation
Recounts Life in the Wreckage of
the Counter Culture
In 1983, in moss-draped Verona,
Georgia, the tender and tenacious love between a hardworking executive
and his adoring wife is tested by sudden adversity. Corporate Vice-President
Troy Stevenson must confront an old family secret that underlies his nascent
alcohol abuse or he may lose his wife and the son and daughter he deeply
When his latent destructiveness
is unleashed and impacts his family, he moves
to their lakeside cottage to come to grips with his personal weaknesses.
But busybodies at his company
assume he left home because his marriage is in trouble. Encouraged by the
assumption, co-worker Brooke Emerson, an amoral, 1980s material girl romantically
obsessed with Troy, attempts to seduce him, setting in motion a chain of
events with harrowing consequences for him and his family.
Man takes readers from the hills of Appalachia to the University of Alabama
during the Paul "Bear" Bryant era; from staid New England to drug-drenched
and sex-saturated Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love; from the glittering
skyline of Atlanta to sultry south Georgia -- and reveals what can happen
when a good man becomes the object of lust and the target of vengeance.
Patty poured bubble
bath into the tub and turned the shiny chrome handles. While it filled,
she tuned a portable radio sitting on the towel rack to Troy’s jazz station
and adjusted the volume. Both the pleasant scent rising from the tub and
the music filling the air were at the perfect level of subtlety to encourage
a harried executive to relax and recharge.
She piled her
hair on top of her head and fastened it with a barrette. Without haste,
she undressed, stepped into the tub and carefully eased down into the hot
water. She had been there several minutes, enjoying the music and waiting,
when she heard her husband enter the bedroom.
“Tro,” she called.
“What?” He came through
his bathroom into the tub room.
“Get in.” She tilted
her head to give him an inviting smile.
He stood just
inside the door and looked down at her. Only her head and shoulders showed
above the froth. “You shameless hussy.”
you feel good.”
He shook his
head. “Real men don’t take bubble baths.”
But one side
of his mouth quirked up as he unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it from his
trousers. The half-smile changed to a mock leer and in moments he was naked,
his clothes tossed carelessly onto the hamper. He stepped into the tub,
grimaced at the temperature of the water and sat down gingerly, pulling
air through his teeth.
and I’ll rub your shoulders,” she said.
“I won’t argue
with that. This water’s hot.”
“It only takes
a minute to get used to it, wuss.” She squeezed water from a bath sponge
across his neck and shoulders, kneaded them gently and listened to his
not entirely put-on moans and groans. His left shoulder had begun to give
him trouble intermittently. It had been dislocated three times during his
football career, once each in junior high, high school and college.
going on at work? Your muscles feel like cables!”
talk of building a new distribution complex, which means expansion, new
employees, and the change will stress everybody out for a while. Sales
are down a little. Max is still trying to socialize the company. But we’ll
weather it. Mmm. Scratch, too.”
“Well, you try
to relax and don’t let it get to you.” Patty lightly scraped her fingernails
across his back.
“I haven’t had a chance
to work out much lately. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had. Over to the right.
Down a little. Little more—oh yeah, right there. Mmm. Anyway, I’m relaxed
now. This feels so good I might go to sleep in the water.”
“Told you it would.”
Patty leaned back against the slanted wall of the tub, pulled him against
her and crossed her arms around his neck. Troy grasped her feet and stroked
her insteps with his thumbs. They lay there in silence, eyes closed, as
the last of the day’s tension from fussing children, radical feminists
and plummeting sales dissipated seemingly into the water.
After a while,
he rolled over toward her, making their diminishing blanket of bubbles
rock and slosh. She studied his face—the dark eyes, the exquisitely shaped
lips, now slightly parted, the fine coating of sweat. Her steadfast love
for him began to stir into ardor.
sloe-eyed man! It’s a miracle that you love me and belong to me! He studied her
face, too, and murmured, “You’re so sweet and you look so cute covered
with bubbles and your hair done up like that. I wish I could stay with
you all night—we could have so much fun together—but I have to go.”
my wife I’d be home by ten-thirty. If I’m not, she’ll pitch a hissy-fit.”
Patty muttered, her brows buckling. “You are completely henpecked.”
She filliped the water,
sending a small splash toward him. He jerked his head to the side but not
quickly enough. With drops rolling down his face, he flashed her a menacing
“Oh, you bad
girl, you have done it now.” He gave each word exaggerated enunciation.
“You better watch it ’cause you never know when I’m gonna get you for that.”
She put the
tip of her forefinger in her mouth for a moment and said, “You won’t, though.”
But I ought to. Think how pissed you’d be if I’d done that to you.”
“Yes, but you
know I would mind, and I know you don’t.”
As she looked
at him, the desire building inside her fountained upward to show in her
face and glow in her eyes. She didn’t try to conceal it, but took his face
in her hands and pulled him closer to kiss him.
She kept it
going a long time. He stirred but made no move away from her, no attempt
to break the seal of their lips. At last, she did, and tilted her head
back enough to see his face, to lose herself in the sweetness of his expression
and in the beginning of passion and desire her kiss had put in his eyes.
He blinked and
inhaled, as if breaking out of a mild trance, and slid forward to follow
up with a kiss of his own. He murmured against her mouth, “Darlin’ darlin’
baby...I’m gettin’ in the shower.”
Troy believed tubs
were for relaxing in and showers were for getting clean. He stepped out
of the tub and walked through the doorway into his bathroom, Patty’s appreciative
gaze following his every step. Naked or clothed, he was magnificent, exquisitely
proportioned, like Michelangelo’s David, like da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man,
except for the slight extra length to his legs, which enhanced rather than
detracted from his perfection.
She smiled and
shook her head at the trail of drips and puddly footprints he thoughtlessly
left on the floor. Some things just didn’t occur to men.
softly when he stepped into his glass-enclosed shower, turned the handles
on the wall and gave a little yelp as cold water hit him.
But it was no
laughing matter when she thought about the tension in his muscles. He had
mentioned several problems at work but Patty knew only one was really bothering
him—the drop in sales.
He was always aware
of the responsibilities his job put on his shoulders, aware that all the
employees of Shearwater-Ingram depended on him and his department for their
livelihood. He worked hard to live up to his responsibilities. He averaged
over fifty hours a week at the office but actually worked more, counting
what he brought home at night and the time he frequently put in on Saturdays.
At home, his
money, earned by his labor alone, paid for it all—not only the floor but
the water puddled on it, the roof over their heads and everything under
Except for the help
he received from Providence, Troy singlehandedly sustained the lives of
four human beings and contributed to the upkeep and wellbeing of numerous
others. And he did it willingly, lovingly and with good humor.
Thus, he was entitled
to demonstrate a little male thoughtlessness about something as harmless
as water dripped onto an impervious ceramic tile floor.
bathing and flipped the drain lever. She wrapped herself in her terry robe,
stepped onto a towel spread on the floor and shoved it around with her
foot, soaking up the puddles. She turned off the lights and music. Everything
else could wait.
In her bathroom,
she got ready for bed. Passing over her usual nightwear, tailored tricot
pajamas, she shimmied into a a short, slinky white negligee, because Troy
was needful tonight and she was wantful. And because it was the last thing
a witchy, hissy-pitching wife would wear.
She put a dab of Parthenope
into the hollow at the base of her throat, removed the barrette and let
her brown locks fall uncombed to her shoulders.
In the cool,
dim bedroom, she checked to see that Troy had shut the door to the hallway.
The children knew not to come into their parents bedroom when the door
was closed unless it was an emergency, and to knock first in any case.
Troy emerged from
his bathroom, dried off but slightly damp and naked but for the towel around
his waist because naked was how he slept. He kept a pair of pajama bottoms
under the mattress for quick access on the nights when storms or bad dreams
brought the little ones scurrying to sleep with Mama and Daddy.
Patty stepped up to
him and gave him a petulant look. “You said you’d be home by ten-thirty.
Where were you? Who is she?”
He shook his
head, grinning. “You’re not a very convincing harridan, sweetheart. You
just don’t have it in you.”
Their little game
had been fun, but his smile faded and the look on his face said he was
ready to get back to reality. A sultry flame leaped to life in his eyes
as they went down her body and moved back up to her face. With a forefinger,
he pushed aside the thin strap of her negligee, trailed his lips along
her shoulder and nuzzled her neck.
Patty shivered and
broke out in goose pimples.
She gave the towel
a tug and it fell to the floor.
Troy put his arms
around her, pulled her to him and kissed her. He took a soft, uneven breath
and murmured, “She’s you. You’re all the women I want—my sweet wife, my
children’s mother, my helper, naughty girl, best friend.... and I love
every one of y'all to death.”
Music of Southern Man
I listen to music when I write,
and usually, the songs I listen to become attached in my mind to the story
or characters. Sometimes, a song title finds its way into the manuscript.
These are the songs that inspired me during the writing process, and/or
are mentioned or alluded to in the story. Where I could find links at YouTube,
I have included them here.
preliminary sales report.” Troy tapped the printout with a forefinger.
“Down three and a half percent.”
Max shrugged. “So? Nothing goes up forever.”
He drummed a rhythm on the edge of Troy’s desk and sang, “What goes up, must come down—”
“Cut it out. David Clayton Thomas you ain’t.”
She kept it going a long time. He stirred but made no move away from her, no attempt to break the seal of their lips. At last, she did, and tilted her head back enough to see his face, to lose herself in the sweetness of his expression and in the beginning of passion and desire her kiss had put in his eyes.
He blinked and inhaled, as if breaking out of a mild trance, and slid forward to follow up with a kiss of his own. He murmured against her mouth, “Darlin’ darlin’ baby...I’m gettin’ in the shower.”
Memories filled them both as Troy led her to the dance floor -- memories of passion and promise and young love, new love, so deep and powerful it was sometimes excruciating...
As embarrassing as it was, Patty couldn't hold back tears. Twice, she took a breath as if to speak, but she exhaled, the words unspoken.
He smiled at her. "I heard you."
She didn't try to talk after that. They both knew that sometimes their hearts spoke to each other without their mouths having to say a word.
Five minutes into the dancing, the DJ started a song that had an instant and visible effect on them. Their faces turned toward each simultaneously and communication, silent and significant, passed between them. Troy's eyes narrowed and one side of his mouth quirked up. Patty's lips parted slightly and her eyes gleamed as they fastened on him. They turned toward each other and began to dance.
Brooke didn't recognize the tune but she recognized its effect -- music for lovers to make out by, spine-tingling in its sexiness.
...Brooke saw members of the children's chorus dressed in their maroon choir robes file past. One of the little singers was Randy Stevenson. If adorable Randy was singing, his parents would surely be in attendance.
"Let's go listen to the choir," she told Angie.
When the program ended she remained seated until the Stevensons came her way. One hand lightly on Melissa's shoulder and the other had his wife's waist, Troy ushered his family toward the main festival area.
For Brooke, sudden and deep sadness blanketed the Christmas Festival. Nothing had ever made her as sorrowful as the happiness and love that enveloped the Stevenson family and kept Troy so willingly, joyously chained to his wife and daughter and son.
Although they are not referenced
in the book, the following tunes also served as inspiration during the
writing of the story.