If you still haven’t discovered Molly Harper’s new series, Southern Eclectic, now’s your chance! Set in sleepy Lake Sackett, Georgia and centered around the McCready Family Bait Shop & Funeral Home (yep, you read that right), the series features a quirky–some would say crazy–Southern family and the people who love them.
In Peachy Flippin’ Keen we meet Frankie McCready, the town coroner and resident goth girl, as well as one of the babies of the McCready clan. She’s engaged in an escalating prank war with the most obnoxious kid in town, but when things go beyond practical jokes, she might need to call in the new sheriff. The very cute, but very standoffish new sheriff.
But no worries…no one resists Frankie’s charms for long…
Frankie McCready dabbed one last touch of lipstick on Spud McArthur’s lower lip. Generally, she kept the makeup on her male clients a bit subtler than the treatment she gave the ladies. Families didn’t much care to know that Grandpa was going to his final resting place with a layer of Peachy Keen on his lips. But Spud had tangled with pancreatic cancer during the last months of his life, so Frankie was having to use every cream and powder at her disposal to restore his healthy appearance. In his final months Spud’s cheeks had become gaunt and his skin sallow. Frankie didn’t want that to be the last image his family had of him. They deserved to remember him as a ruddy-faced, energetic man, even if he’d been a bit of a jackass in life—particularly when it came to his rabid support of University of Georgia’s football team.
Frankie gave Spud’s prominent nose one last dusting of finishing powder and closed the lower portion of the casket lid, pushing the casket cart toward the elevator and pressing the button. “Good-bye, Mr. Spud. I will miss the boiled peanuts you made for Founders’ Day. I will not miss the way you added ‘the Bulldogs and anybody dumb enough not to root for the Bulldogs’ to the prayer list every Sunday. But Lake Sackett won’t be the same without you.”
As the elevator doors closed, she stripped off her gloves and stretched her aching back. Spud was her fourth customer that day. Autumn was always a busy time for funeral homes, particularly in towns like Lake Sackett where the population was heavily comprised of baby boomers, and Frankie was definitely looking forward to the end of the tourist season in a few weeks. Her cousin, Margot, had recently breathed new life into the town by organizing one of the best Founders’ Day festivals they’d ever seen, and the marina side of the business was still experiencing the ripple effect. Over the last week or so, thousands of people from across the Southeast had flocked to town to spend the last warm days of fall on Lake Sackett, shelling out for boat rentals, hotel rooms, food, beer. Most of the businesses in town expected to benefit from the boom somehow.
Sighing, Frankie shrugged out of her lab coat and hung it on her hook, next to the one labeled Uncle Junior. It had been more than five years and she couldn’t bear to get rid of his lab coat. No one in the family really came down to her domain, so it was a little quirk she could keep to herself.
It took a considerable amount of stubbornness and effort to maintain a private life in a family as big and “involved” as the McCreadys. But Frankie managed it by sneaking away to Atlanta for weekends, blowing off steam with drinks and dancing and other age-appropriate activities that reminded her she was alive and significantly younger than her funeral home clientele. Her family loved her, but they didn’t need to know that she’d ground the night away with a complete stranger and then gone back to his apartment. Or that she’d waited for him to fall asleep and then Ubered back to her car, because she was not big on awkward morning-after conversations.
Besides, her parents were already one step away from shoving Frankie into one of those giant hamster balls for fear she might hurt herself tying her shoes. You couldn’t call them helicopter parents–that would imply they simply hovered, as opposed to being attached to her back.
Frankie’s thoughts were interrupted by the hum of a vacuum cleaner. She followed the sound upstairs, out the door of the funeral home and down the concrete steps to the docks, where her Cousin Duffy was standing in the open doorway of Jack’s Tackle and Stuff with a Shop-Vac, frantically swiping it across the shop floor.
“I need some help here!” Duffy shouted, his sweaty red-gold curls plastered to his head.
Frankie ran to the bait shop, stepping over hundreds of bait crickets as they stampeded down the wooden planks. Even over the rumble of the vacuum, she could hear the chirping. Frankie looked inside the darkened interior of the bait shop and saw that the walls and floors seemed to be writhing, waves of tiny black-brown insects bouncing off every surface.
“Some jackass opened my bait-cricket cage and all of my bugs got loose!” Duffy cried.
Frankie grabbed a broom and started sweeping the little critters into a five-gallon bucket. Together, Duffy and Frankie methodically gathered as many of the crickets as they could, returning them to the wire-mesh bait cage.
“Who would do somethin’ like that?” Frankie wondered when every last cricket–she hoped–had been accounted for.
Duffy carefully emptied the Shop-Vac into the wire cage. “Probably some tourist pissed off that he didn’t catch his limit. I had a charter client threaten to sue me this week because he went the whole morning without catching a mackerel.”
“Aw, bless his heart. Did you explain to him that a mackerel is a saltwater fish and he was an idiot?” Frankie asked.
“You know, I tried, but somehow it just didn’t get through to him,” Duffy said. “As it is, I just lost another client scheduled for a sunset charter. He walked in, took one look at the bugs, and ran. I guess losin’ control of my shop to a bunch of invertebrates probably doesn’t put me in the most professional light.”
Frankie gave him a small side hug. This was part of the problem with having a customer service job. Even when the customers were enormous shit heels, you weren’t allowed to slap them. There was a reason Frankie didn’t work with living people.
“This is why we can’t have nice things,” she said with a sigh.
And when they call the new sheriff to investigate the cricket liberation, and that new sheriff turns out to be a certain one night stand in Frankie’s rear-view mirror, well…let’s just say the road to true love never did run smooth! Don’t miss Molly’s previous Southern Eclectic novel, SWEET TEA AND SYMPATHY–and the prequel novella to that title, which you can read for free on our site right now!