“Cracked Reflections” will be published by Propertius Press on September 24, 2021. You can pre-order it here.
Cracked Reflections is set in an imaginary Massachusetts mill town during the real textile strikes of 1912, known as the Bread and Roses labor movement. This tale is particularly relevant in a time of conflicting news stories, high political passions, and concern about immigration—but such times have recurred over and over in our history.
Twelve-year-old Kassandra Leonhart has always been caught in the middle—between the longtime Americans and the new immigrants like her father; between her classmates who don’t have to work at all and others who have already declared themselves grown and started working in the mills full-time; between people who agree about what’s real and her geisteskrank grandmother who sees demons. Kass sometimes sees the spectre she calls the “beast-man” with his fine suit and empty eyes, she hears his terrible warnings, but she knows she’s only seeing him behind her eyes and she doesn’t believe his words, mostly, so isn’t she sane? Mostly?
Since her pastor says perfect love drives out all fear, Kass tries to love her classmates (which means trying to stick up for the ones who get laughed at for their accents and their clothes, and not hating the ones who get three real meals a day) and the diners at the restaurant where she works after school (which means trying to calm the crazy ones who remind her of herself). Then tragedy ripples through the community when a child is maimed by the machines at the woolen mill. It’s not the first time, as workers walk out and police try to stop the demonstrations. Kass’s friend Adone joins the strike while their ally Sgt. McCleary works the crackdown. The police look at the strikers and see foreign terrorists. The strikers look at the police and see hireling thugs. They attack each other in fear.
Kass thinks they’ve all been listening to the beast-man that haunts her dreams, and they’re not used to dealing with him the way she is. That means she’d better do something about him. Kass tries to fight the escalating situation with words. After her composition on peace sparks a fight at school, and her conversation with a reporter seems linked to her father losing his job, she tries to keep her mouth shut and stay out of trouble… until she sees Adone swept up in a melée and runs to help her. When conflicting reports about that clash lead to arrests and beatings, Kass testifies in court, writes to the newspapers and intervenes in brawls, trying to protect the ones she loves. Maybe if she can stop the beast-man taking over her town she can also stop him taking over her mind…