Friday, October 27, 2023


"Fatherless" came out earlier this week. To celebrate i have a book giveaway on Goodreads. I will be giving away 100 copies to lucky readers. Click on the link below to enter for your chance to win.

I also have a promotion for signed copies running on my website, Enter the promo code "stories" to receive deep discounts!
Thanks for following and read on, friend, read on!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

fatherless by J. Hirtle


by J. Hirtle

Giveaway ends November 09, 2023.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Friday, September 8, 2023

Fatherless [excerpt] Coming October 2023


Preorder "Fatherless"

Chapter 1

Spring of 1912—Choctaw County, Mississippi

Oleta Ruth Greene was born on the banks of the Yockanookany River, Choctaw County Mississippi, in the spring of 1912. Born to Miss Mavis Collins and Mister Lewis Greene. Oleta’s father was a man she never knew by anything other than Mister Greene.

On the night she was born, the father-to-be stood in the Yockanookany River up to his calves, cold water pouring in over the top of his boots. Gripping one end of a hoop net with his left hand, the river holding the other, fighting him for the right of possession. With his right, he held Mavis’s hand, for balance, and comfort. He had told her to stay in the shanty, not to come down to the river. He could handle the nets himself, been doing it for most a lifetime. It was near time for the baby to come, she should stay. But there she was, prostrated on the bank of the river, her face twisted with the pain that comes when birthing a baby.

“I’m gonna fetch some help, Mavis,” he promises her (his promise coming as the baby’s head was crowning and Mavis was cursing the gods).

“Don’t leave me here,” she cries, “Lewis, you son-of-a-bitch, don’t you leave me.”

Climbing out of the river, he dropped the net and then her hand. “Mavis, I’ll be a back with some help. I promise.”

Mister Greene made off with Mavis and her half-born baby on the muddy banks of the Yockanookany. He was never seen again.

Promise made. Promise broken.

Mavis lay on the ground staring at the night sky, rain mixing with the tear-streams running down her face. A dejected melody offered by the river completes this melancholic scene. Long-spun Spanish moss hangs from a goliath oak tree. A southerly breeze cavorts with the rain, prompting the mossy shadows to wave like the arms of a fortune teller stealing the last nickel from P.T. Barnum’s sucker. As heavy bottomed clouds trudge across the early morning sky, Mavis bears down with strength delivered by the same God she cursed, presenting her baby to a silent world. The newborn slides between thick thighs and into the numbing waters of the Yockanookany River.

Days later, Mavis lay on the filth laden floor of a one-room shanty with a new baby at her breast, wondering whom Mister Greene had been going to fetch help for. It sure the hell wasn’t her.

A story of fatherless generations embarked that night on the banks of the Yockanookany River. Spineless men destined to follow Mister Greene’s muddy footprints into the unknown. Cowards who tremble at the words—responsibility, commitment, sacrifice—runaways never looking back to see what has become of—Oleta, Clarence, Elizabeth, Otis, and Elijah.

Fathers without names. Children without fathers.

In 1915, Mavis heard that Mister Greene was living high on the hog in Chicago. She packed up everything she owned and stuffed it into a canvas bag. Everything except her determination, that she wore on her face. With three-year-old Oleta Ruth tucked under her arm, she set off for the Windy City in search of her baby’s father. Mother and daughter made it as far as Peru, Indiana before being thrown off the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway because, according to two gentleladies from St. Louis, “the child smells like shit.” Peru, a city of five square miles, was recovering from the flood of 1913. High waters had delivered massive destruction to most of the town, leaving behind few accommodations for vagabonds such as Mavis and her child.

A local farmer pointed her east, “Head down the road a bit, the circus people make camp there when winter comes. Peru Circus Farm is what the locals have come to call it. Don’t know if they farm anything, but they won’t turn you away, colored, or not. They don’t judge others. Most locals don’t like them being here, but they good people. They’ll help you. Go on down there.”

The farmer had been correct. The circus owner, an Irishman named Millard Murphy set up a shelter for Mavis and her daughter in an empty railcar smelling of hay and manure. He showed Mavis how to burn wood inside an old, galvanized tub to keep warm, warning her more than once to never let the fire jump out of the tub. Every morning, Mavis found a plate of buttermilk biscuits, two slices of bacon, and a tin cup filled with goat milk set just inside the railcar. Sitting with her back against the oily and splintered wall of the boxcar, she held her daughter as they watched the circus people move around with purpose. On some mornings, they would stop and smile a friendly greeting or kneel and make silly faces at the girl. They never asked her questions or pried where strangers should not pry. They never even asked her name. Often, Mavis would carry Oleta into one of the big barns where they would sit for hours watching the animal keepers care for the horses, elephants, and big cats. But never getting too close. Mavis taught the girl the names of all the animals. Showing her how make the sounds of the cats and the elephants. Life at the circus was meager yet filled Mavis with new hope.

In spring of 1916, as President Wilson was sending troops south in pursuit of Pancho Villa, Mavis Collins was hired by the Senger Dry Goods Company, Peru’s largest employer at the time. It was the first and only paying job Mavis ever held, earning her enough money to keep food in their bellies. Never losing her determination to get to Chicago and find that sorry bastard, Mister Greene, she set aside a portion of her earnings each week. With the circus camp closed until winter, Mavis and her daughter slept where they could, never calling one place home. Come winter, she returned to the circus camp and slept in the warmth of the world of boxcars and circus animals. In January 1925, her last winter on this side of Heaven, Mavis died from pneumonia brought on by too many hours of sleeping in boxcars and owning only one threadbare coat. Standing between a sad-faced clown and the bearded lady, young Oleta Ruth watched her mother take her last breath. Ten years after being thrown off the train because she smelled like shit, thirteen-year-old Oleta Greene was alone.

Random Thoughts

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