Savor It by Tarah DeWitt (Excerpt)





“Well, it’s certainly … unexpected,” I say.

It is also decidedly phallic, and it is at least fifty feet tall. The dome-shaped tip juts up above the roofline at its back, proudly silhouetted against the early-summer sky.

Wren, my very best friend (and favorite person in the world aside from her equally mature son), barely contains a snicker beside me.

“How’d they get it up so fast?” she asks, a full-out guffaw chasing the words. “Oh god, the jokes are already writing themselves.”

“Didn’t you have Sam at sixteen? Fairly certain you know how they work,” I tease. Her eyes round for a millisecond before we collapse in laughter, curling into each other with our shoulders bumping.

“I see you ladies have taken notice of our new elevation,” Athena Cirillo says, lips rolled together to hide her own amusement. “Scaffolding for this new bit finally came down yesterday.” She strolls down the park path to join us in our gaping, her snow-white waves floating on the breeze.

“Morning, Sprout,” I say to the Brussels griffon tucked under her arm. Beady eyes spare me a watery blink.

“Do you know what it is?” Wren asks Athena with a nod toward the building. The bookstore owner can always be counted on for the inside scoop, like our very own goddess of small-town knowledge.

Athena turns back to the old warehouse and shakes her head. “All I know is that it’s zoned for dining or retail space,” she says.

Wren and I hum acknowledgments and go back to curiously studying the sight before us. The old brick building at the front of our coastline park hasn’t been operational for years. Not in my lifetime, at least. It’d been absorbed into Spunes, Oregon, and only ever used as a pseudo community center of sorts. The covered patio area up front provided shade for the biweekly farmers market, and the interior was used as town storage for things like banners and holiday decorations.

That is, until it wasn’t. Some months back, the place was completely cleared out, everything strewn across the expansive green lawn in tidy piles. Construction began a few weeks after.

“My guess is dining,” Athena adds. “Retail would likely be better with other shops surrounding it. Since this is somewhat solitary, I think a restaurant is more probable. Either way, Martha’s up in arms. This certainly won’t help matters.” She waves an arm up and down at the structure, letting out a weary sigh. “Aaanyway. I’m off to open the store. Have a great day, ladies. Stay outta trouble.”

We say our farewells before we pivot back, still silently contemplating.

“Huh,” I muse. A small twinge of excitement flares at the idea of a new restaurant. I think of my collections of food magazines at home, elaborate dishes I’d love to re-create, but probably never will. Still, my fingers itch to try something new. Incidentally, the only specific thing that comes to mind right now is eggplant parm.

Our heads tilt to the side at the same time. “Huh, indeed,” Wren supplies.

I break first, a snort tearing its way up my throat until we’re both in hysterics again.

“No, but honestly,” Wren says, swiping at a rogue tear when we wind back down. “How the hell did the phallus palace”—she gestures to the erected structure—“get approved? O’Doyle would never.”

“I would never what?”

We suck in twin gasps and immediately stand up straighter. Mrs. Martha O’Doyle of O’Doyle’s Feed and Supply—Spunes’s one-stop-shop for a myriad of everything from chicken feed to sporting goods—steps slowly into our line of sight. I claw at the wrist Wren’s got trapped between us even as she lifts her chin.

Meridian,” the self-appointed town dictator preservationist intones, gaze narrowed on Wren. It’s more of a curse than a greeting. They’ve had it out for each other since O’Doyle petitioned against the bakery’s outdoor Christmas display two years ago, all because the elf-inspired vignette clashed with her more classical tastes.

O’Doyle,” Wren parrots back.

Cue the spaghetti western ocarina. I chime in before either woman calls for a showdown at high noon. “We just meant that you’d never let any of Spunes’s buildings stay so”—I have to bite the inside of my cheek—“monstrous.” It’d be best not to push her right now, when we all know this building has been a sore subject for her since it was purchased. It’s no secret she’s been fighting it, filing petty complaints with the county merely because it’s an enigma she hasn’t had a say in.

The deep grooves that stitch across her lips purse tighter. “What on earth are you talking about?” But then she slowly rotates toward the new erection, and I shove Wren to make our escape, not glancing back until we scurry a safe distance away. When I do, O’Doyle’s head bobs at the capped cylindrical addition, mouth opening and closing in horror.

“Oh my god, she’s apoplectic,” I say, mirth barely contained.

Wren tugs me to an abrupt stop. “All right. Yesterday, you asked Sam if he ‘had a case of the morbs’ and now that. I’m gonna need you to stop channeling Victorian spirit energy and start channeling the energy of a modern-day-woman-not-yet-thirty-and-still-in-her-prime. There are so few of us left in this town.”

“You’re thirty-one, chuckaboo.” Thirty-two, in fact, but she pretends to forget and I’m supportive like this. I scrunch my nose in mock apology, and her chin dips into a baleful glare. “Fine. I’ll admit I went a bit rogue with the festival-trivia research. But since you won’t do it with me, I’m committed to using my newfound vernacular somehow.” I shrug.

She laughs quietly and shakes her head. “I very much doubt that the trivia portion will include anything about the slang of the time.”

“Tommy-rot! You can’t know that for sure! It’s always centered around the founding era, and they try to mix up the questions every year.”

She blows out a tolerant sigh. “You’re sure none of your brothers will do it with you? You’ve asked all three?”

“No, they won’t, and I don’t want any of my brothers to, anyway. I find that idea even more mortifying.” I give her a droll look. “You’re positive you don’t want to?”

She grimaces. “I’m allergic to competition. And Mom needs me at the bakery. Speaking of Mom…” Her face turns to something sad and searching, her teeth worrying at her lower lip. Panic starts to thrum beneath my ribs.

“What is it? Is she okay?” I ask.

“Yes, oh god, Sage, I’m sorry. Yes, Mom’s absolutely fine. It’s nothing—nothing like that.” She clutches my elbow in reassurance, and I blow out a slow breath, shaking off the surge of dread.

When you experience losing your parents young like my brothers and I did, I think there’s always some part of you that stays … expectant. Like maybe it’s best to forever stay prepared for more loss.

“It’s just that Ian came in yesterday with Cassidy,” Wren explains.

I school my expression into an indifferent grin and keep it trained on her. “What’d you expect? There’s one bakery in town, Wren. I knew they’d come to you.” I shrug lightly, albeit stiffly. “Even if there were twelve, Savvy’s would still be the best.”

“Mom already refused their business,” she replies.

I groan. “Wren, no. She didn’t, did she?!”

“Well, not in those exact terms. But she did have to excuse herself so she could privately call Cassidy a mousy, backstabbing bitch in the walk-in. Then, when she came out, she asked Ian if he was balding and started naming off all the things he should look into, which sent him into a visible spiral. And then she told them she had no availability.”

A brittle laugh rattles through me. “I don’t believe you for a second. Savannah Meridian is a saint.” I’ve never heard her utter so much as a damn before.

“Precisely! Which is why she won’t change her mind, either!” she happily declares.

“Wren, it’s been over a year since we broke up. How would it make you feel if I told you I wasn’t going to talk to Ellis anymore?”

She cocks her head with a pout, caramel-colored curls bouncing. “I think that’d be different, since Ellis is your brother.” Her expression sobers. “And he didn’t leave me after over five years with barely an explanation and immediately start dating one of my friends. Nor did he propose to her in under a year.” She looks away before she adds, “Ellis and I were equally at fault for our marriage failing.”

I snort. I’m tempted to say, Then maybe you could equally repair it, too, but I refrain, recentering on the subject of my own failed love life instead. “And you are my dearest friend,” I say, pulling a face. “Kinda my only friend, actually, which would eventually make me the other woman in that scenario, so maybe that analogy was doomed from the start.” I pick up a discarded ice cream wrapper and toss it in the nearby bin. “I’m truly fine, Wren. The last thing I want for you and Sav is to lose business over me when I’m okay.” I make sure I look her directly in the eyes when I continue. “You should know more than anyone that there are two sides to everything. It’s too small a town for everyone to take mine … especially because Ian’s not going anywhere when his dad is the goddamn mayor.”

We plop down onto our favorite bench at the tip of the park, the same one we used to meet at when Sam was a baby. I was only twelve when he was born, but I’d help watch him sometimes. Take him for walks in his stroller on weekends or after school when Wren had shifts at Savvy’s. At free thirty an hour, I was the only form of childcare Ellis and Wren could afford back then. And despite our four-year age difference and the vastly different walks of life we were in, that time was what led to Wren and me becoming best friends. The kind of friendship that not even their divorce could dissolve.

And really, everyone that could step up to help them, did. Which is how I learned that if something takes a village, the people of Spunes almost always find a way to function as one.

We sit in companionable silence for a time, watching the waves in the distance, gulls screeching through the wind. I scoop fistfuls of hair up the back of my neck and twist them into a bun, happy for the sun warming my skin even though I can practically hear new freckles surfacing. A few sandy-colored pieces escape my hands and gust across my face before I tuck them away, closing my eyes with a happy sound.

Early summer in the Pacific Northwest is always my favorite, especially here in this old town, atop the cliffs where the air is briny and cool. The sun burns off the clouds before most afternoons, but there’s typically enough chill wafting off the water to keep us from getting too sticky. When I open my eyes, they follow the thick driftwood fences weaving around the park, along the trails that continue as far as I can see before they curve into the thatch of redwoods that divides Main Street from the homes on the adjacent cliffs.

And then I do a double take when I notice Wren gazing at me sadly again.

“What?!” I laugh.

She searches my face. “It just doesn’t seem fair,” she says.

Ah, so we’re still on the subject of my ex.

I sigh through a smile, tilting my chin. “I like to think it is. I was settling for him, anyway,” I say. I spot her proud smirk in my peripheral. “Just make his damned wedding cake, Wren. The whole affair is bound to get a lot of good publicity if the Carvers have any say.”

“We’ll see,” she replies obstinately. “We’re not worried about business being slow with the festival, anyway.” She gives me a tight smile and darts a glance at her phone. “Gotta go open up the shop. You wanna join? I’ve got a slice of white chocolate–coconut cake primed and ready.”

“Can’t. I need to go grab more feed from O’Doyle’s and then get the Andersens’ place set up. The renters are due today.”

Wren rolls her eyes. “The Andersens should have to pay a property management company like all the other vacation home owners do.”

“They’re only gone for half the year, and the management companies all want yearlong contracts,” I explain. “Besides, it’s a football field away from me.” Quite literally. I measured the meadow that sits between our houses the summer after seventh grade. It’d been an especially unexciting year.

“Which is another thing I don’t like,” Wren says, stabbing a finger at me. “What if it’s some weirdo renting the place all summer? It’s just you two on the outskirts of town. And why are they renting it for the entire summer? The festival isn’t until August. It makes no sense. August is when the tourists show up.”

Other towns in nearby counties have multiseason attractions. The beaches are warmer in Yoos Bay, and farther inland you’ll find much bigger, more charming properties brimming with Christmas tree farms and wineries. The town over in Gandon is miles more quaint and pleasant to walk around.

Most of Spunes, however, rests on a steep slope, one that only levels out to cliffs that are set high above the water, which means that even a quick stroll feels more like a hike. Our main harbor is too small for major fishing charter vessels, but big enough to pack with smaller boats. The Fourth of July celebration is too big to compete with in the next county over, and June still has too much of the typical cloudy Oregon gloom. Which is why we get August. One month where this place that was built on failures and against all odds stays the driest, when many of our businesses make most of their yearly profits.

“As we’ve discussed ad nauseam, my friend, I have no clue,” I say to Wren. “I don’t mind cleaning the place a few times a month or keeping an eye on it when I’m off for the summer.” And then I unfold myself from the bench and wrap her in a quick squeeze to cut the tirade short. “Don’t be late.”

“Yeah, yeah. See you tomorrow.” She waves me off.

I blow her a kiss before I head in the opposite direction, ambling past the shops I know too well, waving at the people I know even better. Across Main Street hangs a banner emblazoned with The Festival of Spunes; celebrating 150 years.

Every free surface beams with flyers and posters featuring pictures of summer seasons past: photos of Founder’s Point packed with canoes, the park filled with vendors and attendees rubbing shoulders. O’Doyle’s has an entire wall dedicated to the labyrinth tracings on the beach that small groups of people come to make every year, shapes raked into the sand that outline mazes for folks to take meditative walks through. The majority of the photos are centered on the festivals themselves with the canoe races, carnivals, cooking competitions.… And, as I am once again reminded when I walk in, a section of that wall is designated for the contest winners each year. Those pictures are the largest, framed, and impossible to avoid.

Ian and Cassidy smile triumphantly back at me from last year’s victory photo when I heave a bag of crumble onto the register counter. Beside them are photos of Ian with my middle brother, Silas, for two years in a row, back when they were still inseparable. Then there’s Ian and his father—Mayor Ian Carver Sr.—for six years prior to that. Ian’s been winning at this festival since he was eighteen. This year will make ten in a row.

I kiss my fingertips and touch them to the decades-old photo of my mom and dad from the year they won, like I always do.

After I stuff my change into my pocket and say my goodbyes, I dump the feed and myself into the truck, ready to get home, my mind churning the same way it has for months.

As much as it took me by surprise at the time, I have no jealousy over Cassidy being with Ian. She’s welcome to him. Better her than me.

The thing that still back-combs against my nerves is that, while I maintain that it’s better her than me, I also think that she’s just better than me. She’s a doctor, from a family of doctors and lawyers and generations of people that either leave Spunes to do great and important things, or leave Spunes to collect their titles and only return as some sort of concession or out of obligation. Something like, “Well, I needed to be close to Mom, anyway, and the school district in so-and-so county (always one of the next ones over) is rated so excellently!” Like it’s a favor for anyone to just … stay.

Not the case for my family. Especially not for me.

Copyright © 2024 by Tarah DeWitt

Twitter Feed​


View this profile on Instagram

SMP Romance (@smpromance) • Instagram photos and videos

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.