Entry Nickname: Skins of the Father
Title: The Sumerlin Curse
Word count: 66K
Genre: YA Southern Gothic
Sixteen-year-old George Sumerlin is a boy, no matter what he looks like. Born under a wicked family curse, he has the wings of a bat, horns of a bull, and the scaly tail of a lizard. While it doesn’t stop him from dribbling a basketball, it does keep him trapped on his family’s derelict plantation. He calls it prison. Mama calls it protection. The islanders would not understand him. They would kill him.
After George botches an escape attempt, pictures of him surface online and catch the eye of Grace, a young hoodoo-doctor hell-bent on capturing the beast terrorizing her village. She sneaks through George’s window, convinced he’s it. Now he must prove his innocence in order to save his tail.
He offers Grace a deal: he will track down the real monster—something she calls a Boo Hag, which haunts the marshes—if she will help him escape. His scaly butt is worth risking, at least until their search exposes a twisted secret about the Boo Hag, Mama, and the Sumerlin Curse that not only puts Grace’s soul in the monster’s sights, but proves George is more of a beast than he realized.
Today, the third Wednesday of July, is a good day to run away.
Everything has gone according to the routine.
This morning, my caretaker, Clarence, came from the village, taking the dirt road I can just make out through slits in the fence. I’ve never been to the village—I’ve never left the yard—but I know where the road leads because I’ve stared at its serpentine line on the map pinned to my bedroom wall.
Clarence passes the ball. We always play basketball after morning studies. Today we graphed quadratic equations—snore—and finished our unit on the War of Northern Aggression. Because even when time is the only thing I have in unlimited quantities, there’s never enough to kill on learning about the South’s “glorious cause.”
I dribble the ball between my legs, avoiding my scaly tail, and float it off my claws. Swish! Clarence claps and says something about how good I’m getting. It’s a small consolation for being trapped here like a rabid animal.
A magnolia-scented breeze hits me like the air blowing out of Mama’s hair dryer. The million degrees of south Georgia heat and humidity bake the tips of my leathery wings. Sour moisture pools on my brow, curling the hair around my horns.
I dribble…dribble…again. Then a loud slap! reverberates off the reflection pool. I look up and squint. Mama’s on the patio, her lips smothered in gloss, a black pocket book clutched under her armpit. The third Wednesday of the month, the day Mama goes to the salon.