A Knock on the Door: Of Dragons and A Marriage. A Summary and A Prologue


I’ve been writing.

“A Knock on the Door” opens on a typical late afternoon, high summer in the hills of northwest Georgia. The skies have darkened in anticipation of the thunder and lightning and the downpour of warm rain that mark the altemost daily storms that sweep through this part of the state.  The year is 1907. Inside their small house, the members of the Whitfield family an spending an afternoon as predictable as the weather. Nothing much is happening. There is an unexpected knock on the front door, and the lives of Camilla Whitfield, her parents, and the stranger at the door are changed forever. This is the story of a young girl growing up in the rural South in the early years of the twentieth century, and it is the story of a marriage. Bookish, thoughtful, and sheltered, Camilla is both content and restless. She has just turned fifteen when she makes the unlikely decision to marry Martin, a kind, uneducated man, twice her age. While Camilla looks up words in her grandfather’s large dictionary, Martin’s speech identifies him as what is known in the South as “country.” Slowly, Camilla and her story are altered by his presence. It is an account of a marriage between two people whose differences seem insurmountable, but the main characters are too unusual to stereotype. Both have crippling pain, Martin’s physical, the headaches he calls “the Dragons” and Camilla’s deeper, and emotional.  In their story is life, ordinary, unpredictable, terribly sad, hilariously funny, and filled with hope.


Summer 1907
Somewhere in Northwest Georgia
It was an odd sort of day, in spite of the predictable late August weather.  As always, in this corner of northwest Georgia, it was hotter than blue blazes and so humid that even the rambunctious new puppy was panting on the front porch, his chin resting in the fresh bowl of water that Camilla had put down.  The late afternoon sky held out the familiar false hope that this time the storm would cool things off a bit. It grew ominously dark, in anticipation of the first peals of thunder, the flash of lightning that startled Camilla every time, even though she’d grown up with it for fourteen summers, and finally the downpour that, for the few minutes it lasted, felt like it would drown the world and save them all.

“I suppose Father will be going out with the afternoon mail.”

She was angling to find out not only whether her father was about to leave for his afternoon round of delivering the post but whether she might be able to get her mother’s permission to go with him. She knew perfectly well there was work that needed doing in the house and that her mother was feeling worse in this heat, but she would gladly promise to get every single thing done the minute she was back. She was a responsible girl, and her mother knew she could count on her.  Still, and even as poorly as she was feeling, she couldn’t resist teasing her serious daughter.

“Mil, honey, you know he’s going out, at least down to that house by the creek and back, so that’s seven boxes to fill and a lot of miles between them. You’ve got these chores in the kitchen.” Mil’s mother, whose name was Megan, had a hard time keeping her smile back when she saw her daughter’s face fall, but she managed for a minute more before putting an arm around her shoulder and squeezing.

“And I expect you could drive on out with your father and still have time left over for housework when you get home.  I mean, if you want to go.”

“Oh, yes, ma’am. I do. I will. Oh, yes.”

Years later, Camilla remembered the sound of the knock on the front door, the quiet, raspy voice in conversation with her father, and her father’s deep call back into the house to her mother,

“Meg, could you come out for a second? I’d like you to meet someone.”

Her mother pulled off her apron, smiled reassuringly, and said only,

“It’s fine. I’ll be right back. You go ahead and get ready to go with your father.”


  1. Dearest cousin, I don’t know how I managed to miss this post! I’m hooked already and want to know more about Camilla! Damn girl, you sure know how to use those words. Are you available for a conversation sometime today? I love you and miss you. Colleen 


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