Free to Go & Grow

Rob Brown

Finding the Promised Land
As told to Ross Howell Jr.     Photograph by Bert VanderVeen

When I was in fourth grade, my dad — who at 84 is still a Richmond Times-Dispatch photographer — took me to a football game between VMI and the College of William & Mary. He hung a camera around my neck, got me a press pass and told me to see what I could do.

I got a picture of a guy scoring a touchdown, which ran in the Times-Dispatch. The paper paid me $5.

I was hooked.

But when I graduated from high school, I didn’t see photography as a real job. So, I apprenticed with a brick layer. Later, I went to Longwood University, playing basketball in the summer with a guy named Leger Meyland. He was going to photo school and convinced me to go, too. He has been a mentor and friend for 40 years now.

After a year at Randolph Community College, I got a job at the Radford News Journal. Then I came here to Greensboro to work at the News & Record, where I met my wife, Lane. After she got a job in Chicago, we moved there. I found work at The Times of Northwest Indiana, a suburban newspaper.

We had kids and decided to move to Baltimore to be closer to our families. Lane landed a full-time job at The Baltimore Sun. I was a freelance photographer and stay-at-home dad.

When we learned the News & Record was looking for a director of photography, I applied. They took a chance on me, even though my only management experience was raising kids.

In 2015, when I was laid off from the paper, I felt spurned. For a while, I freelanced. Then I put my cameras away, rarely taking pictures.

I decided I’d try something completely different.

I signed up for brewing school at Rockingham County Community College, then got an entry-level job with Natty Greene’s Brewing Co. I was putting beer bottles in boxes in a cold warehouse. Eventually, I was trained to work in the cellar, and later, I handled brewing.

Then I went to Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem. My work there also was very physical.

I realized brewing is a younger man’s game. So, I decided I’d give computer security a try.

After about two months of study at Guilford Technical Community College, COVID hit.

All my classes went virtual, except for geology. Even though I’d made the president’s list and was six hours away from my associate’s degree, I was feeling very isolated.

I knew when I finished, I’d be starting at ground level again. Worse, I’d be working with 19-year-olds who were real computer whizzes compared with me.

Because my son was getting married, I’d been helping him look for a wedding photographer online.

One evening, I was talking with Lane.

I showed her a photographer’s site and said, “Looking at these photos makes me want to take pictures again.”

And she asked, “Why don’t you?”

So, I got back into freelance photography. After about three months, I heard that the Elon University communications department was looking for a photographer.

I applied and got the job.

Now, I’m back to doing something I love and something I’m good at.

For years I was wandering in the desert and now I’ve found the Promised Land. I couldn’t have done it without Lane.  OH

A longtime writer for O.Henry, Ross Howell Jr. is doing research for a second historical novel.



Jessie Sloan

Landing on Her Feet

By Cynthia Adams     Photograph by Bert VanderVeen

For such a sunny personality, Jessie Sloan, a Shreveport, Louisiana, native, had a surprising first job after college — making bombs at the Louisiana Ordinance Plant.

“I was making 2.2 mortar shells, putting the mechanism on the back of the shells that made it propel.”

She also began hair-raising work as a cosmetologist — her mother having advised her to always have a side gig.

Next, Sloan vetted materials for Lucent Technologies in Shreveport, with top security clearances. (“If I did not approve it, they would not purchase it.”)

After 27 years, she “woke up one morning and, noting a Lucent posting in Greensboro, decided I wanted to see how the other part of the world lived.”

In a lickety-split, Sloan transferred.

Sloan remained in top clearance work — secure telephones for the White House and transatlantic junction cables.

Whenever she saw the President using a White House phone, she thought, “I had a hand in that. Oh, my goodness!”

Ever mindful (“My mama always told me, never settle for one thing. Have an A, B and C. I’ve always had more than one job”), she earned her N.C. license, resumed work in a beauty salon — and still worked for Lucent. Two years later in 1997, Lucent closed the Greensboro facility. Sloan retired.

For a while, she traveled, unable to do hair given a knee replacement. “I had to find something else!”

She laughs. “I don’t let anything get me down. I keep a positive attitude.”

A Louisiana podiatrist first introduced Sloan to reflexology. “If I had any sore places, he would massage a certain area on my foot, and the pain would go away.” She told him how she loved giving foot massages. He lent Sloan his books.

“One night I was in bed and said, ‘Well, Lord, what can I do?’ The Lord said, in my mind, ‘Do feet! You enjoy doing feet.’ I got up that morning and found a school.”

For a year, Sloan studied reflexology at Natural Touch Massage School, completing studies and clinical work in 2005.

She registered her business, Soles by Sloan, working at a State Street salon (plan A). Sloan advertised, appeared at health fairs and built a reflexology practice, which she later moved to her home.

Does she absorb the energy of clients as she works?

“You do. You’re transferring your energy to that person. And absorbing all that drains you,” she says.

Meanwhile she worked for Sears 14 years — plan B — in data entry.

Sloan giggles.

“A friend said, ‘You’re not from this planet. You’re not from here.’ I would say, ‘I am too from here! God made me, and He made me this way!’ So many things have happened to me that were unexplained. It’s amazing.”

Today, Sloan’s primary work remains reflexology. But, always, there’s a plan B. Last August she began working with special-needs children on school buses. She arrives at the terminal before 6 a.m.

“I keep them in their bus seats to be sure they don’t get up and hurt themselves. Help them off and on and help with their seat belts. It’s really rewarding.”

This repeats in the afternoon. Sloan returns after lunch to assist again, riding with the children, soothing them, and is home before 5 p.m.

“I’m learning to be thankful, patient. Learning to be caring. Understanding. To work with kids,” Sloan says. “I’ve always wanted to do it.”

She ends the call, preparing for a reflexology session.

“Reflexology is my first love. That is just part of me. That, I always tell people, is my calling.”  OH


Chris Hayes

Learning Lessons from COVID

By Maria Johnson     Photograph by Bert VanderVeen

Early one Sunday morning, after wrapping up his 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift in the intensive care unit of Greensboro’s Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, registered nurse Chris Hayes sniffs out the charge nurse, hands over a handful of badges and tags, and walks out of the Greensboro hospital in his blue scrubs for the last time.

The next afternoon, he sits in a sparsely populated Panera restaurant, sipping a cola and absorbing the new reality of his retirement.

“It hasn’t sunken in yet,” the 56-year-old Hayes says.

Bearded, burly and athletic, with sports sunglasses parked atop his closely cropped hair, the former high school wrestler explains why he left his beloved profession in January, after nearly 32 years.

It’s true, he says, he’d been thinking about retiring to have more time to travel and work on projects around the house.

The accelerator, he says, was COVID.

Specifically, one young man with COVID.

Chris cared for him last summer.

The kid — a college student with no history of health problems — had been moved to the ICU because his oxygen levels were falling. Chris saw him only one night. The kid was conscious, alert and talking through an oxygen mask.

And even though Chris had told himself — after doing it once early in his career — that he’d never get attached to a patient again, he connected with this young man.

“I could see my daughter there,” Chris says, eyes welling at the thought of his younger child, also a college student.

That night, the young man — who was not yet eligible for a vaccine because of his age — crumped.

That’s nurse-talk for took a sudden turn for the worse.

They put him on a ventilator to help him breathe. He stayed on the machine for three weeks.

One morning, when Chris was at home, he got a text from a colleague. They’d lost the kid.

“I about threw my phone through the wall,” Chris says. “It was anger, just anger wishing it had never happened.”

His anger surged at other times, too, especially when dealing with older, unvaccinated patients.

“Probably the hardest thing was listening to people when they were dying, saying they wish they had [gotten the vaccine],” he says.

The idea of retiring grew sweeter when his wife, Jamie, left her job. She’d also worked nearly 32 years as a public school teacher. She, too, was pushed out by COVID and the overwhelming demands it placed on educators.

They both were seasoned veterans with thick skins, Chris says, but COVID had found their breaking points.

“Everybody has one,” he says. “Anyone who tells you they don’t is lying.”

Still, he says he harbors no hard feelings about his pandemic experience.

“I’m probably smiling because it made me retire early,” he says.

Eventually, he adds, he’ll look for another job — a low-stress, part-time gig — maybe in landscaping or in a big-box hardware store, where he can get a discount to furnish his garage workshop. Lately, he has been building coffee tables, TV stands and end tables for his daughters and their friends.

Before the next job search, though, he’ll take several months to scratch some items off his to-do list: going to an Eagles concert with his wife; taking two cruises with his family (one to celebrate older daughter Rebecca’s graduation from pharmacy school); and attending every fall volleyball game of his younger daughter, Grace, a senior at Bridgewater College in Virginia.

One of Grace’s teammates had COVID in 2020 and developed a seizure disorder afterward. The teammate recovered and played again, Chris says, but seeing people who are younger and stronger than he is get seriously ill with COVID was not lost on him.

“Noticing that young people are not immune to all of this has taught me that life is precious,” he says. “It’s time to get out and enjoy it.”  OH


A Leap of Faith

A Leap of Faith

Finding shelter from one storm after another

By Cynthia Adams    Photographs by Amy Freeman

By 2017, Rick and Randy Burge-Willis had had enough of a historic and gorgeous — but too-large — 18th-century farm.

There was too much acreage to maintain at Lilac Hollow, their quaint compound in scenic upstate New York.

“We named it that because a previous owner had collected more than 350 lilac bushes from around the world and planted them over three acres,” Rick says.

The pair of serial entrepreneurs were weighing retirement. (Rick already was semi-retired.) Change beckoned. And a better climate. Until Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, they had once dreamed of retiring to the city which they had long loved.

Lilac Hollow was a Martha Stewart-like dream property. The 10-room house featured 6,000 square feet, replete with fireplaces and period antiques. It was the very definition of New England quaintness.

Best of all, the house sat in the midst of 150 bucolic acres with mountain views, hops and dairy barns, and a chicken house.

They listed it on the market, “assuming it would take at least two years to sell,” Randy says.

The property lasted nowhere near two years; it didn’t even last two weeks. A mere 12 days later, a woman living in Atlanta phoned to inquire further. She was, they discovered, a working chef relocating to upstate New York. They had the perfect chef’s kitchen. 

There, she saw what none of the other area houses had: professional grade appliances — and two of each.

The Lilac Hollow owners were former restaurateurs themselves, still operating the Bakery at Lilac Hollow. (Rick also was a former baker for a gourmet food spot in Albany, New York, and had been the chief baker and pizza maker at their restaurant.)

The two men invited the chef to stay for the evening and to cook together. She took them up on their offer, and the house was a hit.

There was no hesitation; the chef wanted to take possession of Lilac Hollow in late June 2017.

“It was a ‘what the heck moment,’” Randy says. “We needed to find a house and fast.”

The kitchen that sold the farm had a backstory. There was, of course, their ongoing bakery venture. But there also was another poignant story.

For years, the couple had been interested in all things culinary. Neither had owned a restaurant. But in 2011, they agreed to become restaurateurs, sharing the daily work. 

Rick and Randy opened an 11-table café with pavilion seating outside in the Helderberg Mountains, only 18 minutes from their farm.

It featured a multi-item menu specialized in Cajun and Creole foods they came to love in NOLA, with a smattering of local favorites (like pizza), as well.

On opening night in April, Randy’s birthday, cars filled the cafe parking lot. A line of waiting cars wound down the street — cars full of eager, hungry patrons.

“We named it Po’ Boys, and it was prophetic,” Randy sighs. He explains the problems: The menu offered “too many” items. They wanted their hardworking staff to be well-paid. 

It was nonstop work for them, too.  Seven days a week.

“We were very successful during the summer months,” Randy says.  His voice trails off; his expression says, “too successful.”

In August 2011, an uninvited guest named Hurricane Irene visited upstate New York. The historic, unprecedented storm took out bridges, drowning homes and businesses. Po’ Boys, only four months old, did not escape harm.

“The building survived, but we were without power and lost substantial inventory,” Randy says.

“The real issue was that the community was devastated and had no ‘appetite’ for dining out. Many had literally lost their homes,” Randy says. Their home, which was unscathed apart from losing power, quickly filled up with folks they knew, needing, as he says, a candlelight meal and a place to sleep.

While their home was only seven miles away, “the bridge on the road to work washed out and we had to travel 18 miles out of our way.” Randy says. Sadly, the new restaurant was no longer viable. “We decided to cut our losses.” He adds. On October 30, 2011, they closed Po’ Boys Café for good.

They remained at Lilac Hollow until June 30, 2017.

Over many junkets to New Orleans pre-Katrina, Rick and Randy began talking about giving up rural living. “We were both city guys originally. We had lived in Boston or its burbs for nearly two decades, so coming back to the city wasn’t strange for us. The farm had been our dream. We did it, we loved it, and then it was time to move on,” Rick says.

They agreed on finding a true neighborhood — versus the isolation and demands of maintaining a farm.

Rick and Randy had money in their pocket after Lilac Hollow sold, and both were ready to embrace a Southern, warmer lifestyle.

And yet, it was as the sage’s admonition goes, “be careful what you wish for.” Packing up a huge country house and making such a move was a breathtaking shift for the two.

Yet they insist it made complete sense.

But where exactly?

Somehow — studying maps, quality of life and a Southern locale with warmer weather — the pair had determined that Greensboro might check all the boxes.

“We had never been to Greensboro before,” Randy confesses. “But we wanted to move South.”

They came down for a weekend, meeting a Realtor and looking at 16 homes in two days.

A Charleston-style two story brick house in Latham Park — the last home they viewed, was the one. “We opened the door and fell in love with the house. The dappled light through the trees. The willow oaks!” Rick says.

“Close to downtown, easy airport access and a beautiful park across the street,” Randy says. “We saw the house on Saturday, saw it again on Sunday, made an offer and got it accepted on Sunday. We flew home Monday morning.”

Rick adds: “We wanted a place where it would be easy to have two German shepherds in the city. It also felt like we still had a little bit of the country with us. Most of all, the light here in the summer is special.”

Were they anxious about such a leap of faith? Randy only laughs. “Not really. We had already made a bigger leap in going from suburban Boston to rural Upstate New York. Our beautiful Latham Park neighborhood made the transition easier for us.”

But what sold them on Greensboro? “Right size, good airport, good health care, progressive atmosphere. Affordable. Lots of green space,” Rick observes. “We have never looked back. This is our forever home.”

Did anything concern them after they returned to New York? “Nothing,” Randy says firmly. “After we visited, we knew it was the right choice.”

Rick insists there were no detractors among their close circles. If anything, he says, they were “a little jealous, but supportive.”

But there were practical concerns as they packed up their former residence. The Latham Park house was 3,000 square feet, nearly half the size of Lilac Hollow.

“We filled two dumpsters, sold multiple primitive pieces and gave some to the new owner. Still, we moved way too much and have been winnowing since [or replacing to accommodate a new find].”

The couple completed packing and purging just in time to relinquish the keys to Lilac Hollow’s new owner and headed south for Greensboro. They moved into Latham Park June 30, 2017.

The custom-built home featured double porches, built-ins and unique lighting.

“We’ve been told it was custom-built [by Guy Andrews]and that some of Greensboro’s notable families (or their progeny) have lived in this house at some point,” Randy says. “McLean Moore lived here early on, so most of the light fixtures are originals from the noted Greensboro firm McLean Lighting Works.”

“This wasn’t a cookie cutter house,” he adds.

Helpful neighbors contributed details about the house.

“We often run into people who have lived in the house or who are somehow associated with it [including the builder’s daughter, Julie McAllister], or they stop by to reminisce about their memories of the house,” Randy adds. The interiors required marrying two styles. Rick says it also allowed them to “break out of the ‘primitive/colonial’ mode and move out of our comfort zone in terms of decorating.”

“One of the decorating challenges for us was how to incorporate the primitive and ‘high country’ pieces we loved [and that were so appropriate in an Upstate farmhouse] into a classically southern city house,” Rick says.

A favorite inspiration was Valkill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Hudson Valley home.

“It’s not ‘high design’ by any stretch, but a collection of beautiful and timeless things that were important to her. Warm, inviting, eclectic,” Randy muses. “The kind of place where she could have intimate conversations with presidents and kings, but also with friends and acquaintances. It’s become a sort of guide for us as we combined the bits and pieces of over 40 years.”

Creating several library areas was first among their projects.

“We had a library in our previous home and we moved thousands of books with us . . . much to the chagrin of the moving crew,” Randy says.

The new home offered bookshelves, but their collection required even more. “We needed to get the books out of the storage unit,” he says. They added bookcases in first-floor rooms, including a small study with rare pecky cypress paneling.

For avid cooks who entertain, they had to share a far smaller kitchen. “It took us a while to get the choreography down!” Rick says.

They added a new deck and pergola, expanding the outdoor living area.

Two years later, the elements struck again.

On July 31, 2019, Buffalo Creek flooded part of Latham Park. It wreaked serious damage to much of their first floor.

A flood, their old nemesis, had once again left them surveying water and wreckage.

This might have been a deal breaker for less resilient people. But not Rick and Randy. They set to work.

Miraculously, the flood did not dampen their love of the house or community.

It also wrought positive outcomes.

“First, it showed us what great neighbors we have,” Randy says. Rick agrees.

“We all came together to help and support each other. Second, it gave us the impetus to make some big changes to the house. We love our home even more,” he says.

“We live in a flood-prone area,” says neighbor Kaylee Phillips, who works for Carriage House Antiques.

“We said to our family, if it starts to flood, we have to go down to help Rick and Randy before we think about our house, because their things are so beautiful! And their house is so classic,” she says.

Phillips, who lives down the street, once worked at Summerhouse, a defunct antiques and gift store. It was owned by Julie McAllister, whose father was Guy Andrews, builder of numerous Latham Park and Brown Town homes.

Soon after the Phillips family moved down the street from Rick and Randy, “They came into Carriage House and said, ‘Hey neighbor!’” Phillips says. She smiles: “They are so special! Every single detail of their home is so special.” As they settle deeply into the close-knit community, they have amassed friends.

After the flood, house changes were required, like painting and papering, but some were simply desired. The first changes? In the kitchen, naturally.

“The house only had small ovens. We needed full size to fit roasting and sheet pans,” Randy says. “We replaced the wood floors in the kitchen with travertine. Replaced the kitchen counters with a lighter color granite [White Spring] and the dated bead board backsplash with handmade Spanish subway tiles.”

More changes evolved. They added granite molding (baseboards) to the powder room, new exterior doors to the kitchen, and new French doors and updated windows in the family room. They replaced a standard exterior door leading to the upper porch with a French door.

Neither have regrets. It all works better now, they say.

Their Latham Park home, one with a park view, brings them peace.

They can pretend it’s Central Park whenever the snow flies or in spring when the old growth trees — a hallmark of the neighborhood — are in full bud.

Their main bedroom is off the upper porch, which is furnished with chairs and tables. They hang baskets of ferns there when the weather is gentle, which remain until frost arrives.


They recently had the exterior repainted a buttery yellow and used a dark, New England–like green on the shutters.

Five years later, Rick and Randy consider their new city’s personality. “Friendly, open and accepting, community focused, the ‘New’ South,” they reflected in an email. “The quality of life here is exceptional and constantly improving . . . cultural resources, green spaces, health care, entertainment. Most everything is less than 15 minutes away.”

Favorite things to do here?

“Taking dogs to the parks, searching for treasures at antique and consignment stores, tending our vegetable garden in our community plot at Keeley Park, cooking good food, and expanding our Southern food repertoire,” they wrote.

Last winter, they had a strong crop of collard greens and dined on collards and Hoppin’ John for New Year’s Day.

Come holidays or any occasion, Rick and Randy swing back into serious baking mode.

They bake cookies, breads and NOLA-inspired delectables for neighbors. For parties, they create a house cocktail and bring out the good china and crystal, even coupes for sparkling sips.

NOLA remains near to their heart. It was there they learned how to be Southern.

“The attention to detail, quality and depth, not just in the food but in the experience. NOLA has it down,” they wrote.

No Southerner worth their collards would argue. OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry. She can be reached at

Wandering Billy

The Prez of Jazz Night

Getting into the groove
on Sunday evenings

By Billy Eye

It’s too exciting for words … so they had to set it to music!
movie trailer for Blues in the Night (1941)

I’ve been carping for a decade that this town needs a groovy, early-evening Sunday hangout. Jazz Night at Cafe Europa fits the bill perfectly, especially now that the weather is turning milder and the patio is open. (Let’s hope. I’m writing this in February.) This swinging soiree from 6–9 p.m. is presided over by Prez, spinmeister supreme who also hosts a Wednesday night jam at Flat Iron, broadcast live over WUAG.

As someone who frequented the 1980s and early ’90s Los Angeles underground dance clubs, mid-’90s’ Club Babylon raves here, and, in the early 2000s, footloosing in massive discotheques across London’s underbelly, I’ve had the privilege of grinding behind grooves laid down by the top DJs in the world. <name drop> Keoki, Paul van Dyk, Sasha & John Digweed, plus PeteTong, Fatboy Slim and Paul Oakenfold.

Having been present for a number of Prez’s performances in a dimly lit Greensboro nightclub over the last year or so, I’d rank him with the best on that list, possessing a prodigious talent for transforming the most quotidian room into bouncy blissfulness, drawing on an all-too-rare musical intelligence unleashing a barrage of mind-blowing beats veering wildly but seamlessly from one genre to the next.

“I could be at a bar, for example, and everybody’s got their back to me,” Prez tells me. “But something they hear they register with, either their head nods, their foot taps, fingers clicking, and you know that, ‘Oh, wow. They recognize what they’re listening to.’”

For Sunday Jazz at Cafe Europa, Prez spins a mellower tone, with a softer but no less sharpened edge. It is anchored in part by modern jazz-inspired pioneers like DJ Can and Amerigo Gazaway, echoing with the vocals of Aretha Franklin, The Chi-lites, Nina Simone and other seminal 20th-century soul sensations. Who is this guy?

“My parents were into music and they’re from the South,” Prez says. “So, there were cross-cultural dynamics for me, like them growing up in a Southern culture, then my father joining the military, traveling around the world while raising kids along the way. Then I came to UNCG as a freshman, where I honed my skills.”

Residing in various countries, like Germany and Thailand, as a child before settling in Massachusetts had to have influenced his musical preferences. “I think it gave me a taste of what the culture of a certain environment sounded like,” Prez says. “Finding different dynamics in soul music but with kind of an African flavor or a Polynesian flavor or Latin rhythms.”

This DJ paints with a broader brush than one would expect, which makes sense because jazz underpins so many contrasting styles. “You get a different flavor that’s not just classical jazz,” Prez says about his style. “It’s not just big band; you get a little hip-hop flavor, some soul, house, electronic and funk music that stems from jazz.”

Cafe Europa attracts an eclectic clientele on a regular basis, that’s part of the appeal of the place. “We started Jazz Night back in May 2021,” Prez says. Just took a chance. My man [bartender] Jonny Alright and [owner] Jacob Pucilowski over at Europa said, ‘Hey, let’s do something kind of cool, something different.’” When Jazz Night first got underway it was just the lone DJ flying solo alongside crates of his albums. “It was not what the crowd expected jazz to be,” Prez recalls. “That’s why we kept doing it and why we’re still doing it now.”

Warding off any remaining chill in the air with more chill on the patio at Europa, surrounded by our downtown parks? For a serene Sunday twilight, nothing could be finer in Carolina when you consider this is a casual bistro offering affordable cocktails and slightly Southern comfort cuisine. Its French dip sandwich, steak & frites, and the cafe burger come highly recommended. I’ve never ordered anything that didn’t satisfy.

“Of course, you go with the classics,” Prez explains about his choice of needle drops. “Coltrane, Miles, Max Roach, Dizzy, then venturing into Roy Hargrove, Robert Glasper, Ali Shaheed Muhammad.” As word spread and the audience expanded, people started bringing their own records. “I was like, ‘Cool.’ Then people started turning up with turntables, keyboards, a guitar now and then, and it became a kind of a jazz jam formulated around the records.”

Kinda reminds me of a smoky little joint (back when smoky was okie) called Sammy’s in the Plaza Shopping Center where, a few decades ago, a combo on Friday nights drew legions of jazz enthusiasts.

Moving a crowd with your rhythmic repertoire begins with an understanding of the basics. “I tell people,” Prez says, “if they want to collect records, if they want to become a successful DJ, you listen first. You don’t go out and buy gear or buy records; it’s about listening and then you can curate. Then you can turn that into a three-hour mix where people are entertained.”

In an atmosphere infused with melodic precision, a totality of tonality presented in a way that Greensboro hasn’t heard or seen before, somehow every week Prez manages to discover another fresh take on what jazz can be, constantly experimenting with syncopated juxtapositions.

Arrive alone or with a coterie, and should winter’s icy fingers linger the proceedings will be relocated indoors.

Wheels of steel are largely digital now, but they still spin. Prez has been honing his craft for two decades. “I don’t really know what keeps me going, to be real. I think it’s the joy that I see on younger people’s faces that are new to this, are fresh into music. Seeing their energy, feeding off of their energy. How do you capture that moment?” Prez asks, knowing full well the answer. “That’s what being a DJ is.”  OH

Next month marks exactly six years since Billy Eye started writing “Wandering Billy,” which is why the schools and liquor stores will be closed during April to honor that landmark occasion.

Tea Leaf Astrologer

(February 19 – March 20)

The only difference between a mythical creature and a Pisces is that a mythical creature believes in itself. Pisceans are magical by nature and naturally psychic. That’s because those born under this mutable water sign are masters of subtle emotion. This month, the cosmos is dealing you a planetary royal flush. In other words, you don’t have to keep swimming upstream. But will you?

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

Don’t forget to stretch.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

There’s a whole world outside of the box. Think about it.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Less talking. More dancing.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

Slow down. Proceed with caution. Be prepared to pivot.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

You’re back in the spotlight. Breathe easy.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

A little salt goes a long way.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Someone’s got color in their cheeks again.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Try zooming out.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

When one door closes, best not to set up camp on the front porch.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Three words: Don’t look back.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Timing is everything. Read that again.   OH

Zora Stellanova has been divining with tea leaves since Game of Thrones’ Starbucks cup mishap of 2019. While she’s not exactly a medium, she’s far from average. She lives in the N.C. foothills with her Sphynx cat, Lyla. 

The Creators of N.C.

The Lost Treasure of Home

Jonas Pate and
his runaway hit
Outer Banks

By Wiley Cash 

While there is plenty of mystery in the breakout Netflix smash hit Outer Banks — everything from a father lost at sea to a legendary treasure — the mystery that director and co-creator Jonas Pate seems most intent on exploring is the age-old mystery of what divides people along class lines. It worked for Shakespeare with his Montagues and Capulets, and 370 or so years later it worked again for Bernstein’s and Sondheim’s Jets and Sharks. Pate’s rival groups are similarly aged, sun-kissed teenagers living and partying along North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where a group of working class kids known as the “Pogues” continually find themselves marginalized and dismissed by the “Kooks,” who are the children of wealthy residents and seasonal tourists. Fists and hearts certainly fly, but despite the show’s use of cliffhangers and action-packed sequences, at its core Outer Banks investigates the emotional and experiential threads that pull some of us together across class lines while invisible barriers push others of us apart.

According to Pate, the divide between the haves and the have nots is “the oldest story in the world. It cuts across everything,” which he believes explains the show’s broad appeal.

Broad indeed. In the late spring of 2020, just as the people of the world were settling into the pandemic and the realization that they did not want to see or hear another word about Tiger King and Joe Exotic, Outer Banks debuted in mid-April and quickly became one of Netflix’s most watched shows of the year. The following summer, the show’s second season hit No. 1 on the Nielsen report. The success seemed immediate, and the show’s slick production quality made it all appear as easy and relaxed as a day on the water, but Jonas Pate and his twin brother, Josh, with whom he created Outer Banks along with Shannon Burke, had spent their whole lives preparing for this moment.

The Pate brothers grew up in Raeford, North Carolina, where their father served as a judge and their grandfather owned a local pharmacy. “It was amazing,” Jonas says. “It was like Mayberry. I’d ride my bike to the pharmacy and get a Cherry Coke and a slaw dog, and then I’d visit my dad at the courthouse. My stepmom was head of parks and recreation, so I’d go over there and help ref T-ball games.”

We are sitting on the second-story porch of the home he shares with his wife, Jennifer, and their two teenage children in Wilmington, just across the water from Wrightsville Beach. The January morning is unseasonably warm and sunny, and Jonas is dressed as if he just stepped off the set of Outer Banks, not as its director but as one of its stars. (How handsome is Jonas Pate? A few days later, our 5-year-old daughter will walk past Mallory’s computer while she is editing photos of Jonas. She will stop in her tracks and ask, “Who is that?”)

Jonas’ surfer appeal is not surprising considering that while he primarily grew up in Raeford and attended high school there, he spent his summers with his mother along the barrier islands near Charleston. “Outer Banks is an amalgam of different high school environments and things that we went through,” he says. “It helped create the mythical environment of Outer Banks where we kind of knew what it was like to live feral in a small town with haves and have-nots. Kiawah and James Island were like that. It was poor kids and rich kids, and they would get into fights. And Raeford is still very rural.”

Rural, yes, but Jonas and Josh still found plenty to keep them busy. If they were not exploring the marshes and waterways off the coast of Charleston, then they were shooting homemade movies back in Raeford, where they made films of Robin Hood and Hercules and edited them by using two VHS machines. He laughs at the memory of it. “The cuts were terrible and fuzzy,” he says, “and all the special effects and sound were awful.” But he admits that something felt and still feels magical about it. He had always loved film, especially those by Steven Spielberg and Frank Capra, saying that he has “always been drawn to filmmakers who are a little sweeter and have a little more heart.”

After college, the brothers found that they still had the desire to make films, but they did not know how to break into the industry. “We didn’t know anyone in the film business,” he says. “We didn’t know anything.”

The brothers moved to New York and worked to immerse themselves in the city’s film culture. While interning at the Angelika Film Center, Josh met Peter Glatzer, who was a fundraiser for the Independent Feature Project. They talked about screenwriting, and the Pate brothers soon had a script that Glatzer was interested in producing. Their first film, The Grave, was shot in eastern North Carolina, and while it did not receive a theatrical release and went straight to video after premiering on HBO, the Pate brothers had their collective foot in the door. In 1997, they made another North Carolina-shot film with Glatzer, The Deceiver, that starred Tim Roth and Renée Zellweger, and it found a larger audience after debuting at the Venice Film Festival and being distributed by MGM. The brothers headed for Los Angeles.

Once there, Jonas found himself “taking jobs just to pay the bills” and “getting further and further away from what I actually wanted to do.” One bright spot of his time in LA was meeting his wife, Jennifer, who also worked in the industry as a casting agent. Not long after they met, Jennifer started her own agency, and Jonas went to her for assistance in casting his first television show, Good vs. Evil, in 1999. From there he went on to direct and produce a number of television shows, including the NBC shows Deception and Prime Suspect and ABC’s Blood and Oil. In 2005, the Pate brothers partnered again and returned to North Carolina, where they filmed a single season of the television show Surface, which they co-created. After having kids, Jonas and Jennifer decided to move back to North Carolina in time for their son and daughter to attend high school. Jonas suddenly found himself on the other side of the country from the industry he had devoted his life to for the past 20 years.

But then something magical happened. Jonas understood two things: First, he needed to create something that could be shot on the coast so he could stay close to home. Second, he would draw from his own experiences to make it real. “When I pulled from my own life instead of the movies I’d seen, it all came together,” he says. “You get to the universal by being super specific.”

One big challenge that Jonas and his team encountered was casting the show’s young stars. “We auditioned maybe 500 or 600 kids, and we really had to try to find kids who’d been outside and lived in the outdoors.” Not surprisingly, given the Pate brothers’ personal ties to the show’s geography, nearly every star they cast was from the South, except for one who hailed from Alaska. “Growing up outside, being around boats,” Jonas says, “it’s hard to fake that stuff, and it’s hard to make it look real if it’s not.”

I turn off the recorder and Mallory packs up her photography gear, and we say our goodbyes to Jonas. He is leaving soon for another production set. We share a number of mutual friends in Wilmington with him and Jennifer, and we talk about getting together for dinner once he returns.

Mallory and I are alone in the driveway when I realize that I have locked the keys in our car. To say that I was embarrassed — and, let’s be honest, panicked — would be an understatement. Mallory pulled out her phone and began searching for a locksmith. I have a flip phone, so I just stood there, weighing the two most logical options: breaking the window with one of Jonas’ landscaping rocks or just leaving the car and walking home, denying it was ever ours.

I cannot help thinking that if I were John B., the star of Outer Banks and leader of the Pogues, played by Chase Stokes, I would sneak into a neighbor’s garage and hotwire their car, drive home, procure a backup set of keys, and return for Mallory while passing under the investigating deputy’s nose. Or, if I were Topper, the leader of the Kooks, played by Austin North, I would bang on Jonas’ door and use his phone to call my father’s car service. But I am neither of these characters. I’m just me, so I apologize again to Mallory, and we wait for the locksmith together.  OH

Wiley Cash is the Alumni Author-in-Residence at the University of North Carolina Asheville. His new novel, When Ghosts Come Home, is available wherever books are sold.

From the Editor

From The Editor

It is the first mild day of March:

Each minute sweeter than before …

There is a blessing in the air

— William Wordsworth

March can be a fickle month, but having grown up in the 1960s and 1970s in rural Guilford County, March brought the promise of hope to my family.

While snow and ice still were probabilities, something about my father shifted during the year’s third month. Subtle, nevertheless unmistakable.

He began making lists and outlines of the vegetables he planned to plant in our garden. Even though the temperature often was chilly, he spent time surveying his plot.

It wasn’t a huge spot behind our house, but it was large enough to be bountiful. My four siblings and I spent time tilling, fertilizing, planting, caring for, harvesting and, finally, consuming or canning — and had a grand time. Under my father’s guidance, we shared with our neighbors the vegetables we grew — string beans, crowder peas, cucumbers, peppers, squash, tomatoes and more.

As my father’s garden flourished, so did our understanding of him.

Born in a tiny community along the Pamlico Sound in the 1920s, my dad developed an appreciation for and the importance of satisfying one of the most basic needs of survival — nourishment.

The youngest of nine children, my father spent his early years close to my grandmother while my grandfather and four older uncles fished. In that remote, windswept coastal fishing village — and under my grandmother’s gentle yet watchful eye — he learned to cook, care for relatives and friends, develop a love of poetry, and cultivate a garden. The Great Depression brought hardship, and what once had been the family’s successful, statewide seafood business languished.

And then, in 1943, the U.S. Army “invited” my father to serve. In 1944, he marched from France to Berlin. When he wasn’t in combat, he cooked, preparing meals for hungry, scared and often wounded young soldiers.

My father returned home in 1946, and after a difficult time adjusting to peacetime America, in 1947, he entered college, earned a bachelor’s degree, moved to Stokesdale, met my mother and became a beloved school principal — while raising five children.

Heroes define and shape our lives. He was — and always will be — my mentor, best friend, shelter, protector. And, yes, my hero.  OH   

Mary Best


Life’s Funny

What a Gas

A lesson on finding what you need

By Maria Johnson

A dark green cylinder.

About the size of a football.

Says “Coleman” on the side.

White label.

Red-and-black print.

I know exactly what I’m looking for — a propane tank for a camp stove — and why.

The ice is coming.

Or so the forecast says.

My memory jumps to a little more than a year ago, when a weekend ice storm left us in the dark and the cold.

We didn’t have it as bad as many others did — our electricity went out Saturday morning and came back on Sunday afternoon. We were pure-T lucky that some parts of the city still had power and that we had enough gas in the cars to go and get McDonald’s coffee and takeout meals.

We brought them home — instead of eating across town — because the pandemic raged on.

Our wings were clipped. Twice. But we had a gas fireplace. And water. And batteries for our flashlights. And quilts and afghans stitched by long-gone grannies who lived when these conditions were closer to the norm — when winter nightfall meant kindling a fire.

We did as they would have done. We turned the sofa to face the fireplace and literally huddled with our hound and our loved ones. Our older son and his girlfriend were still here, stretching their Christmas visit because they were working from home, and they allowed “home” to be with us for a while.

We warmed Thai takeout — not very well — in a Dutch oven over the fire, under an open flue.

We read Sherlock Holmes stories aloud, by flashlight.

We went to bed early and rose with the sun.

In daylight, we drove — carefully, around downed trees and through intersections with stoplights gone dark — to a park. We stayed long enough to be dazzled by the sunlight dancing in the diamond woods — and to be scared into retreat by the gunshot pops and muffled whooshes of trees breaking and falling under the weight of their jewelry.

On the way home, I saw a friend striding, as she usually does, for exercise and joy, down an empty Lawndale Drive in a neon parka, her New England hardiness in full view.

We, however, were reduced to basics.

A walk.

A fire.

Some food.

And water.

Good health.

Good humor.

Each other.

When everything else fell away, it was easy to see what we had.

And be grateful.

It’s hard to talk about this — gratitude in the face of hardship — even with the pandemic waning somewhat. So many people in this country have died of COVID in last two years: 886,000 at this writing.

Eight. Hundred. Eighty-six. Thousand.

So many people have suffered and are still suffering with empty chairs and guilt and long COVID.

But I hear timid thanks leaking out in people’s stories these days.

Timid thanks for the hard stops that enable us to see that simple is OK.

Small is OK.

Dare we say it: better, even.

Maybe giving thanks is where this gets sticky. Thanks implies a giver with an intention. A purpose. A reason for the rattiness. We love a reason, don’t we?

But sometimes, I think, there is no reason. Bad stuff happens because it can. And will, inevitably, in this God-filled universe.

Sometimes we get caught in the jaws of life and don’t survive.

Sometimes, we do survive — for a while longer.

Whether we can scrape up any wisdom afterward is up to us.

Whether we can look around and see the doors that have been, many times, open all along — that’s up to us.

Take, for instance, the opportunity to buy a gas camp stove after last year’s power outage.

I saw it. And took it.

Bought a gas cylinder, too.

And stored it in the garage, separate from the stove.

But where, oh where, I wonder now, a year later.

We comb the shelves and crannies.

Then we look in insane places — as people who have lost things often do.

Could it be in the laundry room?

The pantry?

Your sock drawer?

Jeff searches the attic — the attic! — as I stand before the garage shelves that seem to mock me.

“OK, I know you’re here,” I finally surrender. “Just show me where.”

I take a breath and soften my gaze.

And there it is.

In a cardboard box, on edge, that I had clearly labeled like the spine of a book: “PROPANE GAS FOR CAMP STOVE.”

Ohhh yeahhh.

I had put the tank there, after several months of watching it get knocked over and roll around on the shelf, because it seemed safer that way.

I laugh out loud.

Because what I wanted wasn’t in the form I was looking for — and by my own hand, to boot.

     But it was there all the time.  OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry magazine. You can reach her at


Cleanup on Aisle 2

The vulture’s role in the ecosystem

By Susan Campbell

Vultures: All of us have seen them. Maybe it’s been passing a group feasting on a recently killed animal by the side of the road. Or, more likely, you have spotted an individual soaring overhead on long, outstretched wings. These odd looking birds are too often misunderstood and even disliked — for nothing more than their appearance. In actuality, they are fascinating creatures that perform a vital role in the ecosystem: They are Mother Nature’s cleanup crew.

Often referred to generically as “buzzards,” vultures are part of a family of birds found worldwide with dozens of species, including South American condors. Here in North Carolina, we have both turkey and black vultures year-round. Individuals from farther north significantly boost flock numbers in the cooler months. These large black scavengers lack feathers on their heads: likely an adaptation to feeding almost exclusively on carcasses. Turkey vultures are the more common species from the mountains to the coast. Soaring in a dihedral (v-shaped profile) on long wings with silver linings, they have red heads and long tails for steering.

Black vultures, however, have gray heads and white patches on the under-wing as well as somewhat shorter wings and tails. As a result, they soar with a flatter profile and fly with snappier wing beats. This species has really expanded across the Piedmont in recent years, perhaps due to development, increased road building and the inevitable roadkill that results.

The winter brings vultures together in what can be impressive roosting aggregations that are known as “wakes.” These groups can build to 100 or more individuals of both species that will roost close together in a particular spot: night after night during the season. Late in the day, they will gather in mature trees with larger branches capable of holding significant weight. It is easy to spot them on tall snags or sitting side by side on communication towers. Given the human tendency toward neatness, there are fewer and fewer dead trees for the birds to utilize — so they have been forced to use manmade perches. They may choose rooftops and this can, believe it or not, include people’s houses.

It is not obvious as to why they choose the locations that they do each winter. Given the ease at which they roam in search of food, proximity of their next meal seems rarely a concern. They are capable of gliding and soaring many miles each day. No doubt they require a location with a substrate that warms readily in the morning sun to provide the updrafts they require to reach cruising altitude. Vultures do need a perch that is open enough to allow them to spread their wings on takeoff. This is likely why they are found roosting in more open environments.

For those living near a vulture roost site, be aware that the birds seldom use the same location for more than one season. This could be for reasons of cleanliness or to perhaps reduce the chances of predation — but we really do not know. Also, do not expect that the wake will persist beyond early spring. The group will break up and head off to their breeding grounds by late February or early March. Using prevailing southerly breezes, they will be carried back north in short order.

Although we do have small numbers of breeding vultures in the Piedmont and Sandhills of North Carolina, they are widely dispersed and are quite secretive during the nesting season. Unless they are on the wing, sniffing out (yes, they use their noses more than their eyes) their next meal, they may go completely overlooked.  OH

Susan Campbell would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos. She can be contacted at

The Pleasures of Life

Ode to a Daffodil

Acres of yellow blooms beckon the splendor of spring

By Lindsay Morris

In the evening Alice sat on her grandfather’s knee and listened to his stories of faraway places. When he had finished, Alice would say, “When I grow up, I, too, will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I, too, will live beside the sea.”

That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“What is that?” asked Alice.

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” said her grandfather.

“All right,” said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney


I remember the morning as if it were yesterday. It was early, oh so very early. Much too early for my 8-year-old, growing body. With every ounce of my being, I silently commanded my spirit to ignore the telltale signs of the low beams of light seeping through my blinds. I ordered the gentle tugging on my shoulder to relegate its dictates to the deep recesses of my dreams. Within moments, the strong hands that tugged also separated me from the comfy sanctuary of flannel sheets that enveloped me and jarringly forced me to welcome the earliest moments of dawn.

And then the magic words were spoken: “It’s time.” Just as a hypnotist awakens his client from the edge of consciousness, I was completely awake and reminded of our task at hand. In a trance, I methodically enumerated my to-do list, putting on work boots, donning gardening gloves and grabbing whatever was accessible on the kitchen counter to fuel what I knew would be a long day ahead.

Opening the back door of my childhood home has always brought about visions of Wonderland or Terabithia, and that morning was no different, other than the sun shining much lower and more intensely through the dense trees that hedged our little world of Avalon Loop. You see, Avalon was a world my sisters and I firmly believed God created for our imaginations. The animals of the realm, while not visible, could certainly be heard talking among one another. From the swans’ snorts and the ducks’ cackles on the pond to the neighing of our horse, Ike, son of Tina, and the low whimpers and barks of our dogs, all were offering their morning greetings. But time with furry and feather friends would have to wait. It was as if they, too, had heard the summons, “It’s time,” as my father walked by with tools and bags in hand.

I followed his lead with confidence, knowing that he always had a plan prepared with precision and efficiency. I also knew there would be rules that I must follow, but that is how order thrives in the kingdom of Avalon. My father was a Renaissance Man, one who could dream, create and implement with scientific acumen — a rare man of beauty and science. As much as my young mind could conceive, I knew his goal was never to disrupt nature, but instead to curate it and if possible, unveil and highlight its beauty.  

But that warm October morning, I feared our task that day may not reach completion as I observed the mound of bulbs at our feet. My father, a patient and determined man, seemed nonplussed and content to get started. According to my father, we had around one thousand bulbs to plant alongside the driveway and the north end of the pond. Listening closely, I absorbed with great care his meticulous instructions. He demonstrated how to push the spade into the soil just enough so that the bulb was covered but would still have room to adequately grow and absorb the earth’s nutrients. I worked alongside him, mirroring as closely as possible how he broke the earth. With his small spade, he calculated the distance, spaced and designated a home for each bulb. His plan was masterful, and it played out like a lyrical dance as we glided down the hillside.

The minutes quickly turned into hours. Only when the sun began to dim over the pond did it call out to the swans, ducks and geese, who echoed in unison to the fading sunlight. As I surveyed our work, a sense of pride filled my entire being. With a reassuring smile, my father glanced over at me, tired, but expectant. While my arms and limbs were heavy with fatigue, it could not rival the growing anticipation of what I knew the spring would reveal.

And spring could not come soon enough for my impatient spirit. I remember assessing the soil on a daily basis, practically pleading with it to offer any sign of life. 

The winter of 1990 was a particularly cold one, and those first shoots of bright spring green seemed as though they would never appear. I imagined myself to be an evangelist, praying and wooing those tiny bulbs that we had so carefully sown to rise from the earth. I wasn’t even particularly sure what variety of flower they were because I had never asked my father. Instead, I hoped to be surprised by what would spring forth from the work of our hands. I wanted their beauty to be unveiled in their own timing. And it wasn’t long after their green shoots greeted the sun that I noticed a yellow tint to a few of them. However, as quickly as my synapses fired this message to my brain, my heart sank with great dismay. 

Yellow: The color of sickness, the color of school buses and pencils. For me, it was more than just a color that clashed with my golden blond hair, impeding me from wearing anything in its hue, but it also made me anxious and uneasy about everything when it surrounded me. For some reason, yellow fully dilated my senses. You see, colors have always had a way with me. I have synesthesia, in which colors dictate my mood, my taste and my sense of well-being about the world. After all these months of anticipatory excitement, I was now utterly uncertain what this initial indication of yellow would reveal. However, just a few mornings later in February, I was awakened to an unseasonably warm and sunny day. Rushing outside, I expected to be greeted with sickness at the sight of so much yellow. 

However, nothing could have prepared me for what my eyes encountered and the response that followed. If heaven could be so adorned with rays of golden and lemony yellows, and even yellows marked with golden orange halos, I would have thought that I was in the realms of glory. I willingly abdicated my senses and gazed upward to the sun and offered it gratitude for the beauty that it had nurtured and now reflected. Yellow no longer triggered painful anxieties to rush through my veins, but instead lovingly beckoned me to sit among it to just soak in its splendor.

And the splendor of our daffodils has grown exponentially over the years. More than 30 years later, their yellow blooms have become an intrinsic part of our family’s life, just as they have become the centerpiece around many occasions with family and friends. Not only are they the foremost indicator of spring’s arrival, but each year, without fail, they celebrate my March 1st birthday with grandeur. They have marked with great intentionality baptisms and homecomings. 

Now, more than three decades later, not only has my memory of that day remained vividly intact, but with each passing year numerous events and moments with the daffodils have been added to the storehouse of my memories. You see, over the course of three decades, the daffodils have been divided and spread over and under and around our property.  Easily covering five or more acres, adorning both entrances and even abounding in great numbers around the loop road surrounding our pond, their numbers now add up to more than 25,000 flowering blooms. The magic of that day has turned into a proliferation of beauty that not only welcomes but befriends all who enter the realm of Avalon each spring. Their beauty, and the work of our hands, has been a reminder of what planting and nurturing can create. 

This is how Miss Alice Rumphius from Barbara Cooney’s beloved children’s book learned to make the world more beautiful by spreading her lupine seeds across her home and down by the sea. Similarly, my father, on that unseasonably warm October day, showed me with love and patience how beauty can be elicited and magnified in unexpected ways through the vision of a daffodil bloom.  OH

Though living alongside the Mayo River in Rockingham County, Lindsay Morris is connected to Greensboro through the spirit of Howard Coble and her love of the local arts scene. 


March Books

Compiled by Shannon Purdy Jones

After an entire winter spent indoors (and especially this COVID winter) spring feels like I’m shedding a winter cocoon and stepping back out into the world.

It’s no surprise that at Scuppernong one of our favorite ways to connect with our community is over a good book. We have four book clubs that meet on a monthly basis at Scup, including a brand-new Romance Book Club launching this month. If you’re feeling the urge to shake off the winter cobwebs and reconnect, then find below our next few month’s book club picks to see which conversations fit you. Or, head over to our events calendar at (Book clubs meet on Zoom, though we hope to move back to in-person this year as COVID precautions allow. Login info for each book club Zoom is available on our events calendar.)

White Shadow by Roy Jacobsen (Biblioasis, $16.95).  March Reading the World Book Club pick

No one can be alone on an island . . . but Ingrid is alone on Barrøy, the island that bears her name. The war of her childhood has been replaced by a new, more terrible present — the Nazi occupation of Norway. When bodies from a bombed vessel carrying Soviet prisoners of war begin to wash up on the shore, Ingrid can’t know that one will not only be alive but could be the answer to a lifetime of loneliness — nor can she imagine what suffering she will endure in hiding her lover from Nazi authorities, or the journey she will face, after being wrenched from her island as a consequence for protecting him, to return home.

This highly anticipated follow-up to Roy Jacobsen’s International Booker and Dublin Impac Award-shortlisted The Unseen, a New York Times New and Noteworthy book, White Shadow is a vividly observed exploration of conflict, love and human endurance.

Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe (Orbit, $17.99) 

March Sci-Fi Book Club pick

Nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award for Best Novel

Sanda and Biran Greeve were siblings destined for greatness. A high-flying sergeant, Sanda has the skills to take down any enemy combatant. Biran is a savvy politician who aims to use his new political position to prevent conflict from escalating to total destruction.

However, on a routine maneuver, Sanda loses consciousness when her gunship is blown out of the sky. Instead of finding herself in friendly hands, she awakens 230 years later on a deserted enemy warship controlled by an A-I who calls himself Bero.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood (Berkley, $16.00) March Romance Book Club pick

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor — and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

Dead on Arrival by Jaki Shelton Green (Blair, $10.95)

March Poetry Book Club Pick

This is a welcome reissue of Jaki Shelton Green’s acclaimed premier collection of poetry. Green’s earlier works pulse with the intoxicating rhythms and fierce clarity of image that made her one of North Carolina’s most popular poets. Here is an artist, at turns, angry and wickedly funny, demanding justice yet possessed of a refined grace.  OH

Shannon Purdy Jones is store manager and children’s book buyer for Scuppernong Books.