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Slope from triumph to tragedy is slippery
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When Peggy Sue went away, just fell off the face of the Earth with no warning or even a holler, we all wondered where she had gone.
She’d been a big deal for so long that her abrupt disappearance from sight was mystifying to say the least and worth a few gossip sessions to say the most. After a while, I just got tired of wondering and tired of asking about her whereabouts, so I just sat down to figure it out.
Not to sound boastful, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got the mystery solved. You’ll understand when I tell you her back story.
Peggy Sue was something like six or seven months pregnant with her second child when the no-good rascal she had married up and left for parts unknown with a woman well-known for such antics. There’s no denying that Peggy Sue had it rough. All “swolled” up with child as her mama liked to say, she stood on her feet for long hours at the diner in her little town in rural Kentucky, waiting on both friends and strangers for tips and meager wages.
She was a woman to be admired. She worked hard to string ends together for her and the children, and though it was not a leisurely existence, she got by. Barely. Still, she was proud not to have to depend on money from her parents or the government or even the kindly folks at the little Baptist church she attended as regularly as work would permit.
Now, Peggy Sue was a storyteller of the finest proportions. She knew how to lay a story out in a way that was captivating, humorous and touching all at the same time. Though I can’t imagine where she found the time — since she was pretty consumed with finding a way to buy diapers and pay the rent — she wrote a novel. It featured a character who was a thinly disguised version of the no-good rascal she had married, and the story focused on the “no good” that had come from her association with him. There are those of us who find art in the hurts of the heart. Peggy Sue was cleverly one of those.
One of her customers at the diner knew someone who knew someone who was in publishing, so he sent Peggy Sue’s novel off to a big book publisher in New York. She got published. It was a best-seller and soon got snatched up by a movie producer for a nice wad of change. She quit waitressing. Wrote another book. Made more money. One book brought in more than $3 million.
To be honest, some of us (and one of “us” would be me) were simultaneously proud and envious. It looked so easy for her. The writing came easy, the money came easier. Soon, life was rolling along and Peggy Sue, who had sworn that no man would come close to her again, got swept off her feet by some dreamy charmer and, suddenly, the girl who once had nothing, had everything. They moved off for a bigger town and bought a stunning house with a gated entrance. For a long time, I’d hear about her through mutual acquaintances in the publishing business, but news of her slowly dribbled away. No one knew anything. She quit her agent, quit her publisher and, apparently, quit writing.
“She made a lot of money. Doesn’t need to work,” someone opined.
I don’t think so. My figuring is this: Peggy Sue is broke because when you’ve had nothing then suddenly you have a bunch of something, money disappears like butter in a hot skillet. Men who marry for money are like women who marry for it — they never stay put when the money runs out.
I suspect her husband quit her and the big house is gone. Triumph, I have learned, turns to tragedy if you don’t watch out.

Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin.’” Go to to sign up for her newsletter.

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