Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 2, Featuring Resa McConaghy

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Hello, everyone.  Welcome back to my new, spontaneously written, reader-inspired serial, Atonement in Zugzwang.  If you missed it, or if you need to refresh your memory, click here for Episode 1

Resa McConaghy designing
Resa McConaghy

Many of you know Resa McConaghy for the mural photos, Art Gown sketches, and the gowns she actually makes.  Did you know that she has been a costume designer for popular television shows and film?  It’s true.  You can find some of her credits listed at this IMDb page about Resa.

When I was a “tween” and teenager, I dreamed of being a fashion designer.  (I also made and designed all of my own clothes from age 12 and into my 30s.  I learned a lot about fabrics, proper ways for the pieces to be cut, and so on.) I filled many sketchbooks with my attempts at drawing my designs.  In my late teens I became interested in the work costume designers did.  I began to practice some of those.  The job is much more detailed than you might imagine.  I never got to pursue that or any kind of art as a career, but my interest, fascination, and admiration for it remains.

Rather than asking Resa for “three random reader things” I asked her to describe an outfit for Pepper Riley, the protagonist of this serial.

To my surprise and delight, Resa offered to draw a sketch!  Professional that she is, Resa asked to know more about Pepper’s appearance.  This is how I described her:

  •  Dresses somewhat conservatively, but likes retro pieces
  •  Likes hats
  •  Curvy rather than thin
  •  Blond hair dyed to rose gold, and she’s been letting it grow long
  •  Face shape is sort of rectangular (looks rather like Daryl Hannah)

Remember that I mentioned the amount of detail that costume designers have to include.  Here is Resa’s list of everything Pepper is wearing in her sketch:

  •  Vintage (circa 1975) Chanel jacket in black and dark tan checked tweed with gold buttons
  •  Sleeveless black mock-turtle pullover
  •  Medium blue fine cotton drill boot-cut slacks (J. Crew, Club Monaco, Ann Taylor)
  •  Boot style shoe (dark tan)
  •  Brown belt with gold buckle
  •  Watch:  Black band with gold face
  •  Black felt hat (Spanish style)

I’m awed by this attention to detail, and I fully grasp the knowledge and talent involved.

I started to go back and also ask Resa for “three things” but I decided to take them from her thorough description.  The things for this episode are buttons, vintage, and crew.

Atonement in Zugzwang

Episode 2

Pepper Riley as imagined by Resa McConaghy
Pepper Riley as imagined by Resa McConaghy

The tearoom at Adelle’s Attic wasn’t open for breakfast.  However, the next morning, Maudie told me that the proprietress suggested that we drop in at the kitchen for coffee and pastries.  Maudie Rocket has quite a sweet tooth.  I knew there was no point in protesting.

A few things were already arranged on a sideboard, just outside the kitchen when we let ourselves into the tearoom.  The aromas were amazing.  In apparent anticipation of my hesitation, a folded card was beside a tray of breakfast goodies.  In flowing but neat handwriting, it said, “Help yourselves, Adelle.”

An etagere beside the sideboard held several photos.  One was of two women who would have been identical, except for the fact that they looked like a yin and yang symbol.  Their heads were bent together, one platinum blonde and the other black haired.

“That’s Adelle Metatron and her twin sister Annie,” Maudie commented when she saw that had absorbed my attention.  “Annie runs an antique and consignment shop.”

“And these two gorgeous young men are my nephews, Dale and Donny,” said a cultured voice.

Blushing because hearing a voice suddenly at my shoulder had caused me to jump, I murmured something unintelligible.  Maudie introduced me to our hostess, Adelle.  After a warm greeting, she placed a new photo on the shelf.  She wasn’t exaggerating about her nephews being gorgeous.

“The boys have just opened a thrift shop for men’s and women’s clothing.  Actually, Annie was getting too much of that kind of merchandise.  She wants to limit her stock to antiques.  So, she set the boys up in business.  That should help keep them out of mischief too.”

My friend couldn’t tear her eyes away from the photo.

“Cool off Maudie.  They are too young for you,” I hissed.

“See, Pepper. I told you this town was running over with handsome men,” she whispered back to me, and then turned to Adelle.  “Miss Metatron, I’d like to discuss extending my stay in the guest house.”

“Of course, dear,” Adelle replied, but her abruptly unsettling gaze was on me.  “Pepper, I was acquainted with your uncle.  Once you visit the properties… you’ll realize that they warrant further investigation.  The old gas station has terrific potential.  It could be remodeled into a unique and charming home.  There’s much more to it than meets the eye.”

“But I don’t have any plans to relocate,” I started, although Adelle had a strange faraway expression on her face.

“Strong elemental forces are in play, my dear.  It’s best to place yourself at a position that allows you make your own decisions,” Adelle continued.  “When higher powers begin a game, one would not want to end up in zugzwang — with your back against a wall.”

I shivered at the woman’s strange manner and tone.  She seemed entranced.  Abruptly she blinked and then smoothed her glossy black hair.

“What was I saying?  At any rate, stop by the thrift shop.  You’ll need more clothes than you brought with you.  Tell Dale and Donny that I said to give you a discount.  They have some vintage things that you will love,” she finished.

Then Adelle Metatron casually walked away, as if we’d had an ordinary conversation.  Maudie turned to each other, gaping in bemused astonishment.

♣ ♣ ♣

Gordon Johnson Pixabay
Gordon Johnson, Pixabay

My appointment with the attorney wasn’t for a few hours yet.  At Maudie’s urging we went to the thrift shop.

I was a little reluctant.  The strange way that Adelle Metatron acted had unnerved me.  Plus, how could she know how many, or how few, clothes I brought with me?

It was early, but the door to the thrift shop was not locked.  A little bell tinged when we went inside.  I had a glimpse of a pale blond head as Donny looked out from the stock room just long enough to greet us.

“I’ll be right with you ladies,” he called.  “Feel free to look around.”

“Maudie, please.  Whatever suggestive remark you’re about to make, just don’t.  I know he’s a beautiful young man, but he’s a teenager, for crying out loud,” I warned my uninhibited friend.

“Pepper, you’re no fun at all,” she complained.

Within minutes I had found everything I needed for two full outfits.  I was astonished that there was so much in my sizes.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think they knew you were coming,” Maudie chuckled, but her words gave me an unexpectedly strange feeling.  “Oh, look at this vintage Chanel jacket!  Don’t you just love that black and tan tweed?  With those gold buttons, it will look great with the pullover you’re holding.”

I had not heard the tall, leanly muscled young man walk over to us.  He made a chocking noise when he saw the jacket Maudie held.  He moved his hands as if he would take it away from her, but then he stopped himself.  Donny muttered under his breath with a sigh of resignation.

“I can’t believe they let anything with those buttons back in here.  If anybody summons a unicorn again then I… I… Then I quit!” he grumbled.

“What do you mean?” I asked, perplexed.

Meanwhile I inspected the gold buttons on the jacket.  They were not the original Chanel buttons.  In stead they had a raised design of a unicorn.

“Well, we won’t have to worry about anything, Pepper.  Don’t unicorns come to virgins?” Maudie quipped.

At her words, Donny turned scarlet and stalked away.  He muttered curses and threats to his absent brother, who was apparently responsible for the presence of the garment.

“Dale doesn’t know what’s good for him.  When I get my hands on him…” his words trailed away, but he turned back to face us.  “Mom said to let you buy anything you want.  So that would include those buttons.  She also got ahold of a peacoat that belonged to Salty and had it altered for you.  Give me just a sec and I’ll get it.”

“How could anybody here know my size?” I whispered to Maudie, but she was already looking for components for a third outfit.  “This place is too strange for words.”

♣ ♣ ♣

Old Bank of Dyersburg TN Wikipedia
Old Bank of Dyersburg, TN at Wikipedia

Dan Barrett, the attorney handling my uncle’s estate was prominent in Nashville.  Before Salty’s death he had opened a second office in Atonement.  He divided his time between the two places, but his local hours were limited.

I told Maudie that I had the feeling that he only opened the Atonement branch so that he could spend more time with someone in the little town.

As we walked toward the office, we saw a mature man dressed in a well-cut business suit.  He was beside a pickup truck and a middle-aged woman with a cowboy hat.  He kissed the woman on the cheek and gallantly helped her into the truck.

“Are we on for dinner, then, Marge?” I faintly heard him ask her before he smiled and waved a farewell.

“Looks like love,” Maudie snarked.  “So much for your lawyer.  It seems like everybody is already paired off.”

However, it turned out that the man wasn’t Dan Barrett.  He caught up with us at the office door and introduced himself as Russell Skeen, the manager of First Bank & Trust.

“I hope you don’t mind this intrusion into your meeting.  Your uncle left some things for you that have been stored in the bank’s vault,” Mr. Skeen added.  “And please, call me Russell.  We don’t stand on formality here.”

When we entered the office the first thing Maudie spotted was a photo of a picture-perfect looking blonde woman.  My friend gave a derisive snort.  However, that didn’t keep her from making an appreciative noise when the dashing attorney came into the room.

He was not very tall, and wide shoulders gave him a deceptively stocky appearance.  His hair and neatly trimmed beard were both brown.  When he extended his hand to shake mine, I noticed an expensive wristwatch.

He really must be good at his job, I guessed, based on the watch.

While the banker and the lawyer discussed technicalities, Maudie nudged me.  Annoyance tilted her mouth.

“Pepper, do you know what your problem is?”

“According to you, Maudie, it’s that I don’t like to have fun.”

“Well, there’s that,” Maudie admitted.  “Your problem is that you like ugly men.”

I was saved from responding to that when Mr. Skeen called my name.

“Ms. Riley, your Uncle Wirt—”

“Wirt?  His name was Wirt?” Maudie interrupted.  “That’s even worse than Salty.”

“He got the nickname Salty because he was a merchant marine,” I explained.  “He was responsible for me being called Pepper.  When I was little, he always joked that we made a great crew — Salty and Pepper.”

“The family always thought it was strange that he moved to Atonement, Tennessee when he gave up the merchant marines,” I continued.  “But all he would say wat that he was drawn to this town.”

“Mr. Riley left his valuables in the vault at the Bank & Trust,” the lawyer stated.  “That’s why Russell is here.”

“I’m afraid they’re taking up too much room.  Wirt had a good security system installed at the old gas station.  But with it being empty after his death, I agreed to store them for a while.  I’ll have some security men take them back there, after you’ve finished with the legalities with Dan here,” the bank manager explained.

I gulped.  Russell Skeen’s words made me feel hemmed in, committed.  Although to what exactly, I couldn’t say.

What was it Adelle said?  Not to let myself get my back put against a wall.  Don’t be put in zugzwang?

As I sat across from Dan Barrett, listening to him go over numerous details, Russell Skeen gave my hand a fatherly pat.  Looking up, I saw Maudie gaze sympathetically at me.  I didn’t realize until that moment that a tear crept down my cheek.

Dashing away the tear, I apologized.  I had grieved for the uncle I remembered from my childhood.  However, I was seeing that there was so much of his life of which I had never been aware.  That part of him demanded grief as well.

“I’d like to visit his grave,” I told them.  “Where is the cemetery?”

The banker and the attorney cast nervous glances at each other.

“I thought you must already know,” Skeen said.

“There’s something you should know,” replied Barrett at the same time.

♣ ♣ ♣

Something like what?  In Atonement, Tennessee that could mean almost anything.

Episode 3 will be inspired by three things from Dan Antion, at the No Facilities blog.  Don’t miss it.  Wishing you a wonderful weekend.  I love to hear from you, so friendly comments are encouraged.  Hugs!

♣ ♣ ♣

The Atonement Series

Atonement kindle covers Cat eyes shelf 2023

Atonement, Tennessee

Full series of e-books with one click:  relinks.me/B087JV25JT

Kindle:  rxe.me/HGSVA8A

Paperback: relinks.me/1481826948

Also in Spanish, translated by Olga Núñez Miret! The title for the Spanish-speaking market is Expiación y Magia

Atonement in Bloom

Kindle:  rxe.me/5RRBLH

Paperback:  relinks.me/1726882128

The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Kindle   rxe.me/LTBDNH

Paperback   relinks.me/1725891972

♣ ♣ ♣

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2022 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or used with permission, or from free sources.

62 thoughts on “Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 2, Featuring Resa McConaghy

  1. This is a really captivating article, but I do not need to tell you that because of all the comments in relation to this. I appreciate the photos that you always include. Thank you for continuing your outstanding articles, photos, etc.! ! !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the name Pepper. (Pepper Basham is one of my fave authors.) “Pepper Riley” dances on the tongue. Excellent character name, Teagan! Resa did a fabulous job fashioning Pepper. If I were a snazzy dresser (you know, other than my bare feet, tee shirts, and shorts), I would wear her outfit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the outfit, Priscilla. Resa did a terrific job. It actually reminded me of the kind of thing I would have put together for the office.
      Thanks about Pepper’s name. I always put a lot of thought, research, and effort into choosing character names. I’m not familiar with Ms. Basham. I’ll have to look into her work.
      Wishing you huge success with your new short-stories book. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Teagan, what a smashing episode. I really love Resa gorgeous picture and the outfit is wonderful, as you mentioned, so much attention to detail. When I was a tween and young teenager, I used to design and make clothes for dolls on my mom’s old sewing machine. Now, I just wonder what has happened to Uncle Salty’s remains?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A great intro to Resa and her wonderful drawing of Pepper, Teagan. How fun to have that image in my head now as I read onward. I really like Pepper and Maude’s relationship. It’s so real and relatable. A fun episode and I look forward to learning about what happened to Salty’s body!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your feedback on the characters’ friendship/relationship, Diana. I find that it’s much more work and thought to develop a narrator character.
      Haha… (rueful chuckle) I look forward to learning what is going on with Salty’s body too. o_O

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The mysteries are already building. It was so good to see Resa here. She is very talented, and I think dressed Pepper very well. I thought having pepper outfitted in a secondhand store was genius, Teagan. Super episode and can’t wait for what isn’t being said in this episode.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, John. Resa really is a gem.
      Huge thanks for your feedback on the thrift shop. I figured a town as small as Atonement would only have one dress shop– if that. And a secondhand store seemed like a natural progression/expansion for the antiques and consignment store.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to earn my title “Cliffhanger Maven” Liz. LOL.
      I’m delighted with Resa’s sketch. In writing Pepper as the narrator in a few Pumpkin Hat Girls story, I never had the need to develop her appearance. When Resa asked for a description, I realized that. I’m glad she put me on the spot. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. This is fabulous Teagan! Thank you so much for having me help kickoff the new serial.

    Pepper looks marvellous! 😉
    I read last weeks entry, and now with this week’s episode, you are off to a grand start.

    SO, we had a snow storm last night. The photographer lives out of town, so we postponed until tomorrow. That’s okay by me, as I could use a bit more prep time!

    So, now to make a coffee and put up a quick post!

    PS… PERHAPS down the story road, near the end… there will be some kind of outfit … (a party, an other event, I don’t know … a mistake where her outfit doesn’t make sense…out of place..)….

    Anyway, if and when you see something coming, let me know!
    I’ll do another Pepper drawing!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Resa, you treasure! I’d be thrilled for you to do another Pepper drawing. What the heck — maybe there will be some kind of fashion show — a fundraiser for an old building… Or maybe even one of those “bachelor auctions” — which would of course be formal so Pepper would need a gown.

      I’m sorry about the snow. Do take good care of you. Heartfelt thanks for working with me and for reading and commenting. Big hugs back to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This serial is off to a wonderful start, Teagan. Resa’s drawing is a delightful depiction of Pepper. Easy to imagine her now. Too much stuff in storage for the bank to hold? I am curious as to where your mind is heading. There is something about Atonement 😉

    I hope you have a great weekend. I’m already looking forward to next week. I remember the things (of course I have no idea how you will work them in).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for this marvelous comment, Dan.
      I figure the bank’s vault isn’t all that large. The one where I worked back in the day was not big. Regardless, a few large items would get in the way. But just what are those large items? Right now, I have no idea, except for a checkerboard/chess-topped table.
      If you remember the things you gave, then you’re way ahead of me, LOL! I know I saved the email though. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love Resa’s drawing, the outfit, and her version of Pepper. So very stylish! The buttons… And Adele, her nephews… And what does Pepper need to know? What a chapter, Teagan! I can’t wait for the next one! Saturdays have become much more exciting! Many thanks! ♥

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Another wonderful episode Teagan. and I love you getting together with Resa… She holds amazing talent with her wonderful gown creations and those photo’s of Graffiti artwork..

    Well done you too for your own skill at designing and making your own clothes… I worked in the textile trade within a factory envirioment and learnt every type of skill.. And I used to love making my own dresses and dresses for my daughter.. So I know the skill involved Teagan…. Its very satisfying being creative..

    And your stories are always that… Loved the sketches Resa has done, She has totally captured Pepper.. on Paper! 🙂 ❤
    Have a wonderful weekend Teagan.. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. With all your creativity, Sue, I’m not surprised to hear that you made clothing. I loved doing it for a long time (clothes and household items too). I guess I fell out of love with it when I could no longer find fabrics that I liked… and in the rare times that I did, the prices had become astronomical (long before all the COVID-flation).
      Many thanks for visiting. I’m so happy you enjoyed this combined effort. Hugs. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

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