The Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County

When a grisly murder takes place in Lickskillet’s premiere gated community, a hate crime trial begins that will transform the town into the most falsely tolerant, politically divided citizens in South Carolina. Declin Ostrander arrives with his father who works as both a public relations agent and lawyer for the Knights of Southern Heritage. When member Matthew Pepper is accused, Declin ends up in Lickskillet. He does not, however, care too fondly about the Knights the victims, relishing the chance to constantly move from town to town. With each new city comes a new identity. A new trial, a new house, a new you.

When Declin arrives at Lickskillet High, he is macho incarnate, ladies’ man to the extreme. But when he encounters the local teen scene, he must quickly adapt to a new lifestyle. He struggles to relate with others and must seek out his own identity in the wake of tragedy.

The story follows Declin, his friends, as well as other members of the community as they navigate life in a small southern town, their stories weaved with news articles, court transcripts, and social media status updates from the community “Chorus.” They will learn community secrets, the price of justice, and what it means to grow up.

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I began writing the novel when a simple idea crossed my mind. People are not so bad; in fact, most are pretty good. Though it seems like a simple idea, we often forget that. We divide ourselves into groups, cliques, and war zones. We raise up fences between those who are richer or poorer than us, those of a different race, those who do not speak our language, those we perceive as close-minded while by not listening to their opinions we become small-minded. For that reason, I wanted to write about one of the most universally despised groups: southern heritage groups.

I think it’s important to realize that despite preconceptions we may have about any certain group of people, all should be treated equally under the law and in our hearts. It is exquisitely painful to accept people who might actually hate you, but that is the price of love.

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The novel follows the intertwining stories of several teenagers. Because the novel is written as a series of short stories and essays by various characters, we see facets of each person. Here I’ll introduce some of the teens telling the story.

Declin

If no one knew who you were, you could be anyone.

In Tulsa, you’ve seen a mob murder and have been relocated by the Witness Protection Program.

In Columbus, you’ve lived in the Australian Outback with the aborigines.

If you only ever stay in one place for a few months—the length of a hate crime trial—it was easy to be someone new.

                In Lickskillet, I was nobody.

Aron

We spent too much of our lives wandering around at parties, searching out someone to have sex with as if that one night stand could change our lives, cure our insecurities, and heighten our social status. But in the morning when the others left, we discovered we were still alone. The foolish game we played, that yearning so long for a few minutes of ecstasy, still left us lonely.

Blaine

Summer wasn’t for planning for the future, but instead deconstructing it. As far as I knew, the world might have ended before I ever started school. That would have been more than fine with me. A comet could have come down to smash our town to bits, and that would have been fine. We couldn’t be so sure working hard would pay off, so we didn’t work. We smoked and drank and stayed up too late and slept in all day. Sometimes, we spent entire days in the hot sun, reading obscene books and telling each other shocking, half-truthful stories. We weren’t sure what might last, what might not.

In our temporal little universe, with our fleeting ideas and dreams, wearing new faces every day, we could take nothing for granted, not even death.

Cass

Women had always been the dominant sex, ever since Eve gave Adam that apple. He could have snatched it away and said, “No, bitch, we’re not supposed to eat that.” But she gave it to him and he ate it. Now we all ended up dying shrunken, wrinkled, without any friends in our parent’s basement. Such was the fate of every human being who had ever and would ever live. First, degenerative Alzheimer’s, then a slow plummet into death.

Pepper

Back at the briar, I lifted the bow to eyelevel and as if God wished to mark this night for me as the night I passed into the terrible realm of knowing secrets, He shined a ray of silver moonlight through the pines to spotlight a single deer. He stood majestic just feet away, seemingly watching me, so much a part of nature I could not take in his sublime nature.

                I drew the bow back, and the deer did not flinch. Twang. The arrow struck the deer in the chest. The deer stumbled and fell, jerking slightly with the arrow protruding of what I guessed was his heart. Tomorrow morning, it would hang upside down in the skinning shack. I needed no one’s help to clean this kill, even if it took all night. Leave them to secrets and costumes and foolish plans. Someone needed to act, someone needed to find what really happened to Jameson that night. I could do it.

Elijah

Is it still weird that I’m calling you Quentin? I know I am supposed to call you, “Dear Diary” or “dearest diary” or “deepest friend of mine,” but my dad says diaries are for homosexuals. That’s why I started calling you Quentin because it is almost like I’m talking to a friend, not a book.

Today, I’m writing to you because I have not written in more than a year. Flipping through the pages I wrote when I was a sophomore depresses me. My understanding of grammar and proper syntax was dismal. It would be very embarrassing for some future humans or even a future race to locate this diary as the final artifact of our era only to discover our ability to write was subpar. Sometimes, I think the only reason people may read this is because they found in on some archeological site. Or maybe it’s just some dusty little book in a box in my parents’ attic that tax collectors will find and burn along with the rest of our junk.

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