Martin (Chapter Two)

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application

I walked across the street and stared at the sign in the window at Jensen’s Hardware.
I have dyslexia, so it’s a challenge to read most of the time. I got the message, though. They wanted to hire somebody. Maybe that somebody could be me. I straightened my leather jacket and entered the store.
“Why, if it isn’t Martin. How are you, son?”
Mrs. Jensen knows me from church. I go there with my parents, even though I resent it. I figure I’m too old to be seen with them. I’m nearly eighteen.
“I’m fine, Mrs. Jensen. I wondered if you’d consider me for the job you’re advertising?”
“Why, of course. I’ll need you to fill out an application, though. Can you do that?”
“I could. Would it be okay if I take it home and bring it back later?” I asked because my mom would help me fill out the form. Like I said, I’ve got dyslexia.
“Sure, Martin.” Mrs. Jensen reached in below the cash register and brought out a sheet of paper. I took it from her and promised I’d bring it back soon.
I folded it up and stuck it in my jacket pocket. I left the shop and walked down the street, in the general direction of home.

***
Then I got waylaid by Kate. She was carrying a bag from WalMart. She grinned and asked me what I was doing.
“Nothing much. Wanna hang out?”
“Sorry, Martin. I’ve got to get to work. C’mon with me. We can talk while you walk me over there.”
It was about two blocks to Mayer’s. I joined Kate and we talked about the party on Friday night.
“You are coming, aren’t you, Martin?”
“I might. Then again, I might have to work.”
“Really? Did you get a job then?”
“Not yet. But I have a lead.”
“Good. Mom says you’re lazy and we got into a fight about it.”
“I’m sorry.”
Kate laughed. “No need to apologize. My mom and I fight over all kinds of things.”
By this time, we had got to the coffee shop, and I said goodbye to Kate. She went into the building and I walked home. The leaves were crunchy beneath my feet. I liked the noise.
When I arrived at our house, a big ranch style that was built in the fifties, I went in and called for my mom. She wasn’t home.
Probably off to play whist, I thought. She and dad retired a couple of years ago. Did I mention that I am a late baby? My mom and dad were both over forty when I was born. They’ve always seemed old to me.
I knew mom would help me fill out the application. I needed a job. Not because I needed money. Dad made sure I received a generous allowance every week. I wanted to work because I wanted to feel normal. Other kids I knew had jobs, why not me? I was going off to college next year, and I wanted some work experience of some sort to add to my college applications. I already volunteered to help special needs kids through our church. If this job panned out, I’d be all set, I thought.
Just in case I couldn’t get into college. My dyslexia was a problem.

***
I went into the kitchen and made a peanut butter sandwich with extra jelly. I put it on a plate and headed to my room, leaving the application form on the kitchen table.
My room was my sanctuary. Mom and dad trusted me to clean it when required, and neither of my parents ever went in there. It was my place.
I switched on my radio and listened to the news and then some music. I was really too excited over the possibility of getting this job. I wasn’t sure why. I must be an idiot to be this worked up. Anyone my age already had worked a couple of different places. I was the only one I knew who hadn’t. Maybe I had a right to be excited then.
I finished my sandwich and put the plate on my night table. Then I called Lainie.
Most of the kids at school thought we had something going on, but we didn’t. I wouldn’t mind though. I had hopes that something would bring us closer together.
We met in third grade, when I moved here, and we’d bonded over a stray kitten we found walking home from school. Lainie had taken it in, and I knew she’d taken some comfort in doing that. After her mom died, she had only the cat. Her dad did nothing but yell at her, it seemed to me. I avoided going over there unless there was no choice. Most times I’d come to the door, and we’d leave right away. We’d go out to Mayer’s and have coffee or a soda and talk for hours. We were lucky that the owners didn’t mind us staying so long. They were an older couple, who loved their work.

***
“Hello,” Lainie said when I called.
“Hi there, Lain. Wanna go for coffee?”
Lainie said, “Can’t Martin. I’m in the middle of making dinner right now.”
“I’m in the middle of thinking you’re the cutest girl I’ve ever known.”
“Oh, Martin! You are funny!” Lainie laughed and I thought it was the nicest sound I’d heard all day.
“I got big news,” I told her.
“What’s that Martin?”
“I’m going to apply for a job tomorrow.”
“Great! Where?”
“At the hardware store.”
“Oh, Martin, not there!”
Lainie sounded less than happy.
I asked her why not, and she told me. She was after that job.
I knew she needed the money.
I asked her if she wanted to get together after she was done dinner.
“Sure, Martin. Wanna come over?”
We settled on a time to meet up at her house.
I put down my phone and sighed. No way was I going to try and take that job now. I supposed I’d have to go out tomorrow and start at one end of Main Street to the other, asking at every shop if they needed help. Might come up with something.
I took a shower and changed. Mom was home by the time I went downstairs. She greeted me and told me she’d won at whist. She was beaming. I knew she wasn’t that good a player and she usually lost, so I gave her a hug and congratulated her.

“Mom, I need your help to fill out an application for a job at the hardware store. Can you help me with it? Not tonight, though. I gotta meet Lainie.”

Mom told me that was fine and then Dad came home. Before I left, he offered to help Mom make dinner. He was a bit miffed that I wasn’t going to be there for dinner. He likes our “family time”, he calls it. I left the house.

***
I got to Lainie’s and rang the bell. Her Dad answered the door, and glared at me. He’d once accused me of laziness and being “spoilt”, which in some ways I knew was justified. Still, there was no need to be rude about it. I didn’t tell him so, though. I wanted to stay friends with Lainie.
Lainie came out of the house and we walked along the street. She stooped and picked up some dried leaves and tossed them at me. The rest of the way to Main Street, we took turns throwing leaves at each other. Then we got to Mayer’s.

coffee

There was only one table left, off in a corner near the kitchen door. We didn’t mind. We sat down and Kate took our order. She grinned at the two of us, but kept her distance. The Mayer’s don’t allow their staff to gab with the customers.
Lainie and I drank coffee and shared a cinnamon roll. We talked about the job opening and I managed to convince her to apply the next day.
“As long as you don’t mind, Martin.”
“Nope, not at all. Next job opening’s mine to apply for though.”
We laughed together.
Lainie’s dad walked in. He strode over to our little table and pulled a chair around from the next table. He sat down and glared at me.
“Hello, sir,” I said.
“Sir? Are you trying to be smart with me?”
“N-no, I’m not.”
“Well, don’t keep my girl out to late, eh? She’s got housework to do tomorrow. Hasn’t done the laundry all week. Lazy.”
Without waiting for either of us to speak, he got up, turned away and joined some of the other old guys at a table in the back.
Lainie was quiet. She stared at her coffee mug. I reached over and put my hand under her chin, so that she was forced to look at me.
There were tears in her eyes.
“It’s okay, Lainie. I’ll take care of you.”
“Don’t need that. I just need a good friend and you are that, Martin.”
Small comfort. I felt like I loved her, and she thought I was a good friend. Still, I would settle for that, for now.

***

I have no idea yet where this story is going to go. Be patient. We will figure it out as time goes by….

***

Chapter One: Lainie

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It wasn’t as dark as it could have been. It wasn’t as cold as it could have been. It was late November and in this part of the country that meant snowfall at anytime.
I pulled my thin wool jacket tighter around me, and continued to walk towards the cabin. I was afraid to go back. I was afraid to leave. The wind had picked up and I felt it blow through my hair, left long and loose, partly because I avoided going to the lone hair stylist in Coric Springs. It shuffled the small scrub trees back and forth and leaves fell to the ground. I stopped and picked one up. It was gold and red with a last bit of green at one edge. The trees were losing leaves and I was fast losing my resolve.
I shivered as I reached the porch steps. I stopped and wondered what I should do. I was getting colder.
“I’m too thin,” I thought. “That’s why I feel the cold and he does not.”
I walked up the steps and opened the slatted wood door. Light flowed out into the dusk. He sat at the wood table, chair pulled up close. He whittled a piece of wood. It would be some sort of bird, I thought. He always made birds.
His head came up as I entered the room. The light from the lamp behind him shone on his long tousled hair. He grinned. His beard, long, matted and shaggy, shook as he laughed.
“Ha! I knew you’d be back quick. Too cold out there this time of night. Only the foxes and the wolves like it. Skunks too I guess.”
He looked down at his hands. He tossed the wood aside and stood up. I was rooted to the spot.
He walked over to me and I could smell the man scent, a mix of sweat, beer and a missed shower or two. He reached out and cupped his hand under my chin, drawing my face close to his as he bent down.
He spoke softly into my ear.
“Ready to go home yet?”
I nodded, and shame welled up into my throat. I had no words.
“Okay, I’ll tell your pop that you just ain’t cut out for backwoods living. Go upstairs and gather your stuff. I’ll drive you home.”
I followed his instructions. I had little to pack. My tattered copy of Moby Dick, a Bible that had been my Mother’s, and a few clothes, jeans and sweaters and tops. I struggled to carry my tote and my backpack. I reached the bottom of the staircase, and he took both away from me and strode to the door. He grabbed his red and black plaid jacket from a hook on the wall. He opened the door and went out. I followed him.
As we got into his beat up old Ford pickup, I wondered what Pop would say. I knew he’d view my leaving here as a fiasco, and just one more reason to dislike me.
His words rang in my ears. “No matter what I do for you, you fail. You’re a loser. I’m ashamed to call you my daughter. What would your mother say? She’d be ashamed of you. You have no future. You’ll be a loser all your life.”
“Not this time,” I thought. “I won’t let him say it.” But how to stop him from the verbal tirade? My shoulders hunched and I pulled my jacket close. It was warm in the truck. Bert had turned on the heat, for which I was grateful. I told him so.
“Well, we can’t have a lady gettin’ cold, can we?” He grinned at me. At least he had no hard feelings about my leaving. He’d hired me to stay with him and do the cooking and the cleaning, milk the cows and gather eggs, and be company for him on long winter nights. I couldn’t stand the isolation. I was a town girl.

***

A twenty minute drive and we pulled up at my house. It was a ramshackle affair, with peeling paint and a porch that needed a nail or two and some new boards for the steps.
I turned to Bert.
“I can carry my stuff,” I said. I reached for the door handle.
“No way. No lady’s doing that on my watch.” Bert pushed open his door and got out. He took my things out of the truck bed and walked with me to the house. He set the bags down, as I knocked on the door. He didn’t ask why I felt the need to knock.
The door opened. My dad stood there, a beer in his right hand and the TV remote in his left. His balding head sprouted a few stubborn grey hairs that indicated he hadn’t seen a barber in a while. I thought the comparison between his hair and mine almost funny. But it wasn’t. Not really. It meant that neither of us were making an effort to maintain ourselves. We both missed Mom in our own ways, I guess.
Pop said, “Well, Bert, you brought ‘er back eh? I figured as much.”
He moved aside and Bert carried my things into the house and set them down.
“I gotta get back,” he said to Pop. He nodded at me and left the house. Pop slammed the door shut almost before I was able to step inside.
“You are a disgrace,” he said. He made his way back to his faded blue recliner and plopped down in it. He set his beer beside him on the end table. He glared at me.
“Well, your room’s still there. Might as well go up. Just leave me alone tonight, eh? I have to decide what I’m gonna do about you.”
I took my backpack and put it over my shoulders, and picked up the bag. I said good night to my Pop before I made my way up the stairs. My old room hadn’t changed.
“Of course it didn’t, you idiot,” I said under my breath. “You were only gone a week.”
I set the things down and threw myself on my bed. I buried my face in my quilt.
I didn’t cry. That’s one thing I am proud about. Instead, I got up and unpacked my books and my clothes. I went to the bathroom and put away my face cleanser and my toothbrush. Pop had his bathroom in the master suite, so this one, opening into the hall was, in essence, mine. He still looked in though, once in a while, to check if the room was clean. He left it to me to look after that and I would be in trouble if there was even a hair in the sink.
I wandered back to my room. It was getting late. Maybe tomorrow would bring something better. I hoped so.

***

Morning came, and I woke to sunshine streaming through my window. I loved the east facing room. I had a shower and dressed in a pair of leggings and a denim tunic top. I went downstairs to the kitchen. Pop sat at the table, drinking coffee from his double sized mug. Mom bought it for him for Christmas, a year or so before she got sick.
I said, “Morning, Pop,” as I poured some cold breakfast cereal into a bowl. I grabbed a spoon and the milk and sat down across from him, waiting for him to say something.
When he finally spoke, it was to say, “Morning. Any plans for today?”
I nodded. “Yes. I’m going downtown to apply for a job at the hardware store.”
“What makes you think they’re hiring?”
“Bert told me on the way into town last night that he saw a sign in their window.”
“Fine. You need a job. Help pay for things around here.” Pop took a long drink from his cup. He stood up.
“I’m headin’ down to Mayer’s for coffee with the guys.” He left the room, my voice trailing after him, as I said, “Okay, Pop. See you later.”
I heard the front door slam. I felt my muscles relax. I hadn’t realized how tensed up I was until that happened. If only I could have been content staying at Bert’s. But that was not a job for someone young like me. No, I could do better.
At least Pop hadn’t called me out for failing yet again. I knew it would come though. If not today, then tonight or tomorrow. There was no telling with Pop when the bad mood would hit.
The sun had disappeared behind a cloud, by the time I headed out for the hardware store. It was a nice walk despite the threat of rain. I loved the smell of the leaves as they fell from the trees, and the crunch of dry leaves under my feet as I walked. Old Mr. Allport was raking when I passed his house, and he waved a hand at me.
I waved back, just like I used to do, when I was going to school. Some things didn’t change. I smiled to myself.

***
At the hardware store, I stepped inside and found Mrs. Jensen at the back of the shop. She was attempting to explain the differences between fishing lines to a couple of younger guys, both of whom sported caps with “John Deere” on them, and hiking boots.
I listened for a minute and then I took over, unasked.
“What types of fish are you planning to catch?”
One of the guys said, “Wall eye mostly.”
“Then here’s the lines you need. Anything else would be too weak.”
The men thanked me and follwed Mrs. Jensen to the front till. I waited until they had left, and then I approached her.
“Thank you for your help, Lainie. I couldn’t seem to get it through those boys’ heads what they needed. Guess they thought I was some dumb old woman.”
“Glad to help. Say, I noticed that you’re hiring. Would I be able to apply?”
Mrs. Jensen looked me over. I was suddenly self-conscious.
“Look, Lainie. I’ll be honest with you. Turning up here to apply for a job dressed like that,” and she pointed at my leggings and then my hair, “won’t cut it. Now, if you were to dress in a nice pair of denims and a nice blouse and braid your hair, or even have it trimmed, I’d consider your application. I don’t mean to be harsh with you. I know it’s been hard since your mom passed, but really, Lainie, you need to grow up.”
Tears welled in my eyes.
Mrs. Jensen came close and patted my shoulder.
“I want you to come back and apply, okay?”
I nodded and stumbled out of the shop. I hurried down the street and nearly bumped into someone as I blinked away the tears.
“Hey, watch it!”
I looked back to see Kate standing on the sidewalk. She rubbed her shoulder.
I took a few step towards her and she said, “Well, how’s it going Lainie?”
I sighed. “Okay I guess. I need a job though. How are you doing?”
“I just got promoted at Mayer’s. Now I’m in charge of the afternoon shift.”
“Well, good for you, Kate.”
“I gotta run. I’m shopping for my mom before work.”
Kate turned and continued down the street. I watched her for a minute, and wondered why a promotion at Mayer’s didn’t excite me very much. I thought I was a proud and picky person to not share in Kate’s excitement. Now had she been promoted to manager, I supposed I should be impressed. But shift manager?
I got home in time to watch General Hospital. I wanted to see what happened with Tracy and her scheme. Pop arrived just as the show ended.
He came into the house and threw his hat and jacket in the direction of the hooks by the door. He flopped down in his chair and looked over at me.
“Get a job yet?”
I shook my head.
“Not yet. But I have a lead.”
“She has a lead. Wonder of wonders. So have you started dinner? And bring me a beer while you’re at it.”
“I will, right away.” I got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen. Good thing mom had taught me how to cook, because Pop had no idea.
I set about making dinner after I took Pop a beer.
Then the phone rang and I forgot all about cooking.

***

This is Chapter 1 of a story. I plan to add Chapters as I go along. Let’s see where the story takes us, shall we?

***

And Half Way Through Camp…

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I tried. I really did. After completing so many November NaNoWriMos one would think the freedom of Camp NaNoWriMo would be exhilarating. Not so. Not for me.

I powered out after about a week. So here I am, cheering on any of you who continue with Camp, but sitting back on the sidelines.

I have started a brand new story and will post it on this blog once it is done. In the meantime, keep writing!

Character

The ability to clearly draw a character in words is a true gift. Once the character is put into a scene, that new person needs to be real to the reader. How to do that?

How to Craft Compelling Characters from Writer’s Digest

Creating Characters in Novels

That is all for now. Back to the story I am working on….