July and August, 1970 excerpt from novel

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Back in Kelowna, the next afternoon, I meet someone who will change my life forever.
Jessie has gone off with some guy as usual, leaving me to sit in the park.
A tall guy approaches me and sits down on the grass near me. He shrugs off the army green backpack and sets it down.
He has brown wavy hair, short, unlike the current long hair style for men, and a mustache. He wears glasses, brown framed ones that have been taped up on the side. I love his smile the minute he introduces himself. I like his accent, which I soon learn is a Kansas drawl. He tells me his name is Brad and that he is just a country boy from Kansas, touring the country. Then he says that as soon as he saw me, he told the friend with whom he was hitch hiking “There’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
That is it. I fall in love. What a suave and debonair way to introduce himself. I am intrigued. This is the first guy to mention marriage to me. If I go with him, I am guaranteed to be safe from potential rape and murder. This guy will take good care of me, I am certain. He seems so open and happy.
Jessie comes back from one of her forays away with some guy, and I see her jealousy for the first time. She glares when I introduce Brad. She takes me aside.
“You don’t know anything about this guy. What are you thinking?”
I could point out to her that she keeps taking off with strange guys all the time, and that the last few nights have been dangerous for both of us, as we spend that time on the beach with boys we have just met, but I don’t. I tried to avoid confrontation as always.
“I’m sorry, Jessie, but I am leaving with Brad.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” she asks.
“You could find work picking fruit,” I say, and I don’t mean it in a nasty way, but that is how she takes it. She watches me and Brad leave.
As evening comes, he and I walk with some other people to an old house, where everyone in the group is going to stay. He takes my hand and I am swept away by his care and concern.

And so I lose my virginity that night. We have sex, and while I’ve read about it in books at my sister Doreen’s, it is nothing like I imagined. As we lay beside each other, I whisper, “That was my first time.”
“It was? Oh, wow.” Brad gives me a hug. He kisses me and promises right then and there that he will marry me. It is my biggest dream come true. We cuddle together in Brad’s sleeping bag and I fall asleep.
In the morning, we walk upstairs to the kitchen and Brad has coffee. I didn’t drink coffee or tea, because it is against my religion.
After that, we hike to the park. We sit with the same group of people, and talk. Brad is outgoing and talks away to some of the others. I admire his easy going manner and wish that I wasn’t so shy.
A few people panhandle on the street, and along the paths in the park. We collect enough money for cheap wine and bread and bologna. Everyone shares in the goods, although I refuse to drink the wine. The girl with the guitar starts to play and we sing along.
We meet up with a guy who sells acid (LSD) and mescaline. He is about my height, and wears an Australian bush hat. He is dressed in a denim vest and shorts. He and Brad get talking and exchange where they are from. It turns out that Duffy is from Hamilton, Ontario, which is my birth place.
We walk the streets of town, panhandling. Who should I run into but Brad – the “first” Brad? He looks at Brad and then back at me.
“Are you still interested in work?” he asks.
“No, not anymore.”
He nods and walks away.
I am not sorry. I don’t feel that I owe Brad anything. And since he too has had sex with Jessie, the thought of working for him is rather distasteful.
I am beginning to really dislike Jessie. Maybe not her, but her promiscuity.
Later in the day, we walk across the floating bridge, and up into the hills. The stars are bright above us. Someone wants to start a campfire, but they are prevented by cooler heads, as it is pointed out that not only might the cops see the fire and come to investigate, but it is too dry on the hillside for a fire. People form small groups, and talk. Brad and I are joined by a few others, and Brad chatters away while I hang back, quiet and shy. There is a discussion about the rattlesnakes that lurk in the hills, which scares me. I am too young, though, to worry about the danger. Nothing bad will happen to us.
There are falling stars, from the Perseid’s shower, which occurs every year in early August. We watch the show in awe, voices dropping off as the stars fall. Brad scores some weed, and he smokes it. He offers it to me, and I tried it, just a little. My conscience bothers me, but his urging wins out. It is kind of alright. It makes me feel relaxed. No more anxiety that night.
Long after the voices quiet and people fall asleep, Brad and I have sex. This time I really enjoy it. Brad is a thoughtful and caring lover. As I fall asleep, I wonder at my good luck in the two of us finding each other.
We spend a couple of days like this, in the park in the sunshine, music and panhandling and night time in the hills.
We meet Rob, Dustin and Gary, three guys who are from Red Deer. We comment on how small the world is, when I say I am from Lacombe.
Brad said, “I think we should move on. I’d like to see more of Canada. Will you come with me?” he asks, his head turned a bit towards me, long eyelashes half hiding his brown eyes. There are crinkles at the corners of his eyes as he grins at me, dimples prominent.
“Of course I will,” I say. Whatever else would I have chosen to do? This boy has rescued me from danger – spending the nights with strangers all alone and vulnerable – and he talks of marriage, just as I have hoped someone would. I have found my perfect man. I love his jokes and his general sense of humor. He says he loves my Canadian accent. He and I gather up my belongings, and he puts them into his large army green backpack. I leave my empty suitcase abandoned in the Kelowna park.

The morning is bright and it is already getting hot. We walk out to the highway and stick out our thumbs.
We are picked up by an older white haired man who drives a dark blue Ford pickup truck. It reads, “Handeler’s Orchard” on the cab door. He waits while we pile in and then says, as he starts to drive again, “So where are you two headed this morning?”
“As far as we can go I guess,” says Brad.
The elderly man says, “I envy you two. What a world we live in today. I’d sure have liked to just up and take off like that when I was younger. No job, no responsibilities, just the open road.”
Brad grins over at the man.
“Sure enough, that’s how it is for us.”
“Say, what kinda accent is that you’ve got?”
“I’m a country boy from Kansas, USA.”
“Kansas, eh?”
“Yup. Where the corn and wheat and sunflowers grow tall and yellow in the sunshine.”
The old man smiles.
“You a draft dodger?”
“Nope. I was honorably discharged, sir.”
The old man nods, pleased by this answer.
The truck travels smoothly along the winding paved roadway of Highway 97, running past the lake, blue as a sapphire in the hot sunshine, and past orchards and houses and small shops. There are fruit stands, some not open yet, as the main harvest would not be for a couple of weeks. At last, the man says this was as far as he can take us, and he pulls over to the shoulder of the road. He points off towards the gravel road that leads to the west and tells us, “That’s where my orchard is at. Out that way. If you two ever decide you want a job picking fruit, I’ll sure give you a chance.”
With that, he is gone up the road and we hold out our thumbs again. The next ride is in a Duster, driven by a younger guy who takes us as far as Vernon, the next largish city north of Kelowna. As Brad and I walk along the street, the sun beats down. I am thirsty. We panhandle, stopping strangers with “Excuse me, do you have any spare change?” And I, more fortunate than Brad, collect enough for a soda for each of us in short order.
This boosts my confidence! I find talking to strangers and begging is not so scary after all!
We come out of the air conditioned corner store and meet a couple of guys, in blue jeans and t-shirts, who tell us, “There’s a youth hostel over at the church on Porter Street. They offer a place to sleep and a breakfast in the mornings.”
“Hey, thanks, man,” says Brad.
We make our way to Porter Street and I admire the small church which is painted a sandstone color, with brown trim. The building attached is about the size of a modest bungalow, and a big sign on the door states that it is a shelter for transients. I can’t believe our luck.
Brad says, “This is a good place to stay. Let’s go in and see if we can get out of the hot sun.”
By this time, it is late afternoon, and the priest who runs the shelter meets us at the door. He wears a collar that indicates his calling. He has a bald head and a big smile as we enter. The room is large, with a doorway leading, we would soon learn, to a kitchen. Down the hallway are rooms for couples, and for women and men respectively.
After Brad and he chat, he takes us to the couples’ room and Brad and I set out the sleeping bag. Brad takes off his back pack and sets it beside the sleeping bag. He shifted his shoulders.
“I’m glad to be rid of that burden,” he tells me. “The weight hurts my back.”
He brings out his map of Canada, and then his US map. Unfolding them both, he points out the little town where he is from, in Kansas, and then we pour over the Canadian map, and plan our route for the next day. As it turns out, we would not leave the following day after all. But that is because we meet a nice couple that evening, and get to talking. The couple, Maxine, age fourteen, and her boyfriend Keith, twenty, have come to B.C. from Alberta. She’s run away with him and her parents don’t know where she is. Along with the rest of the people who amble in by evening, we talk and laugh and have a good time. Maxine is little, short, with long brown hair and brown eyes. Keith is tall and has black hair and his eyes are aqua blue. I have never seen anyone before or since who has such eyes as his.
When it is time for bed, Brad leads me to the couples’ room. We are off to one side, while Maxine and Keith are over on the other. Brad and I lay awake talking softly for a while, and then we make love. I fall asleep with his arms wrapped around me. I notice that Brad sleeps with his glasses on, which I think is a little strange. “I can’t see very well without them. If I keep them on, nobody can sneak up to me,” he says, the next morning when I ask him about it.
It seems an odd thing to say, but what do I know? After all, we are sharing a house with a group of strangers, so maybe Brad is more sensible about the danger than I.
While hostels originated in Europe years before, for the traveler, the youth hostels in Canada are based on the same idea, but for those hitch hikers – hippies – that have a transient lifestyle. There is a network throughout the country, and this hostel in Vernon would be the first of several where we stayed.
It is a pleasant oasis after the heat in summer or cold in winter of being on the road. There is usually some food, and while there were rarely beds, the floor provides ample room for an unrolled sleeping bag.
Brad tells me that he is going to “liberate” me. He will change my old fashioned ideas and ways and make me a free person. I don’t question this. I don’t wonder what he has in mind, or why he wants to take this job on. I don’t stop to wonder why he feels the need to change me. And do I really need changing?
The morning brings toast for breakfast, and coffee for the coffee drinkers. I don’t drink coffee. It is against Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. We leave the shelter and along with Maxine and Keith and few others, we roam the streets. We panhandle enough money to go to the little corner store near the hostel, and buy bologna and bread for sandwiches, which everyone shares. I overcome my initial misgivings about eating meat, and wolf down my share. The food is delicious.

Writing Excerpt: Arriving in Alberta: 1964

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We arrive in southern Alberta after four days on the train. We spend all the nights “sleeping” on the train seats, but learn from the man who hired mum that the sleeping car was included in the price he paid!
The rain comes down in buckets as we alight at the train station in Brooks. A little man wearing cowboy boots, hat, western shirt and jeans approaches us. After introductions are made, and we collect our baggage, we climb into the blue pickup truck the man drives and we are off. The ranch is a few miles out of town. There is a modest one bedroom house, and a shack and lean to as well as barns and corrals where a herd of horses stand. He leads us into the house and shows us the room which is ours. I am to share the double bed with mum. The rancher explains that he will sleep out in the shack. I have time to wonder where he will sleep in winter, but don’t say anything. I am still very shy.
That day, mum unpacks our things, and then she makes supper. It consists of canned yams, meat and cherry pie. We soon learn that this rancher eats only canned yams and cherry pie – for every supper. Mum and I soon grow tired of this fare.
The next day, the rancher shows me his older mare, suitable for riding for a young person with no experience. I am overjoyed. I am able to ride this horse out in the fields and can’t believe how lucky I am to have this dream become reality.
Later, I meet the rancher’s young niece. She rides a pinto horse over from her home, and we go riding together.
One day, as we canter across the field, my horse rears up and I fall off. I hurt my shoulder, and it bothers me for some time after.
One hot sunny afternoon – it seems that southern Alberta is always hot and sunny – so different from the rainy day on our arrival – I tag along with the rancher when he delivers a horse to another ranch. There are a lot of cowboys milling around when we pull up in the rancher’s truck.
These are not the “rhinestone cowboys” of Hollywood, or those Calgarians who don blue jeans during Stampede week in July. These are real cowboys. Blue jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hats, worn, not for effect, but because of the hot sun. Weathered faces and some, like the rancher with bowed legs from growing up riding horses all their lives.
In the evenings, I read the Western Horsemen magazines to which the rancher subscribes, and there is the popular prairie weekly newspaper, The Western Producer. They have a kids’ page, and I submit a poem which they publish.
This first published work excites me. I am just eleven years old, and about to enter sixth grade. I wonder if perhaps I could be a writer? The thought has never occurred to me before. I’ve had thoughts of becoming a teacher like my big sister, but writing is something that might be even better!
Mum finds the Seventhday Adventist church and pastor in the phone book, and we attend church a few times. Members of the church invite us to Sabbath dinner a couple of times, and Mum complains to me, that there was meat on the table! SDA’s don’t eat meat, she said. I learn eventually that there were a lot of differences in beliefs between the SDA people in Ontario and in Alberta.
One Saturday morning, she tells me that we aren’t going to go to church that day. Well, we stay in the bedroom and when the minister comes to the house, he and the rancher knock on the door. Mum will not answer. I am embarrassed that we are hiding. Why is mum doing this? Still, she calls through the closed door, at last, and tells the pastor she is not going to church. From the sounds, we know that they have left the house, and I hear the minister’s car start up. We stay in that room all day, and mum doesn’t open the door until after sundown, when the Sabbath is over.
The rancher tries to ask her about this behaviour but she ignores him.
My mum contacts her sister, Lena, in Calgary and she and her boyfriend come down to bring us back to Calgary to live. Mum plans to get on welfare, as she has found the everyday work as a housekeeper is more than she could handle. The day arrives, and mum hasn’t told the rancher that she is leaving. He is quite angry. We have only lived on the ranch for the summer, and I am sure that he doesn’t believe he’s got the money he’s paid for our train tickets back yet.
Nothing will change my mum’s mind though, once she reaches a decision. We leave that afternoon, crammed into the car. First, we stay with my mum’s sister. Lena is a bit rowdy. She smokes, drinks, gambles on the horses and has a great sense of humor. She wears a lot of makeup and jewellery and she dyes her hair. She is the complete antithesis to my mother.
One evening, a young fellow arrives at Lena’s. She introduces his as one of my cousins. He is very handsome I think to myself. We all sit down and have a game of Scrabble. Mum will play this game, and let me play it despite her religious beliefs. The cousin tries to make words but is a terrible speller. When I correct him he teases me.
The game finished, Lena brings out cards and shows us how to play “Hearts”. I don’t remember if Mum allowed me to play, or if she played or not. Cards are forbidden to SDA’s.
Mum and I go downtown to apply for welfare and are given vouchers for food, and to pay for an apartment. She finds a seedy little place right in the downtown, across a river in an older part of town. The school I will attend is across that river, so everyday I have to cross the bridge to reach the school. I don’t settle in very well. By this time, I believe the constant changing of places to live and of schools has taken its toll. I don’t remember much about the class, although I do remember this. I walk home one day, to have the boy in the next apartment stop me.
“D-do you want to listen to some records?” he asks.
The poor kid! I bustle away, blurting, “No!” as I run to my door.
I tell Mum and she says that I am way too young to be around a boy. In later years, I pity that boy and tell myself that I was rude. I was embarrassed whenever I thought about my reaction. The poor kid. I probably scarred him for life. Gets up the nerve to ask a girl to listen to records, and she bolts!
From the seedy apartment, which my older sister, Doreen, calls a slum, we move to an older, two storey house that has been converted into apartments. We will live next to her, in a bright little second story apartment. She lives just next door and it should be a cozy ending to our nomadic life. That is not to be. My mum resents Doreen, as Doreen is free with her advice and guidance, which mum calls “bossiness.”
We are now in a nicer neighbourhood. The elementary school is not far off.
I settle in at the new school. For the first time in my life, there is a girl in my class who is taller than me! Freida and I become fast friends. We take turns having our lunch at her place or at mine. She is funny and kind. At recess, I am included in ball games, and I am happy. I belong, at last. I like the teacher. He is the first male teacher I’ve had, except for a short stint in the small Ontario town, with a military minded teacher who, on dismissal, commanded, “Stand, turn, forward,” as though we were soldiers. This teacher is nice.
Despite the new friendship and my happiness with this new school, I am still very shy. I leave my slip on black shoes under my desk at the end of the school day, and when class starts the next morning, I am mortified to see that my shoes are on the teacher’s desk! I cringe, when he asks, “Whose shoes?” I don’t answer. He asks again, then picks them up and holds them above the wastebasket next to his desk.
“Going, going, gone!” He waits a moment, then drops them into the trash.
I tell myself that the shoes didn’t fit right, anyway, which is true. They were a bit big. Still, I am ashamed of my paralyzing shyness.
Mum makes plans, and we are on our way, in a moving truck, to live in central Alberta, in the town where her other sister lives, as well as her dad, my grandfather. True to past behavior, she doesn’t tell my sister Doreen that we are moving. Doreen will come home after school to find us gone. It is a cold winter day with snow on the ground and a sky of pink and gray. I want to move and yet I don’t. I find my sister overbearing at times and yet I am going to miss her. I like the fact that she promised me a small allowance, and told me that I would be responsible for my saving and spending. That is all gone now. The future is unknown. How I would miss my friend Freida.

Part Two – Story Excerpt

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Photo by Philipp Reiner on Unsplash

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This is the second chapter of my autobiography.

I must make the disclaimer that all names have been changed to protect the identities of people involved.

The facts are only as I remember them, and may not be completely accurate.

The events in this chapter occurred between 1964 and 1966.

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We arrived in southern Alberta after four days on the train. We spent all those days “sleeping” on the trains seats, but learned from the man who had hired mum that the sleeping car had been included in the price he paid! The rain came down in buckets as we alighted. A short little man wearing cowboy boots, hat and jeans approached us. After introductions were made, and we collected our baggage, we climbed into the blue pickup truck the man drove and we were off. The ranch was a few miles out of town. There was a modest one bedroom house, and a shack and lean to as well as barns and corrals where a herd of horses stood. He led us into the house and showed us the room which would be ours – I was to share the double bed with mum. The rancher explained that he would be sleeping out in the shack. I had time to wonder where he would sleep in winter, but didn’t say anything. I was still very shy.
That day, mum unpacked our things, and then she made supper. It consisted of canned yams, meat and a cherry pie. We would learn that this rancher ate only canned yams and cherry pie – for every supper. Mum would soon grow tired of this fare as would I.
The next day, the rancher showed me his older mare, suitable for riding for a young person with no experience. I was overjoyed. I was able to ride this horse out in the fields and couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have this dream become reality.
Later, I would meet the rancher’s young niece. She rode a pinto horse over from her home, and we would go riding together.
One day, as we cantered across the field, my horse reared up and I fell off. I hurt my shoulder, and it bothered me for some time after.
Sometimes I would read the Western Horsemen magazines to which the rancher subscribed, and there was the popular prairie weekly newspaper, The Western Producer. They had a kids’ page, and I submitted a poem which they published. I was so excited!

This first published work excited me. I was just eleven years old, and about to enter sixth grade. I wondered if perhaps I could be a writer? The thought had never occurred to me before. I’d had thoughts of becoming a teacher like my big sister, but writing was something that could be even better!
My mum contacted her sister, Lena, in Calgary and she and her boyfriend came down to bring us back to Calgary to live. Mum planned to get on welfare, as she had found the everyday work as a housekeeper more than she could handle. The day arrived, and mum hadn’t told the rancher that she was leaving. He was quite angry. We had only lived on the ranch for the summer, and I am sure that he didn’t believe he’d got the money he’d paid for our train tickets back yet.
Nothing would change my mum’s mind though, once she reached a decision. We left that afternoon, crammed into the car. We first went to stay with my mum’s sister. Lena was a bit rowdy. She smoked, drank, gambled on the horses and had a great sense of humor. She wore a lot of makeup and jewellery and she dyed her hair. She was the complete antithesis to my mother.

Mum soon got an apartment, a seedy little place right in the downtown, across a river from the older part of town. The school I would attend was across that river, so everyday I had to cross the bridge to reach the school. I didn’t settle in very well. By this time, I believe the constant changing of places to live and of schools had taken its toll. I don’t remember much about the class, although I do remember this. I walked home one day, to have the boy in the next apartment stop me.
“D-do you want to listen to some records?” he asked.
The poor kid! I bustled away, blurting, “No!” as I ran to my door.
I told my mum and she said that I was way too young to be around a boy. In later years, I pitied that boy and told myself that I had been rude. I was embarrassed whenever I thought about my reaction. The poor kid. I probably scarred him for life. Got up the nerve to ask a girl to listen to records, and she bolted.
From the seedy apartment, which my older sister, Doreen, called a slum, we moved to live next to her, in a bright little second story apartment. She lived just next door and it should have been a cozy ending to our nomadic life. That was not to be. My mum resented Doreen, as Doreen was free with her advice and guidance, which mum called “bossiness.”
I settled in at the new school. For the first time in my life, there was a girl in my class who was taller than me! Freida and I became fast friends. We took turns having our lunch at her place or at mine. She was funny and kind. At recess, I was included in ball games, and I was happy. I belonged, at last. I liked the teacher. He was the first male teacher I’d had, except for a short stint in the small Ontario town, with a military minded teacher who, on dismissal, had us, “Stand, turn, forward,” as though we were soldiers. This teacher was nice.
Mum made plans, and we were then on our way, in a moving truck, to live in central Alberta, in the town where her other sister lived, as well as her dad, my grandfather. True to past behavior, she didn’t tell my sister Doreen that we were moving. Doreen would have come home after school to find us gone. It was a cold winter day with snow on the ground and a sky of pink and grey. I wanted to move and yet I didn’t. I found my sister overbearing at times and yet I was going to miss her. I liked the fact that she had promised me a small allowance, and that I would be responsible for my saving and spending. That was all gone now. The future was unknown. How I would miss my friend Freida.
We arrived in the small town of Sylvan Lake and the mover took our belongings to a cabin which was made up of a large kitchen/living room and two bedrooms. It was bitterly cold. During our winter stay I would always be cold. The cabin was heated by a wood/coal cook stove. I would wake up in the mornings to a warm fire that mum had started in the stove, but the rooms were always chilled.
I started school. The building was huge. It was designed for all grade levels from kindergarten through grade twelve. It was a small town, but all the country kids were bussed there, so there was a huge student population. From the first day, I was intimidated by the sheer size of the school, and the noise in the hallways as the kids bustled about opening and closing their lockers, and retrieving books. The school secretary showed me to a classroom. I remember very little about the events in the school while I attended. I was given special workbooks to take home to work on my mathematics. The students in my class were the first to have been taught the “new” math from the early grades. I was lost, and couldn’t grasp the concepts the teacher tried to show me. I fumbled with the workbooks and it was as though I was learning some new language, but without any reference to English. I began to have stomach aches. I would tell mum that I was too sick to go to school. She let me stay at home.
We moved to a small old house. The landlady lived next door and she often came over to chat or, as mum said, to snoop. The house was cold and mum kept the living room drapes closed to try and keep the heat in.
Mum got a dog, a German shepherd that had obedience training. She soon gave it away, complaining that it cost too much to feed it. Again, I was without a pet.
A welfare worker arrived, and during her little interview with mum, she demanded to know why those curtains were shut. Mum explained, but I had the impression that the woman thought mum had some sort of mental illness. The worker told me that I must attend school. Then she left.
Mum was frightened that I would be taken away by welfare, so she insisted that I go to school, sore stomach or not.
Mum contacted the SDA minister and we began to attend church. The members had decided to start up a small church school, and mum enrolled me as soon as it opened. The other kids who attended from the countryside around the town had parents who drove them to the school, a few miles away. The parents drove in rotation. I was picked up at the end of the street, every day and dropped off at the house after classes.
The school had just a few students, and one teacher. She meant well, but she often lectured me on things like being too sensitive to what the kids said to me, and that sort of thing. There weren’t any kids my age there. I was the oldest. And the tallest yet again.I just didn’t fit in.
I noticed that these kids were no better than those at the “worldly” schools I had attended. I was disillusioned. I had really believed that I would find friends because they were the same religion as me. That was not going to happen.
I had not been to a dentist ever, and had two painful teeth. One day, as I got into the car, to ride to school, one of the kids said, “Oh, your breath, whenever you get into the car!”
I hadn’t realized how my breath smelled.
I believe the teacher contacted my sister Doreen, as the next week, Doreen came up to our place and took me to a dentist. He was an SDA. I had two infected molars, and he pulled them. It hurt so bad! I think he should have given me antibiotics first, to reduce the infection and inflammation, but he did not. I developed a fear of dentists after this ordeal. At least my breath didn’t smell bad any longer!

Martin (Chapter Four)

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I went home and tore up the job application. What else could I have done? I wanted a job; Lainie needed it.
Mom and Dad were having coffee in the kitchen when I came in.
“Hi son. Did you have a good time tonight?” Dad asked.
“Yeah, I did. Lainie and I went out to Mayer’s.”
“I’m glad you and Lainie are friends. I hear she hasn’t got an easy time of it at home,” Mom observed.
“Poor kid,” this from Dad.
I sat down at the table and pulled the application over.
“Is that something I need to help you with?” asked Mom.
I tore the paper in half and then into quarters.
“Nope. I was going to apply for a job at the hardware store, but I changed my mind.”
“Why, son?”
“Dad, Lainie wants the job. Guess I’ll have to keep looking.”
I excused myself and went up to my room. I tossed my jacket on a chair and had a shower.
I checked my phone for messages when I came out of the bathroom. Nothing. I’d been hoping to hear from a friend, Jordan. His parents owned a resort several miles out of town. They had need of someone to help out with snow clearing and janitorial work inside the lodge. A lot of people booked in to ski and while I didn’t ski, Jordan did. He was a real athlete and I envied him the collection of girls that always hung around him.
I messaged him and then fell asleep while I waited for an answer.

***
In the morning, Mom was cooking breakfast when I came downstairs. I still hadn’t heard anything from Jordan. I guessed I’d have to look for work in town after all.
I gobbled up some eggs and bacon and toast before I headed out.
I walked past Meyer’s and down to Main, then I entered shop after shop with no luck. At Harley’s Meats, old Mr. Harrison finally offered me a job.
“Won’t be fancy and I can’t afford to pay much,” he said. “But I’ll treat you fair and I’ll give you a chance to learn to be a butcher, if you’re interested.”
I had no interest in becoming a butcher. I was destined for better things. I had college to look forward to next year.
I said, “I’ll work hard if you hire me, Mr. Harrison.”
The old man grinned, his dimples showing in the chubby face. His bald head gleamed under the ceiling lights in the meat shop.
“Okay, son. Here’s an apron. Let’s get you started.”
He handed me a green apron, so large that I could tie it around my waist three times. It looked clean enough. Mr. Harrison had a reputation in town for being reliable and good to his customers and staff. I felt lucky to be part of his “team” as he called his employees. He led me into the back and introduced me to Paul, who had been ahead of me two years in high school. He was a big guy. He’d played football and was a member of the winning state team. They’d gone all the way to the semi finals the last year he played.
“Hey, Martin,” said Paul, “I remember you. Got honors every year, eh?”
I nodded, somewhat embarrassed. Honors didn’t compare to being a full fledged football hero.
“I’ll show you around and then I gotta get back to cutting up meat. That skill can wait for another day, but I’ll teach you. No worries.”
Paul turned out to be a good and patient teacher and while it didn’t take a lot of skill or training to clean up a bloody floor, I did my best to complete the work. I didn’t notice the smell of the place after a while so that helped.
Paul and I removed our aprons and went for lunch next door at Maxine’s. She had a small lunch counter and made good coffee. I had a ham and cheese sandwich with fries, and Paul had a steak sandwich. We chatted a bit, and Paul asked me about Lainie.
“How’s she doing now, Martin? You see her a lot don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I told him about her dad and how she’d come back from Bert’s and needed work.
“Don’t we all? I woulda gone to college on scholarship if it wasn’t for my dad gettin’ sick you know.”
I hadn’t known, and I told him so.
“Yeah, he had to leave his job and then the bills started to pile up. I had a choice and I made it. I’m not sorry. Shawna and I are gonna get married next June.”
“Congratulations.”
“Thanks. Well, back to the old grindstone.”
We went back to work. The rest of the day flew by. I had a lot of cleaning and scrubbing to do but nothing I couldn’t handle. At the end of the day, I walked home, pleased that I’d be able to tell Mom and Dad I was now a member of the workforce.

***
Mom greeted me when I got home. Dad, she told me, was out at Mayer’s having coffee with an old army buddy who’d dropped in when he arrived in town.
“So how was your day, Martin?”
I told her about my new job, and she patted my shoulder as she got up to make dinner.
“Good for you,” she said. “Your dad said you were going to come home with good news. That man sure does dote on you, Martin.”
“I just want to make him proud, Mom.”
“I know. After – “she hesitated a moment, before she went on, “after your brother running away, I think he’s put all his hopes on you. Sometimes I think it’s too big a burden for you to have to bear.”
“Oh, no Mom! I don’t mind. I’m glad that he’s proud of me!”
Mom smiled. Dad came home then and our little talk was done.
When Jordan finally called me, that evening, I told him I already had work.
He tried to convince me to come out to the resort on the weekend anyway.
“You might as well have a look around and talk to my parents. No harm in that.”
I agreed. I knew that, should I be hired at the resort, Mr. Harrison would be disappointed, but still, there were all those pretty ladies…I fell asleep that night and dreamed  giant snow rabbits dressed in bright colors hopped up and down the hills.

***

Where, oh where is this story going I wonder? The ski hill and Jordan just popped in there this week. Let’s see if Bert gets cleaned up and whether or not poor Lainie can get some much needed self confidence…

Bert and Lainie (Chapter Three)

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I dropped Lainie off at her dad’s but I sure was sorry to have to do it. I had my suspicions all along that she might not last out at my place, working for me, but I hoped she would settle in. At least then she’d be away from her dad. I knew the man wasn’t all there in some ways. He hadn’t been right since he came back off active duty. PTSD or something I think. It didn’t take him long to start in on the booze. After his wife died, there was only Lainie to take care of him. I think he resented it. That he needed to be taken care of. It can be hard for a proud man to need help from anyone. And his daughter – what made it worse was that Harry told me a long time ago that he didn’t believe Lainie was his.
“She’s brunette, for god’s sake. And grey eyes? Where’d that come from?”
I looked at the red haired man in front of me and shook my head.
“All kinds of genes in a person’s family, Harry.”
“Wish I’d asked Jenna before she died about it. Too worried about her dyin’ to ask though.”
I nodded and we finished our beers. Harry called for more, and we spent the rest of that night in the bar drinking and commiserating with each other. I was a good twenty years younger than Harry. I’d met him when I started to go into the bar when I turned twenty one. He was sort of a father figure I suppose. My own dad walked out one night when I was eight years old, to get cigarettes. He never came back. Mom refused to talk about him when he was gone. I grew up thinking I’d done something to make my dad leave me and Mom.
It wasn’t until I talked to Harry on one of the first nights we drank together that Harry suggested maybe I’d had nothing to do with the desertion.
“Some men just can’t take responsibility, Bert. Some men have to walk away. Me, I never did, even when I thought my kid wasn’t mine. I stayed. Watched Jenna die. Hated that.”
I went home that night, glad that I didn’t have any personal encumbrances, neither child nor spouse. Who needed that heartache?
Harry stopped going to the bars soon after that. He’d got mugged walking home one night and that sort of scared him, I think. Me, I wasn’t much of a drinker anyways, and one DWI was enough. I got off with a fine that I really couldn’t afford, and a tow fee for my old truck. Learned my lesson.

***
When Lainie stopped me on the street outside Mayer’s one day, and asked if I had need of a housekeeper, I said, “Sure do.” It was more because I felt sorry for the kid, than requiring help. She was all ready three days later, when I pulled up at their house, and Harry opened the door. He nodded to me and said, “She won’t last. Too incompetent. Too childish.”
I ignored what he said, and turned to Lainie who stood with her head down, and her face hidden. I wondered if she were trying not to cry. Poor kid.
“Let’s get the truck loaded with your things, Lainie,” I said, picking up her backpack and her old brown suitcase. She had a big paper bag too, which she carried out to the truck. Harry followed us, and he said a gruff, “Good bye. I bet I see you within days, girl.”
Lainie’s shoulders drooped. I said to her, “Lainie, hop in. We’ll stop at the food store for some supplies before I take you home.”
I drove down the street and turned onto Main. The Red and White foodstore was crowded with shoppers. They were offering a big sale for the fourth of July celebrations that were coming in a couple of days. I let Lainie shop mostly. She seemed to know what foods we’d need. She chattered away to me, and I noticed how she was different when her dad wasn’t around.
We headed back to my place, then, and hauled the stuff into the cabin. She carried her fair share, and I was surprised to see how strong the kid was. She was so thin and waif like.

***

It took three tries to write this chapter. Everything I wrote before was too predictable and not in the least interesting. I decided to go back and explore the other characters a little – Bert and Lainie’s father, Harry.

I do not know what the next chapter will bring.

Not yet.

***

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….