Writing Excerpt: Arriving in Alberta: 1964

Standard

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.

Want Good Writing Software? Read On.

Standard

mimi-garcia-416098

Photo by Mimi Garcia on Unsplash

There are some extremely popular writing programs out there. Check on Facebook or in Google and you will most likely find them.

I have three writing programs on my computers. One was discounted when I completed NaNoWriMo. The program offers a free version to NaNoWriMo writers, which they can use for the month of November, so I understand its draw.

Nevertheless, there are two other software programs that I want to mention, especially for those of you planning to write your 50,000 words in November.

Let me say that I am not receiving any remuneration from either of these companies. This is just my personal opinion.

The first is WriteItNow!  This is a very customizable program that offers a story board, colors of choice and spell checker among other things.

It costs $59.95 US for the download version, and $69.95 for CD.

The second is WriteWay Professional. It too offers story board, character charts and word count report.

It costs nothing. The creator has turned it over to the web and to writers, free.

I recommend either of these options, for first time writers, or those who have perhaps tried other software and given up because it was too complicated to use.

So check them out and see it you don’t find one or both to be of value as you write.

Of course, there is also Libre Office which is a free program too, for those who prefer plain word processing.

 

 

And Then What?

Standard

ian-dooley-407837

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

With NaNoWriMo fast approaching, and no idea what I will write about, the muse having left me while I mourn my late husband, I have decided to add to this blog.

Here is a tip for writing when you are stuck for an idea.

This is something that has worked for me in the past.

Find a photo, or a scene from your window, or a passage from a book – it’s alright to do that, because you aren’t going to plagiarize (at least I hope not!).

Let’s work with the photo suggestion.

Above is a photo of balloons.

There are people in each one of those balloons.

Pick one of the balloons at random.

Who is riding in the balloon?

How did they end up in that balloon?

Is there anything the people in the balloon have to say?

Who do they wish to say it to? Another person in the balloon? Someone on the ground, waiting for them? Someone who is not nearby?

Why do they want to say that?

What happened to make them feel the way they feel?

Is the balloon going to land safely?

If not, why not?

If yes, then what happens next?

Okay, this is the longest piece I’ve written since my husband passed away.

Success!

Cherish those around you.

I will be back again, soon.

In the meantime, those who are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo, get ready. It’s always a great ride!

NaNoWriMo This November

Standard

elliot-cooper-374748

Photo by Elliot Cooper on Unsplash

I have plans to participate in NaNoWriMo  again this year. It’s been a difficult year so far, and writing has somewhat fallen by the wayside as I deal with grief and loss.

Still, life does go on, and that means writing. I have no idea at the moment what I shall write in November. No clue. But I am sure inspiration will arrive before then.

As a writer, do you have plans to do NaNo?

Some writers swear by the “pantser” method which means no plan, no outline, and only a small idea to begin to write.

The “planner” on the other hand prefers a near complete outline of story, with characters drawn clearly and a good idea of the story and how it will proceed.

I tend to be a “pantser” although last  year I did work with a rough outline.

Writers, let’s do this together, no matter which method you use.

It isn’t long until NaNo begins.

 

 

Word Count for Camp

Standard

I have reached a word count of 36,381. While I will not finish by the ending of camp, which is July 31st, I have 38,619 words left to go for my target of 75,000 words.

I do not think the story as written so far is going to reach 75,000 words before it comes to the ending. That target will most likely be reached during rewrites.

Kudos to those who have participated and won already, or who are close to winning. And for anyone, like me, who is not going to reach their chosen goal, there’s always next time.

 

Bert, Martin, Lainie and Kate

Standard

Downtown_Janesville

I drove into town to have a talk with Harry. I knew he had a hard time coping with life, but I didn’t think it was an excuse to mistreat his daughter.
I pulled up and parked in the driveway, behind Harry’s beat up old Chrysler. As I approached the front door, I saw that it was ajar. Strange.
I pushed the door open all the way and called out for Harry and for Lainie. I listened. There was a sound, but I couldn’t quite place it. I stepped inside and called again.
This time, there was a nearly inaudible reply. I followed the sound, and walked into the kitchen.
Martin sat on the floor, his arms around Lainie. When she looked up I saw that she had a black eye. Martin was covered in blood.
“What the -? What’s happened here? Where’s your dad, Lainie?”
Lainie raised one arm and pointed towards the cookstove, which was half hidden by the breakfast bar. I stepped around Martin and Lainie, and saw Harry.
He was lying on his back, eyes staring sightlessly up at the ceiling. His face and chest were covered in blood. There was a butcher knife sticking out of his belly.
I reached into my shirt pocket and dialed emergency.
After I made the call, I walked back to Martin and Lainie.
“It’ll be okay. The police are on the way. Don’t worry.” I wanted to reassure them both, although I knew that nothing would be okay for them.
Martin said, “Lainie was gettin’ beat up by her dad again. I walked in on it and lost my temper. I didn’t mean to kill him. I just wanted him to stop hurting her.”
I heard sirens in the distance.
I said, “Martin, nobody in this town will blame you for what happened.”
The police arrived and burst into the house. Over the next hour or more, Lainie and Martin were led away, and Harry’s body was examined as was the crime scene. I had to explain what I’d seen and heard and then I too was escorted to the police station.

***

It was several hours before I was released. The officers told me that Martin would be held in jail, and that Lainie was free to go. I offered to take her home to my place. She agreed. I had to make a stop at the house, and a police officer escorted Lainie inside so that she could get some clothes and other things. When she came out, she climbed into my truck.
“All ready to go?” I asked.
Lainie nodded. She stared straight ahead as I drove off. We arrived at my cabin and we went inside. I cooked up a meal and Lainie ate. By this time, she seemed to be coming out of the daze she’d been in.
She turned to me as she buttered a slice of bread and said, “Thank you, Bert, for helping me and Martin. I was so scared.”
“It’s okay, Lainie. Of course you were scared, but you’ll be safe now. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need to.”
Lainie thanked me and then she volunteered that she had her job at Jensen’s and had to be at work the next day. I told her to call Mrs. Jensen and tell her what had happened. I was sure she wouldn’t expect Lainie to work.

***

Mrs. Jensen was more than sympathetic to the situation. She had, as the whole town had, already heard about the killing. She told Lainie to take the rest of the week off, and come in for work the following Monday.

Lainie asked me if I’d drive her to Mayer’s so she could talk to Kate. I thought it might be good for Lainie to see her friend.

Kate and I and Lainie had a discussion about Lainie’s future. We agreed that Lainie should move into Kate’s place and try to continue with her life without her father.

Next, I drove over to the precinct and talked to the desk sergeant. She said that Martin was charged, but not with first degree murder, since he’d been trying to protect Lainie.

***

Martin’s trial was a few months later. Both Kate and Lainie sat with me as the case proceeded. Martin’s parents both testified to Martin’s kindness and gentleness and that seemed to affect the jury. At the end, Martin was given a short sentence, due to the circumstances of Harry’s death. I think that when Lainie testified about her dad’s cruelty to her, the jury felt sorry for her and even looked on Martin as a hero.

When Martin was released from prison and came back to town, he didn’t stay around very long. His parents sent him off to college. I heard that he did well there, and found that he had a gift for computer science.

I ran into Lainie and Kate one Saturday morning, when I went into town. They were walking down the street, hand in hand, and I looked askance at them, as we stopped to chat.
Lainie giggled and Kate smiled at me.
“We’re a couple, Bert. First we were roommates but then things progressed.”
“Well, good for you both. I hope life is treating you both good?”
Lainie nodded and said, “Bert, if it hadn’t been for your help that awful day, I don’t know what I would have done. I thank you.”
“And so do I,” said Kate. The girls departed, walking on down the street.

I sighed. Martin was in college, the girls were together. Maybe it was time I found someone who would want to share my cabin. There must be some woman out there who’d like living in the country. Maybe I’d sign up on one of those dating services.

I walked into Mayer’s later that morning, shopping done, and had coffee. Mrs. Mayer convinced me to have a slice of lemon pie, and I ate, while I registered on a dating service with my cell phone.
Who knew what tomorrow might bring? Even for an old guy like me. I rubbed my chin and thought maybe I’d shave off my beard. It was time I started looking a little less like a mountain man.

The End

***

Okay, so I admit I rushed through the story this week. All for a good cause though.

I wanted to have it finished up before Camp NaNoWriMo which starts again July first.

The story was created as I went along, not planned out, and the chapters show that unfortunately. But, there is something to be said for just writing without too much of a plan. Sometimes the characters take over and do what they wish to do, unruly people.

Hope that you enjoyed what was written. If I do this again, I will plan somewhat better so that the story is chronological and more time is devoted to development.

***

 

If You’re in Search of an Audio Book Reader

Standard

 

If you are planning an audio book, I highly recommend

Scott ODell Audio Book Narrator, Actor, Performer. Voiceovers. Member of Sag/Aftra

He is doing my short story collection and I am happy with his work.

Again, I am not receiving any remuneration for this suggestion. Just happy to help other writers out.

 

Martin (Chapter Four)

Standard

winterski

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)

Standard

backpack

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.

***

Martin (Chapter Two)

Standard

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….

***