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!

One Fine Day

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Now, I am fully aware that the title of the blog this week is also the name of an absolutely favorite song of mine by the Chiffons, from 1963. Okay, so I was ten years old. But I liked the song as soon as I first heard it.

I’ve chosen this title because I had a good day.

Do you have those too? Days where nothing much happens, and everything is pretty well settled, and you just glide along? No worries, no rushing out the door, no arguments or any sort of discord?

I love days like that. Sometimes they are hard to find. When they do occur, treasure them, because you don’t know when one will happen again.

Those New Year’s Resolutions….

I have exercised. I have eaten healthier and got some cross stitch done, although there was more time spent organizing and preparing projects, than actual stitching.  And started a fresh do over of my family tree, this time with full annotations and citations as one is supposed to do. (I had no idea when I started that this was a thing.)

So….New Year’s resolutions, while not 100% accomplished, are moving along at a good pace.

How about you? Any resolutions that were just too difficult or impossible? Any that you have been able to stick with so far?

Okay, so I am going to admit that this blog is the first thing I’ve written, if you don’t count personal emails, since the beginning of the year.

I think that for next week, I will plan the start of a new short story.

 

And Then What?

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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

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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.

 

 

Camp NaNoWriMo: Wait For Me!

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I continue to try and find some time every day to work on my Camp NaNoWriMo project. It is a rough go at times, because I have had to contend with hot summer days with no air conditioning, a family member who has been getting regular appointments for treatment, and a lot of thinking, remembering and soul searching.

This last is because I am working on writing my memoirs. There is a lot to remember, and of course, a lot that I would prefer to forget, but is going to be written, no matter how painful or difficult it may be.

***

Here is the essence of my project:

“Does a friendship have to be earned, or does it just happen? Once friends, is it for life, or only until a friendship is weakened and destroyed somehow?
Can true friends hurt one another and remain friends?
Does anyone really love? Is it possible to find one person who completes another? Or is it all a wispy dream, created by romantics who never succeed but who are too dishonest to share their sad discoveries?
I was once a romantic. I gave up on that dream. I fought to hold on but it nearly caused my death. I am here. I survived. I am a cynic. I will tell you how it happened.”

***

 

The picture of the road at the top of this piece? That’s because the memoir focuses on the early 1970’s when hitch hiking was only dangerous and not deadly. Oh, how I traveled! It was an adventure.

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I began to work on this project by creating a short narrative with the most important points I wished to include. That in turn, led to more detailed paragraphs, which I am now writing.

I am using Scrivener this time around. I am not familiar with all it can do, but so far the basics are working fine.

***

Martin (Chapter Seven)

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When I learned that Lainie had got the job at Jensen’s Hardware, part of me was happy and part of me was sad. I’d really wanted that job. I left my house that day, and ran into Kate. Well, I didn’t run into to her literally, of course. I knew that she’d be at Mayer’s after lunch. Her shift usually ran either eight o’clock in the morning to four in the afternoon or noon to eight at night. She was there and she siddled up to me and winked. I winked back. We had a good friendship I thought. And she was one of the few kids in school who had never made fun of me. God knows, there were enough of them that did.
“Hey, Martin. What can I get you?”
“How about a cheeseburger and an orange soda?”
“Sure, right away.” She walked towards the back and I watched her. I was half torn between my love for Lainie and a strong attraction to Kate. The girls were so different, I decided I was just weird to find them both attractive. It didn’t occur to me that maybe my thoughts were normal for a guy my age. I was used to finding fault with myself, mostly because of the dyslexia and the teasing I’d got all through school.
Kate brought me my food. I told her that Lainie had got a job at Jensen’s.
“Well, good for her! Give her something for herself, instead of looking after her old man all the time.” As she spoke, Kate lowered her voice and tossed her head towards the back of the restaurant. I saw why as soon as I checked out the room. Lainie’s dad was at a booth with three of his cronies.
The place got busy for a while, and Kate and Mrs. Mayer rushed around, serving customers and cleaning tables.
Then, Mrs. Mayer approached my table. She sat down across from me.
“How are your folks, Martin?”
“They’re doing good, Mrs. Mayer. Mom won at whist the other night.”
Mrs. Mayer smiled at me. She said, “I’m glad to hear that. Her and I have had some bad luck at that game. Too bad I missed that. I was working that night.”
She hesitated, and then spoke again.
“Martin, have you given any thought to what you want to do until college? Are you interested in working?”
“I sure am, Mrs. Mayer. Do you know of some job?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. I need someone to work here, cleaning tables and dishwashing. Would you be interested in that?”
“I sure would! When can I start?”
Mrs. Mayer laughed.
“I’m glad to see that you’re enthusiastic. How about tomorrow, from noon to eight?”
“Sure. I’ll be here. Thank you, Mrs. Mayer.”
She took her leave then, and I finished my meal. I was happy. This was just what I needed. Now both Lainie and I had jobs, and maybe the three of us would make it to that party on Friday night.
I sauntered home, and my mom and dad were delighted when I told them my news.

***

I worked, then for a couple of days and then it was Friday. Kate picked up Lainie and I in her new car. It was an older model, but nice to look at. It was red, and as she drove us to the party, Kate said she’d mostly chosen the car because of the color, although her dad had also given her the go ahead when he checked out the mechanics.
Now, we arrived in the parking lot of Stevenson Park, named after the town’s first mayor.
There were a lot of other vehicles there already. Lainie picked up the case of beer we’d brought and I took it from her.
“I’ll be gentlemanly and carry this,” I said.
“Thanks, Martin, but we all know you just want to drink more than us,” said Kate. She grinned so I didn’t feel bad about what she said. Besides, to tell the truth she was right. We were all old enough to drink in our state, and I didn’t mind knocking back a few. I knew that Lainie would have one can at most, while Kate could drink me under the table if she was encouraged.
Joking and chatting, we made our way down the path to the lake. There were about thirty people there already. There were quite a few people gathered around a campfire and some of them were toasting marshmallows or roasting wieners.
Kate excused herself and went off to talk to some of the other girls, while Lainie and I found a seat on a fallen log just out of the way of the fire and its smoke. I opened the case of beer and handed her one, taking one for myself. We each took a sip and smiled at each other. She congratulated me on the new job and I asked her how the work at Jensen’s was going.
Her eyes sparkled, as she said, “Oh, Martin! It’s the best thing to happen to me ever. I love working there. I just wish my dad was pleased. Seems like nothing I do ever makes him proud of me though.”
Kate returned and I had time to hand her a can of beer, before I was grabbed from behind and pulled off the log.
I landed on my butt, and there was laughter. I turned to look as I got up, and saw Jordan, Jeff and Mark. All three were laughing.
As I attempted to stand up, Mark pushed me back down. I spilled my beer.
Jeff said, “Ha, look, Martin can’t hold his beer.” The three of them laughed uproariously at that.
I got to my feet, minus the beer and swung at Jeff. Jeff dodged me, stepping back, and I swung at air. Jordan said, “C’mon guys, let’s go find somebody else to pick on. He’s already lost the beer.”
“No way. I think Martin wants to fight. Do you wanna fight, Martin?” This from Jeff. He loomed over me, a good six inches taller than me.
I swung at his chin. I missed. Jeff swung his arm and it connected with my shoulder. Then he pummeled my chest and then my stomach. I dropped to one knee.
“C’mon guys. Enough.” That was Jordan again. This time the other two listened and they made off towards the fire.
Lainie was crying as she grasped my arm and Kate, taking the other arm helped me stand. “Oh, Martin, I am so sorry,” said Lainie.
“Not your fault,” I said, from behind a fat lip. I wiped at my mouth and my hand came away, bloody.
Kate opened her pocket book and took out a tissue. She handed it to me, and I pressed it against my mouth.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said. “We’ll go back to my place.”
That’s what we did. Lainie and Kate were both shaken up by what had happened, but not me. This was something that had happened to me before, always those three guys, although sometimes there were others. School had been miserable for me because of it.
We had a good time playing video games and finishing the beer.
Kate and Lainie told me that Lainie was going to move in with Kate.
“Say, that’s great. I can see both of you in one shot,” I said somberly.
I don’t know why, but both girls burst into giggles at that. Then I saw the time and I told them I better get going. We said our good byes, and I walked Lainie home and went home myself.
I was depressed for part of the walk, after I saw Lainie to her door. I mulled over the beating I’d got and wondered for the thousandth time just why it was I seemed so likely to attract the bullies in life. Then I started to think about my job at Mayer’s. That was a good thought. It made me smile, and by the time I reached my house I was grinning. Mom and dad were still up, watching a horror movie. I joined them for a while, and then went to bed.
As I fell asleep, I wondered if Lainie’s dad had given her any trouble when she got home. Maybe I should have stayed around for a bit. Little did I know what was brewing at her place.

***

Well, Martin was the main speaker this week. I wonder what’s going on at Lainie’s? I don’t trust that dad of hers at all.

It is a very good thing I read this chapter over before I posted. I had some names all confused and that would have been even more confusing to you, the Reader. All fixed, though – I think.

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.

***

Martin (Chapter Two)

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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?

***

Are You Coming to Camp?

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Camp NaNoWriMo starts in just four days! I am going to try and meet my goals this time. While I’ve had success doing November’s NaNo every year beginning in 2012, I have failed miserably at meeting any goals I’ve set for Camp.

The nice thing about Camp is that you set your own goals, whether it be a word count, or finishing a draft or what have you.

My goal is to complete an autobiography. While I’ve worked out a rough copy, I intend to ignore it and start at the beginning of my life.

Camp is free, as are all the other Camps and November’s NaNoWriMo. Strictly run on donations. If you sign up, look for the Forum and also the option to join a cabin of fellow writers. Additionally, there are some nice products available for sale. The money supports NaNo.