Breaking the Wishbone

Sixth Grade

“He sees you!” Beth yells from across the street.

Georgia squeals, leaps from her hiding place behind the panel wagon in Mr. Mann’s driveway and takes off running. All the kids in the neighborhood call him Misterman like its one word. Mrs. Misterman keeps the garden hose coiled on her front porch (in the shade so the water doesn’t get hot from the sun) and has Dixie cups on the railing for when the neighborhood kids get thirsty. Heart pounding, bare feet flying, Georgia can hear Steve’s footsteps and heavy breath closing in from behind. Stealing a quick glance over her shoulder to see if she’s going to make it back to home base in time, the blond of Steve’s shoulder-length hair catches the late afternoon light and the strangest thought occurs to her.

I WANT him to catch me. A foreign flutter of unnamed excitement bubbles in her belly. Georgia is the most competitive kid on the block. She hates to lose – has been winning at Hide and Chase War all summer. She can run faster than all the girls and most of the boys. She can throw a football with a perfect spiral, hit a baseball over the heads of the infielders and climb highest in all the neighboring trees. Losing is not part of her world, but here she is contemplating losing on purpose – and for what?

His touch.

She knows it without understanding why, that this is what she wants – to have him tackle her; for their bodies to tumble together in the warm grass, to squeal and laugh, to look into his golden brown eyes, study his full lips. Will I let him kiss me? A warmth spreads through her middle as she smiles and slows her run ever so slightly.

These are the last days of summer. Darkness swoops in earlier each day – beckoning the street lights, prompting mothers to step onto front porches, announcing dinner – even before the King of the World has been decided. Sixth grade looms like a dangerous promise for Beth, Georgia, and Steve, the Three Musketeers of Westhaven Drive. Junior High School! Books, lockers, a schedule of classes and teachers for every subject. The air crackles with change. They’ve outgrown the cubbies in Mrs. Mayo’s classroom, the Hank the Cow Dog books in the library, and the monkey bars on the elementary school playground.

“May I please be excused?” Georgia asks after having a second piece of fried chicken and eating all of her broccoli and mashed potatoes.

“Well, hang on just a minute, pumpkin,” Her mom says, patting Georgia’s hand that is already grabbing her plate and glass, ready to head to the kitchen. “Mom! you’re not supposed to call me that anymore,” Georgia whines, eyes rolling, exasperation mounting.

Ignoring the reprimand, her mom continues, “you know what happens on fried chicken night!”

Georgia relents and lets out a small smile when she sees the wishbone in her mom’s other hand. If it breaks in my favor, my wish will come true!

They each take hold of either end of the delicate bone, grasping gently with thumb and forefinger.

“Now close your eyes and make a wish!” her mom says.

Behind closed eyelids, Georgia wonders if her first kiss, in Misterman’s back yard less than an hour ago, was somehow visible, because she could still feel it.

“On three,” her mom says. “One. Two. Three!”

Snap.

Georgia opens her eyes and sees that, through the magic of the wishbone, she will start the new school year with Steve as her boyfriend.

“Yes!!!” she exclaims as she heads to the kitchen to start the dishes.

Sixth grade is going to be awesome!

The Conversation

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“When I die, please don’t let there be any gardenias at my funeral,” she said, staring blankly out the car window.

All the lights in the history of time reflected in the wet street as the caravan of shiny black Town Cars crawled through Manhattan at dusk. The blurry symphony of color barely registered. Any other time and she’d be reaching for her iPhone to snap a few photos of the interesting reflections – maybe post them on Instagram.

“Hmmm… What? Sweetie, did you say something?” came his response a full minute later.

“Also please don’t let me die during the winter. Winter is already too hard. Winter sucks! Summer is when I want to die. Lots of sunshine. Or spring, maybe. Yes, spring. A nice, sunny spring day. Or….” her voice cracked. “…DAMN IT! There isn’t a good time of year to bury your best friend, is there?  I couldn’t breathe,” she whispered.

He reached across the expanse of the cold leather seat and took her hand. “I’m sorry,” he said, rubbing his thumb across the tops of her fingers. “Yes, winter sucks.”

She turned to face him, pulled her hand from his in order to adjust her weight. The scooch of her pleather skirt against the leather seat produced a noise remarkably similar to the sound that often emanated from their Great Dane. Continue reading

In Pie We Trust

Tess added a pinch of lavender into the bowl as she stirred. A quick glance at the old train station clock over the front door told her that Johnna would be in any minute to open the shop. Tess felt a sense of urgency to get the pies into the oven before Johnna arrived so she wouldn’t have to listen to another lecture about her less than stellar time-management skills.

Right on time (ten minutes early) Tess heard the back door open and close.

“What’s up, buttercup?” Johnna chirped as she sidled up next to her younger sister and sniffed the days’ special flavor being mixed, a large bouquet of fresh flowers in one hand.

“Mmmmm….is that lavender I smell? What are we calling this one?” Johnna asked.

“I’m still thinking,” said Tess.

“Well, I can’t wait to taste it,” replied Johnna. “I suggest you hurry and get those in the oven so they’ll be ready.”

Tess stuck her tongue out at her sister’s back as Johnna made her way toward the sink where yesterday’s Ball jar vases sat clean on the drain board, ready for today’s flowers.

After the fresh flowers were placed in the center of each table (that their brother, Mitchell, had made from reclaimed barn wood) Johnna grabbed her apron off the hook by the cash register and finished readying In Pies We Trust for opening.

The sisters had been very lucky to find and lease the space on Main Street that had once been a Red Goose shoe store. In the 1980’s it had been converted into a women’s boutique for a short time, and most recently an artist, who was a relative of the owner, had used it as a painting studio. The original black and white hexagonal tiles still graced the front entryway, and in their remodel, the sisters exposed an original red brick wall on the east side that runs the length of the shop. Lots of natural light spilled in through the large front windows, casting bright shafts of sunshine all the way into the kitchen.

Tess had just taken the last pie from the oven when the bell over the front door chimed with the arrival of their first customer of the day. Continue reading

Even Steven

fall light

Late afternoon light spilled into the modest living room through the open door. Monty, who lay napping in the sunny spot, was probably taking Claire’s sudden death harder than anyone. The two had been inseparable the past three years. Claire had found the abandoned puppy rooting around inside a toppled garbage can on her weekly walk to Hudson’s market six blocks east of her tiny cottage.

“I’ve given him my dinner scraps and a bath with my dandruff shampoo.” Claire told Thelma on the telephone that night. “He sure is a cute little thing.”

“Well, you’ve done your good deed, now put him outside and let him find his way home.” Claire’s best friend had said. “The last thing you need is a filthy animal living in your spotless house.”

“Maybe.” Claire had replied. “But right now, I’ll just let him sleep here in my lap. I think that bath wore him out.”

Everyone thought it was strange that Claire kept the dog. She had never allowed pets in the house while the kids were growing up. Even stranger, they thought, was that Claire had named the puppy after her deceased husband of 57 years.

“It was a nice service.” Thelma said as she served herself a helping of the lasagna that pastor Bill’s wife, Anita had dropped off earlier. She sniffed before taking the first bite.

“Yes, and didn’t she look natural.” Said Sissy, Claire’s youngest daughter, who sat at one end of the kitchen table that was piled with food.

A steady stream of family, friends and neighbors had kept the screen door busy all day but now there were just a handful left as the sun set outside. A quiet settled over the little house. Everyone was tired from the day’s sad activities.

Claire’s granddaughter, Sharon broke the silence. “I remember spending many a summer here. I loved Grandma Claire, but dreaded the daily cleaning regimen. Continue reading

Trucker’s Knot

Writing 101 – Assignment.

The neighborhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Write this story in the first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

 

It was a couple a weeks ago – bout supper time. I was out on the porch here. The sweat kept runnin in my eyes, and I had ‘ta use the bottom of my shirt ‘ta mop it up. I was practicin my Trucker’s Knot with a piece of rope Gramps give me last time we was visitin him at the old folks home. Gramps always has a present for ya but not many words. I already have my merit badge for tyin knots but I want to get good at the Trucker’s Knot cause my daddy’s a trucker and next time he’s home I’m gonna supprise him!

After about the millionth time tryin the Trucker’s Knot is when the cop car showed up. Usually when one a them comes ‘round, the lights are flashin and the sirens are a wailin, but not this time. It pulled up nice and quiet and didn’t make no ruckus.

Two men got out and knocked on Mrs. Pauley’s door. While they waited for her to answer, they turned an saw me on my porch. We’ve lived across the street from the Pauley’s since before I was borned. The Deputy waved but Mr. Grimley didn’t. Mama calls Mr. Grimley a slumlord – whatever that is. All I know is nobody likes him and when things get broke he takes his sweet time a fixin ‘em. Continue reading

Just Breathe

 

Writing 101 Assignment. Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind. Don’t use any adverbs.

 

She blasts past me on the sidewalk leading to the yoga studio – in her perfectly purple Lululemon ensemble, opens the door and rushes in – the glass panel slamming in my face. Anger and irritation threaten to bubble in my veins as I reach for the handle, but I take a deep breath and remind myself why I’m here.

Whoosh. A blanket of suffocating heat washes over me, stealing my calming breath. ‘Ugh…it’s sooooo hot in here.’ The tired, whiney little girl in me has been looking forward to a cool, easy, yin class. I quickly check the schedule and realize I’ve just entered a 90 minute hot power-yoga session. ‘I’ll die in here. I should probably just leave.’

“So good to see you today,” the instructor chirps, flashing a bright smile my way. I call her toothy smile and raise her a double-eyebrow lift. Continue reading

Keep Your Head Down

Writing 101 Assignment: You discover a letter on a path that affects you deeply. Write about this encounter. Be as brief as possible.

Walking by the scary house, I keep my head down. Had I been brave enough to check out the broken shutters and chipping paint I would not have seen the word HELP on the envelope at my feet. I would not have picked it up and read the letter inside. I would not have called the police. I would not have seen myself on the nightly news, heralded as a hero. She would still be locked inside the scary house against her will had I not kept my head down.