Name Books (or, Remember How Cool It Was To Find YOUR Name in a Book?) and My Special Poem for You

Remember how cool it was to find YOUR name in a book? Heck. It’s still cool, and I’m into my forties! Your name found in a book can be the author, illustrator, a character or title.

With the Shakesperian-adage in mind, “Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?” I’m renaming this medically-stinky summer, “Dreams are for the NOW”. So, you’ll find some of my stories here on Reverie of a Picture Book. But I digress slightly…

Finding your name in a book is particularly fun if you have an unusual spelling of a name or a name that just isn’t common anymore.

  1. Dont Turn the Page for Reverie of a Picture Book NAME BOOKS

    My junior high friend found her hard-to-find name on a Coke bottle. I thought, RACHELLE has gotta be out there again…See the photo of the author’s name!

Every time my little girl M sees a Thomas the Train Engine book (there is a lot out there… we see them for sure…), she talks about her almost-a-5th-grader cousin Tommy.

Sheila Rae the Brave by Kevin Henkes is a double-win because Sheila Rae the Brave by Kevin Henkes has BOTH the first name and middle name of a high school friend of mine.

Sheila Rae the Brave for NAME books on Reverie of a Picture Book


Name books are usually a winner with kids. Remember how you felt? It’s still fun to find a book with YOUR name in it. That’s part of Reverie of a Picture Book– remembering what it is like to be a kid, and reading or writing books that reflect what it is like to be a kid, not an adult.

To a summer of dreams fulfilled, I found this diddy I wrote about six years ago. It means more to me now, but I thought I’d share it with you. (Let me know if you have any suggestions for it; it may be a beat/syllable off here and there.)


My hands are cupped together and
I peer inside and see
A special, cloudy, ticklish thing
That no one grasps but me.

Nobody knows the colors,
No one knows how big.
No one really thinks it lives and
Dances wild jigs.

This special thing shares treats with me
And whispers secret truth.
Knows my present and my past and
Celebrates my youth.

It shouts, “The best is yet to come;
Be sure to share your gift!”
It tells me I’ll get stronger and
My future is so swift.

I like this thing and want to know
Why it makes me beam.
Then I finally ask its name;

It proclaims, “I’m Your Dream.”


Jodie has a real opportunity to leave the pressures of home, community and religion. She can hardly wait, but will she really take a chance given to her to get away from it all? Is the opportunity too good to be true? Sometimes Jodie’s imagination encourages her, mostly it doesn’t. Which thinking will win out, and how?


From the house, Jodie listened to the car drive away and for the bumpy sound when vehicles struggle onto the main road. It never came. Idette must have slowed down.

She sat on the edge of the bed, sweat dripping from edge of her hair and onto her forehead and down her cheek. She had wanted to leave, she had seen it in her mind, and because of Idette it was going to happen.

You’ll make a good waitress…As a fact, it meant expectations, that without trying she would prove wrong. But Idette is patient. She’ll be silent in her criticism, which sometimes, but not always, hurts less than any verbal ones…

There wouldn’t even be a chance her classmates would visit that much, or at least not many, not Al and Cort. Most went to the west and south of town during the summer, not straight north, to Lake Heron.

A feeling tickled her heart and she felt lighter for a Moment. Even without witnesses to tease her and remind her she was not allowed to be happy, her face stayed plain.

“Jodie! Where are you, where are you, where are you!” Her mother sang through the vent.

Rising from the bed, Jodie smeared sweat. “Comin’, Ma. Comin’.” She walked down the stairs onto the cold floor.

“Well, you played that one right,” Ardis said as Jodie walked behind her armchair. Her Ma chuckled. “You’re a smart one when you put your mind to it.”

It was true Jodie was top of her class. Great grades in everything except science, and even those grades were better than her classmates’, just not as good as her other marks. But the principal had reminded Jodie it didn’t mean much; it wasn’t like she had taken the SAT. “Well, your grades are looking great, but you know the teachers around here—a little ‘A’ happy.

Everyone knows that. I’m just waiting for your ACT scores. Don’t worry. As long as you get a 20 in English you’ll be eligible for the teacher’s program. You still want to teach, right?”

The woman tilted her head toward the girl, and looked over her glasses. “Right?”

Jodie shifted in her seat. Then she sat up with discomfort, as straight as her back would allow.

“Jodie, I can’t help if you aren’t willing to help me. Okay? Now, you still want to be a teacher? I think your grades are fine. I do. And it just depends on a decent score. The average for last year’s class was…well Ric—” The woman coughed. Then she whispered though no one else was in the room. “One kid— I’m not supposed to give out names, you know, of course— got a nine out of 33 on the science part. A two…we’ll still graduate him of course. It’s not about that. The exam has nothing to do with grades. Thank god for that, right?”

Jodie wondered if Mrs. Bartel’s god was with a small or large “g”. Her thoughts shifted backwards. There was only one “R” student in her class of eleven, and only two other classmates had taken the exam. She straightened her back again and tried to look towards the woman’s right eye. Good posture and eye contact make a good impression, she had read that somewhere.

The guidance counselor continued. “If you get the bare minimum and you get one part as low as Ric—others, you might be able to swing an 18, which with the programs you’re interested in, I have to tell ya…” The woman shook her head. Then she straightened herself in her seat.

Is she mimicking me?

The woman finally made eye contact and winked. She whispered again, “They like a minimum of 21. I’ll talk to the dean at Johnsville, pull some strings. I’ll make sure.”

I wonder what they serve at the diner… Jodie had never been there, and literally brushed the thought away with a knife, and then cut a slit in the plastic wrap. The food needed to breathe while it cooked. She had heard of food exploding onto people’s faces if they ignored the directions. Her dad had taken her to a diner in Johnsville once, for his birthday, and before The Night, Jodie ate on Main Street as often as a teammate offered the tip.

She wondered if she would need to figure out a way to shave her legs in order to help out at the diner. Will my legs show? Just a fuzzy inch of an ankle? That will be enough to be a new punch line for everyone to use. Do the waitresses wear short skirts like the ones on TV?

She shook her head briefly from side to side as if her head were a snow globe. The weather needed to change. The two frozen cardboard against the backdrop of the countertop.

Punctured sheet of plastic atop. Solid gravy and hard potatoes touched the plastic and asked Jodie why she ate it.
Before her was the evening meal, which meant at least two hours had passed since Idette left, time that had passed without her mother’s show on TV changing.

“Better than nothing, than nothing,” Jodie said, but not loudly enough for her mother to hear.


Her stomach felt empty though she had just eaten a piece of white toast. She toasted another and then added a glob of greasy peanut butter. She had more than once felt the same way before each game back then, and she remembered the first time she ever got on a school bus and someone taking her where she needed to go. She knew the rules: 1) Do whatever the driver tells me to do. 2) Anticipate what the driver is going to tell me to do. 3) Don’t bother the others; it will make them mad and the driver too.

Getting into Idette’s car appeared like trying to step onto a ton of metal tight rope; balancing carefully or falling to her final demise being the only options to reaching what waited at the other end. A car’s not a rope. But as the vehicle began moving and stayed between the yellow lines and the white one, she came to accept the image.

“…Most families don’t move to the lake till after Memorial Day. But that’s good; we’ll air out the place and get stuff acclimated,” Idette said.

Jodie nodded. She liked the multi-syllabled word, acclimated, and thought that when she messed up too bad, like with other things, at least her vocabulary might improve.

She wanted to close her eyes, to finish the night’s sleep, but keeping Idette happy was more  important. Her eyelids dropped again, and her body jerked to attention to open them.

“…It’s not that it’s hard work; now beekeeping, that was hard work. The hardest job I ever done. End of the summer, honeycomb coming in all day, and we’re scraping, and its spinnin’ and, man, tired just talking about it, but the diner, it’s a different hard…”

Jodie listened, but her thoughts were on what waited for her, what would make her wobble enough to fall and make it impossible to keep up with Idette who obviously floated.

Idette turned her face briefly towards her, then back to the road. “You can sleep, ya know.

“Huh?” Jodie said. She shook her head. “I’m, uh, sor…sorry. I’m okay.” She had visions

of sleeping on the floor of the diner. But that’ll make Idette angry.

“I’m a chatterbox. Sleep if you wanna sleep. I’m a big fan of it. We’re an unrested nation.” Idette laughed. “Hmph. More ways than one.”

The new rule allowing sleep allowed Jodie’s head to nod in a new way, and within seconds her chin rested closer to her chest and Idette’s voice faded away.

Jodie had awakened at three that morning without an alarm clock, before her mother and four hours before Idette would arrive. Drinking a cup of instant coffee back at the house let her think caffeine would prepare her for the day, but later, just before leaving she noticed the green label—decaffeinated, and the brown water in her stomach lost any value. The dusty jar had been previously hidden in the back of the cupboard. She knew other jars better.

The rare sound of a car door clicking woke her; she expected doors to slam. It was one of the ways people expressed anger, she knew, and Idette would eventually have to share hers.

Coach had found his. To say I’m disappointed in you…Then it had been over. Out of his system.

She expected him to be polite, and he was—never tripping her, bringing it up again, but then again, he was a man. Area women were more creative in weaving a strand of rage into an afternoon conversation otherwise comfortable.

I’m sexist! Nothing challenged her thought.

Before Idette would have a chance to reprimand her, Jodie lumbered out of the car and felt her legs wobble to find their equilibrium. She followed, not quite catching up to her pace, but not far behind either. Her pinky toe tried to wake from a prickly and sluggish sleep.

Idette stood at the front of the diner and held its door open. “Now, no hurry, girl. We’re just gonna take it easy today.”

Jodie quickened her steps.

When Idette turned on lights inside, the floors gleamed even under a thick layer of dust that became noticeable after a chair and revealed four coin sized protected spots. In the corner an empty bucket held a mop with its head resting against the wall. It was smaller than the one at school that swept the gymnasium floor, but larger than the hardened kitchen sponge on the end of a broomstick back in the kitchen at the farm.

Idette, already towards the back of the diner, yelled from somewhere. “C’mon back.”

The yelling sounded kindly and Jodie heard herself breathing as she touched the metal towel rack to the right of the stainless steel counters by her hip.

She glanced back at the painted lettering on the door. The lake began only thirty or so feet away. No water mark above the base board—the place has never flooded. That’ll make cleaning easier. No water damage. No smell to figure out.

Then Idette read her mind. It had to be what happened. Just like Coach had. Like her mother. There was no other explanation.

“Place ‘as flooded a couple springs. Not a big deal. Not like other parts of the state, the world. Can’t complain. People have volunteered their lives to get here a place to eat regularly.

The two spent the morning wiping away the winter dust from booths and chairs. Jodie would sit at a booth and put her forehead on the table when Idette left the room. Soon it was noon, and time for a longer break.

Idette stood in the kitchen and pushed food through the open window. “For lunch and snacks…My staff will join us tomarra, and the next day.”

The fact Idette wanted her to like it made it more likely that Jodie would. She would do anything to keep any niceness.

If I try to walk back to the farm, I’ll pass out and fall and roll into the ditch where no one will find me until it’s too late, like harvest.

From a previous day, a “You’ll do great” squeezed her hand.

After eating lunch, the two split from one another, each starting at a different end of the counter.

“There’s water here and some snacks. Help yourself.”

The thought of water from the tap made Jodie’s lips tighten together. Back at the farm she only drank skim milk and or sometimes Diet Coke if her mother shared. During basketball season, eating became religious. Jill picked her up early for school and they ate at different teammates’ houses. Al challenged them to give up dairy for the season, like she had, and the team worked out together too. There were few choices to make, and decisions all focused on whether or not it would help them win the next game. Tap water, yuck.

She watched Idette drink a long gulp, who said, “Ahh,” after finishing.

Jodie became curious, and a question must have appeared on her face unless Idette was reading her mind like Coach. Or are they going to finally admit they see the words too?

“Go ahead. Try it. If you don’t like, I’ll bring some lemon tomarra, that oughta help.”

Jodie wanted to be obedient, and poured from the Mason jar. Its coolness moistened her mouth and soothed her dry throat. It tasted almost sweet, and she finished the glass and poured another, though she waited to drink it.

The day that Idette had given Jodie a bottle of water at the track, the plastic had been untampered, impossible to be a cruel prank.

“Wh-wh- what’s in…?” She pointed downward at it.

For a second that frightened Jodie, Idette’s face showed judgment in its confusion. I knew this was too good to be true. She knows I’m stupid.

Idette’s split second of uncertainty turned into a smile. “Nothin’. Just water, well purified. The idea of purified water puzzled her. If it’s better or safer or whatever, why do only some drink it?

In her mind, Jodie put purified water on her It’s Okay list and then continued onto wiping down the tables. Each time Idette moved onto a new table, she wiped extra fast to finish the one she was on, and then moved as well. She wanted to give reasons to keep her there and she wanted to accumulate points for the days when she would receive demerits from customers and coworkers, if not Idette herself. The woman has to have her bad days. The armor has to have a hole or a dent somewhere. I think I see one if I squint a bit, maybe. She squinted.

When Idette stopped for another sip of water, Jodie continued working.

“You should stop too, ya know.”

At the command, she stopped.

“How ya feelin’?”

“Fine,” Jodie said. She realized she had left her stutter back at the first table where it awoke when it saw her standing still and started scurrying toward her. No other words came out of her mouth. When Idette left the room again, she rested her head on the table and welcomed it.

Idette suddenly reentered the room, and Jodie raised her head just as suddenly, waiting

The woman smiled. “Ya know, we can take a break now. We’ll sit,” she said. “C’mon. It’ll be good for ya. Tell me a story, entertain me.”

Any apologetic words that may have been about to come out of Jodie’s mouth moved further back. There was no reprimand, but it had happened. Not as soon as she expected. It was confirmed. Her first day at the diner was her last, and there was nothing that could be done to change it. Idette had asked Jodie for something she could not provide.

Idette switched topics, and Jodie wondered why.

“Well, my story for you today is that I’m glad you’re here. After my daughter—you remember Laura? Stopped by and said hello to the team once?”

At the reference, a blonde haired, blue eyed daughter seemed to appear before them. She had been smiley and laughed easily. Coach said she lived 85 minutes away in the next state and taught special education students during the year. For parts of the summer she helped out the

“Well anyway…when she said she was going to Dominican Republic or somewhere like that, to serve orphans, I just thought…well, to be honest, I wondered why give all school year to special needs kids only to give her summer away too? My second thought was, what am I gonna do without her, ya know, here?”

Recognizing the expectations as high enough to think Jodie could possibly replace Laura, Jodie wanted curl up on the floor and sleep. The job is over.

“Then you came to mind. Gregg and I both agreed you’d be perfect…”

Think I’m awful. Think I’m the last resort…Give me something where I can exceed your expectations. Like other times, Jodie’s thoughts spoke louder than others and made her miss some of Idette’s story. I quit.

“…So Gregg said he’d talk to you, but he told me you didn’t seem interested. Mish mash! Huh! If I had been around, we wouldn’t have had to wait so long to get this little arrangement

To Jodie’s surprise, Idette abruptly stood and returned to her work. “Take your time. Really. I’m just gonna keep on truckin’ over here…” Her voice sounded pleasant and contradicted her movements.

Though she wanted to rest more, Jodie rose and returned to wiping. She kept even with Idette’s movements, and they both moved onto new areas at nearly the same time.

At the end of the afternoon, the two got back in the blue car and drove the thirty minute drive back to the farm. The soil and the crops alongside the road escaped Jodie’s attention as she again found her eyelids drooping. Idette stopped talking and Jodie fell asleep like she had that morning except her lack of adequate sleep was assisted by the cost of exertion.


“Jodie, Jodie! Help!”

The cry filtered through the vent and gave a mismatched voiceover to the dream. In it, she was in her childhood house, the one in town where she had spent her elementary years, and she had been exploring a pantry she had never actually seen but her dad told her the previous occupants knocked out. She had always wondered about it and her dream allowed her to explore its small area and strangely dusty canned food that she guessed had been pickled way back during the Great Depression. She looked behind her to see her dad mouthing words with her mother’s voice. Then the pantry and her bed coexisted for a Moment, before the cry became

Jodie moaned silently, and blindly reached for a shirt to cover the tank top she had worn . She found her shorts and stood at the top of the stairs before stepping down. “Whattsa

In the living room, her mother sat in her chair, but she sniffled.

“Ma, it’s okay. What’s the matter?”

Her mother pointed. “Sp-spider!” She sniffed as if trying to prevent her nose from running.

Jodie followed the direction her mother pointed. “Here?”

Her mother nodded repeatedly.

“Ah. I see him. I’ll just pick him up by one ticklish leg and, oop.” She cupped her hands, then peered inside into emptiness. “Yup. All taken care of. I’m just gonna escort this little bugger outside. He’ll be happier there anyway.”

Her mother giggled.

On other days, occasionally a centipede wiggled out from the edge the floor, scurrying across a part of the wall, and disappearing. Jodie had heard of a missionary who had established an orphanage in India way back. She had said that critters that stayed outdoors could not be harmed, but if they chose to enter the house they were asking to be exterminated. Jodie liked the guideline, but in general attempted to remove insects and other critters to the outdoors rather than kill them.

Outside, the air felt good and she breathed in deeply, still waking up. She stretched her arms and felt the sun on her skin. The warmth on her legs let her forget their appearance, and the In the distance, she saw the door of the barn still open and as her uncle walked out of it, she waved to him briefly before turning back inside. She had thought she saw him nod before she closed the front door behind her.

That night when it wasn’t quite 5:30, she began preparing supper. She had once heard that in other parts the meal was called “dinner”. She liked that idea, and in her own mind she called it that. But, the dinner label was reserved for the noon meal in that area, and supper for the evening. Supper didn’t exist in other parts. She liked that idea even more.

“Jodie, I need ya. What if…”

Jodie welcomed the words; they comforted her. But her thoughts betrayed her. “You’ll do fine Na, you have the kids.”

“What about after you leave? What if I see another spider?”

“Ya know, Ma, I’m planning on telling Id…Mrs. Jorrissen today. It’s not gonna work. She’ll understand. She’s a nice lady, isn’t she Ma?”

Her mother sniffed and didn’t say anything.

Jodie planned on how she would help Idette finish setting up the diner and then thank her and let her know she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to continue. She was too tired and did not want to be paid for sleeping. She’s just trying to be nice. She’ll find another waitress; people like her up there. Maybe there’s even a guy around who wouldn’t mind waiting tables. After supper, she considered going out to the barn and waiting for the moon to rise higher than the trees. But a strained feeling in her thigh directed her to walk the stairs to her bed. She fell asleep before complete dark.


At the diner the next day, her leg still hurt and occasionally she stopped and pulled her foot behind her the way Coach had taught her to warm up.

Idette noticed of course. “Hamstring? Gets me every spring when I start crouching and stretching around this place. As if I don’t get enough of a workout in the winter with all the stuff The last physical Jodie had received from the physician’s assistant who volunteered time to the team had told her she was “fit”. She had wanted her to tell the rest of the school that so that after the season ended they might remember her. Her size became weight to them, and instead of being stronger she was too big.

The diner reminded her of this as her arm lacked the ability to reach certain corners to clean behind the oven, and then she knocked over porcelain cups stacked in the pantry. Though unscratched, she grabbed her head as if it hurt. “Uh, uh, I’m sorry! You can. You can take it out of my paycheck, when I…” She realized she would have to work at the diner longer if she wanted to pay for the damage.

“What? What are you talkin’ about?” She looked at Jodie. “It’s just a cup. I mean, I don’t want them to break, but it happens. Wait. Ya know you’re being paid to help set up, right?”

Being paid to clean. If she had been paid to clean in her life, she would be filthy-rich, she laughed at her own pun and stopped herself from watching Idette watch her laugh to herself. She would be able to buy a spaceship and shoot out of state and land wherever she wanted. It wouldn’t really be flying, but space travel. There’s a difference, she reasoned with herself.

Though no words came out of her mouth releasing the pressure, her head stopped hurting.

It was the opposite of all other experiences where words entered her ear and began to pinball through her mind and smooth all the creases in the way.

She swept up the shards of glass, and within the dustpan a larger piece caught her attention and pulled her closer. She picked it up and studied its shape, like one of the rectangle-like states of the country, a smooth edged piece of a 50-piece puzzle, not quite equilateral, but resembling a shaky rectangle of some sort, an awkward one. She liked it and wanted to keep it, to put it in her pocket knowing it was meant for her, like it had been given to her as a consolation for the chalky dust she had just shoveled. Lines of a design were scribbled on it. She carefully rubbed her thumb on the rough edge that lacked a shiny finish, the part that no one ever saw unless it broke, the part that never touched coffee until the user chipped it.

I’m keeping this. It’s been given to me. Her thoughts didn’t make sense to herself, but she believed them and promised herself not to speak.

Putting it in her pocket would hurt. “I’ll—I’ll be right back…” she said. She hurried over to the door and set the piece on the window sill, but as she did the corner poked her finger and a bead of blood immediately rose to the surface. She managed to push back an “ouch”, but not her sucking the air.

“You okay over there?”

She held her thumb against the finger next to it. She nodded.

Idette walked towards her wiping her hands on a dishtowel, which she threw it onto her

“Here, let me see that.” She took her hand and held it up to the light streaming through the window. The fluorescent lights off, the woman squinted. “We better take a look at this. A little hydrogen peroxide, maybe some Benadryl and a band aid, and it’s gonna be tender, but not like your finger will fall off when I’m done with ya.”

It’s just a pin prick. The difference between Ardis and Idette saying the same thing troubled Jodie. The words were the same, but felt different. Like an accent. She wondered if maybe Idette had ever been an exchange student from another land that spoke exotically and stuck around after her year. Eventually began to look like everyone else, but different, like maybe they had those back then.

When Idette stopped in front of the farm, Jodie thought, “I’m sorry. I won’t  be able to help you after all. Ma needs me.” And shut the door with an intentional slam. She’ll know what I mean…


There were only two more days until the diner officially opened. If Idette showed up, she would get the picture as she observed Jodie trying to remember the menu. It just isn’t going to work out.

Jodie needed a label thrown at her, a bad one, something familiar that would help her leave the place more easily. Most labels put on her were sticky and rubbery. She knew because she once peeled one off, and then tried to drop it; it bounced off her wrist and landed as a cover for her mouth. She kept breathing, like one of her Ma’s shows taught, and air went through her nose and exhaled from her mouth. The label stuck but it outflated and inflated until she was able to gently hold on at its neck and twist it like the opening of a balloon. Then she held on wanting it to carry her away, low to the ground but not touching.

But that’s exhausting, and so she often allowed the labels to stay where they were and felt comforted by her awareness of her option, and maybe one day a label would inflate well enough to take her many miles south, all the way to Texas. She thought it a straight line, and in the air and low to the ground for safety, she would ignore traffic and speed limits.

But there were no labels lurking at the diner, though she needed just one. Fresh air blew in through the fine mesh screened windows, keeping out the bugs and dust.



There were only two more days until the diner officially opened. Idette would get the picture as she observed Jodie trying to remember the menu. It just isn’t going to work out.

She needed a label thrown at her, a bad one, something familiar that would help her leave the place more easily. Most labels put on her were sticky and rubbery. She knew because she once peeled one off, and then tried to drop it; it bounced off her wrist and landed as a cover for her mouth. She kept breathing, like one of her Ma’s shows taught, and air went through her nose and exhaled from her mouth. The label stuck but it outflated and inflated until she was able to gently hold on at its neck and twist it like the opening of a balloon. Then she held on wanting it to carry her away, low to the ground but not touching.

But that’s exhausting, and so she often allowed the labels to stay where they were and felt comforted by her awareness of her option, and maybe one day a label would inflate well enough to take her many miles south, all the way to Texas. She thought it a straight line, and in the air and low to the ground for safety, she would ignore traffic and speed limits.

But there were no labels lurking at the diner, though she needed just one. Fresh air blew in through the fine mesh screened windows, keeping out the bugs and dust.


The other waitresses joined Jodie and Idette and helped unpack, clean and stock the shelves for the opening day of the diner. They were nice to Jodie, but she knew they were

On her first day of kindergarten when the school bus rolled into the farmyard, she hesitated. Her mother prodded her with doughy hands and threatened with words. What finally motivated her was a kindergartner’s deep thought. If other kids can do this, I can too.

Standing at the diner’s kitchen door and remembering that thought she was struck with what a deep insight it was for a five-year old child, and it motivated her to take a few steps closer to the an occupied table. How many hundreds of waitresses have had their first day? Easy enough, but she stood at the kitchen door and eyed the couple with uncertainty.

She walked over to the table with heads of gray hair sticking up from it. The woman’s was silvery and pulled back into a bun, and a pearl sat on each ear. From where Jodie was standing she could tell that the earrings weren’t pierced, but ones tightened like tiny clamps.

“Hi. I mean, good morning. I mean, are you ready to order?” her mouth stayed small. Her teeth might clatter if she opened it up more.

“Good morning! In case you didn’t know, we’re new around here this summer,” the man said, his voice good-natured though it sounded loud at 7:30 in the morning. “What would you The woman across from him said nothing and faced her expectantly.

She considered giving the couple Idette’s “I’ll ask Idette herself.” It was too soon, but her instant words surprised her enough she almost gasped. “I’m new too, actually. But all the food’s good. Idette makes it herself. What do you like?”

The woman startled her by being able to speak up. “Harry’s an eggs and bacon man and I like oatmeal actually, but not instant. Do you have anything along those lines?”

“There’s lots of eggs and bacon combinations. They’re listed on the table right there. I can ask Idette herself about the oatmeal. And our juices are all freshly squeezed.” Her own words surprised her again. She hid a quizzical look by hiding her mouth inside itself.

At the mention of freshly squeezed juices, the woman raised an interested eyebrow.

“These look really good, actually. Nicer than prices in Florida,” Harry said.

The woman said, “I think we’re ready!”

Jodie reached for the pen in her apron and couldn’t find it. With her order pad in her left hand she felt the front of her apron again. Both pockets were empty. She felt a familiar steam rise on her face. It had been going okay…“I…I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I forgot my pen. I’ll be right back.” She quickly walked back to the kitchen and heard soft chuckling behind her.

“I lost the pen already,” she said with an apologetic look on her face. Idette seemed amused and handed her another red felt-tipped pen. She imagined Idette’s thoughts though, Whatwere Gregg and I thinking that she was up for the job? We made a huge mistake…

Jodie hurried back to the couple and announced her presence. “Okay.” With her confidence slightly increasing, her hand posed with the pen.

The couple chuckled again and the woman spoke, “Dear, we can’t help but tell you. It’s behind your ear. It was there before you left our table.”

Jodie groaned and quickly grabbed the pen and put it in her apron pocket as a back up, just in case she misplaced its replacement anytime soon.

“Is the oatmeal slow-cooked or instant?” the woman asked again kindly.

Jodie groaned silently again. In her hurry, she had forgotten to ask about the food.

Before she could say anything the woman said, “It’s okay. Not a problem. How about this…I’ll take the oatmeal if it’s not instant, and some freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, but I don’t want the juice if a machine juices it. Only if it is freshly squeezed by hand. It tastes too

metallic if a machine does it. If the oatmeal is instant, then I’ll have a piece of sourdough toast almost burnt instead, with no butter, but some real butter on the side. Does that make sense?”

Jodie tried to write it all down. She turned to Harry, who laughed.

“I’ll have the Dragon’s Dozen,” he said. “I’m hungry!”

His wife groaned. “Harry, your cholesterol!”

“But we want you to live as long as possible, Harry…”

“Eggs over easy, wheat toast with margarine, silver dollar pancakes instead of regular, and crisp bacon. And a refill for my coffee. Jeanette over here will have more hot water for her

tea and another slice of lemon and some honey for it as well. Why do they call it Dragon’s Dozen?” The question at the end of his order ignored his wife and he smiled.

She surprised herself by explaining. “Menu stuff is named after school mascots around here. Dragons are in Drayton. It’s Idette’s way of not showing any favorites,” she said without looking up from her order pad and writing and trying to fit the words lemon and honey.

Then she walked quickly back to the kitchen. She looked at her cramped writing on the order sheet. Next time she would write smaller. She faced Idette.

“Well?” Idette said with a hand on her hip. “How’d it go?”

“Ugh,” Idette said. “I bet the Winnebago out in the parking lot is theirs. From Florida? I can tell roadies’ orders from a mile away. Surprised the man didn’t ask for egg substitute…” Her eyebrows knit together, but her eyes sparkled, her movements fluid, not jerky with genuine “Ya did good, kid. Here’s a hint,” she said frying the eggs, “Don’t write down anything that comes with the order. Simply, that means you don’t have to write down ‘lemon & honey’

because as you’ll see over there, and as you get used to stuff around here, all the tea pots have a slice of lemon and a small container of honey and there’s extras on the tables. Not every order will be this complicated. You’ll usually write down a three or even just the first names of the regulars, and I’ll know what they want.” She never glanced at the list a second time.

Memorization had never been Jodie’s strong suit; she was glad for the pad. She eyeballed the effortless cooking performance. On the burners three eggs and some strips of bacon cooked.

Others stayed warm on another cast iron griddle. Oatmeal bubbled in a small pot on the front “If she wants hand squeezed instead of my wonderfully efficient electric juiced, I’ll give

it to her.” She aggressively twisted a grapefruit half onto a juice squeezer made of glass that she

already rinsed the dust off of and dried. “As if Idette Dunford Jorissen gives anything less. You

go back out there and bring an entire pot of coffee, an entire thing of hot water.”

“Dunford” was Idette’s maiden name, and the name she made her middle name when she

married Coach, her second husband. “I wasn’t about to lose my real name twice!” she had once

confided. Jodie giggled at first hear it pronounced. It reminded her of a character on a children’s

Jodie gripped a carafe in her right and left hand and headed back out to the table feeling

lighter. Her steps slowed when she saw that someone had joined them.

It was the strange boy from the track meet, who had been wearing corduroys and the

black t-shirt and standing with Connie. She couldn’t see his pants, but he was wearing another

long sleeve shirt. Good for this frozen AC temp. His elbows rested on the table awkwardly.

Connie wasn’t with him, and Jodie wondered how everyone knew each other or were related, if

Jodie set the carafes on the table, and then switched the hot water closer to Jeanette and

the coffee nearer to Harry. She stood there.

The boy stared at his forefingers that he twirled forward and backward.

The man said, “Well, now, this would be a good opportunity to introduce you, Nice

Waitress, to this here, our Nice Grandson. This is Tony. Tony, this is our Nice Waitress, who

doesn’t have a nametag, but we assume…” He waited for his waitress to respond.

But everyone knows me. “Jodie. It’s my first day. Idette hasn’t made me a nametag, but a

lot of people already know. I’ll be a senior at Randall High School in the fall.”

“Well, la-di- dah! So will our Tony!”

Jodie was stunned, although it wasn’t hard for her to be silent. Her class had been the

same nine people since seventh grade, when then at ten students, Dingo had left with his migrant

farming family, literally, for greener pastures, dropping the class to nine. No one expected the

number to change ever again, especially entering their senior year. She waited for the boy’s

“Same as Grandpa,” the boy said without looking up.

“Our Tony will be working for his Uncle Conrad this summer over at that gas station

Everyone knew everyone. Siblings, spouses, relatives, cousins, second cousins, cousin-

once-removed, exes and steps, you name it. Plenty of ways they could be related, especially since

Connie was with him at the track… She returned to the short-order area.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Idette asked.

“Is that boy over there hungry or not?”

“Oh yeah,” she said feeling foolish. “He’ll have what his grandpa had, but I don’t…”

“Another Dozen, coming up…” Idette said.

Idette rang an orange bell, making Jodie jump.

“It’s good practice. I ring the bell and you know the food is ready,” Idette said with a

mischievous grin. Jodie balanced the food onto a tray and attempted to carry it with one hand

balancing it all on her shoulder. After a wobbly start, she held the tray on her shoulder with two

Other waitresses appeared to be hopping from table to table. They’re probably covering

my tables too. Which ones are mine again? She came back to Harry and Jeanette’s table with

their breakfasts. Tony shuffled a nickel between his hands with his index fingers.

“Your order will be ready in a few minutes,” she said in his general direction. He only

“Thank you, Jodie,” Harry said with a concerned frown.

I knew he didn’t like me. She left the table to wait on others.

Six hours of waiting tables later, Jodie felt like a water buffalo making its way from the

watering hole back to its nest, the kind she saw on cable when babysitting.


In Chapter 2, Jodie’s passive streak is obvious, as she daydreams about Coach repeating his idea for what she considers her “Solution” of getting away. Hot temperatures of the beginning of summer slow any of her possible action. She does feel a kinship to the overdressed new boy at the track meet, but of course, says nothing to him about anything. Fortunately, none of these are an obstacle when Idette, Coach’s wife, takes the bull by the horns and makes a way for Jodie to be free of pressures. Even Ardis, Jodie’s mom, can’t get in the way if there’s money involved. What can possibly stop freedom?



The remainder of the cool night and the rising sun created a low fog. It had been two months since Daylights Savings began, a special event to Jodie since it meant the bus no longer required use of its headlights. She had spent the dark, winter rides cringing whenever the bus approached an oncoming vehicle; Kenny’s endless use of the brights had to hurt the eyes of other drivers.

The bus rumbled along, creating a rhythm convinced of its destination. The ground, the ground, the ground. She tried to ignore it, but it persisted. She looked upward as if a cloud might help her.

Two black birds sat on a telephone wire and she admired their pleasant rest. The bus passed them and she turned around. We left them behind, she thought. They’ll have to fly to the ground if they want to eat. The early bird catches the worm, worm, worm. Too bright-lights-worm-worm-worm.

Misty said, “What do ya think that cloud looks like, Jodie? Over there. What is it, Jodie? I think…” The question provided relief.

Jodie nodded and mumbled an encouraging answer. Then from her aisle seat, she watched the fast moving cloud, accommodating in shape and speed.

Wow, Coach! Cool! I would love to work for ya and my mother will think it’s a great idea. We don’t even have to ask her; she’ll want me to. Awesome! That is great, Jodie. We have everything settled. It is all ready today if ya want. Her animated words, his stenciled ones, sounded mismatched.

The cloud had made it seem so easy. She tried again.

Jodie! I have to ask ya. The question is—heck, why do I even ask? Work for us! Ya start tomorrow!”

She craved his command saving her from her own. More than once she had decided to stay after class and talk to him for real, but her feet kept moving until she found herself back at her locker and wanting to squeeze inside. The contortion would stifle her if she fit, but would be better than wide open conversation.

The bus pulled up to the school’s sidewalk and blocked the handicap parking spot. Jodie and the kids exited. The last week of school had arrived with three shorter days. Her dad had emailed her that Texas kids had to go to school till June. She took it as another reason for her not to try to escape.

Bright lights, birds, birds, birds, cloud. She wanted her mind to shift on its own.  Misty could not after all, leave first grade and follow her through a day of eleventh. Could she? She thought she laughed to herself.

A kid walking past her groaned. “Not again!”

She stopped making the noise. She was usually more careful.

She trudged into the school and directly to the room where Coach already sat at his desk.

She chose a chair in the front row, sat and reviewed her notes. One pen rolled away from her and onto the floor. A sign I should talk to him. Her mouth opened.

Coach glanced up, as if he knew she wanted to speak. “Question?”

Al and L. L. entered the room. Other students followed. She closed her mouth.

He frowned, then stood. “Okay, everyone. Here it is, my last exam of the year, your invitation to summertime. I’m not trying to find out what you don’t know. Yes, that means I want to find out what you do…”

After she finished the exam, she quickly looked at the others behind her while Coach read a book. Heads pointed toward their desks, and a few hands scribbled. Backs stayed bent. She returned to her own exam to review its answers again. She had to have done something wrong.

If I’m the last student left in the room, it will be the real sign. Her thought would stand up from the floor, walk over to him and chat.

She watched him watch everyone leave. Then as she pretended to rummage through papers purposefully dropped, he spoke.

“Have a great summer, Jodie. I really hope it’s your best ever,” he said with his uncommon tone, as if disappointed in her again.

As he left the room, she thought of ways to have done better on the exam. She should have studied more.

She walked to the hall, and he was gone. Everyone was. It was for the better; empty hallways were safer.

To the side of her, the janitor appeared. “Hurry it along, Miss May. I gotta do my job.”

There, standing on the walk, the vacant bus lane confused her. Bus number five, though the school only owned three, was absent. The janitor’s pickup stood alone at the far end of the parking lot.

At the meet. Everyone ‘cept me. The younger kids would have taken the bus; she should have too. Kenny knew that, and it was first time he had left her. Then she remembered he said he had a dentist appointment and the school board president would drive for him.

A public phone back in the school would allow her to call her mother, but she had heard the doors slam as if the janitor was making sure she could not. The heat urged her to move forward.

It was humid, and daylight shimmering off of the flagpole hurt her eyes. If she moved too quickly, the day’s strong humidity would knock her to the ground. That wouldn’t happen, since her listless way only allowed her to move at a bovine speed. I used to be able to run the floor, catch the rebounds…

Two blocks later, she reached Main Street. She entered an air-conditioned store and walked past a row of motor oil and mechanical gadgets. At the till, the owner Conrad was nowhere in sight, nor his wife Connie.

Their employee Mikey greeted her. “Whadda you want?”

He knew she only used the phone when she came in, but she considered a different request. A cup of water would help. But that lacked guaranteed use of the phone. He wouldn’t give both. She decided on the most practical. “Um, uh, phone, please?”

He slid it over the counter. “I need to find my wench set, anyway. I mean, wrench set, wench.” He walked through the swinging door that led to the mechanic’s area. She ignored the old insult, and expertly dragged a finger around the rotary face. Its numbers were long ago blurred by dirty fingertips and smeared oil, but it was no matter. The round arrangement was the same as at her house, unlike the nine-digit rectangles everyone else had.

When a child answered the other end, Jodie sweetly asked for his grandma. It seemed a cold minute before Ardis came to the phone. Their negotiations soon stalled.

“But Ma, I’m stuck in town—it’s hot out, really hot. You know I don’t…”

Her mother rambled questions and left no pause for a response. She couldn’t just leave the grandchildren, could she? Hadn’t Jodie ever thought of that? Her mother listed Jodie’s newest faults, like high expectations and self-centeredness. If you had been the baby boy I prayed for, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, now would we? Her mother didn’t say it again, but might as well have since it rang through Jodie’s mind from years earlier.

Jodie wanted to suggest that Uncle Robby would watch the kids, or better yet come get her. She rarely saw him, but he would, she was sure of it. He just didn’t have a phone. The easiest words flowed from her mouth like oil for a rusty bike chain. “You’re right; I planned missing the bus and everything. You’re always right, ma.”

Her mother continued until Jodie ended the call by hanging up. She knew she would later suffer an old lecture about her mother’s favorite commandment of honoring parents; the cost would be little compared to the worth of what she had just purchased.

Outside, only the leaves of trees farthest above her rustled in a wind, reminding her of the chill she had just left. Her denim jeans stuck to her skin again, and repeated the fact her life lacked pleasant mediums and temperate in-betweens. It was either cold enough to hurt, or stifling and the same. Trying to walk faster only made her swallow more slowly.

Why is life moving up there and not down here? Her feet shuffled, but then carefully stepped over a dusty anthill with its busy residents appearing directed and focused.

A dog jumped inside the fenced area next to her. He barked loud enough for her to cover She imagined a perfect day. No barking. No people sneering, lots of trees and sky, and an occasional break from the heat. I wouldn’t need much else, she told herself. Hot-Mother- Mercy.

The trio of words assisted her over the pavement and past the should-have- saids to Coach, to Mikey, to her mother. Even her toes sweated, her socks already moist. Her hand became wet after wiping at her brow. She wanted sandals like even boys had.

At the sound of a whistle in the distance, the sound of cheering people followed. Her steps slowed more. The whistle guaranteed Coach’s presence.

Maybe it’s the real sign. Her body wanted to be closer to the sound, but her feet kept pace. Just show up. Just show up. The unfamiliar thought peeled each foot from the cement. She chuckled. Where’d that one come from?

Minutes later she felt closer to breathlessness, though she had walked as slowly as her body would let her. The number of people seeing her at the meet would directly correlate to how well she would be treated. Name-calling, tripping, or the worst, whispers not fully heard but interpreted by her imagination.

Approaching the track with its people, she remembered an old water fountain located between the dirt parking lot and the track. It might not be working, but she thought she would give it a try. She walked in its direction and found a two-foot tall wooden plank sticking from the ground. Along its middle ran a metal pipe and a brown, splotched spigot came from its end.

A kid, a sophomore from another town, the pastor’s son, stood next to it pouring out the contents of

a large yellow cooler. It probably held the team’s leftover purified water supply they had  “Wait!” It had not burst from her; she had willed it. She surprised herself.

As if startled as well, the boy stopped pouring. Her words recovered themselves. “Um, can I get a drink first? I’m not, uh, um…you know, feeling okay…I—I—need…”

The boy looked at her with the heat of the day. She recognized the glint. As he held both her stare and the cooler, he slowly continued pouring. Then the water stopped.

With each of his shakes, the last three drizzles fell, as if he wanted to ensure that even those were unavailable to her. He smiled and pointed to the wet ground. “Sure, help yourself.”

He kicked some dirt into the shallow pool and walked away; she appreciated his lack of calling her by a name.

At the spigot, she turned its handle. Brown water ran from it and splashed below. It Looking at the miniature lake, she became the giant, but not even her enormous need would make her crouch to sip. She edged over to the water farthest from the spigot, the water more likely to be from the cooler. Her hands dipped into it. It was refreshing, so much that she knelt closer to splash some of the cleaner water on her face. She made sure her mouth was closed.

Laughter stopped her. “TUN-dra, TUN-dra! Chug it, baby!” a boy hooted.

She turned around to see two boys punching at each other and laughing in her direction.

But I wasn’t drinking. In a blink, she was there again. Not among the women dressed in black and white, but in Cort’s old van. Jill took a swig and passed it to Jodie. “I know you’re thirsty,” she had said. The driver, Troy, tossed an empty beer bottle out the window and steered toward the country roads. Al sat on Cort’s lap on the passenger’s side.

She blinked again. Before her, she considered her wet hands to be a break from the heat, enough that she let herself wander closer to a large tree and away from the track where athletes, watchers, and certain laughter gathered, and perhaps even a ride home. Her tongue curled roughly in her mouth; she still needed water.

Coach stood less than ten feet from her on the other side of the shade. Wanting to observe him before he saw her, she walked closer but made sure the trunk separated them.

Though his teeth held a whistle, his words remained crisp and clear. “…We’ll look forward to having ya next year. We welcome another, especially a long distance like you,” he said to a boy she didn’t recognize.

“Well, you know I just thought you two should meet now,” Connie said, as if defending herself.

“Of course, Con, of course. I’m glad ya did!”

The boy stuffed the fingers of one hand into the pocket of dark jeans. He wore a long sleeved, dark t-shirt with darker spots under his arms. He looked as overheated as she felt, and stood close enough to Connie as if related. His other hand regularly squeezed at a tied red bandana as if donating blood.

Coach continued talking, and Jodie stepped from behind the trunk to see him and the boy better. She thought Coach engrossed in the conversation.

“Jodie!” He walked toward her. “Idette’ll be ecstatic. She’s around here, somewhere. Tony, Connie, ‘scuse me.” He began pecking at his cell phone.

The thought of his wife being happy to see her confused her. They hadn’t seen each other since the team’s accident. But Jodie let go of that discomfort in order to consider a different one: If Idette saw Jodie, there wouldn’t be a person at the meet who didn’t know it. She didn’t want that attention.

She walked away and saw a quieter possibility. “Jill!”

At her name, the girl turned, then muttered something about shoelaces and the least of her problems. She began jogging, literally running away from her.

Jodie called after her. “Could…give, me a ride—later, of course. Well, um, I need a…I-I-I…I-I need a ride…” She wanted her sweat drenched head and heavy, dark clothes to speak better for her, though Jill did not turn around to see.

“Hello stranger! How’s my girl?” Like a jet flying overhead, the words startled the air.

It was Idette, and as always her voice matched her stance. She once had told the team she used to win arm wrestling contests against men back when she did that sort of thing.

Jodie nodded, but she wanted to run onto the track, to do whatever she had to do to get away. The heat, the teasing, Jill’s dismissal, and now identified by someone who followed unwritten rules—a specialty of Ketting, but ones no other resident recognized.

“C’mon girl, it’s been awhile, but you know me better than that.” Idette wrapped her arms around Jodie, who inhaled a sweaty smell that reminded her of freshly cut grass and fried food—better times.

“Hey, ya want one? I have an extra.” Idette casually handed her a bottle of water.

Jodie eyed the unbroken seal of the cap. Then she wondered why she appreciated Idette’s question instead of simply providing. She wondered why the woman was being nice to her, but drank anyway and in almost one long series of gulps. The coolness touched her insides.

“Listen,” Idette said, while keeping an arm around her. She jiggled her set of car keys. It was one of her trademarks; most people left their keys in the ignition. “I was about to head back to the diner. Hey, you’re on the way; keep me company. I’ll drop you off.”

Under the heavy arm Jodie shrunk. She felt confused by the kindness and her inability to recognize attached strings, but a short drive with Idette had to be better than heat stroke. She nodded again.

The two walked the length of the field to Idette’s faded blue car wedged between the bank president’s Cadillac truck and a little white pickup with a rusted out bumper. There was just enough room between the cars for the doors to open without touching the next vehicle.

Idette drove off the grass and bumps and onto the smooth highway. Long grasses waved freely in the wind, and beyond them the beginning of crops poked up from black acreage.

“Gregg told me you turned down our summer job,” Idette said, suddenly. The woman wiped at her nose with her hand.

Actually, I never refused. I just chose not to respond. Besides, he only asked me once.

Besides, you know, the summer will be busy. She wondered why some thoughts spoke clearly, yet silently, and yet those ones only reached her mouth with her mother.

“Remember,” Idette said, “you know me. I don’t give up.”

Jodie didn’t know what she meant. They continued driving until the blue vehicle slowed down onto dirt roads, and then turned onto a single dirt path wide enough for a tractor.

The car stopped close to the house. Seconds separated Jodie from door to door, and the car door creaked as she opened it. “Um, thanks,” she mumbled over her shoulder. She wanted to add that Idette had saved her life, that she had been teetering and the woman steadied her. She wanted to point out that no one else had helped her. Idette should be rewarded.

The sound of jangling keys stopped Jodie from another thought, and Idette already stood at the passenger’s side.

“Ya know, I haven’t talked to Ardis for ages! I need to pay her a visit.”

Jodie felt as hot as she had before receiving the bottle of water. With Idette beside her, and with no other options, she nodded.

They entered the mudroom of the house, and Jodie slipped off her shoes. Before she could suggest Idette keep hers on, she had slipped hers off as well.

They stepped into the kitchen, and nearly stood in the TV room. The AC felt like a cold slap compared to the cool temperature inside the car. Words croaked out of her as if back at the track. “Ide, um—Mrs. Jorissen here.”

Ardis shouted as if they were in the mudroom and not four feet from her.

“Whaddas she want now?”

Jodie’s hands flexed as if able to remove the remark.

Idette smiled. Her words took over. “Just wanna say hello, Ardis! Hello!”

Jodie was sure Idette had more, and her visit might tip the floor the other way. Though her presence unsettling, Jodie thought the house craved even a temporary shift.

“Idette Jorissen, what a surprise!” her mother’s tone, sounded warm, and unlike the outdoor temperature. “ Jodie, why didn’t you tell me we were going to have company? I would have made some ice tea with a sprig of mint, or taken cookies out of the freezer. You know, it’s certainly too hot to cook.”

You refused to rescue me. Idette knew what I needed. And you know the freezer only has…

“Oh, don’t even bother, Ardis. I saw your girl at the meet. Boy, I’ve missed seeing her more, but anyway, I asked if she’d accompany me out, didn’t even tell her that I’d stop in. Jodie, dear, why don’t you leave us adults alone? Go get out of those jeans.”

Jodie climbed the stairs, but strained backwards to hear and her body tried to hold onto the first floor’s air.

“…Wanted to pass an idea onto you, Ardis…”

Jodie caught Idette’s words like, maybe rather than the declarative is, words that didn’t let her mother remember the corner where she sat. Jodie had learned.

She saddened at the probable exchange. Her mother would nod and smile. Idette would pitch whatever idea she had. Her mother would nod and smile again. It all meant little beyond the walls of the house.

With each new step the cool air lessened and the heady heat began to touch her. Towards the top, the air from the first floor mixed nicely with the heat of the second. She waited an extra beat before continuing.

For a moment, she felt wise at not being present on the ground. Then she remembered it was Idette’s wisdom that had instructed her upstairs.

She peeled off her jeans and changed into shorts with an elastic band. Her legs scared her.

She wasn’t sure why the hairy legs of boys did not, and wished she owned her own razor and shaving cream, or one of those new combined ones.

Her attention stayed on the top of the stairs that she could see from her bed in the only space of the upper level. She sniffed at a t-shirt from the floor. One of the benefits of basketball season had been that her stuffy nose cleared. Probably the exercise chased it away, but she imagined it had been a magical spell that began with the first practice and ended with the last game, the same one that guaranteed lunch with teammates and her nickname still meant she held The sound of footsteps approached. Idette’s head popped up to the second floor to a Jodie, fully dressed.

“Zoiks, girl. It’s a sauna up here. Get a fan.” She turned around before reaching the top step. “Oh, yeah, and it’s settled. I’ll pick you up Friday morning.” From the stairs, Idette grabbed a stuffed bear sitting on the landing and threw it at her.

With two hands, Jodie caught him like a dusty basketball before he hit the rainbow curtain next to her. When she turned her face, she noticed her childhood’s plastic doll with crayon rouge lying on the floor and wondered how many years she had left it there.

Idette, barely louder than Jodie’s thoughts, shared what was sure to be her first lie.

“You’re a great student; I know you’ll make a great waitress.”

The Crane and the Woodpecker

Sure, there are plenty of self-esteem picture book manuscripts out there…But how many apply nature, humor, surprise and the voice of a friendly neighbor?

The Crane and the Woodpecker

By Sarah Puppe

To Ivy & Glen, who enlivened my childhood


Way up high, above the tippy, tippy top of a big, tall tree flew a Sandhill Crane. He felt the warm sun on his back. He smelled the crisp, fresh air, and he enjoyed the fluffy clouds. “Oh what a wondrous day!” he said.

Then he heard the most unusual noise.

Rappa-tap- tap. Rappa-tap- tap. Rappa…

Black tail feathers of a small bird stuck out of the tippy, tippy top of the tree. [The hind end of a woodpecker.] The crane said, “Well, hidey-how and good morning, neighbor! What, may I ask, are you doing?”

A Red-bellied Woodpecker poked his head out of the tree. “Just diggin’ for breakfast,” he said.

“Well, I’ll be,” said the crane. “Diggin’, well now, diggin’ sounds mighty fine! Mind if I join you?”

The woodpecker said, “Oh, wows-a- wow-wow, come on down!”

The crane joined his new friend. He had never dug for his breakfast. “This will be easy!” he said. “I have a pointy beak, too.”

He placed his feet the way the woodpecker placed his. [He slides down the tree and falls disappointedly onto a branch. Result: scrunched up beak.] He decided to stay on the branch and dig.

Oucha-ouch- ouch! Digging hurt! The crane gave up, flew to the ground, and walked away. The woodpecker followed him.

On the ground, the crane felt the same beams of sunshine, but they were scorching hot. He smelled the same crisp air, but it had become chilly, and the same fluffy clouds looked like bad weather. “Oh-me- oh-my, what a not-so- wondrous day!” he said.

“Good chum,” the woodpecker said, behind him, “why ya sound so glum?”

The crane said, “I want to rappa-tap- tap, not oucha-ouch- ouch!”

The woodpecker sat next to his friend and they watched the water. Suddenly, the crane stuck his head in the water. Splash!

The woodpecker said, “What, may I ask, was that?”

“Oh,” the crane said, “just fishin’ for breakfast.”

The crane dipped his head under the water again. Splash! The woodpecker wanted to splash too. He dipped his head under the water. He sputtered. “Yuck! Agh! Ugh!”

The crane looked at the woodpecker. The woodpecker looked at the crane. They both said, “Hey!”

“You can rappa-tap- tap!” the crane said.

“Oh, wows-a- wow-wow!” the woodpecker said, “you can splash!”

“What else can we each do?” they asked. The crane showed the woodpecker a dance that every crane knows. The woodpecker showed off his differently colored feathers that many woodpeckers have. Then they compared their different beaks, wings and legs.

Each morning after that, the crane listened to the woodpecker rappa-tap- tap. The woodpecker watched the crane splash. Then they flew through the forest to visit other animals, and the crane always said, “Oh what a wondrous day!” and the woodpecker said, “Oh, wows-a-wow-wow!”

Freddy the Fly and the Other Side

FREDDIE THE FLY AND THE OTHER SIDE is an approximately 340-word short story about trying to enjoy less than God intends for you, until God shows you the true gift of life.

Have fun reading this story out loud to yourself or the kids around you, with it’s Zzzlurp, zzzlurp, zzzlurps, and Freddie’s “fazzzter than the birds, fazzzter than the wind” repetition. Reading out loud FREDDIE THE FLY AND THE OTHER SIDE also lets kids guess where Freddie is located in the house or what animals he is by–like the bow-wowzer!


A picture book manuscript by Sarah Puppe

To Chris, and all you’ve done for so many

From beneath the closed doors of a large house, the scents of fragrant flowers and cracked open watermelon drifted inside. Freddie the fly rubbed his wings together.

“I’m hungry! Time for a zzznack!” he said. He zoomed in the direction of the delicious scents.

“I’m fazzzter than the birds! I’m fazzzter than the wind. I’m fazzzter than . . .”

BOUNCY-BOING! Instead of flowers and watermelons, he bounced against an invisible wall.

“Owzzzie!” he said, wiggling his legs in the air. Clear glass separated Freddie from yummy snacks. He tried to zoom through it a second time.

BOUNCY-BOING! He landed on his back and wiggled his legs again.

Freddie squinted his bug eyes. He had to find a way to get outdoors. He flew up. He flew  to the left, then to the right. Nothing changed.

Sadly, he zig-zagged into the kitchen and found an old banana peel. Zzzlurp, zzzlurp, zzzlurp. Yuck! Then Freddie found a rotting grape. “It’zzz better than nothing!” Freddie said.

Zzzlurp, zzzlurp, zzzlurp. Yuck. He looked outside at the watermelons. “Ooooh, thozzze are still what I really want,” Freddie said, and sighed a bug’s sigh.

“Bow-wow!” A creature barked and ran past.

Freddie thought, “If I follow that bow-wowzzzer, I’ll reach the other zzzide for my perfect meal.”

Freddie flew fazzzter than the birds, fazzzter than the wind, fazzzter than . . .

Swoosh! The creature’s tail whacked Freddie like a bat hits a baseball. He tumbled through the air and landed on his back. He wiggled his legs. He said, “Zzzo much for that idea.”

Then a bigger and stronger creature passed by. It touched a knob and pushed a door to a crack, then a crevice, and then a wide-open gap. The outdoors appeared brightly. Here was Freddy’s chance!

Fazzzter than the birds, fazzzter than the wind, fazzzter than zzzwish, zzzwash, zzzwoop.

Freddie flew past the glass, around the creature, and into a glorious, beauteous, wonderful day to finally reach. . . the tasty treats of fragrant flowers and cracked open watermelon.



As part of my dismal health prognosis, I’m taking any moment of energy I find and forcing my dreams true. Here is the first chapter of one of my favorite writings I’ve done. I stopped sending it out to editors several years ago; don’t even get me started about sending it to the appropriate agent! Thanks to my Reverie blog, it’s published on the Internet; I’ll publish the first three chapters. Email me if you’d like to read more.

In this introductory chapter of my completed 197-page novelette, Streams of Silk, we meet 17-year-old imaginative Jodie, and learn about her crazy home life and recently unpopular school life in a small town. As she dreams of the way life used to be, through Northern Lights and a starry night, it becomes obvious how bad life really is, and that her life matches the cold temperature. Jodie thinks she almost sees a solution–one that will address her physical, mental and spiritual needs. Her thoughtful solution, however, is often interrupted during her short get-aways from the pressures of family life, her school bus driver’s crush on her and school’s monotony. Will she ever come up with a timely solution that solves the pressures of life?


Dedicated to my Awesome Parents, Marilyn and David

A Novel by Sarah Puppe

Footprints, deep within iced-over snow, waited ahead. Jodie counted them each night she managed to leave the house and the number always remained the same. He hadn’t returned. She began that evening’s retracing of his steps, the challenge to follow his path without making her own. She had succeeded nine times in six weeks.

Her left foot started, and she sought to place her right one. As she wobbled, the reported ten below made her want to hug herself, but she maintained a balance by letting her arms waver.

Despite extra layers of clothes, her skin already felt stung, but she refused to return to the house. That time would come.

Only a couple stretches ahead of her, the shutter of the barn’s loft winked and urged her to hurry. The wind whistled a familiar tune, she knew the words. You won’t be disappointed tonight. She considered stopping in her tracks to listen. The wind reminded her to keep moving.

She twisted the top half of her body to glance behind, and the house appeared to rumble. A low growl and hiss came from its smokeless chimney. It made her stumble, breaking her dad’s prints for the first time. She fell to the left, and like wading through a pool of cement, she dragged each leg forward desperate to run in unmarked snow. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

Safe at the barn door, she leaned against it and only the sound of her breathing filled her ears; she slid the heavy wood to the side. It caught. Before another thought, she expertly pushed it forward and shoved. It began sliding again and one of the many barn cats she had named Critter ran out. “Hey, buddy,” she said. With more time she would sweep the straw laden steps. Her dad would like that.

Another glance at the house before ascending the steps allowed her to witness the bathroom light turning on. Her mother’s third viewing of her soap opera had to be on pause.

Jodie had less than ten minutes. The naked light bulb hanging from a wire had burned out weeks earlier, and if her dad had returned he would have noticed and changed it. She pressed hard and it failed to glow.

In the dark, she climbed the steps and then gently walked across the splintered floor towards the hayloft. The compromised planks were usually obvious, but her foot suddenly pressed lower than she wanted. She stopped and tapped the tip of her boot to the right. Solid.

As pigeons rustled in the rafters above and behind, the edge of the barn welcomed her and offered her a spot. Her legs hung into the wind, and she threw her sights upward so that night’s sky might fall on her. Like hay used to land on wagons, she thought. It was the only place to consistently receive and the pressing world felt okay. After seconds though, the cold forced her knees to her chest, a pressing she did not like and did not seem to like her.

Like a curtain, clouds covered her stars. It’ll part soon, she thought. Her gaze lowered to the horizon, and the orchestra of a silent prairie reflected moonlight here and there. To the side, the darkened shelter of hundred-year- old trees lined the perimeter of her dad’s land. Behind them, a split rail fence ran in some parts and posts had tripped and fallen in others. In front, abandoned machinery and tires, covered in snow, crouched like bluish white blobs waiting for life. Away from her stomps, snow became clean and crisp again closer to the house. Thoughts scratched at the misleading image. Why didn’t I slow down? I didn’t need to run for goodness sake. For stupid, stupid, me. Stupid.

Then the kitchen lights turned on and mimicked the glow of the bathroom and living room panes. The house became a large furnace with the windows as vents revealing an inner fire.

Ma knows we need to save electricity. With the environment and everything? We’re wasteful. Wasteful, wasteful. Then she reminded herself why she was there. “Star light, star bright…”

The chant had worked the night her dad appeared. She had run to him, and he hugged her before he grabbed his leather saddle. “Judge says I gotta. Ya know that, kiddo,” he said without looking at her. Then he drove off in his pickup.

She grabbed a handful of straw by her and threw it in the air. “I wish I may . . .” Her neck stretched until her head touched her back. The clouds remained, her voice not enough.

Then the puffy movements shifted. Her eyes narrowed and focused. One of the stars had to have the possibility again. One had to. If I at least knew the direction. She considered screaming, like she had considered before, “Tell me! Tell me now!” but worried it would ignite a screech at the house. There was no need to rush that.

Grabbing the sky and shaking it seemed possible, but hurting it was not her goal since it was all she had. Then a familiar flash of falling escaped to the corner of the evening’s stage and exited. On another night one had told her it loved her.

Nothing tonight, she thought when a slower falling began, and after a squint she recognized a dim, red glow. It was an airplane, maybe a satellite—something navigating itself miles above her and crossing the plains in less time than it took her to cross the yard. Flying frightened her, but at that Moment she envied the moving thing.

Clouds moved in and covered the red. Her breathing quickened. A falling star was only shy and darting, but the newest clouds, far off cousins who rarely visited, were bold and prideful, wanting her to see them throughout their stay. They gestured without malice and she swore there was a rhythmic wah-wah- wah noise, like a rope swinging overhead just for her. She dared to smile, without teeth, but a grin all the same. Then, thicker than a mist, more transparent than a blanket, the clouds began an elaborate circus act changing from whites to greens with an occasional wisp of purple. She nodded and accepted their apology. Blocking her view, but giving her a new one was understandable.

Then too soon, their visit ended when the streaks of thin hues disappeared, leaving her alone again. She whispered, “Tell me, tell me now…”

There was a time when describing the show to someone in school the next day would have been an option. No longer. In the past month, she had spent her days at school avoiding spit and had become a receptacle for the unwanted, like cigarette butts and candy wrappers and “crazy as her mama”.

The wind strengthened itself and her cheeks felt chipped. Though her wish hadn’t appeared with the end of the sky’s performance, the dance had been enough and the frightening chill worth it. She wanted to sigh, nearly an expression of peace and something that was rare even before lying and telling that judge she wanted to stay. At the cloudlessness of the northern sky and not knowing which star, she silently cried, “Come back! Come back! I’ll be better, I promise!

Embarrassed, she uncurled her legs from her chest and swung them against the barn. Icefell from the ledge and crashed below; her shoulders slumped like the line of her mouth and the dangerous ache of her lungs compelled her to sip at the air.

She turned around so her back faced the night, and then she stretched out her body and rested against the floor; her head dipped over the edge. Even with her layers, she felt exposed, but the sky became bigger and more stars came into view, maybe with the needed one. But her insides hurt worse, and she began to long for the kitchen’s electric heater, the only one they had.

A thought, murky enough that she wondered how it did not freeze and fall to the ground like the ice, approached her. But a voice intercepted.

“Jordieeeeee! Jordie-Roooooooo!” The head of her mother Ardis hugged the wide open house door, and the woman stood in her socks. “Jordieeeeee! Jordie-Roooooooooo! Microwave dinged! Hurry, honey. Jordie. Jordie-Roo. I’m cold. I’m cold. I’m cold.”

The words sprayed through the night like a handful of pebbles, reminding Jodie of larger ones she knew. Not one to keep her mother waiting, she had already descended the steps and


The school bus rumbled toward a dying sun. Even in the dimness, tall, dried out reeds managed to let themselves be seen from ditches with dirty snow and sandy edges from the winter plow. When the ground warmed more, it would be calving season.

Jodie stared out the bus window. She wanted to hear her dad explain it again, the way he had when she only reached the height of the fence posts. “Now your granddaddy don’t know what he’s missin’,” he had said after telling a six-year old everything she needed to know to be a rancher. “Don’t let him go preachin’ about his tractors. Pfhh.” He had spit a wad of tobacco onto the ground. She crouched with her butt touching the heels of her feet, and as he was walked away, she saw him turn his head towards her just as her finger was about to reach the brown glop. With one long step he yanked her to him. “What were ya thinkin’? That there’s not for a little thing like you!”

She had likened him to a mama bird she learned about in school; he was able to digest food and spit it out for babies to eat, but had obviously decided she was too small.

She cried, and he kindly rubbed her arm as if he had hurt it. “There now. I didn’t mean to jerk ya The bus rumbled past two more fields and arrived at a doublewide trailer dropped in the middle of nowhere without a tree or garage to keep it company. The Schwenk girls jumped off the bus to be received by their grandmother who waved the lurching bus away. Jodie watched the three of them smile. The sun disappeared another inch.

“Remember the orange sherbet, Jodie?” little Misty said, her head resting against Jodie’s arm. “Then it had pink and green. Remember? Remember that Jodie? That was a yummy sky, Jodie smiled picturing a twenty-foot tall giant reaching down to grab a bite of the ground sprinkled with powdered sugar, with a wedge of sherbet waiting on the side, available to cleanse his palate. She shook her head. Brownies and sherbet, bleh. What am I thinking? She attempted to untangle a knot from the girl’s hair; it had been there for too many days.

A fifteen-year old’s shaved head bobbed in front of them. One dark mole and three white scars waded in hairy stubble; they were the next stop. It had been awhile since she had been given a chance to imagine the legless tick and albino inchworms wanting to meet one another. Her stop was the second-to-last stop on the afternoon route, and didn’t happen until five-thirty and sometimes as late as six.

Two days after the girls’ basketball team became disqualified, Kenny the bus driver had told her, “Boss says it time to switch the route. Sorry, hun.”

In nine years, since second grade, it had never been switched. She remained the first picked up, but became the last dropped off, except for Misty, Kenny’s daughter. It made for more than a twelve-hour day.

The bus slowed and when it stopped she was ready at its steps. Her feet carefully remained behind the white line, just as the words printed above the door warned. When Kenny wordlessly shifted the door open, she ran out as if not only leaving him behind, but the day’s accusations as well. The evening would have its own, of course.

Before Kenny shut the door, his daughter moved to the front seat. “Bye, Jodie! Ya nice, If she only knew…

Misty had once said, “I want ya as my mommy. Daddy does too,” and Jodie’s face had

felt a horrifying flush. She managed a, “Oh, ya have one, sweetie; and I’m too young.” Kenny

yelled from the driver’s seat, “Tell her I’ll wait. She can graduate if she want.” Weekly and gradually, Jodie sat farther back on the bus.

Misty came with her and asked, “Why we way back here?” It was the one time Jodie neglected to answer her, and Misty never asked again.

Inside the house, she stomped her boots.

“Jodie my love, that you?”

No one else comes to the house, ma. Not even your brother…

“You’ll never guess what happened to them today! Sweetie?” After two seconds, her mother’s voice changed to panic. “SWEETIE?”

Jodie called to the other room, “It’s me, ma. It’s me.”

Them were Carlos and Melani, characters on her mother’s soap opera. It seemed like the couple had been on their honeymoon for years.

Her mother said suddenly, “Don’t get smart with me, young lady. It takes time to tell a person’s life on TV, let alone a whole bunch!”

Jodie questioned herself as to whether she had thought out loud or not. Then, attempting not to emphasize too much, but enough to hear her own words, she spoke.

“I’ll be right there.”

“Hurry. Hurry,” her mother said.

Jodie removed her boots and entered the small TV room, the only space on the main floor besides her mother’s bedroom and the kitchen. Her mother looked at her. Then she pressed her face into a wad of tissues taken from her sleeve. “You’re smart, miss-smarty-pants. I hear what you’re saying…father’s daughter.”

Jodie asked, “Where are the kids?” Sometimes distracting her mother helped.

Her mother responded with details of Carlos’ new job. If Jodie had timed it correctly, her mother would eventually start talking about her grandkids and forget to get back to her soap. If ill-timed, there would be tears.

Ardis puffed on her generic cigarette, and then continued talking. Just as Jodie again wondered to herself if she had said the words out loud or not, her mother deviated.

“Oh, don’t even get me started. Your sister had work off today, kids’ checkups or something ridiculous like that. I told her that I could take them, but you know I’m not good enough. I know, I know.”

The cardboard box next to her mother’s chair sat empty and waiting. It would soon spill over with toys, matching the uneven room’s piled magazines and unused knitting yarn. Jodie stood from the once-satiny sofa, and gave a quiet sigh, almost imperceptible she thought until her mother followed with a louder one.

Jodie began to collect the toys under chairs and around the room, and after the last one had been given a home, she stepped into the kitchen to make supper. Her thoughts distracted her as she stirred soup from a can. Two frosted meals from the freezer would provide more protein.

From the other room, her mother prattled on about Melanie’s affair. Jodie sliced air holes in the plastic covers, crammed the meals next to one another, and then cranked the timer. She had long ago stopped wanting a new microwave, the kind with no dial and an electronic timer.

Her classmates, families she used to babysit for, and even the school cafeteria had that kind.

She left the kitchen and climbed the stairs, and in her room, she slid her book bag onto the floor. It stopped on a patch where the linoleum had broken away revealing beams that matched the wood of the barn.

The wind chill factor had been predicted as 55 below; it had only been 40 below the night before. The upstairs was as soaring as she would reach that night. She rubbed at the frost on the inside of the window and made a peephole to see the ground and barn. Her dad had not showed up. Before she had a chance to acknowledge a pestering thought, her mother’s happy voice yelled through the vent.

“Jodie-Roo! You outdoors, again? Silly one. Microwave says we’re ready, and I haven’t finished telling…”

Jodie descended the stairs, took two steps through the TV room to the kitchen, and then rotated the meals. She reset the timer.


“How’s it hanging, Tun-dra?” Cort said. Their lockers had been next to each other since second grade when they got assigned lockers.

She partially hid her face behind the locker’s door as his words floated through the air.

They might speed up and poke her. When they landed lightly on her shoulder though, she risked an old response. “Hanging low, Mr. Jester, hanging low.”

He laughed. His jaw did not tighten and his arm stayed loose. But he wagged his finger.

“An oldie but goody. I like it.” Then his voice lowered to a familiar growl. “Better than Mr. Judge. Cort-Judge. Didn’t like that one. Not my fave. Baaa-d.” He wagged his finger again.

His spite abruptly submerged itself. “Hey, Al and the rest of us are going to catch a burger. Come with.”

Her hand reached into the bottom of her locker. It has to be here…

Being asked to lunch did not provide the absolution she once sought. Last time the group had shared their fries, his girlfriend Al, Jodie’s former teammate, said, “Could you snatch that salt over there, or maybe you’ll snitch it for me?” Al’s best friend L. L. added, “You look a bit tired. Suffering from narc-olepsy?” The table laughed, even the waitress.

Jodie wanted to remind them she hadn’t tattled, that accidents happened, and she wanted to have been there since they said it wouldn’t have happened if she had. Clarifications only irritated them She recognized the corner of her yellow lunch pass from under an old trigonometry worksheet. Cort began to close her locker for her. As she pulled back to escape pinched fingers, he swung it open. He seemed in a good mood, so she put her foot against the locker’s door. He

didn’t challenge her, but the corner of his mouth suggested he recognized his options. With both hands on the top of his locker, he pretended to hit his head against it, his knee hitting the metal to make it sound like his head hit just as hard. He stopped. “Come on, Tun, you know my girls are only being creative, trying to give lunch a little zest, a little zing.” His knee hit the locker again and made Jodie blink. “We gotta have our fun around here. It’s the least you can do.” Then, as if he remembered he could, he shut his locker, and then reached and loudly slammed hers.

Her fingers escaped. She hurried away with her lunch pass.

He called to her. “Suit yourself. You know where to find us.”

In the area of cement blocked walls painted a muted yellow, a heavy cloth divider, folded like an accordian, separated the kitchen and the lunch tables from the rest of the building. She grabbed a tray and found a spot in line. She let two junior high girls go in front of her. One thanked her by jabbing her in the ribs.

“Watch where you’re going, bitch,” the girl said, as if Jodie had bumped into her. After she got her food, she stood by the garbage cans and scanned the six lunch tables of younger

She began walking towards Mrs. Nora’s kindergarten room and once inside, set down her lunch tray, and then picked up a pile of paper with large, outlined letters. The school’s youngest students were outside playing in the snow’s slush after having had their meals during an earlier hour. The room, though lacking real stars and twinkling lights that soothed, was a protected place with a hanging crepe sunshine and some dangling, stapled clouds filled with cotton balls.

Jodie sat on the floor and cut along the top of a letter. The tint of paper reminded her of paint the stores had used on their windows to celebrate, and the movie in her mind began its opening credits again. State Bound! Go! Fight! Win! The post office had pinned a sign to its bulletin board, “You Go Girls!” Enthusiastic cheers erupted wherever the team appeared in the two-mile town. That day, they had spent all day together, starting with a Saturday morning basketball practice where Al invited them over to her house to celebrate. “Just us girls! No offense, Coach.”

He had laughed. “None taken! Now, girls, have a good time, but not too good, be good. And get to bed early. I want everyone rested up for…” he paused, “state.” At its mention, they squealed.

She looked at the child’s desk in front of her. Her lunch was finished and without trying she had sat in her hayloft position, her knees almost touching her chest.

The scissor was in her left hand, the paper in her right; only a flimsy slip remained because she had cut off the second branch of a Y.

No good. No good at all. I can’t do anything right.


“How about, crucible? Dictionary definitions, please.”

Jodie heard the plastic of someone’s seat creak against its metal bolts. No doubt the pressure. She shifted in her own seat and heard the creak again. It was her.

“Well, Coach, what do you think?” the teacher said in a high voice. Then he answered himself. “Well, Fine Student, I’m glad you asked.”

The class stirred almost to a laugh. Unlike others, Coach was the kind of teacher able to rustle them from their mostly indifferent postures.

“The first definition of course,” he continued, “would be a durable pot, like a witch’s cauldron resisting high temperatures. A second definition is the opening at the bottom of a furnace for metals, and the third and final definition—drum roll please…”

Classmate Jason Jorgen drummed his knuckles of both hands.

“…An intense test or extreme trial. Which one do you suppose this play is about, now that you have read it, hypothetically speaking, and are ready to explore its themes with me, your audacious, if not bodacious, teacher?”

Amused murmurs swelled before the room returned to silence except for creaking. She His definitions fluttered through her mind like pictures from a toy camera. Click. The first one reminded her of the social temperature in Ketting. Click, click. The third one glowed.

She stared at her desk.

Coach walked past a row of students at the edge of the room. She imagined him able to scan brains. He said as much.

“I can tell some of you know, but choose not to share. I’ve been a teacher for longer than you’ve been alive; I know the tricks. Staring at your desk is not a sign of ignorance. Now, Jodie watched the second hand of the clock move for almost thirty long seconds before…

Coach spoke again.

“Shame on you! You have a brain, use it. Some people would give anything for the use of Everyone else laughed, and in not joining them she received his comment as if directed at only her. Her chest felt heavier. His words hinted at frustration. It was unlike him and she missed his nonchalant style.

“Come on people, think, think, think. Tick-tock. Tick-tock . . . Fine, I’ll answer it, this time… First definition may remind you of an average day, all the heated pressures of your high school lives coming down on you. I know, I remember.”

Her slumped body straightened slightly.

“The second definition belongs in places like the mining towns of northeastern Minnesota or the Western part of here.

“Any takers? Going once…The correct answer, as you should all know from your basic, if not careful reading, is the third, and therefore, severe test, which is what I’m threatening if we don’t get a good discussion—”

Jodie slumped again. She had flunked. Cort had told her to stay cool that night. She Al piped up without raising her hand. “Um, Coach, why’d they, like, kill innocent people? You know, during the witch trial stuff. I mean, if a woman drowned, she wasn’t a witch. If she floated, she was a witch and she was, like, put away.”

“Wood floats,” Jason said, mimicking a British accent.

The class burst into its loudest laughter of the hour. As usual, Jodie only understood that the class liked to laugh without her.

Coach corralled them with a stern look. “Enough of the Monty Python.” He seemed to be trying to hide a smirk. “The answer to your question, Allison, is I don’t know. I’m not afraid to admit that. This begins to identify the tension within New England communities during the witch trials. No one wanted to be accused, and felt pressure to accuse before they were themselves.” He shrugged his shoulders.

Before she had a chance to stop it, a thought slipped from her mind and sat on her chin and yelled. “Why didn’t they just run away!”

The attention of everyone in the room seemed to focus on her, like her volume attracted Coach seemed to ignore her outburst, but he straightened like she had before. “Ah, Miss Jodie. I want to hear from you more. How can we make this happen?”

She waited for him to stop class, to repeat himself from weeks earlier when she had walked away from him, and to tell her how to fix everything and get it back the way it was. He and his wife used to have a way of encouraging her, helping her train for tryouts and making sure she had what she needed to compete.

Instead he said, “Well, it was a different time. Women didn’t have the same rights and access to resources as now. Where would they have gone? Another similar, if not oversimplified question might be, if the woman had a chance to leave, perhaps an offer from a distant relative, why wouldn’t she take it? By the way, people, for the exam, that theme is called mobility…”

Jodie grabbed his middle words and ignored the others. If the woman had a chance…It was easy for her to make decisions for others, to judge them and correct them. If only they saw their lives from her perspective, it was obvious; they should have escaped.

Then Coach said, “What do you think was the deciding factor on why specific individuals were accused? Anyone?”

She watched his words flutter through the air and float over heads. She used to wonder why no one talked of it. Too wonderful to articulate, was her reason and she had decided it was theirs. One landed on her nose. Two others tickled her hands as if delicate butterflies unafraid of the size. Then before she was ready to leave them, during a blink, she saw herself standing among a group of women with their hair covered with white pieces of cloth with strings at the corners.

Her hands touched her own black dress with a white apron, and something sat on her head. She whispered to the women, “Run. Run.”

Coach rapped lightly on her desk. “Speak up; I want to hear from you.” His words used the same tone as previously, but snuck up on her. Her scrambled thoughts mixed together trying

“I don’t, um, I don’t remember what I was, um, going to say,” she lied, and wilted.

He walked to the front of the room and turned. “How about…Cort?”

“Isn’t there a more important question we should be asking?” Cort cleared his throat into his hand.

She guessed he hadn’t read an entire book since first grade, but he learned enough of any plot to give a summary. Sometimes he bragged at their lockers that he and Al had watched the movie version as a way of getting a passing grade on the exam.

“The depth and specifics of your question overwhelm me,” Coach said, sounding sarcastic. He scribbled in his grade book. “Crack the book, okay? You have till Friday.”

Jodie put her face in her hands, an action acceptable, though not preferred by teachers.

Her eyes shut trying to see the women again. Nothing happened but black with bursts of light as if she were able to see the synapses within her brain. Then she thought about what she would say to the night if it were there. She mouthed the words, careful to hide them. “Come back. I’ll be Instead of the women, a puddle of thought oddly similar to the one near the barn that she never got to see fully, edged its way toward her. And it grew and her eyes widened.

If you just get away…

The puddle gently splashed onto her and she no longer needed to see it; she felt it.

What if I left…?

It’s Star Wars Day! Books and Simple Food

Finding a Star Wars book for a reader, say a 4th-grader, is easy…

Star Wars Dictionary

Star Wars books for the reader are everywhere, your library, bookstore or even your own collection.

Finding a Star Wars book for a pre-schooler, not so much. I found the secret was not asking my librarian or bookseller, but doing a not-so-old-fashioned Google search of “Star Wars Board Books”. Here’s my favorite Star Wars book for a preschooler:

Star Wars Board Book

Plus, if by chance you forgot or didn’t know (ahem! I’m not pointing any fingers…) about Star Wars Day, here is an easy way to tickle your kid or significant other with the news:

Ewok Treats

Who doesn’t have access to Teddy Grahams, or should I say, Ewok Treats? Who doesn’t have veggies (or should I say, need, veggies…) in the house?

Star Wars Veggies

Enjoy, and MAY the FOURTH be with you!

“Death is Stupid” –a reading at Fargo’s independent bookstore!

Last night, based on an article in the the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Mark and I headed to downtown Fargo to Zanbroz Variety for a reading of Anastasia Higginbotham‘s book, Death is Stupid.


                                                      Here is a photo from the book, and a link to the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s article.

We loved it! Actually *I* loved it. Mark was impressed, and I *know* he would have loved the children’s book reading if the NFL wasn’t announcing draft picks at the same time. (BTW, IF you haven’t already heard, Fargo’s NDSU Carson Wentz was the NFL’s SECOND pick.)

A Book Reading Reverie of a Picture Book

The Independent Bookstore where all the non-NFL action happened

The book Death is Stupid AND even the title which uses the word, “stupid” (a no-n0 for a lot of kids) turned out to be wonderful.


The author, Anastasia Higginbotham, and her own illustrations of collage, said, “I challenged myself to only use what I had in my house,” and she ROCKED (that’s a compliment) her illustrations, and I don’t always like collages. At the same time, I was glad I heard more about the canned-whip cream illustration! So fun!

The publisher Jennifer Baumgardner, who was present and an emcee, has Fargo ties. Plus I ate free food, her sister’s, Andrea Baumgardner of BernBaum’s of Fargo. Can I rave more?


Yes I can, and since this is my space, I will. Yes, Death is Stupid is a children’s book. And I’m passionate about children’s books. Yes, Andrea’s food is of my favorite and I really didn’t know she or her food would be there.

Genre and food aside, the topic of the book is death. I’m all too familiar with the wonderful resources that are out there, including the multitude of children’s books on the subject of grieving. I am in Hospice care after all, and Mark and I have a four-year-old.  We want to be prepared as best we can, and provide her what we can provide on this often-confusing journey of life, whether her mom is around or not.

Our Purchase for Reverie of a Picture Book

                                        Our copy!

At the same time, Death is Stupid fills a children’s book void that I thought I truly wondered how to fill. Being real, while still a work of fiction. Being healthy in the process of life. Living on earth when your loved one is gone. Calling death what it is, stupid (death is stupid, isn’t it?), and providing that word when well-intentioned adults say the only comforting words they’ve ever been heard, certainly words they were told when they were younger.

The down side of Death is Stupid? Obviously I’m now a fan of this book of a topic that is negatively referred to often in my life. Though I am now a fan, a person need not adore collage to appreciate the text and pictures–the illustrations are vibrant, full of color and have the appearance of texture!

If someone is seeking a non-fiction text for children–Death is Stupid is NOT for you. There are plenty out there, though. Take it from someone who knows.

If someone is seeking a reverent token of life for someone who has died in their life or the life of a child, Death is Stupid is a blessing, appropriate and honors a person, while at the same time uses what some might consider an inappropriate word of a child– the word, “stupid”. There are plenty of traditional books on grief out there, though. Again, take it from someone who has read through MANY.

Author Signed for Reverie of a Picture Book

Mark and I ended up purchasing Death is Stupid for our 4-year-old, but we also bought Death is Stupid for ourselves, and Death is Stupid brought good tears to my eyes. Death is Stupid is that special. I didn’t plan on purchasing Death is Stupid. But after Anastasia Higginbotham’s reading, Death is Stupid was a must-have for my own personal, selective library, as well as our daughter’s.

You can get a copy of Death is Stupid by Anastasia Higginbotham at your independent bookstore, like Zandbroz of Fargo, or it can also be ordered online.







Shark Week is Coming! Shark Week is Coming! (*insert the Jaws theme-song here*)

Okay, for the purpose of this child-friendly Reverie of a Picture Book Blog, make that title FRIENDLY, usually-SMILING-sharks. I’m not going to include sharks that attack swimmers in South Carolina. How very, very awful.

My three-year-old girl M identifies friendly-sharks whenever she sees friendly-sharks in a book, on TV, in stuffed animal collections or anywhere…like THE LIBRARY!

Story Time with Miss Sparkles

Story Time with Miss Sparkles at the Bismarck Public Library

This started a couple weeks ago, when Miss Sparkles of the Bismarck Public Library hosted a puppet show with a friendly-shark and read books about friendly sharks.

Friendly-sharks are the ones that smile, are often found illustrated in children’s books, kind puppet shows or are ones that don’t make anyone afraid of the water. Of course! If there were not friendly-sharks, we’d have more reasons for a toddler saying he or she wants to avoid washing hair, bath time in general, or swimming lessons! Groan. Haha.

M’s interest in friendly-sharks (I wouldn’t call it fascination–yet) got me thinking about Shark Week—something I had barely ever thought about previously. You know, that week that you hear about on Facebook, but have no clue what Shark Week is all about? Turns out, I guess Shark Week is a week of TV that Discovery Channel hosts, all about, you guessed it, sharks.

Shark Week on Discovery Channel

As a veteran parent of only three years, I was relieved to find out, Phew, we did NOT miss Shark Week—yet. Ha-ha. For some people, Shark Week is a big deal. For me, not so much. EVER. Except now. I was thinking about my toddler’s interest in friendly sharks and how I could easily get some shark books from the library and do a shark-craft that week–without ever actually watching TV and those probably not-so-friendly sharks. Heck, there might even be some shark books around here in the apartment somewhere…

Shark Week is HERE for Reverie of a Picturebook

So, I was relieved to find out we had not missed Shark Week yet. Shark Week starts this year on Sunday, July 5th–(the early part of July–every year). I say this now because we all need a little time to prepare, right? Ha! I’m joking , kinda. Everyone needs time to prepare FOR ANYTHING, even if a person and parent need a couple months or a whole year to avoid Shark Week! But if you’re like me, sometimes you want to participate in a good idea like Shark Week, you know, for the kids, not yourself. You want to accomplish so much in life and for children, but there isn’t always enough time in the day.

That being said,

–IF you have time for one shark book, or a week of shark books and shark-y activities,

–IF you’re interested in sharing a theme of sharks with your neighbor’s kid, grandchild, or your own

Shark Books for Kids

–IF you have your own interest and proclivity towards this dorsal finned fiend of the sea,

here are some book ideas and links on my Pinterest site about sharks and/or friendly, smiling sharks!

Cupcake Liner Shark

Here’s a friendly and free countdown to Shark Week from another site:
Link to countdown

Shark Week Countdown

Plus, I have to include a shout-out to one of the most famous survivors of a horrible shark attack, Bethany Hamilton of the book and great, family-friendly movie, Soul Surfer.

Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton

I Like BIG Books–and I Cannot Lie (TRY getting THAT tune out of your head…!)

Maybe you know a certain 90’s song well. Maybe you actually danced to it, or heard it on the radio, OWNED it (if you can admit it without embarrassment!), or just heard it on an old episode of Friends when Baby Emma couldn’t sleep.

There exists a song about big, um, “body parts” and I am shamelessly pandering it and editing it because I can, and because well, I like BIG BOOKS and I cannot lie.

What is a big book? Well, one that can’t fit on your bookshelf of course. I have a couple, but I leave the really big books to my Bismarck library. Bismarck Public Library is awesome and has a whole section of children’s big books with its own area.

Big Books for Reverie of a Picture Book

See the difference? If you squint your eyes really tightly, there’s a TINY book next to the BIG book.

I remember how much I liked Big Books as a kid, and how much I like Big Books now. Big Books are different, Big Books don’t fit explanation or fit your bookshelf, and Big Books are not just a “thick” book.

Thick books were cool too, if you liked to read as a child. Remember the first thick book you read as a child? Thick Books were quite an accomplishment. Or maybe you consulted the dictionary for a homework assignment. The dictionary was a thick book.

But BIG books are even better.

Check out my Big Books Pinterest Page for more links to big books! Or click below.

Big Books for Reverie of a Picture Book PINTEREST page