STREAMS OF SILK, Chapter 3

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?

CHAPTER 3

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.

STREAMS OF SILK, Chapter 2

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?

 

CHAPTER 2

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!

FREDDIE THE FLY AND THE OTHER SIDE

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.

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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.

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                                                      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.

042816.F.FF_.Watch_.Anastasia

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?

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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.

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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

Pop-Up Book Videos, Reverie of a Picture Book TIPS, and Blah Blah Blahs

So I’ve had a health issue that I’ve known about for over fourteen years. I’ll spare you the details and refer you to my other blog North Dakota BOLD and just mention the term, “brain tumor”. You get the idea, unfortunately.

Fly A Kite in North Dakota for Reverie of a Picture Book

Life hasn’t been business as usual, that is for sure. I’ve been, however, chomping at the bit to share some polished rough drafts about Avoiding Library Fees and great pop-up books! When my toddler got a new pop-up from a friend, I knew it was time I better start putting these ideas to action!

Paper Chain for Reverie of a Picture Book

This also came in the mail care package to my toddler! Paper chains of the beautiful sort. I. Could. NOT. Stop. Putting. Them. Together!

Till next time I post (soon! in the month of March! I hope!), I bless you with warmth and a good book–outside near a kite, or indoors next to your paper chains!

 

The Original Self-Publishing Books–or DIY Picture Books of Yesterday and Today

Long before self-publishing became such a controversy in the lives of aspiring authors, self-published books existed in multitudes! Kinda…

I remember, that as a child, I wanted to join the ranks of P. D. Eastman of “Go Dog Go!”,  to write and illustrate my own books. In addition to author/illustrators books, straight-forward titles like these captured my attention:

Syd Hoff Shows You How To Draw Cartoons Book Photo for Reverie of a Picture Book

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t the most celebrated student artist of my classrooms; the art instructions only led me a short distance in progress. Even as early as nursery school, though, DIY Books were a wonderful way to capture a chapter of life.

Nursery School Book for Reverie of a Picture Book

Mrs. Broege and Mrs. Glass, my nursery school teachers, got illustrations from most of my class for a birthday book– just for 4-year-old me! Here is just one of the lovely illustrations and accompanied text.

In first grade, I remember we were to dictate to a journal. For homework, my mother would write down the stories that I told her.

First Grade Smurfs for Reverie of a Picture Book

Smurfs and slavery? In first grade, it works. Here is a mimeographed story that must have been shared with the class, and theirs with me. Circa 1981?

If you haven’t kept any of your elementary school work, or incorporated any of these ideas, no worries. Even a simple photo book like this can celebrate a life event. We put some of M’s baptism photos in this. She loves identifying different family members able to celebrate with her!

Baby M Book Photo for Reverie of a Picture Book

 Hopefully, DIY self-published books of children are never a forgotten option for reading enjoyment. Technology easily speeds up our entertainment, but there is nothing like these old-fashioned ways of recording a child’s impressions of the world. May any of those memories of yesterday inspire us to support and encourage little readers and writers of today.

 

 

 

Writing and Drawing IN Children’s Books–Perish the thought?

By now you know I heart children’s books, and I’ve been known to stop at a rummage sale or two…(or three or…you get the idea!)

Well, combining the two likes of children’s books and rummage sales, I’ve acquired a very sizable collection of children’s books, in addition to children’s books I’ve received as gifts, my own purchases of children’s books at (almost) full price and my childhood remnants.

Deep Bookcase for Reverie of a Picture Book

Just a fraction of the wonderful tomes I’ve found, or that have found me! Notice anything strange about these titles? (Hint: rotation…)

Sometimes themes emerge as I attempt to organize the children’s books–award winners, favorites, size of teeny tiny ones to children’s books taller than my little girl…hard cover, soft cover. Sometimes I just judge a book by its cover and just “like” it instantly. Sometimes a book reminds me of someone I adore–like Dad who collects eggs made of all materials.

Dad Book for Reverie of a Picture Book

I found this book at a recent yard sale of a retiring teacher. I immediately thought of my Dad the egg collector. What an unusual and wonderful story–a bonus to any find where I judge a book by its cover!

What I have also learned is that my little girl also has affinities for books–particularly ones that beckon for her to draw in them–whether she should or not. Mark asked me if I had found any coloring books for her yet. Yes, I have, but I want to wait to give them to her because it is too much fun to see what she creates on her own–usually on paper–sometimes, well, NOT on paper I appreciate. *grimace*

Wipe Off Books for Reverie of  a Picture Book

But I have handed these over–my collection of “Wipe-Off” books. At 2 1/2 years old, M likes to makes oodles of doodles, that I like to think are the beginnings of lettering. I don’t correct. I don’t guide at this point. It’s the process, not the product as MaryAnn Kohl is known to encourage.

Mary Anns Books 2014

One of Ms. Kohl’s wonderful books! I heart them all.

So when I reviewed my ideas for blog subjects and saw “Writing in Children’s Books–Perish the Thought” I first cringed, Then, right before me was my daughter happily drawing and focusing. Occasionally, she asks in her simple vernacular, “Here?”, as in, “Is it okay for me to draw in this book, and over here in this book?” She usually doesn’t ask though, and I find a marker (a very washable one, I might add…) soaking into whatever material wherever she left the colored marker.