Impressions: Charlie’s Demise

“I can’t believe Charlie’s dead,” she wailed.

Joe put the phone down next to the refrigerator. The sobs continued over the speaker as he rummaged for a beer. If he’d known what to say, she wouldn’t have heard over all that snuffling anyway. There was an especially loud slurp of mucous and Ann started talking again.

“I mean, I yelled at him and slammed the door on my way out. I went to work and bitched to Susan about always having to clean up after him…”

As she dissolved into another burst of waterworks, Joe pulled his last Fatty Ale from behind the milk, where he’d hidden it from his roommate. Shoot. She wasn’t making any noise. He had to say something, but what? He’d never lost anyone close to him.

“Yeah,” he grunted.

It was enough.

“Then I came home and there he was, stiff and cold.”

If Ann went after a ball the way she did conversation, she’d be unbeatable. She kept on talking, not crying anymore, but still making those liquid noises between sentences.

“He was always there for me, you know?”

He nodded as he waited for his email to load, then realized audio was required.

“He was awesome,” Joe managed to say.

It was the kind of comment he figured people would make at a funeral, even if they hadn’t liked the deceased. He certainly hadn’t liked Charlie. Joe had been taking it slow, starting by establishing a solid friendship with Ann. Then, the day he was finally ready to ask her out on a real date, he dropped by her apartment and there was Charlie.

“You know, I fell in love with him at first sight,” Ann was saying.

No kidding. Charlie moved in and became the center of her life. He went everywhere with her, except work. Sometimes Joe could get her to have lunch with him if she didn’t have enough time to go home, but all she talked about was Charlie. Most of it had been negative.

“You could get rid of him,” Joe had suggested. “It’s not like you’re married.”

She’d chewed him out for that comment. She insisted she loved Charlie and lectured Joe, saying he had no understanding of commitment.

“It was awful,” she was saying now, sad but no longer soggy. “Coming home and finding him with that cord wrapped around his neck like that… and the last thing I did was yell at him.”

“You think he committed suicide because you yelled at him?” Joe choked out.

“Quit!” she snapped. “Don’t be mean.”

He took the phone off speaker, then took a deep breath and held it to stifle the laughter threatening to explode. He put the phone up by his ear, but away from his mouth.

“They said he probably died right after I left the apartment this morning,” she was saying.

“Who said?” he managed to ask by releasing a tiny bit of the air that threatened to pop his chest like an over-full balloon.

“The EMTs,” she replied defensively. “They were very understanding and kind.”

Hysterical laughter burst forth, shaking his entire body as his diaphragm contracted uncontrollably. She started crying again, but he couldn’t stop laughing. Tears poured down his face.

When he finally caught his breath, he asked in disbelief, “You called 911?”

For once she was silent.

“You did! You really did!”

He didn’t even try to stop the laughter anymore.

“And were they cool with being called for a doggie suicide?”

The call ended.

She might never speak to him again.

Oh well, imagine what she’d be like with kids.

Impressions is a series of character studies – short sketches to wet your appetite. If you’d like reading more about Joe, Ann, or Charlie, leave a comment.

Thanks.

Sheri McGuinn Photo Signature

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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Impressions: Benny’s Last Dollar

Benny swallowed the end of his drink and looked at his last chip, a dollar.

It was all set up to favor the house. Benny knew that. He’d known it from the first time he went to a casino, but still, he couldn’t stop until his pocket was empty. There was a slot machine near the exit just waiting for this chip.

Even the time he hit the big jackpot, big enough to buy a new truck, maybe even one of those new little houses on the edge of town that his girl always talked about, he’d kept on playing until his stake was completely gone. That’s what he called it—his stake. That made him feel like one of the pros, the serious poker players in the big money games held privately in the back room. But Benny never took more than one day’s pay. However much he was earning, that was his limit.

Of course, he’d made that rule when he had a good full time job. This week, he’d only worked two days, helping an old lady fix a bunch of stuff on her house so she could sell it. He and George had really dragged their heels to make the job last. She was only paying them minimum. They used to make four, five times that with overtime.

Not anymore.

One day’s pay had gone for new socks, thrift store shoes and shirts, and groceries they never had at the food bank. He’d come to the casino with the rest, and he’d managed to make it last a good while – building it up, then losing some, building it up again. Until he ended up with nothing but this dollar chip. Since then he’d been watching other people play while he finished his drink.

Back in the day, he could say the free drinks paid for anything he lost. But he didn’t drink much anymore. He wasn’t AA or born-again; he hadn’t even tried to quit. It had come on him gradually, until one night last July he’d headed home and realized he’d nursed one whiskey the whole evening. Even when the company folded and his girl dumped him, all in one week, he didn’t crawl into a bottle like some of his buddies.

Benny scanned the casino, all the people absorbed by machines or tensed over tables. The drink girl came up and offered him a refill.

“No,” he said. He paused and stared at her as if she were an alien life form. “No, I’m done. Thank you.”

She moved on to the next customer.

Benny cashed in his chip and tucked his dollar into his pocket.

He straightened his shoulders, smiled a half smile to himself, and gave the pocket with his dollar in it a pat. Satisfied, he took one last look around before leaving.

He wouldn’t be back.

Impressions is a series of character studies – short sketches to wet your appetite. If you’d like reading more about Benny, leave a comment.

Thanks.

Sheri McGuinn Photo Signature

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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Impressions: The Novice Traveler

Carolyn lumbered through the airport, a backpack slung over her left shoulder, her right arm stretched by the weight of her carry-on.

Big Brother’s voice reminded her, “Unattended bags will be confiscated.”

She stopped to catch her breath, put the suitcase on the floor close to her feet, and moved the backpack to her right shoulder. The pack had been the agent’s idea, so she could make sure everything made the plane change with her. It held more and had better pockets than a traditional purse, but she felt silly carrying it.

She picked up the suitcase and trudged onward. It had taken her forever to get to the departure gate and then they announced a change. Why did it have to be at the opposite end of the airport?

The aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls filled her as she instinctively inhaled deeply. That would have to do. The bakery line was long, her new gate was still a good hike away, and the flight would be boarding soon.

She looked longingly at all the people effortlessly pulling bags on wheels. Why hadn’t the agent suggested that? If her father’s old bag hadn’t been the right size for carry-on she would have shopped for one. Maybe they all had wheels now.

Finally she got to the new right gate.

Carolyn lifted her eyes skyward. “Please don’t let them change it again.”

“You got that right,” said a Gothic person of indeterminate sex.

Carolyn started. She hadn’t meant to talk out loud.

Big Brother repeated his warnings. The Gothic person sniffed, drawing Carolyn’s attention to a nose ring. There was one through the left eyebrow, too. Why would someone do that? It had to hurt.

“You going to Maui, too?” the Goth person asked.

Carolyn paused, but saw no way to keep her destination a secret. She nodded and turned away. There were only two seats left open. The Goth person plopped down next to her.

“I love the islands… you been before?” it said.

Carolyn shook her head and pulled out the novel she’d brought for the plane. She opened it and put her head down, but that didn’t work.

“Kauai’s the best, but Maui’s nice if you stay away from the tourist traps.”

Carolyn stared at the first page.

“I’m Becca.” The girl shoved her ring-laden hand over Carolyn’s book.

Carolyn raised her head and made cautious contact with her fingertips.

The girl’s black lips couldn’t hide her dimples or the openness of her smile. It was just all the black leather and spiky hair and dramatic, ghoulish make-up that made her seem threatening. Well, that and the piercings. Carolyn returned the smile tentatively.

“You’ve been to Hawaii before?” she asked.

“Oh yeah. I love it there. Costa Rica’s nice, too, but Hawaii’s my favorite.”

“Really?” Carolyn thought of all the vacations she’d spent caring for her parents and working on their house – her house now. “You travel a lot?”

“Yup. I’ll stay until my money runs out, then go crash with my folks, get a job, and save up for the next trip. They cut me a deal on rent, to get me to come home sometimes, but eventually I’m going to work my way around the world.”

“How long did it take you to save up for this trip?”

“Three months. Maui’s really cheap if you know how to do it.”

“You’re kidding.”

“About fifty dollars a day. And the plane ticket.” The girl pulled a small electronic device from her pack and stuck pieces of black foam into her ears.

“Fifty dollars a day?” Carolyn sighed. Her hotel alone was three times that.

The girl didn’t hear. She was nodding to a dissonant sound audible despite the ear buds. So Carolyn didn’t talk about the Jeep the agent had insisted she add to the reservation, so she wouldn’t get stuck off-trail or on a beach. Carolyn was too timid to ever leave the road, and too timid to argue with the man. At least he hadn’t made reservations at restaurants for her, though he’d given her a list of places that served delicious fresh sea food – probably all expensive.

Carolyn touched Becca tentatively on the forearm. “Where do you eat?”

The girl emptied the ear closest to Carolyn, but still nodded to the music as she answered. “Mostly from grocery stores, then fix it in the kitchen or barbeque out back at the hostel. Groceries are expensive, but it’s cheaper than eating out.”

“They let you use the kitchen?”

“It’s a hostel. Like a hotel, but with community bathrooms and kitchen.”

“You share the bathroom with strangers?”

“And I’ll be sharing a room with three other people. You can get a private room, but it costs more. I’ve only done that when my gram came along.”

“Your grandmother?”

“Yep. She travels the same way. Hey, let me give you her email.”

As the girl handed Carolyn the slip of paper, a disembodied voice called for the first passengers to board. Carolyn stood up. The agent had said a first class ticket was essential for such a long flight. She knew Becca would be flying tourist.

“Are you sure your grandmother won’t mind you giving this to a stranger?”

“That’s the beauty of being a traveler,” Becca smiled. “There’s no such thing as a stranger.”

Impressions is a series of character studies – short sketches to wet your appetite. If you’d like reading more about Carolyn’s journey – or Becca’s – leave a comment.

Thanks.

Sheri McGuinn Photo Signaturewww.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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So how’d you like it?

I put The Incident up over the summer because I was going to be on the road while my home was for sale. 8400 miles later, I’m home again, except my place has been sold so I’m staying with friends while I figure out what’s next.

Serendipity, as always, is playing a role. At the beginning of July, my plans to visit family on the East Coast were bumped a week due to circumstances beyond my control. Denver was kind of on the way, so I decided to attend the RWA conference  and see if romance writing would be a good fit for me. (2018 workshops are still listed at that link, but if they’ve been removed when you read this, check RWA events.)

Well, it was an amazing conference, loaded with so many sessions you could only attend a fraction of them, with thousands of people attending. After listening to an editor and agent address a sub-group of people who write Romantic Women’s Fiction (where the woman’s journey is the core of the story and the romance is secondary), I decided to give traditional publishing another try. So I spent a day pitching and had a really good response. Still waiting while requested materials are reviewed by several people.

I also got to talk with Robin Cutler of Ingram Spark about getting my back list onto Ingram as well as Amazon. That work’s on the list for the next few weeks. Now that CreateSpace is closing, I want to make sure I’ve got everything with Ingram for distribution beyond Amazon. (In case you didn’t realize, CreateSpace was also a division of Amazon – they’re consolidating services to KDP, but no longer doing Expanded Distribution.)

Last week, I gave a Basics of Self-Publishing class through Community Education at Sierra Community College and realized how much I enjoy helping people figure out this process – at the same time I’m hoping to land a traditional contract for Peg’s Story, One Woman’s Journey. Each route has its benefits and drawbacks.

However, with either road to publishing, building a readership is key.

That’s where you come in – while The Incident trickled out over 13 episodes, my followers increased. However, you’re not commenting! Tough to know what you want that way.

Please take a minute to comment. I’d really like to know:

  1. Did you like having a story come in pieces over two months? Would a few weeks be better? Or a short-short that’s all in one blog? Or a whole novel over months?
  2. Do you want the fiction to keep coming or would you rather I go back to writing about writing? Or do you want both?
  3. I keep hearing that a newsletter’s better than a blog because you address people who want to hear from you, as individuals. Would you want to be on a mailing list that alerted you when I post new stories and/or gave you other updates and/or writing tips?
  4. Do you care what time of day the blog arrives? (If so, when’s better?)

Let me know soon, so I can have a story or article ready for you next week!

Sheri McGuinn Photo SignatureI write books about people you could know, people who show resilience as they go through rough times to realistic resolutions.

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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The Incident – Chapter 13

When I get back to the campfire, Mom’s just poured water on the coals and ash. Hot ash flying into dry needles can start a forest fires so last one up always douses it.

I stare at the steam rising, a rock in my stomach and the paper in my hand as Mom turns and sees me.

“I thought you’d turned in already,” she says. “We could have had a nice chat by the fire.”

She’s not demanding to know where I’ve been by myself so late; she’s trusting me.

My chest heaves as I suck in a big breath, then the tears start flowing and my body’s shaking and Mom’s there putting her arms around me, rubbing gently along my spine the way she always does when we’re hurt.

She kisses the top of my head and says “We love you.”

I hand her the note. She gives me the flashlight so she can read and still keep an arm around me. She holds me tighter the farther she gets. At the end, she’s crying and pulls me into a full hug and kisses my forehead and looks me in the eyes.

“We love you. Nothing will every change that. Next time you’ll make different choices. That’s all any of us can do, is try to do better next time.”

It’s going to be okay. I’m still going to go to boarding school, because it’s a better school and it’s in the mountains not far from where we used to live. I’ll be more careful making new friends there and I’ll go to Mary’s for long weekends, back with all my old friends.

I’m going to be okay.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 12

It was a Friday afternoon, last class of the day, last full week of school. There was a substitute. She was new and would probably never come back to the court school, but she was really trying to be nice and trying to help everyone understand the work. It was math class, and she was actually a decent teacher. I could tell, since I understood the stuff already.

The problem was the class roster. There were only two or three of the minority gang in that class; the rest were the majority gang. On that day, only one of the minority kids showed up for school. When he saw that classroom, he should have left. He should have made some excuse to go up to the office and hang out there for the period. But he didn’t. I’d helped him with the math a couple times. He really wanted to learn. So he came into class and sat in his assigned seat near the teacher’s desk, quiet and ready to go to work.

It started while the sub was standing at the board pointing to examples of the day’s lesson, explaining what we were supposed to do. She probably didn’t hear the first slurs thrown at the kid. She may even have missed the spit wads that started flying at him. But she saw the pencil. She didn’t see who threw it, and I don’t think she realized yet that there had been a target, but she chewed out the entire class because throwing pencils is dangerous.

That got it started. They started making fun of her for calling a pencil dangerous, started telling her things they’d done that were really dangerous, things that really could cause damage. And while she was distracted by those people, others started throwing more things at the kid—papers, pencils, pens, small books, then the text book.

She saw the text book fly and tried to stop it, but people started throwing little stuff at her and making fun of her because she started to cry. Then they were out of their seats, squirting glue at the kid and at the teacher.

That’s when I realized I wasn’t blending into the furniture. I was being watched. I was going to be on a side, one way or the other.

I picked up my glue and squirted it on the kid and shot some that fell short of the sub. All I saw was her shoes; I couldn’t bring myself to face her. But I looked at the kid. He wasn’t crying. He was stoic. He gazed into my eyes with a look that said he was betrayed, but understood the betrayal. That’s the look that wakes me up at night.

I spent the weekend waiting for the police to come to the door and take me back to juvenile hall, anticipating the way my parents would look at me, knowing I’d be stuck at court school again the next year, that I’d probably graduate from there, which would pretty well wipe out any chance I had at a good college.

The police never came.

Monday I went to school expecting the principal to lecture us. That didn’t come, either. By the end of the day, when the math teacher didn’t say anything about a note from the sub, we realized she probably had been too embarrassed to say anything.

So you wonder why it was such a big deal?

The kid wasn’t in school that day. Or the next. Then we heard how he’d had a big argument with his father and then disappeared. Wherever he went, it was far away. I hope it’s somewhere he can go to school and learn, without having glue shot at him.

That was bad enough to have me worried about him, but the nightmares didn’t start until I overheard ladies in the office the last day of school, my last day there. They were talking about the young substitute, how sad it was she’d killed herself. I had to know. I looked up the obituaries online as soon as I got home. Of course they didn’t say it was suicide, but she was “called home” the night she subbed for us.

She would have made a good teacher.­

I’m sorry, forever.

So that’s why I’m sitting on the edge of this cliff by myself, hoping a mountain lion will come take me. But they might find this note. So I need to go back to camp and burn it.

Camping this week’s been nice, almost normal. My new boarding school’s in the mountains, a few hours away from where we used to live. If I find a way to have a fatal accident there, maybe my family will remember this week with me, instead of the rest.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 11

I had to go back to court at the end of the school year. The teachers at the court school all gave me good letters and the judge asked if I’d learned my lesson and I told him “Yes, sir.” He let me off probation and said I could go back to regular school, but warned me that if he saw me in his courtroom again, I wouldn’t get off so easy.

Easy. He doesn’t know what happened at court school. No one does. I want to talk about it, but I can’t. Anyone I told would hate me as much as I hate myself.

I have two weeks at home before going to my new boarding school. It was decided I should attend their summer session to catch up on some of what I missed this year.

It’s worse being home all day every day than it was being at school, except for that one day, the one I can’t talk about. The one that makes me feel like I’m every bit as awful as my parents think. If they knew, they wouldn’t want anything to do with me.

I wanted to go visit Mary before I head off to school, but my parents are keeping a short leash on me. I don’t go anywhere here without my mother. I don’t want Mary to come visit me, because then I’d have to explain why my parents are acting like they are, or Rose would blurt out something about how bad I am. Someday I’ll go back to Colorado for a visit and be able to pretend all this stuff didn’t happen.

It’s not that I wanted to fit in with the majority gang. I just didn’t want to be noticed. And I was. I was stared at because I wasn’t doing anything when everyone else was. I tried to fade into the background, but it didn’t work. I had to challenge what I knew was wrong, or participate.

I wasn’t brave enough to challenge them all.

That’s not the whole truth. If it were, maybe I could have said something, at least after. Part of me was tired of being alone all the time. Part of me wanted to be one with the group. It’s good that I’m being sent away to school. I’ll be far from the group and they won’t expect me to be part of them. I’ll probably never see them again. Except in my nightmares.

I leave for school next week. I asked to go camping this weekend. I’ll stay up late and burn this in the campfire after everyone’s asleep, so they won’t ask questions.

So I have to say it now. What happened. I know I’ll live with it forever, but maybe this burning thing will help. I don’t know. I know I can’t tell anyone about it.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 10

In the hall, we all had to wear one-piece jumpsuits. Most of us wore orange. Blue meant you had extra responsibilities and privileges. The first time I saw a red jumpsuit, I thought it was for Christmas. That was dumb. People wore red jumpsuits for a week after they’d done something so crazy that they had to be put in solitary to calm down.

I’d ruined the holiday for my whole family, getting locked up. Rose was worried that if they put up a stocking for me, Santa would skip our house. My parents put it up and found some coal to put in it, like the old stories about bad little children. They told me my lawyer’s fees were my Christmas present. At least Rose sent me a picture she’d drawn.

I didn’t want her to see me in the hall.

Aside from my being depressed, juvenile hall wasn’t all that bad. We had classes all but a few days around Christmas and New Year’s Day. It was like being back in grade school, but I didn’t say so because a lot of people were struggling with the work. Most of them were very angry people and I knew we’d be in classes together at court school when we got out.

There were gangs, but they had to put up with each other.

The really good thing about the hall was that the adults had almost total control, since we were there 24/7. Sometimes stuff happened behind their backs, and the wrong person would end up in trouble, but from what I heard people saying, the gangs ruled at court school. That made me wish they’d put me in the hall for six months with no court school. But at least I’d be living at home when I transferred.

They kept me in the hall exactly a month, even though that meant starting a week into the semester at court school. I guess the teachers were used to that, though, because most of them had handouts explaining all their rules and procedures. The classes were a little harder than they’d been in the hall, but a lot of my classmates could barely read. When I had to read aloud, I was careful not to let it seem too easy. Still, people started looking to me for help, at least the ones who cared about doing the work.

There were two rival gangs on the campus, with one of them definitely having the majority of the student body. From what I could see, they had a lot more in common with each other than different, but they chose to focus on the differences.

What they had in common: They didn’t have much positive going on with their parents or at school, and they didn’t see much positive in the future. Most of them had never considered as possible things I took for granted, like graduating from high school, getting a good job someday, having a nice home. They saw the people in their gangs as the ones to whom they owed loyalty, and everyone else was “them.”

I found most of them more likeable than Angelica or Natalie.

When I explained how all that went down, there were offers to “take care of them” for me. Fortunately, I’d never mentioned their names, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone doing me a favor I didn’t want.

I tried to keep clear of both groups, but they heard I was good at schoolwork. It got so I automatically printed out two extra copies of my work, so I could deliver a copy to each gang. At last being a nerd had a benefit. I gave help freely to all and wasn’t expected to pick sides.

All I asked was that they not let teachers know who was helping. Some of the teachers were too burned out to care that averages suddenly went up. Only one cornered me to ask about it. I shrugged as if I didn’t know anything and said I was keeping to myself, just trying not to get hurt before the semester ended and I could get out of there. I didn’t say anyone had threatened me, but I think that’s how the guy took it, because he didn’t hassle me about it anymore.

Meanwhile, I was living at home, looking at that mural of our backyard back in Colorado every day, wishing we’d never moved. The coal in my stocking, which I hadn’t been there to see, pretty much summed up how my parents were feeling about me. They didn’t trust me at all anymore. Mom drove me to school and picked me up after. Some of the kids got picked up by older gang members in cars with music on to make everything around them vibrate. Mom would give me this sad, disappointed look every time. She wouldn’t bring Rose with her.

They called the school and talked to my teachers when I told them I didn’t have any homework. That’s what it took to make them believe that the few assignments that were given were easy to finish before the end of class. They decided to try and get me into a private school for the next year, but my “legal issues” were an automatic no thank you at all the ones nearby. So they started looking at boarding schools. That would eat up the pay raise my dad had gotten and then some, but at least they wouldn’t have to see their disappointing child all the time. I’d probably have to repeat this year in any decent school, but I’d have a shot at a good college again if I was eighteen before I graduated and could get my records sealed.

Yeah, I picked up that bit of advice from my probation officer. I had to report to one of those every week, but he came to the school, so it was no hassle for my parents. He always said the same thing, that I was doing good so far, just stay out of trouble.

I never said much of anything.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 9

It was an electronics store. We should have known they’d have cameras, even if we didn’t see them. There wasn’t any audio. It looked like I was talking Natalie into taking it. It was clear that Angelica and I were acting as look-outs. Did you know that’s the same thing as if you were the one stashing something into your bag? We were all charged with shoplifting. Angelica and Natalie didn’t say anything while we were in that little room with the store manager, waiting for our parents to come and get us. I didn’t say anything, either. I was too miserable imagining how disappointed my parents were going to be.

That was the incident. Some advice: If you’re going to do something incredibly stupid and/or illegal, you should make sure you’re doing it with friends who’ve got your back.

My parents got there first, and insisted I be honest, so I told about how the girls were always going to the mall, and about our first trip and Natalie shoplifting, and how today I hadn’t thought she’d really steal it, but I was trying to fit in. Natalie and Angelica didn’t say anything, they just stared at me as if they couldn’t believe what I was saying. Then my parents took me home.

Natalie’s father was an attorney, so they didn’t say a word that night. When they gave their statements to the police, it was all my fault.

They were top students, in the International Baccalaureate program. I was the new kid in the wrong classes. I was the one who convinced them to skip school twice—the only times either of them had been absent all year. I was the one who stole the nail kit, which they’d thought I paid for until I said Natalie took it. I was the one who challenged Natalie to steal that electronic gadget. She was doing it on a dare and fully intended to return it to the store, once she’d proven she wasn’t afraid to take it. Their statements agreed with everything down to the wording of my challenge.

Natalie and Angelica, as top students, were put onto a diversion program. All charges would disappear from their records once they behaved for six months. Even though I was not the one who actually took the device, I was charged with felony theft—I told you it was crazy expensive. The attorney my parents hired recommended that I plead guilty, since I clearly was guilty, on tape, and ask for leniency because I’d never been in trouble before. But the store wanted to make an example of someone, and given the statements of the other girls, I was the bad seed. The judge sentenced me to one month in juvenile hall, and then I was to attend the court school, where I wouldn’t lead any other good kids astray. That placement would be reviewed at the end of the school year.

I was terrified, and it was only the first step toward this cliff I’m sitting on.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 8

When Mom caught me walking home alone one day, I assured her it was fine, that Angelica and Natalie had to stay after for talking in one of their classes, but that I was being alert and felt comfortable walking home alone. Even outside the gate, it was a decent neighborhood.

So the fall went okay. I even got invited to a Halloween party one of the kids in my art classes was having. My Dad checked out the address and nixed my going there at night, but at least I was asked.

After that invitation, my parents started investigating private schools for me and Rose. We’d been in public school in our small town, where everyone knew everyone, regardless of family income or which side of the tracks you lived. I’d never really thought about it, how it was only kids my parents approved of that I’d spent time with back home. There was this one girl in my Scout troop who wore the same clothes every day and we didn’t make fun of her because we knew she didn’t have any others and that the nurse washed them regularly while the girl wore a donated gym suit. But I don’t know anyone who ever went to that girl’s house.

So the city was different in a lot of ways—and regardless of my Inparents’ belief it was a small town, we were part of the metropolis. I didn’t notice anyone wearing exactly the same clothes every day, but some of the boys would when they’d been out all night partying. They talked about it right in front of the teachers, so I guess no one cared.

Of course, I was in classes with throw-away kids.

It seemed like Angelica and Natalie asked me to go to the mall with them at least once a week. That should have rung some alarm bells, but it didn’t. I knew I could miss half my classes and still ace them. Maybe the IB program wasn’t all that hard, either, or maybe they were smarter than I thought.

I was so stupid. It never occurred to me that they weren’t going without me, that they didn’t shoplift on a regular basis.

They asked about the boy I’d used as an excuse and I told them it was all over. He’d kissed another girl, made me cry, got me in trouble, and that was the end of it for me. In reality, I did have a crush on a boy in my art class, but I wasn’t about to tell anyone about that.

Joey was such a good artist, and he had the longest, thickest eyelashes. I’d never seen him with a girl, but I was sure I wasn’t the only one who liked him. We had the same two art classes, back to back, in the same room, so we could keep working on a project for both periods. He didn’t talk a lot with anyone, he’d get so involved in his art, but when we had to critique each other’s work, he always found something nice to say about mine. Actually, he did the same thing with anyone, but it felt special at the time. Then the first week in December, in art class, I heard him ask another girl to go to the Christmas dance with him. I knew no one would ask me. No one else even talked to me much.

So the next day, when Angelica and Natalie tried to get me to go to the mall with them, I jumped on the chance to avoid art. They seemed surprised, almost reluctant to have me go along, even though they’d been asking me for weeks.

They were both going to the Christmas dance, so we spent all morning looking at dresses. I tried some on, too, so they wouldn’t know I wasn’t going. Out of habit, I kept checking price tags and shying away from the expensive dresses. They made fun of that, as if price was never an object for them.

During lunch, they barely spoke to me. In fact, they’d talked mostly between themselves all day. After we ate, they wanted to go to an electronics store. There was some gadget Natalie’s boyfriend wanted for Christmas. We must have looked at everything in the store before we found it, and it was crazy expensive.

“You’re not going to try and walk out of here with that, are you?” I asked.

I should have kept my mouth shut. Natalie took it as a challenge.

“If you and Angelica watch that no one’s coming.”

We went to opposite ends of the aisle and gave her a thumb’s up when no one was coming. She slipped it into her bag and we headed for the door. We started giggling about ten feet outside the store.

Right before the security guard stopped us.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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