Category Archives: Writing

THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 7

It’s not really an excuse, but aside from art, my classes bored me stiff, even Spanish. The teacher had such a horrible accent, I could hardly understand whether he was speaking English or Spanish at any given moment. Angelica and Natalie kept walking to school with me. At first it shocked me when they talked about skipping classes. I mean, they were in the illustrious IB program, not the drivel I had to slog through every day.

But there was a mall near the school, and eventually I went along with them, partly because they offered to help me buy makeup and get my nails done properly. Mom’s never been into that stuff. She and Dad would rather hike a mountain than go to a formal dinner, though they don’t do either now. He’s always at work. But I was woefully ignorant of girly things.

Nail polish was my gateway drug.

See? I may not be in AP classes anymore, but I still plan on college, if I live that long.

Anyway, that first time I went to the mall with them, they showed me posters of French and American manicures and they debated which was better. Angelica acted like I was someone special when I agreed with her that the American manicure looked better. It was more natural-looking. We got a kit to do an American manicure, two different emery boards and a pair of cuticle scissors, mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow that they said would really make my eyes pop, by which I figured out they meant my eyes would stand out more with the makeup. By the time we had it all in the basket, I realized I hadn’t brought enough cash. It was embarrassing, but I admitted I hadn’t realized how much I’d need. Natalie offered to put the American manicure kit back on the shelf and pick up a clear polish, since I liked the natural look.

We got home about the same time we’d get there if we’d been in classes all day. We dropped by my house long enough to tell my mom that we’d made it back to the gated community safely. I dropped off my pack. We’d put all my stuff into Angelica’s bag—I’d have to keep it at her house or my mother would want to know when and where I’d gotten it. I couldn’t very well tell her I ditched school. We all went to Angelica’s house to do our manicures. Angelica had some of the stuff we needed, but they used what I’d bought, too.

When our nails were all shaped and ready for polish, Natalie got this devious smile on her face and said to wait, while she opened her pack. She pulled out the American manicure kit.

“You went ahead and bought it?” I asked. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“Of course I didn’t have to buy it. I just put it into my pack.”

“You stole it?”

“It was overpriced.”

If I’d said I wanted no part of it and gone home that day, I would have lost the only people I talked to outside of school. Looking back, that sure would have been the better choice. But I really liked the way those nails looked, so I went along with them and let them do my nails with the stolen kit. So I guess my Gateway drug wasn’t really nail polish, it was the whole kit.

“The only people I talked to outside of school.” You notice I didn’t call them my only friends outside of school? Of course I am writing this with hindsight—I know now they were not my friends—but even back then, on some level I knew they were simply entertaining themselves with me. I thought that meant they were helping the little country bumpkin learn city ways. That would have inferred that they liked me, but they didn’t. They proved that, alright, but not until December.

Through the fall, I went back and forth within myself about the shoplifting. I mean, I used the kit, so did that make me just as guilty as Natalie? I avoided most of their trips to the mall, saying a teacher had called home and my parents were suspicious of my explanation. Having invented this phone call, I then had to invent an explanation. So I said I’d told my parents I had a crush on a boy and had been so upset seeing him locking lips with a girl on the way into art class, and that I had hidden in the bathroom to compose myself.

Angelica and Natalie considered my imaginary excuse to be brilliant and cursed the teacher for being a busy-body who’d call home if I missed class. Other teachers didn’t do that. I blamed Mr. Bonhomme’s artistic nature for caring too much.

In reality, he rarely took attendance. I was more concerned one of the other teachers might say something if I was absent too often, though that was probably me being paranoid. The classes I was in had so many losers in them that a quarter of the seats were empty most days. I doubted any teacher phone calls home for absent students. But Angelica and Natalie bought the excuse. That was all that mattered. We still walked to school together, and often I’d run into them on the way home.

And they still asked me to go to the mall with them, maybe when there was a sub in art.

I thought they liked me.

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 6

School starts mid-August, while it’s still hot and humid.

Rose has a friend to walk with, the kid she met rollerblading, but Mom insists on driving me to the high school, even though it’s less than a mile away. When we get to the gate of our community, there are two girls about my age just walking through. Mom stops and asks if they’d like a ride and explains which house we bought this summer.

Angelica and Natalie get into the back seat while Mom goes on about how we’ve always lived in a tiny town, that this seems like city to us, and how this school is so much bigger than my old one and she hopes they’ll be my friends. These girls clearly spend hours on their makeup, hair, and nails. There’s no way they’d want to be friends with me, even if they weren’t obviously really tight with each other. I try to limit the damage with a shrug and eye roll.

Then Mom goes on about how I’m a top student, but the best classes were all full when I registered and they put me into a jumble of whatever was open. They even put me into two art classes instead of college prep!

Basically, Mom tells Angelica and Natalie I’m a nerd and a scared little hick who’s desperate for friends. She doesn’t realize that, though. She thinks she’s helping. At least she introduces me as Tina, not Montina.

When she drops us off, Natalie thanks her for the ride.

Angelica looks at my schedule and shakes her head. “Your mother wasn’t kidding. They dumped you into dumb-dumb English and crappy classes for kids who wouldn’t pass social studies or science any other way. The rest won’t be too bad.”

“Are you in any of them?” I know the answer but ask anyway.

“Hardly. We’re in the IB program.”

IB, International Baccalaureate Program. I’d never heard of one until Mom found out I couldn’t get into it and started raving about it. At least my being a nerd won’t count against me with these girls.

“Your first class is Spanish. It’s up that way. That teacher is okay.” Angelica points down a hall. “The room number’s on your schedule and there’s a map of the school on the back. Good luck.”

With that they disappear in the opposite direction.

Spanish is overflowing, with six students standing. The teacher takes roll, then says she’ll see how many drop out the first week before she tries to fit more desks into the room. “Meantime, a clipboard will help.”

I decide to be early every day and get a desk.

I have two art classes, drawing and painting, with Mr. Bonhomme. He has us draw the first day. Gym is boring. English, science, and social studies are plain dumb, stuff too easy for Rose.

The first weeks of school, those art classes are what save me from total despair. Mr. Bonhomme is happy as long as the room’s not trashed and we look like we’re working on our assignments. He doesn’t mind people talking while they work, either, as long as there is silence while he explains things. It ends up with a pleasant place to work. My other classes are too large or have too many trouble makers in them. The teachers are battling for control all the time.

I try talking to people in the art classes, but they go their own way at the end of class, and at the end of day everyone heads home. Mom keeps asking me if I’ve made friends, and what about those girls we met the first day, until finally I scream to just leave me alone and go to my room and slam the door shut.

It doesn’t help that Mary’s never the one to Skype me, and she’s not home most of the time when I try to get her. Texting works better, but it’s not the same as having a best friend right there in the room with you. She’s posting lots of photos on Facebook. She’s moved into a new crowd.

The first Monday in October Angelica and Natalie start stopping by every morning to walk to school with me. I figure Mom talked to their mothers.

Later, I wonder if I was right. Maybe they had plans for me from the start.

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 5

By the time we’re done with ice cream and goodbyes, it’s almost two o’clock. Rose and I wave at our friends until we can’t see them anymore.

Then I settle into the navigation seat and get serious. “Should I set the GPS?”

Mom smiles. “No. I know the way to Denver. From there we take seventy-six north to eighty east, and that takes us most of the way—seventeen hours of driving, or more. We won’t need GPS until we’re getting close.”

“I can help with the driving.” I’ve had my permit for months. Now I’m sixteen, I can go in for my test and get my license.

Mom glances over and turns up one side of her mouth with a look that says she’s sorry she has bad news. “You can drive while we’re still in Colorado, but your permit’s not really good outside of the state.”

“What?” I squeak.

“You’re going to have to take a new driver’s education course, specific to Illinois, to get a permit there, and you can’t get a license until you’ve had that permit for nine months. They also have education and practice requirements.”

“That sucks.”

“I know. I’ll pull over and let you drive part way to Denver, but I’ll take over once we’re getting into traffic and freeways.”

So my sixteenth birthday, I wake up in a motel in Nebraska no longer allowed to drive. I wish I’d left Mom’s present to open today and I’m feeling sorry for myself until I get out of the shower and Rose is there with a helium Happy Birthday balloon and a spider plant with a bow on it.

“For your new room,” she says.

“Thanks, Rose.”

I give her a hug. I’ve hardly even thought about how hard it must be for her to be moving. I mean, she’s not a teenager. She doesn’t have a boy that was starting to be interested, but she’s never lived anywhere else, either.

I decide I have to pay more attention to her until she makes new friends.

We eat the motel’s free breakfast, get showers and pack up. By the time we leave, it’s eleven.

“I really wanted to start earlier,” worries Mom. “We still ten hours of driving.”

“It’s Tuesday, Mom. The moving guys said they won’t be there until Thursday. We have all day today and tomorrow, too.”

“I know. But I wanted to get there tonight, just in case their schedule changes.”

I try to be the voice of reason Dad usually plays when she’s like this. “Drive most of the way today, then we can get up early tomorrow and you’ll be there Wednesday before noon. Besides, we’d still have to stay in a motel, unless you’re going to make us sleep on the floor.”

“That’s the plan once we get there. We have the sleeping pads and bags in the car, remember? But you’re right, we’ll drive about eight hours today, enjoy the pool at a motel, then get up early enough to get the key from the realtor right when they open.”

“Doesn’t Dad have a key?”

“He’s in training about sixty miles from our house. He’s putting in long days getting up to speed on the new job, so he’s staying close to work.”

My stomach tightens. Dad’s job had never gotten in the way of our doing things. He always said family came first. “He’s going to move into the house with us once the furniture gets there, isn’t he?”

“Of course,” Mom says.

Only he doesn’t.

He comes home Friday night when most of the unpacking is done, and even when his training’s done and he moves into the house with us, we only see him for breakfast. He usually doesn’t come home until Tina was in bed.

The summer isn’t all bad, though. It’s a lot hotter and more humid here than we’re used to, but the basement is always cool. I help mom fix up a nice family room down there and do some other painting she wants to do to make the place her own. My room is this boring off-white, but it’s bigger than my old room so there’s one open wall where Mom agrees to let me paint a mural. I make a grid on the glass over the photo Mom gave me for my birthday and a larger one on the wall, then carefully draw, then paint, our old backyard. So it’s the first thing I see every morning.

We go into Chicago and do some museums and stuff like we’re trying to appreciate being close to a city, but the days I really like are when we go to Lake Michigan with the kayaks. The lake is like the ocean, only no salt and the waves aren’t as big, but I can “surf” with my kayak after a few tries. It’s almost two hours to the beach, though, and there’s a lot more traffic here, so we only go a few times. There are some lakes to play in that are closer and we try a couple river runs with the kayaks, but the water’s so low we have to portage places and there’s nothing above a Level 1 or 2.

We’re living in a small town, but it’s surrounded by other towns, so it’s more like city to me. We actually live in a gated community. That’s so bizarre, that you have to go through a gate to get into our neighborhood. There’s a nice park and playground in the center and enough streets to make it feel like its own small town, if you knew the neighbors. No one’s outside much. Rose made a friend rollerblading in the park, but I haven’t even seen any other teenagers. Her elementary school is a block away from the gate and my high school’s not much farther, but when we go to register me for classes, we find out it’s huge, a “consolidated” high school with kids from several towns attending.

That means there’s going to be hundreds of kids in my class, not a few dozen. The first day’s going to suck, not knowing anyone. I’ve always known almost everyone.

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 4

“It’s amazing how much junk there is in this house,” says Mom.

I’m the one helping her sort through stuff in the attic, so she’s not going to get any argument from me. Rose is at Laurie’s.

“When did Dad’s parents move here?” I wonder how long it takes to collect this much stuff.

“Before he was born. Your grandfather always said it was the year Kennedy was assassinated.”

“Which Kennedy? Weren’t there a couple that got shot?”

“JFK, the President. 1963.”

“So this is fifty years of stuff.” That explains it.

Mom nods. “Thank goodness your grandmother wasn’t a saver. She threw out a lot of things. It could be worse. But I don’t think she ever came up here.”

I take a swig from my water bottle. “She’d have died of the heat.”

Mom smiles. “You’re right.”

“Most houses around here don’t even have attics.”

“True. This place was probably built by someone who moved here from back East. Most of the older houses back there have attics. I think it was the sixties when they started building one-story houses without them.”

“So there are a lot of older houses back there? Is our new house an old one?”

“You saw the photos online, Tina. It’s a very nice house built about ten years ago.”

“Does it have an attic?”

“Just an airspace, but it does have a basement.”

“We’ll have to make sure we don’t collect this much stuff in the basement.”

“You’re absolutely right!” says Mom. “You’ve been helping all morning. Do you want to go spend some time with Mary now?”

“No, I’ll stay and help you. She’s going to Grand Junction with her mom today, to get school clothes.”

“If you’d said something, I could have let you go with them with my credit card.”

“No, I think I want to wait until I see what people wear at my new school, before we go buy a bunch of clothes. What if it’s majorly different, you know?”

“Good thinking.”

We finish cleaning out the attic half way through the afternoon.

“I think we deserve a break.” Mom goes through our to-do list. “We have cleaned, taken carloads of stuff to the thrift store, done repairs and painting according to the realtor’s directions, and this place is ready for the open house this weekend. Let’s throw the cooler into the car, the kayaks onto the roof, get your sister, pick up some deli food for dinner, and spend the rest of the day at the river.”

“You weren’t expecting me to argue, were you?”

So that’s what we do. It’s a beautiful hot August day. The river is low, so the water is pretty warm and the current’s slow enough that I can paddle upstream far enough to have fun coming back down. It’s calm enough, I even tie a rope to the second kayak and help Rose get upstream far enough to ride down.

It’s a great day.

We head home when it starts to get dark. Rose is bushed and zonks out in the car. Mom carries her to bed while I take the kayaks off the car. Then Mom and I sit on the back deck in the dark, drinking sodas.

“I love the stars here,” Mom says.

“The stars will still be above us. Same ones, right?” I joke. “We’re not going to the Southern Hemisphere or anything.”

“No, but they won’t be as bright, even on dark nights. Altitude really does make a difference.”

“For real?”

“For real,” she says. For the first time she sounds sad that we’re leaving.

“Is this job really that important to make us all move like this?” I ask. “State colleges are good enough, and they’re not so horribly expensive.”

“That’s not the only reason for your father to take this job. He’d hit a dead end here. His work was beginning to bore him to death. He needed this challenge, and the promotion is giving him the recognition and reward that he’s deserved for years.”

“Good. I thought it was all about college, and I didn’t want you two to be miserable on my account.”

She puts her arm around my shoulder. “We’re not going to be miserable, not any of us. It’s a new type of adventure, that’s all.”

“When’s the moving van coming?” I ask.

“Monday. The realtor wanted furniture in place for the open house, but we need to pack up everything we can and stack it all in the garage before Saturday.”

“Thanks for the afternoon off.”

“I needed it, too.”

Her cell phone rings.

“Hi honey,” she says. “We’re almost ready for the movers, and we had a wonderful afternoon down at the river. Has the deal closed on our new house?”

She walks inside as she continues chatting with Dad. I stay in the yard, enjoying Rocky Mountain stars while I still can.

The next days go quickly. I go over to Mary’s and see all her new school clothes, and hear all about the shopping trip with a couple of our other friends. Then she comes over to our house and helps pack stuff. Mom says the movers wanted too much to do all of that. Even with Dad’s new job, she can’t see spending money on something she can do herself. She even priced renting a truck and towing the car behind it, but Dad talked her out of that. I think he felt guilty he wouldn’t be here to help with the lifting and loading.

Friday night, I stay over at Mary’s and we sneak out to a party down by the river. Someone hands me a beer and I take a tiny sip because I’m thirsty, but I don’t really like the stuff, so mostly I just hold the bottle.

“Shoot,” says Tim, the boy who took me to the dance. “Thought you were going to be designated driver for everyone once you got your license.”

“I’m not really drinking. But I don’t have my license yet, either.”

“Are you really moving? That’s what people have been saying.”

“Yeah, we leave Monday.”

“That sucks,” he says.

We end up walking away from everyone and kissing some, but he’s really not that great a kisser, or maybe I’m just not into it tonight. When we get back to the group, I find Mary.

“You ready to go?” I ask, even though she’s standing in a group with Ronny, the guy she’s been crushing on for the last six months.

“It’s your last night. You sure you want to leave?”

I can tell she wants to stay, so I stick around until she’s ready to go.

Saturday morning, once Mary finally wakes up, we walk over to my house, where the realtor has everything ready to start the open house at noon. Mom takes us all back to the river for the day, Mary and Laurie, too. We have fun, but all day I’m thinking about people walking through our house, about how Mary’s already moving on to new friends, and the fact that Monday evening I’ll be on my way to a new life I didn’t ask for.

Sunday there’s nothing to do. Mom complains she’s crazy to drive anywhere when she’s got such a long drive ahead of her, but the three of us get into the car and we go to the closest easy fourteener and walk it with her. At the top, she looks across the mountain ranges and breathes in deeply. I look away when she blinks a few times. I know it’s tears. I so hope this new place works out for all of us.

The movers are there first thing Monday morning, loading up the truck amazingly fast. They make Mom sign papers listing everything they’re packing into the truck, because they have other people’s things in there, too. That’s why we’ll probably get to our new house ahead of them. They have to unload some stuff in Kansas on their way. I hope they don’t mix up our stuff with the other people’s things. Mom’s not really happy about that, either.

When they’re gone, we walk through the house one more time, top to bottom, inside and out, to make sure there’s nothing of ours left behind. Then we drive by the realtor’s office to drop off the key and meet Mary, Laurie, and their mothers at Jack’s for a goodbye ice cream. They surprise me with a cake and birthday presents from Mary and Mom.

“You didn’t really think I forgot tomorrow’s your birthday, did you?” asks Mom.

Actually I had thought exactly that, but I grin as if such a thought never crossed my mind. I tear into my presents, even though it means I won’t have anything to open the next day. Mom’s is a big photo of the view from our deck. Mary’s is a cool book with pictures of us growing up together, our families camping together, and all the places we really love. I get a little weepy at first, then we look at the photos together and remember good times and laugh.

“Skype me as soon as you have internet,” Mary says as she hugs me.

“I will.”

I’m about to get weepy again, so I get into the car. It won’t be the same, of course, and I know she’s already getting closer to the other girls. Hopefully, I’ll make some good friends, too.

 

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 3

Mary and I try to pretend we’re too old to be impressed by Disneyland, but it’s really amazing. The rides go on so much longer than anything I’ve ever been on before, and we aren’t the only teenagers there.

The lines suck, though. It’s summer and crowded. My parents insist we all stay together. Fortunately, the little girls are both tall enough to ride anything, and my parents let Mary and me pretend we’re not with them while we wait in lines, so other teenagers talk to us. Some cute boys flirt with us for over an hour while we wait for the Space Mountain ride. They’re from Arizona, and their parents let them do some of the rides on their own because they’ve got really little kids with them and because they’ve been there a bunch of times.

“It’s better to come when school’s in session,” says the one who’s been focusing on me. “The lines aren’t nearly as bad then. That’s when the locals come.”

“Local kids come here?”

“Yeah, they get season passes and treat it like any other amusement park.

That idea floors me. Maybe there will be benefits to living somewhere new, though it’s going to be a small town again. But maybe we’ll go into Chicago sometimes. Or maybe Rockland, where my dad’s going to work, will be big enough to have interesting stuff happening.

We stay at this condo right by the park. It’s some kind of perk from Dad’s new position. Once we’re back at the condo, Mom and Dad let Mary and me hang out in the public areas by ourselves. There’s a big pool and two whirlpools and a recreation room with a big flat screen, game tables, and some video machines. There’s a workout room, too. We’re supposed to be sixteen to use any of this without adult supervision, but no one questions us. Mostly it’s older people, but there are a few other teenagers there and we have fun flirting with some college guys, too.

After three days at the theme parks, my parents can’t take it anymore. We get into the rental car and head to the beach for the next three days. Now THAT is awesome. It’s my first time seeing the ocean. We drive past beaches with huge waves and lots of surfers to a beach they recommended at the condo, where the waves are a lot smaller. We’re all good swimmers, from the river, but Dad makes us watch awhile before we go in with the boogie boards we borrowed from the condo.

“You have to keep alert,” he says. “Sometimes there’s a rogue wave a lot larger than the others, for one thing. Also, when you’re in where the waves break, you have to dive under so they don’t pound you into the ocean floor. See how those kids are doing it? Use the leash and let go of the board.”

“Okay, I got it,” I say. The other girls echo the same.

“You actually want to go out past where they’re breaking, but it’s likely to be over your head. The salt makes it easier to float and tread water, even if you lose your board, but be careful not to stay out so long you have trouble getting back in past the breakers.”

“We’re coming out with you,” says Mom. “But we’re going to be riding waves, too, so stick with your buddy and watch out for each other.”

That’s my parents, super careful. But I don’t mind, because I know that’s why they’ve never had a serious accident with all the mountains they’ve climbed and the rapids they’ve run.

In spite of Mom demanding we keep slathering up with sunscreen all day, we all get burned where our swimsuits expose more skin. My stomach’s still hot when we fly back to Denver. Dad walks us out to the car and gets his business stuff out of the trunk. He packed his work clothes in a separate suitcase and left it in the car when we left for California. He gives us hugs, then heads back into the airport for his flight to Chicago.

It’s late and the little girls and Mary are all asleep before we get to the tunnel above Golden. It’s a quiet three-hour trip home. This is really happening.

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 2

Chapter 2—Dinner

At least the secret seems to be something that makes both of my parents happy, so they can’t be telling us they’re getting a divorce or anything awful like that. I’ve heard kids talk about stuff like that happening.

When we get to Jack’s, Rose wants pepperoni pizza and I want veggie. Usually we end up with a large half and half, except the grease from the pepperoni leeches over onto the veggie side, too. It’s cheaper to order one extra large than two mediums. Dad usually has us drink water, too. He says drinks are overpriced when you eat out.

Tonight, however, is different.

“Two mediums,” he says. “And a glass of soda for each of the girls, and a pitcher of beer for us.”

My parents don’t drink a lot, usually at parties or a couple beers on hot days at home, so his ordering a pitcher is really strange. We get our drinks and sit down to wait for the pizza. Dad clears his throat.

“I know you’ve been wondering about our trip,” he says.

Then he stops and takes Mom’s hand. They give each other a look like newlyweds or something.

“So, what is it?” I demand. “What’s going on?”

“Several things,” says Mom.

“First of all,” says Dad. “The reason we went to Chicago is that I had a job interview. The company is bumping me up.”

“That’s why we’re getting two pizzas?” I ask. “You’re going to make more money?”

“A lot more,” he says.

“Cool,” says Rose. “Can I get a new bike then? The one that was Tina’s is too small for me now.”

“We can do that,” says Dad. “When we get back from California.”

“California?” I’m suspicious. “When, why are we going to California?”

“Well,” he says. “My new position is going to be very demanding. I won’t have much time with you while I’m learning all the ropes. But they’re giving me a couple weeks to make the transition, and your mother and I decided we’d take one week of that for a family vacation to Disneyland.”

“Disneyland?”

I can’t believe this is the big surprise. I’m fifteen. I’ve been learning to drive for six months. So my parents have decided it’s time to go to Disneyland? Rose is the perfect age for that, and she’s bouncing all over asking them a million questions, but I quit wanting to go there a long time ago. Mom picks up on this.

“We’ll spend some time at the beach, too,” she says. “You’ve never been to the ocean. And Mary and Laurie are going to come with us.”

“When?” asks Rose.

“We’re leaving tomorrow morning,” says Mom.

“You’re flying all of us there?” I ask.

“Yup,” says Dad.

This new position must really make some bucks. But something is bothering me.

“Why are they giving you two weeks off to transition into a new job?” I ask. “That doesn’t make any sense. Shouldn’t they want you to start right away?”

They look at each other again. This time it’s not that newlywed thing, this is my parents worried about delivering bad news.

“The transition time is so we can make moving arrangements,” Mom says.

“When we get back from California, I have to go on ahead and start in my new job,” says Dad. “Last week was the first of my two weeks and your mom and I found a house. The closing date’s the week before school starts, so that gives you and your mom the rest of the summer to pack up and get our old house ready to sell.”

“We’re moving?” Rose finally catches onto that. She doesn’t sound so excited anymore.

I’m speechless. Sell our house? I’ve never lived anywhere else. Even when I was a baby, we lived there with Dad’s mom, until she passed away when I was four and left the house to Dad. Mom’s parents live in Arizona. I haven’t seen them since I was ten, except for Skype. All of our friends live here, too. Mine, Rose’s, our parents’ friends all live here. But they’re still acting happy about this.

“Aren’t you going to miss your friends?” asks Rose.

Good question. Why are they so happy to move?

“Where are we going to live?” I finally find my voice to ask.

“Jackson, Illinois. It’s a small town, about the same size as ours, but a reasonable commute from Rockford. That’s where I’ll be working. It’s about an hour west of Chicago.”

“There aren’t any mountains in Illinois,” I say.

Dad looks sad for a moment. “True. But it’s really green and pretty out there, and there’s a lake not far from the house we’re buying where you’ll be able to swim and kayak.”

“On a lake?” I ask.

Besides climbing mountains, my parents have always done whitewater kayaking. They’ve always taken us rafting once the spring melt is done and the rivers are milder, but last summer I got my own kayak and practiced enough that they let me do a few runs this spring while there was still some Class Three whitewater. I’m not interested in being a fourteener, but kayaking those rapids was a rush.

“What about skiing?” asks Rose.

She’ll be in fourth grade next year. In sixth grade, Colorado kids get free passes to world-class ski areas.

“I can’t kid you on that one,” says Dad. “There are some ski areas close enough to go to, but they measure vertical drop in feet, not meters.”

“That’s because Illinois has no mountains,” I say.

Dad’s not looking nearly as happy as he was, and that obviously bothers Mom, so she starts talking it up.

“It’s going to be an adventure,” she says. “We’ll have to try out cross-country skiing. I’ve only done it a few times, but it’s a real workout. And I’m sure with all that water we can find some rivers for the kayaks. It doesn’t have to be Class Four to be fun. And we’ll be meeting new people, making new friends. And while your father may not be able to get away much, I’ll bring you girls back here to visit in the summers.”

“Are you going to work?” I ask.

Mom’s had a part time job at the elementary school since Rose started kindergarten.

“I’m going to look for something once we’ve settled in,” she says. “We have two kids to put through college, you know.”

“We’re leaving for Disneyland tomorrow?” asks Rose.

“Yup,” says Dad. “Your friends will be ready for us first thing in the morning.”

It’s dawning on me that the main reason for Dad to take this job is money for college for me and Rose, so I need to stop whining and get with the program.

“With internet and Skype, it’ll be easy to keep our friends here,” I say. “It’ll be cool, trying out a new place and making new friends.”

Mom looks relieved. Dad gives me a big grin.

“Yup,” he says. “This way you won’t be so lost when you go off to college, either. I was miserable my freshman year, because I’d never had to make new friends before and I’d never lived anywhere but here. There’s a whole world out there and lots of different kinds of places.”

There are a lot of things I think, but do not say, like he chose to come back to his home town. So did Mom. Neither of them has ever shown interest in travel outside Colorado. That’s part of why their trip seemed so strange. They don’t even go into Denver much. We go to Grand Junction for school clothes and special stuff like my dress for the dance, and Grand Junction may be a city, but it’s not a big one.

Of course, they say we’re moving into a town not much bigger than ours, which means about seven thousand people, so it shouldn’t be that crazy. My school should be about the same size. Maybe it won’t be that bad. And meantime, we’re going to California!

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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 1

A mountain lion could be out here, ready to pounce. They say you never know what hit you. But I’ve been out here plenty of starry nights and that never happened. It’s not likely to happen tonight, either. I won’t get off that easy.

My feet dangle over the edge, far above the tree tops. The stone is chilling my insides from the butt up. A wave of wind flows through the pines below and then above me as well. I sniff the pine, half disappointed there’s no salt in the air when it sounds so much like surf.

I wonder if he ever saw the ocean.

I saw it once, a year ago, but that was another life, before the incident. My parents were so disappointed in me for that. There’s no way I can ever tell them the rest, what happened after. They must never know. They won’t, of course. No one’s saying a word about what we did, and I don’t see my family enough to get stupid and tell them. If it weren’t for the incident, I’d never have been there.

I wouldn’t be wishing for that mountain lion to end it all. I can’t commit suicide. That would hurt my family even more than I already have. An accident, though. That would be tragic, but they’d be able to accept that and move on, instead of driving themselves crazy wondering what they did wrong. So it can’t be an accident like driving drunk into a tree, either, because they’d think it was their fault I was drunk. It has to be something where they can’t blame themselves for anything.

I think I used to be happy, but I can’t feel it anymore.

Chapter 1—Secrets

“Your mother will be here to pick you up in half an hour, Montina.”

Mary’s mother is the only person in our little Colorado town who calls me by the name on my birth certificate. When I started kindergarten, I insisted everyone call me Tina, even my parents, and they do. A lot of kids don’t even know my real name is Montina. Mountain. Can you imagine if I’d been a fat kid? My parents didn’t think of that, though. It probably never occurred to them that they could have anything but an athletic child.

They started doing Colorado’s fourteeners when they were in high school. Fourteeners are mountains that are fourteen-thousand-something feet high. There are like fifty-four of them in Colorado. Some of the easy ones they did with Dad carrying me in a pack when I was a baby. The last few years they’ve slowed down some because a lot of weekends they’re driving us to soccer matches all over the state. My kid sister and I both play, and sometimes our games are in different directions. They named her Parry Primrose, for the pretty purple flowers that grow mainly above ten thousand feet. It’s a lot better than Montina, but she goes by Rose anyway. She’s only eight, but not too much of a pain. She’s been staying at one of her friend’s houses the last two weeks, while I’ve been staying with Mary. We’re both fifteen.

“Come on, Tina,” says Mary. “Let’s get your stuff.”

It only takes a minute to grab my bathroom things and throw them into my school bag. Mary’s mom insisted on washing all my stuff last night, so it’s already folded up in the pack I used for a suitcase. The only place I’ve ever gone this long before is camping with my family. That’s why I don’t have a proper suitcase. We don’t take that kind of vacation. My parents even had to buy luggage for their trip. They were very secretive about where they were going. When I asked Dad if it was an overdue honeymoon, he looked over my head and said it might be something like that, partially, anyway.

“My mom looks like she knows a secret,” Mary says.

“Yeah, I noticed,” I say, as I look around to make sure I’ve got all my stuff.

Our parents were all friends in school, so Mary and I have known each other forever. There are even photos of us together in a playpen, though our parents say neither of us could be contained in one for long. So whenever my folks wanted to climb a mountain, I stayed with Mary for the weekend. Her parents were still pretty outdoorsy, and we’d all gone camping together a lot of times, but they didn’t do the mountain climbing stuff anymore. Sometimes they’d go into Denver for the weekend, though, and Mary would stay with us.

“So what do you think the big secret is?” asked Mary. “It’s got to be something your mom said to her.”

“Beats me,” I say.

It bothers me a lot that my parents are suddenly having secrets. They’ve always been honest with us, and insisted we be honest with them. I even confessed when I was twelve and tried a puff of a cigarette. They didn’t get mad, either. They were just majorly relieved that I didn’t like it. Their having some big secret now feels like a betrayal, especially if they’re sharing it with Mary’s mom before me or Rose. Mary picks up on my feelings. It’s like that when you’ve known somebody your whole life.

“You’ll probably find out tonight,” she says.

“Yeah, I guess. It’s so weird, though. I mean, they went to Chicago. Hawaii, Mexico, even a city like San Francisco or New York, any of those would make sense if it was like a honeymoon. Why would they go to Chicago, though?”
When my parents got married, they spent their first week together climbing in the San Juan Mountain Range in southeast Colorado. That included Mount Wilson, which is one of the most difficult, dangerous climbs. That’s why I thought this trip might be a second honeymoon, or honeymoon never taken.

“They didn’t actually say it was a honeymoon,” Mary reminds me, “and Chicago does have a lot of art galleries and stuff and it’s not as far as New York.”

“San Francisco would be closer. Besides, their timing sucked.”

“I know,” said Mary.

My parents took this sudden trip right at the end of the school year. It was supposed to be just a few days. Mom and I had just gotten back from Grand Junction with my first formal dress, for the Freshman Spring Fling. Tim Withers actually asked me! The next morning, they told us they had to go to Chicago for a few days, but they’d be back by Friday. But they weren’t. Tim’s parents had to pick me up at Mary’s house. Then they ended up staying away all the next week, so they missed the high school awards ceremony, too. I got three—for soccer, Spanish, and good citizenship.

They were gone almost two full weeks.

They’d never been away for more than three days. Rose called me the first couple nights, kind of homesick, but then I guess she settled in at her friend’s house. It’s not that they disappeared. Mom called and asked me all about the dance, then again about awards night, but it wasn’t the same. She was excited about something that had nothing to do with me, and it was there even when she was trying to be sympathetic and sound sorry for missing my first real date and my first high school awards. The worst part was that she didn’t tell me what she was so happy about.

Mary is looking out her window.

“They’re here,” she said. “Call me as soon as you know what they’ve been doing!”

“I will.”

Mom comes to the door to say thank you to Mary’s mom. They exchange big smiles and a hug with lots of eye-widening and more smiles.

“We’ll be here by eight tomorrow morning,” says my mom.

“Great,” says Mary’s mom. “Oh, and I just emailed you photos from the dance and graduation.”

“Thank you so much,” says Mom.

Mary and I look at them, then each other.

“Call me tonight,” says Mary.

I nod.

On the way to the car, I ask Mom why we’re going to Mary’s the next morning.

“You’ll see,” she says. “We’ll tell you at dinner.”

Rose is in the car with Dad. It makes sense that they’d pick her up first. Her friend lives on the east side of town. Coming from Denver, their house comes first. Mom and Dad flew out of Denver to Chicago.

Mom starts quizzing me about awards night and the dance.

“I told you all that on the phone,” I remind her.

“It’s not the same,” she says.

“Yeah, I know,” I grumble.

Dad speaks up to defend her. “It’s not your mother’s fault we couldn’t get back in time for all that.”

“So whose fault is it?” I ask, trying not to sound like a total snot.

“Nobody’s,” he says. “We’ll explain more at dinner.”

I guess Rose already told them all her stuff before they picked me up, because no one asks her anything. Fortunately it’s a short trip home and almost time to eat.

“Put your stuff away, then we’ll go to Jack’s for pizza,” says Dad.

He doesn’t like Jack’s, but it’s a favorite of mine, so I know he means to make me feel better. I try to lighten up.

“Okay,” I say. “It’ll only take a couple minutes.”

“Take our suitcase to the laundry room,” Mom tells him. “I want to start a load before we leave for dinner. Do you girls have any dirty clothes?”

“Nope,” I say. “Mary’s mom insisted on washing everything last night.”

“Laurie’s mom, too,” says Rose.

“Great!” says Mom. “That’ll help a bunch.”

I start to ask what it will help, but she’s already on her way to the laundry. I go to my room and put my clean clothes away. Dad stops by my door.

“Mom said you don’t need to bother hanging everything up,” he says. “If it’s folded nicely, just leave it on your bed for now.”

That definitely doesn’t sound like Mom.

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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History vs. The Moment

I’m prepping to move – something I’ve done every few years for most of my kids’ lives. They’re all in their thirties now, so that’s a lot of moves.

Now I grew up in the same house for fifteen years, with weekends at the farm that had been in the family over fifty years before I was born – then moved to the farm. So of course a lot of stuff accumulated. I played with the tea set my mother had when she was a little girl and read books that had been my grandfather’s. There was also a stereoscope with cards to view from his grand tour of Europe – circa 1890. These things weren’t artifacts to be examine in a museum, then forgotten. They were part of my life, along with the stories that went along with them. So I grew up with history as part of my world.

But when you move a lot, the treasures get condensed a bit each trip. I just finally did away with the last box of memorabilia I’d kept from my kids – artwork, report cards, stories they wrote. I chose a few items too cute to lose to scan. The rest, well, no one really cares. And when we talk about our personal past, we don’t always remember things the same way. Looking through some of the things my kids wrote back then, I realize we didn’t always see things the same way while they were happening, either.

We’re focused on the moment these days. It’s reflected in the way we get news and react to it, all fleeting. We’re living in the moment. And if the past doesn’t really exist as one truth, there may be some benefit to that.

But I don’t think that’s the whole story, because all that past I grew up with is still with me in my present, and while I read a lot of history, what sticks with me the most are the stories I heard along the way. I think feeling connected all the way back over more than a hundred years informs my understanding of the world around me right now.

So I’m thinking it’s important for us to pass on those personal histories, to make them a part of the lives of today’s children, to give them a context for the moment in which they live. You don’t have to wait until you’re old. Start an electronic scrapbook. When you make an album of photos from a trip or birthday or place you love, add a page telling about the day or what you felt was special about that particular sunset photo.

Putting words to it will enrich the experience for you, even if no one else ever looks at it. I know. I’ve already done this for my twenties. And someday a grandchild or a stranger may read it and look at the photos, and their sense of the world will expand.

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

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Me Too: Evil Woman & Female Hero

In the literary context, Merriam Webster defines heroine as the principal female character in a literary or dramatic work” and they give “the heroine of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet” as an example.  There’s a problem with that.

According to opensourceshakespeare.org, Romeo speaks 163 times to Juliet‘s 118. Juliet is clearly the lead female and second character by size of role, but by appearing in both opening and closing scenes while Juliet does not, Romeo clearly has the primary lead. This is often the case in movies. If there’s a leading man in a movie, the leading female may play more of a supporting role than an actual lead. This has been a way to blur the lack of true female leads. This is also reflected by the way awards are given for movies. For example, Oscars are listed with leading and supporting men coming before any women are listed.

However, there is hope. The Me Too movement may be making a dent.

I just finished writing a screenplay for a company that produces a lot of movies for television. They provided a rough treatment for a starting point, along with the instructions that not only did they want the villain to be a woman, the primary protagonist was to be female as well. I’m calling her a female hero because she is definitely not playing second fiddle to any of the actors and she is the one who takes action to save the day. In reality, the leading actor is playing a supporting role to her lead.

Creating a female hero to triumph over the evil woman made this really fun to write. And since these guys have a good track record for selling their films to major outlets, I have to believe they’ve checked the market and found that the industry wants more women in leading roles. We’ll see.

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

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Oatmeal Brain: Writer’s Post-Race Blues

It’s possible I’ll be asked to do a few more tweaks, but the screenplay I contracted to complete has gone through two major revisions and they seem to be happy with it at this point. It was fun developing someone else’s idea. I really liked my first draft. It had this third wheel character that offered some comic relief in a tense TV movie. But they wanted him combined with the romantic lead, so I had to toss him.

Once I put aside my attachment to the character and looked at it as a challenge, I figured out a way to move a bit of the humor to the romantic lead. Of course, the script will change again once it goes into production, but that’s the way screenwriting works. I just read a lengthy interview with Terry Rossio that addresses that reality.

At the end of this major project, my brain’s functioning like oatmeal – nutritional, good content, but thick and sticky. Ideas pour slowly in globs.

Oatmeal brain: the writer’s version of post-race blues. It’s time to reboot.

To start, I took a look at my 2018 Goals and the steps I planned to meet them. If you’ve been following this blog, you realize I write all this stuff out at the beginning of the year and post it where it’s easy to access. My writing goal for 2018 is to make at least $10,000 writing. I came up with three objectives to help me meet this goal. The activities for my first objective revolve around getting Peg’s Story: One Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Herself polished, promoted, and published. The second objective’s about continuing to create new material and the third is about doing workshops on self-publishing.

Well, the screenplay wasn’t on my radar and, as long as they produce it this summer as planned, I’ll have met my goal without completing any of the written objectives.

I also have an author client I’m helping in multiple areas, which is adding to my income. And I’m doing volunteer work on promo for Who Will Remember. None of that was written into the plan either. I’ll keep devoting a few hours a week to these activities.

However, going back to the plan, I want to get that book out, I want to continue creating new material because that’s energizing, and I have three workshops scheduled – the first one at the end of June! My class is listed on page 6 of the catalog.

Fortunately, much of the preparation for the workshops overlaps with research I need to do to launch the book, so that research is the next primary focus. Writing new material will be my fun time.

I was surprised to see my personal (non-writing) goals are doing okay. I’ve completed activities under almost every objective. That’s pretty amazing. It felt like I was getting completely absorbed by my writing activities, until I looked at things in black and white. In reality, I’ve done a lot with family this year already, including some short trips.

Life is good.

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

 

 

 

 

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