Tag Archives: saying goodbye

Novel Bites: Missy’s Tahoe Christmas

Novel Bites is a series of short stories from the perspective of secondary characters in my novels. Sometimes the story is straight from the novel, sometimes it’s not. This story is from Michael Dolan McCarthy, his little sister Missy talking to us after a conversation with Michael in which he reminded her of Christmas in Tahoe. Please comment. Thanks.

FullFront

I remember the last Christmas we were all together. I didn’t used to, cuz I was only in kindergarten back then, not second grade like I am now. But Michael helped me. He’s my big brother and he takes care of me.

Once I remembered my puppy mittens, that Christmas came back all shiny and warm – except for the snow. I got wet and cold when we went sledding, but then Daddy put me in the front seat with the heater going full blast and I warmed right up. When we made a snowman, it didn’t matter that I got wet cuz I could go inside and warm up every time.

We stayed in this place that was even nicer than our house – we lived in a house back then, not that creepy old apartment where we left Mama last night.

That was a bad place. I don’t like to think about it.

That Christmas, when we went to the mountains all of us together, I did have to share a bedroom with Jimmy, but there were twin beds. We even had our own TV to watch the Grinch and the old movies Mama liked for the holidays. Michael slept on the couch in the living room cuz he was old enough to stay up later than us, as late as Mama and Daddy.

We got there Christmas Eve and Daddy went out and got a little tree and put it on a table in a corner of the living room. Mama popped popcorn and we made popcorn strings and paper snowflakes for that tree. It came with some lights and little decorations, but Mama said it wasn’t a Christmas tree until we put some of our love into it.

There was a fireplace in the living room, too, one where you turned it on with a switch like a light. We brought our stockings from home, all excited to have a real fireplace for them, but there wasn’t any way to hang them above it. Jimmy wanted to put nails in the wall, but Daddy said we couldn’t do that. So we put our stockings on chairs next to the fireplace, and sure enough, Santa found us and filled the stockings and put presents under that little tree, and three sleds were against the wall next to it with bows on them.

I’d been worried about how Santa would find us if we weren’t at home, but Daddy said he wanted snow for Christmas. When he was a little boy, he lived where it snowed every winter, lots and lots. Mama, too, but in a different place. She told me a little about it while I helped her put glitter names on the stockings and bows to make them pretty. She hardly ever talked about when she was growing up, so I listened to every bit, except I don’t remember all of it because I was only five. But it was a farm near a big lake and she played outside all the time and drove tractor when she was younger than Michael!

Now I’m seven and Michael’s driving Mama’s old Explorer across the country to take us to her parents on that farm, even though we never met them before. He tried to call them again today, but I don’t think he got to talk to them yet. We slept in the car last night and now we’re driving up into really big mountains, way bigger than that Christmas we went sledding, and it’s starting to snow, but Michael says we have four wheel drive and that means we’ll be okay.

Sometimes people are surprised he’s my brother, cuz his skin’s kind of brown all the time, but that’s cuz he had a different father first. Michael called our Daddy Swede. Daddy said that was okay, that Michael started calling him that before he married Mama and it didn’t matter what Michael called him, he was still Daddy to all of us.

Anyway, Daddy was so much fun. He pulled me back up the sledding hill every time, so I wouldn’t get tired before the boys. And he rode behind me, holding me close against him, so I wouldn’t get scared when we hit a bump or tipped over. He laughed every time.

But this Christmas we’ll be with our grandparents in that big farmhouse where Mama grew up, with snow to make snowmen with and oh, Mama showed me how to make snow angels, too.

I can make one for her and one for Daddy, angels for angels. They’ll like that.

Sheri McGuinn Photo Signature

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

www.imdb.com/name/nm8459664/

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Novel Bites: Jimmy’s Plan

Novel Bites is a series of short stories from the perspective of secondary characters in my novels. Sometimes the story is straight from the novel, sometimes it’s not – this is from Michael Dolan McCarthy. The book is told from Michael’s perspective, whereas this story explains his little brother’s perspective in the opening chapters. Please comment. Thanks.

FullFront

Fast as the wind. That’s me. At nine, I’m the youngest player on our team, but I’m the best. The ball dances between my feet as I race to the goal.

Andy’s a good goalie, staying in the middle, ready to dive to either side, shifting his weight from foot to foot. The space between them calls to me. In a league game, I wouldn’t take the chance, but this is practice. I go in close, lock eyes with him, then slam the ball right between his feet. It bumps his ankle and veers into the net at an angle.

“Aw, man!” Andy retrieves it. “Did you have to make me look stupid?”

“Bet you’ll never take your eyes off the ball in a real game.” I grin as Coach’s whistle pierces the air.

Andy rolls his head back to look at the sky, then grins back at me. We fist bump and run to the sideline. Coach will tell us what we did right and wrong in this scrimmage, then have us do one more before we call it quits for the day.

I’m not surprised to see Michael here. My big brother comes early to watch practice a lot, which makes me feel less like a baby, having a teenager walk me home all the time. But he’s talking to Coach, which is weird.

“Nice play, Jimmy,” says Coach. “Grab your stuff, you’ve got to go.”

I glare at Michael. He follows me over to the duffel bag I use for school. It’s the only thing big enough for my soccer stuff and whatever I need during the day. The regulation ball Mama bought is always with me, ready for pick-up games at recess and lunch.

“Why can’t I stay?” I grumble as I change into my street shoes. Some of the kids wear their soccer shoes home, but I save mine for the field. “We’ve got a big game tomorrow.”

“You’ll have to miss it. I told your coach. Mama’s got a job interview out of town and she’s taking us with her.”

“It’s Ridgeview!” Michael knows Ridgeview is our toughest opponent. “They need me! Why’s Mama got to take us along?”

“She can’t leave us home alone.” Michael stares at the shoes I haven’t tied. “Hurry up. We need to get going.”

Michael is the one who’s held things together since Dad died. He’d rather be on the high school soccer team than babysitting me and our little sister Missy all the time, but he hardly ever complains.

I do, though. “Mama’s supposed to cut my hair tonight. Is she still going to do that?”

Mama buzzed me right before school started. It’s Novem­ber now and my bangs keep getting in my face. It’s kind of nice to hide behind them in class, but on the field it’s a pain. I’ve been trying to get her to cut my hair for two weeks.

Michael looks like he might cry. “Don’t be mad at Mama. It’s not her fault.”

“What do you mean? What’s wrong?”

But Michael doesn’t answer. He takes off for home so fast I have to trot to keep up. He does that when he wants me to shut up and quit bugging him about something. But this time, maybe I don’t want the answer. If one more awful thing’s happened to our family, well, that just wouldn’t be fair.

Still, I need to know. When we get to the apartment, I watch Michael unlock the door and finally ask, “What’s going on?” My voice sounds like a little girl’s, all weak and trembly.

He chokes on the words. “Mama’s gone, Jimmy. Too many pain pills.”

“No! Where is she?”

Michael nods up towards her room, his hand on my shoulder. I shake it off and run upstairs, hoping he’s wrong, that she’s just sleeping heavy. She can be hard to wake up when she takes those pills. But tears start pouring down my face even before I get to the foot of her bed and see her lying there all stiff like a big plastic doll. Mama’s not there anymore. No touch needed to know she’s gone.

When Dad died, we knew it was coming because of the cancer, but this? My eyes drift to the empty pill bottle by her hand and rage pours through me, worse than the day our cat Betsy died and Mama tossed her in the trash and she was gone before we even knew she’d been hurt. I smashed up our room that day and Michael told me how that’s rage and it’s what got his father killed and Dad wouldn’t be happy with me for letting it take over like that.

Now Mama’s deserted us, left us on our own. I’m shaking, holding back from smashing things, and crying sad, all at once. “Why, Michael? Why’d she do this?”

Michael puts his arm around me and turns to walk us away from the bed and out of that room. “You know how worried she was, how she’s felt she wasn’t taking good care of us, like she couldn’t do anything right. . .”

“But now she can’t take care of us at all.” My rage slides into fear, a cold lump in my belly. The tears stop and my eyes open wide as I turn to Michael. “What are we gonna do?”

We’ve lived in this ghetto apartment long enough to understand Social Services is the threat now. They’ll come and take us and we’ll be split up and maybe never see each other again. But Michael’s already thought it through. As he explains everything, I’m not surprised the girl across the street is going to help us – they’re always on the phone. Missy found Mama, and she’s over at Shenia’s house now.

But when he tells me where we’re headed, well . . . Dad didn’t have any family and Mama never talked about any, so I figured she didn’t either. But Michael has an envelope with Mama’s handwriting on it, addressed to her parents at an address in Pennsylvania, all the way across the country.

I’ve got a million questions, but mostly, “Why don’t we know them?”

Michael sighs. “They broke off with Mama when she married my father.”

I stare at my big brother. When I’ve been outside all summer, my skin’s nearly as dark as his, and we both have light blonde hair. But mine’s straight as can be and wispy, while his is thick and kinky. I know what he’s saying, but it makes no sense. “That’s stupid,” is all I can offer him.

“Yeah, well, she was writing to ask for help. Maybe they’ll take you and Missy. I’m almost sixteen, I can get along on my own if you two are safe together with family. I’ll stay close enough to keep tabs on you.”

Michael’s the best big brother anyone could have. I don’t want to live with anyone who would reject him.  When we get there, I’ll set them straight that it’s all of us or none. But if it’s going to be none, I have to start being more helpful, so Michael knows it’ll work, that he won’t have to take care of me all the time, and I’ll help with Missy.

I have to show him.

We’re taking one bag apiece, what we can carry. We might never see the rest again. Michael dumps my school stuff onto the bed and starts packing his own backpack. The first thing I do is shove my soccer ball back into my duffel.

“You can’t take that,” he says. “You have to get all your clothes in there.”

I start shoving underwear in around the ball. I want to be grown up, but tears are pouring down my face again. I snuffle and blink and keep shoving clothes into the bag.

Michael stops packing his. “Jimmy, you have to listen to me now.” He sounds tired, old.

“Mama gave it to me.” I suck in air to try and stop the crying, but end up sobbing.

“Can you deflate it?”

I shake my head. “Coach airs it up for me.”

Michael pulls me into a hug and holds me while I shake and sob. When I’ve mostly cried myself out, I heave a big sigh and look up. Michael lets me loose and wipes his own face. I’ve soaked the front of his shirt. I snort up snot so I can breathe better, then go back to stuffing stuff in around the ball.

“I can make it all fit. I don’t need many clothes.”

Michael gives me a quick side hug and lets me be. When we’re both done packing our bags, I remember I want to be helpful so he’ll keep us with him instead of making us stay with some white grandparents who never bothered to know us.

I can help make sure we get away. “Will the police come after us?”

“Maybe. But in a city this big, maybe they’ll be too busy.” Michael doesn’t sound like he believes that, and I sure don’t. Nothing’s gone easy for our family since Dad got sick.

I have a good idea, though. “We should get all our pictures out of the house, to slow them down.”

Michael hadn’t thought of that. Mama never let me be in charge of Missy because I’m too hyper, but I’m smart, and I can totally focus when it’s important. That’s why I’m so good at soccer. I’ll watch out for Missy and I’ll keep finding ways to help Michael take care of us.

We’re going to be together, one way or another.

Sheri McGuinn Photo Signature

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

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm8459664/

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,