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Friday, November 22, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
|Roan Rose by Juliet Waldron|
The Kingdom of Night
The King of England and I played chess, passing his sleepless hours. After years of struggling with the game, I can truthfully say I'd become a formidable competitor, although never his equal. I will stand firm upon this, even though I am a servant and a mere female.
Nightly, our forces swayed back and forth across the board, ‘til the birds began a summons to Dawn, calling her, as harpers say, from that silken couch whereon she dreams. We sat in a circle of candlelight in a small, high room at the palace of Westminster. From our vantage point, the dark river ribbon, spangled by summer stars, flowed below a single, open window. The distance was sufficient to prevent the smell from blighting the view.
Of late, I had won a few matches. This I credited in large part to the King's growing distraction and exhaustion. By June of 1485, it was clear his rule had unraveled.
What other choices, however, could my Lord have made? If he had let his nephew ascend the throne, his own head, sooner or later, would have become the trophy of his vengeful sister‑in‑law. Either that or he would have been arrested and mewed up somewhere, murdered in secret, like so many unfortunate members of his family.
Richard Plantagenet knew history, and he was not a passive man. All he'd done in deposing the boy was to strike his enemies before they could strike him.
There is a queasy mystery in the hours between two and four. The board, with its black and white squares, swam before my eyes. I, too, was tired to my very bones. The King's wakefulness had become his servant's. I had been about to make my move when his foot, under a long red robe, touched mine beneath the table.
The contact seemed accidental. Or was it?
He knows how greatly I love him, how I hunger for his touch!
Concentration broken, I met his brilliant hazel eyes, burning deep in hollows of chronic sleeplessness. A slight smile curved those thin, mobile lips, but his gaze returned naturally to the board.
Our relationship had always been singular. Only recently had it turned customary. Since his queen, the mistress I'd served and loved for nigh unto twenty years, had died, the Master had turned for comfort to his bondswoman. So it has always been.
This is why his touch distracted me, made concentration falter. I began to wonder if the move I'd planned was so very clever after all.
My hand wavered over the few remaining pieces. Traps lay on every side. Several I saw clearly, for I'd been playing chess with Richard since our shared childhood. Whatever coup de grace he'd planned, I feared I'd never see until too late.
I'd revised, chosen to move my last knight to pin down his king. Of course, I knew quite well that second guesses are nearly always fatal at this depth in a match.
Richard lifted a dark brow in triumph. "Nothing in this world is fair," he declared. As his hand went for it, I saw my doom—a hooded bishop, far across the board.
"Checkmate." He extended his jeweled, elegant fingers, using the piece to nudge my helpless king.
"You touched my foot on purpose, My Lord."
"Quite right. What of it?" It was worth losing any number of chess matches to see him smile. Always glorious and rare, it had, lately, become a thing of legend.
"Old Dick" didn't smile. This was well known all over his Kingdom. Like a great many other things that are well known, there was not a grain of truth in it.
"I don't mind, My Lord. It's only that you used to win by your wits, and now it seems you must rely upon the lowest wiles to best your humble servant."
He laughed shortly, enjoying the backchat, but it was not an entirely happy sound. Playing with my white king now, turning it between ringed thumb and forefinger, he said, "It would have been far better for me had I learned low tricks at a far earlier age."
What could I say? Crouching at the back of this night's wakefulness lay the same old horror.
Poor little Princes! The pawns are always the first to go…
In my Lord's case, crime had brought, as it so rarely does in this wicked world, punishment not only swift, but apt. In the space of sixteen months, the King had lost his adored son and his dearly beloved wife, my gentle mistress.
On this summer night, Richard Plantagenet had traveled almost to the end of his earthly course, to the desolate, crow-haunted land where mortal tribulation ends. Gazing at the ruin of our board, I believe we both knew it.
JULIET WALDRON'S Links
Book Trailer for Roan Rose by Juliet Waldron
Friday, November 8, 2013
ON ONLY LOVE SURVIVES
ONLY LOVE SURVIVES BY RENEE CHARLES
Amidst an epidemic ravaging the world, all Megan Fletcher's hopes for the future lie in getting to Las Vegas where newscasts reported scientists were gathering to search for a cure for the modern plague. After rescuing her from a rooftop surrounded by Zombies, Sam Woods appoints himself her escort. While he knows she is determined to get to Vegas no matter the cost, he doesn't know her secret. And with his hatred of all things Zombie, she doesn’t dare tell him the truth. The more he kisses her, the harder it is for Megan to hide her growing feelings…and the bite-shaped scar.
But Vegas is not the haven it was promised to be, and when Megan’s immunity to the disease is discovered, she realizes her future and her heart belong to Sam, if he will trust her. An idealistic school teacher and ex-corporate mogul manage to find love despite a looming worldwide catastrophe. Can their love survive while everything around them is dying? Will they learn that when facing the end of the world, Only Love Survives?
A storm that spelled danger flashed across Sam’s face. He advanced on Megan so fast, she backed up against the side of the Suburban. Planting a hand firmly on each side of her, he pinned her with his arms as well as his gaze.
“What I want? Are you so hard headed you can’t tell what I want?” He covered her mouth with his lips and crushed her clever comeback with an assault on her senses.
Megan pushed him, but he didn’t budge. Instead, he continued to kiss her until her heart raced and cheeks flushed with need. All resistance melted and she succumbed to the warmth of his embrace. Her arms wound around his neck of their own accord pulling him closer while her tongue sought his in a passionate dance, completely ignoring what her heart wanted.
When he finally broke away leaving Megan breathless and wanting so much more, Sam put his forehead to hers and watched her mouth like a drunk watches amber liquid poured into a glass. “You,” he rasped. “I’ve wanted you since I found you hanging from that damn roof, and all our little encounter in the river did was add fuel to the fire.”
Bio: Author, Renee Charles believes all love is legendary. Being the only female in a house full of giants (husband and two teenage boys) she tends to lean toward the strange and unusual, but inevitably the softer side shines through.
Whether life leads her to a snow covered mountain top, sun dappled forest, or the bottom of a ravine (yes, ditches happen) she always has a pen and note pad ready so wherever the next adventure takes her, she can take notes.
Her own romance began in an insane asylum. Luckily, both she and her husband only worked there. But it makes sense her romance novels have strange beginnings that lead to passionate endings. Romance with a dark twist.
In the face of zombies, werewolves, and big foot she always seems to find a happily ever after to leave you with a sigh at the end.
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/ReneeCharlesAuthor
Website link: http://www.reneecharles.net/
Thursday, November 7, 2013
There is no better way to start this book than with a description which attempts to do justice to this valley hidden high in the western reaches of the Smoky Mountains. A one-way road encircles the fields and streams of Cades Cove and follows the approximate route of one of the many roads once used by families who resided here. It is nine miles west of the Townsend park entrance along Laurel Creek Road. Constructed after the park was established, this access to the Cove follows the course of a railroad built by the Little River Lumber Company in the heydays of the Appalachian log industry. Prior to this, travel to and from the Cove community was along other paths now less traveled.
In order to reach Tuckaleechee Cove, either Crib Gap had to be crossed to the east or Rich Mountain to the north. Cooper Road, which led west-northwest to Maryville, was a Cherokee Indian track widened over time by the settlers. Rabbit Creek exited the Cove toward the west from where John Oliver’s lodge stood near the Abrams Falls trailhead. This Indian trail also grew into a major travel route and was known by many as the Gourley Trail after some of the families who lived along it. Those who chose this means ended up in Happy Valley and the Chilhowee areas. Parsons Branch Road meandered south-southwest from the western end of the Cove to a junction with a turnpike now known as US 129.
Of these main thoroughfares, if you could call them that, only Rich Mountain and Parsons Branch remain as roads. Both of these are one-way trips out of the Cove and are closed over the winter. The Rich Mountain Road drops into Tuckaleechee Cove on the north boundary of the park. Townsend and US 321 are nearby which gives you the option of a drive back into to the Smokies or out toward Maryville. The Crib Gap trail now runs from Anthony Creek at the end of the Cades Cove picnic area over to Turkeypen Ridge. The Cooper Road trailhead is located at Stop # 9 on the Loop Road. Rabbit Creek Trail can be found beyond Abrams Falls and continues on to traverse Boring Ridge, McCully Ridge, and Pine Mountain before a descent to the Abrams Creek ranger station.
At the entrance to the Cove, there is a large area with an orientation shelter from where first views can be seen of the valley as the trees open up and ridges curve away from each other. Tour booklets are available at the small pavilion and ranger programs often start from this point in the spring and summer. A wide grassy strip is ideal for a picnic or play.
Early or late in the day, the fields beyond the entrance gate are often occupied by horses from the stables put out to graze early. To the south rise the heights of Cobb and Horseshoe Ridges. Rising higher n the distance to the southeast can be seen Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountain. After decades, this view never ceases to amaze me.
In the first field on the right is a grassy mound. At first thought to be an Indian mound like others found in the southeast, excavation and archaeological searches have proven it to be no more than a grassy hill covered with brush and trees. Even so, it is easy to imagine it constructed by early inhabitants especially after a visit to ancient mounds on the Etowah River not far from my home.
The one lane road continues along the edge of open grassland to the left and wooded ridges to the right. Stop # 2 is soon found at a junction with Sparks Lane, a gravel road that turns off to the south. This road is named for one of the families who lived here. The home of Nathan Sparks was located between this intersection and the creek. John Taylor Sparks lived a few hundred yards beyond the creek on the right. The place Tom Sparks called home was located in the area near the south end of the lane where it enters the woods. The ford across Abrams Creek mentioned later in these pages is located at the first tree line seen along the road. The Upper School was just off the road on the south side of the creek. Sparks Lane crosses the Cove to the southern end of the Loop Road. Two-way traffic is allowed on this road as it is on Hyatt Lane further to the west and both allow for a quicker drive through the loop if time is not available to see it all.
Spaces to park for John Oliver’s place are just beyond Sparks Lane. It is a short walk and can be seen from the road. This cabin was built in the 1820s and only piles of stones mark the nearby location of Oliver’s first home. John Oliver was a veteran of the War of 1812 with no qualms about life in an unknown wilderness. A family friend told him of a place just over the mountains as yet unsettled. He, along with his wife Lurany and year old daughter, crossed over Rich Mountain in the autumn of 1818 into the northeast end of the Cove by way of an Indian trail. It was too late in the year to plant crops and they soon realized their provisions would not last them through the winter. The Cherokee in the area recognized the plight of the couple and brought them food to survive until the next spring. Though documented land grants for the area date back to the 1790s, they would become the first white settlers to remain in this mountain valley. A strange twist of fate twenty years after that miserable winter found John Oliver as a member of the local militia with orders to round up these same Indians for a journey which became known as the Trail of Tears.
Open pastures, wooded hillsides, and mountain vistas continue to appear around every curve. Not far after the road ascends a steep, curvy hill, there is a locked gate on the right with a small pull over. Beyond the gate is a park service road which leads a short distance to Gregory’s Cave. Once used by the local Indians, the Cove residents held social occasions and tours within the caverns.
The entrance is gated off and kept secure to not only protect the cave and its residents such as bats, but also for the safety of human visitors. Caves are not someplace an inexperienced person should wander within. Extra care should also be taken on or near the rocks at the entrance for they are known to be a favorite locale of snakes.
As the trees open up again to your left, watch for a pullout. The view back across to the south is channeled through a break in the distant wood line with a mountain backdrop. It is not hard to imagine this view from the porch of a cabin or house. Signs of spring with daffodils among the grass tell us someone had this view. These flowers are not native to the area so their appearance, along with other non-native flowers and bushes, whisper silently to those who will listen of a previous human touch. In this case, that touch was given by Tyre Shields whose house was at the edge of the field near the road.
|Author Gene Harmon|
After the road curves back into the woods, a sign soon points down a dirt road toward the Primitive Baptist Church. Albert Hill’s store and house stood to the right at this intersection. Go slowly along the dirt and gravel for it can be rough in places. For a short distance, it travels straight and then angles to the right into a large gravel area in front of the church.
The Consolidated School, created by the combination of the Upper and Lower Schools in 1916, was located at this angle and in 1924, the large two-story structure sustained heavy damage to the upper floor in a storm. When it was repaired, it was left in a one-story configuration.
The Baptist Church of Cades Cove was officially organized in June of 1827 but had already met for about two years. Services were held in the homes of members until a log structure was built in 1832. Soon after, differences in the church’s direction caused a split within the congregation. Several members left to form their own church, the Missionary Baptist Church. Those who stayed with the original membership adopted the name of Primitive Baptist Church.
Due to the communal upheaval caused by the Civil War, the Primitive Baptist Church suspended services from 1862 to 1865. Their reasons were explained in church records.
“We the Primitive Baptist Church in Blount County, Cades Cove, do show to the publick why we have not kept up our church meeting. It was on account of the rebellion and we was union people and the Rebels was too strong here in Cades Cove. Our preacher was obliged to leave sometimes but thank God we once more can meet tho it was from August 1862 until June 1865 that we did not meet but when we met the Church was in peace.”
The original log edifice was located just behind the current structure which was built in 1887. Its cemetery contains graves older than any other church graveyard within the Cove.
Back out on the paved loop, another church comes into view ahead. This is the Cades Cove Methodist Church which began in much the same manner as the Baptist congregation. Members met in homes until 1840 when a log meetinghouse was built. The floor of this simple structure was dirt and smoke from a fire in the center of the room escaped through a hole in the roof. After the Civil War, it was also used as a school.
In 1902, a blacksmith and carpenter from Tuckaleechee replaced the log church with the one which remains today. Rev. J.D. McCampbell, who would later become the church’s minister for several years, finished the job in 115 days for $115. It has two entrance doors which usually signified the men and women entered by separate doors and sat apart on the benches. However, these Methodists did not abide by this particular practice. The construction plans used were from another church which still used the custom and Rev. McCampbell elected to strictly adhere to the plans without alteration.
As with other congregations, problems arose in the years prior to the Civil War. In the mid-1840s, there was a split among Methodist churches caused mainly by beliefs with regard to the issue of slavery. It was made plainly visible after the Civil War when the Hopewell Methodist Church formed. It was built on a hill above the southern end of Hyatt Lane and the property of Dan Lawson who donated the land for the church. To ensure this land could never change hands again, Lawson deeded it to “Almighty God”. I assume this is probably the only tract in the park not owned by the National Park Service. No signs remain of this church except for tombstones, many too weathered to read, which mark graves of those buried in their shadows.
Just past the Methodist church on the left of the road is a hill where the home of Leannah Lawson Spangler Chambers stood. In spring, the flowers she planted continue to grow and adorn the hillside.
Fields slope down to a dirt road which turns off to the left and allows for two-way traffic. Hyatt Lane is named after the family of Shadrack Hyatt who left the Cove for Missouri in 1840. It crosses to the south side of the Cove and intersects with the Loop Road at Dan Lawson’s home site. Beyond Hyatt Lane, the road curves into the trees toward the juncture with Rich Mountain Road at the Missionary Baptist Church. Cowan Russell lived and ran his store near this junction.
The Missionary Baptist Church sits to the left across from the Rich Mountain turnoff. It was founded in 1839 by the group forced to leave the Primitive Baptist Church. Their name is derived from one of the differences in doctrine that caused the split. While deemed important to those who worshipped under this roof, missionary work was not considered necessary by the Primitive Baptists. It met in homes until 1846 when its size required them to share the Methodist’s house of worship. The services here too were put on hold throughout the Civil War. Resumed afterwards, they did not include previous members who had been loyal to the Confederacy.
In 1894, Hyatt Hill Missionary Church was built on Hyatt Hill along the lane. This was replaced in 1915 by the construction of the present structure. Services continued to be held in this church until 1944, a full ten years after the park was created.
The Great Depression and the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrought a multitude of changes to the country. FDR’s New Deal programs provided relief and jobs to many young men in dire need of an income. One of these was the formation of the Civilian Conservation Corps. There were seventeen of these camps in the Smoky Mountains alone. Much of the original trail and campground construction, historic restoration and park service structures were completed by the CCC camps. Cades Cove CCC Camp #5427 was located in the field directly west of the Missionary Baptist Church.
The Rich Mountain Road is a one-way road out of the Cove and out of the park. Built in the 1920s by the state of Tennessee, it winds through mostly second growth forests with intermittent views of the Cove. Traveled by few, it is sometimes a quiet respite from summer crowds in the more popular areas. It exits from the park into Tuckaleechee Cove and Townsend.
From the Rich Mountain turnoff, the Loop crosses over Tater Branch, makes a sharp S-turn and meanders up toward what I think is the most spectacular sight in the Cove. Pull over and grab your camera. From this point, the view stretches for miles back toward the east across the center of the Cove to distant peaks. On clear days, mountains and ridges seem to go on endlessly. The remains of a tree on this rise mark the spot of the “wedding tree” which is mentioned later. Across the road in what is now a wooded area stood the Gregory Store, Jonathan Myers’ house and store, and Murray Boring’s house. Myers and Boring also both ran a post office at different times.
From here, the road meanders back and forth along the edge of the woods before a sharp turn angles it back into the trees. This was the site of Charlie Myers’ house and his barn bordered right up to the trees. The fields open up again on the left after a short section of woods. A few hundred yards farther is a small pull-off for the Cooper Road trailhead at Stop # 9. Originally an Indian trail, it became one of the main thoroughfares to and from Maryville for the Cove residents. Polly Harmon, one of the midwives who practiced in the Cove, lived with her husband, Samuel, and family about half a mile out this road. It is now a 10.5-mile trail that terminates at the Abrams Creek Campground on the western edge of the park.
Beyond this trailhead and a downward S-turn is Stop # 10, the Elijah Oliver place. Elijah was born in 1824 to John and Lurany Oliver. He left the Cove with his family before the Civil War but moved back after the war. A short hike will bring you to his cabin set back in the woods. One noticeable thing is an extra room on the front porch added so strangers could shelter for the night without the possibility of harm inflicted on the host. This was common not only in the Smokies but throughout the Appalachian region.
|Author Gene Harmon|
Just ahead, the remnant of an old road is apparent on the left. This led to the house of Noah Burchfield and now takes you to the Burchfield and Davis Cemeteries.
Once again in the shade of the trees, the road runs very close to Abrams Creek and crosses it over a wooden bridge. On the right before the bridge can be seen a modern wire fence which has been erected to keep wild boar out of this sensitive area. River otters are quite common in this creek as well as other waterways in the Smokies. However, they can be very elusive to those who want to see them. I have overheard conversations of people who have, but I myself have never seen one in the wild. Past the bridge, a side road angles off to the Abrams Falls trailhead.
The next section of the Loop road is a great example of what travel along the same road over decades can do. The banks rise high on each side for a couple hundred yards. Years of travel by wagon wheels, horses, and livestock wore it down to a sunken lane. The Lower School was located on the right at the top of the rise.
At the next intersection, the Loop continues to the left. Straight ahead is Forge Creek, a two-way road out to Parsons Branch. The Cable Mill Visitor Center is to the right. Use caution for this is usually very congested except for the winter months. This area consists of several examples of what homesteads looked like in the Cove. The only structure on its original site is the mill and its millrace. Others located here are the visitor center, a blacksmith shop, smokehouse, barn, corncrib, cantilever barn, sorghum mill, barn, and the Gregg-Cable house. This is also the only place to find restrooms until arriving back at the campground.
The Gregg-Cable house was built by Leason Gregg on Forge Creek Road in 1879 near where the road first crosses the creek. The lumber used was sawed at John Cable’s sawmill that was powered by the same wheel as the gristmill. He operated a store for years from the first floor of the house. In 1887, Rebecca Cable and her brother Dan bought the house from Gregg. They kept the store up for another eight years before they made the decision to sell off their goods and turn it into a boarding house. Dan and his wife both became very ill and all of the operations of the farm fell upon Rebecca’s shoulders. She tackled the responsibility with typical Appalachian steadfastness, lived a full life and was 96 years old when she died in 1940. The house was moved to its current location near Cable Mill after her death.
John Cable’s gristmill and sash sawmill were built in 1870. The sawmill used a heavy blade that made a cut with each stroke. This type was outdated before 1900 by steam powered sawmills that used circular blades much like today’s table saw. The emergence of sawmills in the Smokies changed the look of homes, new and old alike. New log homes became rare and many had additions built with the new lumber. Often, residents would place new boards on the outside of their logs in the fashion of siding.
In addition to the mills, Cable worked in the fields of his farm. If a customer arrived and John was nowhere near, they would ring a large bell mounted on a pole. His son, James, continued operation of the mill into the 1900s, but could not keep up with the mills equipped with the newer machinery. Today, the gristmill is all that remains of the Cable operation and is run by the Great Smoky Mountains History Association.
for Gene Harmon
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The Pitch Wars start on November 26th. ON this date, potential contestants will send their applications to their coach of choice to this email address: email@example.com. Applications include a 3-sentence pitch and the first 250 words of the manuscript.
Starting December 5th, the coaches will review the entrants' applications and choose their match.
Teams will be announced on December 12th. From then until January 16th, the coaches and the writer will work to perfect their entry. On January 20th, the coaches will submit the pitches and on January 25th, the winners will be announced.
Want to know more? Here are some websites to help you out.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
|Dummy & Book Book Cover|
That stupid old feeling was haunting me again. I knew it was time to strike head-on. Flopping down on my bed, I closed my eyes and for the hundredth time called forth a picture in my mind. There I was in the school cafeteria with a bunch of kids clustered around me, talking and joking like it was the easiest thing I'd ever done.
My hair was no longer a mousy washed-out brown, but strands of curls fell, like the commercials say, with rich auburn highlights. My too-large nose was perfectly formed with just a hint of a ski-jump tip like Sally Murdock's, the most popular girl in the tenth grade class. I wore cool looking clothes with the latest designer labels—not the stuff I’d bought at Good Will. But the best part of all, I knew exactly what to say at exactly the right times. Even Jason Middleton, the class clown, laughed at my jokes. I had a major crush on him! The vision suddenly vanished. Negative vibes, the eternal culprit. It happened every time. As soon as I'd managed to concentrate on even a hint of my innermost dreams, there were those vibes, reminding me it was all impossible. My hopes faded as quickly as snowflakes striking a sun-warmed windowpane. During the past week I'd been reading this book about improving one's self-confidence. In it, the author said that you had to imagine yourself the way you wanted to be, tell yourself you'd already accomplished your goal, and then live as if you really believed it. Pretty soon you'd discover you were closer to your dream than you ever imagined possible.
I sighed, then shook my head. I'd tried it time and time again. Was it really possible for a fifteen-year-old like me?
Oh, it's not that I lacked friends totally. Tammy Haddon and I'd been best friends ever since second grade. And Delia Zeigler, my locker partner, sometimes joined Tammy and me when we walked to school.
Yet now at Meadow View High School, I wanted to stretch my wings and really belong to a special crowd.
The sound of my dad's angry voice jerked me from my thoughts. "Dede, how many times have I told you to start dinner before I get home?"
Springing up from the bed, I groaned. "Coming, Dad!"
A couple of years ago, Mom divorced Dad and took off for New York City to become an actress. They had always been so different. My father was contented to keep working at the cannery where he'd landed a job the day he'd graduated from high school. But my mother, who’d majored in drama and graduated from college with honors, was a dreamer.
I know Mom loved my older brother, Bryon, and me. I’ll never forget the look on her face that horrible day she told us good-bye, nor my own helpless feelings raging inside. How could she just walk off and desert us?
Still, she was restless, just like her grandfather, a famous ventriloquist in the fifties who traveled with the vaudeville. I could never change her restlessness.
I hurried out to the kitchen, nearly bumping into my father. "Sorry, I guess the time got away from me."
"Deanna, Deanna," he scolded, shaking his bald head. "The time always gets away from you. What were you doing? Lying in that room of yours and day-dreaming again?"
"Sort of.” I reached into the lower cupboard and grabbed a handful of potatoes. How could I ever explain to him about my latest attempts at positive action?
|Author Sydell Voeller|
"I suppose your brother is working down at the greasy spoon again."
"Dad, it isn't a greasy spoon. It's McDonald's. You know, a cherished American institution like motherhood and apple pie.” I'd borrowed those words from a commercial on TV.
He glanced up from the front page of The Oregon Reporter. Though his gray eyes looked weary, I could tell my dramatic proclamation had caught him by surprise. Or was it what I said, not how I said it? I wondered a split second later. Why had I mentioned motherhood and cherished institutions? I was only trying to get my point across, not open old wounds.
"Little do you know about motherhood," Dad grumbled. "Certainly nothing your mother ever taught you."
I sighed, saying nothing. It seemed he was always complaining about her.
Before she left, Mom had longed to go to the East Coast. Dad insisted on staying in Oregon. They fought about it constantly.
Yet secretly I couldn't blame him for complaining. Why couldn't she have been contented with her teacher's aide job at Blakely Elementary? Wasn't it enough to direct the annual school play and audition for roles at the community theater?
Dad snapped open a can of beer. "Better watch that day-dreaming, Dede. You'll end up just like your mother."
"So? There are worse things than being a dreamer."
I refused to tolerate his criticism any longer and rallied to Mom's defense. Funny how mixed up inside you could feel about someone you love. But Dad would never understand that. He was much too wrapped up in earning a living and hanging out at the Elks Club on weekends to care about me.
Dad clunked his lunch box down on the counter. “Did you get an e-mail from your mother today?” he asked.
I told him I had.
"What's she up to now?"
"She's still stuck in that little rooming house, but she's hoping to find something better soon."
I yearned to be with her, yet I knew it was impossible. She could never afford to keep Bryon and me on her meager income. Dad didn't have extra money to send either.
"You can read the e-mail if you like," I added.
"Later.” He dismissed my offer with a shrug.
I glanced up at the clock on the wall. I'd better hurry if I was going to get this dinner out on time.
"I hate cooking," I muttered to myself. "Why did Mom leave and dump it all on me?” Now that Bryon had turned seventeen and taken a part-time job at McDonald's after school, it was worse. At least he used to do the laundry in the evenings, but not anymore. That chore had been dumped on me too.
"What did you say, Dede?” Dad's words gave me a start. I hadn't meant for him to hear.
"Nothing," I answered. I shoved the potatoes into the microwave. "No over-time tonight?"
"Nope. The swing shift crew is finally shaping up, so I won't need to fill in for them. Good thing they hired two more men after Jarvis and Kettlemen quit."
The wrinkles in his forehead faded a little and I saw a hint of a smile on his lips. He rarely smiled anymore after the divorce. I'd watched him grow from a peppy, happy man to a bitter old one. We'd all suffered silently in one way or another, but I couldn't help thinking I'd suffered the most.
"Bryon's getting a raise next week," I told my father. "They told him within the next year, he might work his way up to evening manager.” I opened a box of Hamburger Helper and dumped it into the skillet of sizzling ground beef. The tangy smells of dehydrated onion rose up about me.
I waited for his reply, but when he didn't answer, I continued, "Bryon's doing a great job there. Remember, you were the one who told him it was time he helped out with the family finances.” I figured that should get a rise out of him.
"Good. That way he can pay for his own car insurance. Next payment's due come April.” He gave the paper a quick snap. "The rates are getting just plum out of sight. Why, what with that and the price of gas, pretty soon it won't pay to drive a car, I tell you."
I stirred the hamburger concoction, watching the steam rising from the skillet. "I'll sure be glad when I can get a job. I mean a real one that pays. That way I won't have to bug you for new clothes or money to go to the movies with Tammy."
Every Saturday morning, I took the bus into Portland, Oregon to the children's hospital. I loved my volunteer job on the orthopedic ward. Lots of the patients stayed there for weeks and weeks, so I'd grown to know them well. It also proved a good escape from my chores at home.
“Tammy still your best friend?" he asked.
“Of course! Tammy and I will be friends forever." Though she'd recently signed up to work on the yearbook and because of that, made lots of new friends, I never doubted her undying loyalty.
"Good." Dad said. "Then maybe Tammy's mother can get you on at the hospital when you're old enough.” Mrs. Haddon was the activities director there and a lot like a second mom to me.
"She's already talked about that," I answered. "Says I stand an excellent chance of getting hired someday. Someday soon, matter of fact.” I was eager to let him know my efforts could possibly count for something in the long run. I'd always wanted to become a nurse for as long as I could remember.
That evening, after dinner dishes and homework were done, a bright new idea popped into my head. I'd try still another plan of attack in solving my self-confidence problems.
I grabbed my diary from the top of my dresser and thumbed through the pages. The blue vinyl covered book fell open to the last page, exactly where I wanted it to fall open.
I printed across the top in bold red letters, "My Plan for Positive Action.” In my book, the author had said you also needed to put your goals on paper.
There! It'd be simple. At the beginning of each week, I'd write down a new strategy, sort of adding one on top of the other like building blocks. This first week, I'd concentrate on smiling and saying hi to as many kids as I could, especially kids I didn't know. I wasn't sure exactly what I'd do for weeks number two, three, and so on, but I'd worry about that later.
As I closed my diary, anticipation stirred within me. It was only a matter of time: Great things were just waiting to happen!
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