Boondock Ramblings

Flash Fiction Fun in 60 words. No more. No Less.

I’ve joined a new “social media” site, which is more social than other “social media” sites. It is not as active, but it is friendlier. My dad calls Facebook a social discord site, rather than a social site. I agree with that. So I have joined MeWe, which seems a lot calmer in many ways. (Full disclosure, I have a FB account again for a few writing groups but I am not interacting on a personal basis there and log off after I look at my writer’s or reader’s groups.)

On MeWe, I joined a couple of writers and readers groups and in one of them the administrator (Kelly) is challenging us to write 60 words of fiction from a word prompt.

I thought I would share a few of the flash fiction pieces I have been sharing there here on the blog today, including the words used as the prompts.

Buggy

“This what you’re taking me to the church in?”

Emily felt like she’d been transported a hundred years into the past. Or into the Amish community down the road.

Her dad grinned, gestured at it. “I thought it’d be unique.”

“It is. I don’t know any other modern bride who was driven to her wedding in a horse and buggy.”

Market

The smells and sounds of the market overwhelmed her. She lost sight of her mother long ago and now she was alone among the bustling crowd, panicking.

That’s when she saw him. Again. The man with the piercing blue eyes and the scar above his right eye.

She should have been afraid but instead, a strange peace settled over her.                      

Washline

The paint-chipped back porch was old and falling apart. As an adult she had weird nightmares about it where someone was always falling off it. As a child, though, it wasn’t a scary place. It was where the cats slept in the winter and where her mom hung clothes from the washline, which hung between the porch and chicken coup.

Mules

He climbed in the odd looking vehicle and looked at her skeptically.

“And what is this vehicle called?”

She grinned at his rural naivety. “It’s called a mule.”

He cocked an eyebrow and smirked. “Seriously?”

“Seriously, Liam Finnely. We ride a new kind of mules on dairy farms these days.”

He shook his head. “I Learn something new every day.”

Tractor

He’d been plowing the ground an hour when he saw her standing along the edge of the field, a hand on her hip. She was grinning and the wind had caught her reddish-brown curls, sending them out behind her like a veil.
“Hey,” he said when he reached the end of the row. “You think my tractor is sexy?”

English

“This what you’re taking me to the church in?”

Emily felt like she’d been transported a hundred years into the past. Or into the Amish community down the road.

Her dad grinned, gestured at it. “I thought it’d be unique.”

“It is. I don’t know any other modern bride who was driven to her wedding in a horse and #buggy.”

Market

The smells and sounds of the #market overwhelmed her. She lost sight of her mother long ago and now she was alone among the bustling crowd, panicking.

That’s when she saw him. Again. The man with the piercing blue eyes and the scar above his right eye.

She should have been afraid but instead, a strange peace settled over her.                      

Washline

The paint-chipped back porch was old and falling apart. As an adult she had weird nightmares about it where someone was always falling off it. As a child, though, it wasn’t a scary place. It was where the cats slept in the winter and where her mom hung clothes from the #washline, which hung between the porch and chicken coup.

Mules

He climbed in the odd looking vehicle and looked at her skeptically.

“And what is this vehicle called?”

She grinned at his rural naivety. “It’s called a mule.”

He cocked an eyebrow and smirked. “Seriously?”

“Seriously, Liam Finnely. We ride a new kind of #mules on dairy farms these days.”

He shook his head. “I Learn something new every day.”

Tractors

He’d been plowing the ground an hour when he saw her standing along the edge of the field, a hand on her hip. She was grinning and the wind had caught her reddish-brown curls, sending them out behind her like a veil.
“Hey,” he said when he reached the end of the row. “You think my #tractor is sexy?”

English

“You know why I’m here. I’m here to meet your good looking cousin. So, where is he?”

Cecilia jerked her head toward the back door. “In the house making tea.”

“Making tea?” Emily raised an eyebrow. “Like iced tea?”

Cecilia rolled her eyes. “No, like tea and crumpets. He’s #English, remember?”

Emily’s mouth formed an ‘o’ shape. “Oh. That English.”

There are two kinds of writers: writers who overuse the thesaurus and writers who are afraid of using a thesaurus.
Okay, fine.
There are actually three types of writers, with the third type being the writer who actually knows the proper way to use the thesaurus, but those writers don’t need my advice today, so I’m pretending they don’t exist (even though I have slowly become one of those writers, but only with a great deal of practice.)
I was once afraid of the thesaurus. Somehow, I thought I should have all the words in the universe in my head already.
It wasn’t only my pride keeping me from using one, however. I also avoided thesauruses because one of the biggest lessons we learned in journalism 101 was K.I.S.S.
No, our professors were not trying to be inappropriate.
It’s an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid.
What that means, obviously, is to write what you mean and don’t add extra words.
Or don’t keep adding a sentence to over-explain what you’ve already explained.
Or don’t use large words to further elucidate your thoughts.
There is no need to keep illuminating your opinion by adding words and sentences that are completely supererogatory or superfluous. That would be redundant.
So, yeah.
I think you get the intellection I was going for. *wink*
(And you can also tell I used the thesaurus for this blog post.)
Using a thesaurus can help enhance your writing but it can also make you sound like a pretentious snob, so my advice is to use the thesaurus with care (or, in other words, caution, guardedness, prudence, or circumspection.)
Using it too much can also completely muddy what point you hoped to get across in the first place.
I don’t use a thesaurus all the time, mainly because I can’t spell the word thesaurus, but also because I try to keep to my old college class acronym in the back of my mind at all times while writing, even when I’m writing fiction.
Honestly, I don’t think there is a need to complicate sentences with voluminous words in fiction at all.
This will go against the KISS rule here a bit, (as I add more to this post than is probably needed) but after Googling the term and how it relates to writing, I discovered the term was actually used first as a design principle by the US Navy in 1960. According to the not-always-correct Wikapedia.com: “The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.”
Other phrases associated with the acronym, which could also work for writing, include “Keep It Short and Simple”, “Keep it Simple and Straightforward”, “Keep It Small and Simple,” or even “Keep It Stupid Simple.”
So, the bottom line is that while you are keeping it simple, don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit with your language so you can avoid redundancy in your prose.

But at the same time, don’t go too crazy with that thesaurus, okay?

I don’t think a lot of people are worrying about this, but I thought I’d share today why I blog my novels as I write them (or shortly after).

It’s probably not the best marketing move to put my novels on my blog, chapter by chapter, but, well, I’ve never been good at that marketing stuff, for one, but also, I like the interaction I receive when I share my novels on my blog. The interaction is worth more me to than the money, although you might have to remind me of that when we are pinching pennies to get groceries some weeks.

I like that my handful of blog readers interact with each chapter and share with me their impressions or their ideas for how the story should unfold. Based on those impressions, and impressions of friends or family, I adjust and rewrite the story before the final publication. Or sometimes I rewrite it because I like it better. Putting the story up on my blog also forces me to finish it and to edit it chapter by chapter because one, I have “fans” waiting to read the rest of the story (okay, I have maybe 20 people reading and four that comment, but I don’t mind writing it for just those people. I’m not even kidding.) and two, it also forces me to focus on each chapter individually, write before I copy it to the blog to publish it.

I am sure some authors (am I really one of those? I don’t know. . .but it sounds good, right?) wouldn’t want to share their books on their blogs. They’d rather write them, leave them on their computer and then one day get their nerve up and send it to a literary agent, hope the agent picks them up and pitches their book to a publisher and that publisher signs them and their book is marketed to millions and then they become a millionaire. Sharing the book on their blog could mean no one will ever pay them for the book because the readers can simply read the book for free on the blog, right?

Not necessarily.

In my case, I only have about 360 blog subscribers and of those 360, only about 5 interact with me on a regular basis and only about 20 actually follow the stories I share on the blog. Not only that, but of those who might find my blog, how many of them will really want to scroll from chapter to chapter for free, versus buying the book later on Amazon in it’s completed form, or at least “borrowing it” through Kindle Unlimited?

Probably not that many.  In addition, once I’ve shared the chapters on my blog, I take down the page that links to each chapter and replace it with an excerpt and a link to my book on Amazon, or wherever else I might choose to sell them in the future. In the end, sharing the novel on my blog is a motivator for me, but also a nice distraction from other stresses in life (like the news) and from what I’ve heard from those who read it, it’s also a nice distraction from them.

I don’t expect that my novels will ever win awards, but they’re already winning me something else – a little bit of sanity and a whole lot of distraction.

And while I’m on the subject of sharing my novel on here, I have two new chapters scheduled this week: one tomorrow and one Friday.

I am in the midst of writing a new novel called The Farmer’s Daughter, but I haven’t yet decided if I will share it here as part of Fiction Friday or not. I have a feeling, though, it’s a story some of my regulars will really like. I’ve shared a little of it on here before.

It’s the story of Molly Tanner, who still lives on her parents farm at the age of 25 and wonders if there is a life for her beyond the farm. At the same time she’s pondering this, she notices that farmhand Alex Stone is paying more attention to her, but she’s not sure why. Five years older than her and her brother’s best friend, Alex is battling some demons of his own, mainly that he’s falling for Molly but he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough for her. He covers his pain from his low self-esteem and his lack of attentative parents growing up by drinking a lot and dating women.

Other characters are Molly’s brother, Jason, her parents Robert and Annie, her grandmother, Franny, and her best friend, Liz. Robert and Annie are facing their own concerns throughout the book as Robert fights to keep the family farm, which he and his brother have now turned into a farming enterprise, running.

This will be the first book in a series, but I’m not going to overwhelm you with the other characters and their backstories. At least not yet!

 

Writing a book is weird and hard. I know..not hard like farming or construction or being a doctor or a police officer. I don’t mean that, of course. I mean, it’s mentally draining and it’s full of a lot of self-doubts, even if you’re just doing it mainly for fun like I am.

I am at the tail end of the first draft of ‘A New Beginning‘ and it is kicking my brain to the curb. I stare into space, trying to work out an issue I’m having with it or writing a scene in my head while I’m cooking dinner or a kid wants to show me something. It’s a bit like being stuck in a self-made prison and even when you try to escape it, your muse or whatever it is comes back and whispers “Hey! I have another idea! Let’s go write!” That is all fun and aggravating at the same time. Why won’t my creative muse pick a different time to try to inspire me.

I could completely relate to the author in Stranger Than Fiction, which we watched this week because I saw me in her tortured behavior as she tried to finish her book, without the extra alcohol and cigarettes. Writers don’t just write because they like it or they want others to read it.

Stranger Than Fiction

They write because they have to, because if they don’t it will gnaw at their insides until they are raw and aching for release or numb and depressed, begging to be put out of their misery. It’s like a painter or a photographer or anyone who creates in some way.

They have to create or their spirit wilts from the lack of artistic, creative stimulation. When you are a creative person, you can only wash so many dishes, cook so many meals, sweep so many floors, milk so many cows, assemble so many parts for cars or machines, before your spirit screams at you to breathe life into it again.

You have to do all those mundane things of life, of course, and sometimes you don’t mind doing them, but sometimes you need to do something creative as well.

I made my living as a writer for 14 years or so, but never really called myself a writer. That’s weird, I know. I still don’t call myself a writer. I’m not really that good, I tell myself. Slapping a label on myself like “I’m a photographer” or “I’m a writer” feels weird. I can easily say “I’m a mom,” because I have the kids to prove it. I can say, “I’m a wife,” because I have the husband to prove it.

Art, though, is subjective. I can feel like a writer or a photographer or an artist but until someone says I am, I’m not, or at least that’s what I think some days.

Last week, sitting by the tub, waiting for my daughter to finish one of her epic-long baths, I rambled out loud my debate about enrolling my one and only book in Kindle Unlimited or not, as if a 5-year old cares.

“I like your job, Mama,” my daughter said.

“What job?” I asked, since I, and the state of Pennsylvania, think of myself as “unemployed.” It says so, right on our taxes: unemployed, which in the United States also seems to mean “uninteresting, unimportant and unworthy.”

“You’re writing job,” she said with a grin, spinning in the water. “You’re a writer.”

Oh.

My 5-year old thinks I’m a writer and, in the end, what my family thinks is all that matters anyhow.

It’s happening.

I’ve hit a wall in my novel.

My second novel, A New Beginning, the sequel to A Story to Tell, is much more of a challenge than the first.

My husband keeps saying I need to take a break from it and walk away but he doesn’t understand that in my head these are real people and I need to find out the ending to this chapter of their lives! How can I do that if I don’t sit down and let them talk to me? Only they won’t talk to me! Why won’t they talk to me?!

The main two challenges with this sequel are that I am writing in first person again and the second is that I’ve gone off-script in that my first novel was based on a true story and the second is completely going beyond my knowledge of the original story.

Some writers, who are plotters, would say I’ve hit a wall because I don’t plot down to the last period, but I don’t like to plot that extensively. Plotting in such a detailed way takes the fun out of writing for me. To me, once the details are on the page, fully written out or not, I’ve lost interest because the story has already been told. In other words, I’m a panster because I feel like the characters are telling me the story and I’m just transcribing it as I got along.

Despite the fact I’m not a seasoned novel writer, I’ve learned and discovered some tips to help me through this bog or over this wall and thought I’d share it here for others who might be writing a novel or any other kind of book.

Green Photo Women's Fashion Tips Pinterest Graphic1. Do what my husband said (eye roll) and take a break from your current Work In Progress (WIP)

Go work on another writing project or no project at all. Put your current project aside for a couple weeks or, if you aren’t on a deadline, a couple of months.

This week I’ve put A New Beginning aside for a couple of days and continued working on my third novel The Farmer’s Daughter, which is spawning ideas for a series (The Spencer Valley Chronicles). The Farmer’s Daughter is written in the third person, versus first-person like A Story to Tell and A New Beginning and it’s about a young woman named Molly Tanner who wonders if the world has anything to offer for a 26-year old with little life experience beyond her family’s farm and her small Pennsylvania town. Farmhand Alex Stone, drama with her best friend, and her father’s struggle to keep the farm running will distract Molly from wondering about life beyond the farm.

2. Develop your supporting characters. This was a suggestion from Jess Zafarris in an article on Writer’s Digest. Zafarris, drawing from author and podcast host Gabriela Pereira’s book DIY MFA, suggests telling more about the side characters in the book who support your protagonist.  You should make sure these characters enhance the journey of your main character and help bring you closer to the ending you hope for your novel to have.

For me, this has meant writing about how Blanche relates to others in her life – from her sister Edith to her parents (especially her dad) and her best friend Emmy. Of course, I’ll also have to write a little about Hank, her son Jackson, and certain other individuals who might pop up as any type of love interest in her story. Ahem.

3. Define who your character(s) is/are. If you haven’t already, write down a paragraph about your protagonist and his/her characteristics that will help push you through the middle. For me this is close to plotting, but not quite. I ask myself “what would Main Character (MC) do? What does MC like? What issues does MC have in this book that we can address in this middle section.” So far, it’s working and it helped me push through a couple plot points that had me stuck.

4. Use the midpoint of the story to focus the story. Another suggestion from Zafarris is to use the midpoint of the story to focus your story. You can do this by reaching a climax of sorts in the story that will continue to propel you toward your conclusion. One way to craft this high point in a story is to make it seem your MC has reached their goal or has completely failed at it, Zafarris says. To me, this seems a bit cliche, but at the same time, I see what she’s getting at.

“Though they might seem opposite, the temporary triumph and the false failure share a common thread: In both cases, the external events lead to an internal moment where the protagonist must decide how she feels about the person she has become,” Pereira writes. “This introspection may be a complete turning point where the protagonist reconsiders every aspect of her personality … [or] a slight shift. … As with any aspect of a good story, the external events need to reflect and contribute to the internal journey that eventually makes the protagonist grow and change.”

5. Daydream. This one is the simplest for me since a lot of my scenes play out like movies in my head. I try to give myself time to daydream, which usually happens at night. Daydreaming isn’t hard for me because I seemed to always float through life while living in my head when I was a kid and that’s been something that has translated into adulthood as well.

I think about my characters and what situation I need them to work through and then from there, my brain will jump to a conversation they might have with another character, which spurs an entire scene playing out in my mind. The only problem with this process is that the daydreams often come late at night for me so there I am at 1 a.m., sitting up in bed, grabbing my phone and jotting down the scene I started creating in my mind. As I’ve mentioned before, this way of writing a novel can make some days hard to get through, but it’s simply how and when my creative brain works.

6. Review parts of your novel that are working and you like. This suggestion came from Writers Relief.com,  which suggests waking up your creative mind for that hard middle section by re-reading the parts of the novel that work for you. By reading those sections again you may find a way to write the middle of the novel, needed to help build up to or around those moments you find complete already. After all, the idea of a novel is to build a story. This is something I keep reminding myself. When I write a scene I really enjoy, I tell myself that I can’t simply rush to the next scene I like because there needs to be some story building, some pulling in of the reader that makes them feel like they are on an enjoyable walk and not a high-speed roller coaster ride to the end. Of course, if you’re writing a thriller or a mystery, you might want the high-speed aspect, but for me, with my slower paced, clean romances, I prefer a leisurely, yet still interesting stroll.

7. Read the works of others you enjoy and even some you don’t. When you read a story you enjoy this can help give you ideas for your own story, not by stealing ideas but by inspiring you through your own character and their situations. Reading a good book is also a nice distraction from your struggles with your novel. The story in the book you choose to read can help clear your mind and show you what you can and should do with your story.

Reading stories you don’t like can also help show you what you do not want to do in your own novel. If there is a plot twist or a weak character development, you will see it as something to steer clear of in your own writing. Or maybe the book is a popular and well-received one but you know it’s still not how you want to write your own book. Either way, it can help define how you get through the rough spot of your novel.

8. Write a synopsis of your story. As novel writers know, a synopsis is a summary of what your book is about. Writing this can help you to hone what scenes you still need or may need to eliminate from the book to make it more concise and carry your story forward. You’re going to need this later anyhow, whether you go the traditional route and send the synopsis to a literary agent or go the indie publishing route, like I did, and toss your book up on Kindle.

9. Try writing prompts related to your WIP and your MC. 

Instead of using a writing prompt to kick start a flash fiction piece or a novel, use the prompts to ask yourself things like “What would happen if my MC did this instead of this?” or “What if this person said this or that to my main character?” Imagining other scenarios for the outcome of your novel could help to pull you out of the writing rut as well.

10. Do something physical, completely unrelated to writing. This is similar to get up and walk away from your project for a while. Go for a walk, a run, a swim, anything to get your body moving, your endorphins flowing, and your brain off your story. Or, maybe your brain will be on your story as you walk and something will break loose and help you carry forward.

For extra information on overcoming writer’s block, I’ve included this link to best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins talking about how to overcome it. Please try to ignore how the camera is focused on the books behind him for most of this video. The advice is very good, despite that odd recording blip.

 


Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.

My characters wake me up at night to write their stories. I know. I sound crazy. I’m sure you’re wondering if I hear other voices in my head too. Sometimes, but that’s another post for another time. Seriously, though, I’ve heard other writers – you know, real ones – say their characters tell their own stories and I quite frankly, thought those writers might be a bit nuts. But then it happened to me.

Not quite like it did for the main character of a movie I watched this past week but almost. Karen Gillan in Not Another Happy Ending actually sees her protagonist and has conversations with her, which I don’t, yet, but still, I find scenes for my books flowing through my brain at the oddest times of the day and I have to stop what I’m doing and go write it down before I forget (that reminds me, sorry, husband, for dropping that couch on your toe the other day. I’m kidding. This didn’t happen. It was a table.).

Writing fiction is fun and a wonderful creative release but it is also flat out exhausting. I’m up late at night after the kids are asleep and sometimes early the next morning to write my thoughts down. And then one night this week I woke up in the middle of the night to write something down and it was like my character woke me up and whispered: “I want some happiness. Write me some happiness.”

So I did and I paid for it the next day when I sat in a half-asleep stupor while the kids asked me for lunch and popsicles and to play with them and “look at this funny meme I found!”

In one of the ending scenes of No More Happy Endings, Gillan’s character says: “You write because it gnaws away at your insides if you don’t.”

That’s how it has felt the last few months and probably even years for me. I would guess these stories have been in me for years but I’ve ignored them to do things I thought would bring me money to help support our family – working for newspapers, freelance writing, photography.

I don’t think what I’m writing now will bring me money or fame (which I don’t want at all!) but it seems to be bringing me something much more important – the satisfaction of voices finally heard and listened to, stories finally being told.

Welcome to Fiction Friday, where I share a piece of fiction I’m working on.  Right now I’m in the middle of sharing a story I’m developing into a novel.
IF you haven’t been following along, or need to remind yourself of the previous parts of the story, I’ve provided links to the other parts below:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Don’t want to click from chapter to chapter? Find the book in full on Kindle HERE. 


 

Lisa R. Howeler

I loved the smell of books. I loved the feel of them in my hands. My favorite place to be, if I wasn’t in my room reading, was in the library, curled up against a bookcase in the fiction section. I fell into new and mysterious worlds when I was reading. My boring life faded away into someone else’s adventure. I spent so many days wishing the boring away.

Edith didn’t like to read. She found her excitement in the real world. We were the complete opposite for so many years. She liked her dark hair to be curled and each curl to be in its place. She liked her clothes to be the latest in fashion and to hug her curves, but not too close, so there was at least a little left to the imagination of the boys who watched her when she walked by.

She was confident and frequently had a smart or a flirty remark on the tip of her tongue.

I was the quiet, sometimes painfully shy younger sister she and her friends didn’t know how to talk to. I give Edith credit, though – she tried her best to pull me forward in life, encouraging, or rather nagging, me to experience more than a simple story in a book.

“Daddy, can Blanche and I go to the matinee while you finish your paperwork at the office?” Edith looked at Daddy and batted her eyes, chin on her folded hands.

Daddy didn’t always fall for Edith’s little eye flutters but on this particular day he must have decided she looked a lot like the little girl he used to bounce on his knee because he agreed.

“I’ll drop you off at 2 and you’d better be out front when the movie ends,” Daddy said.

Edith and I agreed.

“And what’s playing anyhow?” He asked.

“‘The Harder They Fall,’ with Humphrey Bogart,” Edith told him.

Daddy was a big fan of Humphrey Bogart. Edith knew he’d have a hard time saying ‘no’ to letting us see Boggie.

“I like that Humphrey Bogart,” Daddy said from behind his newspaper. “He’s a man’s man.”

And he was a man’s man that day on the big screen too. I couldn’t take my eyes off him but Edith’s eyes were on Jimmy Sickler a row over from us, sitting with Annie Welles. I couldn’t read the expression on Edith’s face. It seemed to switch back and forth between angry and hurt.

“I loved it. What did you think?” I asked Edith at the end as we filed to the front of the theater to wait for Daddy.

Edith shrugged.

“It was okay, I guess.”

I knew she’d missed half of it watching Jimmy and Annie.

“Hey, Edith.”

Jimmy’s voice made my sister look up sharply and I saw fire in her eyes. I only liked drama in my books and wished I wasn’t standing between them. Edith’s gaze trailed to Annie standing next to Jimmy, patting her hair into place. Her tense expression quickly softened and she smiled.

“Well, hello, James,” she said sweetly. “Did you two enjoy the movie?”

“We did,” Jimmy said. “Thanks for asking. You’re looking nice this afternoon.”

He turned his attention to me. “Hey there, Blanche. Some sister time, huh?”

His smile was sweet. I always thought Jimmy was one of the most polite boys Edith went out with. His brown hair was always combed neatly to one side and his bright blue eyes were captivating.

I nodded and smiled.

“Did you like the movie?”

“I did. I like Humphrey Bogart a lot.”

I knew I had no idea how to talk to boys and looked at the sidewalk to avoid Jimmy’s gaze, hoping he wouldn’t ask me anymore questions.

I could see Daddy’s Oldsmobile coming down the street toward the theater.

“You two have a good day,” Edith winked at Jimmy and her voice was even sweeter than before, almost too sweet, like sugar on top of a sugar cookie.

She leaned close to Jimmy, hand on his shoulder, mouth close enough to his ear to graze his skin and whispered. I could see Annie’s face just beyond Jimmy’s left shoulder. Her dark red lipstick made her pursed lips look like a cherry on its’ stem and her eyelids were half closed in a furious glare.

I cringed inwardly at Edith’s embarrassing display.

Jimmy’s cheeks and ears flushed pink and he looked as embarrassed as I felt. Edith’s hand slid down his bare arm as she backed away and then a slight smirk tilted her lips as she glanced at the stewing Annie.

Jimmy reached his arm back to pull Annie close to him, his jaw tight.

“Good to see you ladies,” he said curtly as he stepped past us.

Edith’s smile had faded into a scowl and by the time we slid into the backseat of the car the scowl was fading into obvious hurt.

“Good movie?” Daddy asked.

“Oh yes! You’ll love it,” I told him. “You should take Mama next weekend.”

Daddy and I chatted about the movie while Edith sulked, one leg crossed over the other, her foot bouncing and her arms folded across her chest. She snapped the door open and slammed it closed when we pulled up to the house, stomping up the front steps.

Daddy raised his eyebrows and looked at me questioningly.

I shrugged.

“Boy troubles,” I said.

Daddy shook his head. His eyebrows furrowed slightly into a scowl

“That girl and those boys.”

Now it was his turn to look sour as he climbed out of the car.

“I don’t know why I even go out with the boys around here,” Edith said when I walked into our room. She tossed her sweater on her bed. “They don’t really like me. They don’t really want to know me or what I think or what I feel.”

She flopped back on the bed, laying on her back and starring at the ceiling.

“What do you mean? All the boys love you,” I said, confused.

“They don’t love me. They love what I give them,” Edith said.

I saw tears in her eyes.

A chill cut through me.

“What do you mean what you give them?” I asked nervously.

Edith blew her nose into her handkerchief and folded her knees up against her chest.

“Edith…you aren’t giving those boys – I mean, you’re not really…” I felt sick to my stomach.

Edith had her head on her knees and wouldn’t look at me.

“Not everything,” she mumbled. “Just enough to keep them coming for more.”

I sat on my bed and didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure what “just enough” was and didn’t even want to know what “more” was. Mama said I didn’t need to know what men and women did when they were alone, besides kissing, but I’d heard a lot what “it” was at school, in books, and from Emmy, who had an older brother.

“Why do you need them to like you so much?” I asked softly.

Edith shrugged. “I don’t need them to like me, but I like them to,” she said. “It’s nice to be adored and paid attention to, you know?”

“Mama and Daddy love you and – “

Edith snorted. “Please. Daddy likes you more than me. You’re smarter and do better in school and he knows you’ll do something with your life. I’ll just be a hairdresser.”

I rolled my eyes. “That’s not true. You can be whatever you want to be. Times are different than when Mama was a girl,” I said. “Besides, Mama thinks I’ll just stay home and be a housewife. She doesn’t think I can be anything else.”

Edith wiped the tears off her cheeks with the back of her hand.

“You’re going to be more than a housewife. Don’t you let them tell you what you can be,” she said. “I’m just not good enough to be anything other than someone who cuts hair and files nails and I know that. And by the way, getting attention from your parents is way different than getting it from a cute boy. Someday you’ll understand that.”

I laid on my side on my bed and leaned on my arm.

“Are you and Jimmy even going steady?” I asked.

Edith laid there in silence for a few moments and sighed.

“I don’t know. We’ve never discussed it. But – I guess I thought we were. I guess I didn’t realize how much I liked him until I saw him with that silly Annie Welles. I just thought – I guess I thought if I reminded him what I could give him that Little Miss Prude won’t he’d want to forget about her.”

Edith wiped her hand across her face.

I flopped back on my bed on my back.

We both laid there for a few moments in silence.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a hairdresser,” I said finally. “They make women look pretty and they get to gossip all day.”

Edith laughed softly, sat up, and drew her hands down over her hair to straighten it.

“Well, those are two things I enjoy so maybe it won’t be so bad,” she said and smiled.

I sat up to look at her.

“Maybe Jimmy’s different than the other boys, Edith. Maybe he doesn’t only want one thing.”

Edith rolled her eyes and slid the record player from under her bed.

“All boys want that one thing from girls. Another lesson you’ll learn as you get older.”

She paused as she lifted a box of chocolates off her nightstand.

“Blanche? You know you don’t have to give it to them right?”

“Give them what?” I asked feigning innocence.

“You know what, Blanche. Don’t play games with me. You’ve got more going for you than I do. You don’t have to – well, you know – there’s a lot more reasons for a boy to like you.”

I touched her hand and she looked at me.

“There are a lot more reasons for a boy to like you too, Edith,” I said.

She looked away from me, and smiled a little as she shook her head.

“You’re too nice, Blanche.”

She placed a Frank Sinatra record on the turn table and we ate chocolate and spent the rest of the afternoon talking about boys we thought were cute and the newest fashions she’d read about at her beauty classes.

It took her mind off Jimmy Sickler and Annie Welles and my mind off my sister basing her worth off what a man thought of her.

“I’ll never be like her,” I told myself, not knowing then that we often become who we don’t want to be.