Rebirth of a Writer
October 13, 2012
When Alice was thirteen, she liked to write poetry. The unhappy end to that creative enthusiasm is described in the blog post, The Children’s Hour.
After a hiatus of 84 years, she has finally found the time and daring to write again (see Alice’s New Career), and last week her third story appeared in The Place’s newsletter. She called to describe the reaction of her fellow residents.
Linnea, her new dining room partner, came to lunch eager to say how much she’d loved it and suggested that Alice put all her stories together in a book. “Then you’ll have them right there any time you want to look at them.”
“Why would I do that?” Alice asked her. “I already know them. I wrote them.”
Linnea shook her head. “Don’t you see how they’ll add up?”
“Oh, I don’t think I’ll be writing any more stories,” Alice said modestly. Here was the encouraging response she’d been hoping for from her writing, but she rushed to play it down. A solid Midwesterner is ever alert to the threat of attention. Should it appear, she must try to deflect it immediately, even if she’s been seeking it. God forbid somebody should turn around and look at you as if you might be good for anything beyond providing a helping hand.
Next, Mirabel of the nightly piano recitals stopped by, equally complimentary. “You’re really cheering us up with these tales of yours,” she said, one entertainer to another. “I can’t wait to see the next one.”
Alice resigned again from the story writing business. “Oh, I don’t think I’ll be writing any more.”
“We’ll see about that,” Mirabel said and scooted away in her scooter.
Two or three other people went out of their way to drop by Alice’s table and comment on the story. Mr. Fickle seems to be too lost these days to read, but the Dapper Man is alert and outgoing. On the way back to his apartment after lunch, he reached over the railing to pat her shoulder. “You’re doing a darned good job with that writing of yours, Alice.”
“Thank you,” Alice said. By now she had to admit to herself that somehow she’d accrued a dedicated readership. “That’s very nice of you to say.” Just in case any Dakota ancestors were looking down on her as they leaned on their wooden plows, brows still sweating even after a couple of hundred years in heaven, she quickly added, “But I don’t suppose I’ll be writing any more.”
“Oh, you will,” the Dapper Man said with confidence. “You’re a writer. You can’t help yourself.”
She wrapped up our conversation by telling me her idea for a new story. “You’ll have to help me,” she said, which is what she says every time even though I never do more than proofread or offer a suggestion for a title. (The title below may, in fact, look familiar to long-time readers of this blog.)
Here’s Alice’s latest.
Hiding the Hooch
Let’s go back to Carson, North Dakota, when I was ten years old. I had a friend, Mabel, who was the same age. Her last name was Houston, but because her father was a bootlegger, a mean boy called her Mabel Hoochin.
I lived about four blocks from Mabel. One morning I walked to her house to see if she could come out to play, but her father said no, she had to help him. He said if I wanted to help too he would give me a quarter.
Well, a quarter sounded like really quite a lot of money to me. This was during the Great Depression. So I said I would help.
Mabel and I were to carry several bottles of beer – a bottle in each hand – to a dug-out in a small hill, which her dad called “the cave.”
It was a very hot day and of course we had no hats and were barefoot. We got warm and tired carrying all those bottles of beer to the cave.
When Mr. Houston finally told us there was no more beer to carry, he put a quarter in my hand, and off I went. I felt so happy that I forgot I was hot and tired.
On the way home I met Francis, the mean boy. He said he knew what I’d been doing and he wanted my quarter. He told me if I didn’t give it to him, he was going to tell how I earned it.
This boy was twelve and had a car of his own. His folks owned the weekly paper, The Carson Press. His car was a Model T Ford Coupe and he had to stand up to reach the brake and clutch.
He was not going to get my quarter! I held it tight and ran as fast as I could for home.
Do you know what I got with that money? Five all-day suckers and some Juicy Fruit gum.
Oh yes. Mabel’s father did spend some time in Leavenworth prison.
When he heard another version of this story earlier this year, our friend Gordon generously brewed Alice some special stout in honor of her mettle in standing up to Francis.
Thank you, Gordon!
Alice is taking to this writing thing like a duck to water, which is not the case for all ducks. These guys were penned up by an animal hoarder until the Woodstock Sanctuary rescued them. Their little video shows the ducks taking (or not taking) to water for the first time.
(Thanks to Ronni Bennett over at Time Goes By for this.)