Tonight I enjoyed a meeting with my friends form NW Florida Writers Group. One of the members suggestedthat I post an excerpt from the book I’ve written. The following story describes meeting my best friend, Ruthie. As always, I welcome comments, critiques and editing. Thanks! Shirley
“As soon as Tim and I were settled enough in our Columbia, South Carolina schools, I began to hate my situation. I wondered why friends were so hard to make in this town. All my comfort seemed very, very far away. My sister, Jeanne lived in a dorm at West Georgia College and my brother, Dale was many miles away in Atlanta. His Brut bottle/microphone sat right-side-up on a dresser in the apartment he shared with his new wife, Sally. I came to discount God’s message from the car accident. Instead of keeping the assurance that there was a purpose for each of us, I began to think my life was over and I would never again find anything to be happy about. The greatest reason I was wrong was Ruthie Addison, whom I would meet at E.L. Wright Junior High School.
I had arrived with such a bad attitude Ruthie must have overlooked a whole lot in order to like me. I hadn’t wanted to leave my Atlanta friends or my school, so I carried a defensive little chip on my shoulder that underscored my belief that Columbia was not as cool as Atlanta. The weight of that chip was an awful burden. I hated having left my sub-freshman status at W.F. George High School, only to reappear in South Carolina with a more juvenile ranking: junior high school-er!
I also hated the cliques at E.L. Wright Junior High that seemed to shun a new girl. That’s when my friendship with Linda took root. Linda had a little cocky attitude going on, which may have been attracted to my negative one. I let her copy my Spelling papers, so she introduced me to Ruthie one day at lunch. It was customary to go out on the schools grounds when we were finished eating in the cafeteria and that’s where Linda took me that day to find Ruthie.
“Ru-u-thie!” Linda addressed her, drawing out the “u” in her name as long as possible, “This is the girl I told you about who reminds me so much of PatZube!”
Linda, who couldn’t decide between her previous New Jersey accent and the South Carolina one, said, “Pat Zube” as if it were one word.
“Ohmygod, Ruthie, I can NOT be-LIEVE how much she looks like PatZube, can you?” asked Linda with no small amount of enthusiasm.
(“Pat moved two months ago and I have missed her so much!”) Linda added as an aside to me, even though she had already mentioned this point several times before. I faced Ruthie as Linda fluttered off abruptly to speak to a girl named Bethany.
Ruthie chewed her gum and appeared to be looking across the grounds at something serious. I squinted at where she was looking, but couldn’t find anything extraordinary enough to watch. Taking this personally, of course, I wondered if she was ever going to say anything. Maybe I ought to walk away. Her aloofness, however, was brief; actually the result of Charlie Cobb. Ruthie’s intense blue eyes carried out a constant search for her heart throb when she was at school. Whatever he might be doing at any given moment was always of grave importance to Ruthie.
“Hey.” She answered slow and smooth, finally making eye contact. “It’s nice to meet you. Where’d you move from?”
Ruthie was kind and mature. She seemed surer of herself than I, so I countered her maturity with my self-perceived coolness.
“…Atlan’a,” I answered, not bothering to mention the state. Since Atlanta was so cool I figured Ruthie would recognize and assume I was also cool.
“…Really?” Ruthie replied in her calm, sweet voice, “Why’d you move?”
She actually seemed interested in me, which was all it took for me to spill my guts. I told her about how Daddy had accepted a transfer with the YooEssDepartmentaLabrinthaBurovApprennashippinTraining (I could still say it really fast). I intimated to her about the wreck, and that Daddy was still in the hospital. She listened in a way that made me believe I was mildly fascinating. Her acceptance of me was a healing elixir for which I didn’t know was my antidote for misery.
Sometime before the bell rang, our talk took a practical turn. We realized our sub-divisions were only across Trenholm Road from each other, so Ruthie suggested that I ride home on her bus the next day. She said one of her parents would bring me home when they returned from the post office where they both worked. Riding the bus was a new and uncomfortable addition to my itinerary, but Ruthie explained where I should meet her to find the right bus.
The next day at her house, I learned all about her Charlie Cobb and told her about my Larry Lane. We hung on each other’s stories as though they were teen romance magazine articles. Ruthie brought out marshmallows and potato chips that, for some reason, were in their freezer.
“They’re frozen?” I queried the statement.
“You don’t freeze your potato chips and marshmallows?” Ruthie countered with a question, looking at me as though I had just grown antennae on my forehead.
“Can marshmallows spoil?” I continued in the fashion of answering a question with a question.
“I don’t know.” Ruthie stated, breaking the cycle. She pirouetted, proceeding to her living room with me on her heels.
“What do they dance like in Atlanta?” She asked, making herself comfortable and cross-legged like a spectator. I could have demonstrated the Twist or the Swim, but immediately felt pressure to perform something exotic for her instead.
“Well,” I said, “do y’all do “Around the World?”
“No.” Ruthie confidently stated, capturing a frozen marshmallow from the bag with only a dainty thumb and index finger. “What’s that?”
Honestly, I had only seen the dance once. A girl named Jenny with waist length hair had mesmerized the crowd with it at a school dance. Jenny was Cher-cool, a year older than I and I didn’t really know her, per se, only of her. Her mother, I heard, had committed suicide by hanging when we were in elementary school. It was a time when children traumatized by events weren’t provided an outlet for their questions so Jenny’s mother’s death only made her more mysterious and without reproach. I slung my head around as I had seen her do, making deep arcs followed by wide circles with my shoulder length hair. It wasn’t much of a dance, I remember thinking as my brain cells were being flung and slammed against the inner walls of my skull. Right before I stopped and tried hard not to act as woozy as I felt, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, Jenny had made the dance up.
“You’re right,” Ruthie lied graciously without a trace of sarcasm, “that is a cool dance.”
Perceptive, even as a child, Ruthie was quick to pick up on why I was having such a hard time making friends. Surprisingly, it had less to do with my attitude and dance skills than it did with my wardrobe ensemble.
Cool or not, in Atlanta, saddle oxfords were the standard issue for girls and boys. I can’t remember beginning a single school year, from first grade on, when I didn’t have a brand-new pair of black and whites. If you had a second pair, they might be brown and tan. Cheerleaders wore modified pointy-toed ones with their uniforms. I had been at E.L. Wright for a month now and still hadn’t noticed that I was the only one wearing the big city shoe of choice. Who knew style could be so fleeting a mere state away?
Bearing loving-kindness and wisdom far beyond her fourteen years, Ruthie saw no purpose in simply telling me I needed to get a pair of Weejun loafers to make friends. Chances are, I would have been hurt and angered, the chip on my shoulder would have grown far heavier, and I would have sunk into worse despair. Instead, Ruthie shared her concerns with her precious little mama, Louise. I don’t know how many shoe stores Mrs. Louise drove Ruthie to on her day off before they found her a pair of her own saddle oxfords. All I know is that Ruthie’s feet were cradled in a pair the next day. By the time I realized we were the only two people in South Carolina wearing saddle shoes, I recognized something far more valuable: I had made a special life-long friend.”
Dearest Residents of the Blogosphere,
Yesterday I located the Writing Lab @ UWF and left a flash drive of my book & the proposal for editing by a seemingly extraordinarily capable person. I was convulsively happy to learn that the editing feature through UWF is available at a pretty reasonable cost to such lowly minions such as I. This is merely one of things I’ve gleaned thus far in my On-the-Job-Training quest, as it were! I’m paying about $250.00 for about 500 pages.
Turns out, there was a graduate level course offered this summer that covered the mysteries of writing a non fiction proposal that may have been an auditable course. I’m sorry to have missed it but, oh, well. I was informed that it may be offered next summer. Hopefully, I’ll be too far down the road of success to need it. (:
I finished my last section (marketing) yesterday and now my smart friend, Darlene is done with the edit! In my next post I hope to announce the sending of a proposal to one (or more!) of the eleven book agents I’ve been stalking!
Salutations Blogvillians! My name is Shirley. I’m a recovering barber, student of English literature and mom to seven humans ages 31-15, who currently perches on the fringes of sending proposals to agents for my completed book. I look forward to uncovering informative clues here that will aid me in navigating the blogosphere. This is my first post. Feel free to grade my attempt!
Your new neighbor,