Excerpt from Part II (and juvenilia)

The meat of this was originally written 7 October 2009, except for the bolded sections, which were written much earlier. The bit at the very bottom is one of my favorites scenes from Cinnimin, from Part II, written when I was thirteen years old and had just started eighth grade (one of the worst years of my life). Even though I’m a much better writer now and I know my characters a whole lot better, on deeper and more complex levels (we did after all grow up together), I’ve always had a soft spot for the earliest sections of Cinnimin. They’re just so fun and carefree, before my characters grew up and became great-grandmothers, before heavy, serious, mature storylines were even a blip on my radar. Looking back later, I realized the Cinnimin and Violet of the first half or so of Saga I remind me of a female Laurel and Hardy, the way they’re always causing trouble and getting into unintentionally hilarious situations. (For obvious reasons, I had to change Cinni’s outraged “Elmira sucks!” to “Elmira stinks!” No one would’ve said something or someone sucked in 1941, even someone as streetwise and mature beyond her years as Cinni.) And yes, I know it’s pretty mean to always be stealing or messing with someone’s fake leg, but it’s meant as a source of dark humor, not saying I think we should make fun of the disabled and put stumbling-blocks in their way. There’s always been a bit of deliberate, knowing unreality about the WTCOAC world anyway, since it was originally meant as a spoof and satire of modern preteens and teens.

***

It’s an interesting story how I came to turn what was a horrible short-lived WTCOAC book called Fitting In into an entire family saga called Cinnimin: The Road to Womanhood, 1941-2050. I began it in the numerous leftover pages of the notebook I’d used for my fifth grade science class, and later lost those first few pages of the story when my mother tore out the “used” pages of a number of notebooks I had in a black crate that was being stored in my parents’ room, “for space.” That was how I lost the entirety of Henry and Adeline, though in that case I have to say I’d probably be more embarrassed than happy to have that book back! In this case, it was also a good thing that I had the chance to start this book over with a fresh slate, since my original storyline had been completely different, the stuff of some corny afterschool special or Beatrice Sparks novel, and intended to last only from 1941 to 1942. This is the hideous synopsis I wrote on the back of the notebook, at twelve years old:

Cinnimin Filliard was a 5th grader who lived with her widowed mother. She had it all till her father died. Then her aunt Lucinda’s husband Jasper died and her aunt and cousin Elmira moved in. Her cousin Elmira was 15 and had lost her leg in a car accident when she was 6. Her whole life had been turned around. She had to make drastic changes in the way she ran her life. Sometimes she felt her only friend was her guinea pig. Her oldest sister, Babs, and she always fought. Her other sister Stacey and she hadn’t spoken since she was 3. Her brother got drunk often.

But Elmira and she struck up an amazing friendship.

She changed her life!

Ugh. This is just the kind of story I loved at 11-13 years old: Wild child has some sort of revelation, often forced by other kids or relatives, that she needs to change and be a good moral kid. Formerly bad kid now becomes a nice sweet goody-goody who renounces her former normal teen lifestyle, and inspires other bad kids in her circle to do the same. That’s just boring and lazy writing, and is exactly the type of story Beatrice Sparks likes to write. Plus, the synopsis is completely false. Elmira is only a year older than Cinni, not four years older, and the Feldons have been living with the Filliards for years. They only briefly moved out around the end of summer 1941, when Jasper was called to Hawaii with the Marines. Lucinda and Elmira moved back home when Jasper died in Pearl Harbor (and since Jasper is such a strange, bizarre, disturbed individual who probably has some sort of undiagnosed mental problems, given my descriptions of his strange behavior, Lucinda is secretly relieved she no longer has to deal with this repulsive husband she was married to against her will at the tender age of 18, when he was 30 years old). Babs and Cinni always get along great, and M.J.’s problem isn’t getting drunk, it’s being a shiftless high school dropout who is underpaid at the cocktail bar he works at, and who often shoplifts as a means of taking out his hurt pride when his constant whining for a raise goes unanswered. The clashes between Cinni’s wild ways and Elmira’s goody-two-shoes behavior, and how Cinni always tries to drag Elmira into her lifestyle, like dragging her along when she ditches school with Violet, are also a great source of continuity during the earlier sections of Saga I, the Forties. If they had put aside their differences, Cinni had reformed, and they’d become all buddy-buddy, that would have been extremely boring and annoying.

On one of the back papers of the notebook, I had also written down, on 10 September 1993, my synopses of the other series I had:

The WTCOAC books by Carrie Ann Brown, created by a teen for teens. None of that damn boring writing adults use. Written through the mind of a teen with other teens in mind. Books include:

The Very First/The Very Next/The Very Last (1938-40) How it all started. When there were only about 20 people in the gang. Includes needed info. for the next story—

WTCOAC #1-#7 (1941-1950) #1 is divided into 2 parts. Part 1 is one book, 2 in the other book, which also includes #2 and #3. #4, #5, and #6 are in next book, and #7 is one book. More info for next story—

WTCOAC in College #1-#4 (1950-1954) The college story, and continuation of the youngers [sic] not yet in college. The dawn of rock’n’roll becomes a major topic in these books, and also in #6 and #7. And the next story—

WTCOAC 1955. Their first adult year in the real world.

Maxwell House #1-#33 (1941-1962) Obviously some books are longer than others to fit this 21 year timeframe, and it’s about a blended extended family who must first think of being a family before they get anywhere.

All Us Pembrokes #1-#12 (1944-1955) The Pembrokes have a different family, and by the time it’s regular again, they must learn to be a family.

Cinnimin (1941-1942) After her aunt and cousin move in, her life becomes Hell!

Kit Books (1941-1950) Kit Green and her numerous beaux, and also about Kit’s wacky family.

Young Sprouts (1943-1950) The Miller family has 9 children when this [never finished the synopsis]

I’m really embarrassed that I tried to force “the dawn of rock’n’roll” into books taking place in 1949 and 1950, let alone as a significant theme. I don’t understand why, if I were so into my newfound love of this music, I couldn’t have just written an entirely new book taking place in the late Fifties or anytime during the Sixties, or started that book I wanted about Violet and Cherie’s love of Sixties bands. People in that era were still listening to stuff like swing and jazz, not the early rockabilly sounds! This kind of music was also, unfortunately, considered “Black music” at this time, not something “respectable” white folks would have been interested in. It was such a stretch how I brought in Frankie Valli as a youngster; Kit suddenly has an older ex who has this cousin in Newark, and Kit was actually very taken with this little boy when she was dating his cousin. The gang starts frequently going to The Four Seasons Bowling Alley in Newark (where Frankie’s band got their name) to hear this new-fangled music and to bowl. Who the hell drives like 5-6 hours to go bowling?! And on a regular basis?! This is just more proof that I was a poor shell of a historical fiction writer when I was that age.

My favorite Saga of Cinnimin remains Saga I, particularly the years 1941 and 1942. There were just so many fun and funny things that happened then. This scene, towards the end of Part II (the one begin in the 5th grade science notebook; I later reconstructed what I remembered of the original opening and added some stuff to it to comprise a very short Part I), is one of my favorites. Almost ever since she moved back, Elmira has had her fake leg abused terribly by Cinnimin and Violet, who at one point even ruined her leg when demonstrating how to shave her leg and then, to cover up their ruin, splashed brown paint on it and pulled a long stocking over it, full of dirty lingerie. Later Elmira’s leg was taken by a streetcar driver who originally came back to yell at the rowdy girls but then burst out laughing, and they got her a new electronic leg. That leg too was later snatched by Cinnimin to put on top of the Xmas tree, and even after Elmira gets her leg back, it’s abused yet again, when the girls are having a catfight in the pool and Violet throws it so far it lands on their neighbor Mr. Valli’s roof and freezes there. Elmira is also a source of mirth to Cinnimin and her friends, besides the fake leg and the squeaky-clean lifestyle, because she’s a late bloomer, has almost no bustline, and doesn’t end up getting her first period till a few days after her 19th birthday.

The next day Cinnimin, Violet, and Elaine went ice-skating on the frozen ocean. They let Elmira wear her leg because they dragged her along to see how she could skate.

The leg was so heavy she kept falling. She sat down to take it off. She screamed as she lost her balance.

“Wanna play crack the whip?” Elaine asked.

They dragged Elmira along. They cracked it so hard Elmira sailed off and rolled in a ball for 10 minutes before she stopped moving. She tried to crawl over for her leg, but Cinnimin had hidden it.

Elmira tried hopping after them, but they caught a bus. She hung onto the back of it. She raced into the house after them. She grabbed Violet, who threw the leg at Elaine.

Elmira tried climbing up the ladder after her. Elaine put the leg on and stepped aside. A huge crash brought Lucinda running.

Elmira had clung to the Christmas tree when Elaine yanked the ladder away, and she had fallen, taking the tree with her! Every ornament was in pieces, the stand had flown across the room and lay broken in two, the sheet was cutting off her air supply, and the train and village set was all over the floor.

“Damn you!” Cinnimin screamed.

They had to spend an hour cleaning up, while Elmira went shopping. Cinnimin tried to glue the ornaments back together. That totally bombed out, so she spent half an hour vacuuming billions of shards of glass, plastic, wood, and glitter. Violet crawled around picking up hooks and dropping them into the hook bags. Elaine had to pick up the train village set and set it under the tree, which had lost half the needles. Cinnimin was furious as she vacuumed the needles. They had to throw the sheet away because of all the glass stuck in it. They trashed the pieces of the tree stand too, but two days later, Lucinda found it and turned it in for scrap metal.

They thought they were done until they saw the garlands and smashed lights had landed outside in the hall. Elaine grabbed the garlands and strung them on the tree while Cinnimin was livid during vacuuming. Violet trashed the wire.

“She ruined our tree!” Cinnimin yelled as she emptied the vacuum bag into the garbage can. “And she got her leg back early! Elmira stinks!”

Elaine and Violet were livid too. They’d come over to have fun, not to clean up other people’s messes!

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