This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is from Chapter 6 of The Very First, “Stepping Up Sparky’s Makeover.” Cinni’s goofy uncle Jasper, strange aunt Lucinda, and one-legged cousin Elmira have come home, and Cinni has been telling Sparky a bit about them. Cinni’s mother, however, isn’t quite so happy to hear her youngest child telling such unflattering stories about her own relatives, even if these people are so odd she doesn’t even need to lie about their bizarre habits.
“Why did your grandparents make your aunt marry a crazy guy?”
“He was loaded. And I guess they weren’t that happy with how my mom married a guy who wasn’t rich. Word is that Aunt Lucinda and Jasper have only been together as husband and wife thrice their entire marriage. She’s always claiming her lady days, a headache, being sick, or spotting between lady days. Jasper is so stupid he buys it every time.”
“I’m glad I got the better husband,” Mrs. Filliard said as she drank a beer and read a romance novel. “But Cinnimin, please try to refrain from talking badly about our family in front of outsiders. You don’t want to make us look bad before Sparky even has a chance to get to know us. Polite society people never speak about such things. It’s the same reason children’s books never have pictures of udders on cows. We all know they’re there, but decent people don’t want to admit to it.”
Cinni snickered. “Your views of the world are coming to an end, Mom. Real people know life ain’t all flowers and puppies. Sometimes you have to talk about things that upset you. It’s better to speak your mind and be as honest as you can than to tell a lie. I don’t care who I offend in speaking my mind. Daddy says it’s good to be brutally honest.”
“One day, Cinnimin, it’s just going to be me. Your father is indulging and spoiling you because you’re the youngest child, but when he’s gone, you’ll have to grow up and accept more adult responsibilities. Being an adult is about more than having a bustline, wearing garish makeup, staying out late, using curse words, and reading romance novels. You know your father’s heart was weakened after his rheumatic fever, and it’s not going to get better.”
“Doctors ain’t God. Kit is always saying how so many doctors and nurses think they’re God. Modern Western medicine is a baby compared to the ancient wisdom. Kit says society took a big step back when men took over medicine and childcare. They convinced everyone, particularly women, that the way they’d done things for thousands of years was bad.”
“Kit is another one who needs a lesson in what it really means to be a grownup. Instead of reading so many advanced books, spouting off radical ideas, and misbehaving to annoy her mother, she should be learning manners and the meaning of respect.”
Cinni ignored her mother’s lecture. “Sparky, why don’t you meet my daddy? You ain’t met him yet, and I’m sure he’d like to meet you.” She stood up and led Sparky off by the hand.
Mr. Filliard was in his office typing on a red Remington portable when his favorite child came in with Sparky. Cinni immediately went to the bowl of chocolate-covered cherries on his desk and popped a handful into her mouth. At least her father didn’t get on her case about her sweet tooth and how she liked to eat. The way Mrs. Filliard told it, Cinni were as grossly overweight as Mrs. Seward instead of just a little bit overweight.
“Sparky, this is my daddy, Holden Grigóriy Filliard. His name was Grigóriy when he was living in Russia with his mom, but after they came to America, his dad thought they should give him a less Russian name. So they moved his first name to the middle position. He goes by H.G.”
“You’re an immigrant too?” Sparky asked.
“I was born in St. Petersburg and came to America with my mother in 1905, after a failed revolution. My parents met when my father was stationed with the Army in Russia. For reasons I never understood, my mother’s parents forbade her to marry my father, and let her have a child out of wedlock. She tracked my father down after we came to America, and they finally got married. That’s my father in that painting on the wall, the fellow in the uniform and holding a sword. Captain George Filliard. So I know what it’s like to be an immigrant and why it’s important to help people get out of harm’s way.”
“Pleasure to meet man who brought my family to America,” Sparky breathed in total awe.
“Daddy, can I take Sparky to Blatt’s? I have to buy her some new clothes and jewelry.”
“Sure, have fun.” Mr. Filliard dug out some bills and handed them to Cinni. “I trust you’ll pick out some nice things for her. But for the love of God, please wash that hideous makeup off her face before you go anywhere. I think it’s safe to say you don’t have a future as a makeup artist.”
“Yeah, I’ll clean her up. I don’t want people staring at her even more. It’s bad enough everyone stares at her ‘cause she doesn’t look like an American yet.”