Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from the new opening pages of Little Ragdoll, which is set from 1959-74 and inspired by the story which inspired The Four Seasons’ famous song “Rag Doll.” It’s my imagined telling of the growing-up story and happy ending of someone who could’ve been that real-life young girl.
It’s early September 1959, and Adicia, her four closest sisters, and their surrogate mother Sarah are getting ready to walk to Woolworth’s for some back to school supplies. On their way there, they run across the two oldest Troy brothers. When rewriting the first chapter recently, I decided to introduce them a bit earlier, and gave Allen speaking lines this time to establish the fact that he’s the good brother.
Though the Troys live on Avenue A, that was still part of the Lower East Side in 1959. The so-called East Village didn’t secede till the mid-Sixties, but the northern part of the LES was already gentrifying by the Fifties and trying to distance itself from the remaining historic poor and working-class population. The major intersecting street, Houston, is pronounced HOUSE-ton in New York City, not like the city in Texas.
“You do what you must when you have no choice,” Sarah tries to soothe her, in the distinctive German accent she still has after twelve years in America. “I had to walk so many miles in tight wooden clogs and no socks, every day for weeks, before the soldiers rescued me.”
Adicia sighs and pulls on her socks and shoes, then takes Emeline’s hand as they begin the perilous flight down the crooked, broken, rotted staircase, which is missing a number of steps. Despite this tenement having been built in 1920, it’s still not as safe or modern as some of the residences up by Tompkins Square Park. The landlord’s family abandoned the building years ago, leaving their comparatively large living quarters just in time for the Troys to move in.
Sarah puts Justine in her old, worn-out, hand-me-down stroller, and they proceed down Avenue A. After they cross Houston Street about a block later, Avenue A turns into Essex Street, where Adicia’s two older brothers are leaning against a dilapidated old storefront and smoking marijuana. Sixteen-year-old Carlos, who’s also taking swigs from a bottle of vodka, pays them no regard, but fifteen-year-old Allen smiles at them.