Mr. and Mrs. Carson Return

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This post was originally scheduled for 11 August 2012, another of the posts intended for the long-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop. It comes from my published book Little Ragdoll, in a scene set in July 1972. It differs a bit from the published version.

***

This week’s excerpt takes place the day after Justine’s arrival in Hudson Falls. Ricky’s parents are back from their week-long vacation in the Hamptons, and are scandalized at what’s happened in their absence. They’ve arrived with a bunch of mail that came for Ricky and the news that Mrs. Troy is pressing charges against Seth for his breaking and entering and attempted assault of Adicia’s brother Tommy. Then they start running their mouths against Adicia, her family, and her marriage to their son, not expecting anyone will talk back to them.

Justine’s second line was taken from the Laurel and Hardy short Tit for Tat (1934), one of the ones I practically know by heart. Stan and Ollie are having a store war with their neighbor and enemy Mr. Hall, and when a cop finally intervenes, the boys tell him Mr. Hall started it by slandering Ollie’s character and jilting his good name.

***

“My sister is a great person,” Justine says. “How dare you slander her character and jilt her good name!  And I were you, Mrs. Carson, I wouldn’t be the first to throw stones at anyone.  Just lookit that dumb hat you’re wearing.  Who mixes up tiny lightbulbs, Russian nesting dolls, parrot feathers, and jumping jacks all on the same hat?”

“Shut up, you insolent child.  Apparently no one ever taught you not to talk back to your elders or betters.”

“If you talk to either my wife or my sister-in-law so disrespectfully again, I’m going to throw you out of our house right away,” Ricky says. “In fact, I’ve half a mind to throw both of you out right now.  Obviously you can’t say anything nice or constructive.”

“Why are you even here?” Adicia asks. “This is our home.  We don’t want you in it.  Your son made a choice to marry me, and he’s been a very good husband to me in the six days we’ve been married.  He’s done more to take care of me and protect me than a lot of husbands do in six years of marriage.”

Mr. Carson grabs Adicia’s hand and examines her rings. “Sapphire and diamonds for an engagement ring, with a white gold band, and gold and silver with diamonds for a wedding ring.  I’m scandalized you spent so much money on wedding jewelry for this whore, Warrick.  Knowing girls of her ilk, she’ll probably lose both, or damage them beyond repair.  Fine jewelry wasn’t meant for common street girls.  It was designed only to grace the perfect hands of upper-class ladies.”

Mrs. Carson bursts out laughing. “What kind of childish wedding ring is that?  Three little flowers with diamonds in the center?  How old are you, little girl, twelve?  You certainly don’t look eighteen.”

“You’re living in a dreamworld if you think you’re going to stay married to Warrick and live happily ever after.  He’s coming with us, back to the city, and is going to be re-enrolled at Columbia.  If this house is already paid for in full, you and that urchin sister of yours can have fun making it into a pigsty by yourselves.  Thank God my son didn’t consummate the marriage yet, since it would ruin his good name if he were tied to a street girl forever by a child.  Warrick, we’re going to wait for you to pack up your things and join us.  You’re going to leave these two ragamuffins behind and forget this past week ever happened.  Miss Troy, I hope you had your fun pretending to be married and getting a taste of the moneyed world, a world you don’t deserve, while it lasted.”

“Where did you buy the wedding ring?” Mrs. Carson is still examining it. “Certainly not at a proper store like DeBeers, where they sell only quality rings.”

“Mother, please take your hands off my wife,” Ricky orders. “And they’re called plumeria flowers, from Hawaii.  Adicia wanted this ring more than any other.  It’s what made her happy.  A plain gold band wouldn’t reflect her specialness.  Her wedding ring is cute and not like every other ring.”

“We got it at Macy’s,” Adicia says in a small voice.

“Why are you being so mean to my sister?” Justine demands. “She never did anything bad to you.  She’s the best big sister I ever coulda asked for.  Adicia would give me the moon if I asked for it, ‘cause that’s the kinda big sister she is.  And Ricky’s the best brother-in-law ever.”

“Oh, nonsense.  Poor trash like you don’t even have feelings.  You’re just like rats or fleas.  Warrick, I won’t ask again for you to collect your things and come with us.  Leave the house and everything else to the ragged poor girls.”

“You wouldn’t dare choose Miss Troy and her pathetic sister over your own parents, the family wealth, and your reputation, would you?”

“Please show my wife the proper respect due to her and use the correct title.  Adicia is Mrs. Carson now, no longer Miss Troy.”

The senior Mrs. Carson laughs. “Do you really think a slum-dwelling piece of trash and street whore like that deserves or knows what to do with the title Mrs. Warrick Grover Carson?”

Ricky goes over to the door, pulls it open, and points outside. “Get out of my house.  I’m done with yous guys forever.  Never try to contact me again.  You oughta be ashamed of yourselves for the cruel, appalling way you’ve spoken to my beautiful bride and her darling baby sister.  It’s nice to know you think a girl who’s been raped on two different occasions is a whore.  If Adicia and I have kids eventually, you will never know them.  Get out of our house before I call the cops.”

“You’re starting to talk like them!” Mr. Carson says in disgust. “Before we moved from Syracuse and you started hanging around with social undesirables, you never had the term ‘yous guys’ in your vocabulary!”

“Get out of my house,” Adicia orders. “Ricky is my husband now, no longer your little boy you get to boss around and control.  We’ve chosen this life for ourselves, whether you like it or not.  We don’t need your blessings or approval to continue our marriage of convenience.”

“You heard my wife,” Ricky nods. “Go back to the city and leave us alone forever.  You took a trip up here for nothing.”

“Don’t let the door hit yous on the way out!” Justine catcalls as they turn around and storm out.

Adicia goes over to the front windows to watch them getting in their extravagant luxury sports car and starting to back up out of the driveway.  She hopes they get into an accident after how they spoke to her and Justine.

Sweet Saturday Samples—A Quasi-Date

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Welcome back to Sweet Saturday Samples! This week’s excerpt is from my contemporary historical Bildungsroman Little Ragdoll, Chapter 43, “‘Don’t Get Above Your Raising.'” It’s January 1972, and 17-year-old Adicia has agreed to go out socially with 19-year-old Ricky, her rich new neighbor from up the street who’s smitten with her. Though they live only a street apart, they’re in separate neighborhoods due to how the northern, gentrified section of the Lower East Side broke away to form the so-called East Village in the mid-Sixties. Adicia’s big brother Allen isn’t too happy when he discovers them together.

This scene contains one of the pieces I wrote during my biggest editing and revising phase. I’m a sinistral chauvinist who always includes at least several lefties in every cast of characters, but this time I’d totally forgotten. The book now boasts 13, plus a few babies whose left-handedness hasn’t had time to manifest yet.

***

That Sunday, while Justine is visiting Lenore and the girls, Adicia and Ricky are having lunch at an outdoor café in the West Village.  Adicia is confident in her decision to only make friends with Ricky, nothing more, and figures having an ally on the block can’t hurt.  After all, he might come in handy if she needs to run away to avoid being traded off like a piece of meat by her parents once she’s eighteen.

After their sandwich plates are cleared, a waiter brings dessert menus.  Adicia looks over it long and hard before finally deciding on a blueberry turnover with powdered sugar and whipped cream on top.

“You must not have dessert too often,” he says after the waiter takes their orders.

“We have a lot of it when we visit our brother, but not at home.  And I’ve only rarely gone to a real restaurant.”

He smiles at her. “In that case, I’d be happy to take you out every weekend.  It’s not right for anyone to grow up not knowing what it’s like to eat out or have fancy desserts.”

Adicia looks around and then at the ground. “I’m used to it.  I just like having a chance to do it when I can.  Don’t feel obligated to keep taking me out.  And remember, this isn’t even a date.”

Ten minutes later, the waiter returns with their desserts.  Adicia sees Ricky moving his fork to the left side of his plate just like she’s doing.  Across the table, Ricky smiles at her when he sees what she’s doing.

Adicia laughs. “Don’t tell me the universe put yet another lefty in my circle.  That makes thirteen of us.”

“My kindergarten teacher tied weights to my hand, but that only lasted one day.  My parents threatened to sue the school and get a private tutor for me if they didn’t leave me alone.  I’ve never known a female lefty before.  So you apparently know a lot of others?”

“Me, my sisters Emeline, Ernestine, and Justine, my brother Allen, my sister-in-law Lenore, my nieces Irene and Amelia, our four friends the Ryans, and now you.  My dad was born one, but he gave into teachers tryna switch him.”

“Now I like you even more, knowing you’re one of my own.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Adicia thinks she sees her brother.  Her suspicions are confirmed when he approaches their table.

“What a surprise to see you, Da—” Allen stops mid-word when he realizes she’s sitting with a stranger. “That’s not David!”

“Why would I be out with David?  He lives in Poughkeepsie now.”

“Who’s David, a former boyfriend?” Ricky asks.

“He’s a really good friend of mine.  We grew up together and knew each other since we were seven.  He’s the brother of my sister Ernestine’s best friend.”

Allen looks at his sister and her companion in shock. “Adicia, are you out on a date?”

“No!  This is just Ricky, who moved up the street from us recently.  I’m just getting to know him as friends.”

“Well, in my experience, if a girl wants to get to know a guy as only friends, they don’t go out to eat.  What are your intentions towards my sister?”

“To be honest, I really would like to go on a date with her, but she insists she only wants to be friends and that a poor girl and a rich boy shouldn’t get mixed up.”

***

Allen proceeds to deliver a long rant about how Ricky couldn’t really like Adicia, who comes from a starkly different social class, and forces his sister to come home with him before the date is over.

Sweet Saturday Samples

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This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is another unused one from my drafts folder, from Chapter 48 of Little Ragdoll, “Leaving New York City.” After a frightening late-night run-in with the creep her parents were trying to force her to marry, Adicia and Ricky found a ride back to the van Niftriks’ with a sympathetic cop. After arriving in Hudson Falls, they start figuring out what to do next.

***

“Oh, you’re finally up.  I don’t blame you for sleeping so long, after what happened to you yesterday.  I walked around the nearby streets and bought some stuff we don’t need to cook.  Our housing pickings might be slim, but at least this is where most of your family lives.  I hope we find something soon, since we have to turn this truck in by Saturday or pay a fine for overtime.”

“Did you get a city map yet?  I wanna find Lucine and her husband.  I wonder if Allen and Lenore are still living with them.  It’s been almost four months since they moved.”

“How’d you like to live in a real house for the first time in your life?  A house is even better than the biggest apartment, and there’s so much more space.  Just imagine having your own yard, with room to grow a garden and trees.  Maybe we can even look for a puppy or kitten to keep you company while I’m at work.  You don’t mind if I have to commute, do you?  This town is so small I might not be able to find work here.  I also picked up some stuff for lunch.  Do you mind dried fruit, cashews, crackers with peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and granola bars?”

Adicia stares down at the plumeria ring on her hand. “Did we actually get married yesterday?”

“Believe it or not, we’re now man and wife.  If the arrangement doesn’t work out, we don’t have to stay married, but we’d better make the most of it now that it’s happened.  Maybe we won’t be able to stand each other for more than a couple of months, but maybe it’ll bring us closer and make us grow into the kind of love a married couple’s supposed to have.  I’m sorry if it wasn’t the type of wedding you must’ve dreamt of as a little girl and if I’m not the guy you would’ve preferred to marry.”

“We did what we had to do.  You’ve been a good husband so far.  If I had to marry someone I didn’t love, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer guy.”

“I just hope your brother doesn’t kill me when we find him.  He really didn’t like me the one time we met.”

“He’ll have to accept it.  I’m sure he’d agree we did what we had to do to get out of there safely.  I know he’d much rather prefer to see me safe and taken care of than in a dangerous situation.  I do feel a bit embarrassed I need a man to take care of me when it’s 1972, but I guess not all women can be street smart and self-sufficient.  I kinda like the old-fashioned sweetness of having a guy to take care of me.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being old-fashioned.  I always wanted a girl who’d take care of me, someone I could look forward to coming home to, even if I don’t want a June Cleaver or Donna Reed for a wife.  Men and women are different, even if I think women should have equal rights.  There’s just something comforting about the idea of a sweet little wifey cooking for me and cheering me up after a bad day at work, and I think kids do best when they have one parent at home when they’re young.  I guess it could be the guy who stays home, but I don’t know of any guys who stay home with the baby and do all the housework while the woman works.”

Adicia looks down at the koala. “I’m probably one of the few newlywed brides who actually slept with a stuffed animal and not her new groom on her wedding night.”

“I’ll have to buy you your own bed too.  I’ll keep sleeping on my old double bed, and I can buy you a queen-sized bed.  It’s better, I guess, if yours is the bigger bed. If you decide you want to be together as a real husband and wife, I can just join you in the queen and we can give my old double to Justine.”

“What are we doing about money?  Your bank account has a ton of dough in it, but it’s not wise to exist on just savings and not bring any additional money in regularly.  And you have to transfer all your money from the old bank to a new local bank.”

“I’ll have to make a joint account for us, so we can both use the money.  What’s mine is yours, and you deserve to go out and buy nice things even if you don’t have a job.  I’m not even interested in going back to school at this point.  I’ll defer my last two years till we get more settled.  And then we need to buy a car.  I don’t know if this town has a bus system, but I know it’s always best to have your own car and not rely on public transportation.  What kind of car would you like?”

“I think VW Beetles are cute.”

“Then that’s what we’ll try to look for.  I guess we can rent a car in the meantime.  I know I could easily plunk down enough money for a fancy car like a Ferrari or Aston Martin, but I don’t care for a silly status symbol like that.  We shouldn’t do anything to stand out just ‘cause we’ve got some money.  My parents look so out of touch ‘cause they dress like rich snobs from fifty years ago, even when they’re in normal work or social settings.”

Horny Hump Day—Adicia and Ricky

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Warning:  Not safe for work or appropriate for those under 18!

My snippet for this week’s Horny Hump Day comes from my contemporary historical Little Ragdoll, which was inspired by the famous story behind The Four Seasons’ song “Rag Doll.” I wanted to give that poor girl a happy ending and let her be with the rich boy who loved her just as she was, but before she can live happily ever after, she’s going to go through a lot of trials.

Adicia recently ran away from home with her neighbor Ricky, whom she married more for safety than love. Unfortunately, it’s 1972, and when Ricky withdrew from Columbia to run away, he gave up his student deferment and ended up drafted into the Air Force. His number, 88, was one of the final lottery numbers to be called in the last active year of the draft.

On their last night together, they decide to consummate their convenience marriage. Adicia isn’t a physical virgin, but emotionally, this is her first real time.

***

Adicia crawls under the covers and looks off to the side until Ricky gets in, not wanting to see anything.  She notices his heart is beating almost as loudly as hers as he starts to kiss her and tentatively get acquainted with her body.  Slowly she starts to explore his body too, hoping she’s touching him like a woman is supposed to touch a man when they’re in bed together.

Sweet Saturday Samples—Saying Goodbye

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This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is the point where I’ll be ending my excerpts from Little Ragdoll, since if I went much further, it would give too much away. In the future, I may feature some excerpts from earlier in the book, or some future excerpts that don’t give anything vital away.

Thank you all so much for your kind, encouraging comments on Little Ragdoll and its characters! I’m so glad I finally went back to this long-hiatused story from scratch and memory 16.5 years later. The way it ultimately turned out was a story I couldn’t have written at 13-14, when I was working on the (beyond-awful) discontinued original first draft.

The Pandava brothers referred to in the last line are heroes of ancient Indian mythohistory, who went through many trials and tests throughout their lifetime and were rewarded with Paradise at the end of their lives, after passing the final, most challenging test of their righteousness.

***

Adicia stirs awake when the alarm clock goes off early in the morning.  She blearily watches as Ricky pulls on the clothes he brought into the room last night and picks up the bag he packed.  It doesn’t quite seem real that her newlywed husband is being taken away from her, nor that last night they consummated their convenience marriage a lot sooner than expected.

“Go back to sleep.  I don’t want you to go down to the station with me and then be unable to say goodbye.  It’s probably better if we say goodbye here.”

“But I wanna go with you.  A wife is supposed to see her husband off to war.”

“Do you really wanna be there with all the crying wives, mothers, girlfriends, and other people?  That might make it even worse for you.  Plus I don’t think I’d ever be able to let go of you if you went there with me.”

“Will you write to me as soon as you get to the training camp?”

“You bet I will, my sweet little treasure.”

“I’ll write to you every single day and send you care packages with homemade cookies and brownies.  I’ll be a good little wifey and hold down the fort here for you.”

“Do you promise you’ll still take me back as your husband if I come home an amputee, blind, deaf, or crippled?”

“You have a really beautiful heart, Ricky.  A lot of people with all their senses and limbs intact are blind, deaf, and dumb in their hearts and souls, more so than people with handicaps.  I’ll accept you just the way you are.”

“I’m such a lucky guy to have a girl like you waiting for me.” Ricky kneels down by the bed and kisses her goodbye, wishing he could stay right here and enjoy his newly consummated marriage instead of having to leave at this early hour and get on a bus going to some boot camp. “I love you.”

Adicia drifts back off to sleep after he walks out of the room, down the stairs, out of the house, and into a waiting cab taking him to the bus.  She has no time to comprehend what Ricky’s leaving means for her and Justine.  All she’s thinking about as she falls back asleep is that she’s losing her darling husband, whom she’s been starting to fall for and now feels deeply bonded to after last night.

She doesn’t even consider what she’ll have to do to pull in enough money to support herself and Justine, that it might take awhile to master driving, or that she’s now faced with the task of running a household all by herself at the tender age of eighteen.  Nor does she consider what might happen when Allen and Lenore return from vacation, learn she and Justine are in the city, and learn she’s Ricky’s wife.

Her one consolation is that perhaps it really is one final test for her, just like the Pandava brothers had one final test, before her character is deemed worthy once and for all and she’s finally able to enjoy a beautiful happy ending.