How the discontinued first draft is much different, Part II


Here are some more ways the discontinued mess of a first draft of Adicia’s story is much different from the completed product that was created between 18 November 2010 and 16 February 2011, and which is currently being polished up a bit:

1. Julie’s name was originally Karin, and her mother wasn’t absent. I don’t even really remember if I had her coming with Ernestine and the Ryans after the squat was raided, and I won’t know till I have access to the file containing the discontinued original Part II. I don’t even think I’d planned to make her such an important secondary character the first time around. Her existence was just another excuse to revel in extreme purple prose, degradation, and the creation of a Grimm’s fairytale on acid. Now she’s a very sweet, loving girl in spite of what she suffered at the hands of her father, and she hasn’t given up hope of finding the mother who was denied rights to her after divorcing her father.

2. Mrs. Troy actually liked Gemma (whose name was spelt Gema) and spent a great deal of time and money spoiling her and coming to all her cheerleading practices. Now she hates Gemma for trying to “get above her raising,” and forces an unwanted marriage to a much-older man on her as a way to knock her down and punish her for trying to go to college, work a real job, and leave the old neighborhood and generational poverty.

3. Adicia and Ricky still were going to have sex for the first time the night before he had to get on the bus taking him to boot camp, but they would have this silly agreement that they wouldn’t touch one another below the waist. Huh? How can you be comfortable enough to have sex with someone, but not with touching someone’s genitals or having yours touched? Does not compute! (Unless of course you’re my villain Boris, who believes it’s dirty to touch women’s genitals.)

4. And speaking of, the 35-year-old villain Adicia was forced to give her virginity to at age 15 was just some guy her parents wanted her to sleep with to get her broken in for her eventual future marriage to an even-older guy. I’m pretty sure there was nothing in that storyline about her being forced to do it in exchange for money. Now Mrs. Troy coerces her into this vile act in exchange for getting to graduate high school and being guaranteed a handsome husband with a good job. It’s also so this creep will give her the remaining $3,000 to save Mrs. Troy from returning to prison. In the original, Mrs. Troy never even went to prison for anything. In the rewrite, she embezzles $5,000 to pay for Lucine’s forced wedding that never happens. (I did not depict this scene, and only related it through Adicia’s general narration the next day. I draw the line at depicting rape or child abuse.)

5. Carlos was apparently wanted by the cops for various crimes some time before he was paralyzed, and was hiding out in various squats and safe houses. Carlos is actually even seedier in the original. Now, he’s just a dunce who’s done too many drugs. He’s sort of like the dark comic relief.

6. Gemma’s husband was the one named Giovanni, and her son was named Francis. Now it’s the unwanted husband who’s named Francesco, and the baby who’s named Giovanni. I’m glad I misremembered, since I love the name Giovanni too much to use it on such a despicable character.

7. Gemma was a practicing Satanist and secretly married her Satanist boyfriend. Um, yeah, right. I’m pretty sure most people hadn’t even heard of Satanism back then, and if they had, they were horrified by the mere notion. Thank you, Beatrice Sparks, for giving so many impressionable young people such a bogus view of what Satanism actually is! (I also had her version of Satanism in Saga I of Cinnimin, when next door neighbor Lotta and a bunch of her friends get into Satanism and do a lot of the same stuff “Dr.” Sparks made up for Jay’s Journal, complete with having bizarre initiations, killing cats, out of body experiences, and journeys to Hell. Hey, I was only 13, and extremely impressionable. This was long before the Internet, when I could’ve easily discovered the truth about “Dr.” Sparks and the books she’s WRITTEN, not “edited.”)

8. Ricky and his parents move to Manhattan in 1968. Now they move in 1972.

9. Ricky was supposed to serve 10 months in Vietnam, which was very convenient because he’d return when the baby was a month old. Adicia wasn’t even going to tell him about the baby till he got home and she led him into the nursery. (Now she co-sleeps, as do Allen and Lenore with their kids. Attachment parenting and natural childbirth are prominently featured in the book, but in a way that feels natural for the characters and the historical era, not something forced in to preach at the reader and push my own beliefs.) Um, a tour of duty is supposed to be at least a year, and considering he’s one of the final numbers called up during the last active year of the draft lottery, he wouldn’t even have been in Vietnam for a whole year! (You’ll have to read the book to see just what happens to him.)

10. There’s little to no indication this is historical fiction. It’s rather like the earliest drafts of my first Atlantic City books and the original sections of the first six chapters of my Russian novel—it just happens to take place in an earlier era, but the historical details are little more than window-dressing. (This is why I objected when it was suggested on a message board awhile ago that my Russian novel is a historical romance. Nothing wrong with historical romance, but the history in a historical romance is usually little more than window-dressing and doesn’t really directly impact the plot or the characters. And there’s tons more going on than just the love story, esp. considering Lyuba and Ivan don’t make love for the first time till about page 800.)

Now it does read like true historical fiction set from 1959-74. My heart belongs to the music of that era, and it was great fun to work in so many of the classic rock and oldies songs and albums. Part IV in particular also has women’s lib playing a prominent role in the themes and Adicia’s inner-development. There are also references to people’s ideas of “proper” values of the time, such as how Allen has to pretend to be Lenore’s husband when she’s in the hospital, and how they later have to pretend to be married again when they’re all staying at a hotel on Long Island in May 1966. And it’s Gemma’s horrific experience with twilight sleep and the prenatal care of the era that inspires the rest of her sisters to have natural childbirths, and makes Allen determined to keep Lenore out of the hospital when she gives birth. The adult characters Mrs. Doyle and Mrs. van Niftrik also say they can’t even remember giving birth, and they don’t like that. Meanwhile Mrs. Troy and Mrs. Rossi push the more common view of the era on its way out, that the doctor knows best and that Gemma is being stupid and willful for objecting to what happened to her and thinking the doctor should’ve told her what he was doing.

I also had a lot of fun reading vintage pamphlets on the Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health website, and watching vintage sex ed and puberty filmstrips on YouTube and other sites. All the pamphlets and filmstrips referenced and discussed in the book really existed, even the 1946 Disney cartoon The Story of Menstruation. And of course, there’s plenty of hate for the belts of the era. I was so naïve as to have believed at that age that sanitary napkins always had adhesive strips on the back! I vaguely knew pads used to have belts, since I’d read some coming of age books set in earlier eras, but I guess I didn’t know exactly what those belts were used for, or that pads had to be attached to belts since there weren’t any adhesive strips.

Sweet Saturday Samples


This week for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m presenting another excerpt from Chapter 29 of Adicia’s story, “Allen and Lenore’s Romance.” It’s the day after Lenore’s 18th birthday, and Adicia, her sisters, and their friends have come over to the apartment to give Lenore their presents and celebrate with her. Bit by bit, Lenore confesses to them what happened last night.


Adicia, Justine, Ernestine, Julie, and the Ryans come up to the apartment on Saturday afternoon, carrying a shopping bag with their birthday presents for Lenore.  Lenore seems a bit moony-eyed as she greets them.

“You seem different,” Ernestine says. “Does that happen to everyone when they turn eighteen and magically become adults?”

“Did you feel different overnight when you turned thirteen and became a teenager?” Lenore asks her.

“A little,” Ernestine says. “Girl says she didn’t feel like a teenager right away.”

Girl pulls up a seat at the kitchen table and sits with her head in her elbows, an annoyed look on her face.  When Lenore offers the children birthday cake, Girl gives a little sigh and accepts a thin slice.  She says nothing as she slowly chews the cake.

“What’s eating you?” Lenore asks. “You’re usually so animated.”

“She started menstruating last night,” Ernestine tattles.

Adicia looks at Girl with a mixture of jealousy, admiration, and surprise. “Why’d you keep it a secret?  You didn’t say anything about that when Justine and me met yous guys at your place.”

“I was not looking forward to this,” Girl grumbles. “I wanted to hold out till I was seventeen.  Lucky Ernestine still ain’t gotten hers.”

“She went across the hall to Mrs. van Niftrik for help when she realized what was going on,” Julie says. “She said Mrs. van Niftrik thought her homemade washable napkins were ingenious, and so much more practical and thrifty than the Modess napkins and the belt she uses.  Betsy turned thirteen in March, but she hasn’t menstruated yet.  I’m glad I have at least two more years left to not have it.”

“What did Allen get you for your birthday?” Baby asks, glad she’s only eight years old and too young to be dealing with such a situation.

“A stuffed monkey, perfume, blue flat-soled shoes, and an emerald bracelet,” Lenore smiles. “He spends too much money on me.”

“A guy only spends so much money on a girl when he really likes her,” Ernestine says. “You think he’ll come home from work this evening with more gifts?”

“Even if he does, I’m not wishing for anything more!” Lenore says. “Your brother has already gotten me a miniature zoo, and now he’s gotten me jewelry, shoes, and perfume!”

“Can we go out to the park after you open your presents?” Infant asks.

“Sure, that’ll be fun,” Lenore says.

She takes the bag from Boy and pulls out the presents, wrapped in newspaper.  Ernestine and her friends pooled together their money and got her a mauve-colored jewelry box with seashells and bits of rounded colored glass for decoration, Adicia got her a compact mirror with rhinestones with some of her windshield-washing money, and Justine got her a potholder she made in her kindergarten class.  All of the other girls were making them for their mothers or grandmothers, but only Justine had to make hers for an older female friend who serves as one of her surrogate mothers.  She used green, white, red, and yellow loops.

“Someday when we’re older and have jobs, we’ll get you presents as nice as the ones Allen got,” Adicia promises.

“He took me out to a Greek restaurant for supper too,” Lenore says. “He held my hand part of the way home.”

“How romantic!” Ernestine says. “I think hand-holding is very underrated.”

“And then when we were watching television after we got home, he put his arm around me.”

“How exciting!” Julie says. “I bet you didn’t put up a fight when he did either of those things.”

“He asked my permission for both things,” Lenore says proudly. “I know a lot of guys would just make their move and not even think about if the girl was interested in that.  You should’ve seen how nervous he was about asking me if he could kiss me.”

“What!” Ernestine gasps, a big smile appearing on her face. “My brother really kissed you, on the mouth I’d assume?”

Lenore giggles nervously. “It was very nice.”

“What does it feel like?” Girl asks, suddenly interested in her surroundings. “Not that I wanna do that with anyone till I’m a bit older, but I’m curious.  I should know what to expect.”

“Like being tickled by butterflies,” Lenore says. “You can feel invisible electric sparks and you get butterflies in your stomach.”

“I don’t know why anyone would wanna do that,” Infant says, wrinkling her nose. “It’s like chewing on someone’s face.  Older people do lots of stuff I think is goofy.”

“You’re only six, sweetie.  When you’re my age, you’ll probably think a lot differently.” Lenore picks up her purse. “Now who wants to go out to the park?  I’ll buy yous guys snacks or ice-cream if we pass a vendor.”

“That’s it?” Girl asks. “You’re gonna drop the bomb that Allen kissed you last night and then leave it at that?  No other details?”

“I wouldn’t want to bore you with details when you’ve never had your own boyfriend.  I don’t think you could really understand what I’m talking about if you haven’t experienced it yet.  Besides, I think Ernestine, Adicia, and Justine might be a little grossed-out if I go into any more detail about their own brother kissing me.”

“You’re right,” Adicia says immediately. “I hope no boy kisses me till I’m at least eighteen.”

“When you’re eighteen?” Justine asks. “I don’t want to do that ever, with any boy!”

“I told you,” Lenore says.

Girl looks at her in awe as they file out of the apartment, as though she’s now a species from another planet.  She knows Lenore is five years older than she is, but now she seems even older by mere virtue of having a boyfriend.  That’s the kind of growing up experience she’d prefer to be having right about now, instead of being stuck having her first unwanted menstrual period.

Warm Fuzzies Blogfest, Week Four


For the final week of the Warm Fuzzies Blogfest, we’re being asked what makes it all worth it as a writer, and to share something from a WIP or finished work that’s one of our own Warm Fuzzies moments. I’ve known how to read since I was three and started writing (primarily picture books) when I was four, so I can’t really remember a time I wasn’t writing in some form or another. When I was a preteen, my stories started getting longer and more complex, and I settled on historical fiction as my great love in the fourth grade. Twentieth century historical fiction soon won out over 19th century historical fiction, and that’s what I’ve been writing ever since (along with select soft sci-fi).

What makes it all worth it for me is knowing, if I’m good enough, I’ll be remembered as a writer for all time, like Shakespeare, Dante, Hermann Hesse, Kahlil Gibran, Mark Twain, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Yes, they wrote about issues relevant to their own eras and geographical locations, but the books and stories themselves resonate across cultures and eras because they didn’t write to trends or try to copy an in vogue writing style. They just wrote from the heart. Writing non-YA books that are all of 300 pages would never cut it for me. I feel so much pride and accomplishment upon finishing one of my sagas, even knowing many people now react to someone who’s written a saga that goes WAY above 100,000 words the same way many people react when they learn a woman didn’t have a C-section for twins, a baby over 10 pounds, or a non-transverse breech. That used to be the norm, but only because it’s been so long since it was, it’s now viewed with surprise or disbelief, like they don’t realize people still do that when no one has told them they can’t or shouldn’t.

Many of my storylines and books are memorized in my head for years before I get to them. My recently-finished 406,000-word Russian novel sequel was locked in my head for about 15 years before I was able to really get down to it, though I’m glad I had the notes/outline from 10 years ago to refresh my memory about some plot points. I got the idea for a sequel when I wasn’t even halfway done with the first book. All I can say is, thank God I decided to change the juvenile original plot structure so that Lyuba and Ivan would be together, and that they’d secretly been in love since they were children. Had Lyuba indeed permanently ended up with Boris, and had Boris never turned to the dark side of his personality, not only would the first book have been extremely boring, short, and predictable, but it also wouldn’t have left much room for a natural sequel.

After keeping this book in my head for about half of my life (since that’s what 15 years represents to someone who’s not quite 32), it felt so good and liberating to advance in my progress, and to finally get down on paper scenes, chapters, and lines I’d had memorized since I was rather young. Chapter 41, “Union with a Snake,” just came blasting out of me, as did Chapter 43, “Facing the Music in Minnesota,” Chapter 45 (the final chapter), “Who’s the Father?,” and the Epilogue, “No Thirteenth Time.” One of the chapters for the future third book, “Lyuba Becomes a Levshá,” is also now memorized in my head. (Levshá is the Russian word for a lefty, and in the third book, another part of a nightmare Lyuba has in the second book comes true. Not to give away too much, but she gets in an accident in late 1938, while eight months pregnant with her eighth child, that renders her right arm and hand pretty much useless.)

For my own Warm Fuzzies moment, I’m sharing something not from one of my Russian novels, but from Adicia’s story. There have been quite a few books I’ve put on permanent hiatus over the years, or that I planned to write but lost interest in, but only Adicia’s story did I ever come back to. After 16.5 years after the first of my two disk files got some kind of bug, I finally bit the bullet and went back to reconstruct it from memory as best I could, and using the storyline I’d had memorized in my head since 1993. And I’m so glad that first part of the discontinued first draft was only miraculously resurrected some months after I’d finished the book, since it just wasn’t bringing the story in a very positive or well-plotted direction.

It was like a Grimm’s fairytale on acid, with characters who aren’t particularly three-dimensional, and with a really annoying, D.W. Griffith-like narrative essentially telling the reader to feel sorry for Adicia. The purple prose describing their poverty and the parents’ and older brothers’ drug use was also way over the top. It’s much more realistic and natural when Allen, the one decent Troy brother, goes clean and makes good in the new version, since he’s depicted from the jump as a nice guy who loves his sisters, doesn’t drink or use drugs nearly as often as his parents and older brother Carlos, who prefers the relatively innocuous pot over the harder drugs the other three are frequently imbibing, and who desperately wants to find a way out of this life. In the discontinued first draft, his move from druggie, drunk, sleeparound, thug, and thief to stand-up family man, protector of his sisters, sober person, and hard worker is pretty damn sudden. I didn’t realize at 13/14 that you can’t just have characters completely reform their established personalities overnight, for no compelling reason. It has to follow the story and character trajectory that’s already been established.

Anyway, one of the reasons I finally got back to the book was because I didn’t think my conscience would ever forgive me if I didn’t. I owed it to that dear little girl who was the real-life inspiration for Adicia. There are a number of chapters in Adicia’s story that give me warm fuzzies and that I was really excited to get to, like when Allen and his sisters first meet Lenore and invite her into their home, when Allen and Lenore finally get together romantically, when Adicia first meets Ricky, when Justine arrives in Hudson Falls to join Adicia and Ricky after her harrowing escape from Manhattan, when Allen and Lenore get married, and when Ernestine first meets Girl and Boy Ryan (as they’re then called). But my favorite part, my whole reason for writing the book, is Chapter 26, “Rendezvous with Destiny.” Here in its entirety, and with some new lines correcting my embarrassing oversight of not having any lefties. (I always have at least a few lefties and ambidextrals in my sets of characters, and if I get famous enough, I’ll be proud to have characters in the rather lacking literary canon of lefties.)


“Window-washing,” Girl says. “I’ve scored so much money from it I’ve been able to buy Beatles’ records after we’ve bought our food supply for the week.”

She, Ernestine, and Julie are sitting around talking to Adicia and Justine on a balmy day in June, while Boy, Baby, and Infant are off begging and performing for money in Chelsea.  Since losing Emeline at the beginning of February, Adicia and Justine have been coming over to see Ernestine fairly often.  She’s the only older sister they have left whom they know the whereabouts of, and they always feel better after they visit with her.  Right now Girl is suggesting to them ways they can make some extra money over the summer vacation.

“Don’t the drivers get mad and cuss you out?” Adicia asks warily.

“A couple of ‘em always do, but you gotta grow a thicker skin if you wanna make a living off of begging and doing odd jobs like this.  Some don’t curse me or honk, but they don’t give me any money.  Most of ‘em are decent and give me a quarter.  Sometimes I get a whole dollar.  Even though most New Yorkers take public transportation, there are still tons of cars.  And with daylight hours so long this time of year, you can hustle up plenty of unwitting customers each day.  Whenever there’s a red light or some kind of road delay, you go up to a car and wash the windshield, maybe the side windows if you got enough time.  I guarantee you’ll get plenty of change by the end of the day.”

“Where do you work?” Justine asks. “Just in your neighborhood?”

“We make the rounds.  Here in the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, the West Village, sometimes even up into your appropriately-named hellhole of a neighborhood.”

“It’s not such a far walk,” Ernestine says. “Yous guys walk here to see us often enough.  All you need to get started is a bucket of soapy water and a sponge or rag.  We can even demonstrate to you how to do it on onea the cars parked down on the street.”

“But you can’t really mess it up,” Girl says. “Ain’t no wrong way to wash a car windshield, so long as you don’t accidentally use a bucket full of coal dust or something.”

“Do I need two buckets?” Adicia asks. “I don’t want people to get angry at me if I wash their windshields with the same dirty water I used on thirty or fifty other cars that same day.”

“You don’t need one bucket of clean water and another of soapy water,” Girl says. “So long as you wring out your sponge or rag before you use it to wipe off the soapy stuff.  I’m sure none of these drivers are expecting a professional carwash from a street urchin like us.”

“Could we be reported to the cops for washing their cars without permission?” Justine asks.

“How would they get our names or addresses?” Girl scoffs. “The most they can do is honk or yell.  They can’t very well drive their cars away when they’re stuck at a red light or stopped in the middle of rush hour, and they’d be damn stupid if they up and walked out of their cars, leaving them abandoned in the middle of the road.”

“So long as you don’t make the mistake of washing a cop car,” Ernestine says. “Then I’m sure there might be some trouble.”

“You think I might get extra dough if I washed a limo or some fancy rich person’s car?” Adicia asks.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a limo or a really expensive car coming through the likes of our neck of the woods, but I’m sure it’s possible,” Girl says.

“Make sure you’ve got nice deep pockets when you do this,” Ernestine says. “I always have a purse with me too, just in case I get so much change it won’t all fit in my pockets.”

“Can I do this too?” Justine asks. “I’m so small, I don’t think I could reach up to the windshields.”

“Maybe you’re a little bit too short for it, but Adicia is just the right size,” Girl says. “She’s small for her age.  The drivers might not always realize someone’s about to wash their cars when they get to a light.  They’ll suddenly see a hand coming up and will be stuck.”

“It’s sure easier money than begging or performing,” Ernestine says. “At least this way, you know for sure you’ve got money coming to you from most of the jobs you do.”

“Has anyone ever pulled a gun on you or yelled at you so bad you had to run away?” Adicia asks worriedly. “I do live in a bad neighborhood.”

“Who could get mad at some poor street kid?” Julie asks. “They’ll know by our ragged clothes and dirty faces that we’re not privileged uptown kids and that we’re one of them.  Who could say no to giving one of us urchins some spare change?  I got a whole dollar a few times too.”

“So have I,” Ernestine says.

“Ever get any five dollar bills or anything above that?” Justine asks.

Girl laughs. “The drivers might take pity on us or do the decent thing, but they ain’t nuts.  You don’t hand out five or ten bucks like candy to street kids.”

“I don’t know if we have a bucket back at our tenement,” Adicia says. “Our mother never washes the floors or windows with anything besides some rag or a mop.”

“Then you’re just in luck, since we have a supply of buckets,” Girl says, going over to one of the closets. “Me, Ernestine, and Julie each have one, and it looks like there’s one more for you.  All you do is fill it up at the beginning of the day and put some soap powder in it, then drop a sponge or large rag in it.  Do you have any of them at your place?”

“My mother won’t notice or care her cleaning rag is missing,” Adicia says. “I think we’ve got at least one sponge too.”

“Perfect.  And if you notice the water getting too rank, just dump it out and get a fresh supply at a nearby fire hydrant or fountain.  I carry around a little packet of soap powder in case that ever happens.  I’m smart like that.”

“Where do you store your extra money, when you’re done buying food, records, and whatever else you buy?  I don’t want my parents to discover my car-washing money and use it to buy drugs or booze.”

“This is a pretty safe neighborhood and building, so I don’t worry ‘bout people breaking in and taking our money, but just in case, I store our extra dough in a hole in the davenport.  Some people store their valuables in a hole in the bed, though I don’t like the idea of destroying our beds.”

Adicia feels very excited at the thought of having money to keep and spend for her very own, and feels full of nervous excitement and anticipation over going out to wash strangers’ windshields and make it happen.  Sarah once told her everything new seems scary the first time you do it, but sometimes the nervousness makes it better or more exciting.

“I wouldn’t get a piggybank if I was you,” Ernestine says. “Our parents have no shame, so they’d probably raid it.  Our dad took money from Tommy’s piggybank once, and caught hell from our mother, but I know she wouldn’t see anything evil about taking money from her daughters’ piggybanks.”

“I also recommend hiding money in furniture legs,” Girl says.

Ernestine looks at her best friend’s free-swinging breasts and laughs. “I know something else you need to buy with your car-washing money, and that’s a bra.  You could get arrested for indecent exposure if you walk around in public much longer with those things swinging around like that.”

“Why should I wear onea them things?  As far as I’m concerned, they’re just a more updated form of the corset string or Chinese foot-binding.”

“Well, we are twelve years old now.  Girls our age are supposed to be wearing bras by now if we’ve got bustlines.  Emeline was sporting an ample bustline by our age too.  She was even younger than us when she started sprouting breasts, as a matter of fact.”

“Soon you’ll both need belts and sanitary napkins,” Adicia says. “What’s that long word again for when you bleed every month?”

“Menstruation,” Girl says. “Thank God, that ain’t happened to either of us yet.  Don’t worry, I’m not so radical I intend to go around bleeding into my clothes every month.  I think we’ll make our own to save money.  We can get some snaps for cheap at a home goods store, and then stuff some cut-out rags with cotton or old washcloths.  Damn those stupid belts your older sisters have to use.  I know there’s a better way to handle that time of the month, and I ain’t about to finance the fat cats who run those companies.  I’m sure most of ‘em are men, since a woman would probably never design such horrid things.  Come on, having to wear a belt around your waist under your clothes, and having to fasten a napkin to said belt with hooks or pins?  That sounds like a form of Medieval torture!”

“We saw an awful filmstrip in my class this year about menstruation,” Ernestine says. “Lucine and Emeline were right about how terrible those filmstrips are.  The pamphlets we girls got stunk too.  They were called ‘Growing Up and Liking It,’ from Modess.  The time when I start to wear lipstick and go on my first date, what baloney.  Poor kids like us don’t get to wear makeup or have boy-girl parties.  And I have more pressing things to do with my time than keep track of my menstrual cycle in that calendar.”

“That pamphlet was a hoot,” Girl says. “I lost track of how many times they used the words ‘dainty’ and ‘daintiness.’  Ain’t nothing dainty about us urchin girls.  Who wants to be dainty anyway?  Dainty girls and women are a waste of society.  They don’t do nothing to contribute to it.  All they do is sit around putting on makeup, dancing, and throwing supper parties.  A delicate girl would never last a day in our world.”

“Can we get back to what we were talking about?” Adicia is dreading the time when she too starts to become a young woman. “When can I start washing people’s windshields?”

“Let’s go outside and have a practice run on a parked car right now.” Girl drags a bucket over to the kitchen sink, which looks more like a basin sink than a normal-sized kitchen sink. “You’ll be a pro in no time.”

“And remember to come back to us and report how you’re doing,” Julie says. “You’re newer to it than we are.  You might need some advice, or just want to share how much dough you’re raking in.”

“Oh, yes, let’s compare how much we’re each making!” Ernestine says. “Of us three, so far Girl is in the lead, but then again, she’s been a street kid her whole twelve years and knows how to do these things.  Julie and I haven’t been in the business quite so long, even if we’re all from poor families.”

“We’ll meet back here in a week to discuss how you’ve done your first week in business,” Girl tells Adicia. “With a sweet face like yours, who could resist giving you some extra change?  You look like such a dear little ragdoll, someone everyone would feel pity and compassion for.  You don’t even need to do nothing extra to act the part, since you were born to play it.”


Adicia was nervous about starting to wash strangers’ car windows and windshields, but quickly came to realize Girl, Ernestine, and Julie were right about how simple it is, and how many drivers would take pity on her and give her some change.  During her time in operation so far, she’s canvassed most of the blocks of Hell’s Kitchen, and has found she does blend in pretty well.  Even tough-looking people leave her alone or at most glance at her before moving on.  They know she’s no danger to them, not a girl from the moneyed classes trying to pass herself off as one of the underclass.

At most she’s gotten a dollar bill when people don’t have change, but usually she gets a quarter or a half-dollar.  Some people have been cheapskates and only given her a dime, but they’re far and few between.  Her favorite place to get business, though, is one light that seems to always last for a good three minutes.  With the cars forced to stop for that long, she has more time than usual to wash the windows.  She tries to impress the drivers by how seriously she undertakes her endeavor, instead of trying to smile at them and make small talk.  If they smile at her, though, she’ll return the smile.

Adicia wonders if some of them might have been in her shoes when they were young themselves, and so feel obligated to help her out in the small way they can.  She also wonders what they might be assuming about her.  Maybe some of them think she doesn’t go to school, or that she’s homeless, or that she’s an orphan.

One day, not that long after she’s begun her business, she sees a nicer car than usual pulling to a stop at the light.  Not wasting a moment of the long light to admire the car, she immediately puts up her left hand to start washing the windshield.  She hopes the driver thinks she’s doing a good job with his nice car, and is glad he’s not one of the drivers who’s given her a strange look upon realizing she’s a southpaw.  Though she isn’t wasting any time in the three minutes she’s got to do her job and make a good impression, she does notice out of the corner of her eye that the driver has a kind face.  Hopefully he’ll be a nice guy and give her a quarter or even a whole dollar bill.

As the light changes, she stands back and waits for him to give her her fair due.  She sees him reaching into his pockets to search for change, then hesitating when he pulls out a bill.  Adicia hopes he doesn’t want to cheap her out by giving her nothing or only change if a dollar bill is all he’s got.  Then, with cars starting to honk at him to get moving, he hands her the bill and starts to drive away.

Adicia glances at it, expecting to see the familiar face of George Washington, but instead sees a different face.  Her eyes widen and she looks at the departing driver in pure astonishment when she realizes that she’s just been given a ten dollar bill.  She can’t decide if he’s a millionaire or just some local philanthropist who likes to give larger bills to needy children.  At any rate, this is definitely the most money she’s ever going to earn washing windshields, and a story that Ernestine and her friends will probably never believe without the evidence.


“No way!” Ernestine gasps in astonishment when Adicia pulls out the ten dollar bill. “Some guy in a fancy car gave you ten whole bucks just for washing his windshield?”

“I wish I’d been on that street that day and been able to catch him too,” Julie says jealously.

“Maybe he’s a celebrity who’s in town for the opening of his new movie or play,” Girl says. “Or maybe he’s a new resident with a little money.  Boy, I hope the rest of us run into him too, and often.”

“He hesitated a little when he first pulled it out, like he wasn’t sure about giving me so much money,” Adicia says. “Maybe that was all he had, and he felt bad for me and gave it to me anyway.”

“Who cares why he gave it to you!” Ernestine says. “The most important thing is that he did give it to you!  Now we just need to decide what we’re going to spend our new fortune on.  God knows you don’t get ten bucks for doing that every day.”

“You said Betsy is going to a Beatles’ concert in town in late August.  I know you, Girl, and Julie love them too, and would really love to go to that show with Betsy.”

“Don’t you even think about that,” Girl chides her. “I ain’t so crazy about them that I’d use a friend’s surprise fortune, which you’ll probably never be seeing again anytime soon, to pay for some concert tickets.  A concert is over in a little while and don’t last like, say, a new dress or a sturdy pair of shoes.  Even buying a nice meal at a restaurant would be better than wasting it on a concert.”

“Ten bucks can buy a lot of candy,” Justine says, propping her rabbit up on a pillow.

“It could probably also pay for a visit to the dentist after you rot all your teeth from eating ten bucks worth of candy,” Girl says. “I say we should look at some catalogues to determine average prices of stuff we need, and then if there’s any money left over, use that for something we don’t need, like some gumdrops or a record.”

“Lucine got five bucks once from the Bowery Mission people when she volunteered to wash dishes after Thanksgiving supper,” Ernestine says. “They felt bad for her and gave her some money instead.  She used it to buy a baby-sized coat for Justine.  She was the warmest of all of us girls that winter.”

“It’s a good thing your mother don’t know about this,” Girl says. “Knowing her, she’d make you give her your hard-earned money.  Bad mothers like her have this attitude of what’s yours is mine, and feel it’s their right to take everything away from their own children.  I hope that bitch rots in Hell or comes back to earth as a neglected child herself someday.”

“I probably could use some new clothes,” Adicia admits. “It’s no fun wearing these ragged hand-me-downs my whole life.  And I don’t think I’ve had a new pair of shoes ever.”

“With only about two bucks, we could buy some milk, eggs, and bread,” Julie says.

“We could buy a ticket to the World’s Fair that’s in town,” Girl says. “It’s only a buck for kids to get in.”

“It’s here in Manhattan?” Julie asks. “I heard it was in one of the other boroughs.”

“It’s in Queens, so we’d have to take the subway,” Girl says.

“I’d love to go to the fair, but that would be eight dollars for tickets for all of us,” Adicia muses. “It wouldn’t be fair if only some of us went.”

“Where do you think the ticket money would go to?” Ernestine asks. “I know I’d feel uncomfortable if I knew it was going to rich fat cats who live off of our sweat and blood.”

“How about a belated birthday present for Allen, or a birthday gift for Lenore?” Adicia suggests.

“I’m sure they’d love the thought, but would insist you keep your money to spend on yourself,” Ernestine says. “It’s not every day you score so much money from just washing a windshield.”

“Speaking of Allen and Lenore, is there any word about whether they’re finally more than friends?” Girl asks, grinning.

“Nope,” Ernestine sighs. “Lenore’s almost seventeen now, Allen just turned twenty, and he still won’t lay a hand on her.  I bet she’s wondering at this point why a good-looking nice guy like him hasn’t even been on a single date in the almost two years she’s known him.”

“He said it would feel like cheating on her if he dated someone else,” Adicia says. “Anyway, I do like the idea of clothes, but at my age, I’m still growing.  Those clothes and shoes would be too small for me in another year or two, and Justine is a bit over four and a half years younger than me.  She’d have to wait a long time to wear them, and they’d be old by then.”

“Well, what else could we get that’s practical and that you need?” Girl asks. “Get some nice clothes.  Don’t think about how you’ll outgrow them eventually.  You get what you need when you need it.  It’s the same reason we spend money on food, even though before long the food turns into waste products.”

Adicia suddenly looks worried. “Do you think the saleslady would think we stole the money if we come in there looking like we do and have a ten dollar bill to spend?  Kids like us don’t just come into bills like that on our own.”

“We’ll wear our nicest clothes and scrub our faces and hands really well,” Julie says. “If anyone asks, you can say you have a nice relative with some money who gave it to you as a present.”

“Let me start by brushing your hair,” Ernestine says. “Then you’ll scrub up real well and borrow one of Julie’s dresses.  You two are about the same size, and she’s got nicer clothes than most of yours now.”

“Julie is taller than me,” Adicia protests.

“I know I’m a little bigger than you in that way, but our body types are both little,” Julie says. “That’s called petite, right?”

Girl nods. “You both have small bones, even if you ain’t the same height.  Now let’s start getting you spruced up so we can go out to a store and look for some decent clothes and shoes.  Maybe you can even buy the clothes a little bit too big so you can grow into them and keep them longer.  If we’ve got any money left over, you can buy a treat for yourself.”


Since it gets hot in the factory turned apartment building, the van Niftriks have let the six children across the hall borrow one of their electric fans for the summer.  It’s a good thing, since it’s now July and the sticky heat is really bothering them, particularly Baby and Infant, who are starting to miss the pleasant coolness of the basement in Allen’s apartment.

“Can we listen to something besides The Beatles?” Adicia asks as the girls are lying on the floor and playing records. “I think they sound nice, but I don’t want to get bored of them by listening to only them all day long.”

“Sure thing.  The Four Seasons are still my favorites, no matter how much I love The Beatles.” Betsy stands up. “I’ll go over to my place and bring back a couple of their records, and some other non-Beatles stuff too.  It probably is a good idea to break it up with other music.”

“I hope you don’t think I sound ungrateful,” Adicia says as Betsy’s going back to her apartment for the new records. “I know I’ve never gotten to listen to our own records before, but I don’t want to get sick of listening to the same songs or band over and over again, no matter how good they are.”

“It’s a good point,” Girl says. “I get sick of a song too when I hear it too much.  You can have too much of a good thing.”

“Do you have a favorite, Adicia?” Ernestine asks.

“A favorite what?”

“A favorite Beatle, of course,” Girl says. “Though you ain’t seen them on television like we have.  You’ve only heard their songs and seen their pictures.  Maybe it’s easier to choose your favorite when you’ve seen them in motion and heard them talking.  Ernestine and I both like John best, Julie likes Paul, and Betsy’s favorite is Ringo.”

“I never really thought about it.  I have to live in that hellhole with my parents, so I have other things to occupy my time besides picking a favorite Beatle.”

“You’re probably right,” Girl admits. “The three of us wouldn’t have cared about that either only a short time ago.”

Betsy comes back in carrying a small pile of records. “Here you go.  Some of them are a little old, but I hope you don’t mind.  The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, and Ricky Nelson.  I have a bunch more, but I didn’t want to bring over too many of them.”

Adicia reaches over for the record on the top of the pile, Rag Doll, by The Four Seasons.  The face of one of the bandmembers looks oddly familiar, though she can’t quite place where in the world she would’ve seen any famous person before.  Then, as she keeps staring at it, it suddenly dawns on her.

“What’s wrong, Adicia?” Julie asks. “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”

“That man, the one on the far left.  He looks exactly like the fellow who gave me ten bucks for washing his windshield.”

“What!” Ernestine says. “I really think you’re imagining things.  What would a member of a famous band be doing driving through Hell’s Kitchen and handing out ten-dollar bills to street kids?”

Adicia paws through the pile of records and picks out the rest of the Four Seasons records Betsy brought over.  Each time she sees his face, the more convinced she becomes that he and the man whose windshield she washed are one and the same person.

“Betsy, this man, what’s his name?”

“That one?” Betsy asks, looking at which one Adicia is pointing to in all of her records. “That’s Bob Gaudio.  He plays the piano and writes a lot of their songs.  Do you really mean to tell us you think he was the one who gave you that money?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe he just bears a resemblance.  It could happen.”

“That’s probably all there is to it,” Ernestine says.

Adicia still can’t shake the feeling from her head. “Betsy, do you have any other pictures of this band I could look at?  I really want to find out if I’m just seeing things or if this really is the same guy.”

“Sure, they’re my favorite band, I’ve got tons of pictures and clippings of them.” Betsy jumps up again. “I’ll be right back with my scrapbook.”

Adicia sits shaking and confused while she waits what feels like forever to Betsy to come back from across the hall.  While the Rag Doll record is playing, she pores through Betsy’s extensive scrapbook of The Four Seasons, looking at every picture and news clipping carefully.  Her heart is racing by the time she gets to the last page.

“That’s the man,” she insists. “The tall guy in that band is the one who gave me ten dollars for washing his windshield.  I would swear on my own life that that is exactly the same man.  I’m more and more convinced with every picture of him I see.”

“You’re sure?” Julie asks.

“I am positive he’s exactly the same man.  I’ve seen too many pictures now to just be seeing things or thinking it was some other guy who just looked similar.”

Betsy looks at her with a slight grin, then breaks into a huge smile. “I am so jealous of you!  You actually got to meet one of the members of my favorite band and even got money from him!”

“You met a celebrity!” Girl says excitedly. “I can’t believe one of our kind actually got to meet a real-life celebrity!”

“You washed a millionaire’s windshield!” Ernestine says. “No wonder he gave you ten bucks!”

“Maybe he’ll drive through again and give me fifty bucks next time,” Adicia says hopefully.

“I don’t think he lives here,” Betsy says. “They record at a studio in the city, but when you’re as rich and famous as he is, you don’t hang around in a part of the city like this.”

“I can’t blame him,” Adicia says. “I wouldn’t want to live here if I had money either.  I don’t even want to live here now.”

“Isn’t the title track a sad song?” Girl asks. “It makes me think of one of us.  We’re all girls from the wrong side of the tracks too, laughed at by the rich kids and wearing ragged clothes.  And we’ll probably never be the wife or girlfriend of a boy from the nice part of town, since our kind ain’t supposed to mix.  Even if a guy from money did like one of us, you know his folks would never approve.”

“The song is number one on the charts right now,” Betsy says. “A lot of people like it.”

“So if this is a new song, maybe he wrote it not long after he saw me,” Adicia says. “Do you think it’s possible he was inspired by me?”

“Okay, now you’re probably dreaming,” Ernestine says. “Good songwriters turn ‘em out like candy.  They get inspiration from all sorts of people and stuff.  I mean, maybe it is possible, but I don’t think the odds are in favor of him having written that song because he saw you.”

Adicia pulls herself up into a sitting position and hugs her knees. “I don’t know.  Even if he probably was thinking of someone or something else when he wrote it, it’s nice to know some millionaires are nice people and that a girl like us can be written about in a song that goes to number one.  I’ll never forget how kind he was to me when he didn’t have to give so much money, or even any money, to some sad little girl who does look like a ragdoll.”

Sweet Saturday Samples


This week for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m using the conclusion of Chapter 28 of Adicia’s story, “A Feverish Situation.” It’s June 6, 1965, Allen’s 21st birthday (yes, he was born on D-Day), and he comes home to some wonderful sights and smells, a steak dinner served by his beloved and his little sisters and their friends gathered around the table. (This piece also contains my first bit of editing since I realized my huge, embarrassing oversight in not making any of my characters lefties. Being predominantly left-handed myself, I always make sure to include at least a few lefties in my casts of characters. I’m later going to go back and write in left-handedness for 11 of the characters, nine of the people at this table plus Adicia’s future husband Ricky and one of the older Troy sisters, Emeline.)


Allen comes in after an afternoon of hanging out with his friends on the Sunday of his birthday and smells steak.  Adicia, Justine, Ernestine, Julie, and the Ryans are sitting around the kitchen table, which is topped by a blue and white linen tablecloth and set with some of the china, crystalware, and silverware Allen purchased last year, instead of the usual mismatched dishes they set the table with when they all eat together.  Lenore opens the oven door and takes out the roasting pans where she has been cooking six steaks, baked potatoes, and vegetables.

“Look, Lenore got better enough to make a special supper just for your birthday!” Justine calls.

“I can see,” Allen says, looking at Lenore setting the food on the table. “She looks great.”

“Come sit down!” Infant says. “You get the biggest steak!”

Lenore pulls Allen’s chair out for him and puts the largest steak on his plate.  The girls insisted she get the next-largest steak, while the rest of them are each splitting the other four.  Justine and Infant, Adicia and Julie, Ernestine and Girl, and Boy and Baby divide theirs in two and fill the rest of their plates with the vegetables and baked potatoes.  Julie, the only right-handed person at the table, is once again put on the right-most side of her side of the table to avoid bumping anyone’s elbows.

“Does this mean you’ll be cooking supper most of the time again?” Allen begs. “I really missed your cooking.”

“I missed cooking for you,” Lenore admits. “Now you don’t have to make all my food for me and bring the food over to me.  Your nurse work is done.”

“I’m glad,” Allen says, unable to take his eyes off of her. “Now you can take care of me again.  Every man needs a good woman to take care of him.”

All of the girls notice during supper that Allen has his eyes more on Lenore than on the steak.  Adicia barely understands all of this boy-girl stuff, but knows she does feel very jealous.  She hopes that someday when she’s old enough, she’ll find a guy who’s as crazy about her as her brother is about Lenore and that that guy will look at her with that same kind of love.

“Would you like to see the present I got you?” Lenore asks after they’ve finished supper and had the birthday cake Allen got for free from the bakery.

Justine and Infant go to get the boxes Lenore hid under her bed and deposit them in Allen’s lap.  Lenore looks away from him shyly as he opens them.

“We helped Lenore pick them out!” Justine says proudly.

Allen finds a new pair of black dress shoes, a necktie with diagonal blue, white, and red stripes, a dark blue suit jacket with matching pants, and a white button-down shirt with pale blue vertical stripes.  He looks over at Lenore with an awestruck grin.

“You didn’t have to spend so much money on me for my birthday.  You haven’t even been working for almost five months to be able to afford this.  Besides, it wasn’t that long ago that you were really mad at me and wanted to move out.”

“You’ve been so nice to me when you didn’t have to be.  This is the least I can do to repay you.  Please don’t think you have to get me something expensive on my own birthday just because I did this.”

“Isn’t Lenore still a keeper?” Adicia asks.

“She’s the best!” Justine says.

“Yes, she is,” Allen agrees. “And something tells me she’ll be with us for a very long time to come.  I think this is just the beginning of even better and happier times for our unusual little family here.”

Sweet Saturday Samples


This week, for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m sampling another portion of Chapter 28 of Adicia’s story, “A Feverish Situation.” It’s the spring of 1965, and Lenore has slowly been recovering from her ordeal in the winter. Right now she’s talking with Allen’s little sisters Ernestine, Adicia, and Justine, and their friends Julie and the Ryan sisters (whose now-absent parents gave them the anonymous monikers Girl, Baby, and Infant). The girls are teasing Lenore about her feelings for Allen and trying to get her to confess what they all know.


Girl smiles at her. “I think it’s obvious to all of us here that you really like Allen, and we’d have to be blind to not have known for a long time now that he’s got a major thing for you.  Why don’t you just tell him you like him?  Are you afraid he’ll laugh at you for being the one to tell him first?”

“What are you talking about?” Lenore demands. “He’s told me on a couple of occasions he’s in love with this one girl, but he hasn’t approached her about it ‘cause he thinks she’d never have him.  I also think he hasn’t asked that girl out ‘cause she’d never want to go steady with a fellow who has a female roommate.  It’s been almost three years now that he’s been celibate on account of me.”

“He was probably saying he likes you without up and telling you he likes you,” Ernestine says. “Didn’t you tell him you liked some other guy that would probably never have you?  God knows we all know you were referring to him when you told him that!”

“You think I like him?” Lenore blushes. “Even if I did, he’d never be interested in me in that way.  I’m too young for him, and at almost eighteen I’ve never had a boyfriend.  I think I’m healed enough from what my father did to me to feel ready to do things with a guy, but a guy who’s had a lot of girls would never consider going out with a girl who would need a lesson in how to kiss.”

“I know Allen had his first girl when he was thirteen,” Ernestine says. “He says he met some eighteen-year-old girl who invited him up to her place and taught him some things.  We all lost count of how many girls he had since then, but none of ‘em lasted very long.  Longest was five months.  He never loved any of ‘em.  They were just girls to pass the time with.  You’d be the only girl he really loved and who he waited for, instead of doing all that grownup stuff within the first few dates.  I know if I had a boyfriend, I’d feel it was more special if he didn’t kiss me or try to make out immediately.  It probably means more when you’ve known each other for awhile and you saved it to look forward to.”

“You’re thirteen now yourself,” Lenore reminds her. “If Allen is any kind of good big brother, he’d never let you get away with doing things with boys at your age.  Maybe he learnt from his mistakes.”

“Boys are allowed to do that stuff at any age, pretty much, and go unpunished,” Girl says. “Us girls get crucified if we do anything with a boy one second before marriage.  I wanna know how guys are supposed to get all of this experience they’re allowed to have with girls before they settle down.  Are they going around with all the same girls, or are these girls too afraid to admit what they’ve done?”

“Anyway, what are we going to do special for Allen’s birthday?” Adicia asks, not quite understanding what Lenore, Ernestine, and Girl are talking about.

“How much money have you still got in your bank account?” Girl asks.

“I’m not old enough for my own bank account, at least not without a co-signer,” Lenore says. “I was always paid in cash, and I saved the cash in a jar in my room.  There’s probably enough to buy some nice food and a decent present.”

“Make him steak,” Julie says. “That’s a really nice meal, and something normal people don’t get to eat every day of the week.”

“And you can buy him a suit,” Ernestine says. “Allen doesn’t have a formal suit.  I’m sure he’d really appreciate getting his first real suit from the girl he loves.  If he’s going to move up in the chain of command at the bakery, go to college eventually, or someday have another professional job, he’ll need to dress the part.  You don’t have to shell out a fortune to get a decent suit.”

“Make sure to include a necktie with the suit,” Girl says. “I think monkey suits look ridiculous on our boys, but if one of our boys is moving up in the world, he has to wear formal clothes from time to time.  Maybe you can even tie his tie for him if he don’t already know how.”

“White suits look ridiculous,” Adicia says. “I don’t think Allen would wear one even if he did want to wear a suit.  And black suits are too common.  He should stand out in a crowd if he’s gonna wear a suit.”

“You could probably find one in dark blue or even red,” Girl says. “They also make ‘em in gray and tan.  All the formal clothes I’ve seen Allen wear is that old brown vest of his he sometimes wears with a button-down shirt and a bowtie.  I think he got the dress pants he wears with that getup from a secondhand clothing store.”

“He could use a new pair of nice shoes too,” Julie says. “Maybe he’d even pay us to shine his shoes.”

“He bought you a television, paid for all your hospital bills, and bought you all these stuffed animals,” Baby points out. “The least you could do for him in return is to buy him a good suit of clothes and make him steak for supper.”

“We can all go shopping for it together,” Girl says. “Do you know what his size is?”

“I used to take his laundry to the laundromat, but it’s been so long now that I’ve forgotten what his size is,” Lenore says.

Infant rushes into Allen’s room and comes back out carrying a pair of pants and a shirt.  Girl takes them and looks for the tags.

“He’s a thirty-four-inch waist and a medium in shirts,” she reports. “Infant, go put these back and bring us some of his shoes.”

Infant goes to put them back in the closet, trying to make it look like nothing were disturbed, and picks up Allen’s dress shoes.  When she comes out to the living room, Girl takes them and holds them up to the light to see the numbers written on the bottom insides.

“Ten even,” she says. “Not too freakishly large and not too small for a man.  We’ll have no problem finding stuff in his sizes.”

“Say, Ernestine, have you or Girl started having menses yet?” Adicia asks. “You’re both thirteen now and I haven’t heard anything from either of yous about it, though botha yous wear a bra now.”

“Glad to say it ain’t happened yet,” Girl says. “I hope I’m onea the girls who makes it till age seventeen without bleeding.  That would just get in the way of the things I do.  How could I wash windshields or run around doing my odd jobs if I had to deal with that stuff every couple of hours?  Getting it this young only made sense when people only lived till all of thirty years old and had to have kids in their teens.”

“Not yet,” Ernestine says. “I’ve no longer got Sarah or our older sisters to help me when the day comes.  Maybe I’d be more excited about the idea of getting it if we still had them, so they could help me and share their stories.”

“Boy, I’m glad Justine and I are only six,” Infant says. “All this grownup stuff sounds so strange.”

“Getting older isn’t that bad,” Lenore says. “People take you more seriously when you’re not a kid, and you get to do a lot of stuff you couldn’t do at a young age.  I could learn to drive a car if I wanted, and I can have a job.  Allen will be old enough to vote next Sunday, which is another good thing about becoming a grownup.”

“You’re both also old enough to be married,” Girl teases her. “How did you like being called Mrs. Troy at the hospital?”

Lenore buries her head in her hands and blushes.

“We know, Lenore,” Ernestine says. “You like Allen.  We’ll just see if you’re still denying it after you make him his special birthday supper and present him with his fancy grownup suit and shoes next weekend.”