Writing about the Vietnam draft lottery

Because today would be my Vietnam War draftee character Ricky Carson’s 67th birthday, I decided to discuss the subject of the draft lottery in the U.S. Until I got to Part IV of Little Ragdoll, I had a lot of embarrassing misconceptions about this aspect of the Vietnam War and U.S history.

The draft lottery only started in December 1969. Prior, guys were drafted by local boards. Notices were sent to guys aged 18–26, though deferments were granted for reasons including being a full-time university student, having certain kinds of jobs, having a lot of dependents, not being in good physical shape, and being a clergyman.

Local drafting ended due in part to accusations of favoring certain members of a community for deferment, exemption, and never being drafted at all, like the son of local bigwigs or a popular college football player.

On 1 December 1969, a national, blind draft was instituted for guys born from 1 January 1944–31 December 1950. There were 366 blue plastic capsules, each with a birthdate. The first number drawn was 14 September, so it was assigned the number one. Capsules continued to be drawn till each birthdate had gotten a number.

The draft lottery continued till 12 March 1975, though the final year draftees were sent to Vietnam was 1972. The final draft call was 7 December 1972. Authority to induct expired 30 June 1973.

After the first year of the lottery, numbers were only drawn for one year of birth. Guys born in 1951 were called in 1971, and guys born in 1952 were called in 1972; i.e., during the year they turned twenty.

Guys with the same birthdate were chosen in order of their last, first, and middle names’ drawing; e.g., James Peter Breiner had 25 for B, 1 for J, and 10 for P.

In my youthful ignorance, I thought guys of all ages were randomly drafted. Two of my characters born in 1930, in my Atlantic City books, escape to Canada when they’re drafted in 1967, though I now know that needs major revamping. It’s an important plot point that they be there for as long as they are, but there needs to be another reason they leave and stay so long.

From the time I thought up the story of Little Ragdoll at age thirteen in 1993, till the time I got to Part IV in very early 2011, Ricky was always Adicia’s age, born in 1954. For the longest time, the vast majority of my couples were in the same graduating year. In my youthful naïveté, I thought even a year of difference was scandalous!

Then I realized I had to make Ricky two years older than Adicia for the big plot twist with the draft to work and be historically accurate. Ricky, born 15 July 1952, has lottery number 88, and loses his student deferment when he withdraws from Columbia to enter a convenience marriage with Adicia and run away to Hudson Falls.

Ricky’s draft notice was mailed in early 1972, when he still lived in Syracuse, but he doesn’t receive it till July, after it’s first been forwarded to New York City and then brought over by his outraged parents after they return from a week-long Hamptons holiday and discover what happened in their absence.

To avoid risking any further trouble for ignoring the notice so long, Ricky goes right to the local draft board and is inducted into the Air Force. By the summer of ’72, there weren’t that many troops left in Vietnam, let alone from the Army. In December ’72, Ricky is involved in the horrific Operation Linebacker II, one of the last major campaigns of the war.

Adicia’s brother Allen, born on D-Day, gets number 110, and enrolls in the Borough of Manhattan Community College to study business. He and his wife Lenore have just welcomed their second child, and Allen is the sole support of their family and his sisters’ substitute father. He needs that draft deferment for many reasons.

Mr. and Mrs. Carson Return

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.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! This year, for my Halloween-themed excerpt, I’m sharing the first half of Chapter 6, “Samhain Proposal,” of Green Sunrise, the hiatused sequel to Little Ragdoll. Here, it’s 1974 in Hudson Falls, NY, where six of the Troy siblings and the three Ryan sisters now live.

This is a shortened, edited version of the rough draft.

“I just love Halloween,” Fiona says as she, Deirdre, and Adicia decorate the yard and Ernestine, Aoife, and Justine decorate the house on a Saturday two weeks before the holiday. “Christmas and Easter decorations are really pretty, but Halloween decorations are really groovy.  I prefer spooky stuff.”

“Halloween, or should I say Samhain, is gonna be extra-special this year,” Deirdre says. “It’ll be a holiday no one’s ever gonna forget, particularly not Ernestine.”

“What are you planning?” Adicia asks as she stands on a ladder to drape Halloween lights over a tree. “Can we be let in on this secret?”

“So long as you don’t squeal to Ernestine.” Deirdre looks behind her to make sure the windows and door are shut, then pulls a wooden box out of her baggy front skirt pocket. “Have a look at what I bought her when I pretended I was studying late at the campus library.”

Fiona pops open the box and squeals at the sight of a ring with a heart-shaped garnet clasped by two hands, with a crown on top. “You’re proposing?”

“It’s time to take the bull by the horns.  This is called a claddagh.  I got a garnet ‘cause red’s her favorite color, and rubies are too damn expensive.  The three symbols represent love, loyalty, and friendship.  They’re traditional Irish wedding and engagement rings.”

“When are you gonna pop the question?” Adicia asks. “Is it gonna be in private or a public event?”

“I think I’ll do it on Samhain night, when we get back from trick-or-treating.  I’m gonna slip it into her candy bag and wait for the results.”

“You’re going trick-or-treating?” Adicia asks. “At twenty-two?”

“We all did it in Poughkeepsie.  Why not take the opportunity better late than never?  You’re going trick-or-treating too.”

“Folks here are nice, even if somea ‘em don’t share our revolutionary principles,” Fiona says. “They won’t care we’re not kids.  I’m going to be a dragon, and Aoife’s gonna be a ladybug.”

“Are you staying home with the baby this year, Adicia?” Deirdre asks.

“Robbie would love to get candy!  My baby’s never gonna lack for anything.  Lenore made him the cutest little monkey costume, and she made Oliver an elephant costume.”

“I’d love to celebrate the traditional Celtic way.  Some folks practice divination on Samhain, predicting stuff like your future spouse and how many kids you’ll have.  We can have fun trying our hand at that.  Some Wiccans and Celts also use the holiday to pay tribute to their ancestors and other loved ones who are no longer here.”

Deirdre quickly shoves the ring box back into her pocket when the door opens and Ernestine comes out with Robbie on her hip.  Ernestine doesn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about Deirdre’s expression and proceeds over to Adicia, handing her the baby.

“He started fussing like he wants to nurse, and I think he wants you instead of grape juice in a cup.”

Adicia’s eyes have lit up at the sight of her child, and she doesn’t wait to go inside to ease him under her blouse.

“It still gets me how happy she looks every time she sees him,” Ernestine says. “She looks like a kid in a candy store.  It’s the kinda look our mother never gave any of us but Tommy.”

“We’ll both be giving that kinda look to our babies soon enough,” Deirdre says. “We’ll be one big happy family, even if it’s a little different from most.”

***

Before everyone sets out for trick-or-treating on Halloween, they meet at Lucine and Zachary’s for Simone’s second birthday party.  Simone is dressed as a tiger and sitting in a chair decorated with pink and purple streamers and balloons.  Some of her friends from daycare are there with their parents.

“I helped frost the cake!” Fiona says. “It looks like a wrapped present, and has cherry filling.”

“What a great unisex costume!” Emeline says. “A tiger can be a boy or a girl.  We had a storytime and Halloween activity for young kids today at the library, and a bunch of ‘em were dressed in such disappointingly sex-typed costumes, like princesses, kings, ballerinas, cowboys, and witches.  If I ever have kids, I’ll give ‘em costumes just like Simone’s.”

“I hope you don’t think Amelia’s and my costumes are too girly,” Irene says. “I know girls can do anything, but I like dressing like a girl.”

“I suggested to your mommy you could be a Colonial girl and a pioneer girl, and I helped her shop for fabric.  I always wanted costumes like that growing up.  They’re feminine without being too girly.”

“How long are we going out for?” Ernestine asks as Allen takes pictures of the cake.

“Simone can probably only handle an hour at most,” Lucine says. “Oliver and Robbie will probably be the same.  Don’t tell me you’re going.”

“Deirdre and I are both going.  We never did it growing up, so we might as well milk it while we can still get away with it.”

“Don’t they have a Halloween party at the university yous guys can attend?”

“I’m a sexy saloon girl, and Deirdre’s a pirate.  Afterwards, we’re gonna try our hand at divination.  Emeline’s coming with us.  It must stink to be all alone on the funnest day of the year.”

“I’m not trick-or-treating,” Emeline defends herself. “I’m just meeting up with them at their house after I’m done handing out candy.”

Lucine pats Emeline on the shoulder. “Hopefully someday you’ll have a husband and a couple of kids, and you won’t always have to tag along with us.  Not that we mind having you, but it’s nice to have your own separate family.”

“I’m not entirely alone.  I’ve got Georgiekins.”

“A cat can’t take the place of people, no matter how nice he is.  I hope you don’t mind you’re in my prayers.  I want you to find love like the rest of us.  Even Ernestine’s gonna lesbian-marry Deirdre at some point.”

“It’s called a handfasting,” Deirdre corrects her. “What the hell kinda term is ‘lesbian-marry’?”

“Well, whatever you call it, it is happening eventually, isn’t it?”

“You better believe it.” Deirdre smiles enigmatically as Zachary lights the candles.

***

Adicia, Ernestine, Deirdre, Fiona, Aoife, Justine, Lenore, Lucine, and Sarah canvassed a twenty-block radius with Irene, Amelia, Oliver, Simone, Robbie, Fritz, and Nessa before heading back to their respective houses.  A few people looked askance at Ernestine’s costume, which consists of a purple corset attached to a very short skirt with black fringes, fishnets, her one pair of heels, black lace glovelets, a dark pink leg garter, and a big purple feather on her head, but no one held back candy.

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“Next year, I’m gonna be a sexy French maid,” Ernestine announces as she kicks off her heels the minute they get inside. “It’s a blessing in disguise we were cheated outta proper Halloweens growing up, ‘cause when you’re a kid, you can’t wear fun costumes like this.  Plus I probably woulda gotten stoned for wearing something like this in public.”

“I hope you mean at a costume party for adults,” Adicia says. “You and Deirdre both said this was probably your last year to go trick-or-treating.”

“You didn’t have a true Halloween till you were eighteen either.  I’m surprised you’re not milking all that lost time for all it’s worth too.”

Ricky looks away from Ernestine in embarrassment and takes Robbie from Adicia. “I’ll be upstairs with the little monkey while you girls are down here doing your thing.  I’ll read him Corduroy and The Poky Little Puppy.  Those are his favorites.”

“Don’t be afraid to look at me,” Ernestine teases him as he limps up the stairs.  “Nothing you haven’t seen before.  This is downright modest given somea the stuff in Adicia’s lingerie closet.”

Adicia turns as red as a beet.

“Don’t you go being shy either.  We all do each other’s laundry, and I bought you that dark blue corset with the matching garter belt.  I see it in the wash so often, I guess you’re getting good mileage outta it.”

“Shall we get on to divination?” Adicia asks. “That’s Emeline’s car pulling up.”

Fiona gets the door for Emeline, who’s in a dark green velvet flapper dress. George jumps into Justine’s lap while Emeline finds a place on the davenport.

When Ernestine gets up to pet him, Deirdre stealthily retrieves the ring box from under the davenport and tosses it into Ernestine’s pillowcase full of candy.  Each embroidered her pillowcase differently, so they won’t get them mixed up.  Deirdre’s has shamrocks, Ernestine’s has flowers, Fiona’s has baby animals, Aoife’s has moons and stars, and Justine’s has butterflies.

“It’s not time for candy yet,” Emeline calls when she sees what Deirdre’s doing. “I thought divination was your idea.”

“What method would you like to try first?” Deirdre asks, trying to look and sound as normal as possible. “Tea leaves, Tarot cards, apple peels, I Ching, palmistry, Runes, bibliomancy, lithomancy, podomancy, what?”

“What’s podomancy?” Justine asks.

“Palmistry for the feet.”

Justine and Aoife wrinkle their noses in unison.

“That’s gross,” Aoife says. “I don’t think our feet smell like roses right now.”

“How do you tell fortunes with apple peels?” Justine asks.

“You throw it behind you or drop it into a bowl of water, and the letter it forms is the first letter in the name of the person you’re gonna marry.”

“What if it falls into a lump or a straight line?” Fiona asks.

“If it breaks, it means you’ll never wed.  Other methods for tryna predict if you’ll have a faithful lover or if you’ll ever wed are roasting chestnuts and seeing if they stay close together or drift apart, and separating an egg white and putting it in a bowl of water.  If the egg white sinks, you’ll be alone for the next year.”

“Didn’t all these parlor tricks originate when most girls were married by all of eighteen?” Emeline asks. “They also started before the modern concept of dating.”

“Can I start with the apple peel?” Justine begs.

“Sure, if you know how to peel an apple in one piece,” Deirdre says. “In the meantime, who wants to give me her palm first?”

Fiona scoots over to the coffeetable and gives her sister her hand while Justine is in the kitchen peeling an apple in one unbroken piece.  Deirdre tells her the names of the major lines and mounts, followed by an analysis of the shape, size, and appearance of her hands, fingers, and fingernails.  They’re all laughing at Deirdre’s prediction that Fiona will have at least seven children when Justine returns with her apple peel.

“Does anyone else wanna try counting?” Deirdre asks. “I’m not sure if I’m seeing more than seven, or if somea the extra lines are broken segments of pre-existing lines.”

“Where are these lines?” Justine asks.

“Under the pinky.  They say that you’ll have as many kids as there are lines.” Deirdre gets up. “Close your eyes and I’ll spin you three times.  You toss the apple peel over your left shoulder after the last spin.”

“Are there any boys you like, Justine?” Emeline teases as Deirdre spins her. “Any names you’d like to tell us?”

“There are a couple of guys I fancy, but no one I’d be interested in getting serious with.  I’m having a hard time in somea my classes; the last thing I need is a relationship.”

“Are you failing?” Ernestine asks. “If you’re having difficulties, we might be able to help you.”

“I’m having problems too,” Aoife confesses. “They’re nothing that can’t be fixed.”

Justine throws the apple peel over her left shoulder and holds onto Deirdre for support, her eyes still closed.

“Is that an O?” Emeline asks. “Or maybe a G?”

“I think it’s a U or a V,” Fiona says.

“Oh, brother,” Deirdre says. “That looks like a D to me.”

Justine blushes. “Even if this stuff is for real and not just a parlor game, I’m still five years younger than David.”

“You’ll be old enough for him someday,” Adicia says. “Age differences aren’t so big when you get older.”

“Can we try tasseography now?” Ernestine asks. “I’m mad with curiosity to see if you can see anything concrete in a bunch of loose tea leaves.”

“Maybe you can have some candy with the tea,” Deirdre encourages her. “Do you have a preference for tea?”

“Raspberry green tea with honey, please.”

Deirdre picks up where she left off with reading Fiona’s palm while the water heats up and Emeline pulls out teacups, saucers, the wooden box of teas, and the blue cast iron teapot with a butterfly motif.  Ernestine thumbs through one of her fortune-telling books as she waits.

“This line right above the Heart Line and under the index and ring fingers is the Girdle of Venus,” Deirdre says as Ernestine sips the tea. “It’s usually found in people who are extremely sensitive.  This marking between the Head and Heart Lines is La Croix Mystique.  It means you’ve got a natural gift for mysticism and the occult.”

“That’s groovy,” Fiona says.

Ernestine sets down her teacup midway through her drink and reaches for her pillowcase, hoping to pull out a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a bag of M&Ms, or a Snickers.  Instead she finds the wooden box on top of her sack of loot.  Curious, she pulls it out and examines it.

“Did anyone else get something like this?  Don’t tell me it’s from some dentist who gave out boxes of coins ‘steada real candy.  We had some awful killjoy back in Poughkeepsie who gave out toothbrushes every Halloween.”

“At least you can do something with money,” Aoife says. “The worst are the dentists and health nuts who give out apples.  Who wants an apple on Halloween?”

Ernestine pulls the box open and finds a folded note propped up on a slight angle.  Even more curious, she sets the box down, neglecting to notice the ring, and reads the note.

My belovèd Ernestine Zénobie Troy, you are my best friend, my life, my soul, my heart, the only best friend and life partner I want for the entire rest of my earthly existence.  We promised this to each other six years ago, but now I’m formally, officially asking you again if you’ll be my best friend, my dear one, my partner through life, even until we’re seventy, and beyond if we live so long.  We’ve been inseparable and interconnected since we were kids, and now I want to make things permanent by having a handfasting ceremony binding us together as wives.  Will you please make my world complete by telling me you’ll marry me?  Love forever and always, Deirdre Apollonia Ryan, Halloween 1974.’”

Deirdre looks at her expectantly. She knows full well what the answer will be, but is unable to breathe until she knows for sure.  Ernestine sets the note on the table and turns her attention back to the little box, letting out a loud, excited scream when she sees the brilliant red garnet in the claddagh setting.

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“Yes, of course I’ll marry you, Deirdre!  I’ll belong to you forever!” She jumps up and throws her shaking arms around Deirdre. “Would you like to put the ring on for me?”

Deirdre slips it onto Ernestine’s left hand. “I knew it’d fit you perfectly!”

“This is awesome!” Justine says. “Now you’re gonna be our real sister-in-law, and Fiona and Aoife are gonna be our sisters too!”

“It’ll be so nice to officially be family,” Deirdre says. “Ernestine, how about a June wedding, after finals and papers?”

“June is fine by me!”

“Can we start planning the wedding tomorrow?” Aoife asks. “Is it in good taste for us to reuse our bridesmaid dresses from Adicia and Ricky’s renewal?”

“You can if you want, but it’s always nice to have new clothes for a special occasion if you can afford them.  At the very least, Deirdre and I will have to look for wedding dresses.  I’d love to go back to Mrs. Marsenko’s salon.”

“Better book the appointment for an entire day,” Fiona says. “You know how much Deirdre hates formal clothes.  I bet she’ll try to get away with wearing hot pink, turquoise, or electric green.”

“I’ll have to take you to look for your own engagement ring tomorrow, darling,” Ernestine says. “Does anyone wanna look at how gorgeous my ring is?”

“We all saw it already, but not on your hand,” Adicia confesses.

“Well, I didn’t see it,” Emeline says.

Ernestine giddily dances over to her and thrusts her hand in Emeline’s face.

“Rubies were too expensive, but I know red is your favorite,” Deirdre says. “That’s called a claddagh.  It’s very traditionally Irish.  It represents love, loyalty, and friendship.”

“Very pretty,” Emeline says. “I’m kinda jealous.”

“You’ll get a fellow someday, if you want it enough,” Adicia tries to cheer her up. “Why don’t you try onea those divination games to see if you’re gonna get a fellow within the year, or what the first letter of his name might be?”

“If you walk out the door backwards at night, pick some grass, and put it under your pillow, you’ll dream of your future husband,” Fiona says. “If you eat a dry crust of bread at night, any wish will come true.”

“You can also wear your night clothes inside-out to dream of your future spouse,” Ernestine says, still admiring her ring.

“I don’t wear anything to bed mosta the time,” Emeline confesses.

The others look at her in surprise, barely able to imagine Emeline of all people, the stereotypical quiet, shy librarian, routinely sleeping in the nude.  Justine and Aoife are unable to contain their giggles.

“Well, you know what they say about those quiet ones!” Emeline giggles a little herself. “When it’s really hot, who needs pajamas or sheets if you’re the only one around?  I pulled it off a couple of times at Vassar when my roommate was there, by maneuvering just so.  She never suspected anything.”

“Does anyone else know this?” Deirdre asks.

“I told Lenore awhile ago, and she was kinda blown away too, but she thinks it’s my own personal business.  Speaking of, don’t you think it’s a good idea to go over and tell her and Allen your exciting news?”

“Oh, we will, but first we can do another divination game,” Ernestine says. “You crack an egg, separate the white, and put the white in a bowl of water.  If it floats, you’ll soon be married, or you’ll continue to be happy in an existing relationship.  If it sinks, you’ll be alone for the next year.”

While Deirdre fills a bowl with water and separates a yolk and white into little bowls, Justine gets a piece of paper and starts doing some calculations while Aoife and Fiona dig into their candy.

“What are you doing math for?” Aoife asks.

“I’m figuring out when David and I won’t break the half plus seven rule.  I’ll be nineteen and he’ll be twenty-four.”

“Oh, boy, if only my brother knew what a big crush you have on him,” Aoife says. “Even if he were interested, it’s kinda lowlife for a guy in his twenties to date a teen girl.”

“Lenore was eighteen and Allen was twenty-one when they got together.”

“There’s a smaller difference between eighteen and twenty-one than there is between nineteen and twenty-four,” Emeline says.

Deirdre presents her with the bowl of water and the bowl with the egg white. “Have at it.”

Emeline pours the white into the water, and her heart sinks when the white immediately sinks to the bottom.  She’s not entirely surprised, and knows it’s only a game, but is still a little offended the negative outcome attributed to this superstition had to present itself immediately.  At least the white could’ve floated around for a little bit on a gradual descent to the bottom.

“Remember, you always told us the right guy’s worth waiting for, and that your future spouse will be even more special and appreciated if you had to wait a really long time for him,” Adicia tries to cheer her up, seeing the look on her face.

“Never mind this silly egg white,” Ernestine says. “We’ve got some calls to make.  After Lenore and Lucine,  we’ll call Sarah, David, Julie, Betsy, Mr. and Mrs. van Niftrik, and Gemma.”

“I hope they don’t care how late it is,” Deirdre says.

“That’s a valid point.  Why don’t we hold off breaking the news till tomorrow?  For now it’s just between us.  Why don’t we get back to divination now?”

“Oh, come on, don’t you wanna enjoy some post-engagement sex?” Fiona asks. “We won’t mind if yous guys retire early and leave us without our resident divination experts.”

“Not with all of yous knowing that’s what we’ll be doing!” Ernestine hopes she isn’t turning too red. “It was bad enough when my own parents did that without caring we walked in on them or overheard them!”

“Unless one or both of yous is having her monthly visitor, I’m pretty sure we all know you’ll be doing that anyway after you hit the hay.”

“Yeah, we’re all ladies here,” Justine says.

“We’re not going upstairs to have celebratory engagement sex,” Ernestine reiterates firmly.

“We don’t mind if we overhear anything,” Fiona says. “It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve overheard you.  Though I don’t know if sound carries as far downstairs as it does down the hall.  Me, Justine, and Aoife have overheard Adicia and Ricky doing it too, and we’re not embarrassed to look them in the face afterwards either.”

“This conversation is over,” Ernestine declares. “Now where were we with divination?”

Sweet Saturday Samples—A Quasi-Date

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

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.”