Staying with a less than ordinary fruitcake

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“Come out to the family room. Gladys wants a word,”Olvie yells from the front room.

Now I’m creeped out that a mannequin wants to speak to me. What will I say? Oh for Christ’s sake!

I take my time opening the bedroom door and peek out before exiting. Olvie’s hovering over the plastic body so if Gladys is saying something, I can’t tell. Yep, I’m going nutso.

“Good. There you are.” Olvie says turns toward me and stands erect. “What do you think?”

“Why, oh, did you take her shopping?” I say, trying not to think about myself in a straight jacket.

“No, silly-billy. Gladys doesn’t like to go out. I had it mail-ordered from Sears and Roebuck.

Gladys is no longer flapping in the 1920’s. Her fringed dress and headband are gone. She’s caught up with our decade and, although too big for the thin mannequin, I can’t help being impressed. The moo-moo is light green with white daisies attached to darker green vines that run diagonally down the dress. Orange stitching accents in between.

“Well, what do you think?” Olvie, or maybe Gladys says.

“It’s perfect. She looks like a new person.”

Olvie smiles. “She wanted a change so she got one.”

“Everyone wants a change, don’t they, Olvie?”

“Not everyone,” she says, and stares out the front window.

I’m so excited about the change in Gladys, I remind myself I need a real friend. Someone who’s not crazy or made of plastic.

I make myself a bowl of Trix cereal and try to remember I’m not a kid like the floppy-eared rabbit tell us on TV.

 

Ordinary

I need your help. Seriously.

No matter your walk in life, we have all been affected by racial diversity. Some find it threatening. Others find is socially and culturally mesmerizing and exhilarating. For the purpose I am pursuing, let’s narrow it down to the white and African American culture.

While starting my new novel, my fear is the voice inside my head. It says,”How can you, a white woman, write about the African American experience in 1963? How could you possibly understand?”

Here’s my goal. To write an entertaining novel for all age groups but especially for young adults who may not know important historical facts about the Civil Rights Movement- which I will weave into the novel. I want the reader to take pause, reflect, and think about their actions going forward.

Big goal, huh? But I sincerely believe that understanding the past will put us in a better position for the future.

Here’s the premise to the novel:

In 1963, while staying with the unhinged friend of her deceased grandmother, a 14 yr old white girl from Texas meets a teenaged “Negro” boy from Alabama and learns first hand about racial injustice.

 

I am doing tons and tons of research. I have read “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

So here’s how you can, hopefully, help me.

  1. Is this a reasonable goal?
  2. What suggestions do you have for reading material that may help my accuracy?
  3. What experiences have you had that led you to a racial awareness/enlightenment?

I appreciate any and all suggestions!

Thank you for reading and responding!

Carolyn

Oh, and if you decide to write on this topic, MAKE SURE YOU LET ME KNOW. I promise to reblog unless it is offensive to humanity.

Staying with a Fruitcake

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photo credit

Sitting on the leopard print living room couch next to Gladys, I know I’m living in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Not because Gladys sits in the exact same spot wearing the same flapper dress from when I got here three days ago. And not because Olvie hasn’t bothered to move her. I’m in The Twilight Zone because I have to spend the next few weeks living with a fruitcake.

I peek out the front window. Olvie’s at it again. Just a few minutes before, like she’s done every morning, she told me to “stay put” until she comes back inside with the newspaper. And like every morning, she won’t pick it up until she sees Elias Ford heading her way on his walk to work.

Olvie’s shuffling down her sidewalk towards the curb wearing her moo-moo and striped yellow and black socks. She bends down to pick up the newspaper. He must be getting close. Yep. I see him now. Mr. Ford has stepped into the danger zone, too close to The Property of Olvie P. Crazy.

Like always, Mr. Ford tips his shabby hat and attempts to hurry past.

Like always, Olvie steps in front of him with the familiar finger point and the poke, poke, poke to his chest.

I don’t get why she doesn’t like him. What’s the Controversy anyway?

Yesterday morning, Crazy Olvie had forgotten to close the front windows. I heard her ask Mr. Ford if she could spit on his shoes. “It won’t take long,” she’d said, almost politely.

I wonder what she’s quacking to him about this time. That his shoes need polishing? That his rusty lunch pail should be thrown off a cliff? That the only reason he still lives around the corner is because my daddy spent “too much time” repairing his house so the city wouldn’t tear it down? Mr. Ford lives in what some ignorant people call, The Black Pocket—a small thicketed area that folks like Dad fought to keep intact. Including the ten or so residents.

Mr. Ford shakes his head. I bet right now he’s wishing he’d moved after all. His expression reminds me of Tom Robinson in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird and the thought makes me sad.

I get in Gladys’ face. “Let me tell you. I’m not happy about being here either. So there.” She doesn’t respond, of course.

I must be catching her loony bug. Perhaps I won’t last a few weeks. Maybe not even day four. I ponder where to go and what to pack before I run away.

Excerpt from a work in progress.

I’m ashamed, and shocked

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… but I don’t take full responsible for my ignorance. As you, my blogger friends and followers know, I have very little patience for the intolerance in our world. My belief system stands firmly planted to the principles of social justice, civil rights and equality. So, why did I just recently learn about Emmett Till? I’m curious. Have you heard of him?

I am currently living in 1963. While working on my new manuscript, I am researching various aspects of life in the 1960’s. Presently titled Olvie and Chicken Coop, teenager Grace Cooper tries to befriend a “Negro” boy who’s visiting from Alabama, but can’t understand why he is so stand-offish. (Not the whole premise of the novel but I’ll tell you more about that another time.) But my particular story line was set when research introduced me to Emmett Till. (I must have missed Bob Dylan’s 1962 song, The Death of Emmett Till)

I know about the Woolworth sit-in, Rosa Parks and the bus, the Freedom Fighters, etc.  I didn’t realize, but now know, that many African American’s moved from the south to Chicago to distance themselves from the John Crow laws — Chicago where they could walk with their heads held high.

I was shocked to learn that this fourteen-year-old boy, who travelled from Chicago to Mississippi in 1955 to visit relatives, never made it back home and the mortifying reasons why.

This boisterous, self-assured young man, didn’t know the “rules” of the south at the time. In some disputed way, either by words or by wolf-whistling at a married white woman, Emmett Till was hunted down by the man’s wife and his half-brother for flirting with a white woman. After being terribly brutalized, Emmett’s body was discovered in the river. The murders were acquitted and set free.

God Bless You, Emmett Till, a kid with only candy in his pockets.

And, ironically, just over a month ago, Emmett Till’s accuser admits she lied. Time to clear her conscience?

For more about Emmett read here.