Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write a Coming OF AGE short story (11/20/14)
- TITLE: Double Chins Trembling
By Judith Gayle Smith
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Many thought she was a tomboy because she wasn't pretty like her big sister, and, when you took the time to actually know her, you realized that what is on the outside does not reflect the inner child.
Karen joyed in skipping and hopping, and sometimes tried to fly with big long jumps.
She was surprisingly timid. She roller-skated on one foot, using her other foot to brake. Terrified at the thought of ice-skating, she feared the blades would rip her legs apart.
Dancing was a riot - her brain refused to connect her feet with the music's beat.
Hopelessly clumsy, she would fall going up hills and steps.
Art was a joy for her only if she could copy from a photograph or postcard - or best of all, comic books delighting her with Disney characters in crazy situations. She was not aware that her daddy was a wonderful cartoonist, copying from comics himself.
Poor Karen had no imagination, and her mother held no hope for her to follow in her big sister's footsteps - who, at age eight, was painting volcanoes without ever seeing a picture of one.
Karen was typically carefree - helping with housework was a miserable necessary chore. Playing outside was paramount, and the brilliant sunshine and screeching, whooping buddies held her heart. Especially Bobby who ate worms.
She was the last to be chosen for sports, being blind in one eye, barely seeing out the other. Her mother agonized over her ruining her eyes by reading so much.
Television was a wonderful novelty. She parked herself nose to screen smack in front of the huge cabinet with the tiny greenish black and white picture.
Escapism was her choice of retreat from harsh words, bad tempers and weeping mother and sis. She buried emotions under a scratchy blanket of indifference alternating with stomache-churning anger.
Her father was a drunkard - a very unpleasant man when in his cups - and very scary. Staying far away from him was best, and Karen recoiled from confrontation.
Her big sis's birthday loomed in a few days. Cake, ice cream, balloons in all colors - and happy everyone with Grandma and a real photographer to record sissy's special day.
A few weeks later, while Karen's mom was making one of her glorious chocolate cakes and "Life with Luigi" was making us all giggle, there was a sharp rap at the kitchen door.
Two policemen stood outside, quietly talking with Karen's mom - while we fidgeted on our plastic kitchen chairs which suddenly felt sticky-sweaty.
Karen couldn't go with her mom and I became the unofficial baby-sitter when her mom grabbed her coat and went with the policemen.
I was there when she returned, face aflame and wet. I kept Karen company while her mom and her sister went into her mom's bedroom. Scary.
Karen was perched on the hassock when her mom finally came to her, sobbing. Uncomfortable, I quietly listened to their conversation.
Karen's mom told her that her daddy was dead, hit by a freight train. That Karen must not cry because she had to become the "man" (strength) of the family. Her mom said she herself was not strong, nor was her big sister, and therefore Karen must not cry.
The beautiful birthday photographs made the front page of The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
I wanted to cry for Karen as I watched her adorn herself with a fierce determination. I knew Karen and her daddy argued loud and long, and that could possibly help her to remain strong.
But Karen was still a very young girl - not yet nine. I watched her double chins tremble and then firm with a fierce determinism.
The little girl who skated on only one skate, who was often intimidated by her own shadow, gained a steely mask of stoicism. As the weeks rolled on, I watched her age.
She matured far too early, and pressed her emotions tightly to her breast. I couldn't penetrate the thickness of that tank-like shell she wore.
My best girlfriend became closed off. She and I watched in horror as her mother swelled up like a balloon with hair turning completely white with shock.
Is this what growing up was like? Watching my best friend turn from a carefree kid to her own mom and sister's "mother?"
I couldn't comfort her. She was bottled up so horribly.
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