No Trick, Just A Sneak-Peek Treat

From Chapter Nine of My New Book Georgie Girl

Halloween night, a gravid moon hovered above the night-purple ridge. Browning was a veritable paradise for trick-or-treating, but Lacey and I decided we were finally a bit long in the tooth for it, and decided to pass out candy to the faculty children from her house.
At a quarter past six, the Kane children arrived. Miss Heather hovered in the background in low-cut hip huggers, smiling a mellow kitten’s smile. Clover (a geisha in kabuki make-up, only her light eyes giving her away) and Blue (a silent ghost in a sheet) dropped their popcorn balls into plastic jack-o-lanterns. Clover murmured, “Thank you very much,” for them both.
Ronnie and my dad arrived next. Ronnie dressed as a cowboy, wore his hat cocked back on his head, a chocolate smudge in one corner of his mouth. He cocked a plastic pistol. “Stick ’em up!” he said with a scowl. “And gimme all your candy.”
We all cracked up, even Karen—coming out of the kitchen with a popcorn ball, her hair rolled on empty orange juice cans.
“I taught him that,” my father said smugly as Lacey dropped a big handful of Hershey Kisses into Ronnie’s bag. Ronnie popped his tongue up towards his nose making a little triangle of yum, then grinned like Howdy Doody.
Tom St. James rang the bell at 7:05. Karen had asked her parents if she could meet Tom in the parking lot, but Mr. Howard had said nothing doing. Tom wore a collared sweater and a pair of striped bell-bottoms like Greg Brady’s. But unlike Greg, this man—no way you could look at him and think boy—smoldered with carnality the likes of which Lacey and I had never seen. We stood like a pair of ventriloquist’s dummies, gazing at his sherry eyes, his two open snaps worth of chest hair.
“Is Karen ready?” he asked, his lazy smile the essence of cool.
A wave of Karen’s smoky Shalimar made it to the door before she did. She put her arms around Lacey’s and my shoulders and turned us around as though the three of us were conjoined. “Good night, ladies,” she said, and was gone.
I looked at Lacey and gulped.
“Holy Halloween,” she whispered.
We watched a double feature on TV, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, with Lacey’s parents. Lacey and I ate candy until our faces tingled from the sugar.
When the Mattsons finally went to bed a third of the way into the second feature, Lacey and I unfolded the sofa bed and turned the sound all the way down on the TV. Putting on our pajamas, we tucked in.
Lacey had decided she like-liked Findley, who had told her she was pretty at the last salon. “But how would I kiss him?” she asked. She jumped up and pretended the coat rack was Findley. Pooching out her lips, she tipped Mr. Howard’s rain hat to her face and made passionate smooching noises until I had to smother my laughter with a pillow.
Finally, we lay in the darkness watching the stippled reflection of the river on the ceiling, the sweep of lights from a slow-moving barge. Around a yawn, Lacey said, “If Truman kisses you, you better tell me about it before anybody.”
I yawned back. “You’ll be the first to know.” The Bride of Frankenstein rose from the operating table, her neck and arms all jerky, the whites of her eyes showing all around, her skunk-striped hair standing two feet from her head. I giggled. “Look at her hairdo!”
But Lacey was asleep.

I roused at midnight when Karen came in, softly humming the Beatle’s “Come Together”. Lacey snored softly, her cat curled like a skein of wool at her side. Karen tiptoed into the kitchen. The breadbox clunked open and then the fridge. The mayonnaise jar lid whisked open. I drowsed.
Karen crept through the living room at half-past twelve, trailing Shalimar, ham, and something alien, something skunky and sweet at the same time. I’d have given a big toe to know the secrets she kept.
Suddenly, I wished that I were Karen’s age. That Lacey and I could just zoom over the years the way the Jetson’s space car zoomed over stalling traffic in the cartoon. We would be beautiful and cool like Karen, our boyfriends handsome and manly like Tom.
Kelly’s shoulders, his body would be like Tom’s. Kelly’s body? I thought, my heart bumping. Why had it come to mind instead of Truman’s? I flipped onto my stomach, scrubbing my face into the pillow, and trying to picture Truman as older and manly, but the image was like a poorly focused Polaroid. But Kelly’s leg, his sharply pressed khaki pants, the hot smell of him in the backseat . . .
I sat up, my pajamas feeling clammy. “Lacey, wake up.”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Let’s go scare Kelly.”
“Kelly? What for?”
“’Cause it’s Halloween. We had our treats; we should play a trick.”
“Why Kelly?” she said, her eyes narrowing.
“’Cause he lives here in Sperry. We could knock on his window and run.”
“Did Karen come in?”
“Yeah. She went to bed,” I said, reaching for my hairbrush.
Lacey nodded slowly, a pillow crease bisecting one cheek. And then she grinned. “That would be pretty good.” She looked toward the hall door. “But we can’t be gone long.”

I bent to tug on a sneaker. “We’ll be quick.”

* * *

We stood in the backyard of Sperry, regarding the first-floor faculty apartment windows by moonlight. “Which one is Kelly’s?” I asked, clutching Lacey’s fingers.
“Shhh! Do you want to wake up the whole building? I’m not sure. But it probably has Bozo the Clown curtains.” I stifled a giggle as we treaded the path rimmed with snatchy holly bushes. In the second window from the end, shadowy objects stood out against a white drape; a scattering of baseball cards, a peely-labled pickle jar, and the back of what looked like a greeting card. Here’s a message for you, Kelly, I thought, buzzy with anticipation. Lacey whispered. “Are you going to knock?”
“Me?”
“Yes, you! This was your idea.”
I squinted at the window and grinned. “Okay. I’ll bang on the frame, and we’ll run. On three.” A light went on behind the drape, like the downward glow of a desk lamp. My heart ricocheting like bats in a box, I beat on the frame: wham-wham-wham! Lacey ducked to the ground. “Run, Lacey!”
But Lacey was a helpless lump on the dirt path, gasping with a fresh spate of giggles. I tugged at her hand, glancing wildly up. There, in the window, stood Kelly McGee, shirtless and shock-faced. Chest hair! I thought my eyeballs would tumble to the path and I’d have to scoop them up.
“Lacey, move!” I hissed. Kelly’s hand grasped the window lever.
“Who’s out there?” he said.
As the window tilted open, I pulled Lacey to her feet. He can’t see us with his light on.
“What’s going on, son?” Mr. John sounded foggy and mad.
Just before Lacey and I lurched away—the hollies tearing at our pajamas—Kelly’s dark eyes caught mine. “Just a couple of pranksters,” he said, scratching his chest, and then pulled the window closed.

Playlist for Georgie Girl

One of the elements that make Georgie Girl, set in the early seventies, so fun and relatable is the plethora of music references sprinkled throughout the story. But I was amazed to find that I included over 40 songs. Here are the tunes in the order they appear in the manuscript–before my editor starts snipping away! Enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Me and Bobby McGee- Janis Joplin

My Sweet Lord- George Harrison

A Taste of Honey- Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

25 or 6 to 4- Chicago

The Monster Mash- Bobby Pickett

Come Together- The Beatles

Brandy- Looking Glass

Voo Doo Child- Jimi Hendrix

Jezebel- Edith Piaf

Proud Mary- Creedence Clearwater Revival

We’ve Only Just Begun- The Carpenters

Brown Sugar- The Rolling Stones

Joy to the World- Three Dog Night

Venus- Shocking Blue

I Want to Take you Higher- Ike & Tina Turner

Your Song- Elton John

Colour My World- Chicago

Georgie Girl- The Seekers

The Theme from Love Story- Henry Mancini

I’ll Be There- The Jackson Five

Merry Christmas Darling- The Carpenters

The Twelve Gifts of Christmas- Alan Sherman

Wild World- Cat Stevens

The Marseillaise- de Lisle

Half Breed- Cher

Ohio- Neil Young

Elenore- The Turtles

Classical Gas- Mason Williams

Stairway to Heaven- Led Zeppelin

Travelin Man- The Doobie Brothers

Smile a Little Smile for Me- The Flying Machine

Julie, Julie, Julie, Do Ya Love Me?- Bobby Sherman

Me and You and a Dog Named Boo- Lobo

Temptation Eyes- The Grass Roots

Theme from Shaft- Isaac Hayes

Maggie May- Rod Stewart

Respect- Aretha Franklin

You’ve Got a Friend- Carole King

Only Love Can Break Your Heart- Neil Young

So Far Away- Carole King

I’m So Tired of Being Alone- Al Green

You Wear it Well- Rod Stewart

The Long and Winding Road- The Beatles

Excerpt from my first book, In Robin’s Nest

I kissed and hugged Victoria affectionately the way a boyfriend would, but still didn’t feel the heat . . . the passion I’d felt for Robin. Robin. I wanted to get married and have a family. I didn’t have my first choice of a woman– maybe someone like Robin was a once in a lifetime shot. But Victoria was a good catch; the blending of our families would be a good one. I couldn’t go on living in the shadows of the things that might have been. I slipped out of the man that belonged to Robin like a snake shedding its skin.

In my bedroom at Villeneuve on Thanksgiving night, I reached behind my neck and released the clasp on the St. Thomas medal. It was warm in my palm from lying against my heart. For a moment I pictured Robin’s face again as she gave it to me. My heart squeezed with a long familiar pang.  I went through my chest of drawers and found the things I was looking for. I put them in a shoebox and taped around it with masking tape. With a magic marker, I wrote on it DEAN’S and slipped out to hide it in my secret boyhood cubbyhole in the barn.

At Christmastime, Leslie helped me pick out a sparkly half-karat diamond ring and I asked Victoria Babbitt to marry me.

Preview from Chapter 12

Asher Coaches Georgie on Bullies:

My father came in twenty minutes later, smelling of wood smoke from the Banks’s fireplace and the ink from the printing machine in Tillman. He pulled my desk chair toward the bed, turned it around backwards, and straddled it. I saw the pipe-shaped bulge in his shirt pocket and realized I hadn’t seen the pipe in his mouth in a long time. Maybe it had become to him like my lucky rabbit foot had become to me, something I didn’t need anymore. There were purple smudges on my father’s fingers. He saw me notice.

“I had a fight with the mimeograph machine, but I won,” he said with a grin. Then his face grew serious. “Georgie, your mother told me about your conversation, about your–eh problem with the McGee boy. I’d like to help.” He looked down at his hands.  “Shakespeare said–”

I groaned and covered my face with the French book. “Oh, Dad! The bard can’t solve every problem.”

“No, but his work spoke to almost every human condition. All I was going to say is ‘To thine own self be true.’”

The words washed over me. “I get it, Dad. I know I should stand up to Kelly, but he makes me feel so bad . . . so ugly and small,” I said miserably. “He has since I was about eight.”

“I’m sorry for that, sweet pea. I wish you had told your mother and me. Bullies lash out at others to try and redeem their self-worth. You have to learn not to play his game,” he said with a wink and tapped his temple with a finger.  “Make him play yours,” he added, punctuating his words with pokes to my knee.

“What game?”

“There are things you can put in your toolbox, words you can practice saying, gestures you can learn to use.” He shifted in the chair and lifted his chin. “Cite me an example of something Kelly’s said to you.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “He used to call me Georgie Porgie, you know from the nursery rhyme. Then he started calling me Georgie Porkie, like I’m fat.”

“Clearly you are not fat, Georgie,” my father said. “You know better than that.”

“I know. But he thinks I am.” I sucked my bottom lip in and held it between my teeth.

“He doesn’t think you’re fat. He’s just trying to find . . . a tender spot, one he can prod. To get your goat. You must stop considering Kelly’s opinions. They mean nothing.”

“I know,” I answered glumly.

“Look at me, sweet pea. Here’s where you’ll start: when McGee approaches you roll your eyes, or let out a big yawn as if he’s the most boring person in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Don’t let him see your discomfort. Turn your back on him and walk away.”

“But one time at school he cornered me on the stairs. I couldn’t get past. He was looming over me like Bella Lugosi, like he was about to bite my neck.”

“I’d like to wallop the little shit for that,” my father said making a fist of his right hand and wrapping it with his left. I’d heard my father say shit a few times, but never right in front of me. “If that ever happens again, you push past and say, you’re wasting my time, or I’m not interested in your opinion.”

“Maybe we can write that down so I can remember.”

“Absolutely. How about Thursday morning while your mother’s cooking Thanksgiving dinner? Is it a date?”

“It’s a date,” I said.

My father rose and replaced the desk chair. He stretched his back, and considered the poster of Robert Redford above my head. “I thought Butch Cassidy was supposed to be the handsomer of the two.”

I returned his grin. “Nope. The Kid.”

“As handsome as Truman Parker?” he teased.

“Not that handsome,” I said.

“Truman’s a fine boy. Smart, too. He chose you, didn’t he?” My father cupped my cheek in one hand. “You are beautiful, daughter, like your mother. I should tell you that more often.” He kissed my brow. “Good night, sweet pea.”

“Good night, Daddy.” I hadn’t called him Daddy in a long time.

He moved to the door.

“And Dad? ‘Boldness be my friend.’”

Setting inspirations!

Photos of The Baylor School in Chattanooga, TN, that inspired the setting and many scenes in A FACULTY DAUGHTER.

 

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The “tunnel” under the old tower, the setting of Georgie and Truman’s first kiss.

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The view from the porch of “the science building” where fictitious Clover Kane walks on the railing.

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Wintry rear view of the building where Georgie and her family live. Called Hampton Hall in the novel.

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View, from the science building porch, of “Hampton Circle” where Georgie’s salons are held. The door to Georgie’s apartment in “Hampton Hall” is on very right edge.

Can You Relate? A teaser from “the babysitting scene.”

While Miss Suzette clucked over instructions for mixing formula, Mr. Cal jiggled pretty Victoria up and down, talking about her first two teeth as if nothing untoward had ever happened between him and Lacey. David Brinkley reported the news from the living room TV: Charles Manson had been sentenced to death for the Tate LaBianca murders. Miss Suzette looked briefly toward the set.

“Good,” she said, snapping her pocketbook shut. “Now Victoria goes down at seven-thirty with a bottle. We should be home by eight-thirty, right honey?” she looked to Mr. Cal.

“We should if we get a move on,” he said, his dark brows raised. He lit a cigarette. Miss Suzette left a lipstick print on one of Victoria’s fine brows and handed her to Lacey. “She’s been so happy all afternoon,” she said.

Miss Suzette’s parting words were still hanging in the air as Victoria’s face darkened. She began to shriek. Lacey rocked her, swaying side to side the way Miss Suzette did. She surrendered Victoria to me.

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked. The baby’s face was crimson, her cry rising to a bonafide caterwaul. I held her little body—as rigid as a two-by-four—close to me. Then the stench of poop supplanted the acrid odor of cigarette smoke in the apartment.

“Here, you take her,” I said.

“Ha! No way,” Lacey said. “She who holds her changes her.”

“Hopefully that’s what’s wrong with her,” I said wrinkling my nose. “I’ll do it. Ronnie hated poop in his diaper.” I walked to the nursery holding Victoria away from me as though she might explode. On the changing table, she wailed on, thrashing from side to side. Between Lacey and me, we managed to remove the rank cloth, clean her bottom, and pin a fresh diaper in place without impaling her.

“I feel like I just wrestled a crocodile!” Lacey said, pinching the diaper and dropping it into an evil smelling soaking pail.

I picked the baby up. And just like that her face smoothed and cleared. I expected a rainbow to cross her features. She cooed and patted my cheeks.

“Aww, look, Lace. She’s so sweet.”

I kissed Victoria and regarded the nursery for the first time. The room was a surprise: expensively decorated and fancy. Sumptuous fabrics—pinks, creams, and a yellow so buttery I expected it to come off on my fingers—covered every surface except the dresser. The top looked like the silver section of an antique shop—ornate picture frames, a brush and comb, a Christening cup, a bunny piggy bank. Only lovely dreams could be dreamed in such a room. Lacey began to snoop. She peered inside the closet.

“Wow, Victoria has more clothes than we do.”

I carried the baby back to the living room where a blanket pallet scattered with toys was laid. Victoria sat and looked expectantly at me.

“Come play with us,” I called. “What are you doing back there?”

“I haven’t found anything good yet. I looked in their bedside tables last time. Not even a diaphragm,” Lacey said dejectedly. I heard her opening and closing dresser drawers. Victoria rocked forward and back on hands and knees; trying to reach the cloth duck I danced in her path.

“C’mon, Lace.”

Lacey came in and turned the TV station to The Brady Bunch. We played with Victoria and laughed at Jan on TV wearing a brunette wig. At quarter past seven I heated a bottle while Lacey changed the baby a final time. Victoria went down without a peep, pansy eyes at half-mast, her bud-like fists unfurling. “Sleep well, little love,” I said softly and covered her with an embroidered coverlet.

We pulled a couple of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies from the box on the counter. Lacey resumed her investigations, poking through the kitchen drawers. I plopped down on the sofa and began folding a basket of baby laundry. The Partridge Family was coming on. C’mon get happy! Lacey noticed a door in the wall behind the sofa. She scooched behind the sofa and opened the door. “Wow.”

I twisted to look. Stacks and stacks of magazines covered the shelves of a walk-in closet. There must have been five hundred spines! “What magazines do they have?” I asked. Lacey pulled one from a shelf at eye level. Her face grew still.

She held the magazine out between her thumb and forefinger as if it might bite. Playboy! “Oh my gosh, Lacey.” I was on my feet, forgetting all about Laurie Partridge heading on a date with a biker named Snake. Of course we knew about dirty magazines. In theory. We’d seen them behind the counter, high up on the rack, in filling stations. Once at school in seventh grade, a boy named Chet Sanders had passed around a page torn from a Playboy: a supine woman, boobs as big around as her face. The wrinkled page landed on the girls’ lunch table at noon. We jumped up, squealing as if a boulder had been dropped into a pool of acid. Coach Crenshaw, on duty and nibbling on a stalk of celery, confiscated the page and Chet Sanders’s free time.