Ten O’clock Scholar – hard

This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘hard.’

Enjoy the snippet here, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Mrs. Stone stood in front of the classroom; a frown burrowed across her brow until the classroom quieted. No one spoke. Not a twitter. Not a laugh. Not even a cough broke the silence that wound its way throughout the thirty plus students.

Once she had the entire classes rapt attention, the teacher picked up a stack of stapled papers from the corner of her desk. “Here is a revised syllabus. One of the scheduled speakers had to cancel. And I’ve added in a mandatory field trip to the LA County Museum of Art.”

One of the younger girls in the front row raised her hand. When the teacher nodded in her direction, she dropped her hand and fidgeted with her ponytail nervously. “Is a school bus taking us there?”

“No. We’ll meet there. Everyone is responsible for their own transportation.”

“But Mrs. Stone…I don’t have a car. I take a bus from Ontario. I don’t know how to take a bus all the way into L.A.”

“Perhaps you can ride with one of the other students. You’ll have to figure out how to get there. As long as you’re all there by ten o’clock sharp for our tour.”

Peggy stifled a giggle as thoughts of the children’s nursery rhyme book she’d read to the boys the night before ran through her head. She doodled on her legal pad — A diller, a dollar, a ten o’clock scholar – and encased the words in a huge clock with hands designating the proper time.

When Mrs. Stone turned and passed the stack of papers to the lone young man in the class sitting in the front corner seat, Peggy held up the paper to show Wanda.

Before Wanda could stop it, a laugh erupted, which she quickly turned to a cough to try and disguise the mirth which would not be appreciated by their fearless leader.

Peggy’s amusement simmered down and dissipated when she thought of the new field trip that was added to the classes’ agenda.

I don’t drive into LA. Thank goodness for GPS! That’s going to be a hard trip to fit in. I hope Mary can watch the boys earlier than normal so I can get there on time. That sounds like fun. I’ve never been to that museum. How am I going to get the extra gas money?

Her mind whirled about with conflicting emotions and when the lights dimmed for the start of the morning lecture, and a shot of antique pottery vases appeared on the screen on the wall, Peggy realized that she’d tuned out the teacher’s last comments. She hoped she hadn’t missed anything important.

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Trisha’s Website

Ten O’clock Scholar – green

This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘green.’

Enjoy the snippet here, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

It seemed like she merely blinked, and the Candyland game was over, dinner was cooked and served, bath time had progressed without any major incidents, and it was the next morning and Peggy was loading the boys in the car to take to Mary’s for the day.

“I don’t want to go to Mary’s. I want to stay home and play with you,” Clifford whined.

“You’d think for being such an early riser, you wouldn’t be such a cranky pants,” Peggy countered.

He fastened the seatbelt around his child safety seat with a ferocious click and glared at his mother.

Peggy lowered Jonathan into his larger child’s car seat, still wearing his footed pajamas. Even though she’d had to wake him up to take to her friend’s house so she could go to school that day, you’d never know from his attitude. He snuggled his favorite blankie around one side of his neck, tucked his favorite stuffed puppy under the other, and closed his eyes to return to slumber.

Peggy mused how different her boys were. She wondered if they’d carry these differences into adulthood. With that, she quickly dropped her school tote in the floorboard on the passenger side and dashed around the car to claim her seat.

 As she turned the ignition and backed out of the driveway, she crossed her fingers and hoped that she’d hit all the lights green. She was running late. Again. And with this teacher not tolerating any tardiness in her students, Peggy knew she’d better drive as quickly as possible.

Ten minutes later she handed her friend a sleeping toddler. She nudged a still-pouting Clifford on the shoulder. “Go on in. I’ve got to dash Mary, if I’m going to get there before the teacher locks the door. I’ll stop and chat more when I pick the boys up.”

Twenty minutes later, Peggy grumbled aloud as she pulled into Chaffey Jr. College’s parking lot. “Of course, you nit-wit. Pushing your luck on the time, and it’s packed.”

She made several turns around the congested lot, checking her watch constantly. She finally found an open spot on the row furthest out. Grabbing her bag, she locked the car and ran. Huffing and puffing, she rounded the corner and sighed with relief to see the classroom still propped open. She slowed to a fast scurry the last fifty feet and made it inside to see Mrs. Stone headed to the door.

Peggy felt a rush of gratitude to see an empty seat in the rear, next to Wanda. She slid into the chair and almost collapsed with relief.

Wanda gave her a wink and whispered. “Fifteen feet to spare. You cut it close this morning!”

“Right? It must be my lucky day-“

“Silence, please,” Mrs. Stone called from the front, cocking one eyebrow, and looking deliberately in Peggy’s direction.

Peggy slumped in the chair, feeling contrite. This must be how Clifford feels when he gets in trouble.

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Trisha’s Website

Ten O’clock Scholar – red

This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘red.’

Enjoy the snippet here, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

What was a mother to do? Peggy felt like it was all a juggling act. Housework – homework – play time with the children. A little time here – a little attention there – keeping all the plates spinning in the air with enough attention to keep everything afloat. Her marriage seemed to be one of those plates that didn’t get as much notice as the others.

That must be why that plate is wobbling in the air and is about to crash to the ground.

When that thought crossed her mind, Peggy mused for a moment that she should do something about it. Then a tug on her hand brought her back to her current situation and the impulse to work on her marriage vanished.

Clifford stood beside her, holding a Candyland game. “Can we play this, Mommy? Pleasssssse?”

Peggy looked down at the golden-haired boy by her side, sunlight gleaming off of his tresses forming a halo around him. Sometimes he could be an adorable angel. But other days…he was the usual mix of an onery boy alternating with a cherub. Shrugging and smiling, Peggy succumbed to the pleading grin and held her hand out for the game.

Grinning, she cleared her books from the table and started setting up the board. Clifford settled into a chair, sitting on his knees for a better vantage point to the board game. Jonathan followed his big brother, making his way up on the chair next to him.

Pulling the game pieces from the box, Peggy turned to Clifford and asked him first. “What color are you going to be today?”

“Red. I want the red one.”

She turned to Jonathan. “And you, little man, what color do you want?”

“Blue!” He clapped his chubby hands in delight.

With that, Peggy chose a yellow piece for herself, and they started to play. As they took their turns, moving around the Candyland world, Peggy’s mind kept drifting off. As much as she enjoyed playing with her boys, the game geared for the youngsters wasn’t enough to keep her fully engrossed. She found herself thinking of floor plans, and traffic patterns, and how she’d develop a design idea for the first project that was due in two weeks.

Then she looked around the house they lived in. A small kitchen area with barely room for one person at a time, with only a space for one small round table for the four them, opening right up into the one and only living room – no extra family room here – and a hallway with one bathroom and three bedrooms all within a stones throw of each other. She sighed, thinking how marvelous it would be to live in something as grand as she’d be able to design on paper.

She looked at the striped wallpaper covering the main living room wall – a design the previous owners had in place when they purchased the house. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t a design that she’d have picked if she was the one choosing.

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Trisha’s Website

Ten O’clock Scholar – persuasive

This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘persuasive.’

Enjoy the snippet here, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

“What’s up, buttercup?” Peggy asked Clifford.

His face squinched up in disgust. “I am not a buttercup. Who wants to be a cup filled with butter?”

Peggy stifled a giggle. “It’s just an expression, honey. A buttercup is a flower, a pretty little flower.”

He scowled and started to stick a tongue out.

Peggy gave him the mother’s-evil-eye-glare and he stopped, a pink fleshy tongue sticking halfway out.

“I’m not a flower either!” His cheeks puffed out in annoyance, and he squeezed his eyes so tight he created a roadmap of old lady wrinkles around both eyes.

His face continued to tighten, and his mouth opened. As a wail began to sound, Peggy pulled out the most persuasive argument she could think of to stop him before he entered the desperate zone.

“Clifford! In two days, want to go to Mickey D’s and play with Denise and Linda?”

He stopped mid-bellow. “Today?”

“No, not today. In two days.”

“I want to go play with them. Even though they’re girls. Let’s go tomorrow,” he countered with his five-year old logic.

“Not tomorrow. Mommy has school tomorrow.”

He flopped down on the floor. “I don’t want you to go to school. I don’t want to go to Mary’s house. I want to go to Mickey D’s.” He began to wind up for another try at getting his way.

Peggy flipped her book shut and stood up, holding a finger in front of her lips. “Shhh! Let’s go get a cookie. But you can’t tell Jonathan. It will be our secret.” She moved towards the pantry without a backward glance.

She heard him quiet, and as she opened the pantry door, saw the flash of his blue shirt appear to her side. Keeping her face turned from him, she hid her smile.

Mommy One. Child None. This time…

Before Clifford consumed the last morsel, Jonathan toddled in, rubbing his sleepy eyes. “Me cookie too.”

Peggy sighed and pulled out two napkins from the holder on the counter. “Come on. Up at the table you two.” When they were seated with a napkin in front of them, she dispensed two cookies a piece. As they ate their snack, she picked her book up and put in her school tote bag.

That was it for her homework time, until after they were tucked in bed for the night. Fortunately, she’d made good headway. If the boys were in bed by eight, she’d have plenty of time to complete the rest of her work.

“Let’s play, Mommy,” Clifford asked.

Looking up at the clock, Peggy saw there was about an hour before she needed to start dinner. Then she looked out at the living room area and saw the piles of clothes scattered about, not to mention a bevy of dirty cups and plates from last night, and Derek’s overflowing ashtrays. She really should work on some housekeeping tasks. Then she looked down at the big blue eyes beseeching her for mother-sons play time.

The eyes won.

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Trisha’s Website

Ten O’clock Scholar – fabric

This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘fabric.’

Enjoy the snippet here, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

The text from Peggy’s friend, Sami, was short and sweet as most of hers were. ‘Lunch tomorrow?’

Peggy tapped back. ‘No can do. School tomorrow. Friday?’

An image of a thumbs-up symbol flashed back on the screen in front of her.

And with that little exchange, Peggy knew all the details. It would be at eleven, before the lunch crowd started hitting. And it would be at the kids’ favorite place – the home of Ronald McDonald. A boon to the two mothers because the new, extensive playground kept all the children entertained for hours on end, while they chatted and caught up with life. Even better, the low prices made it an affordable mother’s outing.

Back to the book.

Peggy turned her attention back to the architecture of the ancient Mesopotamians, but the enthusiasm she’d felt earlier had dissipated.

But I only stopped reading for a moment. Stopping to read one text shouldn’t get me out of the zone.

But it had.

Reading the words slowly and intently didn’t help. Peggy turned the pages and kept plodding along, but it felt like the magic had gone out of the moment. Tipping her head back, she checked the clock on the kitchen wall. She cocked an ear towards the back of the house. The silence that answered let her know the boys still slept.

I need to get through this while they’re still sawing logs. Maybe I’ll switch to my Intro to Interior Design book.

Tucking a paper napkin in between the pages where she’d stopped in the architecture book, Peggy closed the cover with a thunk and pushed the book to the far side of the table. She dug in her tote bag and pulled out the volume for the introductory class. Retrieving a paper from inside the front cover, she scanned through the syllabus to see what she needed to read for this class.

Awesome! The first chapter is textiles. Now, fabrics I know something about. This should be easier reading.

Peggy raced through that chapter. Cottons, brocades, tapestries, chiffon, chintz, damask, moire, linen. A state of happiness infused her as she read further.

All those years of Home Ec in high school came in handy after all!

Her pencil flew down the page on the self-quiz for this reading without any hesitation. Answer after answer was checked immediately. Feeling confident, she tucked the pages into the book and dropped it back in the tote bag. Glancing at the previously abandoned book she decided to attack it once again, knowing that she had the fortitude to power through and do what she needed to do for her class.

She was on the last page before she heard a stifled yawn and looked up to see Clifford standing beside her, rubbing his eyes.

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Trisha’s Website

Ten O’clock Scholar – annoying

This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘annoying.’

Enjoy the snippet here, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Peggy knew she’d better get started. The reading and homework weren’t going to get done while she sat there and fretted about it. And if she dallied too long, the boys would wake up and her school time would be lost.

Opening the book, she started reading.

Mesopotamia? Where was that?

Peggy kept reading.

“The ancient Mesopotamians were particularly interested in using architecture to plan and advance their cities. Major building materials included clay and mud brick. From these raw materials, Mesopotamians were known for creating large houses with central courtyards and terraced pyramids called ziggurats.”

And what is a ziggurat? This is getting annoying. I don’t want to read about all this ancient drivel. What does this have to do with interior design? It’s not like I’m going to be decorating a tomb or anything.

I just want to learn to decorate houses in today’s time. I want to know how to pick furniture. How to pull different styles together. How to choose paint colors. How to buy paint. And wallpaper. Who to hire? Where to find the materials I need.

Peggy closed her eyes, and a slow sigh escaped her lips, as if its breath would ease out and surround her frustration and make it all magically better. She peeked her eyes open. It didn’t work. The book still lay open in front of her.

Shaking her head, she turned the page and continued.

Soon, she knew more about the Ziggurat at Ur than she wanted to know. Okay, she muttered as she read along, key words betting uttered out loud in exasperation.

“…one of the last standing monuments of the Sumerians…”

“…meant to honor the city’s patron god Nanna…”

She giggled at that thought. Her mother-in-law was a Nana, not ever wanting to be called Grandma.

She may be a Nana, but she’s certainly no god, although sometimes she seems to think she’s one.

Peggy’s hand flew to her mouth to clamp the words tightly inside, not wanting them to be spoken out loud. Oh gracious, wouldn’t that cause a war in the house if Derek heard her speak against his mother like that. He had his own issues with her. It was okay for him to find fault with his mother – but Peggy couldn’t.

Enough of that! Peggy chided herself.

Back to these horrid ancient monuments.

As she read, the initial aggravation about having to read about these archaic structures eased. She started to find the information intriguing.

“…there was a bedchamber for a woman of the village and the priest would bring things for the god’s use.”

“…meant to be meeting places between heaven and earth and thus, the stairs that came about as a result of construction were able to be traversed by humans…”

The further she read, the more engrossed she became. The pages now turned without a conscious thought. Soon she was deep in the pyramids. When her phone dinged with a text, she jerked to present day in surprise, almost ripping a page in the process.

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Trisha’s Website

Ten O’clock Scholar – lip

This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘lip.’

Enjoy the snippet here, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

She sighed, with a pang of regret. She loved her boys with all her heart. But…some days she dreamed of a different life. One without so many conflicts and struggles. One that included travel and weekend getaways to peaceful shores and mountains filled with breezes rippling through the cedar and pine trees. A life without so many arguments with a husband.

Looking upward, towards the brilliant orb making its way across the sky, Peggy stood up to turn off the sprinkler. She called out to the boys on her way. “Time’s up.

“But Moooooom…..” Clifford started to whine.

“Stop!” Peggy held up a hand, palm flat in the air. “No lip. I’m not in the mood.”

To their credit, that was the end of Clifford’s protest. Jonathan, as usual the more compliant one of the two, beelined for a towel without further urging. Clifford followed behind. The scowl on his face made his opinion apparent.

Once inside, both boys dropped their wet swim trunks in the bathtub and climbed into clean dry play clothes. Jonathan climbed into his bottom bunk and his eyes closed before Clifford had climbed up to his higher perch.

“Mom, can I have a drink of water?” Clifford called out.

“Just one.” Peggy sighed as she turned and wheeled to the kitchen to partially fill a small glass with a few sips of water. When she returned, holding the glass in front of her, Clifford was already snoring.

A rush of warmth filled Peggy’s heart as she gazed at the two slumbering boys. She almost felt bad about her feelings of wanting some time for herself. These two were her joy and her delight in life. Why wasn’t that enough? Why did she want to achieve personal goals that didn’t relate to motherhood?

Returning the unused glass to the kitchen, Peggy shook off the contradictory feelings that she struggled with.

Not now. I’ll deal with those thoughts later. Right now – it’s books and reading. The history of architecture calls me from afar.

Grabbing a cold Diet Coke from the refrigerator, she settled into an armchair, and opened the massive textbook. She’d recoiled when in the bookstore the week before when she saw the price of the text she needed for this class. Her only consolation was that this one book would last through three semesters. That almost justified the gigantic price tag. Almost.

She looked at her notes. How far did she need to read before class tomorrow?

Three chapters?

And complete a Q&A on the material?

By tomorrow?

She envied the youngsters in class that didn’t have the dual roles of student and mother. Most still lived at home and going to school was their full-time job. A wave of green washed over her as she compared her lifestyle to theirs. It seemed that they had such an easier time. Why didn’t she finish school ten years ago when she was younger and didn’t have a family to take care of in addition to scholastic pursuits?

Oh yes, she didn’t want to back then. School was boring. She wanted to start living life.

Well, here she was, ten years later – living life.

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Trisha’s Website

Ten O’clock Scholar – picture prompt

Our current story is Ten O’clock Scholar. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. These snippets will be short. Each one is 300 words or less. There are several pictures to choose from and we each pick one to write to.

Enjoy the tale, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Later that morning Clifford started in on his campaign. “Can we play in the sprinkler, Mommy?”

“Not yet. After lunch.”

Ten minutes later. “Mommy…please…let’s go play in the sprinkler.”

He was nothing if not persistent. At five years old he’d already perfected the trick of the Chinese slow water drop torture technique.

“Pleeeeeease, Mommy.”

“Can we go out now?”

As irritating as his persistent demands were, a small portion of Peggy had to acknowledge that he was a little boy that knew what he wanted and put every effort into getting there. She chuckled as she thought that he’d been that way since he was a toddler.

She finally gave in by eleven o’clock. “Okay boys, go wash up.”

After a hurried lunch of bologna sandwiches and a handful of chips, the boys went to put on their swim trunks as Peggy sat the dirty dishes in the sink and wiped the crumbs off the table.

Clifford returned sporting his favorite trunks with sharks adorning them. Jonathan walked into the kitchen wearing his birthday suit.

Peggy sighed and shook her head. “No, son. You’re not going out in the front yard naked.”

After getting the youngest in appropriate outdoor wear, they headed out front where the thick Bermuda grass would happily absorb the water. Turning on the sprinkler, the boys screamed and dashed in and out in their joyful dance of delight.

Peggy retrieved a lawn chair from the garage and settled down to keep an eye on them as they played.

A jet roared over their heads, lifting in elevation as it flew away from Ontario Airport. The boys watched with excitement. Peggy watched also, but with a feeling of longing. What would it be like to simply appear at the airport and take off for some far away destination?

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Trisha’s Website

Ten O’clock Scholar TT – eighteen

Can I pull myself out of the past? I don’t know. After spending much of the past two years writing historical fiction, with a few occasional essays here and there, I’m heading back to a contemporary tale.

This story, Ten O’clock Scholar, isn’t new. I started it in July 2016. I used it for my Tuesday Tales work and posted 18 posts from January 2017 to June 2017. And then…I got bored. And rushed off to other projects and four years later have never gone back to it.

My goal for 2022 is to FINISH UP a lot of incomplete and neglected projects. Ten O’clock Scholar is on that list. So here we go, back to a forgotten tale. Peggy is a thirty-something mother of two young boys. She has dreams beyond what her marriage is providing. Going back to school to become an interior designer is top on her list. Her husband is not supportive of her endeavors. I’d gotten through Chapter Three before dropping this story. We’re starting off as Peggy is in her first week of school.

This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘eighteen.’

Enjoy the snippet here, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Before Peggy could arouse enough to stand from the chair she’d fallen asleep in, Derek stomped down the hallway, causing picture frames hanging on the wall to rattle. She looked at his face for clues to his mood, a habit she’d fallen into so many years earlier, and saw the answer in his tight, clenched jaw.

“Oh my, I don’t know—”

His chilly glare put an end to her explanation.

She opened her mouth again to apologize. He turned his back and whirled into the kitchen. She didn’t have to watch him to know what he was doing. The clanks and bangs announced that he was making his coffee. She cringed as he flung open the pantry door and banged the filter on the side, emptying the old grounds from the day before. The can of coffee dropped to the counter with a clang so loud she was surprised it didn’t wake the boys.

This was not good.

The last time Derek was this angry, he’d gone an entire week without speaking. The hardest part of that wasn’t the icy atmosphere that filled the house. In a way, his lack of speaking was almost a relief. At least he wasn’t busy berating her when he wasn’t talking to her. But it was that feeling of walking on eggshells that kept a knot tied deep in her belly that was so difficult.

Peggy laid her laptop aside and stood and stretched before making her way to the back of the house. Maybe she could grab a quick shower before Cliff and Jonathan woke up and set the day in frantic motion.

I love those boys to pieces, but boy, this will be easier once they’re eighteen years old!

Peggy tried to recall the peaceful carefree feelings she had the night before while searching for Bohemian images on Pinterest. If only she could channel that light emotion right now.

That thought didn’t work its magic.

School – she’d think of school. That should pull her out of the doldrums. She had homework to complete today. And class tomorrow! Another afternoon in the company of adults. Well, mostly adults. If you could consider the twittering twenty-something’s grown up. Today she’d face another new challenge in the mom-going-to-school dilemma. How to get homework done.

Fortunately, as early as Clifford liked to wake up, something he’d done since he was an infant, the boys always napped well. They were usually good for at least a two-hour snooze. Especially if she let them play in the sprinkler after lunch.

One day at a time. That’s all I can do. I’ll get through this. One day a time, one class at a time, one argument at a time. And then, many days in the future, I’ll figure out what I’m going to do with my life. To stay or to go will be a decision I’ll face later.

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Trisha’s Website

Dear Arlie – bean

Dear Arlie is a fictional tale about five friends in their early 20’s, set in 1911. While fictional in nature, snippets about these real women have been taken from actual postcard correspondences between Pauline Washburn and Arlie Shinkle.

In Tuesday Tales, we write to a weekly word prompt. Once a month we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘bean.’

Return to TUESDAY TALES here, to read other fun tidbits of upcoming works.


Typically at the community picnics at Old Settler’s Park Arlie was like the belle of the ball, traipsing back and forth amongst the different groups of families and friends. On this Fourth of July gathering though, she was more sedate than usual. She sat primly on the family’s woven blanket, legs tucked underneath her in a ladylike manner as she listened attentively to George. In between his ramblings, he’d stop to stuff his mouth with a huge bite of the fried chicken he was so anxious to get.

In these quiet pauses, Arlie’s mind would wander. What surprise does he have for me?

“Baked beans?” George’s words caught her unawares and she jerked to attention, almost knocking the pan of golden brown nuggets out of his hands.

“Oh, no…sorry. You caught me woolgathering.”

“About anything exciting?”

“No…not anything in particular…not really,” Arlie stammered. She didn’t want to admit that her thoughts were racing through her brain, trying to put together little bits of puzzle pieces in an attempt to figure out what his surprise was.

The family finished eating and passed their plates to Mother, who gathered the dirty dishes and utensils and placed them in the picnic hamper, along with the leftover food. Everyone lay back relaxing with full bellies and the summer sun beating down upon them.

William and Eddie wandered by and stopped to visit. “Hey, George…want to join us in a game of horseshoes?”

George turned to Arlie with a question in his eyes. “Do you mind?”

“Of course not. You go on. I’ll stay here in the shade and rest.”

After the men ambled off, Arlie’s mother looked her square in the eye. “Are you alright, dear?”

“Yes, Mother. I’m fine.”

“You’re so quiet today. You’re not being a little gadfly between all your friends.”

Arlie sighed and tried not to be disrespectful towards her mother. “Remember…Millie’s in Michigan. And Pauline’s moved. Only Alla’s here today. I haven’t seen where the Richardson’s are sitting, and it’s too muggy to go walking about in search of her.”

“Just asking, dear, to make sure nothing’s amiss.”

“Really, Mother. I’m fine and dandy.” Arlie paused and stroked her chin. “Besides, George has a surprise for later tonight and I’m trying to figure out what it is.”

Arlie tipped her head up in time to see her father trying to suppress a grin. “What? Father? Do you know anything about what George is planning?”

Arlie’s father coughed and wiped his hand across his mouth as if trying to wipe his expression away. “No…no…not a clue. Don’t know a thing about what the young fella has up his sleeve.”

Shaking her head in disgust, Arlie laid back on the blanket and closed her eyes. This is going to be the longest day in history.

But, after a short cat nap, and George returning all red and flushed to wake her, the day passed by quicker than she’d imagined. Neighbors stopped by to chat with one another. The mayor and his wife circulated among the crowd, passing out small flags to anyone who didn’t already have one. When everyone was getting hungry again, they dug out the pans of food and cleaned up the rest of it. And before she knew it, the evening sky was dimming, and the crowd was beginning to stir and get restless.

dear arlie_picnic2

George spoke to Arlie’s father. “Sir, may I whisk your daughter away to watch the fireworks from a special spot?”

Arlie’s father winked as he answered. “Naturally, son. Long as it’s not too secluded and private.”

George blushed and stood. “No, sir! It’s nothing like that. It’s a spot I discovered last year. At the edge of the park. And you can see the fireworks quite clearly. Not a tree nor a bush to hid them.” He glanced up at the towering oaks they were sheltered by as if to make a point. He held out a hand to help Arlie stand.

Arlie took his hand and felt her heart flutter at his touch. She felt flush at the thought of being alone with him at the edge of the park, just the two of them with no family and friends.

When they arrived at the location George led them to, he turned and apologized. “I’m sorry. I neglected to bring a throw to sit upon. I suppose we’ll have to stand and watch.” He glanced over to a rock overcropping at the top of a small ravine. “Unless you want to sit over on that boulder? Although it’s not much of a chair for a princess.”

“Oh, George, you know me. I’m not that prim and proper.” She waved her hand in the air as if brushing the thought away. “But you can scout it out and make sure there’s no snakes.”

Grabbing a small limb laying underneath a hickory tree behind them, George did his manly duty and pushed and prodded at all the nooks and crannies. Declaring the area free of vermin, he proceeded to grandly lay his white handkerchief out on the flattest part of the rock for Arlie to sit on. There the two sat, shoulder to shoulder, as the bangs started and the night air was filled with sparkling flashes of red, white, and blue.

They sat in awe, the flares in the night sky being much tamer than the sparks that were igniting in their bodies. As the grand finale lit up the valley in an explosion of light and color, George turned to Arlie and caressed her cheeks with his palms. “My sweet, sweet Arlie…would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

Dear Arlie_fireworks.jpg

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September 2022

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