Fiction: Dirty Diapers

When was there a time when Thankful did not have to concern herself with diapers? Now as Thankful scrubbed shit far from her family, she wondered why she had traveled a great distance only to immerse her hands in dirty laundry water again. Her tantrum may have ruined a friendship with Mrs. Markham, who had been a kinder mother to her in a few months than Margaret had been in her entire lifetime. Either way—in Englewood or Arizona—she was pushing other folks’ strollers.

“Say! Anyone at home?” William called as he came around the back gate. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting to see you, Thankful.”

Thankful’s dress and her stylish apron hung sodden and dirty. “I live here don’t I? What do you want?”

“Um, well . . . are you all right?” William asked.

“I’m perfectly fine, William. You must be wrecked after the show you put on for the garrison last night,” she said, punching at the diapers in the basin and giving herself an uncomfortable splash in the eye.

“Funny thing; I’m right as rain,” William replied, tipping his hat back and leaning on the gate. “I always sleep well at army posts. My legs are sore, but . . .”

“Well, that serves you right—hopping around foolishly!”

“I can’t hop, Thankful, so I guess you’re wrong on that. As far as being a fool—well—I don’t mind if I was!” William laughed.

“Why are you here, William? I’m too busy for small talk.”

He didn’t seem to mind how angry and upset Thankful was.

“Well, yes, um, is Miss Peckham in?”

“No!” Thankful replied, huffing as she punched the wet diapers in the water. “She’s not in. She’s doing ‘research’ on the army species of man. She’s man enough—she needs no study.”

“Which way did she go? I wanted to know if she needed anything else from town before I head back.”

“Perfume and plenty of it!” Thankful said.

“What? Oh, your idea of a joke, I guess. Anyway, you don’t seem to know much so I’ll be on my way, Thankful.”

“Oh, yes, girls in trousers are much cleverer than the rest of us!” Thankful muttered as William closed the gate behind him, and was gone.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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I Want to Ride my Bicycle!

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The New Girl by Sally Mitchell (great book)

A confession–I home-schooled my daughter for less than a year. ( I also got donkey basketball cancelled at our town school–but that’s for another day). After days of arguing over multiplication I ended up letting said daughter sleep until noon and go for bike rides for the rest of the day (she still was ahead of her class upon return). The one thing we agreed upon was that The Little House on the Prairie books were cool. Here’s when men’s eyes glaze over or  looks of uncertain panic race over their features imagining (wrongly) that women really want a Michael Landon “Pa” who constantly breaks into tears as a husband. Let me assure you, men, that the books are nothing like the insipid show. In real life Pa fought wild animals, built things, teased his wife, and nearly starved to death to save his family during a long winter. He died young, but before he did he lived adventurously and sang songs at bedtime.

Women readers grumble “I thought she was focusing on women for a few days?” and I hear you.  Laura Ingalls, writing about her young adulthood at the turn of the century,  captures the bittersweet reality of life. She doesn’t write about women kick boxers coming to town to show the men a thing or two. She doesn’t make men “sensitive” in a Alan Alda/Ed Sheernan sort of way. And most of all she doesn’t have the women grow up and turn into beautiful, delicate creatures. We often look back or look forward to a time when women and men got things right or will get things right (depending on our agenda), but even a quick perusal of Genesis shows the same battles. The stories also show pretty strong women. (As an aside Teddy Roosevelt once said that a thorough reading of the Bible was worth more than a college education and I have to agree with him–I thought I knew the Bible from stories I heard on Sundays as a child, but REALLY the actual Bible when read and pondered is a writer’s dream go-to for drama).

Maybe I am avoiding really focusing on women because we’ve become a very controversial lot. If I say we’re in danger of becoming dictatorial in our constant demand for “rights” and more “rights” to “express ourselves” in ways that half the time seem self destructive, some feminists will get huffed. If I suggest that men and their patriarchal society are at the root of all evil, I lie to myself because women in business, the arts and politics can be just a vicious and brutal as men. So how does one write about women in the late-Victorian era?

Katherine Weldon in The House on Tenafly Road  and I both picked men with substance abuse issues. It doesn’t really matter that much that she wore corsets and skirts and I wear Levi’s. A love story is a love story (I don’t buy that patriarchal society created romantic love as a device to control women). Feminists say the personal is political and to some extent they’re right, but what tends to happen is that every slight, every misunderstanding, every rape, every wrong against women lands squarely on the poor guy in front of you who for the most part doesn’t have the time or inclination to be all of that evil at once.

Now in my actual life most of my friends are drawn to men in a big way. They’re kinda cute, you must admit. In my fiction the girls/women are really confused and mixed-up and in love and restless and confined and . . . all of the things that make us human. When one of my favorite girl characters (after a tragic incident with an unfaithful suitor) is feeling particularly bitter about being a woman, a man gives her a bicycle and there begins her lust for freedom. It might cost her everything. It might not.

http://www.victorianstation.com/leisurebicycle.htm