Story excerpt



“So how was Ginny Walsh’s birthday party?” Mama asks the twins.

 It’s dinner time and everyone is clumped around the small kitchen table. Pops sits at the head, the twins to his left, mama and then me on the right. Voices and laughter can be heard coming faintly from the television set in the living room. Mama had asked Joy to turn it down when dinner was being eaten, so we could talk about how our day was.

  “It was great,” Judi insists.

 “Ginny’s mother hired a clown and a small petting zoo,” Joy adds.

  “What a waste of money,” Pops mutters in disgust as he ladles more gravy over his mashed potatoes. My mother ignores his comment.

  “That sounds like a lot of fun, girls.”

 Joy and Judi exchanges glances before Joy irrupts into giggles. “The best part of the whole party was when Tommy Harrison got his finger stuck in a snapping turtle’s mouth.”

                “He screamed and cried like a little girl until the zoo keeper came and took the turtle off,” Judi laughs. “He went home early he was so embarrassed!”

  Mama’s lips turn up at the corners, clearly suppressing a laugh of her own. “That poor boy, I hope he’s alright.”

 “He won’t show his face at school for at least a week I bet you,” Joy says.

  Judi grins. “I bet two weeks,”

 “You’re on. This is a sucker’s bet,” Joy crows, shaking Judi’s hand.

 Pops rustles the pages of a newspaper as he folds it in half so he can read the sports section while he eats. Normally he doesn’t participate in family discussions, and tonight is no exception. I figure it’s because once he comes back from plowing and harvesting and everything else, he’s too beat to do much else but sleep. But I don’t mind that all too much, since recently it seems that whenever we do talk, it’s about his dislike of my vocational aspirations. I still love him, but just don’t see eye to eye like we used to. I lift a forkful of carrots into my mouth and chew.

 “You’re mighty quiet tonight, Benjamin,” mama says as she cuts her meat into small pieces, looking at me as she does so.

 “I’ve just had a lot on my mind, sorry.”

 Mama smiles at this. “I can only imagine. How was the orientation at the high school yesterday?”

 I cringe involuntarily, waiting for the fuse mama just lit to sizzle over to my father and explode. But he merely flicks his gaze to me once, then continues reading the paper. I guess it’s safe to continue. “This man named Professor Burgundy gave a speech all about the science program at the university.” I leave out the part about the scholarship application until things are more concrete. I pull the folded pamphlet from my pocket and hand in to her. “They have a field trip coming up in a week to check out the observatory on a guided tour.” I say, trying not to let too much excitement leak into my voice.

 Mama unfolds the pamphlet and reads it over. “This sounds like a wonderful opportunity Benjamin. Oh, it says here there is a transportation fee of fifteen dollars.” Her eyes drift downward and I know what she’s thinking.

 “Don’t sweat it, I’ve got some bread saved up.”

 She perks up a little. “Always so responsible.”

  “I forgot to mention that Peggy’s going to come with me.”

“That sweet girl is such a dear.” Mama’s eyes become far away as she begins to reminisce. “It feels like only yesterday you two were making mud pies together.” She blinks and looks over at me. “I’ve always liked her.”

 “Peggy and Benjamin sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” Joy and Judi begin to sing at the same time.

 “Will you two little monsters cut that out? We are just friends,” I groan.

  The twins begin to protest and one of them mutters, “Does Peggy know that?” before mama hushes them. They lapse back into silence, glancing knowingly to each other.


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