Thursday, March 1, 2012

Recalling "Little Jo"

Embedded in String Too Short to Tie is a series of short short stories labelled "Tales to Be Told." Today's post is a reprise of the first of these stories.

She was thin, almost scrawny. The little girl shuffled along 25th Street, scuffing her bare feet in the gravel as she walked. The flour sack dress her Grandmother made for her was the ultimate indignity. “No matter what Mother believed about me and even if she didn‘t love me, at least she always bought me pretty clothes,” the girl muttered to herself. “What is wrong with me, that my own Mother gave me away?”

She moved along a few more steps and as she thought these thoughts, a stone about the size of a duck egg caught her eye. It might have had the face of her Mother etched on it, or it might have been her own face she saw. In either case, the thing made a wonderful target for the kick she aimed at it with her right foot. Contact! Suddenly the pain that she was feeling in her heart was forgotten as all her thoughts were focused on the pain in her toe. Hopping clumsily on her left foot, she grasped the injured member in both hands then crumpled to the ground to examine the damage. Seated on the coarse grass at the roadside she inspected the injury. No blood. That was a good thing because the only thing she hated more than worms was the sight of blood.

“Well,” she thought, “I am a mess. Daddy is right I’m clumsy and useless and in everybody’s way. What did he say? Oh, yeah. ‘I’ll never understand why your mother insisted on naming you Grace. You’re about as graceful as that thing they call elephant.’ Yeah, and then he calls me ‘Gracie Allen‘. I hear her on the radio and she may be an adult and everything, but she sure sounds stupid to me. So he thinks I am clumsy AND stupid. Well, I won’t be ‘Grace’ anymore. From now on I am Jo Ann! After all, when autumn begins this year I will be ten years old! I’ll show everyone.”

She got up from the berm and resumed her walk to Grandmother’s house. There was a bit of a limp in her step now, though, but as she forgot about the pain in her foot, the pain in her heart returned.“Why does Daddy have to marry that stupid old Lola? And those ignorant girls of hers are awful. I can’t live with them. I just can’t. I’ll ask Grandma if I can come live with her. But that won’t help much, since those dopes will all be right next door, anyway.”She walked through the door of Grandma’s house and slammed the door behind her.

Grandmother called from the kitchen, “In here right now, Girl! What is it with you and the door slamming? Oh, dear. You’re limping. What happened?”

“Aw,” Jo Ann whined, “I stobbed my toe on a stupid old rock!”

“The rock was stupid?”

"Don’t start in with me about ‘clumsy’. I get enough of that from Daddy.”

“Now, now. It’s all right. I don’t see any swellin‘. Grab that parin’ knife and start in on those taters, Young’n. Oh, wait. Scrub those hands first.”

Jo Ann went to the zink and lathered her hands with the lye soap , all the while muttering indecipherable noises as though she were experiencing glossolalia.

“That’s enough with the grumbling, Girl. Your life certainly seems to be pizzle-sprung. What is it now?"

"It’s that stupid Lola, and Maria and Lolita. Why can’t they just go to, uh, to Golconda and leave me and Daddy alone?”

“I know you are hurtin‘, but they ain’t no call to get all twisted in a knot. Grownups is gonna do what they gonna do.”

“Yeah, grownups.”
After dinner and dishes, Jo Ann read until she was reminded that she needed to get on home to bed. “And turn the latch on that outhouse door when you leave it. I hear your Dad callin’ now.”

As she lay in bed in the dark all the hobgoblins of loneliness, fear of the unknown, and a thousand, maybe a million, other bugaboos haunted the girl. But the worst was the ever-nagging question. Why did my Mother throw me away? Hot tears dampened her pillow; but eventually, recalling snippets from her life in Chicago, she became too exhausted to stay awake any longer and sleep stole her consciousness away.

© 2008 David W. Lacy


Shelly said...

What wonderful voice you write with! I loved this story, and can't wait to hear more!

Pearl said...

Poor little Grace/JoAnn!

There IS more to this story, isn't there?

Say "yes"...


Anonymous said...

I remember reading this story - and maybe remarking that I always loved my name - no matter what - "Grace, Grace with the monkey face" And yeah, I was clumsy and thought my name was a cruel joke (turns out I have very poor depth perception - took until I was 32 to find that out...) I can never think of a better name than Grace to call myself...(except maybe Graziella - which is what I was supposed to be named but the mother didn't know how to spell it...)

vanilla said...

Shelly, thank you so much. Your seal of approval is cherished.

Pearl, yes.

Grace, you did mention that you liked your name. I call BBBH "Grace" more frequently now, especially since all her health-care providers call her that! Nearly thirty years ago we had a little girl in our HS who went by "Grace." Her obituary yesterday designated her as "Graziela." Sad that she left us so young.

Sharkbytes said...

Since I already know there is a sequel waiting, I won't grouse at you. Definitely needs more of the story.

vanilla said...

Shark, hope you enjoy the continuation.