Bits and Pieces

Chewing the Fat

When They Were Young




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Bits and Pieces

When I was thinking about my hopes and dreams for this website, I realized that Id like to have a page where I could share some of the bits and pieces that Ive written over the years. Things that carry a warm spot in my heart, but will never become anything more stately, like a novel.

I’m SO happy!

I just received a wonderful surprise in the mail.  A letter from Laura (my agent) with a royalty check for Gemma!  That’s right.  Gemma has earned back her advance.  Which totally flabbergasted me, since they didn’t have me go on tour or set up a bunch of press or anything.  So, despite Tooraj and Laura’s kindness in trying to beat the drum for Gemma, I was feeling a little blue about the whole thing.  Sad, like Gemma had found a home, but she only got to eat a bowl of oatmeal for sustenance. 

But no!  More of you discovered Gemma.  Read her story.  Took her into your hearts. 

So happy.

Hard to believe, but including the sales from when I released it before, this little book has sold over 23,000 copies! 

Now, for you movie people out there, you might think 23,000 copies, that’s peanuts.

Nope.  In the book world 23,000 is quite respectable.  Especially considering that out of the odd 1,500,000 books that are out there on the shelves, only 1.68% sell 5,000 or more a year. 

Thank you to all of your for supporting Gemma and me.  xo

Now, all I have to do is decide which charity I want to send the royalty check to.  This is the fun part. 

Oh, also, for those of you who didn’t know, Gemma is also available in Large Print.  You can check and see your local independent book store carries it.  If not, they can order it for you, or you can get it from  I mention this because I am at the point where the print in some books is getting hard to read, and so if you are like me, or a little further along in the aging process you might find that Large Print books are a happy invention. 

I really like the cover they did for the Large Print copy.  I wish I had a PDF of it so I could put it up on my site. 

Okay, I’m off to my writing.  kc dyer’s dragon fly wishes at the start of the summer really worked and I’m around 3 weeks away from having a first draft on a new middle grade manuscript, maybe closer.  My adult manuscript is resting with Laura, not sure what its fate is going to be.  I try not to think about it too much, or I’ll tie myself up in worry knots.  Breathe in, breath out.  One step in front of the next, write one sentence and then the next, and before I know it, I have another possible novel sitting in a hopeful pile of pages on my desk.

Bathroom tears

We dropped Will off at school and then Don drove me to the ferry terminal.  I found on the ride over that I was missing him already.  Don had never done a drop off at this ferry before, which I find amazing since he is supposedly the adventurous one and yet I’m the one who has been here many times. 

“Turn here,” I said.  “And then a right into here to the drop off section.”  He carefully pulled up so that the car was directly opposite the entrance doors. 
“I love you,” he said.  “Have a good time with your sister.”  It was really weird how homesick for him I was feeling.  We’ve been together for over seven years.  I was only going over to Nanaimo to see my sister for the day. 

He stayed parked by the side of the curb, blowing me kisses until I disappeared inside the building.  I went into the women’s bathroom, rather than the ticket terminal.  I was on the tail end of my period and needed frequent bathroom pit stops through out the day.

I hoisted my computer bag off of my shoulder and hung it on the hook on the back of the door, coated the seat with toilet paper, and sat down.  I wondered if he noticed that I went into the bathroom door rather than the ticket counter?  Whether he’d still be there waiting by the curb, clenching his fist over his heart, smiling out of the window, blowing me kisses, to accompany me to the booth where I would pay for my fare?

The outer door of the women’s bathroom banged open.  I could hear footsteps, a thump of something being put down, a clatter as something plastic fell to the cement floor.  And I heard something else.  Broken hearted sobbing. 

I froze.  I was in the process of wiping, but what should I do now?  She probably thought that she was alone.  If I went out would it make it worse?  Would she have to deal with embarrassment as well as bone weary hopeless sorrow? 

I finished what I was doing and then waited.  After a few minutes the explosion of sobs seemed to calm slightly.  There was movement noise as if she was pulling it together, busying herself.  I waited a few more seconds and when it seemed relatively calm, I stood, swept the toilet paper on the seat into the bowl with my foot, buttoned my jeans, zipped.  It was one of those automated flushing toilets so it flushed itself.  I took my computer bag off the hook and slung it over my shoulder and exited. 

My plan was to not look over, wash my hands and exit, acting like I hadn’t heard, inadvertently witnessed, her grief. 

I washed, all but my middle finger on my right hand, as I had five minutes earlier applied a Band-Aid there to protect a hangnail.  I was moving quickly, keeping my head facing forward, but she was trying to fill a Gatorade bottle with water and the machinations of the sink proved to be too much for her to handle.  When she would get the bottle under the tap, the automated sink would turn off, and when she took it away the swipe of her fingers holding the bottle would activate the faucet again. 

She hit the faucet with her palm, fingers curled slightly under like the effort of straightening them was more than her body could do, a cry escaping from her throat.

“Here.  See.” I reached over, still not looking up, and put my fingers in front of the sensor.  “It needs.”  I wasn’t sure what I was saying really.  She managed to get her shaking hands to hold the Gatorade bottle under the streams of water.  Her hands were street hands.  Tanned, hardened and calloused, the nails thicker than normal nails, and yellowed, and broken with dirt underneath.  The water mingling with the leftover blue of the Gatorade, then she pulled the bottle away.

“Is that enough?” I asked.  Her head jerked up to look at me.  Lost.  Dark shadows under hollowed out, frightened eyes.  What now?  They seemed to shout at me.  Drowning eyes.  She gestured, tipped her head to her hair covered her face again.  I started to go, but then she started to cry again.  I was almost around the bend of the bathroom to the exit, but there was such desperate aloneness and I found myself with my arms around her, holding her, my head resting on her freshly washed hair soft against my cheek, sweet smelling.  I can’t find the words, just soothing noises coming out of my heart like the calming sounds I used with my children were small and heartbroken about one thing or another.  It was that kind of feeling.  And she cried and she cried and then after awhile she straightened and I did too, neither of us looking at each other.  She turned back to her bag of things and I went outside.  Glanced over at the curb incase Don was still there waiting to catch one last wave and blown kiss.  But where the car had been was empty.  Just the street sign and the charcoal colored garbage can.  I could feel her around ten yards behind me.  I bought my ticket and went inside. 

The waiting room at this ferry terminal is quite beautiful as far as ferry terminals go.  It is a bank of windows opening out to the marina filled with vacation boats, the ferry dock, the expanse stretches out to include Bowen Island, and huge craggy tree covered cliffs.  Breathtakingly beautiful.  I wait around fifteen minutes before I glance around at the other people here, but she isn’t one of them.  Maybe she was going on another ferry.  Maybe she decided not to travel.  Her clothes were clean.  Jeans fitted, the black vinyl jacket with the stainless steel square zipper up the front.  Were they donated clothes?  Had she just been released from a halfway house and was terrified.  Or did she come from regular and got involved in drugs and lost her way.  Had gone to family, was allowed to get clean clothes, a fistful of money, but nothing else.  Not allowed to stay.

I am on the ferry now.  Becky will be jumping up and down on the other side with her arm and head squeezed out from behind the barricade that blocks people from going into the restricted area, to wave and smile at me.  She always does this and people exchange looks, but I don’t care.  I like it.  It makes me feel loved. 

We will talk and eat yummy food and talk some more.  She will drive fast and jerky and I’ll pretend to be calm.  But I will be double-checking whenever she makes a lane change, just in case. 
I am going to see my sister to have a nice cozy sisterly day, but the woman in the bathroom is with me too.  A reminder of what could have been, if either one of us had taken a different road, a different path, to deal with the challenges that life threw our way.


By Meg Tilly

Zoanne had a new swimsuit. A shiny blue two piece with little red fish, happy smiles on their faces and a ruffle around her bottom.

It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. She'd gotten it new, brand new at J.C. Penny's, and I wanted one. Could think of nothing else all through dinner, the clean up. And that night as I lay on my mattress up in the attic with my sisters, instead of Susan making up a story like she usually did at bedtime, I got to tell about my visit to Zoanne's house.

They wanted to know everything. What her Mama wore? Was she pretty? Did I get after an school snack? What was the house like? Did they have carpet? Was it clean? Messy? Did they have pets? Yummy food in the cupboard? Did I get to see in the fridge? We became navigators, explorers, researchers, anthropologists into the way other people, normal people spent their lives. Did her Mama wear nail polish? Did she beehive her hair? Did Zoanne have more than one pair of shoes? How many? Any of them shiny black ones you could see your face in?

And when I told them about the new swimsuit… Well that was something. That was really something. They made me describe it over and over. How it still had the store tags hanging from it. How it was a beautiful, fancy, sapphire blue. Not that any of us had ever seen a real sapphire, only read about them in books, seen pictures of them in the encyclopedias. And actually the sapphires in the encyclopedia were a darker blue. But it sounded so fancy to say "Sapphire blue." So elegant. That and "Brand new from J.C. Penny's!" We bandied these words about, worked ourselves into such a frenzy that finally we made Susan get out of bed and draw a picture of it based on my description. She had to do it three times before she got it just right. And I got to keep the final drawing, cause I was the one who saw the actual swimsuit in real life. I went to sleep with Susan's creation thumb tacked to the sloping ceiling right above my bed.

In the morning when I woke, I saw the picture and it filled my heart with such joy. I went downstairs believing in magic and miracles. And the hope too, that maybe my Mama would buy me a sapphire blue swimming suit with red smiling fish swimming around. Maybe, just maybe.

I waited until after breakfast. Mama was off by herself, out near the creek, doing a charcoal drawing of a pine tree.

I sat down on the ground by her fold up chair. The dirt, dry and thirsty with little prickle balls and sharp edged gravel crumbs poking me through my shorts.

"Hi Mama." I said suddenly shy. And she smiled at me, kind of absent minded. Her charcoal making scratching noises on her white pad of art paper. "That looks pretty Mama."

"Oh no," Mama said, real modestly, face flushed. " I'm only a beginner." But I could tell the compliment pleased her cause her strokes got more artistic, more free flowing and abstract. "Shhht…shht… shht…" with the charcoal, and then rubbing, contouring, smudging with her thumb.

And she seemed so intent, so happy that I thought, this is not the right time. So I got up to go. Didn't think she'd notice me leaving, but she did.

"What did you want sweetheart?" Mama said, head tilted in my direction, eyes still on her tree.

And even though I decided not to, it all came out. Zoanne and her new blue swimming suit from J.C. Penny's. How I need one for swimming in the fishpond. And as I was talking, looking at my dusty bare feet, I felt the hope swelling in my breast, but when I'd finished and looked in Mama's face, I knew my answer, even before she sighed and said, "Oh honey, I wish I could, but we just can't afford it."

"What about the Sally Anne?" I said, words tumbling over hers. "Maybe we can find one the Sally Anne?" Trying to keep calm, but my voice was cracking slightly, giving me away.

"Honey," Mama said, looking tired, the frown line deepening between her eyes, "not even at the Sally Anne. Why don't you swim naked like you always do."

"Mama, I can't swim naked!" My eyes full of frustration cause she just didn't understand. "I'm big now! I'm almost seven! I'm too big to swim naked anymore."

"Oh Anna..." And Mama reached her arms out for me, but I ducked past them. Ran away. Hid in the barn. Didn't answer. Even though I heard her calling.

I stayed there for a long time. Vowing never to come out. But then the heat in my chest subsided, I was left with what I had done. My mother's face, as I avoided her arms, wouldn't leave me. The fact that I asked her for something I knew we could never afford.

Finally, by mid-afternoon, hunger had me creeping out like a mongrel dog. Straw in my hair, face dusty and tear streaked.

I shuffled towards the house slowly, dragging my feet, like I had a limp. Head, eyes, down. But as I got closer, I could hear laughter and a noisy commotion. And then, when I came around an old blackberry bush, I could see my sisters running around in beautiful new swimsuits. I couldn't believe my eyes. My legs started moving faster, didn't want to look like I was running, but it was hard. So excited. My eyes, my brain, trying to sort out what I was seeing. Joy was standing tall, swimsuit, half on. Mama, straddling a chair somebody had brought out from the kitchen, face up close to Joy's belly. Her glasses were off. She was hunched over and squinting. Then Mama turned Joy's body, doing something, couldn't see what, her body was blocking my view.

And then, when I came around, got close, realized, it was too late to backtrack. I was already well into the yard. And there's nothing I could do but keep my face the same. My sisters didn't have new swimsuits. Mama was drawing them on their bodies. Colored markers in her fists, on the chair, tucked up between her thighs, a few, fallen down, scattered in the grass. My sisters, they were just playing make-believe, pretending they had new swimsuits, acting all excited. Running around, giddy-drunk with joy. But they weren't real swimsuits. Just fancy designs drawn on their bodies. They were still naked, running around naked as the day they were born.

And when my Mama straightened up to stretch out her shoulders, she saw me and her face lit up. "New swimsuits!" she called gaily, waving a marker at me. "You're next!"

"Oh goody," I said, in a happy, happy voice. Throat clenched, eyes hot. "Can I have a blue one? Red and blue?" And she nodded, rolled her shoulders once, twice, then pushed back the hair from her sweaty face, returned to finishing up the curlicue black and red design that even continued on over Joy's privates, cause that's what real swimsuits do.

And after Joy, it was my turn, and I didn't run away. Wasn't gonna hurt Mama again. I took off my clothes, underwear too and Mama drew on my swimsuit while the whole family watched. Stood there in the middle of the yard. Tall dried out grass scratching my legs, a smile on my face. Stark naked, my brother, stepbrother, step-daddy laughing their guts out, slapping black flies off their faces up there on the porch. I stood there while Mama drew on my swimsuit and I pretended I liked it.