Saturday, August 20, 2011

15-day Challenge: Day Three: First Times, and The Bird Woman

15-day Writing Challenge Day Three: {First Times}

Oh mercy. You had ask this, didn't you? I must admit that until I was at least twelve, I hadn't the slightest inclination toward being a writer. Well...I had dabbled in poetry. Ahem. I can recall one very silly verse that I blush over now.
"I think my favorites books
Are Where The Sidewalk Ends
Or Where the Pigeon Flew...
How about you?"

Oh puh-leese. This is *so* utterly ridiculous. I believe it was an attempt at a tribute to Shel Silverstein...but I'm sorry. I never ever ever had or have since heard of a book called Where The Pigeon Flew.
And then there was Molly Ann McGee and something about bugs in candy or sweets...? *Unpleasant Shiver* When I was twelve I moved on from there to my first novel: A Year With the Manders, for lack of a better title. I can assure you that anything that is possible in the way of illness, accidents, calamities, scrapes, and confusion happened to the two main characters. *Slumps on desk and pounds head*. Really, it was a horrible hash of vague remembrances of Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls, and my own budding sentimentality. Of course I had a French girl in there, and since I didn't know any other French names, she was christened Antoinette. :P There was something about Scarlet Fever (a must for any self-respecting novel, I then thought) and a death...or two....and an attempt at mystery...and a week home alone, and various other silly adventures. I had no concept of plot or characters or anything, and I prefer not to recall it.
It really wasn't until my Seasonings story that my writing took wings. :)
*Phew* glad that terrible "first-time-phase" is over. :P Now you may read a little vignette about my morning at the market and a lesson I learned...

"The Bird Woman"
By Rachel Heffington

It's noon at the Saturday farmer's market. I've been here selling our produce and baked goods since seven, running off of a twelve hour day of preparation, four hours of sleep, and a slice of zucchini bread. Not much to go on.
I start zoning out, trying to ignore the intense pain in the bottoms of my feet, the stiffness of my back, and the all-too honest reality of the fact that the day's not over. It's been a good day, despite my exhaustion. Most of the baking we slaved over yesterday has sold. Many of the gorgeous flowers in the five-gallon buckets lining our stall have been wrapped in wet paper and carted off by proud little girls, polished moms, or comfy grandmothers.
In my half-comatose state I hear Dad peddling the remainder of our baked goods: "Ma'am, please step over here. I've got something for you--something I'm sure you've never tasted. Italian herb bread made with fresh herbs, not dried. The flavor's unique--much stronger than what you've ever tasted." He pauses, sample plate in hand and gestures to me. "It's a new thing Rachel's trying. She's modest, but she makes a great loaf of bread."
I muster a smile, commanding the corners of my mouth to curve up. I've heard the spiel so many times I could quote it backwards, forwards and upside down. I blush each time I hear it, for my personality is not that of a salesman. I would quietly offer samples, and quietly sell the loaves here and there. But I have to hand it to Dad--we're almost sold out, thanks to his efforts.
I drag my donkey-ing thoughts back to the market, rattling off a string of information to a wondering customer. These people are blessings--if we didn't have them we'd never sell anything--but they have to be educated. Many don't know an apple from a cucumber.
Over the morning I've become adept at managing to appear interested in the stories our customers have to tell. They've ranged from the strange--"I'm gluten intolerant so I can't have any baked goods. If I wanted to commit suicide I'd walk through a bakery eating everything, then run across the street to a pasta shop!"--to the downright weird--"Your kidney filters a half-cup of blood every hour."
I wonder, through a haze of vague thoughts, why that piece of information is necessary to relate to an exhausted seller of vegetables, but I remember just in time that my job is to be pleasant and helpful. I straighten my back and tuck the loose strands of hair back into my sagging up-do.
The last customers have dwindled away toward the other stands, onto more engaging company. The napkin covering the sample-plate flutters off, and for the hundredth time this morning I replace it, pinning it down with a crumb-spattered knife. I glance at a man's watch as he fingers through our basket of cayenne peppers, red as the blood filtering through my kidney--strange thought, that. I grimace and try to corral my thoughts into something worth thinking. Only a couple of minutes have inched by. Still the better part of an hour to go.
And then I see her.
If I had not bothered to look down I would have missed her completely--a tiny old woman, frailer than frail, and only attaining the towering height of four feet with the help of a pair of black high-heels. They always remind me of the Wicked Witch of the West, only cheerful and spry. I don't know her real name--I call her the Bird Woman.
Her keen blue eyes open wide as she approaches, and a real smile lights my face as I catch sight of her lime-green ankle socks. Lime green, and ankle socks? On a little old lady who is nearer ninety than anyone I've seen for a long while?
"I like your sign," she says in a chirruping voice, like a merry little cricket. "The Lord is good."
At first I am confused, and then I recall our farm's verse: "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good."
Dad understands first. "He is good indeed. If He wasn't, we wouldn't be here."
The Bird Woman's eyes twinkle. "If He wasn't, I wouldn't have these!" She shakes a bag of peaches bought from a stand down the way and laughs. Such a chirping, dry, sparrow-like laugh I've never heard.
I grin and uncover the sample plate, letting the napkin blow across the table. "Would you like to taste a Welsh cake?"
"Now what is a Welsh cake?" She pricks her way along the table in her patent-leather heels and stops at the canister of Welsh Cakes. Her head barely reaches the top, and I can just see her round blue eyes.
"It's a sort of cross between a shortbread and a tea-cake...it's great with coffee or hot tea." I give the description with more enthusiasm than I've felt all morning. The Bird Woman is such a novelty.
"And do they keep well?"
"Yes, they do well if you keep them in foil."
"Oh!" It's more of a chirp than an exclamation, and she flutters a little to the side. She pulls a little wallet from some pocket in her lime-green shirt and lays it on the counter. Her gnarled fingers, decorated with several gold rings extract a few bills from the inside. She flicks through them like a finch picking through a pile of crumbs. "One, two, three! I'll take three dollars' worth!" Her eyes crinkle up and she giggles and cheeps as she hands the bills to me.
As I dole her cakes into a paper bag and hand them across the table, I feel a queer sensation as if I was feeding seed-cakes to a little starling. The Bird Woman tucks the cakes away, smooths her white, wavy hair and flutters off to the next stand. As I watch her departure I realize I'm still smiling. The Bird Woman has reminded me of a most important truth. The Lord is good.

3 comments:

Abigail said...

:D Loved this!

Morgan said...

Aww! Loved it! Thanks for sharing Rachel, great reminder.
Looking forward to Monday, sweet friend:)
Morgan

Anne-girl said...

Never criticize your writing again!