Long Legged, Geeky Girl

“What are you all red-eyed about?”

“High waters. All I got is high waters.”

“Prissy girls.” Mama went back to her crossword puzzle and I stomped back to my room to take off those durn blue jeans that showed my ankles as soon as possible. Tossing my book bag and shedding my shame, the treasure spread across my bed stole my attention.

My Bookmobile treasure: Pollinators. Geology and the Inland Sea, The Science of Fire. Storm Dynamics. With a fluffed pillow at my back and my giraffe legs stretched out before me, I reached for the nearest tome. The 8th grade science fair was only 27 days away. Hmmm, weather instruments.

I had a jelly jar in my hand wondering what to use as a membrane when I saw the fancy syrup bottle with the plastic handle and spout in the trash. The jelly jar went back to Mama’s canning supplies. The smaller opening would mean the little balloon would fit lots easier and still be big enough for a pointer. A needle would poke the balloon. Dootdootdoot…what the hoot? Epiphany! A toothpick! Glue, where’s the glue?

The two poster boards were a breeze to do. One had a wild tornado in the center with a spotted cow and a couple trees in it. Labels and arrows artfully drawn noted the details. The other had a description of my EXPERIMENT. The harder part turned out to be affixing the index card to the narrow bottle neck. Scissors! Tape! Where’s the durn tape?

I added another reading from the weather report; the toothpick had a great range against the card which gave me pretty good room to record the data. The weather guys said a band of storms were on the way. Great! I might get a few data points in the low ranges right before the science fair!

Me, the biggest idiot in the room. The guy to the left of me had put an Apollo capsule model together. On the right, the guy with a hamster in a cage kept trying to make the critter run in the wheel. Across from me the guy had a printed, full color diorama of the Grand Canyon. Several boys had volcanoes. Except for me they were all boys.

Seeing the strange high school teachers quizzing the Apollo fellow reminded me of a warthog, me, realizing lions approached. Could I still run Where were the exits?” I blinked at hearing someone knock on the table and there they stood, directly in front of me. Holy bovines.

“Miss, please explain why you brought this mess here.”

Mess? By golly, warthogs had tusks. “Sirs, Ma’am, I made this barometer from ordinary items and calibrated the device using the National Weather Association certified reports that are televised each evening.” Here I pointed at the data on the card. “There are 23 data points taken before last Tuesday. On that day, the barometric pressure got so low, the balloon busted. This mess is the evidence that my barometer worked.” I did not add that the sight of that balloon getting sucked into that bottle and popping will amaze me to the end of my days, all the while Mama clutched my little sisters under the kitchen table and screamed at me to join them.

Well, 1st place won me $50. The April 3, 1974 swarm of ravaging tornadoes allowed me to proceed directly to the Woolco Department Store where I purchased a brand new Brother sewing machine. I figured out how to use it. From then through now, I choose the material for my clothes, I select the patterns and alter as needed. And my pants have always been the right length.

Tiana, Searching for Something Good

Tiana bent over low to peer under the orange pick-up truck, aha! She skittered away fast when the fat bearded guy walked up, slung his groceries in the back and yanked the driver’s door open. She kept a keen eye on anyone coming and going in the parking lot as the noisy thing finally left. The she went over and picked up the can of Cherry Pie Filling where he’d been, no dents or nothing.

Safely in her backpack, she patrolled the IGA lot for more dropped goodies, more stuff not recovered from busted bags, dropped money (seldom). Too bad they took away the Salvation Army donation box that used to be on the far corner of the lot, too bad. She wore a nice warm coat from there until she had to give it to her little sister.  They had a church pretty close but she was afraid they’d chase her away like the church on the other side of the lot did. They’d called her ‘filth’.

‘Sheesh, one good thing all morning.’ Her thoughts darted between vigilance and wondering if her mother’s asshole boyfriend was gone yet. He was mean and evil and she hoped her puppy he killed would haunt him. She loved her pup, but put him under the seat of his car anyway because Star Baby would really haunt him with stink pretty soon.

The sound of a busting grocery bag arrested her attention. She raced over to the elderly lady and picked up everything that fell for her. Yes she honestly did, everything. The lady did not want the jar of bread and butter pickles with the crack down the side. Tiana did, and thanked her for it. She went over to the ditch to get a spare bag out of her backpack. She tied the bag tight with the jar securely inside. She had a pickle jar saved at home to transfer the pickles into. Win!

The old lady hadn’t driven away. Why not? She went over to check on her. The driver door was open.

“Hi there, young lady.”

“Hi, I thought maybe something was wrong cuz’ you didn’t leave. Are you okay?”

“I was thinking about you, child. Why you out here scroungin’ like this?”

Just as Tiana started feeling self-conscious, she noticed the woman had a Salvation Army jacket across the passenger seat. “I gotta be gone while Mama’s boyfriend is there, he’s very mean.”

“Mean to you, your Mama or both y’all?”

“Both, and he killed my puppy too.”

“Why does your Mama let him in?”

“I promised I’d never ever tell.”

“He sells her dope so she has no money for groceries or clothes or anything else.”

Tiana said nothing but nodded slowly.

“We can help you child. I got this here food to supplement an open picnic we’re having today. You are welcome to be there. You know where our church is? Good. Be there early and put some shoes on if you can. Okay?”

Tiana felt a bright light of love shining into her heart! “Yes ma’am! Can I bring my little sister?”