Long-Legged Geeky Girl

Whew! I’ve been up to my ears in busy so have missed posting for a while…sorry! I did just enter an essay contest and thought I might share my non-fiction entry. Go GIRLS!


Long-Legged Geeky Girl

Mary Ellen Wall


“What are you all red-eyed about?”

“High waters. All I got is high waters. Bell bottoms gotta drag the floor!”

“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. It wasn’t my fault I wasn’t born a boy. 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 bare 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. Ditch the spout. The jelly jar went back to Mama’s canning supplies. The smaller opening would mean a 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, flat rounded end stuck down. 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 meteorological details. The other had a precis of my EXPERIMENT. The harder part turned out to be affixing the index card to the bottle neck. Scissors! Tape! Where’s the durn tape?

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

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. I had taped the cow tornado picture to the front of the table and whapped up a poster full of news of the record-breaking storm swarm and a fairly well drawn map to put in its place. Was it hokey? The boys had more polished displays. Except for me, all the contestants in the gym were boys.

Seeing the strange high school teachers quizzing the Apollo fellow reminded me of a Wild Adventures show including a warthog. Me, the warthog, now 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 got 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 Wednesday. On that day, the barometric pressure got so low, the diaphragm busted. This ‘mess’ is the evidence that my barometer worked.” I did not add that the sight of that balloon getting sucked way into that bottle and popping while Mama clutched my little sisters under the kitchen table and screamed at me to join them will amaze me to the end of my days.

Well, 1st place won me a whopping $50. The April 3, 1974 avalanche of ravaging tornadoes allowed me to proceed directly to the Woolco Department Store where I purchased a gleaming 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 I please. And my pants are always the right length.

Maria and Her Pappy

“Pappy, I fixed the toilet!”  Her beaming smile fell. “Pappy?” His eyes met hers so she started over. “Pappy, I fixed the toilet! I found the fix-it box with all the parts in it over the dryer and read all the instructions.”Doug

He said nothing, so she sat close by on the sofa and waited for a commercial to come on the TV. She muted the sound and tugged on his arm. “Pappy, I used Mama’s tools but I put them all right back where they belonged. The old parts were hard to get off so I used the pointy vise grips and got them all off without busting anything. Now it don’t leak or nothing!”

He kept staring at the TV, so she put the sound back on. Her Mama could fix anything. Her Daddy could yell real loud. She wasn’t supposed to know, but her Daddy had shot Mama and then blowed his head off when she was little. She remembered sitting in the courtroom with a lady that kept calling her Poor Thing instead of Maria. She’d hopped away from that lady and run over to Pappy. He’d held his arms out and she’d snuggled on his lap. The judge had said Pappy could take her on home.

He’d been fine back then, a retired high school math teacher. It wasn’t until she got to second grade that he’d begun that staring, and then he’d call her Marlene more and more. She had to do the bills because he forgot them and they wrote scary letters like the water would get turned off and would be $100 to turn back on. She went to the little grocery and Ice Creamgave them checks that she’d forged his name on. He forgot her tenth birthday. He always used to make such a big deal about her birthday and always took her out for ice cream. Not anymore.

He needed help and she knew it in her heart. The idea of going back to the ‘Poor Thing’ lady curdled her stomach. She wished so hard that she could fix him. How? The show ended and she turned the TV off. He had to get professional help. “Pappy, it’s bedtime.”

He got up and headed for the bedroom.

“No, Pappy, go to the bathroom first.”

In the bedroom, she put a fresh folded towel down for accidents and put yesterday’s in the hamper; she’d need to do laundry tonight. He came in and put his own pajamas on.

As he dressed, she stirred up her courage and said, “Pappy, tomorrow I’m calling the doctor for you, so you can get your medicine straight and maybe your mind straight. You might need a different medicine than what we get in the mail.” Would the doctor call the county to take her away?

He snapped the last snap and sat on the edge of the bed. He looked directly at her and blinked a few times. “The toilet isn’t running all the time. I thought it ran all the time.”

He noticed; she almost started crying. “I fixed it. I got the box and the tools and took it apart and made it work right.”

“You have the genius for it, and I’m so proud of you.”

She knew he thought she was his daughter and waited for him to say ‘Marlene’.

He reached for her hand. “Just like your Mama, baby, she fixed all sorts of things, too. blog june 080Maria, I’m so glad you take after her. I am so darned proud of you.”

Her breast pounded and she grinned like a jack-o-lantern. “Thank you Pappy!” She tucked him in and kissed his cheek. “Goodnight, and I’ll say a prayer for you.”
A genius, like Mama. As she loaded the washer, she wondered if she could get him to walk to the Doctor’s office with her, that would be best. If not, she’d take care of it some other way. A genius can do anything, even if it’s hard and her gut doesn’t her want to.