I started my new writing class! We discussed Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Our in class writing assignment was to do something similar. We each had to pick a classic character, change up things, add new info, and write a short piece. I chose Nellie Oleson of Little House On The Prairie fame. As some of you may recall, I am currently re-reading the Little House books. Dr. P got them for me as a Christmas present. The details of our assignment were to first write a list of what we knew from the classic character. We then had to write a list of our changes. Then, we wrote and presented a short assignment. Here is my output.
- Pretty blonde hair
- Best clothes in town
- Never dirty
- Parents own store
- Lives in town
- Detests farmers
- Mother abusive alcoholic
- Tortured soul
- Afraid to get too close to anyone
- Bullying is her armor
- Secret lesbian – in love with Laura Ingalls
- Doesn’t really care about material possessions. Just a living doll for her mother’s thirst for prestige.
- Has a pet monkey named Bouncy
- Compulsive eating disorer, sweets, candy, cake, desserts, etc.
- Family in financial trouble.
Though I promised myself I would stop, I’d started yet another day with a mouthful of hard candy. Why did I do this to myself? The store had been quiet all morning. The residents of the town must be enjoying the sunny day elsewhere. A few trappers had been waiting when I unlocked the door. Trappers tended to be early risers. I traded their pelts for various and sundries. They complained a bit about Pappa’s new pelt prices. I could not bend. Mother would punish me if I wavered one cent from the new list. As soon as the last trapper left, I again hit the glass lidded candy dishes and shoved a handful of bonbons in my mouth. The sugar rush calmed me.
I had my back turned when Laura entered the store. I heard the bell clang. I was up on a step stool putting canned beans on a shelf.
“Hello? Nellie?” Laura called from the doorway.
I turned and almost dropped a can. The air went out of my lungs. Laura looked beautiful with the sun shining behind her through the glass door. “Laura—” I choked out. “How – how can I help you?” My tongue caught in my mouth. I could feel the heat rush to my cheeks.
Laura’s brown braids hung down the front of her simple green dress. She had a yellow sunbonnet in her hand. The dust from the street had scuffed her black laced boots.
“I’m just looking around,” Laura said. “I’ll holler if I need you. Mamma needs some new fabric for a dress. I’ll be over here looking at the printed bolts of fabric.”
I went back to stacking the beans but couldn’t concentrate. My mind raced. Like a magnet tugging on metal, Laura’s presence in the store pulled at my heart. I felt an ache at the base of my lungs that made it difficult to take a breath. I stole a glance at Laura whenever I could. She was gently flipping through the stacked bolts of fabric. She ran her hand along each one to get a feel for the weave. The only sound was the loud tick of the grandfather clock in the corner. I ached to speak but could think of nothing to say.
As I was finishing stacking the beans, I heard Mother rumble down the stairs. We lived in the rooms above the store.
Before she had gotten completely down, she shrieked, “Nellie!”
I got down off the stool, pushed down my hair, and straightened my dress. Mother would be angry if anything were out of place. Everything had to be perfect for her. Perfect at all times. I glanced down at the shine of my patent leather boots. They were scuff free and glimmered in the sunlight coming through the front window. I was Mother’s flawless living doll.
“Nellie? Have those men from the casino been in here today?” The strong smell of gin on her breath was like a slap, as she approached me. “Those money grubbing men?” She glanced at the bean cans on the shelf. She made a clucking sound and adjusted a can one quarter inch. It now aligned with the rest. She’d remember to punish me later for this slight.
“No, Mother,” I said. “No casino men.” My eyes darted to Laura. Could she hear Mother?
“If they come, you come upstairs and get me.” She gripped my arm. “Is that clear girl?” When I didn’t answer, she squeezed until I winced. “Don’t you dare give them one red cent from that till!”
“Yes, yes, Mother, I won’t,” I cried out. I again looked toward Laura. She was busy examining a blue pattern with daisies. I turned back to Mother and whispered, “Shh! Please don’t talk so loud! There is a customer in the store!” Tears welled up in my eyes.
She looked over to Laura with disgust. She gave me a menacing shove and went back upstairs. The heavy sound of her stomping rattled the glass candy dishes. She slammed a door.
Laura hurried over. “Are you alright?” She placed a comforting hand on my shoulder.
“Why do you care?” I sneered and shrugged her hand away.
I couldn’t let Laura see my facade slip. I longed for her to like me but had to keep the upper hand. My reputation as the richest girl in town was all that I had to hold onto. No one could know that Mother was a monster. I had to divert Laura’s attention away from what she had seen. My family was going through a rough patch. Pappa had borrowed money from the casino men to keep the store afloat. Now, he was in trouble. We were out of money and couldn’t pay them back. Mother was in a panic that we’d lose the store. She was drinking more than ever. Her hair trigger temper required me to walk on egg shells day and night. I panicked. What if Laura gossiped around town?
“Are you going to buy something or not?” I wound up my face in a mask of disgust. “You probably don’t have enough money anyway. Especially not for that blue fabric you were looking at. No simple farm girl could afford that!” With judgmental eyes, I glared down at her scuffed boots.
Laura’s eyes followed mine to her feet. She turned red with embarrassment. “Why are you such a ninny, Nellie!” She turned on her heel and exited the store in a huff. On her way out, she dropped her yellow sunbonnet on the floor in front of the candy dishes.
I walked over and picked up the sunbonnet. I held it to my chest. With my other hand, I grabbed two chocolate truffles and shoved them into my mouth. Only sugar could unwind the knot that had formed in my stomach. Tears spilled out of my eyes. I chewed and stared at the empty space near the fabric where Laura had been standing only a moment before.