Books and stories with strong, influential, or missing father figures

Image: Pixaby

Fatherhood is a powerful theme in literature and what better day to look at some of the strong, influential or missing father figures in these titles:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A story full of great characters, including Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a young blind girl in Paris, whose entire world revolves around her father. This Pulitzer Prize winning story embraces important themes, and a plot that’s a wonderful mix of reality and fairytale. Set during World War II in the walled coastal city of Saint Malo, France. Check it out – one of my all-time favorite books!

Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow

Billy Bathgate is a fifteen-year-old boy from the Bronx who becomes a protégé of the notorious Dutch Schultz, a hot-head New York mobster who made his money during the 1930s running beer and controlling the numbers racket. Published in 1989, this book won both the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The 1991 movie stars Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman, Loren Dean, Bruce Willis, Steven Hill and Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire).

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

This novella, a little over one hundred pages, is really a character sketch of Holly Golightly and her search for a father figure. If you have only seen the movie starring Audrey Hepburn, read the book to get a better understanding of what Holly is all about. For the record, Truman Capote was not happy with the movie version. He wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part of Holly, and was dissatisfied with all aspects of the film.

I Refuse by Per Petterson

A grim story about a lost friendship between Tommy Berggren and his boyhood friend Jim.   It begins when, after thirty-five years, the two meet unexpectedly on a bridge near Oslo, Norway.

Petterson’s narration then jumps back to 1962 when Tommy is thirteen. His mother has abandoned them and the father regularly beats Tommy and his three younger sisters.  Everything changes when Tommy takes a bat to their father.  On their own, the children are sure they can manage.  But the siblings are separated when town officials send them to be raised in different homes.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Historical novel about the charismatic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, his creative style and innovative designs and his failed marriage to Catherine Tobin, whom he deserted (along with six children) to continue an affair with Mameh Cheney, the wife of a client. He created many amazing houses, but his personal life was a mess.

Onion John by Joseph Krumgold

Everything changes the year Andy Rusch turns twelve.  Until then, being a kid was easy in the 1950s.  And in the small New Jersey town of Serenity, baseball, friends, school and helping out in his dad’s hardware store fill Andy’s days.  Then one day, he befriends the town’s hermit, Onion John.

Mr. Rusch has big plans for Andy, including college at MIT and he doesn’t approve of the friendship.  He wants Andy to get out of Serenity and be the first man on the moon. Andy wants to please his father, but whose dream is it?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

There is no stronger father figure than Atticus Finch. Set in 1935, in the fictional town of Macomb, Alabama, Harper Lee writes of people and family, of prejudice against blacks, of judgment and justice, of lost innocence, and of heroes.

Young Scout Finch gives an insider’s view into the complicated relationships that exist between blacks and whites, between the poor and the poorer, and between the educated, the illiterate and the ignorant. Forget how Atticus is portrayed in Go Set a Watchman. That book should never have been published. It’s obvious to me that Harper Lee was trying out, and revising characterizations in what is clearly a rough draft for To Kill a Mockingbird. Read my full opinion of Watchman here.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Is there a god in a world that is nearly destroyed and left covered in gray ash, dotted with wanderers and hunted by people who stop at nothing to survive? How does a father keep hope alive in his young son, except to say that they are the “good guys”, the ones who carry the fire? “This is what the good guys do,” he tells him. “They keep trying. They don’t give up.”

“The Year of Getting to Know Us” by Ethan Canin

A great short story about an adult son who visits his dying father in the hospital. Lenny, now middle-aged, forces himself to tell his father not to worry, that he loves him and that his father did all right by him. These words are met with the type of shut-down that plagued his small family during his childhood: “Don’t talk about things you know nothing about.”

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Nathan and Flora McCann have no children. That was their arrangement. But when Nathan goes duck hunting and finds an abandoned baby boy in the woods, his life changes in unimaginable ways. “I want to adopt that boy,” says Nathan, but his wife does not want a child…

I enjoyed this book very much, which takes many unpredictable turns. The author does a great job highlighting the contrast between bad choices and the need to be loved.

What books can you add to the list?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Friday Fiction – Random chapter from an unfinished book – Jeff and Allie part two

Friday Fiction

Hello all!  Written long ago and gathering dust, here’s another random chapter from an unfinished book…


Part one began like this:

“I’ll be right there, hang on a minute!” Jeff’s head pounded.  He was thinking about what lay ahead of him.  A long drive, a hard discussion and a longer drive back.  He was shocked to find himself in this position because he had always been so careful about staying detached.  Now he was in it.

Click here to read the rest..

…and here comes part two:

Silently, Allie moved through the living room back to the kitchen.  She took comfort in small tasks and began to empty the dishwasher.  First the spoons, then the knives, then the forks.  Out of the basket and into the drawer.  How many hours before he’d be back?  How many hours to fill?  Next came the dishes, first the small ones, then the dinner plates.  Bottom rack finished, she started on the top rack.  Then, clearing the table, rinsing the dirty dishes, she placed them in the empty dishwasher.  While she worked, no answers came to her, only the sounds of a kitchen being put into order.  That was a small comfort.

If she had seen herself, she would have noticed that her face was tight, that she was chewing on the inside of her lip.  She would have seen that her hair had come loose.  If she looked closer, she would have noticed the bitten fingernails, a new habit of hers.

Wiping the table and the counters, she was making progress, controlling what she could.  She thought about the rest of her day.

The phone rang and she turned, watched it, turned again and walked away.  “Let someone think I’m busy,” she thought.  She went upstairs and forced herself through the morning rituals, shower, clothes, hair, make-up.

“Well, you look great!”  That was what her friends said to her once, after a break-up years ago.  It was funny to her and they all had laughed.   She looked at herself in the mirror.  Well, not great, but not falling apart.  No one would stare.

She used to have her girlfriends to lean on.  They would call each other and decipher their relationships.  “If he hasn’t called by Wednesday, you’d better make your own plans.”  They had a whole set of rules to apply when they were younger, acting older.  They were easy rules, and they made the process fun.  Ten years later, none of those rules applied.

Allied turned away from the bathroom mirror, turned off the light and went downstairs.  She checked her phone – no message.  She sat down on the couch.  Alone and silent.  She thought about Jeff and where he was going.  She hadn’t asked him, but she knew he was going to her.

The phone rang again and this time she jumped.  She felt a pounding in her chest and stared.  Her stomach churned.  She wondered if the same person was calling again.  “Don’t answer it,” she told herself.  After the fourth ring, the machine picked up.  This time, Allie walked over to the phone and watched.  After a moment, she checked for a message.  No message.

Jeff and Allie had been together for three years.  Not married, but living together.  They were in the stage of being an established young couple, working on their future together.  They had talked about getting married, but they were not engaged.  Jeff loved Allie and was happy.  Allie, too, loved Jeff and like many young women, was looking into the future and planning out their life together.  She didn’t share this part with Jeff because, at thirty, she already knew not to push.  She knew that much, but little else.  She knew not to put pressure on him, but she didn’t understand that he might never want to marry her.

Jeff was not having an affair, but he was close.  He had met Linnea three months ago and they became fast friends.  He let that happen because their friendship was so fun and easy.  At the time, Allie was busy with school and he simply filled his time away from her by seeing Linnea.  At first he didn’t even think about it.  He wasn’t doing anything wrong.  His conscience was clear.  Linnea didn’t seem like a threat.

When children find new playmates, they don’t think about their old friends.  They’re just happy to have another friend.  They are too young to understand anything more and are oblivious to another playmate’s jealousy.  Jeff was young in his thinking.  He didn’t hide his new friendship and early on he introduced Allie to Linnea.  And Jeff, too, was oblivious to Allie’s reaction.

Linnea was a nice person, but she was not naïve.  She was aggressive and confident in everything she did.  She had seen Jeff at a park and approached him, spoken to him.  She liked that he was sitting there reading a book.  Allie’s name didn’t come up the day he met Linnea.  All they were talking about was books.  They didn’t like the same books, but they had fun talking.  Linnea was good at conversation and Jeff was taken in by how effortless they were together.  It was one of those instant connections that his sister Jocelyn knew well.  Jeff might have noticed Linnea’s face and her eyes, but he was busy enjoying their conversation.

Jeff was the kind of person who observed a lot and kept his thoughts to himself.  He didn’t share his thoughts easily and Allie was used to this detachment.  To her friends, she called him “a man of few words.”  They had shared plenty of moments of closeness and honesty and that was enough for Allie to hold onto.

But meeting Linnea threw Jeff off balance and caused him to withdraw even more when he was with Allie.  And it caused a logjam of feelings he could not clear.  Allie noticed and worried to herself what it might mean.

The phone rang again.  This time she answered…

Thank you for reading.

Friday Fiction – Random chapter from an unfinished book – Jeff and Allie

Friday Fiction

Hello all!  Written long ago and gathering dust, here’s another random chapter from an unfinished book…


“I’ll be right there, hang on a minute!” Jeff’s head pounded.  He was thinking about what lay ahead of him.  A long drive, a hard discussion and a longer drive back.  He was shocked to find himself in this position because he had always been so careful about staying detached.  Now he was in it.

He walked into the kitchen.  “Here,” she said, handing him the phone.  He tried to figure out her mood by the tone of that one word.  It was his way.  Don’t ask a lot of questions, just try to get what’s going on by the clues you get.  Sometimes it was fun, a game he played.

He reached out for the phone.  Their hands did not touch.


“No, I know”

“About a half-hour”



He thought Allie looked tired and he tried to think of what to say.  If nothing came to him, he usually said nothing.  He wasn’t the kind to fill an awkward silence.  Nothing came to him, so he left the room and went upstairs.

She had been waiting for him to say something to her.  She wanted to hear him talk to her.  She desperately wanted to know what was going on in his head.  Whenever she asked him, his response was the same, “I don’t know.”  Even when the barriers were down, he didn’t know.

“One thing at a time!”  That was what his mother had always said when she was too busy to do more.  The problem was that she always said it.  As a child, he began to realize it was her way of saying she didn’t want to do something.  He adapted the phrase to his own needs, by saying it to himself.  If there was something difficult in front of him, he put it off with that thought.

Allie guessed that she had a half-hour before he left.  She knew not to ask.  She had come to accept his way and played it the same with him.  “He’s just not a talker,” she had always reasoned.

She was right.  They had a history together and that made them a couple.  “We’re living in West Chester,” she told her friends.  “We have a townhouse together.”  To Allie, the basic facts made a statement about themselves as a couple, established, committed.  She felt proud telling people where they lived, even if it was just a rental.  When they went out to buy something for their house, she felt good, as if they were putting in one more brick in their future.

Most of the time, Jeff didn’t like to think a lot about how he felt.  He went through his everyday life without much analysis, without thoughts of the future.  He was always very busy at work and when he was finished for the day, he wanted to relax, just live.  Today, it was the right plan to say little.  One thing at a time.  Jeff knew he couldn’t talk to Allie today.  He wasn’t sure what he was going to do.  He looked up as she entered the living room.

Jeff didn’t like to talk about their status as a couple, thought it unnecessary.  He cared for Allie, very much.  Of course he loved her, they were sharing a townhouse.  But he was always the type of person to lean inward and when something heavy was on his mind, he retreated to himself.  He didn’t think it was useful or wise to pull someone else through the process of his thoughts, especially if they might be upsetting, particularly if he reached a different conclusion in the end.  In his view, it was only important to share his final thoughts.  To Allie’s credit, she never pushed Jeff.  She understood that part of him and tried to believe that she respected him for the way he was.  Jeff recognized that Allie held back the questions, giving him room, and he appreciated the effort.  Still, he always felt like Allie was ready to burst with questions, statements and promises he simply didn’t want to hear.  In that way, Jeff did not think Allie was right for him.

As he was getting ready to leave, he thought about where he was going, to Linnea.  She had called Jeff last night on his cell phone as he was headed home. He had agreed to meet her today.  Jeff told Allie he had to go out.  “First I meet Linnea, then I figure out the rest,” he said to himself.

Allie heard him come downstairs into the living room.  She had thought of something to say and now she was taking her last chance.  She wanted to ask him where he was going and when he’d be back, but she knew she could not.

“Keep it simple,” she told herself.  When she saw him, she saw that his face was carefully composed, revealing nothing.  Her face was soft and vulnerable.  Jeff noticed.  He liked her face and he always noticed the details, but he couldn’t respond with words.  “She looks beautiful,” he thought.  If Allie had understood him more, she would have known that was how he felt.  That was his reasoning and maybe it was true.

Allie took a breath.  He looked at her, wondering what she would say.  He wanted to leave without talking.

“We need laundry detergent,” her voice cracked.  Can you get some?”

He was relieved.  “Sure.”


The door closed and that was all he had said.

Thank you for reading.

Friday Fiction – Random chapter from an unfinished book – Alex

Friday Fiction

Hello all!  Written long ago and gathering dust, here’s a random chapter from an unfinished book…

The music was loud.  Driving the route to his house, his home, his family, he was surrounded by it, lost in the sound of the music.  He was the car.  The road so familiar to him, the turns he had made for years on his way home.  He didn’t even have to think, just to be.  It was a wonderful feeling.

It was dark.  The weather was fine, clear and crisp, the air still and the moon shone.  The roads were dry.  There was no traffic.  It was 7:00 pm.  He would be home in fifteen minutes.  Home to Jocelyn, their children.  They would catch up with each other.  He would feel her arms wrap around him, see her smile.  He would ask about Danna, tell them all about the email he got from her.  The boys would tell him their latest news, his little girl hers.  Her stories about Kindergarten, her friends.  She might show him a picture.

Alex made the turns.  He listened to the music.  The song was great.  Everything was perfect.  A split second later, the scene would change.  His hand slipped and his car took on a different path, off the road.  His body suddenly changed.  Sharp electric signals raced from his heart to his fingertips, to his toes, his brain.  His car careened off-course.  The music was blaring.  The ride was bumpy, horribly different from the moment before.  He couldn’t concentrate.  He had no time.  He saw the tree, but he couldn’t process the thought.  It was an impossible moment, only seconds before the impact ahead.

No one could imagine that he was in the crisis of his life. Countless thoughts and images went flying through his brain, too many to process.  Thoughts of things he did long ago, things he hadn’t done yet, wanted to do.  Things.  His old house, his elementary school, a dime he once saw shining in the sun.  Water dripping from a faucet.  Faces raced past his vision, all kinds of faces, faces he had known and loved, then strange faces, people he had only known for minutes some only seen for seconds, people on buses, people walking past him.  Then voices, his mother, children playing, Jocelyn laughing.  This rush of places and people and sounds was strange and horrible to him.  Fear gripped him.

Alex didn’t remember turning the wheel.  He didn’t remember that action or why he turned out and not in.  His mind and body were overtaken by this intense struggle.  There was no one around him to witness these extreme efforts.  His own home only a few miles away.  His wife, his children couldn’t know he was fighting for that.

The car changed its course.  Still off-road, it sped past the tree.  Seconds later, a new problem, his car racing down the embankment tipping on uneven terrain, wild bumps and violent shaking, loud, unfamiliar noises.  Alex was captive, strapped in, like a rider on a roller coaster.  He tried to steer, to control his car.  Nothing was working.  The ditch came fast.  His car slammed down into it.

He didn’t remember the airbag, how it inflated and saved his head from breaking on the dashboard.  Seconds later, he opened his eyes and saw the damage, could not move, could not think, could only sob with the thought of all he almost lost.

Alex stayed there and sobbed, stunned at what had just happened.  He cried and screamed, knowing of nothing else to do.  The fear and strain and the danger of the previous moments flooded out of him.  He could not control his body.  He could only stay there and cry.

And then he stopped, sat there, looked around him.  As he moved, he yelled in pain.  His whole body hurt, his arms and legs, his neck, his back.  His stomach churned.  He managed to move his seat back enough to unbuckle himself.

He looked around him and thought.  For the first time since his car went off the road, he had the time to think.  It was an unbelievable luxury!  A strange euphoria washed over him.  He started to laugh.  Then he was consumed in laughter.  He laughed with joy, then at the irony of suddenly having all this time to think and laugh.  He laughed hysterically until he became exhausted, then Alex slept.

When he woke he was disoriented.  He couldn’t make sense of his surroundings, how he hurt, what time it was.  He managed to reach into his pocket for his cell phone.  He turned it on and checked the time.  11:00 pm.  He didn’t know what that meant.  Was he late?  Was he on time?  Where exactly was he?

He dialed the number he had been dialing for twenty years.  Twenty years of laughter and love and of memories too wonderful to speak of.

Jocelyn was at home.  Worry was the only thing she could do.  Her children upstairs or in bed, she sat alone, staring out the window, sick with fear.  She had kept busy with the boys and her daughter for most of the night.  Alex wasn’t always on time, she reasoned.  He would certainly be home soon.  Once the house was quiet, however, she began to panic.  She did not know what to do with the panic, how to manage it.  Time passed so slowly!  All she wanted was to hear him pull into the driveway, open the car door and walk to the door.  Those were the sounds she begged to hear.

She thought about praying.  “What good would it do?”  She didn’t know.   She kept willing him to come home.  “Come on, Alex, come home.”  She looked at the clock.  10:30 pm.  This was much later than he ever was.  She wondered why he hadn’t called.  She had called his cell but only got voicemail.  She tried again, same result.

Jocelyn got up and walked into the kitchen.  She tried to think of something to do to make the time pass more quickly.  She thought to empty the dishwasher, but it was still running.  Then she thought about the kids’ lunches for tomorrow.  Deciding that making them tonight would keep her occupied, she opened the fridge and pulled out the cold cuts and lettuce, then some apples and peppers to slice.  She grabbed rolls out of the freezer and set them on the counter to defrost.  It was 10:45 pm.

At 11:00 pm, Jocelyn was well into making the lunches when the phone rang.  Her heart jumped as she ran across the kitchen to the phone.


“Oh Jocelyn, I’m so glad you’re there!  It’s me.”

“Alex!  Where are you?  Are you alright?”

“I’m here, here in my car.  My car, it went off the road.  I’m sitting here down in a ditch in my car.”

“God Alex!  Are you hurt?”

“I think I’m okay.  I don’t know.  I have all-over pain.  I haven’t moved from my seat.   I guess I probably have some bruises, but I think I’m okay.  I’m so glad to hear your voice, dear.  You’re so dear.  I love you Jocelyn.  God, I don’t know what happened.  One minute I was on the road and the next thing I knew I was about to hit a tree.  Then I turned the wheel and went down into this ditch.  I’m stuck here and I think I’m going to need help getting out.”

“I think I should call an ambulance.  I’m calling an ambulance, Alex.  You need to get checked out.  You don’t know if you’re not seriously hurt.  You could be hurt and not know it.  Is your car badly damaged?”

“I don’t know.  I think I’m okay.  Don’t call an ambulance, Jocelyn.  Just come get me.  Then we’ll get a tow truck to pull out the car.”

“No, but what if you’re really hurt?  What if we get home and you’re hurt and you need a doctor?  Alex, I don’t want to take any chances.  I don’t care about the car.  I care about getting you checked out.”


“No!  Don’t argue with me.  I’m not taking any chances.  I’m calling an ambulance.  Tell me where you are.”

“Okay dear.  I think I’m okay.  I hurt a little.  I know my thinking isn’t clear.  I guess you’re right.  I’m here on 412, probably five miles from our house.”

“I’m going to call an ambulance, then I’m coming to you, Alex.  Stay right there.  Don’t move.  The ambulance will be there soon.  Don’t move.  I love you.  Stay there Alex.”

Thank you for reading.

Friday Fiction is back! Twelve: Chapter 12 – “Letter from School”

Friday Fiction

Welcome to Twelve, a new book of Friday Fiction! This story begins the summer Emily Kingston turns twelve and is about a friendship that changed everything.

I hope you enjoy it!


I went home from school with a letter from Mr. Kearny.  He told me I had to have both my parents sign it and give it to him the next day.  He also said that he and I were going to have another “chat” the next day at school.  I didn’t know what I was going to say to Mr. Kearny, but I put that out of my mind.

I walked up our street and thought about what I would tell Mom and Dad and I started to worry.  I only wanted to have it be normal at home, with no problems like me getting into a fight at school.

When I walked into the house, Mom was in the kitchen and, even though I hadn’t wanted to go in the house and tell her about the fight, it felt so good to be at home and to see her face.  Out of nowhere, tears welled up in my eyes.  I did the best I could to wipe them away before Mom looked up.

“Hi Emily,” she said.  She smiled, but when she saw my face, her face changed.  I don’t know how moms know this, but she took one look at me and right away she could tell something was wrong.  I had just been so glad to see her, but then when she looked at me and her face changed, all I wanted to do was run upstairs.

Mom asked, “Is something wrong, Emily?”

There I was on the spot again.  I didn’t like lying to people, but I didn’t see any other way to go.  I was starting to understand why people don’t always tell the truth.  I didn’t want to get in any more trouble by telling another lie, but I needed time to figure out what I was going to do.  So I said, “I’m okay, Mom.  I’m just a little moody.”

Mom looked at me for a clue.  Then her face changed.  “Ohhhhhhhhh….,” she said, with an all-knowing look.  I felt sick about it because I realized that Mom was probably thinking I had gotten my period.  Because I wanted to get upstairs, I let the idea stick.  “I’ll be in my room, Mom.” and she said, “Okay honey.”

Mom said, “Emily, if you need anything, just let me know.”

I answered, “Okay, Mom, I’ll be fine” and I ran upstairs.

When I got up to my room I sat on my bed, turned on the radio to make some noise and I called Jackie.  I told her everything that had happened, the fight, my talk with the principal, Mom thinking I got my period.  Then I told her about the note I had to have signed.

“Well, what are you going to do, Emily?”

“I don’t know.  I really don’t want to tell them about the fight.  If they find out, the next thing they’ll do is ask me all kinds of questions about how it started, and how I know Marcy and whether Marcy had ever bothered me before.  I just don’t want to tell them about all that.  If I tell them all that, they will tell the principal and the teachers and then I’ll be a total loser at school.  Marcy will torture me for who knows how long and it will be worse.  She’ll be even worse to me if I get her in trouble.  Plus I’m the one who started the spitting!  How am I going to explain that?”

“Listen, Emily.  You’re right.  No way can you rat on Marcy.  She will get back at you.  You don’t have to tell your Mom and Dad.  Bring the note to me and we’ll figure out what to do about the signatures.”

“I don’t know, Jackie.  I’m already in enough trouble.”

“Look, I’m not saying we’re going to fake the signatures, Emily.  Just bring it over here, we’ll look at it and see what we can do.”

I sat on my bed and wondered.  Would one more lie take care of the whole problem?  I had a bad feeling about Jackie’s advice, but I couldn’t see any other way out of the mess.  “Okay, Jackie.  I’ll come over.  I’ll bring the note, but I’m not saying I want you to do anything about it.”

I went over to Jackie’s apartment.  Her mom was already home, so we went right to Jackie’s room, shut the door and looked at the envelope.  Mr. Kearny had brought it down to 7th period and my English teacher had handed it to me at the end of class, so I never had a chance to look at it.  It was a school envelope and had “Mr. and Mrs. Kingston” typed on the front.  It was sealed.  That was already a problem.  If I opened it, how would I close it back up without Mom and Dad noticing?  If they never see the note, though, maybe Mr. Kearny doesn’t have to know I’m the one who opened it.  I felt sick.  I was already in trouble and I was getting deeper and deeper into a crazy mess of stories.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep track of all the things I was doing.

Jackie came over to me.  “Let’s see.”  She took the envelope out of my hand and looked at it.  “Okay,” she said.  “Let’s open it carefully, just in case we want to close it back up.”  I had no idea how she was going to do that, but she looked like she knew what she was doing.  I hadn’t noticed that the envelope wasn’t completely sealed.  Mr. Kearny must have just barely licked the glue on the flap.  After a minute, Jackie had successfully pulled the flap away from the back of the envelope.  It looked a little wrinkled, but we could probably fix that.

She opened the letter and said, “Want to read it first?”

I took the letter from her and read.  There were two paragraphs.  The first one started out with “I regret to tell you that today your daughter, Emily was involved in a fight with another girl…”  Mr. Kearny used a lot of serious words:  “Troubling, disturbing, worrisome…”  The second paragraph talked about my first “chat” with Mr. Kearny and Mrs. Smithfield and the one I was going to have with him the next day.  Sure enough, Mr. Kearny asked my parents to sign the letter and add any comments at the bottom.  Now things were getting even worse for me.

“Okay, Jackie.  Even if we do somehow get my mom and dad’s signatures on here, how are we supposed to put a comment at the bottom?  This is getting really bad.  I think I should just show them the letter, tell my parents the same thing I told Mr. Kearny, that it was an accident, and get it over with.”

“Emily, you know your parents aren’t going to let it go.  They’re going to ask you a ton of questions.”

Jackie went to her desk and grabbed a piece of paper.  I went over to her and saw that she was practicing signatures.  They looked terrible.

“Jackie, there’s no way Mr. Kearny will think my mom and dad signed that!  Plus, what if he compares it to other stuff that they’ve signed?  I’m dead!”

“You’re right.  Maybe I need to practice a few more times.”  I sat down in one of Jackie’s bean bag chairs and Jackie turned and we looked at each other.  Then Jackie said, “Wait, here’s another idea.”

“Listen to this:  what if we tell my mom and she signs her own name to it and says that you were staying with me for a few days while your parents were on a trip and that she will be sure to tell them when they get back?”

“That’s crazy!  Why would your mom agree to do that, Jackie?  That’s just one more lie on top of all the other ones I’ve told today!”

“My mom’s cool.  She would do it.  I know she would.  All we have to do is ask.  Come on, let’s do it.”

I don’t know why I said okay.  I was desperate for a way out of this mess.  I didn’t think Mom and Dad would understand at all.  I thought, well, Jackie’s mom was pretty cool.  And she was an adult.  It would be like I was taking the whole problem to her and she was taking care of it and I wouldn’t have to deal with any of the problems with the envelope, with Mom and Dad’s signature and comments.  So I said, “Okay, Jackie.  Let’s tell your mom.”

We went into the kitchen to tell Mrs. Conroy.  The radio was on.  She was sitting at the kitchen table, smoking a cigarette and reading a magazine.  There was a cup of coffee on the table too, half empty.  Jackie did all the talking and told her mom the whole story and sure enough, Mrs. Conroy was cool about it.  I thought wow, how many moms are there who would cover up for their kids’ friends?  She signed it and wrote the comments that Jackie said she would.  We put the letter back in the envelope and I was all set.  After that was done, Jackie’s mom said, “Emily, have a seat for a minute.  Jackie, go on down to your room for a bit, will you?”

Jackie said okay and went down to her room.  I looked at Mrs. Conroy.  She was so different from my mom.  And I couldn’t imagine what she was going to say to me.  I didn’t know what to say to her either, so I sat and waited.

“So Emily, I guess you’re wondering why I would cover for you by signing that letter.”

“Well, yes, but thank you for helping me.”

“You know, Emily, I like you and you’re doing me a big favor by hanging out with Jackie so much.  I mean, you know her dad and I split and, since I have to work, I’m not home as much as I was before.  I don’t worry as much when she’s with you.”

She had already finished her cigarette so she reached over to the coffee cup and drank that down.  Then she pulled another cigarette out of the pack and put it in her mouth, flicked her lighter and lit the cigarette as it bobbed up and down on her lower lip.  I couldn’t decide if I thought that was cool or disgusting, but since she was helping me out, I thought it was okay.

She took a drag from her cigarette, and she started talking again even as she was still breathing in.  I wondered how she could do that.

“You hang in there, kid.  Okay?”

I said okay and then I said I had to get home.  I told Jackie bye, and I left with the letter.  When I got back home, Mom said, “How are you feeling, Emily?”

I smiled and said, “Better now, Mom” and I really did feel better.  That wasn’t a lie.  I was glad to not be telling a lie, even though I was sitting on a whole pile of lies.  I figured the mess was finished.

I was so busy taking care of the problem with the letter that I still hadn’t thought about the talk I was going to have the next day with Mr. Kearny, but I decided I would just wing it.  Maybe I would say I was upset because my parents were away and I missed them and being at my own house and that when Marcy and I bumped into each other, all of that kind of came down on me.  Maybe I could tell Mrs. Smithfield, “girl-to-girl” that I felt kind of moody because I was getting my period.  That would be a crazy lie, but it might end the whole problem at school too.

Of course, on top of that, I still had Marcy to deal with, but maybe she would just be glad I didn’t tell about all the other things I thought she had done, and after all, I didn’t exactly know for sure that Marcy was the one who messed up my lockers and who threw the mashed potatoes in my face.  Maybe she would be relieved and would stop messing with me because I kept her out of trouble.

Dad was home and Tommy came into the house and to dinner with a face flushed from running around outside.  He had been in a big after-school game of football in a friend’s back yard and was full of stories about it.  I sat at the table, relieved.  And I was glad that Tommy had a lot of stories about his football game so that I could just sit and listen instead of answer a lot of questions.  And on top of that, I was glad that I had Jackie as my best friend, and glad her mom was so cool to cover for me.

I went to bed that night hopeful that my problems were behind me.

Mr. Kearny called me into his office during homeroom and asked me for the letter.  I handed it to him and, even though I was just going to let him read the note from Jackie’s mom, I told him right then that I had been staying with Jackie and that she had signed it.  He read the note, took off his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose.  Then he put his glasses back on and looked at me and said, “Emily, I’m going to ask you again what happened with Marcy in the hall yesterday.  You keep saying it was an accident, but I find that hard to believe.”

“It was an accident, sort of.”  Then I told him about missing Mom and Dad and then I didn’t know what else to say because Mrs. Smithfield wasn’t there and I thought about how I was going to tell her about maybe getting my period and being moody because of it.  But I decided that even if I didn’t want to tell that to Mr. Kearny, if I did, maybe he’d be so embarrassed that he wouldn’t ask any more questions.”

I went for it.  I told him the lie about my period and sure enough, Mr. Kearny was embarrassed and he sat down and said, “Okay, Emily.  Homeroom is almost over.  Why don’t you run along so you don’t miss your first class?  And watch where you’re walking in the hall.”

Sure enough, I was off the hook and out in the hall on my way to History class.  I got to class before Marcy and she walked in just as I sat down.  She walked down the aisle to her seat and as she passed me she said “Nice top” and nothing else.  I couldn’t decide what she meant when she said it, so I let it go.  Maybe she was making a joke, I don’t know.

Thank you for reading.

Just jumping in?  Click below to read previous chapters:

Chapter 1 – “Meeting Jackie”
Chapter 2 – “Mrs. Conroy”
Chapter 3 – “Downtown”
Chapter 4 – “Capture the Flag”
Chapter 5 – “The Fight”
Chapter 6 – “Lemonade”
Chapter 7 – “The Fort”
Chapter 8 – “School Starts”
Chapter 9 – “The Locker”
Chapter 10 – “Meeting Marcy”
Chapter 11 – “Fight in the Hallway”

Copyright © 2016 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Friday Fiction is back! Twelve: Chapter 11 – “Fight in the Hallway”

Friday Fiction

Welcome to Twelve, a new book of Friday Fiction! This story begins the summer Emily Kingston turns twelve and is about a friendship that changed everything.

I hope you enjoy it!


School had become a problem. Every day, I worried about what might happen when I got there.  I was still hanging out with Rena and Amy and things seemed good with them, but I felt a distance between them and me.

Every time I went to my locker I worried that there would be something new scratched into the door.  And when I changed for gym, I worried that everyone was wondering why I had a flower power sticker on my gym locker and what I would say if someone asked me.

I began to pay more attention to Marcy because of what she said to me about my pants.  I wondered if she was the one who was behind all the problems I was having.  Marcy was popular in school, but she wasn’t the cheerleader type and she wasn’t super high-fashion.  But she did seem to be in charge of her world and she had a certain way of talking and looking at you with her eyes over to the side, and her face never looked totally interested in what she was saying.   Kind of like she was not only bored with you, but bored even talking about it.  She had a group of friends, but it wasn’t exactly a gang and some of the girls in her group were some of my friends too.  I thought about Jackie’s advice to keep an eye on Marcy or whoever it was who was messing with me.  Even though I wasn’t into plotting revenge, I decided that at least the watching out part of Jackie’s advice was good, so that’s what I started doing.

A few weeks went by and nothing happened.  I watched Marcy, but I noticed nothing different.  Then one morning on my way to first period History, Marcy came up to me and stood right in front of me and blocked my way.  When I looked at her, I saw she was staring me down.  I didn’t know what I could say to get past her.  I didn’t have a chance to say a word because Marcy opened her mouth and said, “Uh, Emily?  Wanna get out of my way?”  I couldn’t understand her reason, but I knew she was messing with me.  She was the one who was in my way, and if I was in her way, then she was going the wrong way because we were in the same class together down the hall.  All of this raced through my head, but instead of talking, I stepped to the left to get out of her way.  But as I moved to the left, she moved with me in the same direction so we were still facing each other.

By then kids had noticed what was going on and some had stopped to watch.  Everyone likes a good fight in the halls and I’m sure they were hoping to see one.  I was so surprised to see Marcy still standing in front of me and I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I moved back to the right to try to clear a path away from her.  And once again, Marcy moved right along with me.  She was expecting that, I think and when we were again positioned in the same place as before she opened her mouth again and this time she said, “Hey bitch, get out of my way!”

I froze and I felt my face grow red hot.  I could also feel everyone’s eyes on Marcy and me, and all their voices melted into one low throbbing sound that suspended me in time.   My whole body felt hot and shaky and in that short time, my mind raced through the few choices I had to get away from Marcy.  And out of nowhere, before I had the chance to decide if I was making the right choice, I moved in close to Marcy, opened my mouth and I spat right in her face.

To say that Marcy was surprised would be a huge understatement.  A look of shock passed over her face and when that look was gone, it was replaced by loathing.  And the next look I remember was pure rage and fury.  Then I felt a hand on my hair and she yanked it so hard that a tuft of it came out into her hand.

Now like I said, everyone likes a good fight in the halls at school, but usually those fights are between two boys.  To see two girls fight, that’s a rare event.  So when it happens, well you better believe a crowd will form and it will be a big one.  Before I knew it, Marcy and I were on the floor, kicking and scratching each other and pulling each other’s hair.  I could hear kids from all sides cheering us on, adding to the frenzy.

I don’t know what I was thinking by spitting in Marcy’s face and then getting into a fight with her.  This was my first fight ever and I was not very good at it.  After about a minute, it was clear to me and I’m sure to Marcy too that she had a huge advantage over me.  I didn’t decide to curl up on the floor and cover my head, I just did it.  And even after I had stopped kicking and scratching, Marcy was not through with me.  By then she was sitting on me and she had grabbed my arms and pinned them down on the floor, one on each side of my head.  I turned my head to look at her and I understood her trap too late.  She smiled a smile that looked anything but friendly and sort of made a slurping-in kind of sound with her mouth and I realized what was coming.  Just as she was spitting in my face, just as I was feeling the double humiliation of being beaten and spat on, Mrs. Smithfield came out of her classroom.

From then, all I could hear was her yelling at kids to move away and then I felt a hand on my arm and it yanked me up.  And by then I could that see our principal Mr. Kearny had done the same to Marcy.  Soon we were both being marched down to Mr. Kearny’s office.

My heart pounded, its beat was loud in my chest and I couldn’t imagine what I was going to say in front of Mr. Kearny.  When we got to his office, Mrs. Smithfield let go of me and told me to sit in the chair that was outside Mr. Kearny’s office.  Mr. Kearny led Marcy over to a different chair, away from me and told her to sit.  Then he and Mrs. Smithfield went into his office and shut the door.

My face was still wet from Marcy’s spit and the first thing I did was wipe it off with my sleeve.  I was glad I didn’t have any make-up on that would have been smeared all over my face by now.  I didn’t dare look at Marcy, but I secretly hoped the spit on her face had dissolved and smeared some of the make-up she had put on that morning.

We sat for a long time.  There was nothing to do but sit and I kept my head down hoping no one walking by would stare at me.  I wondered how bad I looked and if anyone would be able to tell I was missing a tuft of hair.  I looked sideways over to Marcy’s chair to see what was going on with her.  I figured she had already checked me out to see what kind of damage she had done.  Before I had the chance to do anything more, Mr. Kearny’s door opened and Mr. Kearney stepped out and asked me to come inside.

As I got up to go into the office, I walked by Marcy.  She lifted her head and said just loud enough for me to hear, “Just remember, bitch, you’re the one who spat at me first.”    I didn’t say anything, but I could feel my back muscles get tight.  I walked into Mr. Kearny’s office.  I had never been in the principal’s office before and, even though I was there because I had been in a fight and was probably in a lot of trouble, I couldn’t help but look around and notice the things he had on the walls and on his desk.  He went over to his desk and sat down.  Then he told me to sit down in a chair across from his desk.  Mrs. Smithfield was sitting next to me.

Mr. Kearny spoke first, but not to me.  “Mrs. Smithfield, would you please go get a wet paper towel so Emily can wipe her head?”  I didn’t realize it before, but I also had a big scratch on my forehead and it had been bleeding down the side of my face.  After Mrs. Smithfield left, Mr. Kearny looked across his desk at me and said, “Emily, I want to know what happened out there.  You have never been in trouble at school, but what I saw out in the hall was very disturbing.”

I wondered what exactly it was that he found disturbing.  Was it that two girls were fighting?  Was it that half the school was surrounding us cheering us on?  Was it that I was essentially getting pounded by Marcy?

There’s an unwritten law between kids at school and it is simple.  Friends or enemies, you don’t snitch on another kid, that is, unless you want to be pounded on and messed with again and again for the rest of time.  I definitely felt like it was Marcy’s fault for stepping in front of me and starting everything, but I thought about Marcy’s warning and decided I’d better say nothing bad about Marcy.  I also didn’t want to admit that I spat in Marcy’s face.

I gave it my best shot.  “We just got in each other’s way.  We were both in a hurry.  It was an accident.”

Mr. Kearny kind of laughed, but he wasn’t smiling.  “That was some accident, Emily.  I saw a lot of anger out there, a lot of kicking and scratching.  I want to know why you two were fighting.”

I started to feel trapped.  I don’t think Mr. Kearny had any idea what it was like to be a kid, let alone a kid who was just in a fight.  I thought about Marcy outside the door and I wondered what she would be saying to Mr. Kearny when he called her in.  I didn’t want to look at Mr. Kearny, but I could feel him looking straight at me.

“Emily, you need to tell me what happened out in the hall.”

I looked up and there was Mr. Kearny, staring into my face and he seemed to be way too close to me.  I could see right through his glasses into his eyes and looked at the rest of his face, his wayward eyebrows, his bald head, his ears that stuck out too far.  I wondered, if there had been hair on his head, would his ears have looked so big.  My thoughts wandered into a whole different section in my head, thinking about Mr. Kearny’s face that was too close.


I broke free from my thoughts and spoke, “Nothing happened out there, Mr. Kearny.  It was an accident.”

I knew my lie was ridiculous and I knew that Mr. Kearny could tell I was lying, but it bought me a little bit of time.  Just then, Mrs. Smithfield came in with her wet paper towel.  She came over to me and, instead of handing me the towel, she wiped my forehead herself.  I wanted to wipe my own head, but I didn’t think I had much of a choice, so I sat and let her do the job.  It was not a deep cut and when she finished she sat down and looked hard at me.

“Emily, you are a good student and have never been in trouble in my class.  What’s going on here?”

Here we go again, I thought.  But again, I did not want to talk about the fight or any of the problems I’d been having.

“I’m fine, Mrs. Smithfield.  I told Mr. Kearny that it was just an accident.  We were both in a hurry and we crashed into each other.  That’s what happened.”

They both looked at each other and Mr. Kearny stood up and said, “Okay for now, Emily, but we’re going to talk about this some more.  I’ll be sending a note home for your parents to sign.  Between now and then, you should think about what happened and be prepared to talk to me again tomorrow.  You can go to class.”

Mrs. Smithfield stood up too and added, “Emily, why don’t you stop in the Girls Room and clean up a bit before you go to class.  I called in a substitute, but I’ll be down to class in a few minutes.”

When I got out of the office, I quickly walked by Marcy and went down the hall to the Girls Room.  I looked in the mirror and I did look pretty bad, but at least I hadn’t been crying.  I splashed some water on my face to get rid of the rest of Marcy’s spit.  Then I dried it off with one of those terrible paper towels.  My hair was a mess but I had no brush, so I used my fingers to straighten it out the best I could.  I tucked my shirt back in. There wasn’t much more I could do.  I would have to act like I didn’t care about the mess in the mirror.

I did not want to go back to class.  I knew everyone would be wondering what happened to me and Marcy.  I hoped someone had grabbed my books during the fight.  All I wanted to do was leave, but I walked down the hall and into my classroom.  The room went silent as I went to my seat.  Another one of the History teachers, Mrs. Hinchman, was in the front of the class.  She walked over to my desk and handed me my notebook and my History book and said, “We’re on page 257, Emily.”

I wondered if Marcy would come back to History class, but she did not.  She wasn’t in my next two classes, but I saw her at lunch.  I stayed far away from her.  Amy and Rena kept asking me what had happened in the principal’s office.  They both had seen our fight in the hall and wanted the full story.  I kept saying, “Nothing.  Nothing happened.  Mrs. Smithfield wiped my face and then I went back to class.”

“Wow, Emily,” said Amy, “You two were really going at it.  I can’t believe you!  What were you thinking, spitting in Marcy’s face?”

“That was wild!” added Rena.  “I bet that’s the last thing she thought you were going to do.”

“Listen,” I said.  “I don’t want to talk about it, okay?  Let’s just finish lunch.”

The Amy said, “Well maybe you don’t want to talk about it, but it’s all everyone in the whole school is talking about.”

Thank you for reading.

Just jumping in?  Click below to read previous chapters:

Chapter 1 – “Meeting Jackie”
Chapter 2 – “Mrs. Conroy”
Chapter 3 – “Downtown”
Chapter 4 – “Capture the Flag”
Chapter 5 – “The Fight”
Chapter 6 – “Lemonade”
Chapter 7 – “The Fort”
Chapter 8 – “School Starts”
Chapter 9 – “The Locker”
Chapter 10 – “Meeting Marcy”

Copyright © 2016 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Friday Fiction is back! Twelve: Chapter 10 – Meeting Marcy

Friday Fiction

Welcome to Twelve, a new book of Friday Fiction! This story begins the summer Emily Kingston turns twelve and is about a friendship that changed everything.

I hope you enjoy it!


It was getting colder and the leaves on the trees were turning.  We were two months into school and I hadn’t had any problems since the mashed potatoes in the cafeteria.  I’d started to make more friends at school, girls who had gone to other schools last year, and some boys too.  But I mostly hung around with Rena and Amy at school and Jackie on the weekends.  Rena and Amy had gone in early for orchestra practice that day, so I walked down Prospect alone.  I was full of energy.  I moved quickly down the hill and my purse bumped against my hip as I walked.  I smiled at that because I had on my favorite flair jeans, the ones with the studs down the side, and I thought they looked good with my purse on the side.

On my way to my locker, I saw kids in groups looking at me.  I ignored the stares, but I felt sweat under my arms.  I wondered if there was more trouble at the locker, but a quick look at the front and my locker looked okay.  I opened it, put my jacket inside and grabbed the stuff I needed for my History class. I saw Rena on my way to class.

“Hey Rena.”

“Hi Emily.”  Rena stopped and looked at me.  Not a good sign.

I asked her why she was staring at me.  “I’m not, it’s nothing,” she said.  “Did you do your History homework?”

I always do my homework, so I wasn’t sure why she’d ask me that.  “Yes, did you?”

She said she did and by then we were just outside the classroom so I didn’t have the chance to ask her why she was acting so strange.  When I walked into the classroom, kids turned and looked at me.  Our teacher hadn’t come in yet.  Some kids were standing around and sitting at different desks, but no one was near mine.  I said hi to a couple of kids and headed over to my desk.

When I sat down, a girl I sort of knew came up to me and said, “Hey, Emily.  Nice top.”  I looked at her.  “Thanks Marcy.”  I thought that would be it, but then she said, “It goes nice with those jeans, don’t you think?”  “Thanks,” I answered.  But then Marcy wouldn’t stop.  “I bet you had those jeans last year.  Am I right?”  They were from last year and I wondered how she knew that.  “I did, why?”  Marcy leaned over me and got about six inches from my face.  She smiled and opened her mouth to speak, as if she was getting ready to tell me something private, but when she did, her voice became much louder, loud enough for everyone to hear her.  “Well, I can tell because, well, tell me if I’m wrong, but did you think those jeans were so hot that you felt you had to cram your fat butt into them for another year?”

I knew that was the kind of question you didn’t answer, but that was the only thing I did know about that morning in History class.  My ears burned with the sound of kids laughing, at me.  I kept my face down.  I swallowed as hard as I could and thought again about a fight Tommy once had in the yard.  Which kid had he been when his fight broke out?  The the kid everyone was laughing at or was he the other kid?  In a wild flash I wondered if I could tackle Marcy and hold her down, like Tommy had done in the yard, or if she would be the one on top pushing me down.  The weight of the whole day ahead pushed down on me.  If this was how it had started, I didn’t know how I would make it until 3:00.  I looked over at Rena, but her head was turned, in friendship, shame or laughter, I didn’t know.  The laughter stopped when Mrs. Smithfield came in and announced, “Pop quiz this morning!  Put your binders under your desk and take out a pencil.”

Something happens when you’re at the bad end of a joke.  I was the elephant in the room, in last year’s jeans.  Would Marcy have picked on me if I had worn something else or had she only been waiting for the right moment?  Nobody bothered me for the rest of the day, but I knew the story had spread through the seventh grade.

I’m sure Rena and Amy had talked about it, but around me, they acted as if nothing had happened.  I was glad because I didn’t want to talk.  If they were my friends (were they still?) they would understand.  When I got home, I took off my jeans, threw them in the trash, and changed into a bigger size.  There was nothing wrong with me.  If Marcy messed with me again, I would show her that.

Just jumping in?  Click below to read previous chapters:

Chapter 1 – “Meeting Jackie”
Chapter 2 – “Mrs. Conroy”
Chapter 3 – “Downtown”
Chapter 4 – “Capture the Flag”
Chapter 5 – “The Fight”
Chapter 6 – “Lemonade”
Chapter 7 – “The Fort”
Chapter 8 – “School Starts”
Chapter 9 – “The Locker”

Copyright © 2016 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.