Quote of the Day

Quote of the Week:
"On this day, take time to remember those who have fallen. But on every day after, do more; put the freedoms they died for to greater and nobler uses."
~ Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Sneak Peek—Little Gracie Gubler

I asked my followers on Facebook, Twitter, and my author website for name suggestions, explaining that I had an idea for a short story about a confident, young, school-age girl. I intend to include the story in a book I'm putting together for my son's graduation.  This book will be his gift from me with the promise that half of all royalties go to him to help ease the overwhelming cost of a college education.  I received some wonderful name suggestions including the following:  

Sadie, Hannah, Lucy, Deniz, Tina, Evie, Gracie, Madeline, Scarlet, Hope, Kathryn, and Kimberly.  From the suggestions, I chose Gracie and gave her the full name of Gracie Gubler.

I would like to share this short story with you now and hopefully wet your whistle, so to speak, for other short stories, poetry, and quotes to come in Slaying Dragons: Quotes, Poetry, & a Few Short Stories for Every Day of the Year, to be released this April.  Watch for a preordering option soon.

Enjoy!


Little Gracie Gubler was eight.  She was a striking sight with her lava-red hair that hung as curly as a piglet’s tail and the sprinkling of cinnamon freckles on her nose and cheeks and fingers and toes.  When she stood in place, it was with both feet apart, hands on her hips, shoulders square, chin high, lips grinning as if she were the most remarkable child in a school where nearly every other student towered over her.  The truth is, Gracie’s confidence and pluck overflowed, more than most.  And it happened that these qualities—made manifest in her demeanor and countenance—were hard not to stare at. 
Now, this freckle-faced sprightly child had been born with a small frame and small ears that were somehow well-tuned to surrounding chit-chat.  And Gracie Gubler had no qualms about joining in on a transpiring conversation if the topic proved of interest to her.  In fact, she did so quite often.  On one tulip-blooming spring day she happened to overhear Jeffrey Turner and Dylan Ewing gossiping about Mr. Quilter’s bald head—a head that had been covered with blond fuzz just a week ago.  It was the last time they had seen their math teacher until he walked into school that morning without his hair.  Jeffrey and Dylan were discussing Mr. Quilter as if they were piecing together a puzzle that would reveal the whole story; never mind if there existed any amount of truth to it. 
“I heard that he was away on family business.”
“That’s what adults call it when it’s serious.”
“Yeah, like when someone dies.”
“Or when they’re going to die….like from a disease.”
“Like cancer.”
“Yeah.  You know, they shave your head bald if you get cancer.”
“No they don’t; your hair falls out on its own.  That’s what cancer does.  That’s how they know you have it.”
“Well, it amounts to the same thing.”
“Not really.”
“Yeah, really.  And either way your head ends out bald, just like Mr. Quilter.”
“Poor guy’s probably real sick.  No wonder he needed a week off.” 
“Yeah.  I bet he doesn’t even know that when your hair falls out it’s the worst kind of cancer.  He’ll probably be dead in another week.”
“Or sooner.”  The boys sighed a dismal sigh in concert.  About that time, Gracie Gubler joined in their conversation.
“Do you two know what you’re talking about?” she asked.  “Did Mr. Quilter tell you he was sick?”
Dylan and Jeffrey exchanged a guarded glance before answering.  “Well, no, not exactly, but he didn’t have to say anything.  He missed a week of school and came back with no hair…”
“And he’s acting really tired.  It’s obvious he’s seriously sick.”
“Yeah, and only cancer takes all your hair that fast.”
Gracie pursed her lips together and placed both hands on her hips before swiveling about and marching directly to the school’s math room.  There she found Mr. Quilter sitting at his desk, his bald head lowered into his hands.  He did look tired.  The classroom was empty; all the kids were outside on the playground. 
Gracie interrupted the math teacher by clearing her voice.  When he looked up, she asked him a simple question.
“Mr. Quilter, why is your head bald?”
After flashing a humored smile, he proceeded to explain how he had flown home to attend the funeral of his grandfather the prior week, and during that time he had been invited to play on his brother’s basketball team.  Mr. Quilter had eagerly agreed, being tall and athletic and quite fond of the game.  He had been less eager to agree to shaving his head in order to look like the other team players who took great pride in reflecting through appearances their team name—the Bald Eagles.  However, a little guilt-ridden convincing by his brother had done the trick.  Mr. Quilter flashed a wry smile as he rubbed his head and told Gracie, “It does make for faster showers in the morning.”
Little Gracie told her math teacher that she thought he looked fine with a bald head.  Then she marched outside to report the truth to Jeffrey and Dylan who had already convinced a dozen surrounding children that they would soon be getting a new math teacher.  Gracie stated that it was not so.
Later that day, outside the local grocery store where a troop of girl scouts was selling mint crèmes and coconut clusters and chunky chocolate cookies, Gracie was exiting the store behind her mother who stopped to purchase three boxes of mint crèmes, supporting the troop that her friend, Karin Summers, happened to direct as a parent volunteer.  Both adults watched a neighbor lady, Miss Tyra Darling, walk out of the store carrying a case of beer in either hand.  They began to talk in loud whispers, easily overheard by curious, young ears.
“That’s four cases this week.  I saw Tyra purchase two cases a couple days ago.”
“Really?  I say, that’s an awful lot of beer for a single woman who lives alone.”
“She’s got an obvious drinking problem.  Beverly, who lives right next door to Tyra, told me no one ever comes over to that lonely house.  Tyra never throws any parties or anything.  Not that Beverly wants any loud, drunken partiers carrying on next door.”
“No, no, I’m sure she doesn’t want that.  She would have to call the cops on something like that.”
“The woman is just a serious alcoholic.  No doubt she’ll die from a bad liver—young and miserably alone.”
“What a tragedy.  I don’t understand why people do stuff like that to themselves.”
During this conversation, every girl scout from Hannah Pepper to Hallie Nogues had their ears perked, listening.  Gracie Gubler, alone, spun about and marched toward the silver sedan in which Tyra Darling had deposited her two cases of beer.  The woman was just opening the driver’s seat door when a chipper “excuse me” stopped her.  Gracie went to stand directly under Tyra’s nose and looked up to ask a simple question. 
“Miss Darling, are you going to drink all of those beers yourself?”
The shocked recipient of the question put a hand to her heart, and her cheeks flushed red.  She laughed at the thought.  “Oh dear, dear, no, no!”  She then leaned forward and explained to little Gracie that her hobby and passion was gardening.  Every spring and summer she tended to a half an acre of garden behind her house which included rare flowers mixed with all sorts of herbs, fruits, and vegetables.  The beer was used as bait in homemade bowl-traps that effectively lured and killed slugs, snails, and earwigs.  She also sprayed the trees and bushes with beer because it attracted the most beautiful butterflies to her garden.  Tyra laughed again and skewed her eyebrows.  “I don’t even like the taste of beer,” she said.  “But I will admit, I do mix up a pretty good beer batter when I’m in the mood for a fish fry.” 
After accepting Miss Darling’s invitation to drop by at a later date and visit the beer-fertilized garden, Little Gracie Gubler marched back to report the truth to her mother and Karin (as well as the eavesdropping girl scouts.)  The adults stared silently at Gracie for a few stunned moments. 
“Huh, that’s good to know.”
“Yeah.  I wonder if I could get her beer batter recipe.”
The next day at school, freckle-faced Gracie was in the library checking out a fairytale storybook about Dimearians—people born with moth-type wings on their backs.  She cocked an ear when she overheard Russ Montgomery whispering (partly because he was in a library and partly because he was gossiping) about LeiAnn Jones, a new girl from Wisconsin who had joined their class two weeks prior.  She had proven to be a quiet sort and had checked out five thick books after receiving special permission from the librarian.
“She’s a snot, I tell you.  Thinks she’s smarter and better than the rest of us.  I bet she doesn’t even read those books.  Just showing off, hoping the rest of us will think Wisconsin grows brainiacs like it grows cheese.”
“I’m pretty sure they don’t grow cheese…” someone started to say.
“You know what I mean.  That LeiAnn girl is so big-headed, she won’t even say ‘how d’ya do’ to anyone.  Has she talked to you?  ‘Cause she hasn’t said one word to me.”
“Nuh-uh.”
“Nope.”
“Not one word.”
“And have you said one word to her?” 
The question took the other kids by surprise, in part because it was voiced louder than appropriate for a library setting, but mostly because the speaker had not been included in the conversation.  Gracie Gubler ran her probing eyes over every kid huddled about the reading table.  Then she turned and headed to a corner of the library where LeiAnn Jones was sitting by herself with a pile of books on her lap.  She had one cracked open hiding her face.  It took LeiAnn a moment to lower the book when she heard someone address her by name.  As soon as Gracie could see the blue of LeiAnn’s eyes, she asked a simple question.
“Why don’t you join the rest of the class at the reading table?”
LeiAnn glanced in the direction of the other kids who were staring with tight eyes at Gracie’s back.  The new girl swallowed hard, and then timidly explained that she felt uncomfortable.  No one had invited her to sit with the others, and she didn’t want to assume they would welcome her.  Shrugging it off, she told the inquisitive red-head that she was fine—“I have my books.”  LeiAnn then confessed, “I’m not very good at making new friends.”
After chatting with LeiAnn Jones, finding that they had a common love for fantasy books, Gracie marched back to the reading table to report the truth to Russ Montgomery and the other children, after which a few of them decided to go introduce themselves to the new girl.
And so it was with Gracie.  Whenever she heard someone speak a word of assuming gossip, she was quick to learn and share the truth.  Thus, Bobby Black learned that he had not been callously dumped by Darin Caraway as a best friend; the birthday invitation had been mailed by his mother to the wrong address.   Elizabeth Bifano learned that Kimmy Jackson did in fact adore her daisy-yellow dress, even though Kimmy’s least favorite color in the world was yellow.  Madelyn Jenks learned that their school teacher did not own a jar where he kept the names of bad students he meant to feed to the alligators at the end of the school year.  And Mindi Bergeson learned that Scarlet Elliott’s unfortunate case of acne was not the result of kissing frogs in the pond on the Elliot’s farm.  Therefore, when anyone saw the little freckle-faced redhead marching near, they would check their conversation—because if their comments weren’t the verified truth, it was foolish business to gossip in front of Gracie Gubler.

​Copyright 2017 Richelle E. Goodrich



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