Sunday, January 01, 2012

Here's to 2012

Here's a glimpse of New Year's Eve 1968 through the eyes of my young protagonist, Sheila Pace, in this excerpt from my novel, THE SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAUGHTER. Enjoy!

January 1968

I was reading in the bedroom on New Year’s Eve when Holly burst into the room with Tommie.

“Look what Tommie got for Christmas!” said Holly, carrying a portable record player.

“Neato!” I closed the book and tossed it onto the bed.

Tommie followed Holly inside, her arms stacked with record albums and forty-fives.

“This is so boss,” said Holly, “She got a record player and the Sgt Pepper’s album.”

Holly set the record player on the floor and plugged it in, then began flipping through a stack of forty-fives. She pulled out a Monkees single, saying she had to listen to “Daydream Believer” before anything else. Tommie fitted a round gadget into the big hole in the middle of a forty-five, put the record on the spindle and drew the arm across and down onto the disc. The room filled with tinny strums and the unmistakable voice of Davy Jones.

Even though I had a TV crush on Davy Jones from The Monkees, it wasn’t a serious crush like I had for Paul McCartney. The Monkees made soda pop music, but the Beatles made rock and roll. KHJ played several cuts from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but I’d never heard the whole album at once.

I made the mistake of thinking myself part of the party when I asked Holly if we could stop playing

“Daydream Believer” over and over and listen to Sgt Pepper’s. Tommie nodded in agreement, which was okay because she was the owner of the records and record player.

Holly turned to me and clinched her face into a haughty scowl. “Sgt Pepper’s isn’t for little kids. Beat it.”

“But, I’ve heard almost every song already!”

“Only the ones they play on the radio,” Holly’s voice was so snotty it smeared in my ears. “Beat it.”

Tommie looked between us like a dog torn between two masters. I grabbed my book with a huff and left. Holly’s laughter followed me down the stairs like a hyena barking over a kill.

Downstairs, everyone was gathered around the red Formica table playing Yahtzee. Everyone except Ernest and Candy, who sat doubled up and leading the conversation, while Grandma, Aunt Cissy, and Mama rolled and scored. I moped over to the table, where Grandma pulled me to her side and told me I could roll for her as long as she could give the cup its orders.

The grown-ups were drinking something orange in a fancy pedestal glass. When I asked what it was,

Grandma said it was hellfire and did I want a sip?

“Eww!” I told her no.

“That’s what you said about coffee and you liked it.”

Mama cocked her head to Grandma. “You gave her coffee?”

“Why not? I gave it to you at her age.”

Mama nodded. “Yeah, and look how good I turned out.” Mama took a swig of her hellfire and waved the glass. “Here’s to apricot brandy and Yahtzee.” She put the glass down with a thump, swiped the dice from the table and threw them into the cup.

“Whoa there, Edie,” said Grandma. “You’re not used to that stuff.”

“Then I should get more used to it.” She took another gulp and laughed like I’d never heard before.

I liked this happy New Year’s Eve Mama. She smiled like one of her soap opera heroines and even sparkled when we turned out the lights for the ten second countdown to the new year. When Grandma switched on the lights at midnight, Mama was gazing at Ernest like I’d seen Daddy look at Marnie. He was looking back at her with the same starry eyes. I glanced over to see if Aunt Cissy noticed, but she was refilling Candy’s 7-up glass.

Grandma picked up her hellfire, held it aloft, and said, “Here’s to the new year and new lives.” The grownups clinked their hellfire, Candy and I clicked our 7-up and then Mama grabbed Ernest and planted a long one on his lips. My heart dropped to my gut. Ernest was Aunt Cissy’s boyfriend. Or so we thought.

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