I have begun and stopped a Christmas story several times. I wanted to give you all a little something, like I did with "Rainey’s Christmas Miracle" last year. Alas, with a sick dog and the tragedy of Sandy Hook School, I haven’t been in the holiday spirit. Then I remembered a manuscript I started and stopped last year, entitled “Sand Letters.” I intend to finish this novel at some point, but thought I’d share with you this little tidbit.
The main characters are Margie and Ruth Ann. Margie is a fifteen-year-old girl, living on Hatteras Island. She is wrestling with her sexuality when she finds a book written by twenty-six-year-old Ruth Ann, a southern belle coming out story called “The Belle Cracked.” After reading the book, which answers so many questions for her, Margie meets Ruth Ann in person. Ruth Ann vacations on Hatteras Island every year and the two strike up a friendship. They write letters back and forth over the years, as Margie grows to adulthood. Ruth Ann serves as a mentor and a kind older friend, who understands the angst of a young lesbian growing up in the less than accepting environment of the seventies.
The other characters are: Ida, Margie’s mother, who desperately wanted a debutante and instead has a basketball playing tomboy in Margie. Amy, Margie’s first real girlfriend, whom she met when Amy moved to the island during the current school year. Debbie, Margie’s best friend for years and the girl she had “experimented” with, while exploring her attraction to girls. She becomes very jealous of the new girl, Amy, even though Debbie has a boyfriend and only kisses Margie when she feels like it.
The following letter from Margie explains what happened during preparation for the Christmas pageant and the aftermath. Enjoy, and happy holidays to you all. May the New Year bring you peace and joy.
R. E. Bradshaw
Excerpt from "Sand Letters"
by R. E. Bradshaw
January 2, 1977
Dear Ruth Ann,
You are never going to believe what happened. We got out of school on Dec. 17th. (I made all A’s, by the way.) We had a game that night and then I went home with Amy. Her parents were gone for the weekend. I convinced Ida that we were making homemade tree ornaments and wouldn’t she rather me mess up someone else’s kitchen, so she let me go. I’m not going into detail here, but I got my Christmas present from Amy that weekend. Wow!
We did make the plaster ornaments, but mostly we just, well, you know. Anyway, we had to go to church on Sunday and I was sure I would burst into flames when I went in the door, but nothing happened. Then we had Christmas Pageant practice that afternoon. Amy, Debbie, and me were the oldest girls in the pageant. We have to move to the junior choir next year. We were changing into our costumes in this little room. Two other girls, freshmen, were in there, too.
Suddenly, Debbie screams, “What’s that?” and points at my neck.
I have no idea what she’s talking about. I thought a spider or something was on me, so I started jumping around, swatting my neck.
Then she says, “It’s not a bug. You have a hickey on your neck.”
I tried to remain as calm as possible, but I really wanted to run. I looked over at Amy. She was studying her costume, as if it was some kind of puzzle, and pretending she hadn’t heard a word of what Debbie said.
I said, “It can’t be a hickey. I must have rubbed on a branch in the woods.”
“That’s a hickey, Margie, and I bet I know who gave it to you!”
Debbie screamed that so loud, I thought someone would come bursting through the door any minute. Then totally out of the blue she charged at Amy and pushed her down. By now, Debbie was crying and any attempt I made to get her quiet just made her louder.
She yelled at Amy, “Why did you have to come here? Everything was fine before you came.”
Now, you have to know Amy knew nothing about Debbie, other than she’d been a bitch to her. She thought it was because I was Debbie’s friend before, and nothing else. Well, she knows everything now, because Debbie turned on me after she got done with Amy, and said, “I’m going to tell your mother.”
I forgot about the other two girls in the room. I also forgot that Amy didn’t know about Debbie and me. I shot my mouth off, “Yeah, well if you tell about me and Amy, then I’m telling about you and me.”
The next thing I knew, they were both trying to kill me. Amy broke the shepherd’s staff over my head and Debbie tried to beat me to death with the Baby Jesus. They didn’t stop whacking me until they realized the two freshmen girls were trying to escape. They let me go and tackled the other two. After some serious threatening, we let the other girls go. I think we scared them really bad. Debbie told them we’d sneak in their rooms at night and cut off their hair, if they told. If they’ve spoken a word of what was said in that room, I haven’t heard it. If those girls ever wise up and realize they can blackmail us, we’re in deep shit.
After pageant practice, Amy wouldn’t speak to me and neither would Debbie. I was so mad at Debbie. She ruined everything. I tried to talk to Amy on Monday, but her mom said she was sick and couldn’t come to the door. I went home and stole Ida’s green food coloring. I snuck into Debbie’s house and put the dye in her favorite green apple shampoo. Her brothers would have had to take the blame, if Ida hadn’t decided to make Christmas tree cookies and couldn’t find the green food coloring. She put two and two together after talking to Debbie’s mom at the store.
So, to make a long story short, Amy quit talking to me, Debbie was a bitch with green hair, and I had blue hair, because that’s the food coloring Ida had in her hand when she attacked me in the shower, after she got back from her little chat with Debbie’s mom. Thank god, she didn’t see the hickey. It’s gone now.
We all appeared in the pageant together, after a talking to by the preacher about forgiveness. I think Debbie’s green hair contrasted very nicely with her all white angel costume, but her wings were still bent from the fight the week before. Both Baby Jesus and my shepherd’s staff benefitted from the healing powers of Duct tape. Ida didn’t manage to get all my hair, but the bright blue stripe down the middle of my scalp was less than appealing. The dye has faded some now, but you can still see it.
Amy finally started speaking to me again a few days after Christmas. I told her I was sorry that I didn’t tell her about Debbie and I think she understood. We talked about what people would say if they found out. We decided to head off the rumors by sleeping with our boyfriends. We didn’t go all the way, but just enough to give them something to talk about. I endured a night of groping and pawing. Boys are not very good at that sort of thing in my opinion, but it worked. We’re now sluts. I can’t win for losing, but at least they don’t tar and feather the sluts. We’re more popular than ever.
School starts back tomorrow. I read Hemingway and Steinbeck over the holiday. They wrote so much; I think I’ll switch to someone else for a while. I also read, “The Children’s Hour,” by Lillian Hellman. Were you saving that for later? I wanted to strangle that little girl. I loved it, but why are the lesbians always so sad? Oh, by the way, we won the holiday tournament and I played in it with blue hair. I didn’t mind. Debbie had to cheer with her green hair. Her skin was kind of green too and since our school colors are green and gold, she looked like Gumby with pompons.
Happy New Year!
Happy Holidays, y'all!