Friday, November 20, 2009

Cherie Takes Over


Cherie Davis took her first baby steps in an Amish kitchen on a hot summer Sunday afternoon, hours after the family car shuddered to a stop in front of the Pennsylvania farm. The women of the house took Cherie from her mother’s arms and, deciding that the baby needed nourishment, gave her unpasteurized milk to drink. Her mother tried to stop them. She considered the milk “dirty and full of germs,” but the farmers stored no baby formula. Cherie guzzled the drink all day while the men worked on the car.

Later, whenever she got ill while growing up, her mother always blamed the cow.

As a young adult Cherie took her mother’s gift of caution and anxiety and made it her own. She was a committed creature of habit. For instance, before she drove anywhere unfamiliar, she needed such explicit directions that in one case she wrote: at the third light, make a left turn past the white house with black shutters and wave at Grandpa O’Malley (who’s always rocking on the porch). Don’t worry; he never waves back.

Sometimes, Cherie would make a trial run the day before she drove to a new address, giving herself time to get lost, as she usually did.

That is, until her grandfather came to live with the family. Poppy was a retired merchant marine and worried about Cherie’s reluctance to change her routines. One midnight, while sharing milk, cake, and conversation, he asked her, “What do you think will happen if you get lost? Nothing. You’ll find another way. It’ll be an adventure.”

“Just because you loved being on the high sea doesn’t mean I inherited your pirate blood,” she retorted.

Poppy walked over to Cherie, gently pulled her face upward and kissed her forehead goodnight. At the door he turned and smiled. “I want you to be happy, you know? Be happy while you’re living, hon, for you’re a long time dead.”

“For goodness sake, why are you telling her that?” Cherie’s mother yelled from her bedroom.

“It’s just a Scottish proverb.”

“You’re not Scottish!”

* * *
Despite any maternal attempts to stop it, the day arrived some months later when Cherie left home. She was offered an internship in Washington, D.C. and Poppy convinced the family to let her go. Cherie was going to drive herself there. On a beautiful cloudless day, the family’s goodbye involved much hugging, kissing, and crying – all of it on Cherie’s part. Surprisingly, her mother was calm and accepting.

When she first left the driveway and headed south, after giving the family a smile and a thumbs up, Cherie thought about how she felt. Worried? Yes. Frightened? Yes. Ready, willing and able? Yes, yes, yes.

* * *
A few hours later, a two-mile long line of drivers on the interstate sat in their cars waiting. The helicopter, ambulances, and police cars kept everything at a standstill.

No one could have survived this crash.

* * *
Of course, Cherie missed an important turn not long after leaving her home. But remembering Poppy’s words, she stopped at a fast food joint and ate something to calm her nerves. She asked for directions from a man gassing up his car. They were simple and concise and the man assured her his way was easier and, more importantly, toll-free. Cherie soon found herself not on the interstate as the detailed note from her family advised, but on a parallel road.

She turned on the radio. She felt happy.

“Just a detour. Just another way to get there,” she encouraged herself out loud, and sang along with the music.

36 comments:

  1. Great structure and "Just another way to get there" alright... :)
    At first I thought she will get back to the Amish farm :P

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  2. Whew. I'm glad she wasn't the accident victim. Sounds like there's hope for her yet. :)

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  3. Thank you for your comments!

    Estrella: She probably couldn't find her way to Amish farm!

    Laura: Yes, her usual getting lost saved her from that accident. Go figure.

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  4. All things happen for a reason. You did a great job of showing the MC through a point of change in her development. Nicely done.

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  5. Maybe taking detours means it's harder for Death to find you? I might try a different route home tonight...

    Cherie is a very likeable character (as is Poppy of course)

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  6. Cherie flies on her own. Fabulous character development, and told (not shown) so well. Laughed out loud at the "You're not Scottish!"

    Seriously, over-protection can cripple us as much as neglect. Well-done. Peace, Linda

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  7. I agree with Linda and you painted that overprotective picture well. I hope Cherie finds lots of ways to have adventures in the future. Sometimes all we have to fear is fear itself.
    nice job!
    Karen :0)

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  8. I thought at first that she had crashed and died and was thinking maybe she shouldn't have taken the advice after all. I'm glad she turned out okay.

    Nice story!

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  9. Nice tale! I'm glad she did have a cliched death on the interstate. Wait, my story had that...Heehee.

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  10. I agree that Cherie and Poppy are very likable characters. I especially like the fact that Poppy is a merchant marine--a more adventurous and perhaps less order-obsessed branch of the military (but still the military!)--and he is the one to help free her. I was about to get upset that she'd finally gotten her courage up to leave and--crash! Love how it ends with her safe. Life indeed does work that way sometimes!

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  11. i LOVE the scottish proverb. you are becoming more economical in your word choice and use which is making for tighter and stronger stories. very good, this one.

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  12. You did a great job sketching two really neat characters in such a short time.

    I don't believe for a second that Laura is happy she wasn't the accident victim ;)

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  13. I don't believe Laura was happy about Cherie not being the victim either. In fact, when I came to the accident part I thought "this is not Laura's story, maybe Cherie will be okay." :)
    Great job with the character details here Marisa! And thank you for a happy ending.

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  14. Laughing! Yes, Dana and Deanna. I agree with you both. Laura probably is very disappointed that Cherie is driving along and singing instead of screaming in a fiery death!

    She's just being very kind and very polite. :)

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  15. Fine. Now that you've all ratted me out. I was VERY disappointed that she didn't turn into a human torch. Are you all happy now? :)

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  16. This could be a longer piece or book. It was nice to see her heeding Poppy's advice.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  17. Oops, I wasn't finished--nice story, with great characters and details. I like the use of the Scottish proverb and the character of Poppy. And a great job of defying expectations at the end and not having Cherie be in the accident.

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  18. I liked this. I could easily identify with the main character. I'm very much like her. One day I'll have that GPS unit to make notes obsolete, but for now, I like my directions detailed. Down to waving at the old man on the porch.

    Nice job. I really liked how you misdirected at the end.

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  19. Thank you all for your comments. Very much appreciated!

    Laura: I'm sorry. I just can't do it yet. One day. One day. Then you'll be really proud of me :)

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  20. It's the details that make your stories such a pleasure:

    "Don't worry; he never waves back"

    "You're not Scottish!"

    You just do what you do, and let Laura do what she does. It'll all work out.

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  21. I wonder how Cherie would get around where I grew up -- we tend to give directions using landmarks that are no longer there: A store long closed, a house that burned down, an old tree that has been removed....

    I'm glad she's doing well in your story though!

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  22. I like the interaction between Poppy and Cherie. The Scottish proverb comment is great. And a nice little message about making an adventure out of the little things.
    -David G Shrock

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  23. It's no surprise she missed her turn. I blame the cow. This was a great 'coming out of her shell' story, rich in details and a just enough humor. Well done.
    ~chris

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  24. Oh, Chris, thanks for the laugh this a.m. You blame the cow!

    Though I do too. Who knows what would have happened to Cherie if only she drank milk out of a store carton all those years before.

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  25. Just goes to show , asking random strangers is sometimes the best plan

    good stuff

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  26. I like the rhythm of this piece, Marisa - the paragraph followed by a shorter sentence. There are a lot of stories here.

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  27. Another reminder that each of us travels our own unique path in this life and there is no way of knowing what each moment will bring. Thanks for the journey.

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  28. Loved the little detour in the story that showed what she could have been in or a part of. It was nice to see she wasn't, and that she followed Poppy's advice. Excellent story!

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  29. Loved these characters, and the ending. Glad Cherie learned there is more than one way to get there.

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  30. Sometimes it pays to listen to gramps. So glad she did. I have great hopes for her future. Nice job.
    ~jon

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