30 comments

Coming of Age Fiction Middle School

Tilda pulled the tablecloth out of the trashcan located behind her house. She lifted the long, gold and red linen to her face and rubbed it to her cheek, enjoying the soft fabric against her skin for a moment.

“Mama?” she hollered to Mama through the ripped screened door leading to the kitchen.

“Don’t go yellin’ at me like that Til,” Mama yelled back, “I’m tryin’ to cook ya’ll dinner.”

“What’s this tablecloth doin’ in the trashbin?” Tilda queried, dragging the heavy cloth behind her as she walked into the kitchen, slamming the back door loudly.

Mama looked down from cutting vegetables to Tilda’s hands, “Oh, Rocky spilled ink right in the middle of the table, that dang boy. It’s ruined. It was my Mama’s.”

Tilda’s eyes lit up as she looked down at the ink-stained treasure in her hands. “Can I have it?” she asked, squeezing the cloth tightly in anticipation.

“What are you doin’ with an ink-stained tablecloth?” Mama asked her as she scooped diced onions from the cutting board and slid them into the frying pan, the sound of sizzling filling up the room.

“Nothin’!” Tilda yelled as she turned and ran out the back door, dragging the cloth behind her. When she got to the barn, she placed the tablecloth on the floorboards carefully, laying out the fabric to inspect it. The black ink stain was about the size of Daddy’s hand, smack in the middle of the material. What was Rocky doin’ up on the table with Mama’s ink anyways? she wondered. Rocky was always getting into everything which was why Tilda always brought her projects into the barn. She didn’t want him messing with her stuff.

“I’m gonna give you a makeover!” Tilda shouted to Betsy from across the barn. Betsy ignored her, rolling to her side, mournfully. Betsy hadn’t been in her same chipper mood since George was killed two weeks ago. Tilda knew this makeover would cheer her up. It had to.

Tilda walked to the corner of the barn, inspecting all of Daddy’s tools. She grabbed the sheep shears, the closest thing to scissors she could find, and knelt down to the cloth. She began to snip with the heavy, metal shears, making long, rectangular sections first. When she came to the ink blot, she snipped the section out and tossed it behind her; focused on her project at hand.

“Don’t worry Bets, you’re gonna be the best-looking girl on the farm,” she said soothingly as she tied the rectangles together, making a make-shift skirt. She took the shears around the edge of the skirt and fringed the ends, finishing the ensemble. “Done!” she announced as she held up the skirt to show Betsy. Betsy glanced at Tilda and turned her head glumly. I know what you need, Tilda thought to herself. “Be right back, Bets!” she shouted as she ran out of the barn and back into the house, sneaking past Mama and up the stairs.

She slowly opened her parents’ bedroom, looking left and right to ensure it was empty. “Daddy?” she whispered, making sure Mama couldn’t hear her downstairs. When Daddy didn’t respond, she tiptoed into the room and walked up to Mama’s vanity, the one thing in her room Mama always warned her to stay away from. She picked up Mama’s bottle of perfume and lifted the heavy cap, smelling the floral, tangerine smell that reminded her of Mama. She smiled as she put the bottle down carefully and then lifted a gold tube of lipstick, opening it to inspect the color. It was red, just like she needed. She slipped the lipstick into her back, jeans pocket and tiptoed back out of the room, closing the door gently behind her.

“Tilda? What are you doin’ up there?” Mama shouted from the kitchen as Tilda scurried down the stairs and back to the kitchen.

“Nothin’” Tilda said, showing Mama the most innocent face she could muster.

“You better not be up to no good,” Mama cautioned her as she stirred a big black pot on the stove. Tilda sniffed the enticing aroma coming from the pot. It smelled like beef stew, Daddy’s favorite.

“I’m not,” Tilda promised as she inched her way towards the door, making sure to keep her back away from Mama so she didn’t see the lipstick tube sticking out of her back pocket.

“Rocky and Daddy will be home soon and then it’s dinner. I need you to wash up soon,” Mama instructed her.

“Okay, I’ll go wash up,” Tilda assured her as she slipped out of the door and ran as fast as she could towards the barn. She didn’t have much time to get Betsy ready for dinner.

When she entered the barn, Betsy looked gloomier than when Tilda left her. “Bets, I got you something for your makeover. Just you wait.” She walked over to Betsy and pulled the gold lipstick tube out of her pocket, holding it up in the light. “See?” she beamed as she spun the tube with her fingers. She walked back and picked up the skirt and brought the items over to Betsy.

“I know you’re sad that George was killed. I am too. I miss him a lot,” she said as she slipped the skirt over Betsy’s legs, tying the back around her tightly. “But I’m still here and I love you.” She opened the lipstick tube and pressed it to Betsy’s full lips, spreading the red color over them smoothly.

“Pucker up,” she instructed as she took a step back and admired Betsy’s makeover. She had to admit, Betsy did look better. And she looked happier too. “You look amazing. Really fabulous. How do you feel Bets?” she asked, hoping Betsy felt as good as she looked.

“Tilda! Where you at? Daddy and Rocky are home and dinner is on the table! Get in here now!” Mama shouted from the house. Tilda turned and looked towards the house and then back towards Betsy.

“Well Bets, now’s the chance to show Mama and Daddy your new look. You ready?” she asked as she led Betsy to the house and through the back door. She could see her family sitting at the table waiting for her to say grace.

“Tada!” Tilda shouted as Betsy and she entered the dining room. “Meet the new Betsy!” she moved her hands towards Betsy, displaying the dramatic makeover.

Rocky giggled and pointed towards Betsy.

“Git that dang pig outta here!” Daddy shouted as he stood up to shuffle Betsy out of the house.

“Stop Daddy!” Tilda cried as she wrapped her arms around Betsy protectively. “She’s my best friend! I gave her a makeover!”

“Is that what you were doin’ with the tablecloth?” Mama said, angrily. “And what the heck is on her lips? I swear to God Tilda, if you put my lipstick on that pig, you are gettin’ a spankin!”

Tilda’s eyes widened at Mama’s threat. She stepped back cautiously, Betsy behind her. “She’s been depressed ever since you killed George! He was my friend and her husband!”

“Not this again,” Daddy said, putting his hand up to his head in frustration. “Tilda, we went through this two weeks ago. That was a boar, not a person. People kill pigs and eat them. That’s what they do. Now get that sow outta this house and back to the barn before I make her breakfast tomorrow!” his voice began to rise.

Eyes filling with tears, Tilda ran out of the kitchen and through the back door, Betsy in tow. She led her back into her stall and curled up next to her, missing George terribly.

“It’s okay Bets,” she said, petting Betsy’s head, “I’m not gonna let anything happen to you. No one’s gonna make you any meal ever.” She rested her head on Betsy’s belly and closed her wet eyes, wishing George was with them still.

Betsy snuffed and rested her head on the hay. Tilda lifted up her head, glancing at Betsy’s face. She looks like she’s smiling, Tilda thought to herself proudly. A bright red lipstick smile. She put her head back down on Betsy’s belly, feeling the rise and fall of her breath beneath her cheek. They both fell asleep, dreaming dreams of George.

May 10, 2022 23:45

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

30 comments

Michał Przywara
21:18 May 12, 2022

An adorable story, and a creative use of the prompt. Tilda's heart is in the right place as she's coping with loss. Her excitement at the little things, like finding the table cloth, is right on – nails that child-like sense of imagination. It's an interesting point in Tilda's life too, as she's forced to confront mortality, as well as the cruelty of raising animals for food (i.e. "you ate my friend's husband" etc.) A case of expectations dashed by reality. I also appreciate you managed to literally get lipstick on a pig :)

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:47 May 22, 2022

Thank you for the feedback, Michal!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Nat Mirotta
00:22 Jun 01, 2022

I very much enjoyed this story. What interested me was that you never identified the farm animal in question initially, but you did mention 'sheep sheers, so I was assuming 'sheep'; however, the sheers were used to cut fabric for a pig instead. It is also very relatable that children can relate to animals meant for consumption with empathy or sorrow. I felt that empathy also, through Tilda.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Pete Oswald
13:47 May 23, 2022

This is as great as when I went to the horse races endorsed by the president

Reply

Kathleen Fine
14:12 May 23, 2022

:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jay Mc Kenzie
20:57 May 19, 2022

Such a sweet story Kathleen. Lovely take on the prompt too. I actually thought Betsy was a goat initially, but a pig in lipstick and a dress is waaaaay cuter! I really love the innocence of Tilda - you captured her so beautifully.

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:47 May 22, 2022

Thank you Jay!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kelsey H
03:13 May 18, 2022

Very cute, I love the idea of a little girl giving a pig a makeover. Although for some reason I was thinking Betsy was a cow at first. I felt sorry for her getting attached to the animals and naming them then seeing them killed, although I did find her dad's line about making the pig breakfast funny.

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:47 May 22, 2022

Thanks Kelsey! I wanted the reader to question who Betsy was until the reveal at the end:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mike Panasitti
22:48 May 16, 2022

Great take on the makeover prompt. Brought to mind both E.B. White and John Steinbeck. Stunningly authentic dialogue. A Fine story.

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:47 May 22, 2022

Thank you Mike! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Rebecca Miles
19:34 May 16, 2022

I fell for this one hook, line and sinker! I'm putting down my missing it was a pig not a person she was mourning for and dressing up because I'm a city girl and your skill in pulling the wool over my eyes! After having a good chuckle, I had to think how the story captures the child's perspective and outraged sense of injustice so well. I used to teach middle school and I think you have the lexile spot on. Well done.

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:48 May 22, 2022

Thank you Rebecca!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
16:46 May 16, 2022

It was a very nice story.Her characteristics everything. Its just perfect .

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:48 May 22, 2022

Thanks so much Nafiba

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Seán Mc Nicholl
16:30 May 16, 2022

Loved this! Reminded me of Flannery O’Connor, although perhaps not as dark! Very well written and engaging from start to finish! Beautifully simplistic and pure hearted story. Loved it!

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:48 May 22, 2022

Thank you so much Sean!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
11:37 May 16, 2022

Kathleen, this brought back memories of Charlotte’s Web. The way you were able to step into the little girl’s head and make her voice so distinct was beautiful. While I know her parents aren’t particularly trying to be cruel, this really does show the struggle between generations to understand each other’s feelings and emotions. Well done!! ❤️❤️❤️

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:48 May 22, 2022

Thanks so much Hannah!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Lavonne H.
16:30 May 14, 2022

Hey, It sounds like Tilda missed supper! And talk about Tilda calling the kettle black (Rocky being up to no good...when she probably ruined the tube of lipstick...lol.) What a humorous approach to the prompt. And so true, it's hard not to befriend a farm animal (ask Wilbur.) Loved how your characters spoke; could hear their dialects in my ear. And seconding Michael, I was so impressed with getting the lipstick on the pig! Fav line: "She looks like she’s smiling, Tilda thought to herself proudly. A bright red lipstick smile." Yours in writin...

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:48 May 22, 2022

Thanks so much Lavonne!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
23:31 May 13, 2022

It was a great story! But if I'm being honest, I thought Betsy was a sheep and then I assumed she was a dog. If I misread it, I apologize but I don't think you ever confirmed what Betsy was until she entered the house. So, that threw me off most of the story... but it was a funny and cute story that was well written, and I enjoyed reading. ♥️

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:49 May 22, 2022

Thank you Nikki! I wanted the reader to question who Betsy was until the end so that is ok that you thought she was a different animal at first! :)

Reply

23:22 May 22, 2022

Ah! I see LOL I really thought she was a dog XDXD. Then the story was very cute i loved it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
L. Maddison
16:14 May 12, 2022

What a worthy makeover… this was funny and sweet to read.

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:49 May 22, 2022

Thank you L. Maddison!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Rochelle Miller
01:34 May 12, 2022

Kathleen, cute story and well written. This prompt had me stumped! I really like your story idea and Tilda's heart for her animals. The story ended so nicely. I just really feel like when she wakes up from that nap, she's gonna be in a heap with her Mama! ;-) Great work!

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:49 May 22, 2022

Thanks so much Rochelle!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Aeris Walker
08:40 May 11, 2022

What an original response to the prompt! A pig makeover! You did a good job capturing the thought process of a child—how sentimental and whimsical they can be. How once they have their mind set to do something, like stop at nothing until they achieve their vision. The main character was sweet and likable. Her family seemed tense, a bit angry and stressed. I felt like maybe there could have been another sentence or two woven throughout that explained this underlying mood? Maybe finances were tight? The mom was overwhelmed, or the dad was st...

Reply

Kathleen Fine
22:50 May 22, 2022

Thank you Aeris! And thanks for the feedback--I agree, that would be a good addition to put in some tight finances, etc!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply