Coming of Age American Kids

“You cannot hit Jeremiah Brown in the face.”

“But Pop Pop, JB is the worst boy in the entire 2nd grade!”

“Sunshine, I don’t care if he’s the worst boy in the entire state of Tennessee. You are not the kind of girl who uses her fists to talk for her. I’ve taught you better than that.”

“What am I supposed to do when JB tells everyone at recess that I smell like dog pee?”

“You do not smell like dog pee.”

“Missus Thatcher thinks so, too. She said I should soak my clothes in baking soda and warm water for an hour. I tried it once, but all we had was baking powder and that didn’t do much.”

“You tell Missus Thatcher to mind her own business. That woman has enough skeletons in her closet to fill a cemetery.” 

“Is she a witch?”

“Puh. Almost.”

“JB says our dogs pee all over the house because there ain’t no one home to clean it. That’s why he says we stink.”

“Our house is clean enough, and we do not stink. If you think we stink, then you know how to do the washing as well as I do.”

“Sometimes I forget to put the detergent in, Pop Pop. That makes the dog pee smell worse.”

“Water ain’t no good without soap. You need to remember that.”

“I can’t remember everything all the time.”

“You’re going to have to remember lots of things, Sunshine. It’s my job to teach you, but when I’m teaching you, you gotta open up both of your ears. When I’m done teaching you, you gotta close your ears so nothing leaks out.”

“My ears get tired of listening.”

“I understand because I get tired of teaching the same things to you over and over.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, don’t listen to me, Sunshine. I love talking to you, and it was foolish of me to say otherwise. People say foolish things all the time, so don’t take none of it seriously. You know, if people didn’t talk nonsense, then the world would be awfully quiet. Try to talk just you have something to say.”

“I’ll try to remember that.”

“You’re going to have to remember lots of things as you grow up. You have to remember to bring your lunch and your backpack to school. Every single day.”

“I’m trying.”

“I can’t keep taking time off work every time you forget your show-and-tell project or lose your house key or punch some no account boy.”

“JB can count. He might be mean, but he’s good at math. I copy off his paper sometimes to get the right answers.”

“You just leave that boy be. I know his whole family. Nothing good has come from that family for four generations.”

“I forgot to tell you. The school is selling generations for Easter. Can we get one?”

“Do you mean geraniums or carnations?” 

“Maybe both. I can’t remember.”

“Your grandma always said that a child who always forgets has a mother who always remembers.”

“Well, I don’t have either. I don’t have a mom, and I don’t have a grandma.”

“Yes, you do. I’ve shown you their pictures…”

“Pictures don’t tell nobody nothing.”

“I told you stories about them, too.”

“Like what?”

“Like how your mother liked vanilla ice cream cones with sprinkles on top. Like how your grandmother made your pink-and-purple checkered quilt—just before you were born.”

“What other stories do you know?”

“Well, how we decided to name you Heidi after your grandmother. But did you know Heidi was her favorite book as a child? I have a copy on the bookshelf in your room. When you get older, we’ll read it together.”

“No one calls me Heidi and no one calls you Solomon. You’re Sol and I’m Sunshine.”

“That’s because the moment you were born, you screamed and hollered like a scalded cat. It was only when I sang ‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine’ did you quiet down a little.”

“Why did I cry so much as a baby?”

“You were very sick.”

“Did I have chicken pox?

“No, Sunshine.”

“What was wrong with me then?”

“You were going through withdrawal.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s hard to explain. You see, your mother liked to take medicine that she thought made her feel better, but it ended up making her very sick.”

“How sick?”

“So sick that she had to go to a special place to live. So sick that she can never take care of you. So God gave you to me and grandma to raise.”

“Then why did grandma die before I was born?”

“I ask Him the same question every night. I don’t know. It’s a paradox.”

“A pair of ducks.”

“No, no. A paradox is a mystery. Something that doesn’t make sense until you look at it just the right way.”

“Like JB.”

“What do you mean, like JB?”

“I hit him because I like him. It don’t make any sense.”

“Oh, that makes all the sense in the world. It’s the people we love who make us the maddest. Then when they’re gone, we miss them like crazy.”

“Do you miss grandma?”

“I keep forgetting she’s gone. I talk to her like she’s sitting right next to me in the car.”

“Pop Pop, I’m sitting next to you in the car, not grandma.”

“It’s easy to make that mistake. You look just like her. You look like your mom, too.”

“Do you miss my mom?”

“I missed the little girl your mom used to be. I’ll tell you what. Let’s go over to the Dairy Queen and get some vanilla ice cream cones.”

“With sprinkles.”

“With extra sprinkles. You can tell me about JB and how you’ll never punch him or another boy again.”

“Are you still mad at me?”

“There’s no getting mad at you. You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine, and I love you. Don’t you ever forget that.”

“Oh Pop Pop, that’s the easiest thing in the world to remember.” 

February 22, 2023 15:37

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Kendra Lindholm
03:53 Feb 24, 2023

A feeling of intrigue, followed by a sudden emotional satisfaction. A great story within the prompt!


18:21 Feb 24, 2023

Thanks, Kendra! Glad these characters came around for a conversation. It was wonderful to get to know them. (I just type down what they say to each other...)


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Delbert Griffith
22:30 Feb 22, 2023

Sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. This little exchange between Solomon and Heidi tells us so much about both of them and what they're dealing with. This is such a fabulous tale that you told, using only dialogue. Pretty amazing, my friend.


21:42 Feb 23, 2023

Del (!!!!) You've been on my mind. I'm so glad to hear from you and I hope all is well with you and yours. Thanks for the continued love and support. Backacha :)


Delbert Griffith
21:47 Feb 23, 2023

You're a true friend, Deidra. I'll be getting back to Dolores and her wicked ways soon. As always, thanks for all you do for me and for the writing community in general. You're a treasure.


21:56 Feb 23, 2023

I'm happy to beta read you chapter by chapter as you go :)


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Michał Przywara
21:45 Feb 22, 2023

Catchy title, and it seems like a sweet exchange fitting the kids/coming-of-age tags, but then we hit "You were going through withdrawal." Suddenly things just got real. So the story remains a sweet exchange, but we catch glimpses of a much larger story under the hood. Well done, given it's limited to just dialogue. The voices of the two characters are likewise distinct. It sounds like there's a melancholy to Solomon, as he suffered something of a double loss around the time Heidi was born. Perhaps even more, as it's not clear if her for...


21:44 Feb 23, 2023

Thanks, Mr. P <3 All dialogue stories are fun to write. I never know if they work out though...tricky to get it just right/write. I didn't notice the fortuitous title until later, so that was kinda of a happy accident :)


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Lily Finch
19:37 Feb 22, 2023

Deidra, You hit another one outta the park with this one! Sunshine and Pop Pop grew closer over sad stories of heartache and heartsick stories that needed to be told. Sunshine sounds like a girl who can care for herself but also own up to her mistakes. She is a perfectly flawed character. Who needs the love of the only person she's got in this world: “Are you still mad at me?” Just as much as Pop Pop needs her in his life. “There’s no getting mad at you. You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine, and I love you. Don’t you ever forget that.” Th...


19:58 Feb 22, 2023

You are the dearest, Miss Finch :)


Lily Finch
20:29 Feb 22, 2023

Aww, shucks, thanks, my friend. LF6.


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Wally Schmidt
19:16 Feb 22, 2023

This story has everything- the format (eye-roll), humor, and heartbreak. You are so insanely talented; I feel lucky to read your work.


19:55 Feb 22, 2023

You remind me of my fav SNL skit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwm_N2PCUz8 Thanks for the kudos. Congrats to you on having two shortlists (out of five stories? WOW.) Pro level :)


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