PB&J&J for Our Heroine

Henry parked the truck in a cloud of dust right in front of the house. “Come on,” he beckoned with a jerk of his head toward the bed of the truck and handed Frannie a single bag containing a loaf of Wonder Bread.He gathered up the rest of the bags in his own arms and headed for the porch.

He dropped his load of groceries on the porch swing in order to struggle with the front door. “I don’t hardly bother locking it up anymore, what with as bad as it sticks nowadays.” He turned his head to tell Frannie.

She nodded solemnly, and her stomach rumbled again, more insistently this time. Henry laughed and finally got the door open.

“Got to get the plane out and fix this, but then I wonder why bother. I only go to town a couple times a week, and my little girl doesn’t visit near often enough.” He expertly threaded his arm through the mishmash of bags on the swing and carried them inside, leading Frannie to the right, through the dining room and into the kitchen. “Here’s good, girl.”

She reached up nearly as far as she could to put her lone bag on the counter and looked up at Henry. He told her to go have a seat at the table, so she did.

“Milk or juice? I got orange,” he offered.

“Orange juice is my favorite!” Frannie had already brightened up immensely.

Henry grinned as he opened the fridge and pulled the jug out. “Now, all I got’s real glass, are you up for the challenge?”

Frannie put her hands on her hips in mock indignation. “I’ll have you know, sir, that I can drink out of a real glass just as good as any grownup I’ve ever met, thank-you-very-much.” She reached out for the glass that he handed her and greedily gulped down three-quarters of the juice in one slug.

Henry had brought the juice into the dining room, so he topped off her cup. “Go a little slower on this one, or you won’t have room for a pb&j.”

Frannie nodded. “Yes, sir.” She sipped more politely.

Henry laughed and returned to the kitchen to put the groceries away. “Grape or strawberry jam?” He asked her, raising his eyebrows. “Or I can do both. Don’t tell anybody, but that’s how I like ’em.”

“My last mother only ever bought grape jelly, so I don’t even know if I like strawberry. Why not both?” Frannie remained as blunt as ever.

Her words were like a funny bone strike to Henry’s heart, and he shook his head as he turned to make two sandwiches. “I got to figure out how I can do right by this girl,” he muttered to himself. He cut each sandwich into four triangles, and brought the plates to the table. “Dig in!” he said, with a much brighter tone than he felt.

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Read more of Frannie’s Misadventures here and find out how on earth she got where she is today.


Happy Introductions

“Just toss that bag in the back, there, girl, and climb on in,” he said.

weepulFrannie did as he bid her, and settled herself deeply onto the passenger side of the baja-patterned bench seat with two dips, the one behind the steering wheel much deeper than the other. She peered around, especially eying a trio of pink fluffy googly-eyed creatures stuck to the dashboard, each wearing a sprinkling of beads on top.

The man entered the driver’s door and slammed it behind him, startling Frannie out of her reverie. “Oh, my little girl gave them to me once upon a time,” he chuckled to himself when he saw what she was staring at.

Frannie thought quickly. If he already has a little girl, I might be out of luck–but he’s awfully old to have a little girl my age, isn’t he? Well, nothing but to go ahead and ask. “You have a little girl?” She couldn’t quite keep the wistfulness from her voice, and he immediately reassured her.

“I did once upon a time, but she’s all grown up and has two little girls of her own now.” He nodded ahead of them, down the long straight highway to everywhere else. “I see her once in a while, but they live all the way to California now, so it’s not near as often as I’d like. Say, my name’s Henry, I’m sorry for not introducing myself sooner.”

“Frannie. It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” She stuck out her hand, and when it caught his eye, bobbing wildly over the gulf between them, he grinned from ear to ear and reached out to clasp her tiny paw with his own. She gave two firm pumps, up and down and up and down, and released.

“Pretty fair handshake you got there, Frannie,” Henry complimented her, still smiling.

She smiled broadly herself, showing Henry the single spaced gap where she’d lost her first tooth just three days earlier. “Thank you. Do you have a wife?”

Henry’s smile faltered, and he shook his head. “She passed away two years ago.”

Frannie was young, and not quite sure what to say to that, but still, she felt the emptiness of something needing to be said. “I’ll bet she was pretty.”

This was exactly the right response. Henry brightened immediately. “She sure was. Prettiest girl I ever laid eyes on. Well, here we are.” He broke off as he turned onto a gravel road.

Frannie wondered where the house was, but just as she opened her mouth to ask, Henry rounded a curve and there it was before them: a lovely old farmhouse. Her eyes widened with excitement.

“Help me carry these groceries in and I’ll get you fixed up with some supper, how’s that sound?” he asked.

“That sounds wonderful!” Frannie’s words came out with more enthusiasm than anything she’d said in hours. She couldn’t wait to get inside a house again. One whole day on the road was more than enough for her.

Read more of Frannie’s Misadventures here and find out how on earth she got where she is today.


Sweet Adventure at Jack’s

Frannie was only too happy to leave the stinky van and the company of those hippies when they finally sputtered to a stop at the store in town.

“See ya later, little dude!” the driver called as she hopped down.

Frannie sighed, rolling her eyes, and simply waved her goodbye. There was just no getting through to this guy. He was as bad as a second grader.

She smoothed her hair down and squared her shoulders as she turned to face the entrance to–she looked up at the sign–Jack’s Grocery-N-More. Well, it would have to do. She picked up her pace and hit the automatic door nearly running. The man leaving through the exit door paused to make sure she was okay.

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“That was a pretty good hit there, little lady. You feelin’ alright?” he asked, leaning down in concern.

She stood up and brushed off her backside. “Yes sir, I’m quite all right, thank you. I just expected the door to open for me. I guess that was a mistake.”

The man laughed aloud. “Yes ma’am, you’re sure right about that. It’s probably been six years or more since Jack’s door worked right. Since you didn’t know that, and I don’t recall seeing you around anywhere, you must be new in town. Where’s your mom and dad, honey?”

“I’m in the market for a set,” Frannie answered him honestly.

He was baffled. A kid this small, this honest, lost and alone?  The town was too small for any kind of social services office; his mind quickly discarded the idea of calling the county. This girl could go places in life if she managed to not get caught up in the system.

“Do you have any money, or somewhere to stay tonight?” he asked.

“Nope. I’ll work something out.” Again with the honesty.

He screwed his face up in thought. He wasn’t sure if a girl her age would be comfortable coming home with a strange man all by herself, especially when he was all by himself, but he had to make the offer. He just wouldn’t have felt right about  himself without doing so. “Would you–I mean, do you think–well, little girl, I can offer you a safe bed to sleep in tonight, is what I’m tryin’ to say.” He noticed her swallow as she eyed the grocery sacks in his hand.

“And a hot dinner, too,” he quickly added.

That was more than enough for Frannie. She jumped on it. “Thank you very much, sir. I won’t be much trouble for you. Can I help you carry one of those bags?”

He laughed and handed her the smallest. “That’s my truck, the red one right in front.”

PP #40


Hometown Zero

When last we saw our intrepid heroine, she was hitching a ride with a van full of hep cats. Who knew such creatures still roamed the streets unchecked, preying upon innocents like Frannie? Well, we do, now. Frannie, however, is not quite so innocent and helpless as she may seem at first glance; she is intelligent, resourceful, and highly competent, not just for her age, but as a human being. But we already knew that, didn’t we?

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As the van trundled down the highway at its top speed of 52 miles per hour, Frannie began to really get into the staring contest that she and her seatmate-slash-possible-new-mom were having. Blinking seemed to be okay, but breaking eye contact was not. At long last, the mostly-grown girl threw her head back and laughed like her life depended on it.

Frannie shrugged off her mild confusion, and continued the staring match with the girl’s funny-looking hair. It was so ropy and thick, like an old dirty mop. She wondered if the girl would mind Frannie touching it.

“Can I touch your weird hair?” Frannie asked.

The girl was still laughing, but she nodded and leaned her head over a bit so Frannie could cop a feel. It felt ropy and thick, just as she’d suspected.

“What’s wrong with it?” Frannie continued on the hair-related questioning.

“Nothing, it’s just dreaded,” the girl replied.

Frannie mulled this odd term over for a moment or two before moving on without a worry. “Where are we headed?” she asked.

The driver leaned over to his right and hollered back over his shoulder at her, “Wherever the wind takes us, little dude. We’re on a pretty sweet adventure right now, man.”

“I’m a girl,” Frannie muttered to herself as she crossed her arms sulkily. “Not a dude.”

The driver paid her no mind, and Frannie gave up the sulk to pull the grocery list from her back pocket once more, mulling over the list. She’d already come to the conclusion that these were not her new parents, and knew that she’d better get a move on to the next prospect before it got too dark. She didn’t want to spend the night in this van.

“Can you drop me at the store when you get there?” Frannie asked, very politely. “I don’t believe I’m up for a sweet adventure on top of the one I’m already having, thank you very much.”

The driver didn’t seem to hear her at first, but as his head bopped up and down, sometimes in time to the music playing, he gave a bit of an extra nod. “Sure thing, little dude. Sure thing.”

Frannie rolled her eyes. “I’m a girl,” she grumbled yet again.

PP #40

 


Frannie’s On the Move

destiny-courageShe was dry and dusty and parched. Just the thought of that backseat-warm fruit punch in her (former) parents’ car would have been enough to make her mouth water, had she saliva to spare. The perky attitude she’d had when the woman in the red car had stopped had withered away in direct proportion to the amount of time she’d spent trudging along the side of the highway.

Frannie had never considered that a road might not see tires on its pavement for hours at a time. This experience was not shaping up as it should have.

Just as she was vowing to herself to make do with the next set of parents that rolled by, an old brown minivan squealed to a stop right next to her. The sliding door popped open to release a great big cloud of smoke, and Frannie waved her hand back and forth, trying to clear it enough to see who her knight in shining armor was.

“Hey, little dude, hop in. We’ll give you a ride,” said the driver, who Frannie judged near enough to the proper age to be her new dad.

“Okay,” she quickly agreed. This day had dragged on far too long for her to be picky.

She climbed right in and wiggled herself into a comfy spot on the middle bench seat, next to a girl with funny hair. Frannie smiled at the girl–maybe that was her new mom.  The girl smiled back.

Frannie already felt a million times better, in spite of the acrid smell in the van. Maybe this adventure wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

  1. Plenty More
  2. But None to Be Found Just Yet

PP #40