Sunday, April 11, 2010

Flo in the City: Chapter One, Draft Two, Episode 1

I decided to edit my first draft of Flo in the City, the story of a young girl coming of age in the pivotal 1910 era in Canada, right here. Well, I printed out a copy and edited on the page.

Flo in the City: Chapter One

Just a change of colour: why couldn't she get that silly line out of her head, wondered Flora Nicholson, as she balanced her small birdlike body in the reed rocker on the verandah of her smart Queen Anne style home.

After all, she had matters to attend to. Important matters like the take home exam fluttering in the breeze on her boney knees. The mimeographed foolscap sheet with its list of impossible questions. A composition test of all things. Her very worst subject.

"Women in the Thirties" Ick.

"Read the excerpt below and answer two of the three questions." Double Ick.

"In the 30's the women in the family found their hands full. Besides the daily round of housewifely cares, every season brought its special duties. There were wild strawberries to be picked and prepared for daily consumption. There was milking and the making of both butter and cheeses. There was no nurse to take care of the children, no cook to prepare the dinner. Country life in Canada in the thirties was plodding. There was no varied outlook. The girls' training for future life was mainly at the hands of the mothers."

Flora scrunched the exam between her knees while flatlining her lips and crossing her eyes in a look of mock contempt.

She was so tired of hearing how hard women had it in the old days. Cook? Who had a cook? Few families she knew. And she lived on a comfortable street, Dufferin, in a fine town, Richmond, in Quebec, in Canada, the best country in the world. Flora lifted her gaze onto the street, where the setting sun, reflecting off the brick facades of her neighbour's homes, had conjured up a warmish haze in bronze and golden hues that mingled playfully with the mellow greens of the maples and chestnuts and weeping willows decorating the front lawns. If this short street wasn't the picture of middle class comfort, nothing was.

The fifteen year old unlocked her knees, stroked the creases out of the examination paper and continued reading: "The girls in those days, (that would be 10, 20, almost 80 years ago, Flora quickly calculated) were more at home in a kitchen than in a drawing room. They did better execution at a tub than at a spinet and could handle a rolling pin more satisfactorily than a sketch book."

"What is wrong with sketching?"Flora thought. She loved to draw.

She stared back at the page: "At a pinch, they could even use a rake or fork to good purpose in a field or barn. Their finishing education was received at the county school along with their brothers. Of fashion books and milliners , few of them had any experiences."

Who goes to finishing school, thought Flora. Certainly no one of her acquaintance. Yes, Margaret, her mother, was certainly a masterful baker, and Flora wasn't very good, although she could play piano and her mother could not. But mother could sew better than anyone in the house. Flora adjusted the hem on her blue serge jumper and pulled at a thread until part of the hem fell away from the skirt.

"Mother," she called into the house. "I need you to mend my school uniform. The seam is splitting."

She poked her pinky finger into the hole in her hem. She noticed the colour in her jumper had faded somewhat. The underside of the material was a deeper robin's egg blue, the original colour when her cousin, Mae, had first worn it. Wouldn't it be nice to wear a brand new jumper to school for once: well, she could dream.

"Just a change of colour," there it was again. Why couldn't she get that pesky phrase out of her head for once and for all? So that she could get on with her Composition exam and be done with it?