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September 11, 1977
I’m sorry that I’ve been away for a few days. It has been really hectic around here since Wednesday. While my mom and I were covering my books, she told me that Tillie Mae’s funeral was going to be on Saturday.
Maybe I should go back to Thursday morning. I think a lot of stuff happened that sort of made Mrs. Barker act so crazy at Tillie Mae’s funeral.
Well, Freddy picked me up on Thursday and Friday mornings. I was, and still am, on cloud nine. He has been the perfect boyfriend. He hasn’t asked me to go steady with him, but he’s holding my hand now and he’s always around me. He hasn’t asked yet, but it’s just a matter of time.
I didn’t wish for the other students to be nice to me, but they seem to genuinely like me and want me around. The girls normally talk about boys and Burt Reynolds. All that the boys talk about are Farrah Fawcett’s breasts, cars, the upcoming Southern Rebels concert, girls, sports and if Freddy is going to forget all of us when he makes it to the big leagues.
Freddy just hangs his head in an “Aww shucks.” way and waves his hand toward all of us. He promises that he’s not going to forget any of us when he makes it big. We’ll all have houses next to his, and we’ll sit around listening to the band Southern Rebels and drinking beer. Well, Freddy won’t drink beer when the season begins. He’ll need to get ready to pitch or outfielder or something.
I wish that I could write more, but I’m going to get some homework done and then I’m going to talk to Freddy on the phone for a while. It seems that Freddy doesn’t go out on Friday nights either. He wants to, but his daddy thinks that it would be best if he stays in. He doesn’t want to get in any trouble that might derail his chances of being a high draft choice. I finally get the guy of my dreams and he can’t stay out past eight o’clock.
After Freddy finishes his chores tomorrow, he’s going to take me for a ride. It’ll be the first time that I’ve been alone with him. I’m scared that he might try something and I won’t know what to do.
Maybe I’m scared that he’s not going to try anything.
Maybe I’m scared that I don’t know everything. I mean, I think that I’ve got a magic journal that will grant me every wish that I want. Or maybe I’m crazy thinking that these things happened because of something that I wrote in a book.
If this journal does have that kind of power, I’m scared that I’ll lose control. I can only control myself, not all of the other cars driving like loonies on this freeway called life.
Wednesday September 7, 1977
I don’t know if I’m really scared of you or I’m really excited.
Freddy not only spoke to me before first period, he gave me a ride to school. That’s right! Tall, handsome, popular and sexy Freddy Thornton pulled his bright blue 1960-something car with a road runner emblem on it in front of my bus stop and motioned for me to come over to his car.
I’ll admit that I’d completely forgotten about my “little wish’’ that I wrote last night. I stood there on the corner of White Oak Lane and waiting for the big yellow school bus to ferry me to another lonely year of school.
Most of the kids were talking about Tillie Mae’s death. Everyone had an opinion why, or what, caused her to die. A couple of girls wearing ankle length denim skirts with their hair braided and pinned to their heads just shook their heads before the taller of the two looked at me and told me that Tillie Mae was taken by God to show us his power and punish her parents for their sinful life.
Most of the opinions had Tillie Mae overdosing on cocaine, heroin or marijuana. I felt like I was stuck in the vortex of a cyclone. Not because my classmates were talking about Tillie Mae dying, but because they were talking ‘around me’. They were talking about my next door neighbor and ‘used to be-best-friend’ like I wasn’t even there.
I was just about to scream out that it was me that wished for Tillie Mae to shrivel up and die. I probably wouldn’t have done that, but I gave it some serious thought.
I was still thinking about it, clutching my new red and white Trapper Keeper against my chest, when a horn beeped a couple of times. The horn sounded just like the Road Runner from that cartoon I used to watch on Saturday Mornings. I looked up and Freddy was waving in my direction. I unclenched my hand and pointed back toward my chest, and he nodded with that same smile he used to awaken my twelve-year-old heart.
The corner became silent. I could hear my heart beating and I could see Freddy’s mouth moving, but I couldn’t hear anything else. It was like the entire world just disappeared and I was alone with Freddy.
I mean, he asked me to ride to school with him.
In his car!
In front of fifteen or so silent schoolmates, Freddy came around and opened the door for me. There are lots of sayings to describe peoples actions that are physically impossible. However that was the first time in my sixteen years that I saw the jaws of other people actually drop open with shock.
Miss Abigail Allee is riding to school with Freddy Thornton!
Freddy apologized for not talking to me for the past few years. What could I say to him, except that it was okay. My father always tells me that sometimes it’s not how you got wherever you were heading. It’s just important that you got there.
Freddy talked a lot during our short ride to school. Most of it was about himself. He told me about his fastball, his curveball, and his changer-ball. Or whatever it’s called. Thanks to Freddy, I now know that if he gets drafted by a team in the American Division, or league something, he won’t have to bat because the team has someone whose only job will be to hit for Freddy.
I really wanted to tell Freddy that I don’t really like baseball, or any sports, but I don’t think that it would have mattered. I wonder if Tillie Mae ever started to enjoy his baseball and basketball games. She was probably just like me and just wanted to look at Freddy.
When we pulled into the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe student parking lot, Freddy just smiled and stopped the car. Students called out and waved to Freddy as they walked by. He would rev the engine a little making his shiny blue car with the air thingy sticking out of the hood vibrate.
He smiled and told me that he wanted to miss Tillie Mae, but he couldn’t. When she got sick, he begged his daddy to let him go and see her, but his daddy wouldn’t let him walk the eleven houses down to her house, just to see how she was doing. But then he told me that sometime last night, he just got over Tillie Mae. He just couldn’t seem to make himself cry for her anymore. When Freddy’s daddy woke him up at five o’clock this morning and made him go on his mile run, Freddy said that he couldn’t stop thinking about me.
Freddy ran an entire mile thinking about me. Abigail Lynn Allee.
Freddy steered through the student parking lot like a king taking a slow look over his domain. He pulled his car into a spot next to two boys in shiny black leather jackets leaning against a car smoking cigarettes. One of them, a guy I went to elementary school with, was named Denny. He was a dangerous guy with blond hair and steel blue eyes that made him look crazy. Ever since first grade everyone knew that’d pick a fight with anyone. Last year Denny chucked one of the bigger football player across a cafeteria table for touching his leather jacket.
Freddy is so cool though. He just pulled the car into the spot and got out of the car. Both of the guys said hi to him and got out of his way like he was royalty. He made a joke to the guys about smoking cigarettes making their ‘wee-wees’ smaller while patting Denny on the shoulder. Freddy opened the door for me and helped me out of the car. Denny and his friend just laughed with Freddy and took another puff from their cigarettes.
Just walking into school with Freddy made me popular. All of the girls and guys that wouldn’t have spit on me last year if I was on fire, were all so nice to me. They asked me how my summer was and how much fun that we were going to have during our senior year.
It would have been a perfect day except for everyone talking about Tillie Mae’s unfortunate drug overdose. Somebody’s mama talked to somebody else’s mama who has her car fixed by somebody’s daddy that goes to church with somebody that lives next door to the Barker’s and knows for a fact that Tillie Mae died from a marijuana overdose. I guess when a rumor starts, it’s hard to stop them or get people to accept another answer.
I expected the entire school to be in mourning for Tillie Mae. She was popular, pretty, young and dead. Other than a moment of silence and prayer for her family over the intercom, nothing else was said about her. Well, no one from the staff said anything else. That’s probably because everyone thinks that she died because she smoked too much pot, or something.
The rest of my day went pretty well. I’ve got a second period study hall which is okay. I’m happy with my schedule and the fact that I’m taking some really tough prep courses. I’m not really looking forward to Calculus, but World History and English Literature are going to be really interesting.
None of the kids in Freddie and Tillie Mae (Oops)Freddy’s group are in any of my College prep classes. I went to elementary and junior high with few of the girls and guys that he hangs out with. I know that some of them are pretty smart. Well, at least they used to be. But now all they seem to care about is their hair, their clothes and rock and roll music. No one’s mentioned plans for college or anything after that.
Except for Freddy. He’s got it all planned out. He’s not going to college because he’s going to get drafted in the 1979 Major League Baseball draft. He said that he’s going to have to spend a few years in the minor leagues, and then he’s going to play in the major leagues. He doesn’t think that he needs to spend that long down there. His daddy has taught him most of the pitches that he’s going to need in the big leagues, but he thinks that it’s their way of weeding out the players that aren’t as good as him. He’ll also get to select the special catcher that he’ll throw to when he makes it.
Freddy explained all of this to me in great detail when he met me at my last class, walked me to my locker and then to his car.
I’ve never met anyone that confident in what’s going to happen in the future. I think that the only time that Freddy got a little cross with me was when I asked him about the possibility that something could happen that prevents him from getting to “The Show”.
He told me that his daddy has mapped out exactly what he’s got to do in order to make it. Freddy’s sacrificing some things in order to make it. He really wanted to play football, but this year he’s not going to so that he won’t get hurt and reduce his chances of getting drafted.
All the years that I’ve known Freddy, I never really took the time to look at him. I mean, he’s still the hottest guy that I’ve laid eyes on, without a doubt. But underneath that cute smile and that confident stride in his walk, I think that he’s hiding something.
Freddy dropped me off at the house and promised to pick me up in the morning. For a second I thought that he was going to kiss me. Well, he would have tried to kiss me. By the time that his Road Runner pulled up in front of my house, I still wanted to be with him. I think that he’s a very cute guy, but I think that I’m in love with the boy that moved onto our street a few years ago.
I guess that I’m going to play it by ear and see how things go.
There is something very powerful about being in that group of kids. I know everyone else would like to be one of the cool kids. I know that there have been times over the last three years when I wished I was. Now, I am one of the coolest kids in school! I feel so exclusive.
Well, my mother has a stack of paper bags from the Red Food Store and a pair of scissors out on the kitchen table. It must be time for our yearly ritual of covering my books. Wow, only one more years of covering my books. In the Fall of 1979 I’ll be in college. Maybe I’ll come home and just let her cover my books anyway.
Good night from Your friend.
Tuesday September 6, 1977
I’m still pretty sure that my journal killed Tillie Mae Barker. She died today around three o’clock. Well, that’s when Mr. Barker called my dad at the store, and then my dad called my mom.
I want to cry and scream and tear at my clothes like they used to do in the bible when someone died. The only reason that I can’t is because I wasn’t friends with the Tillie Mae Barker that died. I was a friend of the little girl with a flat chest, thick metal braces and thin bony legs. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years and the girl that claimed to be Tillie Mae Barker certainly was no friend of mine.
A lot of people visited the Barker house this evening. Some I knew, some I didn’t.
I still didn’t really care.
Maybe I’m putting some space between me and Tillie Mae because I’m scared that I wished for her to die, she did exactly what I wished for. She even shriveled up like a pale white raisin.
What if me wishing for her death made it happen? What if I can make a wish and it will come true? There’s so many things that I want.
I don’t want to be the ‘Fat Girl’ anymore that’s for sure.
I want to be popular even though I’m a book nerd.
And I want Freddy Thompson to like me.
That’s a funny thought. Tillie Mae’s body hasn’t even gotten stiff yet and I’m thinking about stealing her boyfriend.
Who have I become? Maybe I’ve changed with my environment.
Maybe it’s time for me to change my wardrobe?
Am I becoming someone else? Or am I becoming a product of the things that have happened to me. There’s a word for this kind of change, but I can’t think of it right now.
Wait a minute, my father wants to talk to me.
I don’t know why I wrote that. Twenty years from now, I wont remember that I took a break to talk to my dad.
He just wanted to know how I was holding up after hearing the news about Tillie Mae. My father and I have a very honest relationship. I can talk to him about anything. I told him that I was upset and was just confused about how a perfectly healthy girl that was my age could just die.
My dad’s not the nosy type, but he’s pretty observant. It’s pretty hard to pull anything over on him. Because he’s an antiques dealer he has learned to look for the flaws in the wood. It seems like once a week over dinner he tells a story about someone that came into the store trying to pass off a 1940’s china cabinet as an 1870’s French buffet.
Anyway, he noticed that I’d left you open, with a pen in the book fold. He asked me if I was enjoying my journal. So I told him exactly what I’ve been writing in here. Except for the part about wishing that Tillie Mae was dead. I figured that I’d leave that part out. He was flipping through the pages, looking at the front and back of each page. I’ve seen that look when he’s inspecting a piece of furniture that someone is trying to sell off as an “old family heirloom”. I reached over and grabbed you off my desk and told him that my journal was private. He just smiled at me before he hugged me and kissed the top of my head.
We talked for a few more minutes about the upcoming school year and how he is putting money aside so that I’ll have a car for my senior year. Of course he always adds that I have to keep my grades up. I think that he knows I’ll always make good grades.
Speaking of grades, school starts tomorrow and I’m sure that it’s going to be a difficult day. Everyone is going to be all broken up over Tillie Mae’s death.
I wonder what Freddy is going through right now? I wonder if he is missing her company? I wonder if they talked on the phone for hours? Not wanting the conversation to end.
I know what I want to write. There is a HUGE part of me that wants to write down exactly what I want Freddy to do, and there is another side of me that is telling me to wait.
I’m going to be patient, but I’m going to experiment and see how powerful this journal is. Or was her death just a fluke of nature.
I wish that Freddy Thornton would say hello to me before first period, sit with me at lunch and drive me home tomorrow after school.
I don’t think that I’m asking for much. Besides, I’m probably over-reacting to a simple coincidence.
We’ll see tomorrow.
Thanks for being there for me,
Monday September 5, 1977
Happy Anniversary Journal!!! It was one week ago today that I got you as a birthday present. A few of the neighbors stopped by to have a few drinks with my parents, eat ribs burgers and hot dogs while discussing what is going on with Tillie Mae Barker. Some of the more gossipy women suggested that Tillie Mae was on heroin or cocaine. I almost spit out my Co-cola when I heard that. I know Tillie Mae better than anyone besides her parents and Freddy Thornton. Unless she was hiding something, these grown-ups are loony. Tillie Mae isn’t on drugs. I think that my journal put a hex on her.
The September sun was getting it’s last few rays of abuse on us before the days grew shorter and colder. The Thornton’s stopped by around four in the afternoon which really surprised me. I probably didn’t mention this a few days ago, but Freddy and his family live in the corner house on our curving winding street. The Thornton’s moved into our neighborhood during the really hot summer of 1973. I remember it well, because that was the summer that the Barkers had their central air unit installed. I spent most of my summer days inside their house. Their cool air followed me all around their house. My mother even came over for tea every day that she wasn’t helping my father at the furniture store.
Anyway, that was the first time that I laid eyes on Frederick Jackson Thornton, Jr. I forget the actual date, but I do know that it was a Thursday because I always watched ‘The Waltons at eight o’clock Thursday nights.
I think that I was growing up a bit faster than Tillie Mae, because I already had boobs, and a month earlier I had my first period. Tillie Mae was a little behind me in the boobie department. Her mother had already bought her a bra, but her boobs and period were still on hold.
Just because I’d started my monthly period (that sometimes made me wish that I wasn’t a female) and grown breasts, I still had no interest in boys. Well, I didn’t until I first laid eyes on Fast Freddy Jackson. He was always a little taller than most of the other kids. He had dark hair, that when he wasn’t wearing a baseball cap, was parted down the middle and made him look like a young David Cassidy. He had beautiful brown eyes that just made me melt when he looked in my direction.
Tillie Mae was flat as a board and…well, she was still a year away from her period and her boobs didn’t start showing until the summer between eighth and ninth grade.
That was the summer that we really grew apart. It wasn’t her growing boobs and having a monthly visitor (that’s what my mother calls it). We became different people. I became engrossed in my books and started thinking about the world outside of Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Tillie Mae started wearing make-up and fashionable clothes and spending her Saturdays at a salon under a hair dryer. Our interests became different and her circle of friends didn’t include me.
I accepted the fact that the only thing that we had in common was the fact that we lived on the same street.
During our sophomore year I realized that we were both in love with the same boy.
Anyway, I guess that I’m writing about today and not things that happened a long time ago. After Mr. And Mrs. Thornton appeared, I held my breath and waited for what seemed like forever for Freddy to come around the corner. It was an eternity to me, but Freddy eased around the corner.
He always walked like that. Well, he did everything like that.
Easy. He makes everything look easy. Freddy is easily the most popular kid in our entire high school. I’ll bet that if he wore his pants inside out today, by tomorrow everyone would be wearing their pants like Freddy.
He only said one word to me when he walked onto the patio.
“Hi.” That’s all he said to me with an easy wave with his right hand.
It took everything in my power not to run over to where he was standing next to the cooler of cold drinks and throw him on the grass and kiss every square inch of exposed flesh. Just thinking about being so close to him without Tillie Mae around makes me all tingly down there.
I guess that’s what I was really writing about. How everyone is thinking about Tillie Mae. Mr. Thornton said that he isn’t going to allow Freddy to go and visit Tillie Mae while she’s sick. He thinks Freddy might catch what she has and that could ruin his chances to be a professional baseball player.
That was really all that I heard of the parents talking. I just watched Freddy practice his throwing motion. Over and over he stared at an make-believe batter and then squeezed the imaginary baseball hidden inside his pretend gloved.
As the sun dipped behind the horizon, I heard fireworks popping and whistling turned in the distance. I was never a big fan of fireworks. Even as a kid, I never understood why people made a giant fuss over a big flash of light that wold arc in the sky only to explode in glory at the apex of its trip toward the stars. The remnants of the glorious charge floating to earth. Spent, old, used and forgotten. Some of the flares of light started fast and high, but exploded early, sending a variety of beautiful colors to the ground.
The grown-ups listened to the sound of the fireworks that peppered the night air.
Freddy Thornton stood alone in the far corner of our yard. All he did was practice his pitching motion. Throwing make believe baseballs to an invisible batter.
I just watched Freddy.
Sunday September 4, 1977
After church today, we went by Parkridge Hospital to visit Tillie Mae. It wasn’t my idea to go. I didn’t think that Tillie Mae really even cared if I was there or not.
Tillie was sitting up in the bed when we walked in. Well, maybe ‘sitting up’ is the wrong choice of words. The hospital bed was propping her up. I really didn’t recognize her as the girl that I grew up with. She looked more like a shriveled up old woman than a teenager. Her skin was dripping off her cheekbones and her hands and arms were nothing but skin hanging on to a calcium frame.
She looked happy to see me and her mouth curled into a closed smile.
It was difficult to look at her while I was there. I guess what’s happening to her is what happens to a person when they get cancer. If that’s what made her sick.
Mrs. Barker and my mom walked down to get something to drink while I stayed in the room with Tillie Mae.
Tillie Mae was really excited to see me and held my hand while I sat in a chair next to her bed. Her voice was really weak and her hands were bony and cold. Her voice was not much more than a whisper when she apologized for being mean to me. I told her that it was alright. In my heart I knew that I was lying I was only hoping that it didn’t show in my face.
When my mother and Mrs. Barker came back into the room, it was easy to tell that they had been crying. Mrs. Barker’s make-up was smeared and my mother’s dark blue blouse was smeared with blush from Mrs. Barker cheek. Tillie Mae already seemed a little weak, but slumped her head back onto her pillow. Her hand went limp in mine and she just turned her head and stared at the wall next to her bed.
We stayed for a few more minutes, before my mother decided that it was time for Tillie Mae to get some rest. As I stood up to leave I gave Tillie Mae’s pale, bony hand a squeeze and told Tillie Mae that I’d come back to visit her next weekend. She turned her head to look at me and smiled a small hopeless smile. She looked like an old haggard woman, whose hair looked as frail, lifeless fragile as the person underneath.
I want to forgive her. I really do. I can still hear Tillie Mae and the other girls laughing at me and making mooing sounds at me.
My mother and I didn’t say too much on the ride home. She did tell me that the doctors think that Tillie Mae has some kind of fast moving cancer that is making her shrivel away. The doctors can’t find its source and don’t have a cure for whatever is making her sick.
I hadn’t given it much thought until my mother said the word ‘shrivel’.
Is it possible that my little leather bound journal made Tillie Mae sick?
I mean I was, well maybe still am, angry at her for not being my friend anymore.
Maybe I’m mad because she stole the guy that I told her I wanted.
And just maybe, she’s getting what she deserves after breaking a pinkie swear.
People aren’t supposed to break a pinkie swear.
Well, I’m going to read a little bit and go to bed. Tomorrow my father is going to barbecue and we’ll celebrate Labor Day. The unofficial end of summer.
Saturday September 3, 1977 OOPS!! Sunday September 4, 1977
The sound of a siren woke me up. Lights popped on in the houses up and down White Oak Lane as the ambulance crawled up our street looking for its destination. I turned on my desk lamp, pulled my bedroom window’s curtains back and joined my neighbors morbid curiosity.
My first thought was that Mr. Wilson had gone a bit too far this time and really hurt his wife. He had a temper when he had too much to drink which seemed to be the same time that his wife would do something wrong which made Mr. Wilson slap his wife around. At least once every three or four months The Wilson’s would get a visit from Fort Oglethorpe’s finest. (That’s what people call the police on a lot of those cop shows like Starsky & Hutch.)
Only this time it wasn’t The Wilson’s. A big white ambulance backed up through the yard and up to the Barker’s front steps and two police cars were parked in front of their house. I might only be sixteen, but I know that if I was sick at home and had to go to the hospital I wouldn’t have two police cars escorting the ambulance. Mr. Barker is one of the city commissioners and according to my daddy, “He walks around with his nose in the air like his butt don’t smell.” My daddy is a normally a very happy guy, so Mr. Barker must’ve really done something to make him mad.
At first I thought that Mr. Barker may have had another heart attack. He was eliminated when he ran out of the house waving the ambulance back toward the porch.
Mr. Barker ran back into the house and the paramedics followed him through the white double front doors with the shiny gold handles.
I knew that something was wrong with Tillie Mae because all of the activity was happening in her room. I could see a lot of movement through her window.
That was the same window that Tillie Mae used to hang out of after dark, and send me messages with her flashlight. We both joined the Brownies and we tried to learn Morse Code so that we could send secret messages. I had it memorized in a few weeks, but Tillie Mae never quite got the hang of it. When we were kids we would spend many hot summer nights in our bedroom windows talking to each other over the chirping of the crickets.
There were a lot of things that we did together. There were a lot of secrets that we told each other.
I knew that she didn’t like sports. Especially baseball. She thought that it was too boring.
Tillie Mae didn’t like clowns at all. Neither do I really. They look like a cross between someone that dropped a bucket of paint on their head and an evil monster.
It was only a matter of minutes before they wheeled Tillie Mae out of the house on the stretcher, her long yellowish hair was hanging over the sides. Mr. Barker rode in the ambulance with Tillie Mae and Mrs. Barker followed the ambulance with the screaming police escort in Tillie Mae’s yellow and black Chevrolet Camaro.
The front of the house was dark and lifeless as the cars and ambulance pulled away from 41 White Oak Lane.
Good night, I mean Good morning,