Bumbling Bea: The First Chapter

BB chapter 16

There has been a lot of traffic on the blog lately and I can’t help but wonder if folks are wondering about my book, Bumbling Bea. So, here is chapter one:

Chapter One

It was Peter’s fault.

“P!” I yelled to get his attention, “do I look like old Macdonald on the farm to you?”

I was splattered all over with the gross stuff. I swear it was already curdling and the entire cafeteria of students could see it. I smelled putrid–like yucky old, blackened, moldy cheese long forgotten in the back of the refrigerator. It made me wretch a little but I still managed to get in his face.

“Why don’t you drink juice or water? Now I smell like I’ve been working in a cheese factory. You’re such a dweeb, P.”

When I was mad at Peter, I called him “P.” He’d been P. ever since we were in kindergarten when he stuck a couple of peas up his nose and had to go to the hospital to get them out. And like those peas, the name stuck. And he was clumsy, BUT only with me. He defended himself like he always did which irritated me.

“Jeez, sorry Beatrice. I didn’t mean to nearly flip over your backpack and spill two miniscule drops of lactose on your precious jacket. It was blocking the aisle between the tables like always. You are so mean these days.” Peter huffed, stomping away from the lunch room.

It wasn’t me speaking to Peter. It was Bumbling Bea. I’ve discovered I have an alter ego who I call Bumbling Bea. Strange and mean thoughts come flying out of my mouth. They didn’t even sound like something I’d think or say! Bumbling Bea hadn’t been around for long, but when she did rear her scary head, it was at the worst times.

One of the most memorable of times Bumbling Bea showed up was when we gave our choir director a tennis racket as a going away present. He was getting married and leaving our school. He was obsessed with tennis and was a pretty decent player. I thought it was neat, even though he had knobby knees and skinny, hairy, Minnie Mouse legs which looked kinda’ weird in his way too short tennis shorts.

I thought of the present when I saw him hitting tennis balls on the tennis court after school one day. He was mumbling something and from seeing his temper in class, I figured it was about his students.

            It was the first time Bumbling Bea arrived. I was class secretary for him (which made me feel super important even though he had a class secretary for every other class, too.) I thought I had power and the other kids listened to me. Bumbling Bea liked that a lot! At lunch one day I was sitting by myself, as usual. I turned to the table with the popular kids sitting behind me. “I think we should buy our music teacher a going away present since he’s getting married and leaving us. How about we give him a tennis racket since he loves the game so much?”

Everyone agreed with me (which was a first) and those who didn’t, gave me a dollar per student donation anyway. If giving money for a teacher’s going away present kept you in or near the popular kids, you gave it. And they did!

I was so excited. I checked out tennis racket prices on the internet, Dave’s Discount and the hardware supply store. Dave’s had the best price. Most everything was less expensive at Dave’s Discount. My Dad told me it was because Dave bought up all the things other businesses couldn’t sell. Dad thought Dave’s had good deals even though sometimes their stuff fell apart after one use. Their price for the tennis racket was awesome and one my class could afford.

Since I found the tennis racket right away, I had a little bit of time left over before Dad picked me up so I looked around at the girls’ clothes. Normally, I didn’t look at your typical girls’ clothes because they were always way too pink and way too fluffy. Not at Dave’s, though! I found a black and white polka dotted bikini swimming suit, matching flip flops and a package of panties—things were so cheap.

“You want me to put them in a Dave’s Discount box, honey?” wondered the clerk lady who smelled like cigarettes and chewing gum.

I heard about the Dave’s Discount boxes before. People used them to store about anything in them after they got them home: extra cat litter, broken toys, a bed for a puppy and so forth. They were sturdy, kind of a brownish tan color with black stripes printed on one side of them and the words “Dave’s Discount” plastered over the stripes.

Being so proud of myself for a. finding the tennis racket and b. buying the bikini, flip flops and panties all by myself, I accepted two boxes instead of one. I mean, they were free, you know? Dad said not to turn away free stuff if anyone at a store ever offered you anything free. I thought Dave’s Discount box was one of those free things he was talking about.

“Mom, we got a deal. The racket only cost thirty-six dollars.” I announced as I arrived home.

“Don’t forget to take off the price tag before you wrap it, Beatrice,” my mom reminded me as she whisked off to teach her art classes.

Mom! Sheesh. Sometimes she thinks I’m a baby…

My brother, Edmund, helped me wrap the box rolling it two or three times in wrapping paper and tying it with gobs of ribbons and a bunch of bows on it. We put the box in another box which went in another box. We thought it was so fun to unwrap when you received one of those sort of presents. Edmund laughed and laughed each time we played the trick on him.

This is so awesome. I said to myself. And when I tell him I chose the present, he will think I’m one of his coolest students for doing this for him.

That was Bumbling Bea talking. You see? Why would it matter whether my teacher thought I was the coolest student he had ever taught during his teaching career? He had thousands of kids he’d taught already and I was a lousy singer.

It was finally time to give the present. On the last day of classes before summer vacation, we usually sang through the year’s music one more time. The whole choir was singing happily, but they kept turning and looking at me. I was singing loud the way I never do because I was so excited about our present. Well, Bumbling Bea was singing exceedingly loud because she thought I was a better singer since I thought up the present.

It was the second time Bumbling Bea appeared.

Finally, the end of the hour came and it was time for the present. I stood lifting my head proudly, “We are sad you are leaving Oak Grove Middle School. We wanted to give you something to remember us when you are off in your new life.” I gave him the big box saying, “So, here is a little something to use to take out your frustrations on your new wife.”

Huh? What was that I said?

I was kinda’ nervous which was unusual for me and it freaked me out. So I tried again. “I meant, here’s a little something to use to take out your frustrations in your new life.”

Oh man. That wasn’t right either.

I tried one more time, “Oh, you know when you have a bad day at your new school and want to strangle your students, you can use this instead.” I cringed.

My teacher stared at me. “I don’t know what you are talking about, Beatrice. I’m never frustrated with my students.” He smiled at the rest of the class and ignored me.

I felt different on the inside of myself. Kinda’ smart aleck-y, but I didn’t know why. Maybe I was way too excited or nervous or awkward? When I am, I do dumb things to cover. It was how I felt that day. I wanted to sound grown up and cool and in charge, but I said three super dumb things to my teacher.

But I did more than say three dumb things.

Way more.

When Edmund and I were wrapping the tennis racket, Edmund’s pet ferret, Bernie, got loose from Edmund’s clutches and darted around my room. We were so busy screaming at Bernie that while trying to catch him, I guess my big fat foot accidentally pushed the box with the tennis racket under my bed. I picked up the other identical box with my new swimming suit, matching flip flops and the package of new panties and wrapped it instead.

Yes, you read it right: it was the box containing my new bikini swimming suit, matching flip flops and the new panties.

NEW PANTIES! NEW PANTIES!

But see, I didn’t know it was the wrong box because I wasn’t looking at my teacher when he finally opened the last box. I was busy picking up the left over wrapping paper.

Somebody whispered, “Beatrice, you left the price tag on the box.”

“Embarrassing,” another snickered.

THE PRICE TAG WAS SHOWING. THE STUPID PRICE TAG WAS STILL ON THE PRESENT.

I looked up and before I knew it, Bumbling Bea quipped, “There’s the price tag. It shows you how much we like you and I wanted you to know all us chipped in for it.”

Again with the dumb statements!

My teacher opened the box and there was no tennis racket.

BUT, there they were: the panties. Oh, the swimming suit and flip flops were there too, but all I saw were the PANTIES. It was as if they grew from a regular size to the size of a goal post on a football field. HUGE.

I stammered, “What? How did those get in there?”

My confused teacher said something to me, but the whole class was laughing so loudly I couldn’t hear him. I grabbed back the box and ran out of class and hid in the girls’ bathroom.

People called me “Panties” for days afterward until my mother heard them one too many times and threatened to call their parents.

Later I got the right present to my teacher but by then every kind of damage had already been done and I still forgot to take the price tag off the stupid present. I gave up.

Peter said later in the summer he saw my teacher hitting balls with our present tennis racket out on the court. He was back in town visiting his mother or something. I guess he hit one ball a little too hard, because the tennis racket’s webbing unraveled and when it fell to the ground, the handle fell apart, too.

Yup. Bumbling Bea steps into my skin right at the wrong time. Lately, there are more times she appears than I have until a crazy girl who wore cat ears visited from Japan. She made me see what I was doing by taking on my bumble-bea-ness herself. It’s all a little scary when you think about it.

 

Bumbling.ing Bea Ten Years Later

Ten Years Later: A Chat with Beatrice 

img_0464-4Bumbling Bea can be purchased through Amazon:

To purchase a copy of Bumbling  Bea, go to Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Bumbling-Bea-Deborah-Baldwin/product-reviews/1500390356/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=recent#R1O9MYUNK49KNA

 Beatrice Ten Years Later

I thought it might be fun and interesting to interview Beatrice ten years after the story ended.  So, I posed the idea to her and she happily agreed.

Imagine I travel to New York and the two of us meet at a local coffee shop (because everyone knows that’s where I’d meet her, right?).  Beatrice likes rainy, cool days, just as I do and she loves fall.  We have that in common.  Today was both.

Here is what I think she might look like:

beatrice-adult

(She’s cute, yes?)

Beatrice:  Hey, Deb.   (She gives me a quick, big hug and takes the pumpkin spice latte I ordered for her.) Pumpkin spice latte! If I ever meet the person who thought up pumpkin spice lattes, they get a big hug from me. (She places a maple leaf colored like fall in my hand ever so carefully.) I brought you a beautiful leaf I found on the ground.  Isn’t it fabulous?

Me:  Thanks, Beatrice.  What a gorgeous shade of orange it is.  I love the color orange.

Beatrice:  I know, me too!

Me:  I remember that about you.  Thanks for meeting me today.  (We sit in a corner booth.) Wow, ten years have passed by since we last saw each other.

Beatrice:  I know.  I’m twenty-five years old now.  Oh my gosh, that sounds so old!

Me:  Well, considering I’m sixty years young, you are doing just fine.

Beatrice:  (She laughs.) Ten years ago, I never thought I’d turn out this way.

Me:  What way?  You look great to me–all trendy clothes and hair. I thought you’d be a “positive, contributing member of society” and you are.

Beatrice:  (She leans forward and snickers.) Considering how I used to dress when you first met me, I’ve come a long way. I can’t believe how dorky I was!  The only thing I kept from middle school was my “I Heart Sarcasm” shirt  which Mom sewed into a tee shirt quilt along with all my  other show shirts.  I was so involved in college shows that I could have made three quilts!

Me:  Really?  Did you major in theatre in college?

Beatrice:  Yes, I did.  But I didn’t perform after my first year there. I’m not a performer.   I took an art class with a professor friend of my mom’s and found I wanted to combine theatre with art.  Voila, set design!

Me:  Are you working in theatre now?

Beatrice:  I am!  After high school, I attended Mary Baldwin College and received my BFA in theatre there.  I designed several sets for the department’s black box theatre and won an award for outstanding design.  Then I went to graduate school at NYU/Tisch.  I’ve been out of school and working about a year now.

Me:  Wow!  That’s an impressive resume.

Beatrice:  I guess so.  I don’t think about it much.  I’m too busy designing and getting my foot in the door.

Me: How so?

Beatrice: When I was in grad. school, I apprenticed for several professional designers on Broadway. Then I designed several shows for regional theatres.  I’m slowly building a resume. My goal is to design for Broadway by my thirties. In the mean time, I love it!  If you’d told me ten years ago I would become a set designer, I’d laughed.

Me:  I bet so.  How’s your family?

 edmund-adult

(Here is Edmund, all grown up.  Isn’t he handsome? And so smart!)

Beatrice:  My brother, Edmund, is in his second year of college  at University of Florida  studying zoology. Remember Bernie his ferret?

Me: Yes.

Beatrice: Well, we had Bernie number 3 and 4 before Edmund finally figured out he wanted to study animals and care for them since he’d done such a lousy job with his Bernies.

Me: Oh gosh.  What happened to his interest in flags?

Beatrice:  He still loves them.  He collects flags from all over the world.  You should see his apartment! The walls are covered with them.  I feel so sorry for his roommate.

Me:  And your parents?  People have asked about them.  Did they end up staying together?

Beatrice:  Uhm, no.  They didn’t.  But that’s okay.  It seems Dad wasn’t being completely honest with himself.  He came out about two years later, met a nice guy and they married last summer.

Beatrice's father.jpg

(This is Dad and Fred during a recent trip to Italy. Don’t they seem happy?)

We are all happy for them.  Mom wasn’t as fast to date. It took her longer.  She didn’t want to date while she was raising us.  She said she had enough responsibility just getting us grown.  But, I’m happy to report that  she is now dating a wonderful guy we all like a lot.

beatrices-mother

(A great, recent photo of Mom.)

Me:  Are your parents friendly with each other?

Beatrice:  Oh yes.  They were always very civil with each other. And more than anything, they respected each other.  Dad was the really unhappy one.  He was afraid of his feelings and didn’t want to admit them for a long time.  You’d think someone in the arts wouldn’t worry about other people’s perceptions, because when you are in the arts, you explore social issues  all the time.  But he worried anyway.

Me:  I’m sorry to hear that he worried.

Beatrice:  It was hard for all of us for a while, but not because of his lifestyle choice, but because he was so unhappy. I guess  when Dad was a kid, his parents ridiculed different lifestyle choices.  Plus, Dad’s parents thought his profession was silly and unnecessary.  It was Grandma Percy, Mom’s mom,  who helped him through his fears.

Me:  Really?  Your Grandma?

Beatrice:  Yes, my  eighty year old, awesome grandma was in the background observing us all the time.  She sees everything, but keeps it to herself.  She’s the one who urged dad to admit his homosexuality.

beatrices-grandma-percy

(Grandma Percy prior to her death last year.)

 It wasn’t a really big deal, because Mom and Grandma Percy handled it carefully and respectfully with us. Edmund and I were fine with it.  We want our parents to be happy. period.  And Mom and Dad are the best of friends.

Me:  I’d be surprised if you had a problem with your dad’s lifestyle choice.  I thought you were a pretty cool, open minded girl.

 

Beatrice:  When you first met me, I was such a brat and a little bit of a bully to Michiko. Thankfully, Michiko helped me see what I was doing when I caught her imitating me after the  fateful play performance. Since then, Bumbling Bea took a hike and doesn’t show up much anymore. And my parents’ open mindedness rubbed off on me.   When you are raised around parents who are artists, you see the world with different eyes.

Me:  Whatever happened to Michiko?  Do you have any news about her?

Beatrice's Michiko.jpg

(Michiko trying out modeling.  She didn’t enjoy it as much as she thought she would.)

Beatrice:  Yes! I didn’t hear much from her for several years.  Just a few emails back and forth, you know?  But guess what?  She’s moving to the US next month and going to share my apartment  with me in New York while I’m traveling for set design jobs.

Me:  So, you’ll be back together just like the old days?

Beatrice:  Kind of.  Hopefully, we won’t end up locked in our bathroom together. (She laughs.)

Me:  (laughing)  Those are great memories, though.

Beatrice:  You bet. When Michiko and I decided to room together, I teased her about having guys over.  She always has crushes on fellas, but I am sworn to secrecy in telling anyone. She laughed  about guys coming over and said that if she couldn’t have Peter, then she didn’t want anyone.

Me:  Peter!  I forgot about him.  What happened to him?

beatrices-peter

(Peter, now the cool guy.)

Beatrice:  We remained friends through high school and continue to see each other from time to time when I get home to my parents.  Peter is a middle school counselor  and still lives in Virginia. Apparently, kids love him and he’s hugely popular with all the staff.

Me:  I’m not surprised.  He had a winning personality. Did he and Jerri become a pair in high school?

Beatrice:  Yup.  All four years, if you  can imagine.  And Jerri was even home coming queen our senior year!  Jerri had a level head and other high school kids looked to her for advice.  Consequently, in her junior year, she created a youth friendship program between high schools pairing kids of the same interests with each other, sort of like a meet up group.  It was amazing.  Now, she works in student affairs in a college in the mid-west.

Me:  Wow!

Beatrice's Jerri.jpg

( A candid shot of Jerri.)

Beatrice:  I am lucky to know Jerri.  She helped me a lot when Dad came out.  So did Peter.  I’m still waiting to repay the favor to them, but they say they love my creativity and that’s enough for them.  They just want front row seats to the first show I design for Broadway.

Me:  Me too! So what will Michiko do in New York? Is she involved in theatre as well?  Does she have job prospects?

Beatrice:  Surprising even to me, Michiko did not continue her studies in Theatre when she attended college. She found it wasn’t as mesmerizing to her once she moved away from her parents. She said that one day she discovered that she loved world cultures.  I guess she was dating a guy from India at the time.  They broke up shortly afterward, but her love of cultures continued.

Me:  I’m surprised too!

Beatrice:   Michiko loves to travel.   She is applying for jobs in the travel industry.  She wants to become  a professional tour guide taking groups on international trips.  With her intense interest in history and her love of anything multi-cultural, becoming a professional tour guide would be a good fit.  I think she’s right.

Me:  Isn’t it amazing what can happen in ten years of one’s life?

Beatrice:  It is.  I mean look at you.  You’re a published writer now. And award winning, too! What’s your next book going to be about?

Me:  Well…..I can’t tell you much yet.  It’s still germinating in my brain.  Plus, we have moved to a different state and become first time grandparents all at the same time. (I pull out my cell phone to show Beatrice a photo.) Here’s a photo of our granddaughter.

 Abby and Grammy.jpg

(Grammy and Granddaughter)

Beatrice:  (laughing)  This photo is you all over!

Me:  Yeah, well, orneriness doesn’t die easily…..

(Beatrice’s cell phone dings a text.  She reads it.)

Beatrice:  (She sighs, smiling.) It’s Michiko. She arrives next week and is all ready having a hissy fit over the apartment. Apparently, when she visited our apartment to see if she wanted to live there, she noticed that the heat wasn’t working too well. I hadn’t even noticed.   In typical fashion, she notified  our super and demanded we get a better furnace system in the building.  Now, the guy is mad at her and threatens to make her life miserable once she moves in.

Me:  Oh gosh! You ready for life with Michiko again?

Beatrice:  (She stands and hugs me, ever so warmly.) I am ready.  I have been ready since she moved back to Japan when we were kids.  Some people never leave our life no matter what.  Michiko is that kind of friend to me.

Me:  I agree.  So, I’ll see you again in ten years?

Beatrice:  No, let’s make it two years.  I think readers might like to hear what happens to us next.

Me:  It’s a date!
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Shakespeare and Bomb Diggity

 

William Shakespeare

Here’s the story of Shakespeare and Bomb Diggity.  Recently, one of my cast members in Lil Mermaid, which I was directing at the time exclaimed “Bomb diggity!” over something she thought was  really neat.  I asked her what “Bomb diggity” meant. She said, “Oh you know, it is way cool, Mrs. B. Like you!”

I don’t know if I’m way cool, but I think William Shakespeare’s work is “way cool”. Some times I forget about people I admire. Out of nowhere, something will remind me and I am struck all over again with that person’s bomb diggity-ness. Well, anyway did you know that he created  phrases that we use all the time?  I mean it; all the time. Here are some phrases that we use that come directly from the old Shakes:

Greeneyed monster

A fool’s paradise

A sorry sight

All of a sudden (That’s a new one to me!)

As dead as a doornail

Fancy free

Fight fire with fire (Get out!  I didn’t know this was his, did you?)

Hot-blooded

In a pickle

Love is blind

Night owl

Etc., etc…

In my book, Meanie Bea’ (I am really wanting you to read my book someday in the near future. Can you tell?), one of the main characters adores Shakespeare.  She is only in eighth grade, but she has read all of his plays and can recite at whim many passages from them. Now, when I was about her age, the best I could do was memorize the poem “Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood”  by Robert Frost.  And that was required of me for my English teacher!

I wasn’t introduced to Shakespeare’s plays until high school and that was only “Romeo and Juliet”. I would have never used the phrase, “Bomb Diggity” thats for sure!   But  some kids nowadays are hugely sophisticated in that respect. I teach an introduction to Shakespeare class to middle school students and I am certain that many of them know the material better than I do.  They are just too nice to say so.  You would think that if I am such a fan of Shakespeare, I would be like my students and able to expound upon his plots. Nah.   I can’t even remember what I had for lunch yesterday. My brain doesn’t work that way.

But Michiko’s brain does and that is one of the reasons other students veer away from her.  She is very unusual in a sort of I- am-in-my-own-world way that other students can’t understand. She is out spoken, impetuous, mercurial, passionate, intense and energetic.  At first glance, you might think she was completely opposite of Beatrice.  Well, she is.  But she isn’t opposite of Beatrice’s alter ago, Meanie Bea’. I think that’s why she gravitates toward Beatrice–she sees herself in her.

We all know how a friendship like that can end up–not too good, right?  A counselor friend of mine told me to make sure, “You find friends who up lift you and inspire you to be a better person.”  Wow.  That’s an awesome thought.  I think Beatrice and Michiko do that for each other by the end of the book.

But like I said, you will just have to find out for yourself when you read it.

Next time (and I promise my posts won’t be so far apart), we’ll talk about parenting.  Whoa….that’s a great subject! I bet we have a lot of things in common concerning parents. See you then.