July 10, 2015



“Dorene, if you don’t hold still, I’m gonna hog tie you to this chair!” Vada Faith whipped the pink salon chair around to face the big woman. She shook her comb under Dorene Moon's nose and the woman’s eyes grew wide as china plates. “I’m a nervous wreck! I’ve had customers up the wazoo this morning! Since Joy Ruth left to take Mama to the hospital for a test, I’ve had a dozen walk ins.”
“Well, forgive me for living!” Doreen snapped her tabloid closed.
Vada Faith swallowed hard and bowed her head in front of Dorene. “Whew!” She took a big breath and sighed. “I’m sorry, Dorrie. This day’s been a disaster. To start the morning off, the girls both needed panty hose for a school project. That meant a trip to CVS. I had to wake up James.” She smiled when she thought of her baby boy at home. “I had to take all three kids with me. Then, I learned from a note in their book bag the girls volunteered me to make pancakes on Monday, of all days!” 
She turned Dorene around so the woman could see herself in the mirror. She started sectioning off her customer’s hair. “The twins are going on a field trip to a farm. Mrs. Dibbs is buying maple syrup there. Thus, the pancakes.” She frowned at Dorene in the mirror. “I dared them,” she pointed her comb at Dorene in the mirror, “to volunteer me for one more thing!”
“Calm down, honey.” Dorene reached up and patted Vada Faith’s arm. 
The beautician wrapped another piece of gray hair around a roller.
“I’m praying for your Mama, honey. I heard about her tests. I’m sorry I jerked. It’s this story.” She held up the tabloid. “Someone has spotted an alien down on Bourbon Street. I hope it’s moved on by the time they have that Mardi Gras. Imagine! An alien in the middle of that mess. Who-wee.”
“That story isn’t true, Dorrie.” Vada Faith glanced down at the tabloid. “Yep, that’s the one. They make up those stories.They print tall tales.”
“This tabloid is called The Latest News, Vada Faith.” Dorene closed the magazine. “Aliens is everywhere, you know. I saw it on TV.” She shook her head. “Oops, I moved again. I do hope your mama gets well, honey. Sassy, over at the coffee shop, said she wasn’t feeling good. Sassy goes to my new church.”

Vada Faith put in the last roller and directed Dorene to a dryer. 
Thankfully, Dorene would soon be combed out and gone. The woman had the most stubborn gray hair Vada Faith had ever encountered.
Besides, one of Joy Ruth’s fussiest customers was due in any minute for a perm. Vada Faith prayed her sister would be back in time to do the perm.
“When you see your mama,” Dorene said, popping her head out from under the dryer, “tell her I put her on the prayer list over at the New Believer Baptist Church. It’s where I go now.” She opened the tabloid. “When they got rid of Brother Bow Shannon at Heavenly Tabernacle I switched my membership. They said he was a big flirt.” Dorene grinned. “Well, he was not. He was just real friendly is all. Besides too many young democrats go over there. You know those liberals. Always wanting to change things up. Don’t forget to tell your Mama.” Her words trailed off as she pushed herself back under the dryer.
“I’ll tell her.” Vada Faith wondered how the waitress at the coffee shop knew her mama had a test today. What was the old saying? Telegraph, telephone, tell a friend. It sure applied in Shady Creek.

Just then Cindy Mahan, her baby sitter, pushed through the shop door pulling James in his stroller behind her.
“Well, look who’s here.” Vada Faith smiled as she went to help Cindy guide the stroller through the doorway. Her ten-month old son grinned up at her. His chubby hands gripped the front of the stroller and his eyes sparkled.
“We got bored,” Cindy said. She plopped down in the nearest chair. “Me and Sweet Baby here couldn’t find a thing to do. He got tired of peek-a-boo and of his ABC blocks. We thought we’d come and visit his mama. Didn’t we, James?” She ruffled his blond hair. James smiled up at her and batted his big blue eyes. He was already a little flirt.
He clapped his hands and drooled down onto himself. He leaned over the stroller and stared at his new blue tennis shoes. He wore his blue shirt with the yellow bulldozer that read, “Daddy’s Little Man.” 
“Did you check out this little guy’s new Levi’s.” Vada Faith patted the baby’s leg. “They fit him perfectly.”
“I did.” Cindy leaned over and hugged the baby. “Little Fashion King of Shady Creek, West Virginia.” Cindy smiled. “James has a fan. An elderly lady in front of the diner. She leaned down and patted him on the foot. He kicked and squealed. The more he squealed, the more she laughed. Then she patted his leg and called him Robert. I told her his name is James. She frowned and headed across the street toward the drug store. She acted kinda odd.” 
“Well, buddy, are you collecting girlfriends already?” Vada Faith said, as James chewed on his hand and clung to his brown bear. She grinned as she watched him. He dropped the bear and gave her a smile. He put his fingers over his eyes, hiding from her.
  “Peek a boo!” She covered her eyes.
James squealed and kicked his feet. One of his blue shoes came off.
Vada Faith’s heart swelled. She leaned over and put on his shoe, tying the lace. She picked up James and hugged him. He jabbered over her shoulder and pointed at the overhead lights.
She walked him around the shop showing him the new children’s magazine with Mickey Mouse on the cover. She would take him to see Mickey someday.
She leaned down so Doreen could see James.
“Hey, little guy,” Dorene said, smiling and patting him. 
When he started yawning, Vada Faith put him back into his stroller. He promptly snuggled with his bear. “Nap time big boy.” She kissed his cheek and tucked his blanket around him. “Don’t forget, Cindy, I’ll be home early today.”
Cindy nodded and buckled James into his seat. Vada Faith helped her get his stroller through the door and out onto the sidewalk.
She waved them off and then went to the counter to pour a cup of coffee. There was a lull in the shop so she picked up a magazine and leafed through it, thankful for the quiet.
When Dorene’s dryer stopped, Vada Faith styled her hair and hugged her on her way out the door. Glad the shop was empty, she swept the hair from around her chair and added a few items to her grocery list.
Joy Ruth arrived just ahead of her customer, Candy Flowers. 

Happily, Vada Faith grabbed her purse and headed for the door.
Barbara A. Whittington, author of:
Vada Faith
Ezra and Other Stories
Dear Anne: Love Letters from Nam

June 25, 2015

Elvis, Niagara Falls, and Fuzzy Dice...

Hoot and Marla: A short story
                                           BEAUTIFUL NIAGARA FALLS

Hoot and Marla are on their way to Niagara Falls. Hoot's sister, Betty Sue, has talked Hoot into letting her come. She has brought along her boyfriend, Nick. 
Hoot is driving the black Monte Carlo he bought last week for $800. Everyone is to chip in on the gas.
"All-my-x's-live-in-Tex-as," Hoot sings along with the radio, "that's why I hang my hat in Tennessee!" He taps his hand on the steering wheel in time to the music. 
Hoot loves George Strait. Not as much as he loves Elvis though. Hoot is an Elvis Presley look alike. He's never traded on it or anything. But he can sing and play the guitar, too. Marla nearly dies when he sings, "Love me Tender." He's that good.

Now, as he sings, Hoot dusts the dash with his middle finger. Then he smacks the fuzzy blue dice hanging from the rear view mirror and they bounce back and forth.

For the last hour Nick has cracked his knuckles and studied the road map. The map is from triple A and so detailed Marla feels even she could get them to New York with it. But Marla isn't interested in any road map.

She has come on this trip strictly to be with Hoot. Instead she is sitting in the back seat with Betty Sue who has filed her long red nails ever since they left West Virginia. That was seven hours ago.
They have already come through Cleveland and are heading East on I-90. Hoot says Erie is their next stop. Marla is glad. Several hours ago they ate the bologna sandwiches she packed and she is hungry.
She pulls a tortoise-shell mirror from her purse and looks at herself. She pats her face with a tissue to take the shine off. She dabs some Paris Pink on her lips and blows her blond bangs off her forehead. She wishes it wasn't so hot. Hoot has the air-conditioner off. He says it saves on gas. Marla puts the mirror away and turns back to the billboards and signs.
That's how she is keeping busy. Reading billboards and signs. For what seems like hours now they have traveled past vineyards. 
"Bob's Winery five miles ahead," Marla reads aloud in a monotone as they pass a billboard featuring a giant glass of bubbling champagne. She brightens, "Oh, let's stop!"
"Bob's Winery! Three miles ahead!"
"One mile
They come to the exit for Bob's Winery. Marla's eyes light up. A neon sign is flashing "Bob's Winery Here." 
Hoot doesn't even slow the car. If anything, he speeds up. Marla closes her eyes and tries to imagine what a winery would be like. But even trying hard, she can't. 
Now she fluctuates between reading signs and staring at the back of Hoot's head. She would love to touch his soft black hair but doesn't. He hates having his hair touched. He carries a comb in his back pocket and won't let one hair get out of place. Marla catches Hoot's eye in the rear view mirror. She smiles but he doesn't let on that he sees her. More and more lately he doesn't let on that he sees her. Sometimes she wonders if she is invisible. One day she was in the IGA and he looked right past her. 
Between his long hours at the fire station and his singing gigs they are lucky to be together every other week now. When the idea for the trip came up, Marla was glad. This could be an investment in her future.
Betty Sue is busy highlighting certain passages in a True Story Magazine with a lemon-scented marker.
The air is heavy with HaiKarate. Hoot's. Marla loves smelling it on him. Especially when he is beside her on the blue shag carpet of her apartment watching Days of Our Lives. Hoot isn't hot or cold on any of the stars. But, Patch and Kayla are Marla's favorites. They are so much in love it hurts Marla to watch them. Something always happens to keep them apart. Patch is so open with his emotions it makes Marla want to cry. Marla can't imagine Hoot ever acting over her like Patch does over Kayla. Sometimes she wishes she wasn't so crazy in love with Hoot. She isn't so sure his feelings for her are all that deep. Particularly these days. He seems so preoccupied.
Suddenly Hoot slams on the brakes and Marla and Betty Sue are nearly thrown into the front seat. A flat-bed truck has come to a complete stop on the highway in front of them. The driver of the truck is an old man who seems to have missed his exit and is starting to back up toward them. 
Without pause, Hoot passes, laying on the horn and giving the old man the finger.
Hoot and Nick get into a big discussion of fishing for bass. Marla knows for a fact all Hoot knows about fishing for bass is what he has read in the Outdoor Journal of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia which he reads from cover to cover. As far as Marla knows Hoot has never been fishing and he lives near the river. 
"I want to be a pro at it when I do go," he said to her once when she complained that he should be fishing not reading. He is the only person Marla knows who wants to read about everything. Just the week before he read a dozen books on the Falls.
"Hand me one of them Cokes, Marla," Hoot says now and she takes the lid from the red and white plastic cooler at her feet, opens the can and hands it over the seat. Her older sister, Shirley Jean, says Marla lets Hoot boss her too much. Maybe she does. But she wants to marry Hoot so bad she will do almost anything he asks to please him.
It was the invitation to her class reunion that really got her thinking. She is the only girl from her class who is still single. Her mother laughs and says she's only 23 and why worry. But she does.
She has heard Hoot laugh and say that the life of a firefighter isn't one for a married man. He says the job is too dangerous. But, Marla doesn't buy any of this. If there's any danger it's in Hoot's head.
The Chesterville fire truck hardly ever leaves the station except when Hoot drives it up to the IGA for groceries. That's how she met him. In the express check-out. They'd struck up a conversation over a can of Chefboyardee Ravioli which was on special and exactly what they'd both come there to buy. That was last summer. They have been seeing each other off and on ever since. 
Marla is hoping when they get to the Falls they can be alone. That somehow there will be a turning point. Something tells her this trip is more than just a simple trip. She's brought along a bottle of Andre Champagne and two plastic champagne glasses from K-Mart just in case.
At the Falls they plan to get two rooms. She will have to bunk with Betty Sue. But somehow or other she plans to get Hoot alone.

Hoot is interested mainly in the Elvis Presley Museum. Marla doesn't care about seeing a living room lamp from Graceland or the first dollar-bill Elvis ever made. But she would never tell Hoot that. Elvis is more than Hoot's idol. It spooks Marla to think about it. How much Hoot is like Elvis. Down to how he lifts his lip when he sings. Even his mother's name is Grace. 
Hoot and Marla's relationship has developed mostly in Marla's apartment on Main Street over top of Charlie's U-Call-We-Haul Trucking Company in the few hours she isn't working the McDonald's drive-thru. That's how she was able to come on this trip. She takes every hour she can get.
Earlier, as they were loading the car for the trip, Marla mentioned riding the Maid of the Mist. And visiting Tussaud's Wax Museum. Charlie, from U-Call, said George Burns looks real and Marla wants to see for herself. Hoot didn't say one way or the other. All he said was he heard you got wet riding the Maid of the Mist. 
He was in the middle of telling Nick  about the Elvis Museum and how they were about to see the largest private collection of Elvis memorabilia in the world. Nick wasn't even listening, just tossing suitcases into the trunk as fast as he could and blowing bubbles with a wad of Juicy Fruit.
In Erie they gas up at a Sunoco and then Hoot parks over to the side of the station and they all go to use the restrooms. On the way back they get ham sandwiches out of a machine and Marla buys herself a Zagnut and gets a Zero for Hoot. He loves Zeros. They are hard to find. She decides to buy two.
Nick stares at Marla as they get back into the car. She is wearing a red halter top with her navy shorts and her new leather sandals. She has the best tan she's ever had. She's been twenty times to the tanning bed. She just hopes she doesn't get skin cancer for being so vain. 
Hoot has never noticed that she is evenly tanned all over. She notices everything about him. He only gets a tan on his face and arms. He never wears shorts. She is surprised he will wear muscle shirts. But he does. He has one on now and she loves him in it. It is red to match her halter top. She has asked him specifically to wear the shirt.
In the front seat Hoot and Nick are arguing over the route they are taking. Hoot says he bets there is a more direct route to Buffalo. He said they probably didn't need to go through Cleveland at all. He accused Nick of wanting to go through Cleveland just to say he'd been there. Nick has people in Euclid.
Marla doesn't care which route they take. She just wants to get there. 
She has brought enough clothes to stay two weeks but they only plan to be gone for four days. The trunk is packed full and Hoot even has one suitcase tied on top of the Monte Carlo. 
Shirley Jean, who used to work for Reynolds Aluminum, has lent Marla all of her clothes. They both wear a size 7. Her mother has said to enjoy being small because the women in her family tend to pick up weight when they have babies. Marla doesn't particularly like babies. She isn't sure she wants any for herself. 
"I bet if you marry Hoot and he wants a dozen kids you'll probably jump right in and have 'em," Shirley Jean teased Marla as she folded clothes for the trip. Marla just smiled.
Shirley Jean is dating a man called Eddie from Virginia. He drives over almost every week-end. He has a boat back in Virginia and he has offered to take them all out in it. Hoot can't swim. She thinks this may be why he always turns Eddie down. She can swim and has been begging Hoot to go.
Eddie is the opposite of Hoot. He started getting his tan early at a tanning bed too and now is golden brown. His brown hair is streaked with gold and much of the time he visits Shirley Jean he wears only swimming trunks. He has a 14K gold chain around his neck and wears a nugget ring. Marla has asked Hoot to wear a gold chain but he refuses. She bought him one for Christmas but he took it back and got some flannel shirts with the money.
Betty Sue has been massaging Nick's neck over the seat. Marla is sure they have an intimate relationship just by the way they act when they're together. At least Nick has told Betty Sue he wants to marry her. He has talked about going to Cleveland to look for a job. He is laid-off from his construction job. He is a welder, a good one he says, and can get work anywhere. Hoot says Nick is all talk. Marla wonders.
Hoot pulls into a roadside park. The Monte Carlo is starting to heat up. Betty Sue and Nick disappear laughing into a grove of trees. Hoot appears agitated as he swings out of the car and puts the hood up. He leans against a tree to smoke.
Marla sits in the car for a minute before getting out to lean against the tree with Hoot. She moves over and kisses him. He kisses her back. But for only a minute. 
"Hey," he says, looking over his shoulder, "there's people around." She sees one man at the far end of the park. Otherwise they are alone. She puts her arms around Hoot again and he pushes her away, this time Marla loses her balance and nearly falls.
  Just then a semi pulls in not far from them and the bearded trucker that gets out looks Marla over from head to toe. He smiles and winks. Hoot has his head under the hood of the car and doesn't see.
The thought that he wouldn't care if he did see makes Marla's breath catch in her throat. It is at that exact moment that she knows for sure what she has suspected all along. Hoot has no intention of riding the Maid of the Mist. Or visiting the Tussaud's Wax Museum. Or marrying her. Not now. Not ever.
A cold wind whips across the parking lot and Marla shivers. She reaches into the back seat for her sweater and notices the brown bag with the champagne. She takes it from the car and heads to the rest room. Inside the cubicle she stares at the Andre Champagne and the two plastic glasses for a moment before pushing them through the lid of the trash can. They hit the metal bottom with a loud clatter. 
She unwraps a Zero and eats it as she walks back to the car.
"How far have we got to go?" she asks as Hoot closes the hood of the car.
"Not far," he says. He slides into the car, turns on the ignition and the radio at the same time. "Wasted days and wasted nights," Hoot sings loudly, nearly drowning out Freddy Fender.
Betty Sue and Nick smile as they get into the car.
Nobody notices Marla as they head down the highway. She is ripping the brochure for the Elvis Museum into the tiniest pieces and is letting them blow, one by one, out the window and into the hot air.            
                                            the end


May 29, 2015


Through tangled brush
We make our way 
To the creek bed
Cooling summer feet
In crystal water.

With gossamer wings
Skitter up the bank,
Fanning honeysuckle vines.             
Suddenly, a head shoots
From beneath a mossy rock,

A crawdad staking claim to his territory -
As if little girls pose a threat.
Later, on a picnic cloth 
They arrange their treasures,
A speckled feather, an odd shaped
Rock, a golden leaf.
Unlike their “find,” my treasures
Are images - images of two giggling girls 
Arms outstretched 
Ready to Embrace the world -
Ready EVEN to walk on water.

May 12, 2015


This is a blog from five years ago. It's relevant to me today. Hope you enjoy!

My friend Liz and her husband recently stayed two nights with us while on vacation in this area. I pulled a dozen or so books from my shelves to share with Liz - who is also an avid reader and wonderful writer. (She writes as Elizabeth Vollstadt and has various books and stories in print, including YOUNG PATRIOTS: Inspiring stories of the American Revolution- which she co authored with friend, Marcella Anderson. It's for children but I love this book!)

THEN, Liz unloaded the books she'd brought to share with me. (She'd also brought a gift for me - a book, what else!)

While she was here there were books stacked on the coffee table, the end tables, the dining room table, and the kitchen bar. A few books more than my usual stash covered every available surface.

I'd catch her reading as I puttered in the kitchen, or at night we'd have tea and then she'd head off to bed with a book tucked under her arm. Early one morning I looked out and she was reading a novel in the white rocker on the front porch, still in her pajamas and with her coffee in hand. Of course, I couldn't have her reading alone out on the porch so I joined her.

It was just the best visit ever - someone came into my world and totally "got it." She understood if I grabbed a book and read a few pages before or after dinner.

We both took notes - jotting down the names of books we'd read. Neither of us wanting to miss a single good book that's out there, novel, biography, mystery, YA, or whatever.

Luckily, we both married men who like to read. I saw Peter with the latest Steve Martini novel. And R was deep into newspapers and magazines.

So, how many books is too many books?

I think the number of books one has is irrelevant.

As long as one has a book on the nightstand, a book on the coffee table, a book in the office, one in the bathroom, and one at the dining room table and maybe one on the kitchen counter, well, I could go on and on. I guess maybe it matters not how many as long as you are enjoying what is inside the book you are presently reading.
That's it. One good book is essential. As essential as breathing.

Do you love books? What books do you have on your to be read list:
Would love to hear from you. Comments welcome. Hugs, Barb

LIZ has a new book out, a YA titled Pairs on Ice, my latest is a short story titled Dear Anne: Love Stories from Nam, my novel Vada Faith, and collection of short stories titled Ezra and Other Stories. We hope you'll check them out. Thanks!

May 5, 2015

Grandma's Rocking Chair by Barbara A. Whittington

I'm recovering from acute bronchitis. All I've done the last few days is think about writing but not actually writing. My time has been filled with lots of Kleenex, coughing, breathing treatments, etc etc etc. Every day I feel a bit better. Come tomorrow I'll be well - I'm counting on it. In the meantime, while I'm not writing, I found this poem among my papers and thought I'd share  - it's a sentiment I wrote for our daughter Jill. Hope you enjoy. As always comments are very welcome. Hugs to all.

Grandma’s Rocking Chair

Grandma’s rocking chair -
passed on to our daughter -
headed for Wisconsin
loaded in a U Haul, nestled
between an antique secretary,
and a refinished dresser -
mirror long gone.

Our three year old triplet
grandchildren, faces pressed
to the window of the van,
wave good bye to me and grandpa
in the driveway, their tears
breaking our hearts.

Our daughter, Jill,
heavy with the child of her new husband,
hums to the children
And soon they are fast asleep.

The rocking will start
while baby is in the womb,
this new grandson of ours,
whose name before
he's even born, is Austin Cole.
He will learn from his mother
How rocking soothes the soul.
Nourishes the spirit.
Links us one to the other
And to generations past and future.
just as we were linked
as children forming the circle
for ring around the rosey.

-the end-
Comments Welcome!

April 25, 2015


This is a post I wrote on March 11, 2011, I believe. I'm in the midst of rewriting my WIP, and decided it was time to review this article. Hope you find something here that will inspire you to rewrite or even to write. Let me know if anything speaks to you. 

Rewriting/ Quotes by other writers

Sometimes beginning writers say they don't believe in rewriting because they're afraid they'll "lose the spontaneity" of the first draft. This is naive; rewriting means making the work better by adding, deleting, and revising; what worked well in the first draft stays--that's the effective spontaneity. Most professional writers know the heady sense of control that comes with the revision process--this is where one knows one has mastery of the
writing craft. Note the following comments. Not sure who wrote the above intro but the quotes below are worthy of sharing. Enjoy!

"It is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is common in all writing and among the best of writers."
- E. B. White

"I don't write easily or rapidly. My first draft usually has only a few elements worth keeping. I have to find what those are and build from them and throw out what doesn't work, or what simply is not alive."
- Susan Sontag

"Half my life is an act of revision; more than half the act is performed with small changes."
- John Irving

"I revise the manuscript till I can't read it any longer, then I get somebody to type it. Then I revise the typing. Then it's retyped again. Then there's a third typing, which is the final one. Nothing should then remain that offends the eye."
- Robert Graves

"I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times before I was satisfied."
- Ernest Hemingway

"I do a lot of revising. Certain chapters six or seven times. Occasionally you can hit it right the first time. Most often, you don't."
- John Dos Passos

"I can't write five words but that I change seven."
- Dorothy Parker

"I have rewritten--often several times--every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers."
- Vladmir Nabokov

"First drafts are learning what your novel or story is about. Revision is working with that knowledge to enlarge or enhance an idea, or reform it."
- Thomas Wolfe

"A thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish."
- Carolyn Forche

"Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out."
- Samuel Johnson

"There are days when the result is so bad that no fewer than five revisions are required. In contrast, when I'm greatly inspired, only four revisions are needed."
- John Galbreath

"I rewrite everything, almost idiotically. I rewrite and work and work, and rewrite and rewrite some more."
- Laura Z. Hobson

"I retype everything four, five, and six times--critical passages more--and everything, say three times."
- James Michener

"Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped."
- Lillian Hellman

"Only amateurs don't rewrite. It's in the rewriting that writers bring ALL their knowledge--basic craft, technique, style, organization, attitude, creative inspiration --to the work."
- Gloria T. Delamar

"Writing a first draft is like groping one's way into a dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punchline you've forgotten. As someone said, one writes mainly to rewrite, for rewriting and revising are how one's mind comes to inhabit the material fully."
- Ted Solotaroff

"The waste paper basket is the writer's best friend."
- Isaac B. Singer

How do you feel the task of rewriting? Do you do a lot of it? Share your comments, please. Thanks!

March 31, 2015

Last trip to Massachusetts

Yesterday we returned from my youngest daughter Jill's in Attleboro, MA. The car trip there and back was uneventful. An 11 1/2 hr trip. Daughter, Susan, and I had lots of fun both ways. We laughed, joked, reminisced about the good and bad times of our lives. There was more good than bad.