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Dating : The Play

h2>Dating : The Play

Joe Hyman

A Short Story by Joseph A. Hyman 3/26/21

Allie was eleven, close to twelve that year when we were fifteen years into the twenty-first century. It was a June day, not overly hot, just about right for the three females gathered as they usually were, in the large kitchen. Theirs was an old house, built in the fifties. The kitchen had been updated several times, mostly with paint and a new appliance or two. The original Formica countertops were finally replaced in two thousand and ten. The white marble still shone like new, it’s subtle black squiggles remaining a suggestion.

June was Allie’s mother, a tall and slim woman with an attractive face, her brown hair flowing down to caress her shoulders. Her tendency to frown was causing beginning wrinkles to appear on her forehead. She was always seen in a dress, even when staying home, her face dusted with light makeup. Allie’s grandmother dressed in a more casual way, sometimes wearing what Allie would call hippie clothes which, on her grandmother, seemed exotic. On the other hand, she sometimes had the thought that her grandmother was putting on a costume to play a role so different from the role she grew up with. She had never mentioned this observation but if she had, she thought her grandmother would smile and shake her head yes, that’s probably so. Her grandmother had reinvented herself when she married, and possibly since then as well. She had been widowed for the past eight years and had lived with her daughter’s family since then.

Allie’s grandmother was getting shorter and her wrinkles seemed to be multiplying, although she had prominent cheekbones which Allie thought gave her a look like a Native American. This was accented by her long graying pigtail, going down her back. All she needed was a turquoise Squash Blossom necklace Allie had seen on QVC, to complete the look. She wished she could buy one for her grandmother, who retained her strong southern accent punctuated with northern words and pronunciation and an occasional British adjective or two. Allie thought she had a most unique grandmother, and she loved her dearly. Allie thought her grandmother was her favorite family member, then felt a little bit shamed when considering her parents, who were of course, simply wonderful. She loved being the only child, and was considered less a child than a co-member of the family group.

June’s mother, who was Allie’s Grandmother Millie, was Mildred Alberta Stonehenge, born of the prominent Savannah, Georgia, Stonehenge family. She was still considered a traitor fifty years after leaving Savannah for the far northern city of Philadelphia, where she married her beau, one William Marcoll, the robber of one of the South’s sweetest maidens. It took Mildred only a couple of years to realize her good luck in escaping such a drama-infused insular society, prejudiced toward everyone seen as outsiders or traitors. She thought their kind would have faded away by the 1960s. When Millie took her granddaughter to visit with her Savannah relatives, Millie was always surprised to find herself attempting to fit in, her speech turning even more southern, as if she had never left. Savannah always had the most surprising pull for Millie; yet she was always ready to go back home “way up north.”

Back to the kitchen scene. Eleven-year-old Allie Backstrome, nearing twelve, took after her mother in her appearance which of course would change with adolescence but which now suited the young girl just fine. She was wordy like her grandmother, inquisitive like her father, only more nosey, her mother would point out. Conversation between the three females, as it was prone to be with females living in close proximity and with intense affection for each other, was fluid and melodic, with one overtalking another, a lot of give and take, sprouting of opinions, and general civility mixed with indignations at times, emphatically stated. If overheard, it would not be difficult to follow who was saying what to whom. A stranger would likely find the interchanges amusing and entertaining, like tuning in to a family’s reality show.

“We are reading about women writers in English, and I don’t know why a person’s gender is so important when talking about authors. I believe the important thing should be how good the book is and not whether a woman or man wrote it.”

“ Well, I agree to an extent, Allie, but you have to realize that when I was in college I majored in literature and that meant primarily books written by men. I remember the women’s lib demonstrations at The University picketing the English Department Head who of course was a man. I wanted to join but I was afraid to picket for fear it would prejudice my grades. I guess we probably made too much of a fuss about things that were not nearly as important as racial prejudice.”

“ Mother, I have heard you say more than once that prejudice was prejudice.”

“Yes, Allie, and I believe your generation will see less barriers for women in all areas.”

“Well, let me tell you two, in my day woman didn’t often go off to school and everyone knew not to protest in public, so uncouth and unlady-like. In Savannah, we delicate ladies were taught from an early age how to conduct ourselves in the womanly arts of homemaking, breeding properly trained children, and in how to prop up our men with their fragile egos and Southern ideals of lost causes.”

“Grandmother, did you really believe all of that?”

“ No, child, I most certainly did not, and I reckon you might recognize sarcasm when you hear it.”

“Mother! Did you use reckon. when you meant, believe?”

“Sometimes my old Southern words just crop up, June.”

“No, Mother, proper Savannah young ladies never used that word.”

“Well I reckon I remembered it from Virginia, our maid. I reckon I did.”

“Grandma, you can be so funny, I mean so very amusing.”

“Thank you child; I’m glad someone appreciates my banter.”

“Isn’t banter a rooster, Grandmother?”

“No, Allie, it is a most proper word describing my repartee. A rooster is properly called a cock, even in mixed company, although one might blush appropriately when hearing of such an animal’s name out loud.”

“I remember being accused of talking like a New Yorker by my maiden aunt when I visited Savannah one time years ago, and I impishly told her I had once lived there. I realize now I was trying to get her goat.

“Mother, you never lived in New York!”

“Well, we visited there several times and I absorbed the New York culture and their Jewish food which I can still taste. I wish we had a deli like the Carneigie, and I especially loved their Broadway plays.”

“Oh, Grandmother Millie, what plays did you see?”

“Well, child, there were so many, I have to think.”

“Grandmother, did you really get your aunt’s goat when you were growing up? How come I never heard about it before?”

“Grandmother Millie, did you visit England with Grandfather Willie? Is that where you learned your English words, like when you say, ‘blithering and blimey and bloody and blasted? And why are they all B words?

“No, child, the closest we got to England was when we saw, “My Fair Lady” on Broadway. That was one of them, now I remember. I guess I picked up some British words so as not to use curse words which I had always been told marked one as common and uncivilized. Some things stick even after all these years.”

“Grandmother, could we go to a play in a big theater downtown, a Broadway play like you saw so many of?”

“Allie, I guess I can give up the surprise. We are planning to take you to see ‘West Side Story’ which is coming as a revival. It is based on a William Shakepeare play, you know, ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ “

“I would love to see it mother, I would just adore it, I reckon. I will look up the play on the internet. I reckon I really will do so.”

“Allie, your language usage!”

Two weeks later the four of them went to the Merriam Theater to see the traveling production of the classic American play, and the next day the three females gathered as usual in the kitchen while Grandmother Millie rolled out yeasty dough for her famous cinnamon rolls with sugar icing. They appeared to exhaust their discussion of the exciting musical they had just seen. There was an unaccustomed silence, broken suddenly by Allie commenting that sometimes when they were talking in the kitchen, it felt like they were in a play and were acting out roles and saying the words written for them by the writer who must be a woman because she knew how females talked. Allie realized that they did not talk the same way when her father was at the table.

Neither adult responded to Allie’s comment; each seemed caught up in her own scenarios, and Allie wondered out loud, again and with more determination, if they could imagine they were all acting in a play.

“No, child, I cannot say I can see us in a play, although I sometimes have had the stray thought that I knew what everyone was going to say before they said it. I suppose I could go along with your little play if your mother would agree. Some of the roles she plays seem to have been written a long time ago. They seem so familiar I believe I have heard them all her life. Yes, I reckon I have heard them since your mother was a wee tot.”

“Mother, you are not amusing in the least. It seems like you are getting your own roles mixed up. Southern women do not use Scottish expressions.”

“Oh, Mother, I think she is a very amusing grandmother, and I could imagine Grandmother playing many different roles, like a southern lady who turns out to be an adopted hippy from San Francisco. An unexpected twist always makes a story more interesting, don’t you agree?”

“Goodness gracious, granddaughter, you have quite an imagination and a way with words. You could certainly be the writer and your mother would be the director and the arbiter of good word usage.”

“Oh Grandmother, you are getting into the spirit of the game! I can see us acting in a play which I need a good name for.”

“Allie, you have a bad tendency to end your sentences with a preposition.”

“Yes, mother, but if we are in a play, then you must talk to the play writer.”

“Playwright, you mean.”

“Alright, playwright, then. But what can we call our play?”

“I can only think of something like, ‘Kitchen Talk,’ my dear.”

“Oh, Mother, that won’t do at all. It’s so unoriginal. It sounds like a morning television show with women talking in the kitchen about life problems. And it sounds like all talk and no action. A play needs lots of action and going in and out of the room”

“ Allie, I believe I remember from our high school productions, the proper terminology is to exit stage right or stage left.”

“Mother, that’s just the input we need. Let’s get started.”

“Allie, dear, I thought this was all part of your play.”

“Not yet, Mother. Wouldn’t it be fun if we started over and acted out a play which we were writing on the spot?”

“That’s called improvisation, Allie.”

“Yes, Mother, I know, and wouldn’t it be neat to invite Father and maybe my friend, Jackie, to watch the first performance?”

“Allie, my sweet granddaughter, it would certainly be a one time performance.”

“Grandmother, Mother, I definitely think we need a male character. I bet Daddy will be glad to join us. I”ll ask him tonight. When we have our full cast, we can start the play properly by declaring Act I. I think the name of the play will emerge by the end.”

“I believe a proper play needs a plot, Allie, and a plot needs conflict to sustain interest. I am addressing you, my new playwriting daughter. As the English major of the family, I know a lot about plays and play analysis. It is not easy to act out a play without a plot and a general direction about how the play is to progress.”

“Well, mother, we can let the plot come to life as we act. This will be lots of fun. What if I go out the door and come in with the start of Act One, where I say something startling to the audience?”

“Allie, I don’t think we have an audience. Maybe they want to see the reviews before they show up!” Allie’s mother laughed at the cleaverness of her statement.

“June, you have to have faith in your daughter, the novice playwright.”

“Grandmother, that is an excellent and bloody good idea, one that could have come from Officer Krumpke himself. And what does novice mean?”

Act I: Allie ran into the kitchen, all worked up and excited, her words spilling out that there was a body lying on the basement floor, near the washing machine!

“Oh, child, that cannot be! Who could be lying in our basement? Is the person hurt, or dead?”

“I dont know my dear grandmother from Savannah. I could creep down the stairs and peruse the situation.”

“Be careful, my beautiful daughter who is so inquisitive, yet so sensitive.”

“Thank you, mother, for the kind and wise words. I will be so very careful.”

“Allie, Mother, I think our words sound a little overdrawn.”

“Not at all, mother dear, for this is to be a melodrama and a mystery as well.” Allie exits stage right, toward the stairway leading down into the basement.

“I’m back and it is a man, well, a teenager lying on his back and he is handsome and maybe not dead, only knocked out. He is wearing only pants and shoes with no socks. I don’t see blood anywhere. It is a mystery to behold!”

“Oh, my daughter, what is a shirtless teenage boy doing in our basement? Have you seen him before, and are you sure he doesn’t have a shirt on? Who could do such a dastardly thing to a nice boy who lost his shirt? We need to call the police before he wakes or if he is dead.”

“Oh, mother, it is a great mystery to be solved by us alone. I hope the body does not disappear, or the police will not believe us. Let us call our brave father first. And Mother, I am sure he has no shirt on.”

“This, my daughter and granddaughter, is the end of the act. Just in time for me to put the cinnamon rolls in the oven. So, good timing, my dear daughter and dearest Allie-pie. And Allie, I don’t think you should examine the boy until he gets a shirt to put on.”

“Grandmother, you are so naive!”

Act II: It is two days later and the cinnamon rolls are just a memory. Chester Backstrome is sitting in his Easy Boy chair reading that morning’s paper. He had been cued in by his precocious daughter about the mystery play which began in the kitchen two days ago and about the dead or knocked-out or merely-sleeping boy in the basement who had, of course, disappeared! He had added that last element himself. Chester asked with tongue-in-cheek whether the play was a musical and was told it was a mystery melodrama which could include a song or two, no one knew. That was the most interesting thing, Allie said, anything could happen! She suggested this very conversation was the start of the second act, and her father chuckled and asked whether he could play the villain, and Allie thought that was a splendid and blithering good idea which caused her father to chuckle louder. He had always been a good sport who loved good action movies and mysteries, as well. He had long believed his daughter to have a creative mind and welcomed this opportunity to be so actively involved with her, something which seldom happened anymore, as she was growing up so very fast.

Dinner that night included Shepherd’s Pie, one of June’s specialities, which included four kinds of vegetables including kale, which Allie carefully picked out of her porton. Jane added hominy as well which Millie remembered with fondness and which Allie knew nothing about. Chester declared it was the finest Shepherd’s Pie he had ever eaten, laughing a heinous smear of a laugh which caused June to look up at him questioningly, and he suggested he was just keeping in role as the play’s villain. He added that he thought June was a particularly comely looking wench that night and she had better be careful to stay away from the cellar and from the windows as well. He left the room and when he returned he was sporting a black painted-on moustache that curled up on each end.

Jane smiled coyly at her husband, the cad, and told him she was not afraid, as she could take care of herself, being the epitome of the modern woman, ever so liberated. Allie piped up with the observation that the police were baffled and were concerned with the small red stain on the basement floor near the dryer, adding a new touch. Her mother corrected her, saying she must have meant the washing machine, and her daughter smiled a” thank you mother,” even though she usually hated being corrected. “I reckon you are right.” Jane had a sudden worry that her new red blouse might have leaked color and then realized Allie was talking within the play. She smiled at how easily one could become engrossed in fantasy. Allie saw her mother’s smile and ran over and hugged her. She loved the way the play was going.

Grandmother Millie decided it was her time to enter the conversation and further the plot with a true family happening. She reminded the family that this mysterious situation was reminiscent of last winter when their pet rabbit, Sideshow, was found frozen stiff in his cage on the kitchen deck, the cage covered with snow. Two Days later Sideshow was missing and no one admitted knowing anything. She glanced at Chester who gave them all a Cheshire Cat grin. All agreed they could see the comparisons, although Jane pointed out that Sideshow was dead while wearing his fur coat, while the mysterious handsome boy wore no shirt. She added that no one knew if he was dead. It was curiouser and curiouser, she said, with an unusual and exaggerated chuckle, and all agreed, thankful that June was letting herself be drawn into the action. Sometimes she found it difficult being playful. The play had progressed quite well, and everyone wondered what would come next, even June. They decided to sleep on it.

The next morning at breakfast, Chester said he was thoroughly enjoying being in the mystery and wondered if it was still being played out. “Of course it is,” Allie declared, adding that she saw that her dad had gotten rid of his mustache. He declared he had awoken to find it mysteriously gone. Allie smiled as she sent the play on another path entirely, one she came up with early that morning while lying in bed. She asked her father and her grandmother if they had been keeping something from her all her life “Do I have an older brother? If so, why does he stay down in the basement all the time, or is there something terribly wrong with him, like he eats frozen pet rabbits, for instance?” She asked this in all sincerity, and she realized she was becoming quite the actress by the perplexed looks on the adult’s faces with her unexpected question. She could see each adult searching their minds for a clever response.

June thought that was quite a stretch but guesed out loud that Allie might be onto something in adding a new and convoluted twist to the plot. She said that she would probably know if she had given birth to a boy at one time. Allie spoke the next words while looking away from her mother, asking if maybe her mother might have amnesia for that event, and to spare her any embarrassment or even worse, her father and grandmother might have raised the handsome boy themselves and kept him hidden away in the basement, forgetting that her grandmother did not live with them when the boy would have been born. June smiled at all these elaborate plot elements, admiring her daughter’s zany writing skills. Chester declared the curtain to come down on Act II, setting up anticipation for the final dynamic act, the finale, the apex, the peak, the climax, the end. He had run out of nouns, so he bowed deeply and backed out of the room, almost hitting the door frame.

Act III did not occur until July fourth when the family was joined by Chester’s brother, Rubyguard, his wife, Doris, along with their dogs who responded to, “Mutt Face’’ and, “Yes You.” Allie’s uncle and aunt slept in the rather nondescript and not-very-moldy guest bedroom in the basement along with their dogs who did not-really-smell-all-that-badly. Chester and Rubyguard had been competitive all their lives, each trying to out-joke and out-prank the other, with Rubyguard being considerably ahead in competition points. Chester waited until everyone was well situated for the night, telling June he was going to read in his Lazy Boy until he was sleepy and then come up later. He promised not to wake her. She had been on edge having the two large dogs in the house which brought back an archaic fear dating back to when she had a scary encounter with a black and white puppy who bounded up upon her lap, licking vigorously her frightened three-year-old-face. Phobias are made of such occurrences.

Chester had bought a small box of Fourth of July fireworks in a stand outside the city, guaranteed by the seller to explode with maximum noise. He placed four of them solidly into the ground outside the window of the basement guest room and lit them, then ran back into the house to enjoy the basement mayhem and his well-deserved victory over his big brother who he had always believed everyone liked more.

The explosions woke everyone with a start, and the fearful dogs barked deeply and fearfully, on and on, and Rubyguard and his wife fell out of the thirty-year-old bed onto the cold concrete floor, then found themselves crawling around in the dark until Dorris lit up her cell phone which seemed attached to her hip, and they made for the stairs.

The frazzled and still upset visitors decided to spend the rest of the night at a nearby motel which the delighted Chester called. They left the demoralized dogs behind. Chester had to clean the concrete floor of the evidence of the dog’s terror before they could be let back in to sleep out the night. Their loud howls and whimpers stopped after an hour and they fell into exhausted sleeps. Breakfast the next morning was surprisingly jovial with Rubyguard admitting that his younger brother had put one over on him. Doris was not amused and the couple and their dogs made an early exit.

That night the adults were somber at dinner until Allie reminded them that they had never enjoyed being with her uncle and aunt who had let her know on several occasions they did not like children who they considered to be more difficult to train than their dogs. Allie suggested they act out the next part of the play, saying that her aunt and uncle could be considered visiting actors in the first scene of Act III. The adults all agreed only in order to be done with the whole play thing. Actually each was anxious to see what the climax of the play would bring. Acting out their improvised roles turned out to delight them all. Chester thought his villainous behavior last night stole the show.

Chester took charge, as he thought he was expected to do, although his ideas seemed lame to each of the female minds. He did, however, further the plot along quite nicely. Chester declared that Rubyguard and Dorris were not who they had seemed, that his real brother and sister-in-law had been kidnapped and replaced by North Korean spies sent to rescue the shirtless boy imprisoned in the basement. Everyone went along with the silly plot which Chester had seen in several superhero movies during the past two years alone. As they got into the action, everyone put on their acting faces and the improvisations were later considered to be awesomely over-the-top. Mildred Millicent, the Dutchess of South France. declared that she feared the spies had upset the house’s tranquility. Her daughter, Jane the Delight, asked her mother the duchess, whatever was she implying? Sir Chester diverted such probing talk by stating that he and his exalted daughter, Allie-pie the Perfecto, would search the basement for clues, and they exited stage right. In their absence, the duchess and her daughter did the dinner dishes and awaited further developments from the mysterious basement.

They heard a sudden racket as Sir Chester and Allie-pie the Perfecto bounded up the stairs and into the kitchen from stage right, and broke out in song, singing “YMCA,” a family favorite, soon to be joined by the two waiting women, with June asking aloud how this song would help the upcoming climax. It turned out to be a clever diversion of misdirection. Sir Chester explained that they found a cell phone behind the washing machine which they charged. It belonged to Romeo, their long hidden son, who had left to seek his fortune and to get away from the moldy dungeon. Thus he had not been kidnapped at all. He said not to follow him for he needed to take care of business himself. Actually he no longer trusted the adults, his father declared, remembering his own adolescence. Sir Chester added that he felt sorry to have treated his son so poorly, but after all, he was indeed a cad and a villain! He added he didn’t know whether to cry or smirk, so he faked a loud laugh and sniffed and let out an unfortunate fart.

Everyone could see that the plot was thickening. Romeo’s short phone video thanked them for the good food and the internet access over the years and thanked his mother for giving him life that time she had gone to the hospital complaining of abdominal pain and had, as she had been told, an appendectomy. She had been seen by her husband and mother as being too fragile to raise a male child, who everyone knew grew up and left their mothers, never to call or visit, stomping on their mother’s heart at every turn. Sir Chester knew his wife could not tolerate this. She was a child-like and fragile woman herself, prone to the vapors, who believed she was Lady Jane the Delight whose mother was a duchess in their home in the south of France. It was a clear case of psychotic delusion; he had recognized it from an episode of “The Good Doctor.” It was clear father and daughter had collaborated on the plot expansions and the dialogue including the ending which was explained as follows.

Gradually over the years the man’s wife recovered her wits and her sanity and gave up the vapors. She no longer believed she was married to Sir Chester but instead to a man named Dagwood Bumstead, a name familiar to all but unknown personally to any of them. People don’t read the papers like they used to.

The entire cast agreed the farce was pretty funny and was at its end. Father and daughter thought their combined creative minds led to a delightful and unexpected climax. They agreed on a new title for the play: “The Mystery of the Shirtless Boy and the Smelly Dogs.” Chester was secretly disappointed the title didn’t acknowledge his victory over Rubyguard, making him the hero of the whole shebang in his mind. Once the family realized the play had ended, they all broke out in loud clapping, with Chester whistling loudly and with Allie taking a bow, her face radiant with delight, her cheeks red with a self congratulatory glow.

Allie later tried to write down the little play but found she could not at all emulate the wacky conversation, the implausible plots and the improvised ending. Years later she was to look back on these few weeks with nostalgia and also with regret because what was likely an original comedic gem, so ready for a television rendering, had been lost. She would think it was her last opportunity for her life to have taken a different direction. Even with more life experiences, Allie was to remain melodramatic and seldom could she be accused of being a realist. No one would be surprised if as her profession she chose to write soap operas.

Many times that year, young Allie, now twelve, continued the play in her mind, suggesting this or that scenario to herself, all of which she considered to be witty and daffy. These play extensions seemed to the girl to be worthy of being written down, so she started a diary filled mainly with her story ideas. Several years later the diary was accidentally thrown out during an extensive and overdue spring cleaning. The story ideas were however to remain engraved in the girl’s mind, to be revived many years later.

Allie’s favorite genre continued to be the wacky comedy or the farce. Her favored followup to the mystery of the shirtless boy was elaborate and ironic, ending with her Grandmother Millie’s misadventure and went as follows:

“The family eventually heard from the shirtless boy, her brother, Romeo, who had become a tap dancing cast member at Dollywood and who would eventually go on to invent a new insect repellant that when sprayed on skin, covered it with a metallic-shield which was invisible to people but visible to insects, blinding them instantly. It was a godsend to shirtless people throughout the world. It allowed the genteel white citizens of Savannah to safely go out of doors. It was available in large-sized gallon cans to be sprayed onto farm animals and zoo animals, and in some areas it was sprayed down from airplanes onto livestock and wild critters alike. The only negative effect was that over the years to come, the world insect population would take a precipitous dive with disastrous consequences for all other species.

“The shirtless boy took as his professional name, Larry Moe Schepp Einstein. He was awarded two Nobel Prizes, one in chemistry and one in environmental science. In his acceptance speech, Larry Moe thanked his mother for ejecting him from her womb, his father for planting him into his mother’s womb and for taking care of him when he was living in the moldy depths, and his sister for believing that even the shirtless of society have their place. It was a testament to her liberalism; she wished to see it expanded to others in society. Unfortunately she learned that never happened in real life.

“Years later the devastating ecological disaster was to be termed the Larrymoeschepp Effect and in his declining years, Romeo had to return his Nobel Prizes.

“Allie’s favorite ending had her grandmother declare that she had had enough of the blithering northern nonsense with its cold winters and silly little plays which she found taxing and distasteful at her age as well as having been poorly written, though with a zany postmodern attitude. She had to admit they had been well-acted. She impulsively rented a two-hundred-year-old rundown house in the south of France which she christened, “New Bloody Savannah,” and off she went on her second foray into exile. Her grandmother moved back six months later, after New Bloody Savannah collapsed around her. She declared herself as having been bored to tears, longing for the familiar familial chaos that was her family. She thought next summer maybe they could write another play.”

Looking ahead to how things might evolve for Allie in the future, it would be many years later, after marrying and leaving the television soap, and having had two children, considering them to be sufficiently grown for her to seek another role beyond that of mother, Allie might well return to her first love and try her hand at writing comedic or farcical stories. She might well be undecided whether they were good enough to show others. She would wish her grandmother was still around to advise her, but then she would realize her Grandmother Millie would say the stories were blimey good and should be read around the world. Allie would then take the chance and send to a literary magazine what she considered her best story: a farce about a family whose life was very much like a familial reality show, based she would later realize, upon her own family. The family decided as a lark to write and act out an improvised short play of the absurd. They would of course name the play, “The Mystery of The Shirtless Boy and the Smelly Dogs.”

After writing the story, it is highly conceivable that Allie was convinced she had written the essence of her own family experiences, and that she was able to reconstruct what they had improvised. She would go back and change the names of all the characters to those of her own family, although she thought she should not give the actual names of her uncle and aunt, whose real names were Uncle Kunkle and Aunt Moana. She did not change the dog’s names. As her grandmother would have said, they were bloody perfect!

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