Words, words, and more words!

I’ve been writing like a house afire since the beginning of the year! Just not on my blog. Having only so many hours in the day I find I must choose where my words go, and lately that’s been to my novel. I’m 65,000 words in. The end is in sight! Of course when the last word is written – it’s not really over. Then the revising and editing process will begin.

I feel a confidence in my current project I didn’t feel in my last novel, Sisters. Sisters had beautiful moments, and was an unbelievable learning experience. But this novel is different. I’m different. Hopefully my skill level has grown. I also feel a greater sense of purpose and vision with this book.

My goal for this novel is to use the characters to challenge the church’s status quo and stretch our desire for compassion. It has been a transformational, painful, and invigorating process.

Many days I’ve spent six or more hours writing. I write while the kids are in school. I take notes of ideas in my phone when I’m out. I dream about my characters, literally. I chat with them in the shower. I have no doubt I’ve often sat with a glazed expression at the table as I picture a scene and test out dialogue in my head. My poor family, they’re becoming used to such quirks and neglect!

In the past I found it difficult to ignore dirty dishes in the sink, piled up laundry, and floors needing vacuuming. Writing now seems to trump all else. I don’t seem to notice the mess until I resurface!

I have piles of books stacked around my favorite chair. Not pictured is the pile of writing books on the floor. And for three days I’ve had piles of laundry stacked around the living room. To me this is a good sign! It means I’ve taken my passion and commitment to writing to a new level. Which is what it’s going to take to land a book deal and become an honest to goodness author. So far I’ve been dabbling. It’s time to role up my sleeves and get this done!

The message of this book motivates me to keep going, it’s a tribute to every wounded, rejected, lonely person I’ve known, just looking for a place to belong. (Which includes me.) We are good at building walls, even, and maybe especially, in the church, but that is not in keeping with a Savior who walked among the broken, touching the desperate.

It’s my desire that this book honors God’s heart, and builds a bridge. If you think of it in the days ahead I would love a prayer for blessing and favor!

Dixie Lee ~ Part 9

I’m glad you’re back as we forge ahead in Dixie’s story. This week was challenging, on a personal and writing level. I trust I was able to convey the right emotions in this week’s piece.

I hope you’ll continue joining me on Fridays as we dive into Dixie’s world. It’s my goal to post a section every week until the story is finished. I hope in the end these posts will turn into a full-fledged book. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence or scene doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

And if you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend, or on your Facebook or twitter feed!

(If you need to catch up with the story you can start here.)

Dixie Lee

The house was quiet when Dixie walked back in later that afternoon. She expected her mom to be ready and waiting to face her down, but she wasn’t. Her brother and dad were in the den. Daniel called to her as she headed to the stairs.

Standing as she walked into the room he met Dixie head on.The siblings faced off, green eyes flashing.

“Dixie, what are you thinking, girl?” Hands on his hips her older brother looked like a smaller version of their dad.

She instantly bristled. “What are you talking about?” Her delicate chin jutted forward, lips drawn in a firm line. She loved her big brother but she wasn’t about to be parented by him.

“You know what I’m talking about. Why did you bring that, that queer to our house. You are a respectable young lady. Think of mama and daddy. Think of your reputation.”

“Kenny is my friend. If mother and daddy have a problem with him coming over they can speak to me about it, this isn’t your house.” The conversation was childish and she knew it. She turned to face her father who had his hands folded in his lap, one leg crossed over the other, his caramel colored head resting against the high back of his chair. His eyes were solemn, brow furrowed slightly.

“Dixie, what are you trying to accomplish, honey, by bringing that young man here? I understand your tender heart, but you’ve upset the whole family.”

“Are you upset daddy?” Dixie asked boldly.

“Not upset, myself, no. But your mother and Daniel certainly are.”

“But why,” turning back to her brother, “why be upset by someone coming to church and dinner? Just because he’s a stranger, a little different? It’s not like we haven’t ever seen a sinner before is it? That’s kind of the point of church from my understanding.” She shot the words out like she was firing a cannon aimed at their hearts.

“Dixie you don’t know what you’re getting in to.” Her brother annoyed her with his overprotective tone.

“No, I don’t think you do. I’m not backing down.” Her chin jutted more firmly. “Kenny cared about what you all thought of him. Daddy,” she turned her eyes back on the man she adored, “he respects you. You could influence him in a really positive way. He doesn’t have a dad.” She could see the lines around his green eyes soften thoughtfully. She had struck a nerve. He loved encouraging people.

“Honey, truly, your compassion is commendable.” He came to stand beside her and rest a gentle hand on her shoulder. “But you may be asking too much of people all at once. They aren’t used to seeing a young man like Kenny in church.”

“More’s the pity, daddy. They should be seeing people like Kenny sitting beside them. Mr. McAllister didn’t seem to have a problem with him.”

“Joe? No, I wouldn’t expect he did.”

“Why? Why would he not have a problem with Kenny?” Her heart quickened. Maybe this would be the answer.

“Dixie, you should go ask him that question yourself,” he answered softly.

Daniel sighed. “Dad are you not going to tell her to stay away from that boy? What will people think if she hangs around him?”

Her eyes flashed fire and she spit out, “Do I look like I care what people think, Daniel Lee?”

Her dad pulled her to him and hugged her tight, “calm down darlin’ no need to bite your brother’s head of.” Looking up to Daniel he said, “Our family is going to have to agree to disagree, there is no need to fight each other in this matter. We need to find a way to get along not tear each other up.” And then to Dixie, “You need to respect the feelings of your mother and brother in this matter Dixie. Tread softly. I know you care about what happens to this young man, but you need to care about the feelings of your family as well.”

He had a point, Dixie conceded. Of course she wouldn’t admit that. She was too mad. She felt like a runaway freight train on a collision course. There was no stopping, no turning back.

Daniel looked at her with a mixture of hurt and aggravation. “I’m going to see how Muriel’s doing with the baby. We need to get going.” Dixie watched as he stalked from the room.

Her father pulled her away and held her at arms length. “Dixie, go talk to Mr. McAllister this week. Joe has a kind heart and wisdom that may help you. Maybe he could invest in Kenny. And cut everyone else some slack. Your brother is just worried about you. He cares for you, regardless of what you may think.”

“So, you’re not telling me never to see Kenny again? That he can’t come to church?”

“I don’t think I could bring myself to say anyone is unwelcome at church. And I know you too well to forbid you from seeing Kenny. Besides, you’re an adult. I have to trust that your mother and I raised you right and that you’ll act on that training. I hope you’ll be cautious and think through your interaction with him. And I’d be glad to see you involve someone like Joe McAllister in befriending him.”

“What about you, daddy? Kenny really likes you. Why can’t you invest in him?”

“Dixie, I’m not sure you understand the implications for our church. There will be men on the board questioning me as it is. They will question my position on homosexuality for sure. If I spend time with Kenny they might think I condone his behavior.”

“Dad, that’s ridiculous! If you spend time encouraging a person going through a divorce or an alcoholic they wouldn’t think you condone those actions. Just that you care about people. What is it about homosexuality that freaks people out? He’s just a person. Don’t you see a person when you look at him?”

“A person with finger nail polish and eye liner,” he chuckled softly. “Dixie, you are the most head strong person I know. Can you not see how far outside of their comfort zone you’re asking people to go?”

“I guess so.” She tossed her head. “I just don’t see why we wouldn’t want to for another person’s well being. He has a heart, daddy, and it hurts. Why wouldn’t we want to meet him there? Did Jesus not meet every one of us in our most unpleasant places? Sometimes I look at our pretty, dressed up church and wonder if we’ve forgotten what we were.”

Her dad looked at her with a strange look. He didn’t say anything for a moment. Then he pulled her into a tight hug. “You’re somethin’ girl, you’re somthin’. Now go on and settle down. Think about something else for a while.”

She kissed his cheek and smiled. “Okay, daddy.”

On her way up the stairs she passed Daniel and Muriel coming down. She stroked her fuzzy headed little nephew and said goodbye to her brother.

Muriel put a gentle hand on her arm as they passed and smiled softly. “He’ll come around Dix. Be patient.”

She patted Muriel’s hand and smiled back. She wasn’t very good at being patient. Sighing she headed to her room. Pumpkin was waiting for her, stretched out luxuriously, as only a cat can, across her bed.

Dixie shut the door. Sitting beside Pumpkin she sighed again. Her furry friend stretched, showing her his cream colored belling, yawned and greeted her with a soft meow. “Hello, little muffin,” she cooed, scratching his belly. Stress melted like butter with Pumpkin around.

A soft tap broke the silence. Dixie involuntarily sighed. She had to stop doing that. “Come in.”

The door opened softly, just enough for her mother to be seen. “May I come in?”

Dixie nodded, unsure if she could keep the edge out of her voice.

Her mother came in and stood by her dresser. “Dixie, why do you insist on bringing that young man here against our wishes?” Her voice was soft and pleading.

Dixie remembered her father’s words; “you need to respect the feelings of your mother and brother.”

“I’m sorry mother, I just thought we could make a difference to him. He’s lonely and he seemed to like our family. He doesn’t have a family anymore. I won’t bring him back.”

“I hope you realize now what a mistake it was to give him a ride and befriend him.” Her mother seemed insistent in driving her point home.

Dixie flared. “No mother, I don’t. I didn’t say I was going to stop being his friend. I just said I wouldn’t bring him back here.”

“Dixie, dear,” her mother measured her words, “please consider what being friends with a person like that young man will mean to you in this community. Will mean to us. I think it will cost you more than you realize.”

“Mother,” Dixie felt weary, “can’t we just let this go. I know how you feel about it, and you know what I think. We’re not going to see eye to eye and I’m too tired to argue right now.”

“I’m worried about you Dixie, that’s all. I don’t think you’ve thought through this carefully. You’re impetuous and head strong.”

“And I don’t think you have taken time to see things from Kenny’s point of view. How would you feel if you had been abandoned by your family?”

“What do you expect his parents to do Dixie? Good, moral folks with a son, a son, like that.” She fairly spat the words.

Dixie looked at her shocked. “Mother! You’re not saying that you would do the same? You wouldn’t kick me out of the house if I said I was gay would you?”

She saw emotions she couldn’t read flicker across her mother’s eyes. Her mother said in low, resolved tones, “I certainly would.”

Dixie’s head spun. “Seriously? I don’t even know what to say to you. I can’t imagine being so cold. You must have a heart of ice, mother.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “Please leave me alone.”

She saw hurt wash over her mothers face. Why couldn’t they just get along? Why were they always at odds?

Her mother’s mouth moved as if she wanted to say something. Instead she slipped quietly out of the room and shut the door behind her.

Dixie curled up next to Pumpkin on the bed. Hot tears slipped down her cheeks.

Come back next week as Dixie visits with Mr. McAllister.

Whew, that was intense. I question sometimes what I was thinking beginning a story of this nature. But I hope this isn’t a story about homosexuality so much as it’s a story about people. People with hurts, convictions, fears, secrets, hopes, and flaws. Just like every human we know. These characters are shaped by people I’ve met. People who, by God’s purposes, have changed my heart. We must learn to live, as Jesus did, with the tension of personal holiness, love for others, and obedience to the Father. It’s possible, though hard.

Dixie Lee – Part 6

Well it’s been another crazy week. Late again getting Dixie’s story posted, but never-the-less here it is. It’s a much shorter entry. But I’m going to post what I have and pick it up again next week. If you need to catch up you can read the first part of Dixie Lee’s story here.

I try to post the continuing story of Dixie Lee every Friday. I’ll be writing her story, which I hope will turn into a full fledged book, every week until it’s finished. I could use your help in making the story better. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

If you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend!

Dixie Lee

A couple of peaceful days had passed since Sunday’s altercation. School was going well and Dixie felt at home among the staff and students. Teaching with Ms. Bushnell was a real pleasure. Dixie had found in the music teacher a kindred spirit.

On Wednesday the thick humidity broke and the air held a delicious hint of fall. The summer had grown old and tattered. The trees were just beginning to surrender their leaves. After school Dixie hopped in her old truck and headed out to the river. She wanted to call Kenny but didn’t want to risk being overheard at home. The fallout wasn’t something she felt like dealing with today. No doubt she would deal with it, but she would avoid it as long as possible.

Old man river called her, and the fresh air was a balm. She pulled up to the sprawling oak on the river bank where she and Kenny had last spoken. Settling herself between the tree’s roots she dialed the number Kenny had given her. Butterflies danced in her stomach.

One ring, two rings, “Hello,” Kenny’s voice twanged in her ear.

“Hi Kenny, it’s me Dixie. I was just calling to check on you to see if you were settling okay at your friends house.”

His voice sounded really pleased on the other end. “Thanks Dixie! Yes I am doing fine here. I still need to find a job but I like living here. Dad hasn’t bothered me at all.”

“Good Kenny, I’m glad to hear it.”

Awkward silence filled the air.

“Are you feeling better than the last time we spoke?” Dixie ventured.

Pause.

Softly Kenny responded. “Dixie, I’m still a gay kid who’s Daddy doesn’t want him and who’s Mamma is gone. Honestly, I’m a little depressed. I’m thankful my friend is letting me stay here but I’d rather have my family.”

“I know Kenny, I’m sorry.” Dixie took a deep breath and collected her thoughts for a moment. “Kenny, would you like to come to church with me on Sunday?” Then, before she lost all nerve, “and why don’t you come have lunch with our family after?”

“I’d like that Dixie. I enjoyed dinner at your house the other day. What time does church start?”

“It starts at 10:00. I’ll come pick you up by 9:45, okay?”

“That sounds good. Thank you for thinking of me Dixie. You didn’t have to.”

“I’m glad to Kenny. See ya’ Sunday.”

Dixie sat with the cool breeze on her face, her heart pounding and mind spinning. What had she just done?

“The right thing,” her heart answered.

It was the right thing. But in the process she had defied her mother, and she would pay for it. Why was her mother so unfeeling to this sad young man? How could she help her see he wasn’t a threat but just someone needing to be cared for? Dixie hoped her Dad would understand and support her decision.

Dixie sat by the river for a long while. Her untamed head rested on the enduring strength of the oak. The secrets of the river bubbled up in song and washed over her, through her. How many years had Old Man River sung his murky music? Mockingbirds scolded and copied in the branches overhead. A comical ground hog waddled along the bank. Her heart settled. Her mind stilled.

“God,” she whispered, “what do you think about all this?”

No lighting or voice answered. Just the ever moving river; always changing, always constant. That was life wasn’t it, changing and constant.

For better or worse Dixie would bring with her two very unique people on Sunday. She didn’t see how she could do otherwise. The religion of her youth was crumbling in the face of humanity’s very real need. Her heart insisted she choose compassion over expectation.

Perhaps she should have warned her parents. But instead Dixie slipped out early Sunday morning while her mother was in her bedroom and her dad had already left for church.

She headed for Gabriel’s house first. She had checked with his parents during the week to make sure it was okay to pick him up. They were pleased Dixie wanted to take him to church and spoke of a visit themselves in the future.

Dixie knocked on the dark green front door and waited. Lindsey, Gabriel’s petite mother opened the door. Her blue eyes, so like her son’s, smiled up at her. “Miss Dixie, come in. Gabriel is so excited to go with you this morning. Thank you for thinking of him.”

“It’s my pleasure. Gabriel is a special young man. As I’m sure you know!”

They walked together to the front room where Gabriel’s father, Joe, was helping him put on his jacket.

“Good morning Ms. Lee!” called the little boy cheerfully.

“Hey buddy! You ready?”

“Yes ma’am!”

Gabriel’s soft blonde hair was combed neatly. His little button up shirt matched his eyes. His parents helped him up and they started to the door. As his dad lifted and settled him into Dixie’s truck his mother spoke quietly to Dixie. “If the service isn’t long Gabriel shouldn’t need to use the restroom. But if he does he will need assistance if there is no handicap stall. I still take him to the ladies room if he needs help.” Her eyes held the worry of a mother reluctant to trust her son to new circumstances.

“No worries,” Dixie placed her hand on Lindsey’s shoulder. “We’ll be just fine.”

His mom had already gone over the basics with Dixie on the phone earlier that week. It wasn’t Gabriel Dixie was worried about.

By the time they had loaded Gabriel in it was later than Dixie would have liked. Gabriel waved to his parents as they pulled away. She headed down the road to pick up Kenny. By the time she swung in to the gravel drive it was past 9:50. It had taken longer to load up Gabriel than she expected.

Kenny was by the front door waiting for her. He waved and trotted briskly to the truck. He opened the door and paused as he saw Gabriel sitting in the front seat by Dixie.

“Kenny this is my friend Gabriel, he’s joining us this morning.”

Kenny stuck out his hand, which Gabriel shyly took, “Hey, it’s nice to meet you Gabriel.” Then he slid up on the seat and slammed the door.

Looking at Dixie Kenny observed, “We’re an interesting group aren’t we?”

She chuckled, “I suppose we are.”

Then turning to Gabriel Kenny asked, “How old are you Gabriel?”

“I’m eight.”

“So, how’d Dixie get you to go to church with her?”

“She asked me to go and I wanted to. She’s nice.” replied the little boy, smiling.

“She is nice buddy.”

Check back next week to see what happens when they get to church! What will people think?

What did you think about this week’s story? Was there anything you really liked, anything you didn’t like? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

Also, you can follow this blog, by clicking the button to the right that says follow, so you don’t miss any of Dixie’s story.

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}

Dixie Lee ~ Part 5

Whew what a week! I’m late getting the next part of Dixie’s story posted, but better late than never! If you need to catch up you can read the first part of Dixie Lee’s story here.

I try to post the continuing story of Dixie Lee every Friday. I’ll be writing her story, which I hope will turn into a full fledged book, every week until it’s finished. I could use your help in making the story better. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

If you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend!

Dixie Lee

Dixie retreated from Angela’s home as quickly as she could. Sliding behind the wheel of her truck she rested her head briefly on the steering wheel, blinking back hot tears and breathing past the lump in her throat.

Her perception of life, people, and church was unraveling. How many years had it been that she’d known Angela? In all that time she had never questioned what it felt like to walk in her shoes.

She heard a soft tap on her window and looked up. There stood Mrs. Murphy, compassion crinkled the edge of her eyes. Dixie rolled down the window. Mrs. Murphy reached her hand in and rested it on Dixie’s arm.

“Don’t you fret baby girl. Truly open minded people don’t have an agenda and I’ve met precious few of those in my life. It’s hard to be different from what you know. Just keep your mind and heart and ears open and you’ll be okay.”

An agenda? Did she have an agenda for Kenny? Did the church have an agenda to attract or repel certain people? She didn’t have the answers to those questions. But a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach told her she needed to ask them.

“Yes ma’am. Thank you.” Mrs. Murphy squeezed her arm, smiled and turned to go in.

Rolling up the window Dixie started the old truck. Heaving a sigh she backed from her friend’s driveway. Now she had more questions than she’d started with and she didn’t feel any better at all.

The thought flickered through her mind, “what must God think of these things?”

Truly she didn’t know. Not really.

She did not call Kenny or see him again that weekend. And yet he was the shadow that stalked her, never far from her mind. On Sunday she sat on the second pew to the left, beside her mother. She greeted the same smiling ladies, older gentlemen, freckled children she did every Sunday. On this day her eyes were different though, she felt as though she were looking through someone else’s. Everyone was so very… white, and clean, and well dressed. She had never noticed before how much alike they all were.

Where did everyone else go to church? Or did they?

She was quiet at lunch. Her mother chattered about the upcoming ladies tea, hosting Glenda Sue’s baby shower, and a variety of other niceties. Her father nodded and responded when appropriate. Dixie’s brother Daniel and his wife Muriel were polite and attentive. But Dixie was distracted, lost in her own musings as the conversation swirled around her.

“You aren’t still stewing about that boy are you Dixie?” Dixie’s eyes snapped to her mother’s face, she hadn’t realized she was being spoken to.

“We won’t speak any more of the incident. There is no need to fret about it dear,” her mother reassured.

“What boy?” her bother asked curiously, looking between them.

Oh, great, Dixie thought to herself. That’s just what she needed, a family discussion at the dinner table about her ‘indiscretion’. Daniel was the golden boy. Four years older, a young lawyer with a new baby and lovely wife, he was heady on the good things of life. Despite his glowing reputation and paternal attitude he and Dixie had a pleasant relationship. Lately though he was beginning to annoy her with his self assured, successful posture.

“Dixie brought home a hitch-hiker to dinner the other night. A young gay man, of all things.”

“Seriously, Dixie?” She could hear the surprise and derision in Daniel’s tone.

Her father cleared his throat. “I’m not sure it was as sordid as all that,” he interjected. “I understand Dixie thought she was approaching a young woman on the road when she stopped and found herself caught up in an unusual situation. It was just kindness she was trying to show.”

Dixie’s eyes met her dad’s and softened, a knowing, warm look passed between them.

Her mom refused to let go. “Perhaps so Richard but I hardly think it was necessary to bring him home to dinner. And ever since you’ve been quite sullen, Dixie. I hope you aren’t fretting over the matter, that’s all dear.”

“Actually, mother I wasn’t thinking about Kenny just now. I was thinking about other things. At the moment I was wondering why no black people attend our church.” She shot back acidly.

The room fell silent. Sweet Muriel cleared her throat, “I need to check on baby Jackson.”

Her dark hair swung across her face as she bent to get up from the table. As her slim figure disappeared from the dinning room Dixie felt guilty. She could imagine how uncomfortable Muriel must feel.

“What on earth…” her mother began, but her father stopped her quickly.

“I think that’s quite enough Sharon. Let’s save this conversation for another time.”

“No, I think…” her mother began again but this time Dixie put an end to the conversation.

“I’ve lost my appetite,” she said standing. “Excuse me I’m really finished with this conversation.” Dixie stalked from the room. Her red hair flashing a warning sign to anyone who might attempt to follow.

Upstairs she sank wearily to her bed. Sighing she slipped off her heals and stretched out her legs. Tomorrow was the beginning of a fresh week. She was looking forward to getting back to school and working with the students. It would be a good distraction from the rising tension at home.

The next afternoon found Dixie perched on the edge of a picnic table under a sprawling oak, observing the antics of a couple dozen 3rd graders during recess. Beside her, balanced on the bench, sat Gabriel. His hands rested on the tops of his crutches. Wide, blue eyes took in the movements of his peers. Dixie was keeping him company as he rested from the exertion of trying to keep up. Tentatively Dixie cast him a sidelong glance. His face was intent on the fun his classmates were having. His soft mouth curved slightly with pleasure in his small, pale face.

“What are you thinking Gabriel?” Dixie heard herself ask.

He turned expressive eyes on her and blinked solemnly for a moment. “I was thinking I’m glad to see other people who are healthy. It makes me happy seeing kids enjoying running around in the sun.”

Dixie blinked in surprise. “You are? It doesn’t make you feel bitter to see other kids enjoying something you can’t?”

The little boy turned back for a moment and watched the motion and color of bodies speeding by. “No. Why should I resent something someone else is enjoying? If everyone else had a disability it wouldn’t make me feel better and I would miss out on watching their fun.”

“Well I must say, Gabriel, that’s a pretty mature attitude. A lot of adults could do with a dose of your wisdom. Where do thoughts like that come from?”

“My parents started teaching me when I was very young that God has a purpose for my life and if I fought him because I thought my circumstances were unfair I might miss it. I wouldn’t want to miss something as important as that.”

Tears stung the back of Dixie’s eyes. Gabriel wasn’t her son but her heart burst with pride for the little fellow, she couldn’t imagine how proud his mother must be of him.

“Where does your family go to church, Gabriel?”

“We don’t go very often, mostly just at Christmas when my grandparents visit,” he answered.

“Oh, I’m surprised, I would have thought with that kind of faith you would attend church.,” responded Dixie lamely.

“Well,” said Gabriel thoughtfully, “I’d like to. And I think my mom and dad would as well. But it’s challenging for me to get around at most churches and I know by the end of the week my parents are already tired. They’ve had to bring me to school all week and take care of my little sister and brother too. I remember one Sunday school I went to when I was six told my mom it would be best if I stayed with her in big church because they didn’t have enough space and helpers for me. I remember that upset my mom so much she didn’t want to go back to church for a long time.” His voice trailed off and his eyes wandered back to the children playing.

“Oh, Gabriel, I’m sorry. That must have been very disappointing.” What could she say to such an injustice? They sat quietly and reflectively, watching the antics before them. Suddenly Laura Parson’s yelled as she tripped and fell, hitting her head. Dixie jumped up and ran to check on the little girl. After a bit of inspection and consoling it was determined she would live. Just as quickly as she was down she was up again and back in the fray.

Dixie ambled back to her spot beside Gabriel. She smiled and sat beside him again. She liked his easy companionship and sincerity.

“Miss Lee,” he turned his solemn eyes on her, “you shouldn’t feel too bad that my family doesn’t go to church. We worship Jesus every Sunday at home. I think he understands.” His blonde hair ruffled in the cool breeze. The green and gold jacket fit at angles on his frame. She studied him for minute thinking.

“Gabriel, I think he most certainly understands your heart. But I’m afraid he may not understand the churches’. When Jesus commanded his disciples in the book of Matthew to let the little children come to him I’m pretty sure he meant all children.” She paused. “Will you come to church with me this Sunday Gabriel. I would be happy to pick you up and bring you. Your parents are welcome as well, of course. But either way I’d like to come get you and take you with me as my friend.”

His china eyes twinkled, spilling sunlight. “Miss Lee, it would be my pleasure.” He drawled with a smile.

Dixie threw back her head and laughed. Ruffling his hair she smiled, “well I look forward to it. I’ll pick you up at 9:30. Now let’s get these hooligans rounded up and back into class.”

Come back next week to see if Gabriel makes it to church with Dixie and if Dixie gets up the courage to see Kenny again!

What did you think about this week’s story? Was there anything you really liked, anything you didn’t like? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

Also, you can follow this blog, by clicking the button to the right that says follow, so you don’t miss any of Dixie’s story.

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}

Words

Some words should be shouted. Some are best whispered. At times it’s best to be quiet. There are times as a writer when it’s best to take time to sort out which is which.

That’s where I find myself. I would suspect it’s not uncommon for writers to get to that place on occasion. I can’t say for sure and so have no formula or answer.

Of course there are some words that are always worth saying. Words about grace, and love, and hope.

For a time, perhaps just for this week but maybe longer, silence is wisdom. My dear Dixie friend will have to sleep in imagination until she is ready to be awakened. And perhaps, because of the sleeping, she will be a little more vivid.

Dixie Lee ~ Part 3

Let’s get back to Dixie’s story! If you’ve been reading each week, I’m glad you’re still with me. If you’re just joining us you can catch up by reading part one of Dixie’s story here, and part two here.

I hope you’ll join me every Friday for the continuing story of Dixie Lee. I’ll be posting a section every week until the story is finished. I hope in the end the posts will turn into a full fledged book. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

And if you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend!

Dixie Lee

A week had passed since Dixie’s first day at the Academy. She had come home to a beautiful bouquet of daisies from sweet Sadie. The rest of the week was a blur as she acclimated to moments full of energetic children, learning the ropes of teaching, and getting used to a new routine.

Now she was bouncing along a country road in her blue pick up headed to her favorite spot on the river. School was over and there were a few hours of sunlight left to squeeze some enjoyment out of. The breeze pouring in the open windows tossed her hair playfully. Belting out the words to a favorite country tune she was enjoying the freedom of a few moments to herself.

Of course she could go home to relax but conversations with her mother had been tense lately. As usual, she didn’t know why. Besides, the weather was luxurious and the sunshine seemed to call her to the river. After tossing her guitar in the back of her truck she had headed out.

As she rounded a corner of the dusty road, it curved to a place where the river wrapped itself lazily along the bank beside her. The sunlight dappled it’s surface and winked through the trunks of the trees. Hair blowing, fingers drumming, music blaring the details of life seemed to slip from her shoulders.

Suddenly her attention was caught by a tall, slim figure up ahead. Dixie strained her eyes against the glare of the afternoon. Dressed in jeans and a red and white stripped t-shirt the young woman was walking along the right shoulder.

It wasn’t Dixie’s habit to give strangers a lift but in this somewhat isolated area it was rather warm to be walking very far. Where could she be headed, there wasn’t much out here along the river? Mostly just a few spread out houses and some cotton fields scattered along the back roads.

In just a few seconds she had made up her mind to offer a ride. Surely there wasn’t much of a risk.

The figure grew closer. Dixie pulled along side, slowing to a stop. Looking through the passenger window their eyes met. Her heart skipped a beat. What she had assumed was a young woman, in actuality, was a young man.

Quickly, Dixie regained her composure. “Hey, ya’ want a ride?”

A tentative smile lightened the young man’s sensitive face. “Sure, I’d be happy for a lift.”

“Well, hop on in. Where ya’ headed?”

Opening the creaky passenger side door, he swung a small satchel up on the seat and slid in. Dixie took in his appearance quickly as he got settled. Tall and almost willowy it was understandable she had mistaken him for a young woman. His features were delicate, the cleft in his chin and turned up nose almost pretty. His perfectly shaped eyebrows framed beautiful blue eyes. Was that eyeliner he was wearing?

Her mind was spinning to keep up with the discordant information it was gathering.

“I’m heading to County Rd. 12, if ya’ don’t mind taking me that far.”

“Seriously? It would have taken you a few hours to walk all the way over there.”

“I know, but I don’t have a car and I need to get to a friend’s house.”

What was it in his tone that disarmed her? Sorrow? Despair? Casting a sidelong glance she noticed his hands tremble as he fiddled with his bag, his brows knit together.

“I’m glad I happened along then,” she replied cheerily.

“Me too, it’s too hot to be walking that far.”

“My name’s Dixie, what’s yours?”

“I’m Kenny McNab.”

“It’s nice to meet you Kenny.”

He seemed to relax just a bit.

“Thanks, I’m real glad to meet you. Thanks for giving me a ride. I was getting discouraged walking along thinking about my problems. I’m glad you stopped.”

“Well, I’m happy to help.” Should she probe any deeper?

But there was no need. “My dad kicked me out of the house. I’m hopping I can stay with my friend, Robbie. I don’t think his parents will care.”

“Do you think you and your dad can work things out, Kenny?” Dixie fished around for something useful to say, but came up short.

“Naw. He’s a drunk and I’m tired a gettin’ my tail whooped. I guess it’s time to realize he just doesn’t like me.”

Dixie shifted uncomfortably, casting the young man a sidelong glance. “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry things are so bad between you. But I’m sure he likes you, every parent loves their kids. Maybe he’s just, just in a bad place himself, you know.”

Kenny shook his head slowly, eyes down, hands resting in his lap almost in resolution. “No, he don’t like me. He said so, said he don’t want no gay son.”

Dixie’s heart squeezed and she felt tears sting her eyes as his words gouged her emotions. She was way outside her comfort zone on this one. What had she gotten herself into? She wasn’t prepared for this conversation. This was the Mississippi Delta, deep in Baptist land, for goodness sake. She had never knowingly had a conversation with a gay person before.

Softly, as her mind spun and insides churned, the word “listen” swept over her.

Up ahead was a convenient dirt patch on the left hand side of the road near the river. Slowing down she pulled over and eased her truck to a stop. Turning to Kenny she said, “Let’s get out and sit by the river and you can tell me your story. It seems you need to talk and I need to listen.”

Kenny climbed out of the truck and followed Dixie to the rivers edge. The water sang and soothed. Dixie wished it’s ancient melody held an answer.

As they moved under the arms of a giant spreading oak Dixie frantically searched through her mind. What had she grown up hearing church men say about homosexuality? Mostly it had been hushed whispers of condemnation and disdain. Occasionally a strong sermon on the ills of our country and sin of sexual perversion. Surely her youth pastor had taught about it in his many lessons on purity. College friends were just crass.

All that surfaced in her mind were angry, harsh words. Gay people were twisted, fallen, sinful; weren’t they? That’s all she could remember hearing. How could she be so unprepared? Homosexuality wasn’t a topic of regular conversation in her household or among her friends. Not beyond the snide comments or stiff theorizing. In concept she had a position on the issue, but confronted with flesh and blood it all seemed academic.

She looked at the young man beside her. He was certainly different. But he was human. Why is it we always seek to turn people who are different into something less than human? The thought flitted through her mind, begging further thought.

She knew what the Bible said about the practice of homosexuality, and she believed it. But what did the Bible say about homosexuals. What she knew about a lifestyle and what she saw in this person left her feeling incomplete.

Usually unflappable and armed with an opinion, Dixie felt out of her element. Contrary to her nature she decided to listen.

They settled themselves awkwardly on the sandy bank under the shelter of the gnarled oak. A stranger pair could hardly be found.

Compassion nudged Dixie forward. “So what happened last night to make your father so mad, Kenny?”

Leaning his back against the oak tree, arms wrapped around his bent knees, the young man looked up into the canopy overhead. Sunlight dappled his face. A tear slipped from the corner of one eye.

Coming back to reality he shrugged. “I’m different. He can’t stand that I’m different. My mom left us when I was little. I hardly remember her. Sometimes my aunt would take me to church but Daddy never went much.” A deep sigh filled his lungs and he kept going. “He says it’s unnatural. Being gay. It goes against God and it’s wrong.” Turning to face Dixie with anguish in his eyes Kenny continued, “I don’t know if it’s wrong or not but it’s how I am. I’m tired of feeling lonely, and bad.”

“God loves you Kenny, whether he approves of you being gay I think is between you and him, but I’m certain he loves you.”

His eyes flashed to her face. “I know God loves me. I’m not worried about him loving me.”

The unspoken accusation hung in the air. It wasn’t God’s love in question, it was everyone else’s.

What had been intended as a relaxing country drive had taken a detour. Her heart was in upheaval. For a while Kenny just talked. Talked about the isolation of being different in High School, talked about the ache of being abandoned by a mom he’d never known, talked about disappointing his dad. The words rolled out joining the music of the river, getting lost in the waves.

“What will you do now?”

Again a deep sigh, as if every pain could be expelled with a breath. “I guess stay with Robbie until I get a job and can rent my own place.”

Spurred on by the moment, Dixie blurted, “Why don’t you come home and have dinner with my family. Maybe my dad knows of a job in town. I can drop you at your friend’s after we eat.”

“I’d like that. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, and I’m getting hungry.”

They climbed back into the pick up, Dixie turned around, and together they headed in the direction they’d come from.

Banging through the screen door Dixie called out, “anybody home?”

“In here,” called her mother from the dinning room. Sharon Lee emerged, carrying a stack of linens she must have been in the process of putting away. In a split second Dixie took in her mother’s perfectly styled short, sandy hair, matching diamond earrings and necklace, manicured nails, and neatly pressed slacks. Her mother’s slender eyebrow arched as she, in turn, took in the young man standing in her kitchen.

“Mother,” Dixie cleared her throat, “this is Kenny. He’s had a rough night. I brought him home for dinner, I hope you don’t mind.”

For a moment Dixie had a pang of guilt, her mother’s inscrutable face disguised her thoughts well, but Dixie knew the wheels of her mind must be spinning, just as her own had been a short while earlier. She should have given her parents a warning. In that brief moment, her mother grabbed tightly to composure and evenly said, “Of course dear, your friends are always welcome.”

Turning to Kenny, she put her impeccable manners to good use. Offering her hand she said, “Kenny, I’m Sharon Lee, it’s so very nice to meet you. Can I get you a drink? Some lemonade? Water?”

Kenny shook her offered hand self consciously, “Yes ma’am, I’d really like some water, and it’s nice to meet you too.”

Dixie cringed, not only was he gay, he was as country and backward as the day was long. That would be two strikes against him in her mother’s book.

Handing Kenny his glass of water Sharon suggested, “Kenny, why don’t you go sit in the other room for a bit while we get dinner together. There are some nice magazines on the coffee table in there. Dixie’s father will be home in a minute and I’ll send him in to sit with you.”

Obediently, Kenny, glass in hand, headed in the direction pointed out to him. Sharon whirled on her daughter, “Dixie Lee, who is that young man,” she hissed.

“Mother, I’m honestly not sure. I came across him out on Catfish Lane.” She lowered her voice, her face animated, “I swear, I thought he was a girl. It’s an isolated stretch and I stopped to offer what I thought was a young woman a ride. He was kicked out of his house by his dad last night and was trying to get to a friends house. He told me some of his story. Mother, I felt bad for him. So,” she finished helplessly, “I brought him home for dinner.”

Her mother closed her eyes, shook her head, and sighed, “Dixie, you’d bring home every stray you found if I let you.” After a moment she scrutinized her daughter, “Was he wearing nail polish?”

Dixie suppressed a chuckle, “and eyeliner. Mom, he’s gay.”

If it was possible, her mother’s upright posture straightened even more, “Gay?!” she whispered loudly. “Of course he is,” she said almost to herself, the pieces fitting into place. “Why in heaven’s name did you bring a gay man here, Dixie? What were you thinking? Did you not consider your father’s reputation in this community?”

Dixie jutted her jaw. “Daddy spends time with all kinds of people. He counsels couples getting divorced; he helps teens doing drugs. What does Daddy’s reputation have to do with anything? He has a reputation for helping people. I just felt bad for Kenny. I know it’s awkward,” she finished lamely. And then jabbed out one more sentence, “but if you had heard his story you would feel sorry for him too.”

“I don’t know Dixie. Gay? Did you really think bringing him home was a good idea? Why didn’t you just take him to his friend’s house?”

Dixie shrugged, “I don’t know mother, truly, I don’t know. I suppose I was curious. And like I said, I felt sorry for him.”

“Well, it can’t be helped now. After dinner take him to his friend’s, and then leave it alone. Don’t get involved Dixie. Your father will be home any minute. Help me get dinner on the table.”

Her father got home shortly after the chicken casserole, steamed broccoli, and Waldorf salad where set out on the immaculately laid kitchen table. A quick explanation, and he was sent in to meet Kenny and bring him to the kitchen for dinner.

The meal was tense. The mood Dixie had been caught up in down by the river had evaporated. Sitting in her family’s kitchen Kenny seemed out of place. Though her parent’s tried to make polite small talk, they had each one sunk into a somber mood. Dixie couldn’t help but wonder if she had made things worse by bringing Kenny home.

On the drive to Robbie’s house Dixie apologized. “Kenny, I’m sorry dinner was awkward. I hope we didn’t make you uncomfortable.”

Tears swimming in his eyes Kenny shook his head, “No. No, you didn’t make me feel bad at all. Your parents are real nice. It’s just, just,” he faltered looking for words, “it just seemed like a fairy tale. I wish I had parents and house that nice.”

Pain stabbed her heart again. How often had she taken those things for granted when other people longed to walk in her shoes. They rode the rest of the way in silence, lost in thoughts unknown to each other.

Several minutes later, as the golden day was fading orange, Dixie pulled up to a double wide trailer. Turning to shake Dixie’s hand Kenny smiled, “Thank you Dixie for everything; for dinner, for the ride, for listening. I appreciate it.”

Dixie smiled back, hardly knowing what to say. “I hope things work out for you, Kenny.” As he turned to slide out of the truck she stopped him, “Can I have your number. I’d like to keep in touch and see how you’re doing. And maybe you’d like to come to church and have Sunday lunch with us sometime.” The words were out of her mouth before she even knew what she was saying, shocking her own ears.

He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, “sure, I’d like that,” he said eagerly. They exchanged numbers and Dixie pulled away as the shadows deepened, hiding Kenny from sight.

Come back next week to find out what Dixie’s friends and family will think about Kenny, to see what Gabriel has to teach her, and get a little taste of southern living!

I have to confess this post was hard to share. Usually when you read a writer’s finished work it has gone through several edits, most people never see the rough draft. I’m very aware this week’s piece is rough. Also, I know I’m tackling some really tender and controversial subjects. The reason being that I feel if my writing doesn’t make people think or ask questions then I haven’t been successful.

So, I’d love to hear how you think the story is working so far! And, please, if you have comments to make regarding homosexuality keep it polite.

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}

Dixie Lee ~ Part 2

Last week I shared the first part of Dixie Lee’s story. Today it’s time to pick up where we left off!

I hope you’ll join me every Friday for the continuing story of Dixie Lee. I’ll be writing her story, which I hope will turn into a full fledged book, every week until it’s finished. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

If you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend!

Dixie Lee

After dropping Sadie off Dixie turned down Broad St. and passed the colorful store fronts of the quaint downtown shopping district. Pulling onto West King St. she traveled past two blocks of tidy homes sleeping behind pretty lawns. Her truck turned into the driveway of the Lee’s lovely white cape-cod. It’s shuttered windows giving the impression of sleeping eyes.

As she slipped into the snug kitchen, Pumpkin, her orange kitty wrapped himself around her legs.

“Hey, buddy.” She bent to scratch the lines between his ears. His own ginger color matched the ginger coloring of the Lee family. Dixie smiled, Sadie always giggled that the Lee’s had a matching cat.

Tiptoeing into the foyer she saw a light on in the family room. Her dad sat in his favorite armchair reading; his slippered foot propped on his knee. The sight of his tall frame, sitting where he always sat, was a comfortable feeling.

“Hello, darlin’,” he greeted Dixie with a smile. “Have fun?”

Leaning over to plant an affectionate kiss on her dad’s sandy head, she replied, “It was a nice evening, Daddy. I had a problem with the truck on the way there though.”

“Oh?” He laid his book across his lap and gave her his full attention. He wouldn’t have said it out loud, in so many words, but this girl of his was his pride and joy.

She plopped herself down on the arm of his chair. His hand rested on her knee as she talked. “Yeah, the carburetor is acting up again. I unclogged it but it seems to be happening more often. Maybe it’s time for me to look for something more reliable.”

“I’ll take a look at it tomorrow and see if we can get it in better working order.”

“Thanks Daddy. Well I’m tired, I better get to bed before school tomorrow.” With a last kiss she headed off to bed. Pumpkin following her up the stairs ready to snuggle down for the evening.

“Dixie,” her mother called from the end of the hall. She was surprised to see the light on in her parents room and find her mother still up. A very punctual, detailed person, her mother was careful about her routine of early to bed and early to rise.

She stopped just outside the door and poked her head in. Her mother was propped up in her big brass bed, a cream and rose sunburst quilt pulled around her trim figure. Demure green eyes blinked at Dixie, delicate hands folded across the magazine resting in her lap.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Dixie, dear, do you have everything you need for your first day tomorrow?

Trying to keep the sharpness out her tone she replied, “Yes, I’m ready, you don’t need to worry about me.”

“Well, dear, you should probably get some rest, it’s getting late and you have an early day tomorrow.”

“I’m on my way to bed now, mother.”

“Goodnight, dear.” Her mother smiled, and picked up her magazine.

“Goodnight.”

Did her mother wait up just to make sure she was in bed on time? Certainly she could be trusted to begin her job student teaching as an adult. She and her mother had never been enemies, but neither had they been friends. Dixie often struggled under her mother’s expectations of propriety and control.

From a Vicksburg family of some reputation and means, Sharon Lee, had an image to uphold. Dixie had always been aware of that fact. And while some might call Dixie rebellious that wasn’t really accurate. She loved her freedom and could be selfish, but she recognized the rules of society, often using them to her advantage. She knew where she fit in the order of things and while she may push the boundaries of her world she didn’t crossed them. Someone else her age may find being the daughter of a respected woman and Baptist minister stifling but not Dixie. Even though she enjoyed her carefree, youthful ways she fell well inside the deep south Delta values of morality.

Which made her wonder why her mother always seemed to be on her back about something. She tried not to let the high expectations and standards of her mother to irritate her. Daddy on the other hand seemed to enjoy her unique personality. He encouraged independence and initiative.

Dixie thought about these things as she got ready for bed. Pulling back the crisp cotton sheets she and Pumpkin snuggled down together. Her eyes sought the moon beyond her lace hung window. Tomorrow she would return to her old elementary school, Manning Academy, to begin student teaching. At the end of the quarter she would be ready to graduate Delta State University. Instead of feeling nervous a confident readiness bubbled up in her. She and her ginger kitty drifted off to sleep wrapped in the pink walls of her room and a growing sense of enthusiasm.

The next morning Dixie, red shock tamed and dressed in the emerald colors of her old school, bounded down the stairs. Her father sat at the oak table in the clean, white kitchen reading the morning paper and savoring what was probably his third cup of coffee. Looking up from from his paper he smiled “Mornin’ Dixie girl, you look raring to go.”

“I am Daddy, ready to show ’em what I’ve got.” Her eyes sparkled at the idea of a new challenge.

“That’s my girl.”

Her mother turned from the porcelain sink where she was cutting fruit, “Richard, don’t encourage her. Dixie, dear, you’re there to learn, a bit of humility will serve you well.”

Flopping down in a chair next to her dad Dixie rolled her eyes, mostly to herself. “Yes mother, I realize I’m there to learn. But honestly I have been learning for three years now, I’m ready to do.”

“Well just be sure you listen before you go charging in. I’m sure you’ll get a chance to teach on your own soon enough.” Turning back to the fruit she asked, “Can I fix you an egg dear?”

“No thanks, mother, I don’t have time. Just going to have some coffee and a yogurt.”

Knowing that some things just weren’t worth pressing her mother shrugged and went back to her chore.

After a few gulps of coffee and a strawberry yogurt Dixie jumped up. “Well, I’m off folks,” she announced. And with a quick kiss on each parent’s cheek she flew out the door, screen door slamming behind her.

Her father chuckled, a slight smile on his face. “That girl,” her mother exclaimed in fond exasperation. Their looks met and they burst out laughing.

The couple’s older son, Daniel, was married and settled, it was just Dixie at home now and as much as they hated to admit it they dreaded the day silence, in the form of her absence, would descend upon the house.

It was just a five minute drive to the school; one of the pleasures of a small town commute. Dixie tried to enter the office with dignity but her bright freckled face and shocking hair made that a difficult thing to accomplish.

The secretary sat behind a metal desk, reading glasses pushed up on her forehead. The name plate on her desk read Martha Herbertson. “May I help you?”

“Yes, I’m Dixie Lee, I’m student teaching with Ms. Bushnell.”

“Oh yes, she’s expecting you. Do you know where the music room is?”

Dixie nodded that she did. Some of her favorite days were spent in that room. At the time Mr. Anderson was the music teacher. Originally, Dixie had wanted to be a country singer, and even though it was still her secret dream, the larger pond of college had tempered her ambition. Her practical side saw the value of a back up plan. It seemed logical to teach music.

The secretary broke in on her thoughts, “Here is your name badge, you need to wear it whenever you’re on campus. You can go down to the music room and get settled. And welcome to Manning Academy.” She smiled warmly as Dixie took the name tag.

One of the many reasons Dixie had loved her time at Manning. The private preparatory school’s warm faculty and staff often made the place feel like family.

Walking down the long hall memories wafted upon the wings of smells, sights, and sounds that had been tucked away for some time. Even though she had met with Principal Hall before the school year began she hadn’t been this far into the school. Towards the end of the hall, on the right, the door of the music room stood ajar. Inside Ms. Bushnell was bent over her desk shuffling through papers, her shoulder length brown hair half hiding her face.

Dixie stepped just inside, cleared her throat, and burst out with what, even to her ears, was an overly enthusiastic, “Good morning.”

Liz Bushnell looked up, a warm smile spreading across her face, blue eyes crinkling delightfully. About thirty, not exactly tall, and casually dressed she conveyed an air of friendliness.

“Good morning to you too, I’m Liz Bushnell, and I imagine you’re Dixie Lee.” She crossed the room as she said this and stuck out her hand in greeting. “Come on in and we’ll get acquainted before the kids get here. My first period is at 8:30 so we have about an hour. I understand you were a student at Manning, has it changed much since then?”

Dixie swept the room with a nostalgic glance, noting the white board at the front of the room, colorful posters along the sides, musical instruments on the right hand side wall, a keyboard set up toward the front, and the teachers desk in the left front corner. “Not really, it feels just the same, your desk has moved to the side but that’s about all.”

The next hour was spent going over lesson plans, sheet music, and class structure. They talked about the breakdown of Dixie’s responsibility. This first week would be spent primarily in observation, getting to know the kids, and becoming familiar with classroom procedure. The week after that she would start grading and helping kids who needed extra attention. By the end of the quarter she would be teaching solo. Liz was thorough in her instructions, but not tediously so. Dixie decided almost immediately that she liked her.

Before long the sound of feet in the hall and little voices was floating through the door. About 20 3rd graders filled the room with color and motion. The boys and girls were dressed all in khaki’s and shirts of yellow or green. Noisily, they sat themselves down in the rows of plastic chairs facing the front of the room.

A little boy with straw colored hair, caught her eye. He had on a green shirt that was too big for him, and was struggling to maneuver into the back row. Braces on his legs and forearm crutches made the task difficult. He bumped a classmate and caught another one’s chair. The child who was bumped scooted as far away as he could.

Dixie felt self conscious, should she help him? She didn’t want to draw more attention to his problem, but she felt badly for him. In the second it took for her to think those thoughts Ms. Bushnell was moving to his side, adjusting his chair and speaking reassuringly to him.

Walking back to the front, Ms. Bushnell raised her voice, “All right class I have someone new to introduce you to today. Ms. Lee will be joining us this quarter as a student teacher. That means she’ll be getting experience teaching before she graduates college. She’ll learn from us and we’ll learn from her. I want you to welcome her and respect her. She’ll be spending a lot of time with us.”

Dixie smiled back at all the curious little faces turned her way.

Ms. Bushnell got right to work after that. She went over a previous lesson with them and asked them to review what they had learned. It was the second week of school, Dixie hadn’t begun earlier because she had to attend a student teacher orientation at college as well as meet with her student teaching supervisor.

As Liz spoke Dixie stole glances at the little boy in the back row. His big blue eyes were full of expression. They were fixed on Ms. Bushnell, soaking in every word. When it came time to follow her instructions to clap out a rhythm he was lost. His crutches got in the way and his arms jerked most unrhythmicaly.

Dixie’s heart squeezed to watch him. She had never really been around children who were different before. Come to think of it, when she was going through the Academy she didn’t ever recall any children with, a problem. As she processed these thoughts, finding more questions arose, she hardly heard what Ms. Bushnell was saying.

Before she knew it a bell was ringing, feet were shuffling, and the class was over. Several of the children waved at her, a few stopped to say “Hey Ms. Lee.”

As the children lined up at the door to leave, the little boy she had been watching took his place at the back of the line. Whether instinctively or instructed she could only guess.

“Well what did you think,” Liz asked her, following her gaze.

“It was great. Seems like a great group of kids.”

“But?” Liz coaxed.

“Well, what’s wrong with that little boy with the crutches.”

Liz’s eyes twinkled even as her brow furrowed. “Nothing’s wrong with him. He does have cerebral palsy though. His name is Gabriel. He’s new this year. His parent’s moved him from the public school hoping he’ll get a little more one on one attention.

Dixie thought for a moment. “I don’t actually know what cerebral palsy is.” Her natural curiosity was peaked.

“It’s a condition that affects the brain. Not actually a disease. It has effected his motor control and muscle tone.” Liz paused a moment, and then said knowingly “I think you’ll find it worth your while if you take the time to get to know Gabriel.

Dixie wasn’t so sure. But, she was willing to be a little uncomfortable. She determined to look up cerebral palsy at home that night to learn more about Gabriel’s condition. Tucking those thoughts away for the time being they got ready for the next class.

Come back next week to see what twists and turns are ahead for our friend Dixie!

What did you think about this week’s story? Was there anything you really liked, anything you didn’t like? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

Also, you can follow this blog, by clicking the button to the right that says follow, so you don’t miss any of Dixie’s story.

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}