"I had made a new friend. I had been living in Kingsley for a year already. No one in town talked to me because I was heavy and outspoken. But to me I felt that I rather be disliked for being myself than liked for being fraudulent. I went home and told my mother that I had made a new friend. She was excited and told me that it would happen eventually. I was never one for being dramatic over not having friends. I had one simple philosophy "I was born alone and I was going to die alone." People tried to give me hell for thinking that way but its true. Let me give you some history about me. I was born on April 24, 1954 in Harley Beach, Rhode Island. My mother Carol Bradshaw. She was a single parent who worked odd jobs during the day and singing in nightclubs at night to support us. My father was a sleazy bastard who left my mother for his mistress in Baltimore, Maryland. They had been married for a year before I was born. She was saddened over this because she thought she had married a good man."
"I was deeply affected by it when my mother told me what he done. I was born with a predisposed genetic disorder which made me susceptible to significant weight gain. I weighed one hundred and eighty-three pounds by the time I was seven years old. I found therapy in songwriting and singing. I would get up every morning at seven and dress in my favorite muumuu's and go go boots and stand on the corner and sing. I attracted crowds every blue moon. I didn't care about crowds I just wanted to release the anger I felt internally. I also felt free while doing it. After living in Rhode Island for seven years my mother and I relocated to Kingsley, California on New Years in 1963. We found a two bedroom house in the Amory Vineyard neighborhood. My mother worked as a registered nurse to provide for us. Being an only child I didn't do much except clean the house. As far as school was concerned I was average. I excelled in science and english."
"I participated in extracurricular activities such as school concerts and local talent shows. I was never given lead. I always sang with the lowered ranged female singers. My mother was furious because the choir teacher was aware of my higher ranged voice. Other than school concerts and talent shows I usually was out at the dock alone gazing at the Pacific Ocean. I thought it was the perfect haven for a long and mind wrecking day. I never saw my mother bring home a man after my father left her. She believed since they weren't married he had no right to come to her house and meet me. I thought it made perfect sense. When I started attending school at Kingsley Elementary in late January of 1963 I was a social outcast. I knew the reason why but it didn't bother me. I wasn't going to apologize for being myself, but I did want friends. In class I sat on the left side of the classroom. Alvin Goldsteen sat on my right.Danny Velvetoro sat adjacent of me and Deena Tansworth sat behind me."
"I'll never forget how Alvin looked. He had light tan skin with sea green eyes with dark brown and blond hair. He also had braces which plused his cuteness. I never really clashed with other students except for girls who harassed me. There was this one girl in particular who's identity I will keep anonymous. She placed glue in my hair. I successfully rinsed out but I wanted revenge. So at recess I went and confronted her. After she pushed that's when I beat her up. Now the good thing was I got revenge, the down side was that I got suspended and she didn't. The principal claimed I should've told the teacher. But of course if I would've told the teacher the girl would've denied my claim and would try to make my life a living hell. I got more satisfaction out of beating the girl up then getting suspended. My mother applauded me for defending myself and putting the girl in her place. That afternoon during my walk home I stopped at the corner my house and started singing. A crowd started accumulating around me. I saw Alvin in the crowd. After I finished I tried to talk to him but he took off. I called out to him but he ignored me. The next day I approached him and we formally introduced ourselves. We walked to the cafeteria together and sat together. We talked about random things. I found out he was a fan of Cass Mareen like me. We disagreed on Ginger Paxton. He didn't like her because he thought she was overrated. At recess we exchanged our lyrics with each other."
"His lyrics encompassed struggle and independence. Mine talked about free love, difference and optimism. The early sixties were a time of conservatism but I wasn't a conformer. My hair was bright copper red with platinum blond on the ends. I always wore muumuu's and go go boots. When I found out Alvin was from New York I gave him a big hug because we were both native east coasters. When we got back inside we did spelling, science and history. When school dismissed we walked home together. When we reached my street I hugged him again and we parted ways. I walked down the sidewalk that led to my house while he crossed the street. When I got home I told my mother about the new friend I made. She was excited for me because I met someone who didn't care about what I looked like. She said in the fifties being overweight was social suicide. She thought that stigma had died off but some people were still stuck in their ways. I went to my room and started writing more songs. I wasn't a professional or anything but my mother believed I had some phenomenal lyrics."
"She said she could feel the passion jump out from the paper. Even though my father wasn't in my life I often found myself immersed in deep thought about him. Being fatherless wasn't the best feeling in the world for me. I felt that not having a father was a low blow to my self-esteem. My mother was there to teach me how to be a woman but I needed a father too. I needed a father to remind me that I was beautiful and more than a five dollar fix. But I didn't and I couldn't walk with a chip on my shoulder because of it. I had to take it in stride and make the best of it. I wrote a song called Being Fatherless Has Molded Me. It basically talked about even though I was fatherless I could still become a mature and beautiful young woman. I spent fifteen minutes writing it. I went to the livingroom and sang it to my mother. She cried when I finished. She didn't grow up fatherless like me but she must've thought about grandfather. He died a year before I was born. He sounded like a really groovy guy."
"My grandmother was still alive when he died. She lived at the Cashmere Hills family mansion in Ella Mona, Maryland. My aunts and uncles were selfish except for two and that really said something to me. Your mother dedicated her entire adult life to take care of you and you give her the cold shoulder when your father dies? I could only imagine how grandfather felt. I was going to see her in June. Even though I'm a Rhode Island native Maryland was like a second home to me. My grandmother always regaled on old times and told me how my mother and her siblings were growing up. It sounded fun but her sisters and her second youngest br brother sounded like assholes. They made it hard for my mother to enjoy her adolescence. My uncle Albert and aunt La'Donna were the sweetest ones. There were two teams. Aunt Ellen, Holly, Karen and uncle Ricky against my mother, aunt La'Donna and uncle Albert. They couldn't beat my mother in fighting but they still instigated things in and outside of the home. They despised me because I looked just like their father. I saw them only at family reunions. I always respected them for my mother but I told them not to take their resentment out on me. They laughed in my face and walked off. I was fuming but decided against kicking their asses and went and sat with my mother."
"In mid 1959 after I tuned five we stopped going to the reunion because it was nothing but fighting and bickering. Aunt La'Donna was the one who wanted to keep grandpa Hogan's memory alive. But my aunts and uncle killed the revival with their unending hatred for him and my mother. The next day at school I spoke with Alvin. He said that his older brother Jason treated him horrible both at school and at home because he was mixed. He sounded like a real asshole and I refused to meet him. He told me one of the worse things Jason ever did was that helped his friends jump Alvin. After that they drug him into the street and he almost got ran over by a car. He awoke in time and managed to avoid getting struck down. He was only six. What the hell was wrong with him?. When lunch came I saw Jason for the first time. I sent him a dirty look and he glanced at Alvin. I knew the looks they were exchanging. He walked over to us and tried to roughen him up. I stepped in and told him to back away from Alvin."
"He chuckled and asked me who was I. I fiercely told him I was Alvin's friend and that I wouldn't let him abuse him in front of me. He laughed and said outside of school I couldn't protect him. I told him I would find a way to. He thought because I was girl I wouldn't stand up to him. He had me fucked up with some other broad. He walked off and cursed under his breath. I looked back at Alvin who was in a corner shaking. I walked over to him and extended my hand. He took and thanked me for sticking up for him. I told him he was welcome and not to worry about Jason. We walked to our usual spot and began talking. He asked me how my home life was and I told him it was fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. We practiced our singing. We weren't a duo or anything but we liked the way our voices sounded in harmony. He was a tenor and I was a soprano. We both handled the upper extremes with ease. After recess we headed back inside and did spelling, math and history."
"The bell rang which dismissed us to go home. As we were walking down the hall a boy bumped into me. When I saw his face I knew instantly that it was Danny Velvetoro. He looked like he was pissed at the entire world for whatever was going on in his life. I told him he bumped into me and didn't apologize. He looked the other way and walked off. I looked at Alvin and back at Danny who was walking down the hallway with his hands in his pockets. I swiftly walked after Danny. Alvin had quickly caught up with me. When I reached him I tapped him on his shoulder. He turned around and said "WHAT!!!" with an abrasive attitude. I told him he bumped into me and didn't apologize. He sarcastically apologized and walked off. I couldn't believe the audacity of that guy. He bumped into me and had even bigger nerve to insincerely apologize. I brushed off and let because I wasn't one for making enemies over something petty. Alvin and I walked home together. When we reached my street we hugged and parted ways as usual. When I got home I saw my mothers car parked in the driveway. When I entered the house I placed my key on the table and yelled out to my mother who came into the livingroom. She asked me how my day went. I told her it was okay up until Danny bumping into me and not apologizing properly."
"She chuckled and said some boys are pricks and need a female friend to set them straight. I didn't know how prophetic her words would be until later. I went upstairs and did my homework. My mother came upstairs and said dinner was ready and that she'd be working a night shift. I told her okay and resumed doing my homework. We had to do a science worksheet. It dealt with precipitation and the rain cycle. I finished in fort-five minutes when my telephone rang. I leaned over and picked it up. It was Alvin. He sounded perky. He said he wanted to hang out with me that weekend. I told him I would since I wasn't doing anything. We talked on the phone for an hour and hung up. I wanted to wind down and relax for a while. At around five o'clock I began writing some more songs. I wrote two called The Dove & The Hurricane and Rebel. They each corresponded to the three most important people in my life my grandmother, my grandfather despite not knowing him and my mother."
"I thought I couldn't write about someone I never knew but I spoke to my grandfather through dreams. After I finished writing I went downstairs and had dinner. Afterward I cleaned the kitchen and took out the trash. I took a shower around seven and was bed by eight The following morning I awoke made my bed, took a shower and dressed. I came downstairs and sat at the table. My mother wasn't home yet so I made due. I poured myself a glass of pulp free orange juice and made two slices of toast with strawberry jam. When I finished I grabbed my backpack and left. I met up with Alvin at the corner. We hugged one another and began our trek to school. We talked about our upcoming plans for the weekend. Alvin wanted to see the dock where I visited and all the attractions. As we entered the school I came face to face with Danny. We exchanged looks. I smiled at him and he glared at me. I walked passed him and Alvin and I walked to the cafeteria. When we arrived we saw Deena Tansworth sitting at a table by herself."
"She was reading a book and we decided to leave her alone. Instead we walked to our usual table and sat down. We continued our discussion from earlier. We talked for the whole thirty minutes of breakfast and walked to class when the bell sounded. When we entered we saw Ms. Murphy ting at her desk eating a green apple. She said good morning to us and vice versa. Alvin and I took our seats and took our needed supplies. As the classroom started feel up we saw Danny and Deena walked in. Danny looked tired and Deena wore a smile on her face. When we made eye contact with her she looked away. She must be shyer than we first thought. The bell sounded again signaling everyone that class was in session. We began doing our warm up sponge. During this time Ms. Gromlin collected our homework assignments. Half of the class didn't do it. I shook my head and laughed a little. Back home in Harley Beach if you didn't do your homework you were made to do military styled exercises. In Kingsley they just failed you and went on. After collecting the assignments of those who did it Ms. Murphy started lecturing the class about the importance of doing homework. The class laughed at the lecture but I took it seriously. I knew once I got to middle school it would be sink or swim and I wanted to swim."
"Ms. Murphy started explaining a project that was due in two weeks. She grouped us according to personality. Danny, Alvin, Deena and I were paired together. I was friends with Alvin, but I didn't know what Danny would do and Deena was in her own world. She had us turn our desks to face each other. The four of us sat down in the desk looking at one another. Alvin was in front of me, Deena was on my right and Danny sat next to Alvin. It seemed like an unlikely partnership between us and I started dreading immediately because Danny could be heartless and cold towards others. When Ms. Murphy placed the project instructions on the table Deena picked it up and read them to us. The assignment was to choose from several topics dealing with science. We all chose chemical science. It was easy for us. I asked everyone what role did they want to take on. Alvin wanted to be the person to hold the poster board, Deena chose to be the recorder, I chose to be the demonstrator and Danny was left with the role of orator."
"We planned to meet up at the library after school to get the research we needed. When we went for recess Alvin and I sat together. Alvin asked why Danny was such a distant and silent person. I told him I didn't know and that this assignment may be the catalyst to get to know him better. When school was dismissed we all met up at the school gates and headed to the library. Deena checked out a few books with her library card. We went to a secluded area and began working on our project. I had a good sense and knowledge of Ammonic acid. So I used my prior knowledge and Deena took those key points down while I spoke. Danny looked uninterested and brazen it pissed me off. We were also being graded on how well we worked together. The way things were looking Danny was going to screw us right into a fifty or a straight zero. After recording the information I told Alvin and Danny that Deena may look to them for elaboration. Alvin was delighted. He had his hands in cheeks smiling at me. Danny had his arms folded looking at Deena and I like we were his sworn enemies. Deena kindly asked Danny if he would elaborate if she asked. He said just sat there monotonously and didn't respond."
"Deena sighed and looked at me with small smile. We worked on the project until five o'clock when the library closed for the day. We all walked home together. We made it to my block first and I hugged Alvin. Danny didn't stopped and continued on. I just shook my head and hugged Deena as well. I headed down my sidewalk and they crossed the street. When I got home I walked to the kitchen and saw that dinner was prepared. I walked to my mothers room. I saw that she was asleep and walked upstairs to my room. I removed my boots and sat down my bed. I didn't have homework due to the project that was due. I laid there in thought. I wondered if Danny was going to pull it together in time for presentation day next Friday. I sure hoped so because I didn't want to fail due to garish and off putting disposition and personality. I got up and turned on the television. Nothing was really insightful but I kept it on anyway. I laid in bed and then got up and walked to the backyard deck and sat to take in the breeze. It felt really good. My hair blew freely and my skin got a chance to breathe. After being out there for an hour I walked back inside and heated up dinner. We had creamy shrimp sausage pasta with garlic bread and salad. After dinner I cleaned my dishes and went back upstairs to my room for a shower."
"An hour later I came out turned off my television and got into bed. The next morning I dressed and left for school. I met up with Alvin and we walked to school. When I arrived Alvin walked in ahead of me. I stopped to adjust my blouse. I looked over and saw Danny getting out of a car. It looked like a tail finned car. When I saw his face he had purplish marks on his neck. When he entered the school gates I asked him what the purple marks were and he said nothing and scurried into school. I was worried about him. I never seen anyone with those kind of marks before. I assumed they were some of kind disease that would kill him. Nonetheless I didn't tell anyone what I saw and the teachers didn't question him either. But no one knew because he was wearing a coat that with a tall collar on it. So in turn it concealed the marks. Alvin asked if I was okay and I told him I was worried about Danny. He asked why and I told that after he walked inside I saw Danny get out of a car and head had purple marks on his neck."
"Alvin nodded his head and looked at Danny but didn't make it obvious. At recess Alvin and I chatted but what I told him in class. He asked me if Danny had gone to the school nurse or doctor and I said I don't know and left it at that. Danny was alone on the stairs near the playground entrance doors. He had his hands together and he looked like he was deep in thought. The suspense and curiosity was eating me up so I walked over to Danny and sat next to him. He surprised me because he didn't leave when I sat down. I broke the silence by asking him if he was okay. He didn't respond and instead looked into the distance. I patted my kneecaps and looked into the distance as well. Alvin walked over toward us with his hands in his pockets. Danny acknowledged him for a second and resumed looking in the distance. I told Danny I would see him later and Alvin and I left him alone. As we were walking away Alvin asked me if we talked and I told him no. Alvin looked back at Danny and looked concerned."
"I told Alvin I didn't want to corner Danny and that I would wait until Danny was ready to talk. When recess ended we headed back inside and did our usual spelling, science and history. When school dismissed the four of us walked to the library. We walked to the library in silence. None of us knew what to say to each other. When we arrived Deena checked our books and we walked to our usual table. Deena took out her notes and she began gathering more information.Alvin could draw so he began drawing in a gothic style on the poster board what each step was in detail. We stayed at the library for two hours and left at five. The only ones who spoke were Alvin, Deena and myself. As I said before I wasn't going force Danny into talking. We all took a shortcut and came out on Alvin's corner. I hugged him and he walked down the sidewalk. Danny didn't walk head like he had done yesterday. Deena said that now that we were practically done with project all we had to do was buy beakers and border paper. Danny and Alvin would take care of that. The three of us walked to Deena's block next. She hugged me and blushed slightly when she looked at Danny."
"She bid him farewell and walked down the sidewalk leading to her house. Danny and I were alone now. We walked in silence. I asked him if he had any plans for the weekend and he looked at me intrigued. He said no but didn't wan to hang out with anyone he didn't know. I didn't blame him but I told him that he couldn't get to know someone by being closed off. He didn't say anything and I just sighed. I tried by inviting him to join Alvin and I so that was on him. When we reached my street I bid him goodnight and I turned down my sidewalk waving at him. Danny had crossed the street and continued walking down the bathed peach sunset. As I entered my house I saw my mother sitting on the couch looking at television. When she saw me she walked to it and turned it off. She asked me how my day was. I said that it was good and despite Danny not talking to me a friendship could be forming in the background. She said that was something to look forward to. I didn't mention the purple marks to her because I don't even think I was supposed to see them. I placed my key in the bowl and headed upstairs."
"At six I took a shower and I came downstairs for dinner." Mother looked exhausted but she kept her smile on nonetheless. I asked how work was and she said it was okay and that her patient was making progress with his oral feeding. We talked about random things for the next thirty minutes and cleaned the kitchen afterward. I headed upstairs and went to bed. That Friday I met Alvin at his street and we walked to the dock. When we got there we saw Deena sitting there gazing out at the sea. We motioned toward her and sat down. She was startled and was about to leave but we told her we wanted her to stay. She thought about it for a minute and sat back down. We initiated conversation with her by asking where she was from. She said she was from Tress, Arizona. I visited Arizona before and thought it was beautiful just hot.She said that she felt alone at home and that the dock was her only safe haven outside of school. Although our situations were different we were interconnected by them as well. Alvin was biracial, I was overweight, Deena was nerdy and Danny was dark. Alvin then voiced what I had been thinking and both Deena and I looked at him. He smiled at both of us."
"He asked Deena if she had any other therapeutic releases and she said that she writes songs. I asked if she had any of them with her and she said she had one. She was very shy and was reluctant to let me read her lyrics. Eventually she handed the paper to me. The name of the song was called On The Outside Looking In. It was talking about how Deena observed how other parents interacted with their children. Those were some damn sad but moving lyrics on that paper. I complimented her and said that it touched me because I didn't have a father. I know I only knew of Deena in school but I also felt like I could trust her and hopefully vice versa. Alvin proceeded to ask her if she could sing and she said that she wasn't confident enough in her voice whatsoever. Alvin asked her to sing On The Outside Looking In. We couldn't believe our ears. She had sweet tone to her. Her range was low and it had no huskiness in it at all. After she finished looked at us red as a tomato. I could tell she wasn't confident but she wasn't pitchy at all when she was singing a few moments ago."
She averted her eyes away from us and said that we were the first people she ever sang in front of. We were most definitely honored and said she had some serious pipes. She asked us if we could sing we said we could. Alvin sang a Rocky Leone and I sang a Ginger Paxton song. When we both finished Deena had tears flowing down her face. Alvin asked her what was wrong she said that she couldn't compete with us. Alvin said it wasn't about competing it was about having fun. He said there weren't too many contralto's in pop music and her voice wasn't an average contralto. She could sing higher than most of them. Despite hearing this Deena still was insecure. I wasn't sure that anything we told her would cheer her up so I told her her voice was fine the way it was. Alvin said she could push a little higher because he felt she was playing it safe. We sat at the dock for another thirty minutes before we walked down to Jade Monopoly's a jumping teen club but us kids found a way inside. We were real good friends with Cody Brewster who helped clean place."
"He was the same age as we were but he wanted some type of exposure to the workplace. I guess you had to start somewhere same thing with trying to break into the music industry. We ordered soda pop and we each paid a nickel. After the bartender Cody gave us our drinks we looked at the portraits of the previous owners of Jade Monopoly. This place had been around since 1920 and had four proud owners. Jade Monopoly started off as a underground getaway for different demographics such as the thriving gay community and mixed races. Around the forties things started to change and it became a hangout for teenagers and its been that way since. We turned around on our stools where we saw a stage out in the dining area. Cody asked if any of us wanted to perform and I said I did. I ran over to the dining area and got onstage. I handed the piano player my sheet music. As he began to play it had a bluesy sound mixed with folk."
"I cleared my throat and began singing. I saw people in the audience's jaws drop. They must've never a saw a plump girl possess such power in their voice. I was only eight years old. I didn't have any singing lessons either. As I sang I took the microphone off the stand and walked offstage and into the audience. I moved my feet swiftly as I walked around couple's tables. When I returned to the stage I held a note. I then came to an interval. A few seconds later I started singing again. The audience started applauding as I spun around the stage while doing my Peach Shuffle dance. I relished in the feeling. I really felt loved and admired. I placed the microphone on the stand and took a bow. I took another one and walked offstage. Alvin congratulated me for my boldness and singing. I told him thank you and that I was a natural risk taker. He laughed and we left Jade Monopoly and I showed Alvin a few of the other hot spots of Kingsley."
"He was thrilled and we headed home at around five. That weekend Alvin and I had went to the mall and hung out. We didn't buy anything but we did window shop for things we wish we could get. He ate a large hamburger with fries and a shake. I laughed at him and he made a pouty face. When we got home we told our mothers about wonderful day. The following Friday we presented our project to the class. Danny elaborated, Alvin held the poster board with a smile and I done the demonstrating. We received a ninety-four. I was satisfied because it wasn't a D or F. Afterward I sat down in my desk and awaited recess."
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