An Uncapped Pen

January 2, 2008

CASUAL DUTY – Chapter Five – My Bonnie

Filed under: Dickens Challenge — cindylv @ 1:01 am

Chapter 5
Twin Lakes, WI, March 1981
Scottie’s Pub (Upstairs)

I hope I still remember the combination. Bridie climbed the stairs to the apartment she shared with her father above the pub, clutching the $100 bill. It’s almost 1:30. He should be downstairs with the cash drawer by now. She paused at the top of the stairs when she saw his bedroom door was open. “Dad?”
No response. She pushed his door open and saw the unmade bed. A sour smell of stale liquor, sweat, and cigarette smoke made her nose wrinkle. She set down a cup of coffee on the nightstand. Pushing aside a small mountain of dirty clothes with her foot, she stepped over a pair of shoes, and made her way to closet where the safe was mounted on the wall.
“Oh bring back, bring back, bring back my bonnie to me.” The sound of her father’s voice trickled down the hallway.
Well, at least he’s awake. Bridie slid the closet door open and took a step inside, reaching up for the combination dial. Her foot bumped against something, and before she could bend down to see what she’d hit, she heard the sound of glass tinkling and a bottle rolling on the closet floor. She dropped to the floor to catch it and knocked two more into each other, setting off a chain reaction of bottles crashing and rolling across the room, under the bed and out into the living room. Empty bottles?
“Bridie?” The door at the bottom of the stairs slammed and Bridie heard the heavy tread of Maisie coming up the stairs. “I’m coming up now, alrighty hon?” Maisie came twice a week to clean the pub. Once a month, she cleaned the upstairs apartment. She bustled in carrying a load of clean sheets.
“John’s saying he’s had six already today. Can you believe that? It’s only the start of March and six launches in a morning. Summer’s gonna be a good one. Busy.”
Bridie knelt frozen on the floor surrounded by the spread of dusty liquor bottles looking for a place to hide. Maisie dumped the sheets on the end of the dresser, fumbled for a corner of the bedcovers and yanked them to the floor. She stripped off the sheets and added them to the pile. “John says that the fishing derby for the airline people, you know, Braniff? John says…”
“…The winds have blown over the ocean. The winds have blown over the sea…”
“Oh jus’ listen to himself, will ya hon? He must be feeling good today, singing.” Maisie dumped the pillows from their cases and tossed them back on the bed.
Bridie stood up, holding an empty vodka bottle in her hand as Maisie scooped up the dirty linens and breezed past her out to the living room.

“…he says that they might have almost 150 this year. After the derby, we’re gonna go see my sister, the one who lives in Michigan…”
The bathroom door opened and Bridie stared as her father stumbled along the hallway heading toward them, wearing only a pair of dingy jockey shorts with an overstretched elastic waistband.
“Oh bring back, bring back, bring back my bonnie to me…” he sang to himself as he made his way down the hall. At the top of the stairs, he ran out of hallway. He stopped, lurched across to the opposite wall and shuffled around the corner, banking off the edge of the china hutch, and staggered across to his bedroom door, collapsing onto the bare mattress.
“.., she’s the one with the two sets of twins. Anyways, we’ll be driving this time, instead of flying. Oh, and John says with the fishing so good this spring, we’ll like to have to hire a boy. Maybe the Rszonka boy. You know him, hon? The one that runs around with the waitress, Wendy?”
…seventeen, eighteen…Bridie needed to breathe, but couldn’t force herself to move.
“What you doing with that money, hon? You need some change? John’s got change in the Bait Shop.” Maisie squeezed Bridie’s hand as she slipped the bill into her apron pocket. “Be right back. John’s got change. You’ll see.” She scooped up the pile of linen and bounded down the steps, slamming the door behind her. nineteen…twenty…click…flip. “…bring back my Mommie to me.”



  1. Holy Cow! I stopped in a while ago and chapter 4 was up and now chapter 5! You are humming right along!

    This is really vivid. I have a really good sense of Bridie’s crappy life with her alcoholic father and the Maisie character provides some great additional ambiance to the scene. I’m wondering if she’s getting ready to clean out the safe to take off for basic, or what she’s going after in the safe. You’ve also introduced a great story question, as far as what happened to her mother? Great detail and characterization in here.

    Comment by Lisa — January 2, 2008 @ 2:18 am | Reply

  2. Thanks again, Lisa!

    Comment by CindyLV — January 2, 2008 @ 5:14 am | Reply

  3. I read this the first time and really wanted you to get back to the Army base. But on second reading, I agree with Lisa. It does open a lot of questions, and it does give Bridie a good reason to join the Army. And, of course, I don’t know whether some of this is going to figure in the main story. And now that I think about it, my mother-in-law is from Wisconsin, and I think one reason she married young was to get away from the alcohol-soaked life of her parents.

    But I’m still eager to hear more from the base.

    Comment by steve — January 3, 2008 @ 3:34 am | Reply

  4. P.S. Thank you for your comment on the Dickens Challenge site. I’m unable to log in when I’m working on dial-up here in Bloomington, so I can’t reply right now. (Normally I go back to Elkhart on my days off, (WE-Th), but I’m stuck in Bloomington this “weekend” because of a lake-effect snowstorm in northern Indiana.) Suffice it to say that I’m glad we’re really not Dickenses–that should publishers take interest in our work, that we’d be able to make revisions. Incidentally, I plan to mention the capital of Montana, if only to provide a contrast in pronunciation. He-LAY-na vs. HEL-en-a, MT.

    Comment by steve — January 3, 2008 @ 3:52 am | Reply

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