Inspiration: the character Mary Phagen from the musical "Parade"
Little tidbit of information: Four out of the eight details of this character's persona are actually me (or things that I do/would say/think). Can you spot which ones are me woven into this character?
From my textbook: "Goal: To "slant" at a character by coming up with small, odd details from his or her life."
(...yeah, they like to keep instructions vague for we creative folks so they don't smoosh our creativity...or something like that hehe)
Whenever she felt boys looking at her longer than they should have, she became nervous and would always twist the earring in her left ear with her left hand. Most of the time, said earring was what they call a “post” earring, not a dangly one, and was a small, golden orb. Whenever she found herself in this situation, she would be conscious of her actions, and always wondered why this helped her feel more at ease and like the boys would stop looking at her if she did something as mundane as fixing her jewelry.
One time, when she was only three days old, her mother pushed her in her buggy while strolling outdoors. During their walk, they came across their mailman who said, “My! Ain’t that chil’ have the prettiest dark hair you ever seen in yo’ life?”
She loved the pictures more than anything in life and dreamed of one day being on the silver screen. Seeing that she lived in Atlanta, over 2,000 miles from the Golden Coast, she knew she was without even a possibility. But that’s why it’s called a dream. She loved the way the glamorous actress’ gowns twirled around their slender calves when they danced in ball scenes and would think of her own party dresses trimmed with lacy collars that framed her thin, square shoulders. As she sat in the theaters watching the silent films, she knew, deep down, that the way things panned out in the movies never actually worked like that in real life; that’s why everyone paid the big bucks to watch the movies anyways, even where there was so little money to go around.
On her dresser sat an old jar that once contained mayonnaise but had long-since been cleaned out and now held her button collection. Whenever she sewed, she would first find a button from her jar and find the inspiration for her design contained in that single button. Regardless of whether or not the garment actually needed a button was beside the point; the buttons in the jar were her world of wonder. She rescued the jar from being returned to the store and traded in for its five cents recyclable value and decided from that moment on the jar would have a very special job. When she was eight years old (one year after the jar’s rescue) she heard of a woman who would pick up buttons whenever she saw them loitering in the sidewalk cracks, or freshly fallen from a waistline, and kept them in a collection so that the next time she needed a button, she would have a little piece of someone else’s life sewn into her clothing. The girl thought this a brilliant idea and did the same. However, she cheated every once in a while and also begged her mama to buy her buttons for special occasions when they went to town. Before long, she had enough buttons to need a place to keep them and suddenly remembered the mayonnaise jar that was lovingly wrapped in her pajamas in her dresser’s bottom drawer. Since the time she was eight, she has displayed her buttons in the jar on top of her dresser.
Overheard by one of her co-workers her own age: “Please don’t make me work so hard. My hands are chapped.” Marx Pencil Factory; Atlanta, GA.
The Pine Grove
She hated pine trees individually, but most of all she hated the Pine Grove. When she was thirteen years old one of her co-workers was mysteriously murdered and placed in the basement of the pencil factory where they worked. The murdered boy was a pauper and his family didn’t have the money to lay him in a decent coffin so she and some of the other townsboys went to the Pine Grove to fell a tree in order to construct a coffin. Afterwards, every time she walked past the Pine Grove all she could think about was the aching lump she felt as they lowered the dead boy into the pine coffin that had come out of that very same grove. Whenever possible, she avoided the Grove entirely, even if it meant taking the extra long way around to get into town. The sap from the trees reeked of morbidity to her, and no matter how many times she washed her hands, it was as if a phantom stickiness remained sploched on her palms. It seemed to her that even the pine trees were crying out tears of sap in remembrance of the young boy whose life had been taken all but too swiftly.
“The one thing I always tried to be when I was in my teens and twenties was ‘elegant’. I wanted a poise that made me seem like I was made of rose petals and if too strong of a wind blew, then I’d just fade right into the swirls of air. Of course, I never was elegant. When its 1913 and you are eleven years old, how can a protruding collar bone be considered elegant? How can hair as dark as espresso and a wiry body as thin as a metal clothes hanger be considered elegant? Well, at least I tried my best. Sometimes!, though, sometimes I really did feel a spark of elegance weave itself into the fibers of my shoes and then I would walk around on it for days until I wore it though, and it would be gone. Then I would return to trying to be elegant once more.”
A friend now well advanced in years, who had once been her wooer when they were teenagers said in remembrance of her, “When she smiled you swore you’d never cry again.”