Whither, Rhonda?

Rhonda pulled into the A&W drive-in for a root beer and a burger, driving her parents’ 1962 Ford Fairlane.  Yesterday she’d quit her job on the assembly line after her third week.  Her father was furious; he’d gotten her the summer job in his factory– her first real job.  She’d be a junior in high school next year, and apparently she had no marketable skills at all.

They’d put her on what the other workers called “the baby line” since she was new and therefore slow.  After two weeks of trying to go as fast as everyone else at four very simple functions, she’d finally gotten up to speed.  With that challenge behind her, she turned to other ways to combat the boredom.  She’d taken to working even faster to free up ten seconds to read a clue on one of the crossword puzzles in the newspaper that held the parts.  It was not enough. At sixteen, the repetitious work for eight hours a day, with two, fifteen-minute breaks and a half hour for lunch came as a shock.  She’d look at the clock, and the hands would not have moved at all.

Her feet were still numb and her fingers full of cuts from standing at the line, handling the metal, the cardboard boxes, the tape, and the stapler.  It irked her to give up and quit, but she had been ready to scream from the boredom.  She crunched a French fry, sniffed back a tear, and contemplated her future.

 

57 responses to “Whither, Rhonda?

  1. galelikethewind

    Maybe it was the timing of the Beach Boy’s release of “Help Me Rhonda” that sparked the teen’s idea to become a resource to the young men in her high school who were destined for certain death in Vietnam. Detroit’s proximity to Canada was obviously another factor in Rhonda’s decision to help build an underground railway for Conscientious Objectors to the war.

    Her father would have gone crazy had he known of her involvement in this dangerous operation, primarily because he was a staunch supporter of the War. Rhonda had invented a back story of being involved with community service in one of Detroit’s most poverty stricken neighborhoods. This allowed her the time away from home she needed to establish her network. She started small, just helping a few of her closest classmates make their way across into Canada via small watercraft leaving the Detroit docks in the dark hours of night.

    Word quickly spread, and Rhonda found she needed help to meet the demands of hundreds of young men seeking to escape to Canada. She recruited one of her former co-workers at the factory who had been laid off for the winter. Mike was twenty-seven, and due to poor eyesight had been classified as 4-F. They developed a method of contact using the daily crossword in the Detroit Free Press. It involved putting a message in the blank puzzles, and leaving them in a rented mailbox. The person seeking help would be given access to the mailbox, and then with puzzle in hand, await a letter from Rhonda with the key to be able decipher the message in the puzzle. The message provided locations of departure and other details needed for a successful escape to Canadian soil.

    Rhonda started this operation during her final year of high school, and successfully transported over three hundred young men in the course of the two years until the war ended. She never received any recognition for her deeds of course, but she learned enough about smuggling to set up a cigarette operation at age twenty, moving low cost cartons of tax exempt cigarettes from Windsor to Detroit. She retired in 1988, a multimillionaire, and purchased her dad a new Ford.

    • That felt like a single author. From post to comment. Nice job!

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      I love how you used “Help Me Rhonda” and the Vietnam War to fabricate your response to Anne’s prompt. Very well done galelikethe wind.

    • This was so good that I am stumped. What else couldhavehappened to Rhonda? Don’t ask me. Good one, Gale.

      • Galelikethewind

        Thanks Gully – you have consistently stumped us over the past few months. Nice to be considered in that club for once. The ole Muse grabbed me and wouldn’t let go in this one.

    • Hi Gale, to me it read more of a synopsis of a longer work, brushing lightly over the key points. I think it could make an interesting major story. And I know that’s easy to suggest as I have two sitting unassembled myself. But I did like the creativity of the idea.

    • I read this over a week ago, but now I’m feeling energized. I was so pleased to see someone figure out what to do with this teenager. I’m very fond of success stories, especially for someone who is nice to her dad.

    • Great story! Did the crossword puzzle happen to tie into her menial first job? I felt like I was taken back in time and saw history in the remaking.

      • Galelikethewind

        Carol -re crossword: if u read Ann’s challenging opening carefully, you will find crossword sourcee

  2. Galelikethewind

    Thanks, guys. This is off topic, but if you find time, search YouTube for “Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories”
    It is a three minute lecture that really says a lot about our craft..

  3. She crunched a French fry, sniffed back a tear, and contemplated her future.

    It was at that very instant she noticed a young man, early 20’s, medium build, wearing a black leather jacket and denim pants, coming from behind the A&W. Oddly, he was walking backwards.

    Once he reached the parking lot, he put his right arm straight out, and, as he did so, the air was shattered by a boom so loud it could only have been made by one of those experimental jet airplanes from nearby Hogan Field.

    That was a fine theory of course, and as Rhonda was pondering the force caused by rapid compression of air as it impinges upon critical flight control surfaces, “Aeronautics for Future Air Force Nurses” was one of her best subjects in school, she realized the young man had a gun and was running right towards *her* car.

    “Gasp,” she nearly gasped aloud. But, despite her disbelief in the incredible events unfolding around her, in an instant the man had jumped into the Fairlane and barked, “Drive bitch.”

    As she had been taught to do in just these types of situations, Rhonda pulled the choke lever to the full out position and pumped the gas pedal three times. She rotated the key to “on,” and checked to make sure all the gages responded before turning the key all the way to “start.” It was while she was adjusting the rearview mirror she felt the harsh pain of the young man’s gun barrel pressing against her ribs.

    Sensing his impatience, Rhonda put the car in gear and took off, knowing it was unwise not to wait for the oil pressure to reach forty on the gage before driving, as Daddy had always said.

    NEXT TIME, “Help Me Rhonda!” or “Death Rhonda Bend?”

  4. Narrator intervention here: Hello, story readers. For the moment we shall leave Rhonda in her car munching and crunching and contemplating the future as if she actually has choices. She’s young; she has a rich father–why wouldn’t she think she gets to pick her future?

    However we know better. She is not only at the mercy of life’s whims and fancies, but she’s also at our mercy. Perhaps the A&W root beer stand is on a fault line and the “big one” is on the way. Perhaps she bites into a French fry, cracks a tooth on a huge diamond, sells it, and buys a ticket to go on the first tourist rocket into outer space. Or perhaps she realizes she’s a rather two-dimensional story character, and in a mad dash to freedom, runs into the left margin and gets a head injury. The resulting amnesia makes her a prime candidate for a soppy romance where she is rescued by a handsome policeman, but we won’t go there. Maybe she morphs into a Beagle. You’re the writer. You pick.

    • Galelikethewind

      Looks like Gary took that lead already..??

    • Your creativity is limitless, Ann. I love all your ideas. I wrote my response to your prompt yesterday and thought I’d posted it. I came back today to find I needed to enter my password before it would show up here.

    • galelikethewind

      Just curious, Ann. About your need to intervene, and absence of remarks about my ending to Rhonda’s plight.
      Was I too far off base?
      Appreciate your input as always.
      Gale

      • Was it my piece? I feel as though a message was sent and I didn’t get it.

        This is important to me because breaking rules you know nothing about is simple ignorance. Breaking rules you fully understand is cutting edge creativity.

        I have this intrinsic need to understand the rules.

        So.

        Help me……

        ******This is a note from Ann to Garytreible. (Dang this blog format! It’s a mess, isn’t it? There wasn’t a reply button to your reply for some reason, so I’m butting in here to respond to your question.) Your posting is definitely not a mess. Rules? Zip nada zeeerro. You get to goof around to your heart’s content, and if you stop, I will be very depressed.

        Rhonda.

      • Gary and Gale: I view these prompts as a start in one direction that may or may not end up going where I thought. After all, this isn’t bloody homework where grades are doled out based on rule-following, or points deducted for rule-bending(breaking) I have yet to see two writers here approach a prompt the same way. There’s no right or wrong. There are some prompts which don’t appeal to me, and I just find another sandbox to play in for a while. Jeff

      • annlinquist

        This is a reply to Gale. Actually, I was only intervening as one more writer who decided to jump into my own beginning and mess around. I know it’s often hard to interpret the replies here since there are no new “posting” areas unless you leave the thread. I didn’t comment pretty much out of fatigue from BWW, not because I found your posting off base. I enjoyed it and thought it was a great way to move that particular scene along. Never fear. You can never be off base here.

  5. The Beagle thing was exactly where I had planned to go. Time for “Plan C.”

  6. She crunched a French fry, sniffed back a tear, and contemplated her future.

    Rhonda always carried a crossword puzzle in her purse. She wiped the French fry grease on her shorts, pulled the book out and turned to the page she was currently working.

    57 ACROSS Kind of plasterboard…she had no clue
    63 ACROSS Pajamas topper…no thoughts
    64 ACROSS Closes tightly…nothing

    Rhonda threw the book across the car seat and slouched down. I’m so stupid I can’t even work a crossword anymore, she thought. She scowled at the drive-in wall, disgusted with everyone and everything. A crooked Help Wanted sign was taped up in the window facing the parking area. She scowled even deeper at the sight of it.

    At that moment, a fellow on skates wearing an A & W apron sailed up to her window tray. “Hey, Rhonda. You were in my Algebra class.”

    “Oh, was I?” Rhonda growled. She struggled to sit up and took a better look. “Okay, I remember you now. You’re Billy.”

    “What are you doing to keep out of trouble?” Billy asked. He was leaning against the food tray at an angle where Rhonda could check him out without him realizing it.

    “I was working but not anymore,” she said. He’s cuter than he was in class, she thought.

    “We’re looking for someone on day shift, if you’re looking for another job. I like being outside so although this is a dorky job, it works for me.” Billy reached up to brush his hair out of his eyes and disappeared. Rhonda heard him land on the parking lot pavement. Before she knew it, she was hovering over him. They started laughing and couldn’t quit.

    Later that night, Rhonda was lying on her back, waiting for sleep to come. The moonlight lit up her new work uniform, draped over her bedside chair. She wondered how long she would keep this job. At least, now her father would ease up on her since she was working again. Her gut told her that she and Billy would have plenty of laughs in the weeks to come. She hadn’t worn roller skates since grade school.

    • galelikethewind

      Nice taste of teen infatuation. Like your scenes..but would like to be able to visualize Billy & Rhonda a bit more.
      Nice work Shaddy

      • Thank you, Gale. I appreciate your input. I hurried when I wrote so I wasn’t thorough.

        How’s this?

        Rhonda’s brown hair hung onto her shoulders as she crouched down and peered at Billy. His face was pained but he was moving his long, muscular arms and legs so she figured he must be alright. Rhonda glanced down at her tank top and denim short shorts and sat down on the pavement beside Billy as he slowly sat up. Her blue eyes searched his brown. Within two seconds, they started laughing and couldn’t quit.

    • galelikethewind

      There u go! Really improved the piece.

    • You make me want to go back to 1965 when a Sonic drive in came to Altus Oklahoma and gave out those little plastic animals hanging from or clutching to the straws. We lined the edges of our sun visors with them.

    • I think I was there! You took us back to the old days.

  7. Salt in Her Wound

    “You gonna eat all them fries?” a voice questions from the passenger window. Without invitation Rhonda’s two-timing ex-boyfriend pops the door of the Fairlane open, slides across the bench seat, snakes one hand around her shoulders, and with the other plucks a fry from the plastic basket she’s holding. He cranks up the radio and lip synchs a few lyrics.

    “I like tots better,” he smirks as he reaches for another. “Got any catsup there?”

    Rhonda politely hands him a catsup cup and turns the volume down.

    “I hear you quit your job today. Bet your daddy’s pissed. What happened anyway?”

    Rhonda licks a finger tip cut which is burning from the salt on the fries.

    “It was, like, so freaking boring – standing at my station with my training supervisor paying more attention to my boobs than my work.” She clasps a hand to her collar as she feigns a demure expression.

    “Really?” Rodney takes a quick look himself. Her sweater fits her sophomore body like paint.

    “Tell me his name, Rhonda, I’ll kick his ass for you. I swear.” He pushes the sleeves of his letterman’s sweater up over his forearms like a tough guy and makes a pair of fists.”

    She looks out her window and waves at Larry, a senior, and the captain of the football team. “It was Jake Reynolds, Larry’s dad.”

    “Oh, damn Rhonda, he’s big. And Larry’s… well, he’s my buddy.”

    “Figured as much.”

    “Don’t say that, Rhonda.”

    “Figured as much. Figured as much,” she taunts with mock disgust.

    Rodney looks away at nothing, focusing on his dilemma.

    She turns to Rodney and pokes a boob in his arm. “Rodney. You whip him for me, and I’ll let you take me to the dance tomorrow night.”

    Rodney snaps his head in her direction. “You mean that, Rhonda. Like for real?”

    “For real,” she replies with a smile on her lips which suggest more than dancing.

    “Aw, Rhonda, I could get real hurt. Get in big trouble.”

    “Hi there Larry,” she coos out her window. “You here by yourself?”

    “Aw, damn it Rhonda. Okay, I’ll do it.”

    He grabs one more fry and slips it in his mouth. “Consider it done, Baby. I’ll pick you up at seven tomorrow.”

    As quickly as he entered, Rodney makes his exit.

    Rhonda curls a finger at Larry who saunters over and leans his head in the car window. She gives him a peck on the lips and offers him a fry.

    “I think I’ll let you take me to the dance, Saturday. Rodney’s coming down with something.”


    Copyright 2013, Jeff Switt

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      Rhonda’s playing with fire. That’s the fun of creative writing, right? I need to tap into those options when I write.

    • galelikethewind

      Oh Jeff, I knew a few “Rhondas” in High School. We called them PT’s. (P**k Teasers)
      I really like the little details in your work, things like her finger tip burning from the salt on the fries, for instance. Took us back to the auto line for a second.
      A real fun read. Thanks.

    • Sure wish we had an edit function here. I started with ex-boyfriend, then meant to change to two-timing boyfriend, and ended up with two-timing ex-boyfriend. Phhhhtttttttt. The two-timing part was the important key, motive for her revenge.

      And I wanted to add something to the end that explained that with Rhonda’s “people skills” she really never had to worry about ever having to work. But everything I tried seemed trite or cheesy.

      • annlinquist

        I think we could have a sitcom going here. But I still would want Rhonda to have her Beagle episode.

    • Whoaaaaaa! An antagonist rather than a protagonist.

    • I love how you got inside the girl’s head and wrote from her point of view.

  8. Rhonda crunched a tear, sniffed back a french fry, and constipated her future. She would never be the men her father was. Then she remembered a girl she had met at a Junior Achievement seminar last year. The girl was Rhonda’s age and she was making thousands of dollars in a small business she had created on her own. However, Rhonda had trouble remembering the details of the business. She remembered it involved some walking, and late nights, and something about conventions and bus stations. But the exact nature of the business eluded her. Perhaps it had something to do with government, Rhonda thought, she seemed to recall the word “constitution.” Then her mind drifted to magic, as the girl had discussed “turning tricks.” Suddenly Rhonda realized there was a french fry stuck in her nose. All thoughts of business and future were suspended as she fought to extract the french fry by blowing her nose into the napkin. Was it blood; was it ketchup? When at last her nostril was clear, Rhonda resolved to call the girl from the seminar. Wait, she thought, that’s it…call girl.

  9. Man, not men. What happened to my pen name Waldo? People will think I’m an actual person.

    • I wish I knew the answer. Somewhere along the line, you filled in a form that asked for a name, and then it hijacked your real name. I don’t know how this stuff works. If I did, I would be in blog heaven.

    • I wondered if it was a mistake, but you’re so clever I thought it was your way of indicating her father was so accomplished he was equivalent to many men rather than one man.

      Oh, and you can’t be an actual person and write like this!!

      (Sorry for gushing but I can’t help it).

    • I wondered about men but figured you meant her father was so accomplished he was equal to several men rather than one man. I was impressed. And I still am!

    • Men worked for me. I actually thought it was very clever. I assumed you were saying that Rhonda’s father was more accomplished than one man could be so you referred to him as “men.”

      I think you’re much more than an actual person. I think you’re a gifted writer. So there!!

  10. “Screw this,” said Rhonda. “I’m outta here.” And she was, her first and final paycheck in hand. “There’s gotta be more to life than slaving at a loser job.”

    She made another decision during the resulting fireworks with her dad. “Screw this, too,” she said. “I’m outta here, too.” And she was, Greyhound-bound for Los Angeles after sneaking out of her bedroom window late that night and braving the downtown bus terminal where the drunks and weirdoes hung out.

    Her bus left at 6 AM. Seated beside her was an elderly man wearing a nice business suit. He was well-groomed, old but nice-looking, and the crinkled skin around his eyes told Rhonda he smiled often—like now, when he turned to introduce himself.

    “Hello, miss, I’m Jefferson Adkins. Looks like we’re seatmates for a long trip. I always find it helps to pass the time if I engage in conversation. Would you like to talk?”

    “Umm, I guess. Depends on what ya want to talk about, I mean.”

    “Well, let’s see. How about the Bible?”

    “The Bible. Uh, okay. Don’t know too much about it, you know. First though, I’d like to ask you a question.”

    “Oh, certainly. What would you like to know?”

    “Well, can you tell me why rabbits poop little bitty pellets, and horses poop big balls, and cows poop big goopy cow pies, and dogs poop long poops?”

    “Oh. Well, let’s see. Mmmmm, no, I certainly don’t know the answer to that.”

    “So let’s get this straight. You want to discuss the Bible and you don’t know sh!t”

  11. Hilarious, classic Gullible.

  12. De nada, Waldo.

  13. I’m going to remember that one. Classic reply. Has it finally melted up there?

    • Melted? Close. We’ve had record high temperatures, and we’re sniveling about it. I had 92 in the shade t my house. Unheard of! Cooled off and we are getting a smattering of rain now, but we need lots more. Most of the state is under red flag.

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