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Rubber Soul (1)

by Elinor


I was three when my mother was put away and seven when my father met Lupe. We were living on our ranch in Cheyenne then. She wasn’t old enough to be my mother, but I liked her. She introduced me to mariachi music and Frida Kahlo through the paintings she’d brought with her from Mexico.

She was an aspiring artist herself, and had turned our spare room into a studio, which made everything seem a bit more lively. I’d often come home from school and find her covered in paint, half finished easels propped against the wall.

While my father hired a few ranch hands to help, he’d always make me feed the horses in the afternoons. Lupe made it into an activity we could do together. I told her the names I’d given them. Our spotted quarter horse was Bambi. Our paint horse was Dorothy. They were friendly, and soon they’d taken a liking to her too.

One afternoon, after we put their feed back into the shed, she sat me down. “Michelle,” she said. “I really like your dad.”

I said nothing.

“He told me about what happened to your mom, and I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

In those days I still hadn’t fully grasped what it meant that my mom had been put away. We’d visited her once, and it hadn’t gone well. She’d barely recognized me and started screaming nonsense at my father, and we’d driven all the way to Boulder to see her. From then on she’d become a forbidden topic of conversation. As much as it pained me to think about, she was already a distant blip in my memory.

She continued. “Listen, your dad asked me to marry him. And I want to say yes. And I know I’m not your mother, and I don’t want to try to be. But I like spending time with you too.”

I’d noticed a thick, dark bruise over her eye then, but I was still too young to fully understand. My father hadn’t started hitting me the way he later would. “Yes,” was all I said.

She hugged me tightly. “I’m so happy,” she replied.

She was with us for seven years. The first year was when I, along with the rest of the world, were introduced to the Beatles. It was a cold day in February, and the snow outside went all the way to my chest. My father was still out one of his regular outings to the local bar, and Lupe was in the living room. She had the fireplace on and was watching The Ed Sullivan Show. “Want to watch with me?” she asked.

I nodded. She extended her arm and I put my head on her shoulder. This was nice. Even if she was more of a cool older sister than my stepmother, she made me feel loved in a way that neither of my parents had been able to.

I had apparently been living under a rock because I’d never heard of the Beatles or had any idea who they were, and yet Lupe told me that there had been some five hundred thousand people waiting for them in New York. Because of it, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

And then the curtain fell and I saw them. My eyes were immediately drawn to the lead singer.

“Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you…”

For the next fifteen minutes I didn’t take my eyes off of him. During the second song, they flashed their names. He was Paul. Paul McCartney. They spoke a little at the end. British, it seemed like. His accent was nice. The others said things too, but Paul mattered most to me.

I was nine, almost ten that year, and as far as I knew, boys were still gross. And yet, I asked Lupe where we could buy all of their records. I wanted to listen to the music over and over again. I wanted to keep looking at Paul and listening to him sing.

“They are cute, aren’t they?” Lupe said with a wink.

We sat there for a moment, and I was still processing what I’d just watched. “I wonder where your dad is,” she said. Even though it was a Sunday night and I had school the next morning, Lupe told me we could have a girl’s night. It was only seven, but it felt a lot later.

We put on the radio. She made us hot chocolate and I got out a piece of paper and my colored pencils and started doodling. I drew flowers and hearts and my name with Paul’s. “Michelle McCartney” did have a nice ring to it. In the middle of the paper I drew me. I was older. My makeup done, my hair styled in a beehive. Next to me I drew Paul. It was our wedding. Lupe was my maid of honor, naturally.

I showed her as she served us our hot chocolate. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “We should put this on the fridge.” She told me to sign my name at the bottom. Once I did, she took it and fixed it to the fridge with a magnet.

“Some time I’ll have to you show you how to paint. You’re already a lot better than I was when I was your age.”

She sat down next to me and we kept drinking our hot chocolate. We talked for a little while longer before we felt a gust of cold air and turned to see that my father was home. He stumbled toward us, and I knew that something was wrong. I saw Lupe start to shake.

“She should be in bed,” he spat.

“You’re drunk.”

“Don’t talk to me that way,” he responded. Then, he hit her, right in front of me.

Lupe screamed and I started yelling at him to stop. He was scaring me and I wasn’t sure why he was acting like this.

Then, he saw the picture on the fridge. “What’s this?” He took one look at it. “He’s never going to marry you,” he told me. Then he crumpled it up and threw it on the floor.

Lupe started yelling at him now. I was terrified and I had no idea where to go or how to help, so I went into my room and started crying. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened before. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night and hear them shouting, but in the morning, everything would be fine.

When I got up to go to school, neither of them were awake, so I tried to put it out of my mind. And when I got home, only my father was there. I noticed my drawing was hanging back up, crumpled though it was. He stared at me as I walked in. I said nothing to him because I had nothing to say.

“Lupe went to the grocery store,” he said.

I didn’t respond. I went to fix myself a snack.

“Mitchie, I’m really sorry about last night,” he continued. “I just lose control sometimes.”

“Don’t go to bars so often,” I remember saying. Even though I was only nine years old, there was a part of me that knew that something was terribly wrong, that this wasn’t the way that parents were supposed to act. And yet, I pushed those feelings down.

“I want to make it up to you,” he said. “Lupe said you really like that band that was on the Ed Sullivan show last night. I thought maybe I could buy you one of their records, if you want to go into town. Then maybe we can get hot chocolate after.”

In that moment, that was all I needed. Years later, I’d tell Jay about all of this, how I should have known better.

And he’d say to me, “You wanted to believe he really cared. There’s nothing wrong with that.”


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22 Reviews


Points: 15
Reviews: 22

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Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:15 pm
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MoonlightForest wrote a review...



Hi there, MoonlightForest here for a review!

First off, I want to start off by complimenting the flow of your writing. You have a great rhythm to your prose, and I was easily able to follow the characters as they interacted with one another. Lupe really jumped off the page; she appears to be just as your narrator characterized her: like a friend, or an older sister. You capture the fallout of divorce and potential silver linings very well, and I love how you show the depth of their relationship through an activity as simple as them watching the Ed Sullivan show together.

One criticism that I have for you (though I was hard-pressed to find any) has to do with a handful of lines towards the end:

"This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened before. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night and hear them shouting, but in the morning, everything would be fine."

There was nothing in the previous paragraphs to reaffirm the fact that these violent outbursts had happened before. My major concern is, you present Michelle staying up with Lupe as a catalyst for the events that happened with her father, and then present additional information that indicates this was pattern behavior. To make things more agreeable with your main plot points, I would have the narrator say something offhand like, "Their shouting was characteristic of sounds my pillow had muffled months before" or something similar. Also, there are times when your narrator sounds nearly as insightful as an adult figure, which contrasts with her youthful optimism. I know that the narrator is intended to be looking back on her life, but I think that even she would try to reflect the same naivete she possessed in her childhood. Just make sure that you're always staying true to the narrative voice.

It was truly hard for me to come up with any criticisms. I absolutely want to read more! You have an eye for characters and a great empathetic lens which can take you far in the writing world. Keep up the good work!




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711 Reviews


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Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:22 pm
ShadowVyper wrote a review...



Heya Elinor,

Shady here with a quick review for you this fine RevMo! Let's get started...

I was three when my mother was put away and seven when my father met Lupe.


So, I'm big on openings. I feel like I've reviewed for you in the past, which means you've probably already gotten my rambling about openings -- but I'm a big fan of when they're crafted just right, and I think yours is. The "put away" could mean so many things -- jail, an asylum or rehab of some sort, or maybe in a simplistic 3 year old's understanding of something more morbid, like a funeral or such. I just like how factual this sentence is, with a no-nonsense sort of approach that kind of gives a glimpse into the narrator's world without really expanding too much upon what happened to the mother. It's definitely a point of intrigue that's got me interested from the very first sentence and I'm interested to see where you're going to take this. So awesome job there :)

I’d noticed a thick, dark bruise over her eye then, but I was still too young to fully understand. My father hadn’t started hitting me the way he later would.


This may be a wee bit heavy handed, but I'm really not sure about that. Your narration style is different from what I generally read so maybe you can get away with this, but if it's supposed to be foreshadowing it's a little bit heavy handed to function as that I think.

~ ~ ~

I really like this! It's very different from stuff I normally read, both in genre and in the narration style where it's like... past tense but still very much feels present? It's got a lot of emotion packed into a small amount of space and I think you just did a really great job of making us care really quickly.

I can't relate to Michelle's childhood at all, and yet I already feel a connection with her. The relationship between her dad and Lupe, the relationship between her and her dad. It's so endearing to watch her and Lupe together and heartbreaking to watch alcohol destroying the other relationships. And I like how something as simple and silly as the Beatles and a childhood crush can be such a focal bonding point for a girls night -- it's really sweet and I'm a big fan of how you developed this.

I'm just going to start rambling now about how much I liked your story -- but I think I've already communicated the specifics of why I think it's great, so I'll spare you from that. Just know I'm a big fan and you have an excellent start to a story here with an intriguing cliff hanger for an end. Great job!

Keep writing!

~Shady 8)




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Tue Sep 03, 2019 8:52 pm
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Cici wrote a review...



Hi, Elinor!

I really liked reading this, and I can't wait to see how it will go. I love the pop culture references and that it is historical fiction. You do a very nice job at setting the scene, and I appreciate the flashback.

I definitely felt that you could have expanded the details about the overall setting. Maybe talk more about what life on a ranch is like (I wouldn't know) besides feeding the horses in the afternoon. Include more information about what the ranch looks like and the individual rooms. Some examples, mention what part of the ranch the spare room is located, the ambiance of the living room with the fireplace on, and maybe what Michelle's room looks like(?).

Adding more specifics will enhance this memory that Michelle is having and make it come even more to life. Sometimes without these little details, transitions seem blunt and sudden. Like, when Lupe was making hot chocolate and Michelle was doodling, we don't know where this is taking place (I assume the kitchen). You might want to refer to Michelle sitting on a stool and doodling on the kitchen island (I don't know). Us, the readers, can assume the place where the event is happening given the details that you have written, but specifics will help us better visualize the narrative.

Something that I was a bit confused about was what caused the father's abusive behavior. What made him go to the bar regularly? Was it the mom being put away? It might be because I'm a little slow, but I don't think you made that clear. It was an element of the story that felt somewhat detached. I'm sure you'll explain more later in the continuation, but maybe further develop it(?). You do give little hints like the bruise over Lupe's eye and common shouting at night, but I think you can add some more support and details.

Another thing that I should mention is the characters. Though you do give some introduction such as Lupe is an artist from Mexico and Michelle has a crush on Paul McCartney, I suggest including more personal elements. This might mean talking about Michelle's friends, her interests besides the Beatles (and if that is her only interest, mention that), does she like feeding the horses, does she like drawing? Also, just a personal preference, state how Lupe and her father met when she was seven years. Essentially, just add details, stuff that will strengthen the characters (you can also talk about how they deal with the abuse, which I'm guessing will be in the next piece).

I would highly recommend rereading this and just altering the sentences while filling in content between quick transitions. Moments like when Lupe asks if Michelle wants to watch with her, include Michelle walking over to the couch and plopping down. These are just to fill in vague impressions.

Honestly, there weren't many problems with the story, I really liked it! The only things were details and filling in things that were implied. This was an enjoyable read, and I look forward to the second part!

Great Job!

Cici





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