Working class girl becomes world class singer
“Authentic and Inspiring 70s Feminist Coming-of-Age Story”
Jill Frisk, 18-year-old daughter of a violent father and shattered mother, has no plans, no hope. She got straight-A’s in high school. Yet her 1970s blue collar neighborhood discourages women’s dreams.
But Joe Stern, the new recreation director, takes Jill seriously. He hires her to run a preschool group. And assists her in founding a teen council that uplifts the neighborhood.
Joe helps Jill overcome depression. With his encouragement, she discovers she has a world-class voice. Gets vocal training. Finds a safe home for her family. Brings her mother back to life. And learns moves in a women’s self-defense class that help her beat the crap out of two attackers.
Jill falls in love with Joe, though she’s too shy to tell him. But after a year, he suddenly leaves for a distant city.
Can Jill use the skills Joe taught her to pursue him, woo him, help him overcome his secret past, and win his hand? Can she conquer her self-doubt and become a successful musician?
You’ll love this heartwarming story by an award-winning author, filled with touching portrayals of ordinary people. The characters seem so real, they’ll feel like your good friends. JiJi will raise your spirits and inspire you.
288 pages, eBook or paperback.
First in the Shingle Creek Sagas.
Read Chapter 1 Below FREE!
“The Day I Fell in Love”
Minneapolis, Monday, January 4, 1971
A small boy with a crust of snow in his hair came clomping into the warming room, sat on the cement bench, and sobbed, arms covering his face. Joe, my boss, kneeled in front of him. The boy said his feet were so cold they were hurting real bad.
Through the warming-room windows, I could see great gray clouds blotting out the darkening sky. The few trees on the edge of the outdoor skating rink bent forward in the wind like old people.
Joe said to the boy, “Do you want me to warm them with my hands?”
The child said yes but cried harder. Joe took off the boy’s ice skates and socks and held those little feet.
“My dad used to do that,” the boy said.
Joe asked him where his dad was. The boy said, “Up in heaven,” and cried even more. Joe soothed him. The room was silent except for Joe’s quiet, kind voice. All the kids were listening, especially me, because I’d never seen another man that kind and tender, and I wanted a man like that.
Oh shit! I’m in love, but this will never work. He’s a grown man, and I’m still a teenager, and what would he want with me. I’m not even pretty. But I want a man like him. He’s the only man I’ve ever heard talk like that. Even Ma doesn’t. When she talks.
Bobby Lund said, “Why are you doing this? You’re not even his dad.”
“Well, I’d do that for you, too, Bobby.”
“I’m not a little kid. I’m eight.”
“If you ever need help or comfort, count on me. All kids are my kids.”
Would he warm my feet if they were cold?
I clamped my hands together. Get out of my mind, dumb thought! You’re making me get all tingly, and I don’t want that private feeling showing on my face.
Joe held the boy’s feet and talked to him until he wasn’t crying anymore. Put the child’s socks and shoes on. He sat down on the bench.
“So, what’s your name?”
“Oh, Bruce from the famous Woosie family?”
“Huh-uh! Brucie Woosie. You can’t fool me!”
Joe started telling silly little kid jokes. The two of them were laughing.
After a while, Joe said, “I’m going to walk Brucie home. He lives just a block away, but it’s below zero and snowing, and Brucie is only five. Jill, you’re in charge until I come back.” Even though I was only eighteen and a half.
The look on every kid’s face showed they were deeply touched by what Joe had done. But nobody talked about it, especially me.
That night, in bed, I told Joe I loved him. I’d never said that to anyone before, even in my head. He kissed me. I began to tingle and get all wet. I whispered that my feet were cold. He took off my socks, rubbed my feet, kissed them. Kissed them! I moved my hand down between my legs.
He undid my bra. In my mind, he was kissing my breasts. My fingers were moving all around my sensitive spot. Then he came inside me, and we made love, and I had the hugest orgasm ever, but he kept going, and I had another even bigger orgasm, and when my earthquake finally stopped, I had to turn on the light to make sure he wasn’t actually there.
I felt very calm and relaxed. For a few minutes. Then I felt like, Oh, shit! I shouldn’t have done that. I crossed the line. What line? You know, The Line.
I felt so happy and sad, all at the same time.
About a week later, Brucie clomped into the warming room, crying again. Joe warmed the boy’s feet. I got all tingly, but I clamped that down real quick. I sat down next to Brucie so I could hear what Joe said. I was pretty good at comforting little kids. But Joe was a master.
Joe said, all soft and gentle, “Brucie, how come you stay out so long in the cold?”
Brucie, still crying, said his dad was up in heaven with the clouds. When the wind blew strong and cold, he could hear his father calling to him, “Brucie, Brucie here I am. Come find me!” The boy had his hands covering his face. His head was bent down. He was half-talking, half-crying.
“Then a hole opened up in the clouds. Red sun made everything glow. The wind got colder. Dad’s voice called me. I raced after it, back and forth across the rink. Big lights up on the tall poles turned on. I knew it was almost nighttime. My feet hurt.
“It’s not fair!” Brucie yelled three times, hitting Joe’s chest each time with his small fists. Joe hugged him. Brucie cried, “Everybody tells me I’ll be okay. They tell me not to cry.”
“Brucie, that doesn’t help, huh?”
“What does help?”
“Right now, crying.”
Joe held Brucie while he sobbed.
He didn’t tell Brucie, “Boys don’t cry!” or “Man up!” He didn’t yell at him, “How could you stay outside so long; it’s only nine degrees out!” So Brucie opened up and told him stuff. You know, the real important stuff.
Same as the first time I met Joe. It was April 4, 1970. I was sitting in the warming room, helping Susie Hakala, Karen Ahlberg, and Cheryl Rasmussen with their science homework. This man walked in, grinned, and said, “Hi, my name is Joe Stern. I’m the new park director.”
We mumbled, “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Stern,” like a bored chorus that doesn’t expect much.
“Ladies, my first name ain’t Mister. So please call me Joe.” His grin got wider.
I said, “Cool, Joe Stern, take a bow.”
He burst out laughing, bowed, and said, “Good one! Never heard it before!”
I bowed back.
“You ladies have names?”
Ladies! Not girls. Not chicks. This man seems to have some class!
He asked us what we were doing.
“She’s helping us with our science homework. Jill makes it fun, interesting. These blue pebbles are neutrons. Yellow ones, protons. Red are electrons,” Susie said, pointing.
“So, Jill, you do this just because you get a kick out of it?” Joe said.
“No big deal,” I said, slumping a bit.
“Are you doing well in school?”
I said, “No big deal,” again.
“Jill’s got a straight A average an’ stuff,” Karen said.
I shrugged. “It’s boring and too easy. They don’t even try to make it interesting, you know what I mean?”
“But maybe you’re supersmart. Maybe they should challenge you more,” Joe said, hitting his palm with his fist.
Karen nodded in agreement.
“Nah. I’m just plain old Jill.”
“You sure of that?” Joe said.
I shrugged again. Yes, I’m sure. No, I’m not sure. You’re making me think, Joe Stern. I might actually like that.
“Why do you hang out here?”
“Oofdah! No other place for us teens. No stores, nothing but houses this side of the tracks, not even a fast-food joint?”
“What about the schools?” Joe said.
“Nuh-uh! Locked after three in the PM. Just to get to the railroad crossing’s a mile away,” I said, pointing in that direction.
“Nothing. Just the library. Closed at night. So this ugly warming room is it.”
“What’s happening at home?”
“Not much fun. Tiny houses. Big families. Grumpy parents.”
“Jill’s lucky. Has her own room. I share with three sisters,” Susie said.
“Got it. So if it was up to you, what would you want going on here?” Joe said.
“Gee! Start a book club for teens. That way I’d have kids to talk with about stuff I’m reading,” I said.
Joe nodded and smiled. Then I threw him a tough one. My smile tightened into a grimace.
Very quietly, I said, “Joe, I want the restroom kids to be allowed in here, huh? They’re my friends. But they’re banned.”
His face was puzzled, the grin gone. “Banned? Why?”
“They got in trouble with Ole the groundskeeper? Hates kids. Made the cops ban them. We get together in the restroom. Usually the men’s.”
“Okay, what do you do in there?”
“Hang out, talk, listen to Vickie’s boom box. She’s my best friend. Sometimes smoke or drink. Like normal teens?”
“Well, I’d like to meet them,” Joe said.
“For real?” I said, rubbing my hands together fast.
“For sure!” Joe said.
“Come with us!” we all said.
We went outside to the restroom doors. I gave the special knock, one-two-three, one-two, one, and opened the door. Five kids inside were silent. Laura was passed out on the floor. Paul, Li’l Mikey, and Dozer stood with clenched fists, looking ready to fight.
Vickie said, “Laura drank too much again. What’s up, Jillster? You get busted? This guy a cop?”
“Hey, guys, this is Joe, the new park director? His first name is not Mister. Seems pretty cool. Wants to meet you.”
“It makes me upset you have to hang out in here. Can we work it out so you aren’t banned anymore? I’d like to invite you all inside,” Joe said, spreading his arms wide. “Can we talk about what you’d like to see happening? Whaddaya think?”
They all said, “Yeah, no problem,” in the same toneless chorus that Cheryl, Susie, Karen, and I had used. Dozer bent down, all six feet five, two hundred and fifty-seven pounds of him, picked Laura up, carried her into the warming room like a baby in his arms. He rolled up his coat and put it under Laura’s head. She lay on the floor, snoring.
“So here’s where it’s at. Tell me what you want. We’ll see if we can do it,” Joe said.
“I already told him I wanted a teen book club, right? He didn’t say no.”
Li’l Mikey said, “Yet.”
Dozer said, “Shoot, Li’l Mikey. Give the guy a chance. Maybe he really will get something going.”
“The trick is, I’ll need help. From all of you…and your friends,” Joe said.
There was quiet for a few moments. So I decided to get the ball rolling.
“I want to be allowed to listen to Vicky’s boom box in here, huh?”
All the kids nodded yes.
“No problem!” Joe said, pointing toward the electric outlet. “Go ahead. Plug it in. Turn it on!”
Music filled the room.
“I wish there was a group for preschool kids, but could you even do it in the warming room?” I said.
Joe’s smile transformed into a grin.
“Like, that’s possible, too.”
Suddenly, everyone was talking. Cheryl wanted a table to do homework and crafts at. Susie said she wished there was a cross-country running club. Vicky said she could lead a running club for high school kids. Susie jumped up and hugged her.
Dozer asked for some comfortable chairs. Everyone said, yeah, these benches were horrible. Li’l Mikey said he wanted some basketballs for kids to borrow. The court was right outside. We need balls! Paul said he liked crafts, too; we needed materials, and could we have weight lifting? Karen said her great-grandma wanted to swim in the junior high school pool. Why couldn’t we have a senior swim?
Li’l Mikey said, “Yeah, they have one badass gym. We should have teen gym there at night.”
Dozer said, “The light in here sucks, catch my drift? Can we get some lamps? And that crappy patch of earth in front. I’d like to start a club to grow flowers there.”
Paul said he’d like a club for teens on how to repair small appliances. I wanted to start a nature club for fifth and sixth graders.
“She’s always collecting bugs and leaves,” Vicky said, patting me on the back.
Joe’s grin was huge now.
“Yep! These are great ideas. I never would have thought of them!”
He couldn’t even sit down anymore. He was pacing, bouncing around, all excited.
“So, are you all willing to be on the teen council? Deal?”
We all said “Deal!”
Paul grimaced and scratched his head.
“Ya passed the first test, Joe. Will ya pass the second? Can ya get this done?”
“No?” Li’l Mikey said. “No?”
“No. But we can,” Joe said.
— END —
Can Joe and the teen council start even one of those programs in a neighborhood where nothing much happens? Will super-smart Jill end up a bored and angry housewife? Will Laura drink herself into oblivion? Or will Dozer rescue her? Find out the surprising answers. Buy Becoming JiJi Now!
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