My thoughts and reactions to what I am reading.
arewell to Violet
By Ellen Dodson
The blue eyes started to water.
"Don't you cry!" Nicole ordered her reflection in the bathroom mirror.
She looked away and concentrated on brushing her hair. By the time she'd run the brush from her part painstakingly down the blond silky lengths, the tears had obeyed. They didn't fall, but they waited close to the surface, should she trigger them with the word again. She made a vow not to.
Laying the brush down, she separated a small section of hair. Her fingers moved nimbly, tucking and crossing their way down the back of her head. With a hand mirror she allowed herself a long moment to survey her work. She took in the familiar sight of the subtle hues of beige and gold that intertwined and snaked throughout the French braid. Her gaze lingered where the braid ended between the thin shoulder blades invisible beneath her oversized sweatshirt.
"Nicki?" The voice traveled up the stairs.
"What, Mom?" she called over her shoulder.
"What are you doing?"
The question spurred her adrenaline into action. She cinched her Nikes tighter, and snatching her car keys from the counter, she tossed her purse over her shoulder in dual motion as her feet raced down the stairs. "I'm leaving for a while!"
Before she could finish her escape to the back door, a jogging suit rounded the comer. "But, honey..." The voice held a twinge of the baby talk her mother had lapsed into more and more these days.
Nicole didn't look back. Her grip on the doorknob tightened. "I know, Mom. I'll be home before four."
"But where ...?"
Nicole opened the door just wide enough to slip through and shut it quickly.
The hum of the car engine helped her heart slow its rhythm as she pulled from the drive. If she checked the rearview mirror, she knew, she'd see her mother with that look on her face. So Nicole ignored the mirror.
She kept her eyes forward and cranked her window down so she could feel the wind on her face. At the first stoplight she wasn't aware of the Pinto that pulled alongside until a voice called from its backseat, "Hey, baby, wanna race?" followed by kissing sounds.
Nicole turned and smiled, shaking her head at the carload of letterman jackets. "Sorry," she called back, "but I'd make you look bad." The dig was met with a hearty round of thick-necked laughter and turns slapping the car's owner on the back of his meaty head.
A glowing cigarette butt flicked out as the Pinto revved its engine. Tires squealing, it jumped the light a split second before it changed and sped out of sight. Nicole watched it disappear.
The park wasn't far, but it had been a long time. Nicole tried to remember how to get there. The drive came back to her like a spotty slide show of familiar landmarks. She knew she was on the right track when she recognized a split rail fence, rotten and falling with decay along the road.
Resting her elbow out the window, she took the end of her braid and brushed it under her nose as she drove. The soft tickling felt comforting against her lip. Her mind searched back, trying to remember when she didn't have long hair.
My thoughts and reactions to what I am reading.
he sunlight that stuttered through the limbs overhead made her squint. Being little. She found herself suddenly thinking of nap times, of sucking on her hair and brushing the end against her cheek, hypnotizing herself to sleep.
Being little. The last time she was at the park, she was ten. Still, it was fresh in her mind. Her hair tangled in a small thorny tree. That awful back-and-forth sawing sound of her curls being cut loose by her father's pocketknife. The tug against her scalp.
She remembered when they had finally let her look in the mirror. "It's not that bad, tweety pie," her mother had said in that nauseating baby talk. "It'll grow back."
Maybe that's why she had picked this place. Because it had.
She pulled into a spot by a bench. Before she got out, she undid her braid and let her hair fall to her shoulders and against her neck. The park bench was sun-warmed. She nestled against the creaking wood and let her hair hang over the back for the breeze to play with. She shut her eyes. A healthy gust blew a soft strand across her face, and she let it linger and slide away.
Time passed. Maybe it was just minutes, but she'd drifted back to kindergarten, somewhere in the middle of nap time.
"Your hair is beautiful."
Nicole startled and spun around. An elderly couple in baggy hiking garb stood behind her.
"Your hair is beautiful." The words felt muffled, hitting her ears like dull stones. She stood quickly and brushed off her jeans. Her watch read one o'clock.
The drive to the city took only thirty minutes. She pulled beside a parking meter and stuffed it until it vomited a quarter back at her. Two hours should be plenty.
The shop she'd seen advertised in the yellow pages lived up to her expectations. Even from down the street, its pink neon sign and lime green veneer stood out among the conservative, bricked storefronts. The Pink Razor.
"How can I help you?" The receptionist's pierced tongue flashed a dot of gold and a wad of gum. A double-pierced eyebrow lifted, questioning Nicole's silent stare.
"Oh, uh. I want my hair colored."
The girl took a moment to give Nicole's hair an appraising glance before flipping open the large book on the Plexiglas desk top. "Got an appointment?"
"I called this morning. Someone named Georgie, I think." Nicole watched the girl's five-inch silver nails drum the desk.
Flip, flip. The pages came to rest. "Oh, I see it. Yeah," the girl confirmed. Her black lipstick stretched into a smile. "I'll take you to the station. Georgie's real good with color." She spoke over her shoulder as she guided Nicole through a labyrinth of nail stations and rinsing bowls, most giving birth to some bizarre creation. "Have a seat." She motioned to an empty styling chair with a clear plastic cape over the arm. "Georgie'11 be right back." Her tone was as unconvincing as the look she shot down the length of hall before clomping away.
Maybe Georgie's busy piercing something, Nicole thought, perching on the seat and clutching her purse. She spun the chair with her toes so that she wasn't facing the center room and found herself looking straight into the mirror. Her hair hung in yellow waves, silhouetting her shoulders, caressing her face. Don't cry!
My thoughts and reactions to what I am reading.
Sorry for the wait." Another reflection filled the mirror beside her own. It was tall, sporting shortly cropped orange hair with platinum bangs that hung like icicles down the forehead. The voice was low. There was no makeup, yet Nicole got the distinct impression that although the body was flat-chested and wearing jeans, Georgie was female. "Some ninny borrowed my color samples."
Georgie triumphantly produced a necklace of hair swatches, a rainbow of unnatural colors. "You said on the phone you were looking for something unusual. Did I hear right?"
Nicole nodded, accepted the array, and fingered through them.
"Now that one," Georgie's breath smelled of mocha as she leaned over Nicole's shoulder, "that one I just did on my best friend's cousin. It's called Lizard Green. Turned out fantastic."
Nicole rolled the swatch around in her fingers. "I like green." Releasing it, she kept going. "I want purple," she said.
"Oh, then I know the perfect shade for you." Georgie filed through the samples and held up a bright lavender. "It's called Suicide Grape."
"No, I'll take that one." Nicole lifted out a murky, but delicate shade of purple.
"Are you sure?" Georgie didn't sound as though she approved of the choice. "I don't think anyone's ever picked it yet." She raised the swatch up to rest beside Nicole's face. "Regurgitated Wine isn't a very pretty color against your skin. Want to look some more?"
Nicole shook her head. "Just do it."
Two hours later, Nicole gave the meter a kick and snatched a parking ticket from under her windshield wiper.
After crossing the street, a man stepped up onto the sidewalk beside the meter. His head spun toward her. When he faced forward again, his stare was covert but still magnetized to her hair.
It's called Regurgitated Wine, Nicole wanted to shout, but instead she unlocked the car and got in.
Her watch read three forty-five when she pulled into the driveway at home. Her mother had shed the jogging suit for a skirt and blouse and was trudging toward her from the front door. She must have been standing there, waiting and watching.
The car door whipped open. Nicole braced herself with the steering wheel.
"I was so worried you might be late." Her mother adjusted her skirt as she sat down, then reached out to pull the car shut. "Where have you—" Her hand fell off the handle and dropped to her side as her eyes found Nicole. "Nicki! What in the world ...?"
The question was all it took to trigger her mother. "Can you believe it? And she doesn't even like purple."
The doctor's chin raised, and a knowing look crossed his eyes. "We did talk about some of the side effects of Adriamycin for your chemo, didn't we, Nicole?"
Her nod came slowly.
Nicole heard the sudden catch in her mother's breath. When it came, her voice was small. "Oh, Nicki," she said as she moved beside her daughter, "I should have guessed." The warmth of her arm melted gently around Nicole's trembling shoulders.
Nicole swallowed hard. "Mom's right, I do hate purple."
His eyes passed silent words to Nicole. A tender smile crept up his lips. "Then you won't mind losing it, will you?"
A single tear broke free and trickled past Nicole's nose.
Their eyes stayed locked.
Smiles matched; his built of compassion, hers of gratitude.
Responding to the Short Story (approximately 40 minutes)
Answer the following four questions related to the story you just read. You are provided with four pages to respond to these four questions. You may answer the questions in any order you wish. Respond to each question as completely as possible remembering to use examples from the story to support your conclusions. Write your answers in your answer booklet. Only what is written in the answer booklet will be scored. If you are answering question 1, write your response on the page labeled Response to Literature, Session 1, number 1.
What are your thoughts and questions about the story? You might reflect on the characters, their problems, the title or other ideas in the story.
Choose one of the following quotations from the story. Explain what you think the quotation means as it relates to elements of the story such as the characters or the theme. Write the letter of the quotation you choose and your response in your answer booklet.
A. "It's not that bad, tweety pie," her mother had said in that nauseating baby talk. "It'll grow back." Maybe that's why she had picked this place. Because it had. (page 73)
B. "Of all days, Nicki, why today?"
"Why not?" Tears pressed. Don't cry\ She kept her eyes on the road. "I knew you wouldn't understand." (page 76)
C. Their eyes stayed locked.
Smiles matched; his built of compassion, hers of gratitude, (page 76)
What does this story say about people in general? In what ways does it remind you of people you have known or experiences you have had? You may also write about stories or books you have read, or movies, works of art, or television programs you have seen. Use examples from the story to explain your thinking.
How successful was the author in creating a good piece of literature? Use examples from the story to explain your thinking.