Pages From a Diary, Chapter 9

  • Posted on March 5, 2024 at 4:14 pm

To get a breakdown of the earlier chapters, please consult the Pages From a Diary Chapter Links.

by Rachael Yukey

I woke up to sunlight streaming through the living room windows. I had shifted during the night and was sprawled across Julie, my head resting on her chest. She had both arms wrapped around me. I squinted in the bright light, but then my eyes cleared and fixed on Julie’s grandma, who was sitting across the room in a recliner, reading a paperback. My head jerked up in surprise. Helen caught the motion, lowered her book, and smiled at me.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” she said. “You two look cozy.”

I don’t know if it was my moving around or Helen’s voice, but Julie began to stir. I turned to look at her, and she was blinking. When her eyes were fully open, she saw her grandmother in the chair and quickly pushed me away.

“Oof, Mal…” she said with a grunt. “You’re squishing me, you lumpus!”

We both giggled, and I rolled onto my back. It was warm in the room, and I pushed the covers off before realizing my nightgown had pulled up past my waist while I was sleeping. I quickly pushed it down to conceal my panties. I knew I was blushing a little.

“It’s okay,” said Helen. “No one but us girls in here, you know.”

“Willie might come in,” I reasoned.

“No, he won’t. He’s having coffee with my dad… Julie’s great grandpa. We usually go over there together on Saturday mornings, but I stuck around today since you girls are here.” She got up, came over to the bed and took a long, deep sniff.

“You girls need to take a shower before Willie gets back,” she advised. Julie and I gave each other a guilty look.

“It sure can get sweaty under the covers!” said Julie, a little too quickly.

Helen smiled sweetly. “Yes, it can,” she said, “and sometimes girls at sleepovers have secret, special fun together after bedtime. I was a girl once, and had some very… um… pleasant sleepovers with my friends, too. So! Why don’t you two go hop in the shower, and I’ll throw these sheets into the washing machine. Deal?”

We got ourselves out of bed, grabbed our overnight bags, and beat a hasty retreat into the bathroom. Once we were together under the hot spray, Julie leaned close and hissed, “I cannot believe that just happened!”

“Me, either,” I said. “Your grandma is the coolest ever, though. Mine would have locked me up and thrown away the key. My mom, too. I don’t even want to think about what my dad would do.”

“Do you really think she could smell it?”

“We both got pretty juicy down there… and we didn’t wash up after.”


We helped each other wash our hair and backs. It was a little arousing, but I pushed those feelings aside. Even without that, it felt good to touch Julie, care for her, and to be touched and cared for. Finally we got out, toweled dry, and got into our clothes.

When we left the bathroom we could smell bacon frying. Helen made us heaping plates of eggs, bacon, and hash browns. I ate every bite… I was starving.

After breakfast, we got our coats and boots on and hiked up across the field, dry soybean stubble crunching under our feet. The fields on their farm are very hilly, and even I can tell it’s not very good soil. Instead of a rich, dark black, it’s golden and sandy. But it doesn’t matter these days, I guess. My dad likes to say the soil is just there to hold the plants up, and fertilizer is what makes it grow.

We crested a largish hill with a long slope, and then I could see the woods they’d been talking about. Downhill a little ways, and we were in them. It dropped off pretty sharply once you got in there; a really steep downhill slope. I wasn’t really surprised. About the only place you see woods in farm country is places where it’s too hilly or too wet to drive tractors. This was both. In fact, there was a lake at the bottom of the hill.

The woods were brambly and full of prickly pear, so we picked our way along some deer trails. There’s a lot of deer sign out there, so the hunting must be pretty good. These trails were wide and easy to follow. The whole way Helen pointed out wild plants that are edible or can be used for medicine. Most of them had dried up for the year, but she could still tell you what each one was.

It’s funny. Most of the people who grew up on farms don’t know this stuff anymore, but Helen lived in the city until she and Willie retired, and she can identify almost anything in the woods. I wonder where she learned it.

About two thirds of the way down the hill we found the tree where the mushrooms grew. There were seven of them growing in a stack on the trunk. The biggest was maybe ten inches across, and the smallest probably half that. The top one was already starting to separate from the tree.

Helen knelt down and gently pried on it, with her fingers very close to the trunk. It broke off cleanly, and she handed it to me. It was still a little squishy, but I could tell it was mostly dry. I put it into a bag we’d brought along for them.

“The ones below are bigger,” she told me. “It’ll be easier to pull them off without breaking them if I have help.”

I handed the bag to Julie and knelt down alongside Helen. Using all four hands, we were able to work the mushroom back and forth without flexing it too much, and it came off of the tree in one piece. I passed it to Julie, and she stashed it in the bag.

We worked our way down to the bottom mushroom, which was the biggest, and managed to break them all off without damaging any. I took the bag back from Julie and slung it over my shoulder. Then Julie and Helen took me on a tour around the outside edge of the farm. The Hansons own 200 acres, which isn’t much these days. Their land is on both sides of the highway. A lot of it is swampy and hilly.

Willie was home and in his office by the time we got back. Except he doesn’t like people calling it an office! I guess it’s a “man cave”. He usually sits in there with the door open. It’s a small room full of workbenches and tools, but mostly what he does in there is play games on his computer. They looked like violent ones.

Lisa and Jason showed up just before lunch. We ate grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, and then went out to harvest the squash. The vegetable garden is high up on the hill towards the highway, right up by the house where Jason’s sister Theresa lives. She came out to help us pick the squash.

Theresa works nights at a hospital about thirty miles away. She’s married, but her husband is in the Navy and nobody sees much of him. She’s about twenty years old, and is the only person I’ve seen in Julie’s family who’s a little chubby. She has a round face with big dimples, and the same dark brown hair and eyes as Jason.

When we rolled up to the garden with me and Julie riding in the bed of Jason’s pickup, Theresa stepped out of her house, crossed her lawn to the garden area, and was standing behind the truck as Julie and I hopped down from the tailgate. She swept Julie into a quick hug, then turned to me with a bright smile.

“You must be Mallory!” she said. “Julie has told me so much about you. Would you like a hug?”

I was immediately taken with her. I opened my arms and stepped into Theresa’s embrace. She’s short enough that my face was pressed right up against her sizable boobs, and it made me tingle a little.

Then she stepped back, rubbed her hands together and said, “Okay, let’s go pick squash!” We marched into the field and got to work.

Being a farm girl you’d think I’d have done this a thousand times, but nope. My mom hasn’t grown a vegetable garden since I was little. I wasn’t even sure I knew what winter squashes taste like; Mom doesn’t buy them at the store. There sure are a lot of different kinds! The Hansons grow a lot of squash, and in all different shapes and sizes. There were little cute stripey ones the size of a big man’s fist, and huge gray or green ones that Jason said would weigh in at thirty or forty pounds.

It was actually pretty fun. Kind of like a treasure hunt! When the leaves and vines dried down it covered up a lot of the squash, and we’d just pull on the vines and dig under leaves until we found them. Some of the vines stretched over twenty feet! We’d find a squash, cut the stem off the vine with a little set of shears, and put it in one of the pickups. We had both Jason’s pickup and Willie’s, and filled up both of them. Willie was there, but mostly sat in his truck. His knees are too messed up for him to do work that takes a lot of walking.

Everyone hung close together while we picked, we all laughed and chatted. Theresa turned out to be one of the most cheerful and bubbly people I’ve ever met and was super-fun to be around. She knew lots of jokes, and was really good at telling them.

After the pickups were loaded we drove back down the hill, with Julie and me perched on top of the squash in the back of Jason’s pickup. Regular princesses of the squash truck, we were. We unloaded Willie’s pickup into the basement, then went into the living room and hung out there. The adults drank coffee, and Julie and I had pop. My parents hardly ever let me drink pop, and Julie doesn’t often get to either.

I liked spending time with Julie’s folks. When my family gets together the kids are either expected to disappear somewhere or sit super-quiet and not make a sound. Here, Julie and I were allowed to be a part of the conversation. Neither of us said all that much, but it was fun and made me feel really grown up.

We got packed up to leave around four. Jason and Lisa had dinner in the crockpot, and wanted to get the truckload of squash into the house before we ate. Before we took off, Helen took Julie and I upstairs. She’d found a cardboard box and we put all of the tree mushrooms into it, including the ones we picked that morning. I was going to leave those for Helen, but she insisted I take them. Then Helen showed us the sewing she’d done the night before by giving us each a Barbie doll! They were dressed in clothes made from the patterns Julie and I had picked out.

“Helen, you don’t have to…” I started to say.

“Hush,” she told me. “This is what I do. I pick up used Barbies at farm auctions or at junk shops. Sometimes I get whole boxes of them for almost nothing. Then I make clothes for them and give them to girls. So please, take it. I want you to.”

“Thank you Helen,” I said, and hugged her. She hugged me back.

“One other thing,” she said. “Obviously you two are big enough that the living room isn’t the best place for your, um… sleepover activities.”

I felt my face get hot, and Julie was suddenly very interested in her feet.

“Willie and I are in the middle of sealing and fixing up the basement,” she went on. “I’m thinking a foldout couch down there would be a good idea. Then next time you two come here overnight, you’ll have a little more privacy. Sound good?”

We both mumbled agreement, unable to meet Helen’s eyes. She seemed amused.

Downstairs we said our goodbyes and gave out hugs, then Julie and I piled into the backseat of Jason’s club cab Ford. We were disappointed that we couldn’t ride home in the back with the squash, but Jason pointed out that it’s been illegal to ride in the bed of a pickup on the highway for a long time now. Maybe that’s for the best.

When we pulled up to Julie’s house, Jason backed the pickup into the garage, really close to the basement stairway.

Loading the squash into the basement didn’t take long. It’s the first time I’ve been down there. There’s two parts. The original part of the house has an old, crumbly looking poured concrete basement. There’s no basement under the west addition where the kitchen is, but the newest part of the house on the east side has a more modern looking concrete block basement. None of it is finished. Jason told me there were bedrooms in the newer part when they moved in, but everything was water damaged so he ripped it all out. He says sealing and finishing the basement is at the bottom of his list of things to do, and that list is already pretty long. There’s a root cellar in the older half of the basement, and it was already full of potatoes, carrots, and garlic. We added the squash to that.

Dinner was a roast with potatoes and carrots, and after we finished eating Jason said he needed to run down to the basement for a few minutes. Once he’d disappeared down the stairs, Lisa beckoned us to follow her into the living room.

We sat on the couch together and she spoke in a low voice. “Julie told me you two are going to visit with Megan Frost tomorrow, and what it’s really all about.”

“I’m not even sure what it’s really all about,” I admitted.

“It doesn’t matter,” she replied. “I think it’s great that you girls have found someone close to your own age to talk with about this stuff. So have fun, and keep an open mind about having new experiences. Okay?”

We both murmured agreement.

Not long after that, Jason drove me home, with Julie along for the ride. It’s the first time they’ve been to our farm, and I had to tell him where to go.

They helped me carry my stuff into the house, and Dad met us in the entryway. He and Jason shook hands, Jason asked him a question about the corn harvest, and while they talked farm stuff, Julie and I went up to my room. I had the box of mushrooms, and Julie carried my backpack and overnight bag. We dropped everything onto my bed, then Julie gathered me into a hug. I put my arms around her and laid my head against her chest, and she  buried her face in my hair. Hugging is the wrong word for what we were doing. We were holding each other… and it was the best feeling in the whole wide world.

“I wish you could stay with me tonight,” she whispered into my hair.

“I wish we were always together,” I said.

We parted, even though we didn’t want to, then went back downstairs and said our goodbyes. I almost told Julie that I’d see her tomorrow at Megan’s place, but then remembered that Dad was standing right behind me. I stood on the porch and waved as Jason’s pickup rolled away, and they waved back.

As I entered the house I realized I hadn’t seen Mom. I asked Dad if she was at the church, and he looked away.

“Your grandma is under the weather again,” he said, his eyes never meeting mine. “Your mother is spending the night there to take care of her.”

Baloney, I thought. Grandma is the healthiest person I know. Mom and Dad must have had another blowout while I was gone.

Dad disappeared into his office, and I wandered over to the piano. Since Mom wasn’t parked in front of the TV for a change, this was a good chance to practice. I kind of got lost in it, and kept playing until I heard the office door open. I realized with a start that it was after nine. I turned to look at my dad, and he looked funny. His cheeks were red, and he was kind of unsteady on his feet.

“Daddy?” I said, a little alarmed. I haven’t called him that in what feels like forever. “Are you all right?”

“Sure, fine,” he said. His words sounded blurry. As he walked past the piano I caught a whiff of something… something familiar. It took me a minute to place it. Dad looked and smelled like Uncle Louie did when he brought a bottle of whiskey to Grandpa’s funeral visitation. I hadn’t understood what was happening, except that everyone was really mad at Uncle Louie. Aunt Tammy had stuffed him into her car and gotten him out of there in a hurry. Later that evening, my father explained to me about drunkenness and told me it was a sin and I should avoid alcohol entirely. But here he was, drunk. I was sure of it!

“Night, Mallory,” he said in that same blurry voice, and kind of stumbled off towards his bedroom. I closed the lid on the piano and got myself out of there.

By the time I took a shower and brushed my teeth it was late and I was super-tired, but so much had happened that I wanted to get it down in my diary. Now it’s almost midnight, but it’s okay because I don’t really need to start getting ready for church till 8:30 or so tomorrow morning. I’m also feeling worked up thinking about going to Megan’s house tomorrow, so I guess I have one more thing to do before I sleep.

Soon to manifest itself: Chapter Ten!


11 Comments on Pages From a Diary, Chapter 9

  1. Captain Midnight says:

    It may be wrong of me, but I have empathy for Mallory’s dad. Please hear me out.

    I think he is having a hard time coping with the stresses of being a farmer, tiptoeing on the edge of poverty. I think also that he is ashamed of himself for not being more successful in life. I particularly think he is sad that he can’t take care of his wife and daughter.

    He grew up in a time when the family unit was sacred. He thought traditional values were the best ones. Maybe they were, but they seemed to be receding. He wouldn’t necessarily mind his wife working outside the house, certainly not his daughter being so smart. But he really wanted them to be supportive of him. He doesn’t feel that, and he is resentful.

    Having been in a bad relationship myself at that time, when I was ashamed of my poor job and where my girlfriend yelled at me a lot, I sort of get him. I never took to drink, but I lost heart the way both parents have lost heart.

    Mallory’s dad climbs into a bottle because he thinks it is wrong for him to seek help. He is being a very bad man because he doesn’t know what his role in life is any more.

    • Kim & Sue says:

      Very good insight into one of the characters with a thankless part in the story. That’s what makes this story so good. You feel like you are there with Mal thanks to her first person descriptions of everything.

      What it’s like walking down a cut down field of soy to picking squash, to getting caught in the aftermath of a night of love making. To the meals and the smells and the life itself.

      As children we never quite get what makes our parents tick or what their childhood was like that made them like they are.

      • Rachael Yukey says:

        Thanks, ladies… I love writing the details. I actually end up having to scrap some of it; it’s just too much. This mostly happens before Jetboy even sees it.

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      I intended Dan Kalvornek to be a sympathetic character. He’s fucked up, but it’s not entirely his doing.

      • Captain Midnight says:

        Someone who I really wonder about now is Mallory’s mom. There was one big conversation between her and Mallory in the vicinity of Chapter 15 or Chapter 16. I don’t even think I know Mom’s name. She seems so worn down and defeated, and I don’t actually think it’s completely due to Dan. Mom had some kind of hard life before her marriage. But I don’t know what, although I suspect finances have been very difficult since she was a child.

  2. Mo says:

    Another great chapter fleshing out the characters as real people, with their own flaws and challenges.
    Reading Julie’s Grandma reaction to the girls is so sweet & open.
    Very interesting assessment of Mallory dad from Captain Midnight, although I still struggle with his obsession with faith, although as pointed out this might be his last connection to a more traditional view of life.

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      Lots of people are obsessed with faith. I live in the upper midwest; the buckle of the bible belt. There are lots of folks like Dan Kalvornek around. They’re not bad; just blinkered by their upbringing.

  3. kinkys_sis says:

    The story link is sorta fucked up! Takes you to an old chapter of another story.

    Quite aside from the comment section being filled by one person which we writers were asked to stop doing.

    • Sapphmore says:

      I noticed the link error earlier and Jetboy and Amanda are aware so it should hopefully be fixed soon

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      Yeah, my bad… I was half-asleep (and half-drunk) and didn’t think about it till after I’d done all those replies. Mea cupla…

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