How Did You Get Here?
by Susan Daffron
In reviews, readers often comment about the town of Alpine Grove, which although imaginary does have some similarities to the small town where I live in northern Idaho. I even had one reader say she wants to move to Alpine Grove. There's no doubt that many people would love to move to a small town for the peace, quiet and sense of community.
I know I did.
In both my first novel, Chez Stinky, and the second, Fuzzy Logic, the main characters are actually transplants from somewhere else who subsequently fall in love with small town life and decide to stay.
I think that's true of many small towns. Where I live in Idaho, I have met only a few "natives" that actually grew up in this area. As a result, a popular topic of conversation is "how did you end up here?" Realistically, a town of 7,000 people is not exactly an employment mecca, so in most cases people have specifically chosen to live here.
Because it is such a key question in small towns, my books also include the answer to the question, "how did you get here?" as story elements. In Chez Stinky, Kat Stevens had been a tech writer but inherits a house in Alpine Grove. In Fuzzy Logic, Jan Carpenter graduates from college with a degree in library science and can't find a job anywhere except at the tiny Alpine Grove library, which it turns out she loves.
Most of the people I have met here in Idaho have a similar story. They move out here to the middle of nowhere, decide they love it, and never want to leave. We started a business so we could move here in the first place and not be dependent on the (nonexistent) local economy. Since 1996, technology has made it possible for us to do freelance work from our bedroom offices in our log home in the woods. Even with feeble bandwidth that makes other people cringe, we have managed to find ways to make money for almost two decades and through two nasty recessions.
In much the same way, the characters in all three of my novels have to figure out a way to continue to live in their small town of Alpine Grove. So readers, be advised that the little town of Alpine Grove is likely to turn into quite a little hotbed of entrepreneurial activity!
Excerpt from Fuzzy Logic
Ethel tilted her head, causing the ossified bluish curls on her head to shift in an unnatural way. “Why are you going to San Diego?”
Jan sighed a little too loudly. Maybe Ethel wouldn’t notice. “My mother is getting married.”
Ethel straightened in her seat and leaned closer to Jan. “That’s wonderful! I love weddings. Who is the lucky man? What does he do? Are you excited? It’s beautiful to see such an expression of love. Where are they getting married?”
It was apparent that Ethel had not been retrieving breath mints out of her suitcase. Jan replied slowly, “Well, they are getting married on the beach. The man was actually her next-door neighbor many years ago. I knew him when I was growing up.” Jan shrugged. “I don’t know if I’m excited exactly. But it will probably be interesting.”
“Interesting? But weddings are so gorgeous. The flowers! The lovely food! How can you not just adore that?”
Jan twisted in her seat, leaning her back away toward the window. If she were any farther away from Ethel, she’d be outside the plane. Discussing anything related to her mother was never fun. “My mother tends to do things differently, I guess.”
“What do you mean differently? It’s a wedding! There are traditions. People say vows!”
“Well, I think for one thing, there will be a puppet show.”
The woman looked slightly taken aback, but then smiled knowingly. “Oh, is it one of those sex-puppet shows? I’ve never seen that at a wedding. But it could be fun.”
Jan didn’t know what a sex-puppet show was. And she didn’t want to know. She’d seen way too many puppet shows in her lifetime as it was. “No, no, nothing like that. My mother was on local children’s television for a long time. She was the assistant to The Farmer, the kid’s TV show in San Diego. She did the puppet shows with the sock-puppet farm animals.”
“You mother is the Farm Lady? I loved her. My kids loved her. My grandkids love her in the reruns. Oh my goodness me, I can’t believe I’m sitting next to the daughter of the Farm Lady. This is so exciting! Oh and the Farm Lady is getting married? How wonderful for her! Is she finally marrying the Farmer?”
After so many years, Jan was used to people knowing her mother as the Farm Lady with the sock puppets. And it never failed to embarrass her. Years of being teased at school by other kids making every possible form of revolting farm noise was hard to shake. The pig sounds were to the point that she still couldn’t eat bacon. And what people didn’t know was that the wholesome sweet TV persona was nothing like the real woman, Angie Carpenter. Responsible motherly farm matron, she certainly was not. “Maybe you didn’t hear, but Bob Myers, the Farmer, died a few years ago and the show went off the air. The man my mother is marrying is in the plumbing business.”
Ethel narrowed her eyes and gave Jan a knowing look, “Oh, plumbers make a lot of money. He must be a great catch. How did their love blossom? I’m sure there’s a romantic story there.”
“I don’t know how romantic it is. Like I said, we were neighbors a long time ago, but he was on television, too. They met again recently on a retrospective special that featured stars from old TV shows and commercials. If you saw the ads for the Toilet King years ago, that’s him.”
Ethel clapped her hands together, “My heavens! The Farm Lady is marrying the Toilet King! I can’t wait to tell all my friends. Does he still have purple hair and wear the blue jumpsuit? I just loved those commercials with the swirling and all that.”
“I haven’t seen him in a long time. I live in Alpine Grove now.”
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