Short story UC: character backstory

NB: It has been a tough day, workwise. I’ve spent it staring at auto sale statistics so, you can imagine my brain might be a little fried. Since I can’t bring myself to write write I’m going to do a freewrite to see what I can learn about Laramie. There are still things about her I don’t know.

Let’s pick a scene: Tuesday, a week after the first home game of the football season.

Photo by Renan Kamikoga on Unsplash

Kallie and Rosalind’s eyes slid sideways as she walked into the cafeteria. Laramie tugged the strap of her backpack so it shielded her left side. Corn dogs. Pizza. French fries. Chocolate pudding. Tucking her chin into her chest she hurried past the hot food to grab a carton of fat-free milk and a packet of cookies. The siege gaze from the long table where Kallie sat playing footsie with Todd while Rosalind stirred her diet Pepsi with a straw pushed her into a corner of the room, the next best thing to invisible.

It took her three tries to open the milk, which splashed onto her jean skirt. Crap. The worst possible stain in the worst place. Rubbing it with a napkin deposited white paper fragments that started to coagulate. Laramie felt her head spine crumble, like her head weighed too much. She clinched the edge of the cookie packet in her teeth. When the cheap foil gave way she set it down and broke off a crumb the size of her pinkie nail. Nibbling it, she glanced around the lunch room.

Wasn’t cheerleading supposed to make you popular?

When she made the cut, after two years of trying, Laramie felt like her real life could begin. Finally, being skinny and what mama called ‘fine-boned’ was good for something. She wasn’t very loud, and her coordination was iffy, but she was easy to throw.

“It doesn’t work if you’re scared,” coach told her right at the start.

So she swallowed her anxiety and trusted herself to the arms of Kevin and Carolyn. There was another boy on the team, but Carolyn was the biggest and strongest on the team, so she did the throws, even though it looked silly.

Laramie worked hard at being a good body. She spent hours on Jilly-Mae’s trampoline, learning to go up in one configuration and down in another. She got pretty good at it in practice, even. Most of the time, though, someone slipped or lost their grip and she tumbled onto the thick blue mats.

“Shake it off!” coach would yell. “Try again.”

Don’t be scared. Don’t be scared.

Up/move/down/thud/up/move/down/thud. The rhythm stuck like a song.

An storm blew in on game day. Families huddled in the stands under trash bags and tarpaulins as the wind yanked the few visible umbrellas to shreds.

Kallie and Rosalind did each other’s make-up, layering waterproof foundation with bronzer and fixing powder. Their eyes glittered from behind jet fringes of Maybelline WetLash. She patted her face with a CoverGirl compact and tightened her ponytail.

“Your first game, Galvin?”

She blushed and nodded, pleased Kallie remembered.

“Try not to screw it up.”

By the time the whistle blew her hands and face were numb. Water splattered her calves as they ran across the turf. Rain fell in daggers, refracting the stadium lights.

Don’t be scared.

On cue: her body rose, moved, fell and — Carolyn and Kevin’s icy, rain-washed grip split like punched lip.