Evonne M. Biggins — “The Perfect Shade of Gray” (YA)

AUTHOR :  Evonne M. Biggins

TITLE :  The Perfect Shade of Gray

GENRE:  Contemporary Teen (novel)

LOGLINE/SYNOPSIS:  Reenie’s dad ran off before she was born, her grandma recently passed away, and her mom’s moving them to a resort lodge in the mountains. Ree must leave her only friend and her beloved cat. She longs to be a writer, to attend the same school the whole year, to hang out with friends in the cafeteria–all not-happening experiences for a fifteen-year-old girl who has never lived like most kids.

While juggling her mom’s job-hopping, beer-drinking, and boyfriend-collecting issues, Ree searches for her antique desk that holds her journal which harbors her dark emotions and secrets. She wants to know who the mysterious soot-head kid at the mountain man rendezvous is because he says he knows her, but how can that be?

Above all, Ree wants to belong.

The Perfect Shade of Gray

a novel by Evonne M. Biggins 

“You gonna sneak out, like I did the night I went to The Bitchez concert?” Nancy glanced from her teen magazine. Her “sneak” sounded like “sshneak” when it rolled over her braces.

My grin spread from the inside out. I held her cell phone to my ear, jabbed my sneakers against porch planks, and our legs swayed with the swing’s motions. “If Mom says no, I’ll go anyway. She works nights and sleeps days. But, she knows that I’ve searched for writing workshops since forever. Mom won’t say no.”  Tugging my T-shirt over my hips, I wished I’d devoured a head of lettuce for dinner instead of cheesy enchiladas and a Pepsi. I gripped the cell phone, wrapped my French braid around my fingers, and watched swirling clouds smother the sinking sun.

The cell rings stopped. A curse rang out, a jukebox blared, and a man yelled for beer; Mom’s voice overpowered them all. “Beer Haul! Carlie here!”

“Mom! A writer’s workshop starts tomorrow night at the library, and I’m staying at Nancy’s so we can go together.”

“Reenie, come home. Now.”

A click and dead air filled my ear. My grin faded from the inside out. I dropped Nancy’s phone onto her lap. “Mom sounded weird, like I wanted to take a Bank Robbery 101 class.”

Nancy flashed the heavy-metal smile that her parents had said paid for their orthodontist’s Cancun villa. She bumped her shoulder against mine, and we lurched sideways with the swing. “Probably a bad connection. Besides, before taking Bank Robbery 101, we’d have to take Composing Robbery Notes 020.”

My mouth tried to grin but failed. “I have to go home.” I slid from the porch swing and paused to slip my knapsack strap over my shoulder. “Do you ever feel like you’re doomed and can’t avoid your fate?”

Nancy tugged my braid. “Of course not, sshilly. There are tons of choices, like paths that lead away from doom.” Uncertainty flitted in her eyes. “You’ll meet me at the library tomorrow night, right?”

“Yeah. I’ll bring my story about the girl who ran away to live with the street people.”

“I’ll take the story I started about the homly girl who falls for the cute guy.” Nancy raised her face and sniffed. “I You want Dad to drive you, ssho you won’t have to walk home in the dark?”

“On my side of town, I’m known as the Shadow’s Shadow.” I imagined her dad cruising around pot holes, past junk heaps, and my neighborhood reflecting in his Saab’s cherry paint job. “We shadows aren’t afraid of dark or storms.” Just what’s in it. “And your story girl’s not homely. The cute guy will realize that she’s just… not quite finished.”

Looking like a skinny comma, Nancy sat on the top step and hugged her knees. “A few kids that’ll be in our freshman class this year are taking the writer’s workshop. After they’re accustomed to your weirdness, you’ll have more than just one awesome friend on the first day of school crunch.” Her metal smiled flashed.

Attending the same school the whole year. Hanging out with friends in the cafeteria. Giggling with girls at sleepovers–all not-happening experiences for an almost sixteen-year-old girl who’d never lived like most kids. Kids who belonged.

Heading down Nancy’s geranium-lined walkway, I visualized her house behind me. The porch light brightened the door’s russet tone, which matched the color of my red hair–a hand me down from my dad who ran off before I was born. The television’s canned laughter and leftover enchilada scents wafted from open windows that glowed from all three stories like welcome beacons. In the fading light, I knew that Nancy couldn’t see my jiggling butt or my scowling face because worry had sucked me into the dark side. Grandma used to say that I was older than my collective years because I worried about Mom–kind of hard not to when there were only two family members left.

Whenever I left Nancy’s world, where fathers carried briefcases and drove hybrids and mothers took tennis lessons and held luncheons, I searched for specific borders where privileged blended with average, mixed with unfortunate, and dropped to my place.

The first time Nancy stood in front of my duplex, she said, “It’s like the city planners sifted the finest neighborhoods onto my side of town and dumped the clumps here.” Mom passed inspection, though. Nancy said that my mom was not just “pretty cool,” she was cool and pretty.

Focusing on Mom’s weird reaction over the phone, I slipped my flashlight from my knapsack and slid the beam across empty beer cans, crushed cigarette butts, and broken booze bottles scattered across a vacant lot. I could confess that the idea of joining a group made me feel accepted. But what fifteen-year-old wants to admit to her mom that she’d always been an outsider and that her cat was her first best friend?

Looking like a crouching, evil twin, our duplex sat in darkness–no glowing street lamps, no flower lined sidewalks, and no neighborhood-watch stickers here. The rusting vehicles hunkered on dead grass seemed to wait for the next barrage of spray paint and crowbars.

A van rumbled past. The dusty side panel said something like, W…ul-4-U & F…. Exhaust billowed in its wake. I spied Mom’s pickup backed to the step and peered at the shapes under a tarp. Why is she home already? What’s in the back of Road Kill? Raindrops stung my face and smacked my shoulders. A pain under my right temple yelled, “HELL-OW!”

Pausing on the steps between the evergreens that smelled like cat pee, I practiced. “Mom, you switch from one bartending job to another and we move to strange towns and apartments. I never get to make friends.” I swiped rain from my face. Pathetic. “The workshop’s free.”

I turned the doorknob and called, “Mom?”

Beer odor met me.

My mom, Carlie Ann Moore, sat cross-legged on the couch. She raised her Coors Lite can. “Cheers!” Beer sloshed onto her bathrobe sleeve. Her red smile looked smeared, like she’d colored outside the lines.

My pulse whoo-whooshed to the beat of my headache. “You promised you’d stop drinking.”

Mom struggled to stand, but alcohol had transformed her graceful motions to floppy, Raggedy Ann movements.

In the kitchen, the coffeemaker gurgled, and fresh-brew aroma wafted. Why is she drunk? I’d chased off all of her What’s His Names, so her excuse isn’t a boyfriend issue. This time.

“My customers gave a party for me, but I hurried home to tell you ‘bout my surprise.”

The enchiladas I’d devoured at Nancy’s churned. I hugged my knapsack against my slamming heart. She’ll be hung-over tomorrow. Won’t care where I go. “Why were you partying and not tending bar?”

Mom took two sideways, whoa-the-room-is-tilting steps. “Ree, I worry about money and bills.” She raised her right palm as though to take an oath. “I won’t drink more beers today and I’ll keep my promise….” Her left hand covered a hiccup-giggle combo.

Sweat tickled my armpits. “Try sobriety.” I wished my voice sounded fifteen-year-old-mad instead of little girl sad, and I wished that my headache, the coffee pot, and my worry would shut up so I could think.

Mom brushed dark curls from her eyes, which resembled a stormy ocean when she was drunk. “My customers gave me a going away party.” He words tripped over each other. “But I’ll sober up before we move in the morning.”

A flush rushed up my neck, across my face, and merged with my hair roots. “Did you say, move-in-the-morning?”

“To a tourist lodge in the Dark Forest mountains where I grew up.” Mom gestured toward the hallway. “See?”

Worry morphed to dread–the same dread I’d felt when I was nine and Mom was at work and I didn’t want to watch the t.v. movie, Zombies Never Die! But I did. Standing beside Mom, I didn’t want to look down our hallway. But I did. Stacked and packed moving boxes lined both walls. “What the hell?”

“Reenie! Do not curse!” Mom sank to the couch. “Good thing you love me.” Her grin wavered; she waited for me to reply with, Good thing you love me, too, like we did whenever one of us had been bad and wanted to make up.

The reversible thoughts, I want Grandma–Grandma is dead, sucker punched me for the billionth time since the funeral. I tried to imagine what she would have said about this latest Mom situation, but since Grandma’s death my memory of her voice had merged with my thoughts and now sounded mostly like me. I figured that was best, not hearing Grandma’s voice in my head forever, but I didn’t want to totally forget it.

Mom’s eyes darted behind pale lids; tears glistened in dark lashes. “There’s a mountain man rendezvous near the lodge. That’ll be fun for you, baby…” Her face and body slackened and silent snores flapped her lips.

I visualized the blank steno notebook, the # 2 pencil, and the $10.95 glow-in-the-dark pen buried in my knapsack and waiting for the writer’s workshop. “I finally belong, have a friend, and you decide to move. Again.” I wondered if I boiled off my fear, angst, and hate, what would be left of me. I leaned in, cupped my palms, and called, “I’m tired of babysitting you, and thanks to you, my life’s not fun. It sucks!”

I headed through the kitchen to the phone. “I’ll call Nancy, clue her in on what‘s going on, and then write this Hallmark moment in my journal.” I nodded. “In the morning, when Mom’s sober, I’ll talk her out of moving.” Spoken out loud, those grasps at normalness lifted my brain fog above my headache.

I placed the receiver against my ear and got dead air. I smacked it down and stomped to the laundry room, which doubled as my bedroom. In the doorway, I stopped like a mime slamming into an invisible wall.

“Where’s my desk?” The floor, where my desk had sat that morning, looked naked despite the orange, cat hair fluff, the two penny stuck to chewed gum, and Shredster, sidewinder swishing his tail and staring at something behind the hamper. The brick that had replaced my desk’s broken leg hinted that my antique desk now sat lopsided–somewhere else.

My slamming heart threatened to burst from my rib cage, to rip through my sequined T-shirt, and to plop onto my scuffed sneakers. “Where’s my desk…where’s my journal?” My headache bellowed TA–DA! while my knapsack slid from my shoulder and thumped onto the floor.

My fingers scrambled through dresser drawers for my journal’s shape and weight. But I knew: I always hid my journal in my desk’s secret drawer, and the roll top desk, that had belonged to my grandma and to her mother, was gone! I brushed my palms across the washer’s cool, smooth surface and cupped them over my flushed cheeks. “They’re gone.”

The finality of those words echoed what Mom had muttered thirty-seven days ago. I was sitting between my cot’s main lumps and jotting down story ideas. Mom had appeared in the doorway, her right hand gripped a beer can, her left hand clutched the door knob. “Baby, Grandma’s gone.”

Something in her grave tone, her stiff posture, and her dead expression said that Grandma hadn’t left town to visit her friend in Nevada. Besides, Mom didn’t drink beer for no reason; Grandma wouldn’t leave without hugging me.

My muscles, like kneaded dough gone cold, quivered. I stared at Mom’s hot pink toenails because her eyes reminded me of when I was ten and a car hit the neighbor’s puppy. I’d watched the reflection behind the puppy’s eyes fade as his life-curtain closed.

Trouble was, I couldn’t shut my ears against Mom’s words. “It was a heart attack, baby. Grandma’s gone.”

Cracks zapped through my insides and trailed crisscross lines of stinging disbelief. In the following months, I realized that gone meant that no matter how much junk food I crammed into myself, nothing changed. Gone meant forever; Grandma was never coming back. Ever. How could such a small word cause such huge pain?

Shredster batted my shoelace and pulled me from the dark part of my brain.

I scrambled to my knees, raised my dangling sleeping bag, and peered under my cot. I wiggled my fingers and tried to sound cheerful. “Here kitty-kitty.”

His pointy ears and mischievous eyes peeked above the Tupperware container.

“Grandma’s painting! Is it gone, too?” I refused to believe that any other bad stuff could happen to me. Surrounded by cat purrs, hair scrunchies, and teen mags sat the air-tight container that held the six-by-six-inch framed canvas that had barely had time to dry before Grandma stopped being. Relief weakened my limbs.

I pulled the painting from under my cot and wished for Grandma’s cocoon hug that smelled of lemon soap, or fresh paint, or sunshine–or all three. Through the lid, the oil surface looked like it longed for light to restore its hues, luster, and life, as though its life-curtain were closing.

“It’s tough for you, dealing with your mom’s drinking problems,” Grandma had often said. “She’s insecure.” Or she’d say, “You’re responsible.”

I wasn’t sure if she meant that I was responsible for Mom’s drinking bouts, or if I should take care of Mom when she got drunk. Or both.

I absently picked at the duct tape–Mom’s fix-all–wrapped around the Tupperware container. I peered out the rain-splattered window and wanted to scream, “I’m a kid! Who’s responsible for me?” Past the window, I could barely make out the dark, hulking shapes in the back of Mom’s pickup.

Relief, like happy goose bumps, rippled across my arms and shoulders. “My desk’s in the back of Road Kill!” I sent a shaky sigh smile to Shredster and wondered if cats could tell the difference between a human’s happy, sad, or fake smiles. “I’m such a duh-head. How can you stand being my cat?”

Shredster stretched and claw-massaged air. His purrs rumbled. Since the day I’d hauled the hissing, scratching, biting kitten from an alley dumpster and carried him home in my knapsack, he seemed to understand that I saved him, and he stayed in my laundry-room bedroom near his litter box and food-water bowls. He avoided Mom.

His golden gaze darted to the doorway, his ears flattened, and he dashed under my cot.


Mom stopped at the cat-zone, doorway. “We’re leaving in the morning. She sounded as drained as she looked, with her arms crossing over her waist, and her fingers clutching her robe. “You get ten boxes.” She glanced at the container in my arms and whispered, “Grandma’s painting will unlock the rosy secrets concealed under the storm.” She grinned and nodded as though she’d passed on–along with her beer breath–the meaning of life.

“Would it do any good for me to wish that you’d stop gushing drunk-gibberish?”

Her smile wavered and her eyes looked at me the way they did the day I threw a tantrum because I couldn’t pull my favorite jeans over my fat rolls.

“I’m sorry, baby,” she said, then and now. She lifted my French braid and twirled it around her fingers. “Our cabin’s furnished, so we don’t need the junk I’d pick up at yard sales over the years. Mrs. Peak helped me load the biggest stuff into Road Kill. You can invite your friends for a weekend because there’s a queen-sized bed for you at the cabin. But, your desk….”

Nancy’s heavy-metal smile flashed in my mind. “Friends, like more than one?” I pushed Mom’s hand away. My braid plopped like a dead appendage onto my shoulder. Where would I ever find another friend who understood my non-belonging-ness?

“A friend that works at the lodge helped me get the restaurant manager job at a resort. We’ll live in a real log cabin, but a modern day one.” Mom sounded like a kid bragging about her first bike. “We have to leave before snow covers the mountain pass.”

I sent my best glare at my mom, who still had a friend. “You move. My cat and I will live with my friend, Nancy.”

The dangling light bulb highlighted the blush creeping up Mom’s neck, it cast a shadow around her pressed lips, and it enhanced the dark ridges under her eyes. “You’ll live with me in a cabin in the woods. I’ll be the restaurant manager at the lodge. You’ll start school in town and make new friends.” Mom glanced at the orange tail poking from under the cot. “The bad thing is, we have to leave Shredster here. Pets aren’t allowed in the cabin.”

I pressed Grandma’s painting container to my burning chest. “Are you hiding more life-sucking news?” My words flew out in a spittle-spray. “You don‘t give a damn about him!” Did the smothering sensation in my chest mean that I would soon be gone?

Mom didn’t scold me for cursing, which told me that she was hiding something. I didn’t want to know what. I gripped her arm. “The day we took him to the vet for his shots. Remember how he loved riding in the truck?”

“I remember spending the rest of that day suffering from an allergy attack. If Shredster rode in the pickup with me I’d swell up and explode.” She puffed her cheeks with air. It whooshed between her lips.

“And that’s a bad thing?” My headache dulled my voice. I clenched my fists, stomped my foot, and roared, “Aaghhhh!”

Mom blinked brimming tears. “Ree, teen angst won’t help you get your way this time. Leave food outside. Cats adapt. Mrs. Peak said she’d keep an eye on him.”

I followed her slipper shuffles to the bathroom, and from behind the closed door, Mom added, “Sorry, baby, I have to concentrate on what’s best for us. For you.”

My headache hissed like a spinning, sizzling forth of July cherry bomb. “Mrs. Peak doesn’t allow animals in her house. How will Shredster adapt to cold, starvation, and loneliness?” I bowed my head. “He’s still just a kitten.”

There was no answer from the bathroom.

“Mom!” I smacked my sneaker toe Thud! Thud! Thud! against the door and considered promising to eat only vegetables forever, to go peacefully to her dumb mountain resort, and to not care if she got drunk every day if I could just take my cat. There was no response from the opposite side of the door, inches from my flushed face.

“Thanks for ruining my whole life! Again!”

I that knew Mom heard me; I knew that Mrs. Peak, in the adjoining duplex, heard me.

Muffled sobs bounced against bathroom tiles.

I stomped toward my laundry room bedroom. Go to the pier and say goodbye to Grandma!



The idea of going to mine and Grandma’s favorite place shoved through my jumbled thoughts and stomped across my headache. I’d visited Grandma’s memory at the pier–the last place I’d seen her alive–the day she painted her last painting. But I’d never been brave or crazy enough to go to the beach at the pier after dark.

“If a girl stumbles into that side of town at night, she doesn’t come out, she doesn’t come out sane, or she doesn’t come out alive. That district makes mine look like Sesame Street.”

I swiped at tears, couldn’t worry about my childish zombie fears, my half-grown cat, or my drunken mother while my whole world buckled. “I’m going to say goodbye to Grandma. It’s not like I’m running away to live with the street people like the girl in my story.” Yet, I crammed Grandma’s painting into my knapsack. On top of that, I stuffed underwear, toothbrush, and my tattered copy of Lacy’s Song–though I’d read it two and a half times. I slipped into a black sweatshirt, a reject from Mom’s last What’s His Name boyfriend, the guy I’d chased off by tossing his stinky beer cans, gross sneakers, and cigarette butts across our dead grass.

I checked Shredster’s litter box and his food and water bowls. Clean, full, and full. I avoided looking directly at him, curled in a ball and dozing between cot lumps. “See you, kitty.” I couldn’t say more because my chin was trembling, my heart was slamming, and my head was splitting.

In the kitchen, I spied Mom’s purse, slumped on the counter. Her purse had soaked up stale cigarette smoke and beer odors from the Beer Haul, where she tended bar at night. I wrinkled my nose. My fingers shoved past her comb, keys, lipstick. I pulled out a Tylenol bottle and shook it. Empty. A crinkled envelope addressed to: Carletta Ann Moore, from H. Buns fell onto the counter. “Huh?” I shoved it aside and scooped up change.

The fistful of coins slid past my fingers and dropped into my knapsack pocket. “You booze, you lose.” My hand hovered. On Mom-drunk-days, my thief rule had been to steal only change because she needed to pay the bills, buy the groceries, and give me allowance. I grabbed a wad of ones, fives, and tens. “Tips left for my mom, the cool and pretty bartender. Gotta appreciate those grateful customers.” I dropped the pickup keys into the empty silverware drawer. She couldn’t drive Road Kill in her inebriated state to search for me if she couldn’t find the keys. The sneer twisting my lips did not reflect a well-adjusted teenaged girl, but it did represent the new Ree.

Shower pipes clanked and water sounds stopped. Hurry! Mom’s finished showering!

I slipped into the night. The largest shape under the pickup tarp had to be my desk, which harbored my journal in its secret drawer, which popped open when I pushed the engraved rose. I tugged at the tarp knots. The porch light flashed on; I gripped my knapsack. I ran.

Four blocks later, I slowed to a walk. My unruly curls, hair with an attitude, had escaped from my French braid. I crammed it under What’s His Name’s hood.

“From dusk until dawn is not a good time for a girl to walk alone on the waterfront.” I could become an Amber alert with my image tacked on telephone poles, stapled to government postings, flashed across television’s news. My flashlight’s golden glow slid along toppled trash cans and slinking cats. My insides quivered like Jell-O.

Grandma had called Jell-O the nervous dessert. To avoid resembling a giant, nervous dessert, I squared my shoulders, gripped my knapsack, and took long, sure strides. I sent body language that I hoped said: Beware! I am a mean shadow’s shadow! Yet, I wondered what I’d do if encountered a zombie. And, yeah, I knew there were no such things, but still…

“Remember this for scary, story ideas,” I muttered, while slipping alongside a cinderblock wall and trying to blend with the layered graffiti shapes and the dark hues that had long ago bled out and dried up. Trouble was, some scary, story ideas crept from memories, like the day Grandma died.

After Grandma’s funeral, Mom drank beer and stared at the window. Anguish pooled in her eyes. I knew it was anguish because I saw it in my eyes when I peered into mirrors. I tossed out all mirrors, except the one attached to the bathroom cabinet.

Between beer swigs Mom whispered,“…disappointed,” until her eyes closed and her snores shook dust motes from sunbeams. I wondered if she was disappointed in herself or in her daughter. When she woke up, she stumbled around and made two raspberry pies–Grandma’s favorite. In our separate rooms, Mom and I ate pie until it was gone. Like Grandma.

That memory faded as my gaze landed on a bum sitting cross-legged in front of a fish market’s caged door. I paused, offered a timid wave. In daylight, I’d seen clusters of street people, like they belonged to each other but roamed free. On past Mom-drunk-nights, I’d hovered on the fringe of their world. They called for me to join them, but I hung back. There was something about their eyes that I didn’t want to see up close.

The moonlight’s glow softened the bum’s ragged layers of grunge-gray. A stain made a dark O

on his white beard, and it circled his lip-smacks and toothless mumblings. Like a bobble-headed doll, he nod-nodded. He held up a paper sack twisted around a bottle neck. Nod-nod-nod.

Take a swig. Drown your worry. You are your mother’s daughter. Odors, like junkyard heat-waves, radiated from the bum, and he coughed up something wet sounding. I tucked my wave into my sweatshirt pocket, hurried from his raisin-colored stare, and I walked past The B. Shack.

The barbeque shack faced the ocean. Its roof and walls had surrendered to human and nature meanness. My sneakers pushed through sand to the last place I’d seen Grandma alive. Many people would cross this sliver of earth. But it will forever belong to Grandma and me. I wanted to write that in my journal.

I sank onto the cooled sand and willed my heartbeat to relax. The moon’s liquid reflection surfed ocean waves. Pulling in a lungful of salt-scented air, I closed my eyes, and I plucked frayed threads from my jeans while my memory of Grandma’s voice merged with the constant wave-sounds that she’d called, “The ocean’s forever song.”

On our last day together, Grandma’s paintbrush swept images of our day across a six-inch canvas. I sat beside her in the sand and described, in my journal, what she painted. I wrote:

Leaving footprints in damp sand, a barefoot woman and a girl–surrounded by lightening tongues and ocean swells–strolled hand in hand. The girl’s thrashing mane stole flames from the melting sun; the woman’s silver curls waved at rain-scented warnings. The forgotten B. shack waited for what came next.

Grandma read it. “Ree, you possess a writer’s imagination and a poet’s heart.” Hot pride rushed through my veins. I vowed to paint like Grandma, except, I would paint with words, I would become a writer, and I would finally belong.

“Promise that you’ll take care of your mom when I’m gone,” Grandma had said as she gathered her paints, brushes, and canvas.

Tears stung my eyes and I swiped at them like flies were buzzing me or the storm was tossing sand. “You’ll never be gone.”

Grandma smiled the smile that said she knew things I’d never know.


Nearby, people shuffled, mumbled, and gathered on the beach. I opened my eyes and slipped through the dark. It was time to go back to the duplex. “I won’t head quietly or easily into my promise to Grandma!”

Walking through neighborhoods where normal people belonged, I didn’t peek, I just soaked up colors, movements, scents, and sounds coming from behind sheer curtains and open windows.

Where lamplights splashed, I morphed into the girl-who-belongs-in-this-neighborhood. I slid my sweatshirt from my flaming hair with an attitude, shook it from it’s braid, and let it bounce and strut its stuff. I raised my face to cool breezes and the moon’s glow and wanted to laugh and cry and scream–to release my mixed emotions. “Trouble is, most emotionless kids are drugged, missing, or dead.”


And, trouble was, Mom stood in the kitchen, looking and smelling fresh, sober, and ready for her new future.

“Pack your things,” she said in her, We Won’t Speak Of Why You Left, tone.

We have room for ten more boxes.” Her pickup keys jangled merrily from her fingers. “Get some sleep. We’re leaving in the morning.”

Sitting on my cot and pressing sobs against my cat, I wondered if our futures were doomed. Shredster, who didn’t know he was about to be abandoned but did seem unimpressed with tear-dampened fur, escaped under the cot–which I vowed, would remain behind. I picked up box number one; a missing-Nancy wave rippled. My chin quivered, and fresh tears welled. “In the morning, I’ll beg.”

In seven of my moving boxes I crammed the Twilights, the Voigts, Holes, St. Iggy, The Pretties, a classic Nancy Drew, and my folder of stories that I’d created with Grandma’s clunky typewriter. Stories forever moving, yet getting nowhere. I stared at the box with the holes for air circulation, for shipping vegetables or fruit. “I know,” I announced in a chirpy tone. “I’ll wrap ‘n’ pack something special. A surprise for Mom!”

I curled up on my cot, closed my eyes, and wished I could get to my journal, hidden in my desk’s secret drawer and crammed under the pickup tarp. My body tingled. My dark emotions longed to splat onto white pages….

My hopes of begging and changing Mom’s mind evaporated when I woke and discovered that she’d stuffed my packed boxes into Road Kill and a new tenant had backed a moving van up to the crumbling steps between the evergreen shrubs that smelled like cat pee.

7 Responses to Evonne M. Biggins — “The Perfect Shade of Gray” (YA)

  1. Pingback: A Free Sample Chapter From Victoria Mixon’s new book, “The Art and Craft of Story: 2nd Practicioner’s Manual”

  2. I love this story. Maybe it’s because I once wrote on my Grandpa’s typewriter and was a misfit kit who wanted nothing more than to be a writer. Most likely it’s because this is a knock out story with a character I identify with and already adore. So many places are full of brilliance here, especially, “Looking like a crouching, evil twin, our duplex sat in darkness–no glowing street lamps, no flower lined sidewalks, and no neighborhood-watch stickers here. The rusting vehicles hunkered on dead grass seemed to wait for the next barrage of spray paint and crowbars.” The neighborhood is a strong symbol of the character’s struggles and I’m sure this was intentional.

    Your prose paints beautiful pictures and your voice is appropriate for the YA audience. You’ve got a compelling character that this reader fell in love with and is already rooting for. You’ve also drawn in the antagonistic force or, as the case might be, forces. As you’re a StoryFix reader, I’m sure the foreshadowing lays the foundation for solid structure. I’m eager to learn a few things from your skills. But more important, I’m eager to read the rest of the story. Please keep me in the loop and let me know where I can keep an eye on you and your work.


  3. Dawn P

    Love,love,love your story. You knocked it out of the ballpark with phrases that balance opposites like the head of lettuce compared to the enchilada, the inherited red hair from the dad who walked, even the jiggling butt that every teen feels. Little things to comment on: “beer odor met me”. What is the physical reaction that goes with the comment? Does she recoil or perhaps roll her eyes and hold her nose? “Slamming heart” is repeated twice—come up with something else the second time. Maybe black spots floating in her vision or something else. Where the paragraph begins with “The finality of those words” you begin to time jump too quickly, causing confusion to where we are or were. Simple fix with just some orientation within the sentence to keep it clear. You are very good at interweaving back story in a creative way, but just watch your pacing on the later chapters.

  4. Evonne M. Biggins

    Wow, Lake! Thank you so much. Your comments let me know that there is hope. I don’t know how many times a writer needs to hear that he/she is “doing something right or good”. Tons of times, I guess. I worry that this is a depressing story, too, so I’m trying to figure out how to add bits of humor.


    Dawn, thank you! I’m kind of stunned here because I worried that some of my ideas were too “Purple” as I’d been told in the past. I did try to tone down my purple and yet keep a shade of it here and there. I also very much appreciate your suggestions which sound right on now that I see them pointed out. I can’t wait to start applying them.

    This is fun, huh?


  5. Hey, Evonne – I know what you mean. The writer’s life can be a little lonely and a lot of doubts swoop in to keep us company. Don’t listen to them. You’ve got skills and you know how to pace a story. Keep writing. LL

  6. Evonne M. Biggins

    Lake, I’m sending a billion warm-fuzzy hugs to you! But, it’s also good to know what isn’t working. That’s why input from several people, like here, can guide a writer; Larry Brroks is my hero, in case no one knew. :-}

  7. Evonne M. Biggins

    Hi, Larry. Are you out there? Ha. Kind of a pun, huh? We know that you’re “out there” in more ways than one…. just kidding.

    That’s my reason for this note. I know that you are a very busy fella, but could we have a chat page where everyone can comment on writing stuff in general? Would that work here? Or is there already a “visit, chat, comment page and I’m the only one who doesn’t know about it?
    Aaghhttt! :-}
    When I visit other online sites, I rave about your Story Engineering and Mastering The 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing, which I am sure everyone here does!


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