Have a Blessed Day Sweetheart
Updated: Mar 30
Hey Y'all! I haven't posted a short story in a while, so I thought I'd share one that I recently wrote from a Reedsy Prompt celebrating the famed Judy Blume.
For those of you who've been living under a rock, Judy Blume is an iconic American author who's children's literature has been celebrated worldwide. Writing a story with her vibe was an absolute pleasure and an honor.
I hope you enjoy my short story, Have a Blessed Day Sweetheart. <3
“Are you there God? It’s me, Iris,” I say looking at my reflection in the bedroom mirror.
“IRIS! Get your ass downstairs, the bus ain’t gonna wait much longer,” Grandma shouts from the bottom landing.
“Crap,” I grab my backpack and run down the stairs two at a time. I’ll have to finish my conversation with God later. I give Grandma a kiss and grab my lunch sack from her hand and fly out the front door, the screen slamming hard behind me.
The bus is already starting to pull away and I have to run fast to catch up.
“Jesus Christ. How many times I gotta tell you, be on time boy, I mean kid,” the bus driver says to me.
“Sorry Donny,” I tell him before making my way to the back of the bus.
“Hey shit for brains.” It’s Lorence. He’s an 8th grader who tries to make my life miserable.
“Just ignore him Iris. Here, I saved you a seat,” Casey says and pats the seat next to her. She’s my best friend. I spend every Friday night at her house. She’s all bubble gum and Barbie Dolls, that’s what I like most about her. Her hair’s tied up in a big pink ribbon and she’s wearing her Sunday best.
“Why you got your fancy clothes on?” I ask.
“It’s picture day, or did you forget?” She smirks.
Damn, I did forget. Grandma is gonna kill me. Her favorite thing in the world is displaying my school pictures every year. She said this year is the most important one too– 6th grade, my first year in middle school and the year I became Iris.
When we get to school, me and Casey make our way to Ms. Henley’s class. I raise my hand as soon as the bell rings and ask if I can go call Grandma. Maybe she’ll bring my picture money. Another reason I need a cell phone! Course she’s pissed off, she was about to go to Bingo at Church. “If you weren’t so busy brushing your hair and staring at that mirror, you’d have remembered,” she scolds. “Just like your mama. That girl, I swear, she spent hours at the mirror…” her voice trails off. The school secretary, Bea, is holding her hand out for the phone receiver, but Grandma is still on the line. I can hear her breathing. She doesn’t talk about my Mama much.
“You still there Grandma?” I ask.
“Nevermind all that– I’ll drop the money at the office. Go back to class now Iris.”
“Yes Grandma,” I say.
“Oh Iris,” she adds. “You looked real pretty this morning. Make sure to flash them teeth in your picture. I picked out a special frame for it.”
“Yes Grandma,” I say. She hangs up and I hand the receiver back.
“She’s dropping my picture money off,” I tell Bea.
“I couldn’t help but overhear. And I agree with your Grandma, you look nice today Iris. Real pretty.”
I smile and do my best beauty pageant wave. Just like I imagine my Mama would have done. She was a pageant queen and the pride of Ludowici, Georgia. Before she gone and got herself murdered by those two truckers off of I-95. Grandma said she was too friendly to folks at the restaurant where she was waitressing; said she gave men the wrong impression.
Pictures are scheduled for right after lunch.
“Don’t get dirty,” Ms. Henley yells at us as we head to the cafeteria. When it’s sunny, they let us have lunch outside if we bring cold lunch. Me and Casey always bring cold lunch. We run as fast as we can past the kids standing in the lunch line, through the double doors and right to our spot on the other side of the basketball courts.
“You coming over Friday?” she asks as we open our bags.
“Course I am. You want me to bring anything? Grandma said she’d make Rice Crispy treats if you want,” I say before taking a bite of my peanut butter and jelly.
Before Casey can reply, there’s a commotion over by the PE shed where they keep all the balls and nets and equipment locked up. “Did you see that? Something fell from the sky and landed on the roof!” I exclaim.
Casey and I look at one another for a split second before getting up to run to the shed. There's definitely something on the roof moving around and making squawking and crying sounds. “Iris, we’ve got to help it!” Casey moans. She loves animals. I look around and see an old ladder under the shed. Since I forgot to dress up for picture day, I’m in my regular jeans. Course I have my favorite shirt on. It’s pink with hearts and says, Have a Blessed Day Sweetheart. It don’t really matter if my knees get dirty, you can’t see knees in a school picture, so I crawl down and get the ladder. I pull it out and lean it up against the back of the shed.
“You want me to go up and see?” I ask Casey.
“No, let me go first. I know more about injured animals than you, from helping at the shelter last summer,” Casey says and goes first.
“Don’t touch it, you’ll get all dirty,” I tell her.
“Just hold the ladder Iris.” She looks down at me to make sure I’m holding tightly… I grip on something fierce, I don’t want Casey to tip over and fall.
“What’chu doin back here pervert, looking up girls skirts?” Lorence comes around the corner and sees me holding the ladder for Casey.
“Iris, it’s a baby eagle! It’s hurt, oh no, it’s wing is broken!” Casey looks back over her shoulder and sees Lorence standing next to me. Her face sinks.
“Come down now, I wanna have a look,” Lorence yells at Casey. I know she don’t want to, I know she wants to stay up there and save that baby bird. “I said get yer ass down here!” Reluctantly, she crawls back down the ladder. I haven’t moved an inch, I’m still holding on to make sure she gets off safely. Then, without warning, the moment Casey is off the ladder, Lorence slams me to the ground and steps on my back as he climbs up. I scramble to my feet, ignoring the blood on my hands and gravel pressed into my face.
“You’re an asshole Lori.” My heart is pounding. I just pulled the family nickname card. I know for a fact he hates being called Lori. But, I don’t care. He can’t push me around and Casey too– she wanted to help that baby eagle. All Lorence is gonna do is torment it until it dies.
“What’d you call me?” He cranes his head around with red glowing eyes. He’s like a bull; steam rolling from his nostrils as he jumps down to face me. He’s twice my size. He looks at my shirt, then he starts laughing.
“I said, you're an asshole!”
“You pathetic little freak, with your queer clothes and high voice. You think you can just become a girl because you want to?“
“I am a GIRL. And you’re an ASSHOLE!”
Lorence pulls back his arm and Casey screams and I imagine myself ducking and running away, like in the movies. Instead I stand there and he punches me square in the face and everything goes black.
“Iris, sweety, I wish you girls hadn’t been behind that shed playing around. I asked you not to get dirty,” Ms. Henley’s voice is calm as she dots my face with a cold cloth. We are sitting in the office. “You are going to have a terrible bruise here for your picture.”
“Ugh, well, Lorence was picking on me and Casey,” I inform her.
“Yes, Casey told me everything and Lorence is being suspended for his behavior. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t get transferred to the Middle School in Hinesville after this little stunt.”
“Ms. Henley?” I ask.
“What’s gonna happen to the baby eagle? Can we raise it in class?” Ms. Henley and Bea start laughing.
“I thought you might ask. We’ve called the wildlife refuge and they are on their way right now to pick it up.”
I smile. I remember what Grandma said, about smiling big for my pictures.
“Is it time for our pictures?” I stand up and run my fingers through my hair. I look down and brush myself off.
“Run along– they are in the library just finishing up.”
It takes four weeks to get our pictures back. I’m so anxious, but I don’t want to look at them until I get home and can do it with Grandma. I make Casey get them from the pile at the front of the class and put them in my backpack so I can’t see what they look like. The entire bus ride home is torture!
“You want to go visit Lady Eagleton this weekend? Mama said she’d drive us to the wildlife refuge,” Casey asks, distracting me momentarily.
“Really? Yes! I bet she’s grown so much since we saw her a few weeks ago.” The bus pulls to a stop in front of my house. “See you tomorrow!” I shout and dash off the bus. I only have one thing on my mind now.
I race into the house. “Grandma! Grandma!”
“Lord Almighty, what is it girl?” Grandma comes rushing out. She’s got flour on her face and a rolling pin in her hand. I laugh when I see her.
“Biscuits can wait, I’ve got my pictures,” I announce and take my backpack off. I bend down and pull them out, careful not to look. I hold them with the picture side facing my chest. My heart is happy in a way I can’t explain, but also scared too. I don’t know why, I mean, I seen plenty of pictures of myself as Iris. There’s just something about this one, this one that’s gonna go on Grandma’s wall. School pictures have been her thing, for as long as I can remember.
“Come on now Iris. The suspense is killing me!” I flip it over so she can see. Her eyes well up with tears when she sees my face. “Oh darling, you look– well you look perfect.”
I turn the pictures around and look at them. My hair is a little messy, not too bad. My favorite shirt is clean, no visible dirt. My smile, perfect. But, there, big as it could be– a bruise on my cheek from where Lorence punched me. Ms. Henley said it could have been a lot worse, if he’d got my nose or my eye, but instead he hit me square on the cheek.
“It’s not too bad,” I reply after looking for a few moments.
“Iris, do you want to know why I think they are the absolute perfect first school pictures for you?” Grandma asks.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because my sweet girl. You’ve got fight in you. You stood up for your friend and yourself that day. Something I’d always wished your Mama, God rest her soul, would have done. She was such a people pleaser, that well, she forgot to tell people no. I have no doubt that you are going to face some hurdles in your life, but damn it, I know YOU will survive.” Grandma lets out a sob and wraps her arms around me.
“Grandma! You’re getting dough all over me,” I protest and wiggle out of her grip. She laughs and sniffles and steps back.
“Well, then I better finish fixin supper. Put that picture in the frame I got, the one with them fancy little sparkles. Then get washed up and come help me in the kitchen.”
“Dear God, it’s me, Iris. I just wanted to say, thank you–”
Feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter or in the comments below. And if you're up for it, write your own story inspired by the works of Judy Blume. You might just find yourself writing the next, Are You There God? It's me Margaret.