Trading by Susan Tepper

After supper in the summer we traded baseball cards outside. My brother had the best ones and the other kids would give ten for his one. He was a cagey trader. I found it all rather boring. I only stuck around because there was nothing else to do. Plus I scooped up bubble gum that often fell from the cards to the ground during the haggling over the cards. My brother screamed loudest. He was stocky and strong. He brought Mr. Chips our German Shepherd along as mascot. If someone got out of line Mr. Chips growled. It kept a lid on things. Until the night Richie from the city came. He was visiting his cousin Louie for the week. We all stood under Mrs. Carney’s big tree. The spreading one with the caterpillars. Every so often a caterpillar would fall on the sidewalk or someone’s head or their back. We were used to it. Richie was afraid and started to screech and carry on. My brother screamed he should shut up he was spoiling the action. Mr. Chips barked loudly. I found a few more pieces of gum that were still nicely wrapped and tucked them in my pocket for later.

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27 Comments

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27 responses to “Trading by Susan Tepper

  1. mimmcewen

    Excellent! Well written! I love it! I love the introduction of Richie and how he is from the city and screeches and carries on about the caterpillars– so much said in so little words! Great example of flash fiction.

  2. guy

    Someone should tell the narrator that baseball card gum is hard enough to crack your teeth. Not fit for human consumption.

    Caterpillars, baseball cards, trees, kids out of school… all warm things to read about on this subzero day.

  3. pitch-perfect voice. you put me there, except it was marbles, not baseball cards. peace…

  4. randalhoule

    This was a fun read, Susan. I love that bubble gum falls out, and then caterpillars falling from the trees. Can’t disagree with Guy, though, that gum is hard at first.

  5. Susan, I really enjoyed this and I agree with Linda: you nailed the voice. My favorite line is, “If someone got out of line Mr. Chips growled. It kept a lid on things.” Lines like these make stories and their characters and their authors distinctive and original. I love your work, Susan. Nice job.

  6. Dan, I love that you love my work. What better words can an author hear? Thanks a million times over!

  7. I can just see the catapillers falling like autumn leaves. It’d freak me out too!

  8. Freaky is a great thing, Susan, but this feels just wondrous to me. And like Guy, sharing this same wintry landscape, it evokes a scene, takes me there, and I want to sit in it for about three months! I love your writing, too. Am a huge fan.

  9. This is great. I thought you caught the kid’s voice perfectly. ‘The spreading one with the caterpillars.’ Exactly as a kid would see it.

  10. OK, I was never ‘there’ in these stories – or rather, stories like this you write Susan – but you always transport me there anyway: nostalgic but not rose-coloured, yet still affectionate. I love their feeling.

  11. estelle bruno

    oh, such great memories. Will pass this on. I loved it.

  12. Tom O'Connell

    you obviously tucked away a lot more than just the gum.

  13. i read this on my phone when it first came out and then again just now. i love your writing, susan. i may be your biggest fan.

  14. What a lovely postcard from childhood! A gem!

  15. This slice of childhood is so real I hear and feel it and even taste that flat board of bubble gum. Nice!

  16. Kelly

    I think I’ve been under that tree, hehe – and the matter-of-fact embodied child’s perspective, which could yet move into the surreal at any time, nice

  17. Pingback: Week #39 – Password | 52|250 A Year of Flash

  18. Michael

    Enjoyed the simplicity here — city kid comes to small town. The reaction to the caterpillars says it all,you know, about the difference between “us and them”, and you describe it in one scene and one reaction, without explaining. Well written. As noted above, this is what good fiction is.

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