All Writing Is Rewriting: So-So Sally

And some thing keep waking up, like a morning that you just can’t quite kickstart, and yet you can’t stay asleep with that rumbling restlessness beneath eyes that are moments away from the proper cue to open.

So I present, a slow reworking of a story that began about 3 years ago. It has languished long enough. 

Everyone, meet Sally.

. . .

This is a story about a girl who was a cheerful, wonderful child, ripe and rich with imagination and curiosity about the world.

She wondered about whales in the deep and the songs they would sing. She wondered if tigers ever got sweaty in their tropical jungles as they prowled from banyan to banyan. She wondered about space-bound robots sailing on starlight through the cosmos and if they ever grew lonely. 

She wondered and wondered about so many things and was so buried in her imagination that all she could ever think to say when people asked her, as people tend so often to do, “How are you?” was, after the shock of being pulled from her world of singing whales and lazy tigers and lonely robots, “So-so.”

Her world inside was so rich and the world outside so dull by comparison, that when she would sit in class or ride the bus or eat at the table and people would say, “How was your day, Sally?” she would only ever mumble, “So-so.”

She felt so-so about fireworks, Christmas, snowfall on beaches; about mornings and afternoons and fuzzy summer peaches. She felt so so about birthdays and malls, about movies and TV and little critters that crawl.

It didn’t matter if she was in robot club, because her robots simply puttered and turned and toppled over themselves rather than sending interstellar radio songs to whales in the deepest depths of the oceans.

It didn’t matter if she was in an aquarium because she never heard whales singing to deep space robots, and to be honest, wondered if the quiet creatures in the largest tanks even could, if you gave them a radio to do it with.

It didn’t matter if she was at the zoo, because there all the tigers in the summer sun would do was lounge about in the shade, when clearly they should have petitioned for a snow machine to build themselves a sledding hill.

At all these places, and in almost every other, people, as they tend to so often, would ask, “How do you like the whales?” “How do you like the tigers?” “How was your robot club today?” and all Sally could say was, “So-so.”

Sally seemed to not like much of anything, or to ever get excited because she didn’t know how to share her wonderful ideas with other people. “Don’t they ever wonder about if space robots get lonely and where whales learn their songs and why hot tigers don’t build a snow machine?” she wondered. She was so consumed with wondering about why her classmates never seemed to wonder about anything that whenever they talked to her, she just stared blankly back, and so she didn’t have many friends.

There was, however, one exception: Sally adored jelly.

While other kids would jump for ice cream or balloons or fried chicken pizza, it was jelly that Sally was made for. Raspberry, peach, apricot or grape, on bread or pancakes spiced with red pepper flakes; morning, noon, or night and preferably all three, she savored jams and jellies of every taste and type. She loved the way jams and jellies slithered, glooped, and shivered in her spoon.

This was all well known in her school and to her classmates. It was well known because, as Sally daydreamed, she would slip into her chair, she would waver and mumble and would even talk like jelly: “Lululululooooooo,” she would say, because her imaginings of singing whales were so strong they would seep out of her and into the world.

She would wave her arms like jelly arms and when they other students would say, “Quiet!” she would stare back and say, “Thhhbt!” as she knew jelly would, if jelly could ever talk and needed to respond to an uncalled for insult. So when she would take out her jelly jars during lunch and spread pork rillette on her white rice and suck on a spoonful of pickled plum pepper jam while she waited for the bus, her classmates put two and two together and Sally was either Soso Sally, or Sally Jellyjam. She didn’t mind, since both seemed true enough. So she would shrug at her classmates, and offer her assessment of their cleverness: “It’s so-so.”

It didn’t help Sally’s case among her classmates that every day she wore a big, yellow cowboy hat and matching boots to school. In addition to her yellow cowboy hat and creaky cowboy boots which she wore daily to school despite the dress code or the weather, she carried one thing always with her which she never let out of her sight, if she even let it as far from her as slipping it off her shoulders: her trusty backpack, a rumpled canvas sack with a top flap that cinched up that her grandfather had given her one year for her birthday. “Because you have the look of an adventurer in you,” he had said.

She missed her grandfather. And so she carried the knapsack everywhere, and over a long and dull vacation that was only bearable because she could travel to the bottom of the Mariana Trench and as far out as Alpha Centauri with tigers and whales and robots in tow, she carefully stitched a padded row of three pockets into the inside of her bag, each the perfect size for a jar of jam, and above them, a tiny zip pocket perfectly sized for one of her mother’s kitschy spoons she picked up from the places they would sometimes visit on vacation.