Monthly Wrap: Field Trip

by Susan Henderson on August 8, 2008

In fourth grade, my class took a train ride to New York City. We were going to see the Statue of Liberty, but my goal was to get lost from the group. You did this, too, right? Trying to lose the group and then see if you can find them again?

I was sitting on the train with the girls who planned to get lost with me. Mrs. Bryson, who always sat close to me, was waiting to stop the fun. The moment we started whispering, she split up our group of girls and sent me and my friend Donna to another seat.

I don’t know which of us noticed first, but Donna and I immediately looked at each other. She was about to crack up, and so was I. Because the woman sitting across from us may have looked normal at first in her Annie Hall suit and the silk scarf around her neck. Hair was covering half her face, sure, and it was a little stringy. But, see, there was something else. I had to look again to be sure.

Under the stringy hair, she had one very small and wrinkled eye. And when she turned toward the window, just enough hair moved so we could see her face was burned right off. All that was left looked like pink tree bark. We were taking it in, it was building within us, when out of her pocket, this lady pulled a package of M&M’s. She tore it open and poured some into her hand. Then she spoke. “Would you like some, girls?”

I don’t know who ran faster. Probably Donna. I was always better at the bar hang than the 50-yard dash. We ran the length of the train until we got to the cafeteria car. No one could have stopped us from laughing.

Donna, panting, said, “I dare you to go back and ask for an M&M.”

I can tell you that we did go back. Because Mrs. Bryson pulled us back through the cars, and she was so angry her hands were hot. She told us to apologize. So we did. And I took the dare. That was the worst, most burned-tasting M&M I ever ate.

We had no opportunity to get lost in New York because Mrs. Bryson held our hands the whole time and didn’t take us up to Liberty’s crown because there were too many stairs. When we got back to my elementary on a yellow school bus that evening, I looked for my parents among those waving to greet us, but they weren’t there. I panicked so much, I forgot my name and phone number and just sobbed at the back of the bus until Mrs. Bryson called home for me. I could still taste the M&M, and I felt small, every bit of me.


What I read this month: Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun (Ho-ly man!!!!!); Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (I’m only halfway and definitely enjoying it, but find I’m not reaching for the book when I have free time); Gabrielle Zevin, Elsewhere (I read this to my kids, and we were all riveted, yet not really sure if we liked it, if that makes sense).


Ooh, can’t finish the wrap without bragging that I got to spend last weekend with my friend, Aurelio. Here we are in the LitPark hidden office. I know it looks like he’s not having fun, but we had a great, great day.

And here he is with his very awesome Chuck and my very awesome Steve.


Thanks to everyone who played at LitPark this month, and to my guests, James Spring and Amy Wallen of DimeStories. Thanks also to everyone who linked here: The Publishing Spot, Holding My Breath for the Next Thing to Come Along, Bliggidy Blog, Side Dish, Katrina Denza, Vonnegut’s Asshole, ModernityBlog, Books and Magazines Blog, The Chucklehut, and Suzan Woodruff. I appreciate those links!

See you first Monday of next month!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

JamesRSpring August 8, 2008 at 3:25 am

Sorry I missed playing at The Park earlier this week. Without giving away too much info about Amy’s inventiveness, I’ve been gone for a bit. Thanks to Sue and Amos for picking up my slack.

Susan – Sometimes you PLAN to get lost in NYC?

Amy – You tell big lies.

LitPark amigos – I’ve been told that we had a little rush of submissions. Thanks for that. Please be patient while the crew worms their way through the pile…

By the way… does anybody know how to get a hold of the writer KIT COYNE IRWIN (author of Parrot Talk)? I need to send her some dough…

More soon…


Aurelio August 8, 2008 at 8:24 am

Chuck and I had a wonderful day with you and your family, Susan, even if I’m not flashing my teeth!

I almost never smile for pictures I am aware are being taken of me. I spent most of my youth with very crooked teeth and a missing front one, then braces, head gear, the works. My mouth and Joan Rivers’ face could have a contest and I’d probably win. Even though I now own a tidy bionic smile, old habits die hard. (Looking at that last picture, I should take some lessons from Steve!)

We visited friends in NJ after we saw you. We did a bit of antiquing and Chuck bought an early Brownie Camera.

We were to fly out of Newark. On the way to our hotel there we got horribly lost in some of the worst neighborhoods I’ve ever seen. It was as if we were thrust into a missing sequence from “After Hours.” It’s like the freeway exchange near the airport was designed by Frank Gehry and Phillis Diller’s hair stylist. We could see our hotel from the freeway, but try as we might, each exit took us everywhere but there. We spent more than an hour riding the tangle before we finally and quite randomly got there. We’re still not sure how. I’d get lost in NYC any day rather than get lost in Newark. If there was ever a disfigured woman to run screaming from, it’s Newark.

And when Chuck went through airport security they made him take out the old Brownie camera. The inspector had no idea what it was and Chuck had to open its box and dismantle the camera for them. Now I call him “The Brownie Bomber.”


SusanHenderson August 8, 2008 at 11:09 am

First want to say hi to everyone I saw/met at yesterday’s Backspace conference. While I was there, I was given an arc (uncorrected proof) of Karen Dionne’s debut novel, FREEZING POINT, and only noticed this morning that she’d put my name in the acknowledgments. That’s the sweetest feeling.

Here’s a link to the book:


SusanHenderson August 8, 2008 at 11:12 am

You should tell everyone what being busy looks like for you lately because it’s pretty fascinating. Thanks for being here, my dear.

By the way, does anyone know how to get a hold of ELLEN GILCHRIST (National Book Award winner, etc)? I want to talk to her so bad.


SusanHenderson August 8, 2008 at 11:14 am

You got that lost with GPS? Wow. I’m glad you’re okay, and hopefully your After Hours episode and the Brownie Camera will make a new novel for you.

Can I post a picture of you in head gear?


Aurelio August 8, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Our GPS didn’t like the hotel’s address for some unknown reason, and refused to take us there. Perhaps it already knew? We programmed in the Newark airport instead. On the way, the GPS led us to a barricaded road it insisted we needed to travel. We should have seen it as a bad omen.

I forgot to mention: Naturally, we were fried and cranky when we got to our room, so I ordered room service rather daring to go out again. When the room service guy came with our meal, he insisted on we pay in cash. I said, “Just charge it to our room.” He replied, “You can’t do that here.” So we dug around for several minutes trying to construct exact change.

Have you ever heard of such a stupid thing?

Chuck got on line to check our schedule and realized we had to go out again anyway to return our rental car that night because our flight was earlier than the car rental place opened the next morning, so I abandoned my remaining French fries, Chuck put his cherry pie on hold, and we raced two blocks down the road to the rental place moments before it closed. We were going to walk back, but the guy there insisted, “I’ll drive you, no problem.”

We should have known better by then. The road we came in on was one way. If it had been two-way, we would have been back in less than a minute. As it was, the guy had to circle around through a meander of side streets. He got lost on the way back, then admitted he’d never driven to our hotel before.

P.S. I avoided all cameras while in headgear so that’s not gonna happen.


SusanHenderson August 8, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Just got word from VistaPages, who host this site, that we’ll be down for maintenance for about 12 hours. This will probably happen tonight or tomorrow. Anyway, if you click on LitPark and we appear to be gone, don’t freak out. Okay, I’ll be back to comment after I get my work done for the day.


Kimberly August 8, 2008 at 2:46 pm

So bummed I missed you, Aurelio!!!

Fingers crossed for a possible day trip to Palm Springs on Aug 21… Can you and Chuck make it for the screening? Our last day of shooting is tonight, and then I’m back to life here in the Park! I’ll catch up soon. – Whew!


Aurelio August 8, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Yeah, I was hoping you could join in. Darn, the rest of this month is crazy busy. I’ll look at the calendar and let you know about the screening. We’ll have to get caught up when your life calms down.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass August 9, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Aurelio smiles. He really does. And when he does, it lights the room with aurora borealis light. Aurora. Aurelio. Is there a message here?

I am so glad the visit was wonderous for everyone.

Susan, as usual, you were stellar at the Backspace Conference. Too bad you missed John Searles’s talk on Friday. He rocked; in fact, he rolled dust bunnies under his bed. He would be a bravo guest here at LitPark.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass August 11, 2008 at 8:23 am

Waah. I don’t get back from the East Coast until 6:15 pm on August 21st. I was so hoping to catch the screening in Palm Springs.


Kimberly August 11, 2008 at 9:34 am

aw nuts. well, I’m working on a few things for LA, so I’ll keep you posted.


SusanHenderson August 15, 2008 at 11:01 pm

Sorry for all the technical difficulties. Onward!


terrybain August 16, 2008 at 12:22 am

Sorry about the downtime, y’all. Our webhost moved a bunch of gizmos and widgets and Acme thingamajigs around and it left us hosed for awhile.



ErikaRae August 17, 2008 at 1:07 am

Hi Susan! Just wanted to say that I love the placement of the tree pic here. That – and I never was as bold as you as a child. Thanks for letting me live vicariously!


SusanHenderson August 17, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Oh, if I could only reign in my bold. And hey, it’s so good to see you here. Whatcha been doing this summer?


ErikaRae August 17, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Thanks! I’ve been hosting a never-ending stream of family. (I love them, but I am exhausted!) I just joined up as a contributor on the TNB and saw your name on the list. Had to stop in and say hi!


jodyreale August 21, 2008 at 12:00 am

Man, I can’t believe I’m always late to the party. As the mom-bloggers say at Twitter, “GAH!”
The blessing is that the Park isn’t just about keeping up with the schedule; I can always just read along later. Nice feature with Spring. And hey, does anyone know how I can reach JOE FRANCIS? He owes me money.


SusanHenderson August 23, 2008 at 11:09 am

Hey, guys, I’m way behind on mail and other things, but only a few hours from being finished with this set of book edits.

Um, anyone know where I can get Saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate)? The boys want to make homemade smoke bombs today, and I’m thinking, Why not?


SusanHenderson August 23, 2008 at 11:09 am

Hi Jody!


Kimberly August 23, 2008 at 1:43 pm

I got to meet Aurelio and Chuck in LA yesterday! It was so much fun!

(and I also got to see Aurelio’s amazing, toothy smile!)

Also – Erika Rae isn’t the only new contributor to The Nervous Breakdown… 😉

Stop by and check us out!

Oh – and what’s this new ‘reblog’ feature?


SusanHenderson August 31, 2008 at 10:11 pm

New question goes up at midnight! Welcome back to everyone who’s been away for the summer!


SusanHenderson August 31, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Maybe Terry can explain what “reblog” means. And nice to have you back, Kimberly!


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