Introducing Joe Trumbull

Of all the characters I’ve created over the years, Joe Trumbull is surely one of my favorites. I suppose I’ve known a lot of fellows like him — good-hearted, somewhat simple-minded, always friendly — but Joe wasn’t based on any particular person. In fact, when I began the story, Joe Trumbull wasn’t on my list of characters. He didn’t exist yet in my mind.

As I wrote the opening scene with Linn arriving in Brookfield only to have her “snub” the driver and be left standing alone with a wagonload of luggage, I realized I needed someone who’d be willing to help her out — for a price.

Because my first objective in the story was to introduce Linn and show her disdain for her humble, rural roots, what better character for her to meet than someone who epitomized all those things she disliked?

And so, Joe Trumbull was born.

In this opening chapter, as the first resident from Brookfield that the reader meets, Joe comes to represent the town itself.  Like Joe, the town is slow-paced, easy-going, and not too concerned about appearances. Joe is very down-to-earth, not one to really be all that impressed by fame and fortune.

Creating the scene with Linn and Joe, letting them engage in a bit of dialogue, and imagining Linn’s reactions to this talkative, denim-clad farm boy was wonderful fun. I liked Joe Trumbull, and once he’d come into the story, he wasn’t going away any time soon. Joe’s youth and his discoveries about life — and love — were a perfect parallel for much of Linn’s backstory.

I hope you like Joe, or “Joe-Joe” as his mother usually calls him, unless, of course, she’s mad at him. You’ll be seeing more of Joseph Alphonse Trumbull as the story continues.

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Chapter 1: Joe Trumbull

What’s happening: Linn Sparks has arrived in Brookfield, only to have the driver leave her standing alone, gaping at the luggage she’s brought with her.

 

“Wait! Come back! You’re supposed to help me—”

Heedless of Linn’s shouts and gestures, the driver turned the motor coach around. It chugged along the narrow dirt roadway, back in the direction from which it had come.

She screwed up her mouth and poked at one of the valises with the toe of a soft-skinned boot. How was she supposed to manage on her own? She shouldn’t have given that driver a cent until he’d finished the job she’d hired him to do.

Joe TrumbullLooking around, Linn caught sight of a chubby boy in denim overalls heading in her direction. He’d obviously not missed too many meals, she thought, rolling her eyes.

“Hey there! You!” she called, waving both hands in the air. “Watch my things for a few minutes, will you? I’ve just arrived, and I have to hire a wagon.”

The plump fellow waddled toward her. “Well, ma’am, I was just fixing to go to Loonsfoot’s.” He spoke as slowly as he walked. “I was going to—”

Linn wasn’t interested in what he was about to do. “I’ll pay you,” she said. “I won’t be gone long.” Without waiting for a response, she turned and hurried toward the street.

“Wait!” The boy came after her. In a surprising show of swiftness, he darted around to block her path. “I know you! I know who you are!”

At once, a smile rose to Linn’s lips. This was the part she most enjoyed about being a celebrity. She made a slight curtsy. “Why, yes, I am—”

“Linnie Mae Sparks! You’re Dick and Beulah’s daughter. Welcome home, Linnie.” A pudgy, dirt-covered hand grabbed hers and pumped up and down. “Reckon you don’t remember me, do you? I’m Joe Trumbull. Course I was just a kid when you went away. I’m sixteen now.” He beamed.

She tugged free from his sweaty grasp, stared down at the dirt streaked across the backs of her hands, and shook her head. “I’m sorry, Joe. I don’t remember you. Now, please wait here with my luggage until I get back.”

“Sure thing, Linnie Mae.”

“My name is not Linnie Mae.” She kept the smile pasted on her face but fixed him with a sharp look.

“Of course it is. I remember—”

“What I mean, Joe, is that I no longer go by that name. Onstage, I’m known as Miss Linn Sparks. I’d prefer you address me as such.” She drew herself up in a gracious pose.

“Well, sure, if that’s what you want.” He shrugged. “Don’t see that it makes a whole lot of difference. Like my ma, she still calls me Joe-Joe, same as she did when I was a little kid. Unless she’s mad at me,” he added. “Then she calls me Joseph Alphonse Trumbull, you know. And Pa just calls me Joe. Don’t matter what they call me, though. I’m still the same.”

“But what would you like to be called? Don’t you have a preference?”

He laughed. “Nah. You know what they say.” He shrugged again.

Linn frowned. She could scarcely believe she’d allowed herself to be drawn into a meaningless conversation with a sixteen-year-old boy, but curiosity got the best of her. She took the bait. “No, what do they say?”

Thoughts on Linn’s Arrival

Readers aren’t expected to like Miss Linn Sparks when she first arrives “home” to Brookfield, Kansas. In fact, quite the opposite. I expect readers to dislike Linn and her “better-than-everyone-else” attitude.

CLICK HERE TO READ LINN’S ARRIVAL FROM CHAPTER ONE

Isn’t that against the rules, though? Aren’t authors supposed to create sympathetic characters that readers will adore? Yep, so I knew from the start that I’d have a challenge ahead of me.

In writing the opening scene of the story, I wanted to highlight the vast differences between Linn’s present life as the glamourous star from San Francisco and her prior experience growing up in a small rural community. This, I hoped, would provide a bit of background for Linn’s “uppity” attitude.

By putting her back in her old home setting — sort of a “fish out of water” approach — I planned to appease readers a bit by making Linn miserable. After all, it’s always fun to see someone “get what’s coming” when we don’t like them very well.

Overall, my hope was that readers would enjoy seeing Linn struggle through a few predicaments and would keep reading long enough to understand more about her childhood and the reasons behind her self-centered approach to life.

In reality, Linn Sparks isn’t really as awful as she seems. But at the beginning, yes, she’s very disagreeable and unpleasant. Feel free to dislike her.

Chapter 1: Linn Arrives in Brookfield

Chapter One

Brookfield, Kansas 1914

Three days. Not a moment longer. She would attend to business first thing Monday morning, and by Tuesday afternoon she would be on her way back home to San Francisco.

Back home where she belonged.

Linn Sparks shuddered as she looked around her. She’d been gone from Brookfield for seven years, and in all that time, nothing in this sorry excuse for a town had changed. Farm wagons still clattered down Main Street—the only street in town deemed worthy of a name—and the hooves of the mules and horses still kicked up the same thick red dust. Familiar storefronts on either side of the rutted road looked as weary and woe-begone as the day she’d left.

How had she endured growing up here? Brookfield lacked anything that even faintly resembled civilized society.

No couture dressmakers’ establishments with their luxurious bolts of fabrics and thrilling counters filled with lace, ribbons, and fancy appliques. Only Mary Ann Clement’s tired little shop at the back of her drab little house.

No elegant restaurants serving fine cuisine. Just Ledbetter’s Corner Café. The broken sign at the entrance still dangled precariously, threatening to cause severe bodily harm to some unlucky patron. Elmer always swore someday he’d get around to fixing it. Apparently, he’d not yet found the time.

No delightful candy shops offering sweet chocolates and delicious bon-bons. Linn could buy penny candies at the mercantile, but those hard, sugary candies couldn’t begin to compare with the rich, sumptuous taste of Ghirardelli’s dark chocolates melting in her mouth.

Worst of all, Brookfield lacked art and culture…unless one counted Miss Tabitha Ann Collier. Was the crotchety old bitch still alive? Instinctively, Linn whirled around to gaze at the neat little house surrounded by its lovely white picket fence. Memories stirred, bringing a wistful smile to Linn’s face. She loved Tabitha Ann. She hated Tabitha Ann. Linn owed everything good in her life to the woman.

winton-six-model-22a-seven-passenger-touring-131850263-6“That’s all of it now, Miss Sparks.” The driver she’d hired in Wichita gestured toward the leather-trimmed valises and the stiff hatboxes he’d unloaded from the rear of the motor coach—a fancy Winton Six model touring car. With his dapper gray uniform and neat starched cap, the fellow added an air of importance to her arrival. Linn liked attention. She enjoyed impressing people.

Grinning at her, the fellow held out a hand. “You sure brought a lot with you. Must be planning to stay a while, I suppose.”

Her spine stiffened. By pointing out how much effort he’d expended on her behalf, he meant to encourage a sizable tip, but how dare he suggest she would even think of staying a while in a wretched place like Brookfield, Kansas?

She opened her leather handbag and took out a few pennies. He’d get no more from her.

“Somebody coming to meet you?” The driver glanced around.

As she’d instructed him to do, he’d deposited her—and her belongings—across the street from the livery. Even at this early hour of the morning, the smell of horse sweat, axle grease, and manure hung thick and heavy in the sultry summer air. Linn coughed. She opened her handbag again, jerked out a lace-edged handkerchief, and pressed it to her nose.

“No, I’ll be fine. I can make it home—” Linn bit back the word. Brookfield was not her home. “My parents have a farm close by. I’ll hire a wagon at the livery.”

“All right, then.” The driver doffed his cap, muttered something under his breath, and walked away, returning to the automobile without another word.

Linn gaped at the valises and hatboxes the driver had left stacked at her feet.

 

What is Summertime?

Summertime was originally published by Secret Cravings Publishing. As the author, I now hold all rights to this story and the other historical romances written under the name of Christina Cole.

Many readers have expressed an interest in this story. At this time, however, I have no plans to republish my earlier novels — either independently or with other publishing companies.

But why not share this story online?

In addition to the story itself, I’ll also be sharing background information, thoughts about the story and its characters, and insights into the writing process.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them. You may also contact me personally by visiting the “Questions for Christina?” page.

I’m delighted that you’re here, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading Summertime. I’ve included a short “blurb” about the story here: The Story of Summertime.

About the Author

Christina Cole fell in love with words at a very young age. She’ll always be grateful to her grandfather and his patience as he taught her the joys of reading. Throughout her childhood she loved telling tales. She begged and pleaded for her mother to type them, but soon — with her grandfather’s guidance — learned to type for herself on his old Underwood.

Things have changed now. Her grandfather is gone, and so is the old typewriter, but Christina’s love for story-telling has remained strong. She now does her typing on a computer in a cozy little writing room filled with books, treasures, and a much-cherished photograph of her grandfather. Although she’s no longer writing professionally, she loves keeping in touch with readers and sharing a few thoughts through blogging.

She is married, lives in the midwest, loves history, hates winter, and is happily pursuing her many different creative interests. In addition to writing, she enjoys drawing, painting, music, dancing, and cooking. She especially enjoys finding recipes with a bit of history behind them.

 

A Bit of History

World War I broke out on June 28, 1914, the same day on which Summertime begins. For some time, tensions in Europe had been high, and on that fateful date, Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, were assassinated in Sarajevo by a member of the Black Hand Society, a secret Serbian group. The ultimate aim of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary’s southernmost provinces which could then be formed into a new nation.

The “war to end all war” — as World War I was often called — does not play a significant role in Summertime. The United States, in fact, didn’t enter the war until several years later, on April 6, 1917. Yet the tension and sense of world-wide conflict forms an interesting backdrop for this love story. It is, in a sense, a statement about our ability to isolate ourselves, or, more specifically, our ability to focus more on ourselves than on others. Sometimes, like Linn Sparks, we can become so wrapped up in ourselves and our needs that we become almost oblivious to what’s going on around us.

My grandfather and his brother, Mike, both fought in France during the war. The uniformed man pictured above, however, is neither of them. He is a distant family member on my grandmother’s side. His name was August Grotjan, but beyond that, I don’t have a lot of information about him.

For me, in writing Summertime, the knowledge that war was raging in Europe while my characters were going about their lives in a little country town — laughing, loving, living — gave a special poignancy to the story, and in a way became part of a quiet, understated theme. Life is short, and we must make of it what we can.

 

The Story Behind the Story

Even though I was born years after the end of World War I, many of my childhood memories became part of Summertime.

Each time I sat down to begin a new novel, my process was always the same. I would start by “free-writing” — on no particular subject or theme — and see where my thoughts might take me.

With “Summertime”, that first rambling stream-of-consciousness writing led me back to a place called Indian Grove, a tiny little hamlet in Missouri where my grandfather’s siblings lived. I spent many summers there, usually playing with my second-cousins, Kathy and Janie. Oh, the adventures we had!

The upstairs of the huge farm house was rarely used — except when my grandfather, my sisters, and I came to visit. Most of the rooms upstairs were storage areas, filled with memorabilia from the early 20th century. World War I uniforms, clothing from the era, old furniture, old photographs, old books. It was a treasure trove for the imagination.

Kathy, Janie, my sisters, and I would often play dress up. Our favorite game was pretending we were famous singers. We would dress in fancy clothes with feathered boas around our necks, and we’d wobble across the “stage” in dangerously-high heels, putting on shows with such tunes as “Side by Side“.

Oh, we ain’t got a barrel of money

Maybe we’re ragged and funny

But we’ll travel along

Singing our song

Side by side…

As my thoughts continued wandering over the page, I wrote a few words about my grandmother. She’s the beautiful young woman (second from the left) pictured in the photo displayed above.

I knew I wanted to write about the time in which she lived and fell in love. This isn’t a story about her, nor is it about my grandfather and his life. Summertime is a work of fiction, but one which draws upon my childhood memories and thoughts of what life must have been like in another time and place.

From my disjointed ramblings that day, a character emerged: Linn Sparks, a young woman who had made her dreams come true. She’d grown up on a farm very much like the farm in Indian Grove, but she’d gone on to live the life of a glamorous singer and star of the stage in San Francisco.

What if she were called home? What if she had to return to the little town where she was raised? And what if there were reasons why she never wanted to come home again?

Those were the questions playing through my mind as I began putting the storyline together for Summertime. I loved writing this book, and I hope you love reading it.

Judith – writing as Christina Cole