The River Isle-Pinwheel Project

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)


Seven-thirty in River Isle.

The alarm clock on Nila Sommers’ nightstand confirms this fact. With a quick, downward arm motion, Nila acknowledges the fact confirmed. Nila stretches and yawns as her large, soft brown eyes survey first the ceiling, and then the other areas of her room. A bright ray of early morning, late September sun peeps through the window curtains.

“Nila, honey,” an elderly but strong female voice with a distinct English accent can be heard from somewhere else in the house, “it’s seven-thirty. Time for school.”

“I’m up, grams,” Nila calls back. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. See you in a few minutes. Breakfast is ready.”

Nila throws back her bed covers and sits up on the side of her bed. After a few seconds, she gets up and grabs a pair of folded jeans and a clingy leopard skin top (but with black spots on aquamarine) and makes her way down the hallway into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, Nila is showered and dressed. She is back in her room, in front of her vanity mirror, applying some lip gloss and eye shadow and attempting to make sense out of her reddish brown hair. 

“Nila, it’s getting on to eight o’clock. Autumn will be here soon.”

Nila rolls her eyes and sighs. Autumn San Martine is Nila’s best friend. But Nila recognizes her grandmother’s play on her friend’s name. A small smile.

“Com-ing!” She yells back.

The hair problem solved. Nila goes to her bed and grabs a pair of zip-up, leather ankle boots with two inch heels that she bought when Autumn and her were downtown last week. After successfully getting her feet inside, she grabs her book bag and purse off of the chair by the window and makes her way out the door, down the hallway, down the steps and into the large, open reception area, where her grandparents are already present at the breakfast table. Her grandmother at one end, a tea cup in hand. Her grandfather, intently reading a newspaper at the other end, hand on tea cup. Nila is frozen in her tracks by her grandmother’s all too familiar look.

“Oh, honey, I don’t know about that top. Don’t you think it’s a little low? And tight? And showy?”


“Cleavage is in,” Mr. Sommers says, without looking up from his newspaper. “She’ll be fine.”

“Dad!” Mrs. Sommers says, in horror. “What if something happened to her?”

This gets Mr. Sommers attention away from his reading and onto his wife. “Mother, there’s approximately two-hundred teenage girls in River Isle, and approximately one-hundred and fifty are wearing practically the same thing. So, if you’re going to be worrying about anyone, worry about those poor fifty girls that aren’t in the minority.”

Mrs. Sommers stares at her husband, shocked and dumbfounded. Mr. Sommers stares back and smiles. A chuckle. He turns to Nila. “Cheerio, Nila. You look smashing. Your grandmother thinks so, too. Have a seat and join us.”

“Sure, gramps,” Nila says with a smile and quickly gives him a kiss. She goes over to do the same to her grandmother, who stares at her. Nila meets her with a smile. Her grandmother gives in.

“Come here,” she says with a smile of her own, as she gives her granddaughter a big hug and kiss. She motions to a seat between the two table ends. “Sit down, sit down. Eat.” 

“Thanks, grams,” Nila says and complies. The front door bell chimes announce an outside presence.

“That must be Autumn, honey,” Mrs. Sommers says to Nila.

“Door’s open,” Nila calls out to the presence, very aware of the fact that almost no one in River Isle lock their doors, including her grandparents. “Come in.”

One of the double doors can be heard opening and subsequently shutting. A few seconds later, a very attractive young Latino girl of Nila’s age walks into the reception area from the foyer. She has pretty, dark brown eyes and jet black, silky hair worn straight and long, down to almost the small of her back, with bangs in the front. Her lips are also full like Nila’s and her mouth capable of the same wide smile, but she is not as busty, and is thin and curvy to Nila’s curvy voluptuousness. She sports a golden brown skin that looks perpetually tan. She is also slightly taller than Nila, which still makes both girls well under five-and-a-half-feet tall. This is Autumn San Martine, Nila’s best friend.

“What’s up, home girl?” Autumn says to Nila with a sly smile, in greeting.

“Nothing–” Nila starts to say, but is abruptly interrupted by her grandmother’s sudden outburst. 

“Oh, my God, that outfit!” Mrs. Sommers exclaims, and gives Autumn the same look that she had given her granddaughter, earlier. Mr. Sommers, still calmly reading his newspaper, shakes his head but never looks up.

“What’s wrong?” Autumn asks innocently, actually thinking that something is wrong– a rip, tear or spot somewhere.

“Those pants! That top!”


“That– what’s that on your stomach, honey?”

Autumn smiles. “It’s a navel ring with a little chain. See? Pretty neat, huh?” 

Another look. “That thing is actually in your navel? Like an earring?” 

“Yeah. See, they take this sharp thing and stick it through–” 

Mrs. Sommers raises a hand, to the amusement of Mr. Sommers and Nila. “That’s fine, honey. I get the idea. I guess. But why–“

“Because Autumn is one of those two-hundred girls I was talking about,” Mr. Sommers says to his wife, coming to Autumn’s rescue. “Like your granddaughter. It’s a piercing, mother. Like an ear piercing. Only it’s in the navel. Girls in many cultures have been doing it for thousands of years. But because it’s fairly new in America, like everything else, everyone has to make a bloody big deal out of it. Ear, navel, nose, nipple, it’s all the same.” 

“Eeew, nipple ring!” Autumn says, a smile of acknowledgment. “Cool, Mr. Sommers.”

“Don’t tell me you–” Mrs. Sommers begins. 

“Not yet, but I’m thinking about it.” 

“Well, I’ll tell you what I think, honey. No.” A look at Nila. “What are you thinking about?” 

“Nothing,” Nila says, a head shake and shrug. “I got nothing.”

“You have nothing.” 

“I have nothing.” 

“Good,” Mrs. Sommers says. “Thought is overrated these days. Stay the way you are.”

“Dumb and deprived,” Nila nods. “I got it, grams.” A smile at Autumn.

“And those pants, Autumn. Don’t you think that they’re too tight? And shiny? What is that fabric?” 

“Oh, they’re leather.”

 “Uh, huh. And that top. It’s showing your shoulders and arms and your stomach. You can see that thing in your belly button.” 

Autumn is somewhat confused. “It’s a halter top, Mrs. Sommers. That’s what it’s supposed to do.” A sudden smile. She turns around, hands on hips. “And it also shows off my tattoo. You like it?” At the base of Autumn’s back is yet another surprise for Mrs. Sommers, a scrolling tattoo design. 

“I don’t know. Do you, honey?” 

Autumn nods, not knowing what to say. And, according to the corresponding look on her face, an affirmative reply is apparently not what Mrs. Sommers is looking for. 

Suddenly, Mr. Sommers throws down his paper and gets out of his seat. “Alright, mother. The girls are going to be late for school if we keep wearing out their welcome. Unseen to his wife, Mr. Sommers motions towards the front door. “Girls? School?” 

Nila gets the hint. “Oh, yeah. School.” She looks at her grandmother and nudges Autumn towards the door. “God. We don’t want to be late, grams.” “I’ll see you tonight. After the game and the party.” 

The wrong word choice on Nila’s part. 

“Wait. Party? What party?” 

“The home game party that’s always after home football games,” Nila says and realizes that now she is the one treading rather deep waters. 

“So, that’s why you two are dressed like you’re going to a pub and not to school?” 

“Uh, huh.” 

“And what? There’s going to be alcohol and drugs and–” 

“Mother, please.” 

“The party is run by one of the school chaperones at the game, Mrs. Sommers,” Autumn says. “It’s one of our teachers. It’s held at his house, across the street from the school.” She looks at Nila and Mr. Sommers with a hurt look on her face, somewhat confused. “Nila and I don’t do drugs or drink. We’re only fourteen. We’re just having fun.” 

Mrs. Sommers looks at Autumn for a few seconds, and then shakes her head in acknowledgment to something unknown, with a wave to the door. A smile. “You girls get going, now. You’ll be late for school.” 

The girls leave. Mr. Sommers looks at his wife. 

“Mother. Really.” He says with a wag of his head.



By Bud R. Berkich