Tupelo Hassman: Introductions, How to Make

Tupelo Hassman graduated from Columbia’s MFA program. Her writing has been published in Paper Street Press, The Portland Review Literary Journal, Tantalum, We Still Like, ZYZZYVA, and by 100WordStory.org, FiveChapters.com, and Invisible City Audio Tours. Tupelo will be filming Girlchild‘s book tour for a short documentary, “Hardbound: A Novel’s Life on the Road.” Her website is www.tupelohassman.com.

Girl Scouts are inexhaustible creatures, and so it shouldn’t have surprised me to find precisely the advice I needed today in my friend Rory Dawn’s tired old copy of the Girl Scout Handbook. An entire section detailing “How to Introduce Your Friends” waved at me from the Handbook’s index, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Friend, I’d like you to meet someone.

“That’s very forward,” you might think, “we’ve only just met. I don’t even know how to pronounce your name!” And to yourself, because you are invariably polite, “What is a Tupelo?”

But we are now acquainted, via our mutual friends and hosts, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. You’ve caught me wondering where I’m meant to deposit the sword-handled toothpicks at the hors d’oeuvres table at this monthly cocktail party that is the Work in Progress. I’ve admired your wrinkle-free ease in conversation and put down my growing collection of petite plastic swords to shake your hand. We’ve shared the awkward “let’s be alone at the party together” moment that has birthed many a friendship, and in that spirit, I’d like to introduce you to Rory Dawn.

Rory Dawn Hendrix is a young girl growing up on the Calle, a desert town outside of Reno where the main drag runs in a circle and church services are performed at the local bar. Rory’s lonely but literate and finds her best company in books, chief among them an old copy of the Girl Scout Handbook.

It might be surprising that the Scouts would include the lifesaving “How to Introduce Your Friends” section under the broader category of “Homemaking,” or that its sister sections are “Table Manners” and “Wrapping Packages.” In this instance, it makes perfect sense because Rory Dawn is making her new home with you.

Rory knows the value of companionship stumbled on between pages, and she’ll be the first to tell you that these surprise companions need us, too. Without us, Heidi’s skylight opens to the starless dark of a book’s closed covers, Milo never meets Tock in that tricky land Beyond Expectations, and Charlie’s genius never blooms and withers alongside Algernon’s. Without the Girl Scout Handbook, Rory’s aspirations, tangled as they might become later with the Scouts’ love of domestication, echo in the empty library. Without your company, Rory remains alone in that Troop of One she swears her allegiance to, her scarred salute lost in a mirror flat as a page.

The Scouts advise me to introduce people using various methods, some of which I’ve dispensed with here (younger to older, for example; male to female) and some of which I’ve followed (getting me that much closer to earning the highly coveted Homemaker Patch). These include adding a bit of information with the introduction, speaking the name clearly, and I hope you can hear the “slightly rising inflection” the Scouts suggest I employ when I say, “May I present, Rory Dawn Hendrix. She’d love for you to join her Troop of One.”

Read an excerpt from Girlchild on Scribd.

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