Story Chat: “Out of Character,” A Cautionary Tale

Welcome to the third Always Write edition of Story Chat, “Out of Character” by Cathy Cade. 

What started out as a story of a young woman’s Christmas job in the mall and her inability to accept her given name, ended up a warning for parents whose children go unsupervised to the malls. 

Nine-Word Summaries for “Out of Character”

Christmas beaver who disliked children, hated her name, changed.

Parents guard your children at the mall, dangers lurk.

Christmas Workers at the Mall

Helen Troy, acting as Beaver Eva at the Mall, had never recovered from been teased unmercifully about her name. The narrator said that the children liked the Beaver Eva, but she didn’t like them. Neither did Santa Ron. 

Readers picked up more on the danger of characters acting as the beloved icons Santa and loveable critters giving away gifts than on Helen’s grudge against her childhood tormentors. Never mind that poor Helen didn’t have the confidence to correct people who called her by her Beaver name.

The reader’s remarks turned outside the main characters to concern for the children who came to the mall to see Beaver Eva and Santa Ron. Parents, not even mentioned in the story, came under the readers’ scrutiny and were given some cautionary advice.

Patricia Tilton commented, “I assume this story is for teens/young adults/adults — a great target audience. Bring up some important points — parents do need to be mindful of their teens at the mall. There may be more behind Santa (Ron), as Eva intuitively realizes that she needs to be careful because she really doesn’t know this Santa Ron and doesn’t invite him into her apartment.” 

Deeksha Pathak from Dee’s Platters said, “Parents are just blindly busy with money race and hardly any time to look up at their children’s activities.” 

She suggested “We grew up reading stories and exchanging story books from friends. Now children exchange video games.”

Fenlandphil picked up on Deeksha’s idea about reading, “Reading to children is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, it helps stimulate their imagination, helps them learn and strengthens a bond between parent and child.” He also suggested, “A good book for older children I recommend The Silence by Alison Bruce.”

A Name Changer

To me the heart of the story was the change in Helen. Even though Helen hated her name, she resented people for calling her by her Beaver name, Eva, making her feel invisible. She did not feel good enough about herself to correct people who called her Eva. 

Befriending Santa Ron over their common dislike of children changed when he displayed hostile aggressive behavior against her neighbor’s cat. She no longer wanted anything to do with him. It also must have made her realize that if he could scare a cat and think it was funny, he might do the same about her. He didn’t even know or ask her real name. Once she realized her value, she accepted herself and her real name and corrected him when he called her Eva. I think she became like Helen of Troy when she stood up to him.

Jim Borden said, “fun story; looks like Helen got the last laugh…”

Patricia Tilton said, “I do like how she claims her real name at the end — that caught me off guard. She was on to better things. And, it was clever to see Ron as the rump of Daisy the Cow –pun not intended. Not everyone is who they say they are.”

Patricia’s final comment seemed to echo in all of the comments, watch your kids and spend time with them. I don’t think that Helen became a beloved character even though she accepted herself at the end. We don’t know whether she forgave the children who teased her or if she ever enjoyed her job and the children around her. 

Donna from Retirement Reflections summed up the story saying, “This is a great story, with many different angles, that brings up very important issues.”

Book Chat 6

I am looking for more brave souls to send me their short unpublished stories to publish on my blog Always Write supporting hobby bloggers. Following the publication of your story and the discussion, I will do a follow-up summary of the comments – typical teacher -style. Hugh suggested that I include a pingback to your blog as well, which sounded like a great idea to me.

Stories should be no more than 750 -1,000 words. Please include a brief biography, a picture or headshot, and contact information. If you want to include a picture or photo with your story, please feel free to do that.

You are free to publish your story elsewhere after it appears here.

As always, thanks for visiting and commenting.

Marsha Ingrao- Always Write

Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. For thirty-five years, I lived in the most beautiful area in Central Valley of California in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains minutes from the Sequoia National Park. As a child I moved from Indiana to Oregon. With my first husband I moved from Oregon to Colorado to California. Every time we moved, it hurt so much to leave friends. I never wanted to move again. After Mark passed, I married again. I told Vince that I could never budge from my roots in California. He said he loved the high desert. I don't think he ever thought he would realize his dream. In November, 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

10 thoughts on “Story Chat: “Out of Character,” A Cautionary Tale”

  1. Thanks for the airing, Marsha. and thanks everyone for your comments. This story was written as a response to prompts from our writing group. Once we start writing, even the author isn’t sure what’s going to come out of the story.
    An interesting exercise; I look forward to the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

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