A Chat with Olive Alexander from Come Down Somewhere by Jennifer L. Wright

Welcome to NovelPASTimes! Today we’re joined by Miss Olive Alexander of Alamogordo, New Mexico—

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Olive: I’m not from Alamogordo.

I’m sorry?

Olive: I’m not from Alamogordo. I’m living there with my grandma—for now—but I’m not from there. I’m from my family’s ranch on the Jornada, near the Chupadera Mesa.

I beg your pardon. Sorry about that.

Olive: It’s alright.

Well, how about we start with you telling us a little about yourself?

Olive: Okay. Well, I’m fifteen years old. Lived in New Mexico all my life on the ranch built by my grandfather after he emigrated from Russia. My dad died a few years ago, so my uncle Hershel—his brother—moved in to help out. Not that I’d call what he does “help.” He mainly drinks and sulks, complaining about how the world is going to pot. My mom and I ignore him for the most part, and so did my brother, Avery. But now . . . I don’t know . . . Avery follows him around like some kind of puppy.

Why do you think that is?

Olive: I don’t know. Maybe it’s got something to do with the war? Avery tried to enlist but couldn’t on account of color blindness. I think that put a chip on his shoulder. Made him feel like less of a man somehow or like he didn’t matter. Maybe joining in on Hershel’s blustering and ranting makes Avery feel important again.

You say “the war” like it puts a bad taste in your mouth. Why is that?

Olive: Now look, I’m not anti-war. I think Hitler’s evil, and there weren’t no excuse for what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. I’m behind our troops 110 percent. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m just . . . well, I guess frustrated is the right word. Everyone keeps telling us that we need to do our part for the war effort but what is my part? Seems like nobody nowhere had need of me. Not even here at home.

What do you mean?

Olive: You said it yourself right there at the beginning of the interview. Sayin’ I was from Alamogordo and all. Why did you believe I was from Alamogordo?

Because that’s what your information sheet said. Your address was listed as a house on Delaware Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Olive: Exactly. I’m not from Alamogordo but I’m living there now because my mom shipped me off. Wouldn’t let me live on the ranch anymore, even though Avery’s leaving and they need the help. They don’t need my help anymore. 

What do you mean she wouldn’t let you live on the ranch anymore?

Olive: Well, on accounts of the Army moving in.

The Army?

Olive: Yeah, the Army. They enacted something called “eminent domain,” which gave them the right to take over our ranch for the war effort. There’s some sort of project they’re working on nearby, and they need the space to house construction workers. It’s top secret. Hush-hush. 

The Army is working on a top secret military project here? In the middle of nowhere?

Olive: Why you gotta say it like that? Is there something wrong with southern New Mexico?

Not at all. It’s just so . . . isolated. And desolate.

Olive: I know. I like it that way. But I sure don’t understand why the Army picked this place out of the entire United States to do . . . well, whatever it is they’re doing. Especially since it means I’ve been kicked out of my home. And with it being so top secret, no one can even really tell me why.

Well, can’t you just view this as your part of the war effort? Everyone is sacrificing, right? This is just your particular brand of sacrificing.

Olive: I don’t mind sacrificing for the war effort. We’ve been rationing and going without plenty of things, just like everyone else. What’s hard about sacrificing my home is that, out of my entire family, I’m the only one doing it. Avery’s leaving—finally got accepted into the Army after all—but both Ma and Uncle Hershel get to stay on the ranch. I’m the only one who has to leave. Why is that?

I . . . I don’t know.

Olive: Exactly.

Well, even if it’s not your preferred location, surely there must be something good about living in Alamogordo. Something that perhaps eases your burden a little bit?

Olive: Well, my grandma’s here. Out on the ranch, I don’t get to see her much, so it’s nice to be able to get to know her a little better, even with all her silly notions about God and church and all. And I like the soda fountains downtown. Can’t get that out in the country. But the best thing?

Go on.

Olive: *smiles sheepishly* I don’t want to talk about it.

You’re smiling though. It must be something really good if you’re smiling. It’s the first one I’ve seen all day.

Olive: Oh, it is good. A tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed kind of good. But I still don’t want to talk about it.

*Grins* Fair enough. Well, thank you for talking to me, Olive. I wish you the best of luck in Alamogordo and pray this war ends quickly so you can get back home as soon as possible.

Olive: You sound like my grandma. You can keep your prayers, but I thank you all the same.


Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home.

She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, one grumpy old dachshund, and her newest obsession—a guinea pig named Peanut Butter Cup.

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A Chat with Kathryn from Jennifer L. Wright’s If It Rains

Welcome to Novel PASTimes. Today we’re joined by Miss Kathryn Marie Baile—

Kathryn: It’s just Kathryn. You ain’t gotta be all fancy.

Alright. Kathryn it is. Well . . . welcome, Kathryn. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kathryn: Like what?

How about we start with the basics? Your age? Where you’re from?

Kathryn: I’m fourteen and a half. Don’t forget the half. It’s very important. And I’m from the greatest state in the Union—Oklahoma. People call me an Okie like it’s a bad thing, but what they don’t understand is that folks from Oklahoma are some of the best folks in the world. Like in Boise City—where I’m from—us Okies created a whole doggone town outta nothing. It wasn’t even forty years ago that a couple of swindlers sold off a bunch of property in No Man’s Land—that’s what they call the little strip of Oklahoma sandwiched in between Texas, Kansas, and Colorado—promising settlers a fancy, tree-lined city with homes and stores and a railroad, only for those poor suckers to show up and find out they’d been duped. There wasn’t no town. There wasn’t no anything. But instead of heading back east with their tails between their legs, most of those folks decided to stay and build a town anyway. And that’s exactly what they did (after throwing those crooks in prison first, of course). And my pa was one of ’em.

That’s very interesting and certainly not an easy feat, especially not in that part of the country. Your pa must be an extraordinary man.

Kathryn: Oh, he’s the best man in the world. He works from sunrise to sunset, plowing and planting and tending his crops. Even these past few years, since the rains stopped and dusters started rolling in, he still goes out every day, doing what he can to coax wheat from soil that’s bound and determined to float away on the wind. He ain’t never giving up. Not like all those other quitters headin’ off to California and the like. We’re staying put.

So it’s just you and your pa then?

Kathryn: Nah, there’s me and Pa and my sister, Melissa. She’s older than me, prettier than me, nicer than me—

Aw, don’t sell yourself short, Kathryn.

Kathryn: No, it’s true. And it’s not just me. Everybody thinks so. I don’t remember my mother. She died giving birth to me. But everyone says Melissa is the spittin’ image of her in both looks and spirit. She practically raised me. Looked after me while Pa was out working, taught me to read, sew, cook, all that. And she never treated me any different because of . . . well, you know.

I wasn’t going to bring it up, but since you did . . . would you like to talk about your foot?

Kathryn: Not really, but I know you were staring.

I wasn’t.

Kathryn: It’s alright. Everyone does. I was born with a clubfoot. Don’t know why it’s called that. I don’t think my foot looks like a club at all, but that’s what the docs say it is. My foot turns, see? It ain’t straight like yours. So I have to wear this brace and special shoe to help me walk better, though it still ain’t normal like other people’s. Melissa, though? She never let me use it as an excuse. “Get up and do your chores, Kathryn!” she used to say. “Those cows don’t care about your clubfoot.” I wasn’t crippled, she said. I was special. I didn’t believe it, of course, but it was still nice to hear her say it. Golly, I’m going to miss her.

Miss her? Is she going somewhere?

Kathryn: She’s getting married. To Henry Mayfield of all people.

Is there something wrong with Henry Mayfield?

Kathryn: You ain’t from round here, are you? Everything is wrong with Henry Mayfield. The whole Mayfield family, actually. They own practically all of Cimarron County. Pretty much the only ones in town with indoor plumbing and a house that isn’t made of sod. They may live in Oklahoma, but they ain’t Okies, that’s for sure. And now Melissa is joining them.

That must be very hard for you, losing your sister like that. Not to mention the extra strain of having only two people now to work the farm.

Kathryn: It isn’t just the two of us.

Oh? Is there someone else in your family?

Kathryn: Helen.

You say that like it tastes bad. Who is Helen?

Kathryn: She married my pa. A few years ago.

So she’s your stepmother?

Kathryn: You could call her that. But I wouldn’t. And neither would she.

Can you tell me a little—?

Kathryn: I don’t want to talk about Helen.

Er, um. Okay. Well . . . uh, what would you like to talk about?

Kathryn: Do you like books?

Yes, I do.

Kathryn: What’s your favorite book?

Well, this interview isn’t really about—

Kathryn: Wanna know mine? It’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. You ever read it?

I—

Kathryn: It’s about this girl, Dorothy. She gets sucked up into this twister and lands in a magical world called Oz. She meets a Scarecrow and a Tin Woodman and a Cowardly Lion, and they follow this road of yellow bricks to get to the City of Emeralds, which is where the Wizard lives. He’s supposed to be able to help Dorothy get home. But along the way, there’s all these troubles, like field mice and Winged Monkeys and a Wicked Witch. Melissa used to read it to me all the time. It was my mother’s book—my real mother’s—but she left it for me. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a great story.

It is a great story. One of my favorites, too.

Kathryn: I’d like to visit Oz, if I could. But I think, if I ever did, I’d be a lot like Dorothy—I’d still be fighting to get home. Because no matter how great the rest of the world is, there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be than Oklahoma. Dust or no dust.

I agree. There truly is no place like home.

Kathryn: And if you don’t mind, I’d like to be getting back to mine. I got a broken fence to repair and a hayloft to clean out. Pa heard there was a chance of rain tonight. Ain’t likely, but we’ll keep living our lives as if it might. That’s all we can do.

Of course. Well, thank you for your time, Kathryn. Good luck with your chores. And I really do hope it rains soon.

Kathryn: It will. One of these days, it will.

About the Author

Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, and one rambunctious dachshund.

Jenn’s website

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Jenn’s Twitter