To sum up Cricket, she’s an event planner who lives in Petaluma (my hometown!), who prefers nights in over a night on the town, and who would be perfectly content if everything in her world remained unchanged. One example of this is in how she now lives in her parents’ house after they passed away, keeping almost everything unchanged (and outdated!), and keeping up her mother’s garden exactly as her mom had it.
I also alluded to a quirky habit Cricket has that becomes a running theme in the novel. Are you ready for this?
Cricket steals salt and pepper shakers from restaurants.
Before I explain the hows and whys of Cricket’s spicy klepto habit, let me explain where this came from.
It’s my daughter’s fault, really. Summer was telling me about one of her friends who has a bunch of weird habits. One of those habits is when she gets drunk and eats at restaurants, she steals the salt and pepper shakers from the table.
“It makes me feel wild,” her friend explained.
As soon as Summer told me this, I knew I needed to fit it into a novel at some point.
Which brings me to Cricket and her salt and pepper shaker stealing habit. It’s weird. It’s completely quirky. And as strange as it is, there’s a reason behind it.
Rather than explain it, here’s an excerpt from the novel that shares the origin story behind the shaker stealing:
(this excerpt has not been professionally edited yet!)
Growing up, my sister knew all the right clothes to wear, the words to every popular song, and how to apply the perfect smoky shade to her eyes with makeup she kept hidden from our hippie mother. I took after Mom more than she did, appreciating long bohemian dresses to Meadow’s short miniskirts she wore with ballet flats. While Meadow was invited to parties, I was perfectly fine sitting at home with a good murder mystery or helping to water my mother’s jungle-like garden. Meadow and I had many of the same friends, but I noticed they usually referred to her when talking, leaving me as a witness to the conversation. Especially when we got to high school.
On homecoming night, Meadow talked me into going with Josh Winters, her boyfriend’s best friend, so we could double date. Freshmen usually weren’t allowed to go to school dances, but our dates were juniors, so it was our way in.
It started out fine, the usual high school dance scene where everyone waits on the sidelines for someone to make the first move. This wasn’t the bad part; this was the familiar part. The bad part was when my sister went out on the dance floor with her date, then motioned for us to join her. Josh didn’t even look at me. He just walked away. I mean, he Just. Walked. Away. Rejected me in front of everyone. And what did I do? Like a fool, I chased after him. Called his name. Grabbed for his hand once I reached him. Thankfully, he didn’t yank it away. He just turned and led me to one of the tall pub tables near the back of the gymnasium, one that was in the shadows and out of view.
“Look, this was a mistake,” he said. “You’re too young.”
“I’m the same age as Meadow,” I said. “We’re twins, in case you’ve forgotten.”
“She’s not my date.” He ran a hand through his hair, clearly uncomfortable. “Besides, she just seems older, you know? More exciting. Wilder. You’re just…you’re a freshman.”
“So’s she,” I whispered. He slid off his chair, nodding at me with a tightlipped smile, then walked away. Again.
I sat there alone, the music blaring behind me, the strobe light occasionally landing on my table and flashing on the salt and pepper shakers at the center of the table. They seemed odd, out of place. We were at a dance in our high school gymnasium, with a banquet table covered in bowls of popcorn, platters of cupcakes, and cups filled with punch. There was literally no reason for there to be salt and pepper on the table. Okay, maybe the popcorn. But really? Why were these shakers even there?
I looked at the other tables in the room and not one of them had salt and pepper shakers. The flashing shakers on my table urged me closer with their siren call, beckoning me to reach out and touch one of them. Just touch them. Just feel the smoothness of the glass, or the grain of the seasoning resting on top. There wasn’t anything special about them; they were as ordinary as ones you’d find on any diner table. But the way my heart pumped as I reached for them, the dryness in my mouth as my hand wrapped around their squat little bodies, the sudden exhales I needed to take as I lifted both shakers together, slipping them into my jacket pocket…it made me feel wild. I walked out of that gymnasium like a bad ass, the secret jangling against my hip with every step. I no longer cared about Josh Winters, not even when he started dating Stacey Caine later that year, though she was a full three months younger than me. Not completely, at least.
The shaker stealing habit became something much bigger for Cricket, kind of a way to escape her feelings of inadequacy or feeling forgettable by doing something “wild” (thank you, Summer’s quirky friend!). Some people might get their thrills from doing something dangerous, like skydiving or sneaking into someplace they’re not supposed to be. But the thing about Cricket – she’s played it safe her whole life. Stealing something small, like salt and pepper shakers, is her safe way of being a rebel and breaking out of her mold. She also keeps this quirky habit extremely on the down low, since she knows how weird the whole thing is, and it’s hard to explain why she does it (how do you admit you feel inadequate?).
What I liked about giving Cricket a quirky habit is the fact that we all have weird quirks. I actually couldn’t think of mine, so I asked my husband to name them for me. I know, it’s a dangerous game. And to his credit, he took his time before answering me (probably figuring out which ones he could name without ending up in the doghouse).
Here’s what he came up with:
- My “thinking thumb” (I tuck my thumb in my fist when I’m thinking hard or feeling big feelings)
- I giggle when I’m nervous (I actually giggle all the time #fact)
- When I really like a plate of food, I sit up really straight and am very intentional in the way I eat
- I mix my food together, even when it’s been beautifully plated (this one bugs him, lol, and I really like combination bites!)
What he didn’t mention (bless his heart) are how conversations with me are a non-pause event (I like to start my sentence before he finishes his), how I go 0-60-0 on new projects (I start a project and spend all my time, energy, and money on it, then burn out and forget it. My closet full of projects is the proof), and how I really like personal rules in my life (diet, schedule, reading goals, etc), but I also like breaking the rules (#rebel).
P.S. I’m totally considering a salt and pepper shaker collection. #unfinishedprojects
Have you come across any weird quirks in your friends, or in a novel character? How about you – are there quirky things you do that others might think unique? Share in the comments!
Note: This is an ongoing blog series about For the Birds, a book I’m currently editing and will be shopping to publishers this year. Stay tuned to keep up with details about the story, sneak peeks at excerpts, and to learn about how the publishing process is going. If you’d like to be alerted to new posts, hit the “follow” button at the bottom of this page, or join my VIP Readers Club (you get a free book!).