I've always been kind of shocked/horrified that more people don't know of and read Ellen Gilchrist. She's one of the most wonderful American writers alive today and she writes so much that it's baffling more people haven't run into her work. I found one of her books on my mother's book shelf when I was 13 or so and loved it. I think it was Victory Over Japan, a collection of some of her wonderful wonderful short fiction.
Anyway, as I've said she's written a lot of things, but of all the things I've read this has to be my most favorite. An excerpt from "Nineteen Forty-One," a short story about one of Gilchrist's recurring characters, Rhoda. In this story, Rhoda is about 5 or 6 years old. The year is 1941.
"Get your jodhpurs on, honey," her father said. He was sitting on the gate. "Mr. Trumbo is bringing his little girl over here to ride."
"I can't," she said. "I'm menstruating."
"Oh, my God," he said, and climbed down off the fence, hoping to get to her before she said it again and the boys heard it. "ARIANE," he screamed toward the house. "ARRIIIIIANNNEEE, get out here and get this child. Who told you that?" he demanded, taking her by the arm. "Who told you a thing like that?" His face was as red as the sun. Rhoda's mother came running out of the house and across the yard and swooped her up. "Where does she learn those things?" he was saying. "Who told her that? Who told her such a thing?"
"Sherry Nettleship's aunt told us all about it," Rhoda said. "You can't ever go swimming and blood runs down your legs. And you can't ride horses or anything like that. I've been doing it all morning. There's blood all over the sidewalk. Go look for yourself." It was an inspiration. Actually, Rhoda had spilled red Kool-Aid while she was making fire. That was what had drawn the ants. "You can die if you aren't careful," she continued. "Anything can happen when you menstruate."