I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme is open-ended. My goal is to write daily posts using each letter of the alphabet in April (Sundays off for good behavior and to make it work for the alphabet). I’ll be writing family stories, memoir or journal prompts, reviews about theatre and food, maybe a visit from my sock puppet characters Millie and Willie, and using photos I’ve taken along the way. Enjoy!

MA few years ago, when my sister Joy was living with me, we spent time dreaming up ways to make it in our creative lives. We started teaching classes and offering workshops under the title Primo Art Spa, with the tagline, In a world of creative constipation, we’re here to get things moving! It was fun. Inspired by a trip to the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis, we decided to invite a couple friends over and make sock puppets. Joy made her delicious Pad Thai and mango salad, and I got a few prompts ready to create characters.

That was the night that Millie and Willie Cottonpoly were born. Willie is a retired railroad worker, and you can guess his theme song. Yep, he’s frequently heard humming or singing “I’ve been working on the railroad.” Millie, who gets tired of the old tune, will eventually roll her eyes and say, “Oh for Heaven’s sake. Give it a rest.” Millie is a Jillie of many trades. She started out her career working as a bank teller, moved to teaching classes on finance, then started her own business training dogs (and their owners). She’s a dog whisperer with a kind heart and a sense of adventure. Willie’s hobby is eating. 

During past A to Z Challenges, I’ve used Millie and Willie to get me through the alphabet. I’m bringing this one out of the archives to remind you (or introduce you t0) how they met. They first appeared in this post A = Opening an Account.

Willie and Millie Cottonpoly and their sweet, little house, made by Joy Ciaffoni.

Willie and Millie Cottonpoly and their sweet, little house, made by Joy Ciaffoni.


Millie: I was working at the First State Bank of Worthington.
Willie: I just got my first paycheck from Burlington Northern Railway and went to open an account. (starts humming, I’ve been working on the railroad)
Millie: It was July 5, 1967.
Willie: You were blushing like a school girl.
Millie: I was sunburned. My girlfriends and I had covered ourselves in baby oil and laid out on the window ledge all day until the fireworks display to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day.
Willie: The sunburn got suddenly darker when I asked for her phone number. (Millie shoots him a look)
Millie: He was very forward. I didn’t know what kind of fellow he was, so I said No.
Willie: The next day I came back in with my coffee can filled with coins. I stood there admiring her gorgeous, strong limbs as she counted out all 243 dollars. (chuckles)
Millie: I hated counting out coins. They have machines to do it, now. It was a putzy job. I was cursing him out in my head the whole time.
Willie: (chuckles)
Millie: When I was done, I handed him his bills, shut my window, and took my coffee break. I thought that was a clear message that I didn’t want anything to do with him.
Willie: (chuckle) Luckily, I’m clueless that way.
Millie: The next day, I saw him walking in the door, so I took my time with Mr. Landry, thinking he’d go to another girl’s window.
Willie:  I was patient. I just held back, slowly filled out my deposit slip, and when Mr. Landry walked away, I slid right up to her window and grabbed the money out of my pocket.
Millie: The 243 dollars in the exact same bills that I’d counted out for him the day before. I was about to tell him to go make his deposit at some other window…
Willie: But, my Hot Tamales caught her eye. (eyebrows waggle up and down)
Millie: Willie!
Willie:  (chuckles) I’d picked up the candy on my route to Minneapolis the week before. I saw that she was eyeing them, so I opened the box and offered her one.
Millie:  I put one in my mouth and my tongue was on fire.
Willie: She couldn’t talk for a few minutes, so I took the opportunity to tell her a little about myself and that I would be honored if she’d accompany me to the movies on Saturday night. I brought a fresh box of Hot Tamales, and the rest is history.
Millie: What can I say? I was craving a little spice in my life. (blushes like a sunburned school girl)
A favorite picture of Millie and Willie with their friend Mr. Happy, and their neighbor girls Billie and Lillie Anderson, as different as any twin sisters could be.

A favorite picture of Millie and Willie with their friend Mr. Happy, and their neighbor girls Billie and Lillie Anderson, as different as any twin sisters could be.

The Cottonpoly’s and their friends have gotten me through many letters of the alphabet through the years of the A to Z Challenges. They also help me connect with and inspire the kids in my theatre classes. Right now, Millie and Willie have taken Lillie and Billie to the Renfest in Duluth, Camelot Days. A Big Bad Wolf has lured Willie and Billie into the Enchanted Forest. (It’s Willie’s weakness for bacon that was his downfall.) Can Millie and Lillie find them and bring them back into the present? The kids will tell the rest of the story.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Do you use reoccurring characters in your fiction? What would you do if a Big Bad Wolf offered you free bacon?