Friday, March 29, 2013

The Most Dangerous People

Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and Dick Cheney share more than political leanings and power, they share membership in an exclusive group - the 4% of people, mostly unknown, who constitute the most dangerous minority in society.  

Before I go on, it is important that you comprehend the magnitude of a group that equals 4%. It  is a sizeable number of people.  To do that I’m going to use statistics about religion. How many Mormons can you name in ten seconds? Try it.

...8, 9, 10.   Did you start with Mitt and Anne, Donny and Marie?  Then maybe  those handsome sons, Tagg and Craig and Matt and Trig and … oh, wait a minute, I think I’m mixing up Republican families’ photo props. Well, anyway, you know you’ve seen some Mormans in national politics and in entertainment, and there are probably Mormons in your workplace, school and community, but they are a small percentage.   According to  the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the US Religious Landscape Survey, Mormons are 1.7% of the adult population in the US.  Though they are a small percentage,  there are many of them and you can name some. 

So what does 4% look like?  It looks like the adults you know who are religious but not Christian.  Four percent identify as religious and either Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, New Age, or a practitioner of a Native American religion.  Combined, all these people make up  4% of adults in the USA.  *

All of these people fit into our neighborhoods, contribute to our faith communities, and melt into the crowds in  the auditoriums where family members turn out to watch graduations.  Sometimes  members of a particular four percent are identifiable at a glance such as a man wearing a yarmulke or a woman in a burka and this reminds us that though we are all human, we do not all believe the same things.  And while we can accept that we do not believe the same, we always assume that other people share our basic moral code.  This is a big mistake.

If you were able to name some Mormons and if you can name people you know who practice Judaism, you should be able to name as many people who fit into Sarah's 4%er club.   So let's do that now. Name all the sociopaths you can.

How'd you do? Are you thinking: 

Wait, what? Sociopaths?  Nice people don't know sociopaths. My community has no sociopaths. 

And, besides, it's mean to call someone that. That word shouldn't be thrown around lightly. It's only for Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, and Osama Bin Laden and the school/mall/movie theater mass shooters.  

Sarah Palin is a Christian who disagrees politically with Palin Place readers but to say she is like Charles Manson is crazy! 
-->It is a fact that 4% of us  -  approximately the same percentage as the US population over 18 years of age who are religious but not Christian -  cannot, are absolutely  unable to feel shame, guilt, remorse, love, or any conscience-driven or caring-based human emotion.  The diagnosis for this is Sociopath.

It’s hard to believe, I know.  Only recently have I taken a serious look at this. What I learned is fascinating, frightening, and unforgettable. 

Brain imaging has been used to identify how the brains of most of us work, and how the brains of sociopaths work. The brains of 96% of us react to emotional words like remorse,  love and joy with one portion of the brain, and words like pencil and cloud with other parts. Not so with a sociopath. They have no frontal cortex reaction to words that describe feelings of conscience and love and human connection.  Instead, when they hear “heartbroken” their brains light up in the same areas used to solve algebraic equations.  This research supports the theory that a sociopath copies human emotion but never feels it. They try to figure out how to appear to look like the rest of us - If this [heartbroken]  is true, then that [unhappy]is true, and therefore…I should look [unhappy] so I will [frown].  Is this a major emotional situation? If so I will [cry].  Conclusion: frown and cry.  

 This 4% of adults are free of the bonds of conscience,  but you'd not guess it. They usually excel at mimicking emotions. They spend their developmental years memorizing the human emotional reactions of the rest of us and practicing deception. They become expert liars. They manipulate and they are not even suspected of doing so. They are believed, loved, pitied, admired, assisted, promoted, and all manner of good things come their way.

Most of us have no idea who these people are. We are not even sure we believe they exist. 

It's almost impossible to imagine.  How can the 96% of us with feelings imagine being someone who is not at all touched by the horrors of Newton and Aurora? It's like trying to imagine a new color in the rainbow.  We can’t. 

And what we don’t understand, we usually reject. Which, in this case, is a very dangerous thing.  Failing to learn about and recognize sociopathic behavior,  not protecting ourselves  from them, and being unable to warn others about sociopaths in our midst has led to elections of people like Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz.

Elected sociopaths pose a danger for our country, our children and our grandchildren. They are unmoved by the stories of the parents of Newtown. They don't care if children have a diet of Twinkies and Big Gulps. They don't care if your loved one goes off to war based on a lie and comes home draped in a flag.  They don't care about you and me. They don't even care about their own children. They simply cannot care about another human.  Can not. 

We can not trust them to make laws for us. And so we must go into this dark place, these dark minds,  and shine a spotlight. We must dare to consider this, work to understand it, and when we have seen the threat is real, that this mental condition is an enemy out to destroy us as individuals and as a  society, then, and only then, can we begin to protect ourselves and our country.

First,  we must get  up close and personal with the minds of the 4%.

While some sociopaths live mundane lives, many have a kind of glow or charisma that makes them more charming or interesting than the other people.  Yes, that's Sarah Palin. She and those like her are more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier than most everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving the rest of us easily seduced.

Dr. Martha Stout, in the book The Sociopath Next Door, provides these seven characteristics, any three of which are enough to support a diagnosis of sociopathy: 
  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours
  • being deceitful and manipulating
  • being impulsive
  • being irritable or aggressive
  • being unconcerned about the safety of the self or anybody else
  • being consistently irresponsible
  • being unconcerned and unremorseful for hurting or stealing
Remember, if you do these things and then have remorse, you are not a sociopath. These are the things a sociopath will do and will never feel bad about it. They may fake it, but they don't feel it.

Sociopaths are found in all neighborhoods, all towns, all parts of the country. They become successful in business, they become teachers, one might be your doctor.  Others are more benign simply because they never leave home. They find a host and become a parasite, living off mom and dad or the unfortunate person who fell in love with them.  Certain traits of sociopaths work particularly well for ponzi-scheming investor/sociopaths and politician/sociopaths: glibness and superficial charm; manipulative and conning; grandiose sense of self;  pathological lying, lack of remorse, shame or guilt;  need for stimulation; callousness/lack of empathy; secretive; conventional appearance. Those traits work well in business, too. Sound like a boss you once had? If you have lived long enough and take enough new positions, you’ve met some along the way.

When a sociopath kills or sets others up to be killed, they don't flinch. They sleep well.   We follow their stories with morbid fascination.   The politicians and or political players who are sociopaths may become famous for their egos, callousness, or nasty commentary. I think Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, John Edwards, Anne Coulter,  and Rush Limbaugh fit this description.  You can add to that the names of other  talk show hosts, other politicians, other pundits.  They say things that ought to make them ashamed of themselves and yet they never seem to be genuinely able to feel regret, remorse, shame, or embarrassment.  If they have been elected, they are the ones who have lied without shame, started wars, destroyed reputations, voted against the common good, ignored the wishes of the people they represent, been intentionally divisive even voting against something they may have proposed, and repeatedly misused the power entrusted to them by the American public. 

Again, four percent is a sizable portion of the population.  Some of them have made a career in politics. They are the most dangerous people we can elect, yet you don’t even know how to bring up the subject.   

While people you and I talk to everyday would probably say flat out that they wouldn’t vote for a Muslim, they can’t even consider a suggestion that Ted Cruz, newly elected to the Senate, is a bigger threat to our society than a  Muslim who is in the 96%. 

We should all be scared of Ted Cruz and all 4%ers in public office. We have to learn to discuss sociopathy.

 We must learn to help others see  it as a threat. Finally, we need to help others recognize sociopaths  - our  own local sociopaths.

After that, we with consciences, the 96%, need to vote our consciences. Our enlightened consciences.

Today is the beginning of a journey. Together we will explore sociopathy.  Next week I will tell you about a sociopath I know very well.  By telling you about her life, the people she has hurt, and her unexceptional existance, you might be better able to recognize sociopaths in your own lives.  Please feel free to share your stories. Together we shall learn how to intelligently discuss this difficult, complex, and crucial subject.

We are only three years from another Presidential election.  Somewhere there is a sociopath who would love to run.  This is serious, folks.  As serious as it gets.

* * * * * * * * *

* In the Pew survey,  non-Christian turned up 4.7% in the Pew poll and I’m subtracting the .7 that are “Unitarian and other liberal beliefs” so that we can  picture 4%.  My apologies to my friend Anita who is the only person I'm sure I know who is a Unitarian.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Conclusion of White Trash In The Snow - Chapters 104 and 105

 The conculsion of

a novel by Allison


Saturday morning Wrangler and Cristol woke up in his room.  They were enjoying the freedom that came with agreeing not to be Calc's public parents.  That freedom, however, would be curtailed in about eight months, and they were discussing who to tell first.  No only who, but how.   “Maybe the looks on our faces will tell them,” she suggested.

“That’s a wives’ tale,” Wrangler said.

“What is?”

“That ‘glow’ they talk about.”

“I wasn’t talking about my glow,” she said. “So, are saying I’m not glowing?” Cristol’s bottom lip protruded.

 “You are always glowing, Honey,” he said while holding back the truth. Now that you are getting that Fake and Bake tan again.   

It was the right thing to say; she brightened and gave him a hug.

Oh, man, he thought, it’s going to be another long nine months.

An hour later, the two were sitting on his bed debriefing after just telling Jerrie and Porsche that Cristol was carrying a baby.  “I’m really happy, Wrangler. That definitely went well.”  Cristol gently stroked her tummy. “Your mom is so sweet. Her and Porsche wanting to throw me a shower and all.” 

“So far, so good,” he agreed. His mom and sister had squealed and clapped and high-fived, as if he’d sent a winning shot past a goalie. He contemplated the irony, Mom’s cheering now, but she’s only thinkin’ about the baby. She ain’t thinkin’ about how  I’m probably gonna have to quit school.  She’s not gonna be a hockey mom anymore.

“Okay,” Cristol said, brightly. “On to Phase II.” 

Wrangler imagined Phase II, where the daughter of the Governor tells her parents that there will be a child born by the end of the year, forcing upon her a title she had gone to considerable trouble to avoid. Being called a grandmother would forever alter her image as a sexy. And thought Wrangler didn’t think of Ms. S as young, it was obvious from the way she dressed that she wanted to look twenty. Oh, yeah, Cristol’s mom was gonna shit.  So, um, what was so great about Phase II?  He  thought he might throw up.

Eight minutes later, they pulled into the Saplin driveway and reviewed the plan one last time. “I’ll go get mom from her room. You go to the garage and get Dad. Remember, say I want him, other wise he’ll be grouchy. If you say I want him, it will be okay ‘cause I’m his favorite.”

“Whatever.” Wrangler mumbled.

“And don’t mumble! That will just piss him off.”

“Wattt-evvvv-errrr” he exaggerated..

Cristol frowned. She wagged her finger. “Cut that out,” she scolded. “You need to behave. Show my parents that you are a man. Got it?”

He lightly slapped away the finger that was inches from his face.

“Ouch,  that hurt,” she faked. “You’re a brute. Maybe I’m making a mistake having another baby with you.”  Her attempt to look serious was comedic.

They smiled at each other and, at least for a moment,  the tension abated.  Cristol took his right hand in her left, and lovingly rubbed her other hand over his knuckles.  They sat that way for a couple of minutes, each with their own thoughts.

“Well, we should go in now,” Cristol said.

“Got to face the music, sometime I guess.  Hope I come out of there alive,” Wrangler said. It wasn’t a joke.

Cristol put her hands on either side of his face, and looked him in the eye. “It’ll be okay. I love you.”  Then she stroked his roughness and said, “I also love a three day growth. It’s sooooo manly…”  He smiled a shy smile.

“And,” she said, placing his hand on her stomach, “this growth is sooooo womanly.”

He hugged her. He knew he loved her. And she was having his baby – again.  A second chance. He should be glad, and deep down inside, that’s what he was - sort of.

In the bedroom in the back of the house, Rachael was composing another email to staff members, subject line: More Answers for Questions About Calc.  The public adored Calc. She had told the story so many times now, she was almost convinced herself that she had given birth to him last month. And her popularity was off the charts. God is good.

Cristol could go back to school in the fall, maybe she’d need some summer courses, but she shouldn’t work so hard that she misses out on being a teenager, dating, and …

Rachael stopped in mid-thought.  I didn’t have that talk with her! Oh, God. How could that slip my mind?  Sheeesh, I’ve been so busy. I must do it tomorrow

She hit “send,” and heard a light rapping on her door.

As requested, Rachael joined Tad on the living room sofa. They both assumed this was going to be about Calc. After all, Wrangler was quietly sitting there, too. It had to be about the baby, or about buying something. She had no time to waste, so she asked. “Okay, what’s up?  You guys need money for something?”

“Mom, Dad, this is really hard,” Cristol began. “Um, we have, ah, Wrangler and I have,…” Wrangler squeezed her hand, she looked at him in a pleading way as if to say Help! He raised his eyebrows in panic and shook his head..

“What is this, a game of charades?” Rachael asked. “Because if it is, I don’t have time for games. What do you want?” “

Cristol reached into her hoodie pocket and pulled out a white stick. . “I think the easiest way to do this is to show you this.” 

Her mother’s brow furrowed. “A thermometer? Are you sick, Honey?”

“No Mom, it’s a pregnancy test.” 

The words didn’t seem to register with either of her parents.  Then, suddenly, Rachael began laughing. “Ha, you two had me for a minute. Fooled you, too, didn’t they Tad?”   She looked hopefully at Tad.  Between giggles, Rachael stammered, “You, you…c an’t be!.. It isn’t possible!” But something inside her knew, and her giggles were coming from nervousness.

“Rachael! Stop laughing dammit!” It was Tad. “I think they are serious.”

“We are,” said Cristol.”We are serious. Look at it, look at the test,” she held it up in front of her mother’s face. “See that X? I’m pregnant.”

Tad shook his head. He couldn’t believe this was happening again so soon. “How far along?” he asked.

“Umm, I think  only two, maybe three weeks.”

“Two weeks? It’s too early for a test. ” Rachael jumped in. “This is just your period being late again.”  She let out a huge sigh. “Whew, you had me worried.  Didn’t she have you worried, Tad?”

“No, mom, this isn’t a mistake. Tests are really good nowadays. ” Cristol was nodding her head and looking at Wrangler.  He interpreted it as a signal that he should say something.

He used his grown up voice and said, “Right, she took three tests. All of ‘em said she’s definitely knocked up.”

Hearing it put so bluntly by the boy she could barely stomach, Rachael blew up at the teens.  “After all I’ve done for you?  How could you do this to me?”

“Mom!”  Everyone turned their head. It was Maple, standing on the stairs. No one knew how long she had been there.

“ Just stop! It’s not about you.  Not this time. ” Maple walked to the center of the room, folded her arms across her chest, and looked from her mom to her sister to her dad to Wrangler. Everything said she was prepared to do battle. Addressing Tad, she said. “It’s not about you, either, Dad. Let Wrangler prove himself. It’s time to let him show what kind of dad he can be. And Cristol, she’s -” 

“Maple, this is none of your business.” Tad thought it was his duty to take control. “Go back to your room.”

“No, Dad! No! We all have to lie and cover up and…and be stupid jerks. So I should have my say, too.  I’m staying.”  With that pronouncement, she plopped down on the floor, crossed her legs, and re-crossed her arms. Defiance all the way.

Tad was furious with all of them, Rachael included.  He removed himself from the conversation and from their presence. He walked to the kitchen and stood, looking out the windows, his back to everyone.

“Now, just a darned-tootin’ minute.” Rachael didn’t like to be overshadowed by anyone, not at work, and not at home. “This is all sweet and nice and, perhaps of course, yes, it’s about Cristol and also, too, it’s about Wrangler and Calc in the vast scheme of things even the baby who is, of course, a perfect innocence ...” a flustered Rachael tripped over and skipped words. She pursed her lips, glared all the kids, and said, “But Maple is wrong. It is too about me –  about me running for Vice President and having to explain, even cover up the fact that my teenage daughter is pregnant and to convince voters that I’m able to do, again, whatever it is it seems that  a Vice President does, in spite of this mess my family is –which is not my fault but the blame will be put at my feet by the liberals.“

“Oh, nice Mom. Real nice. ” it was Maple again. “You know, I’ve been wanting to ask you something; it’s about Calc, and all that.”

Rachael gave the pull her head back, tilt her head, look surprised reaction that worked so well in public when she wanted to feign shock and dismay. . In the living room, it was not effective; it was phony and they all knew it.

Maple continued, “You say there’s no such thing as coincidence. You say God has everything under control. For a while now, you’ve been saying God wants you to be the Vice President.”

“Yup, all true. You betcha.”

“Well then?”

“Then what? What’s the question?”

“It’s this -  how God is in control, but Calc ruins your chance to run for VP. “

Rachael’s glare encouraged Maple. She pushed harder. “One little sperm from Wrangler Strauss can stop God’s plans?  Really?”

Rachael gasped.

Tad, finding Maple’s audacity amusing, came back into the room. 

Rachael was not about to put on a show. “Thank you Maple, for letting God speak through you reminding me that He is in control, and that with God, all things are possible, and also, too, that I have a calling.” God and Rachael, together again in the same sentence.

Tad may have been disappointed with the lack of fireworks, but he was glad she didn’t blink at all about her calling.  The Down Syndrome diagnosis was proving to be an enormous advantage. Conservative rainmakers who had not been her supporters were falling down at her feet since hearing how she “chose life” for a fetus she knew had Down Syndrome. Take, for instance that Focus on Your Family guy; he’d been resisting her candidacy and preaching that moms belong at home with their kids. Family first and all that.  Now, his organization was pushing for McElwain to make Governor Saplin his VP choice. 

Tad spoke up. “Rachael, this baby can be used, too.”  (He didn’t even hear how bad that sounded.)  “This will be another example of our family walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Choosing life again.  We can’t keep covering up for these knuckleheads,  so let’s spin it into more votes. One more kid running around -  it’s no big deal.”

“No big deal? How many babies can this family absorb?” Rachael griped.

Tad had the answer for that, too. “ So, Sally will have one more kid to watch. Betty and Buck will help. If you get to Washington, there’ll be nannies. Stay focused, Rachael.” 

Rachael’s head hurt. She pressed her thumbs into her temples and closed her eyes. Sighing heavily, she channeled Scarlet.  “I can’t think about this anymore.  Tomorrow is another day.  I’ll think about this then.” 

Tad had never watched the movie, but he knew his wife was plagiarizing.  She’s perfect for Washington, he thought.

Ninety minutes after leaving the Strauss’ house, Porsche received a text from Wrangler. Tiny font, short message, big relief: “Servived it!  Cristl  wuz  awsom !! ttyl”. 

“Ttly? Darn,” Porsche said out loud. “I wanted him to call me, not talk to me later.”

She decided to fix some hot chocolate for herself and her mom to share while planning the baby shower. Milk, sugar and cocoa, she began to think of herself as an aunt, and talked out loud as if a child were in the kitchen.   "Auntie Porshe makes awesome cocoa. Grandma Jerrie calls it  “Porsha’s Decadance,” and I'll teach you how to make it, too. The secret is a pinch of cinnamon. "

A little while later, Porsche took two cozy mugs of steaming chocolate into her mother's room.  "Time to plan the shower!  I've got some great ideas for the theme...first, there'll be lots of camo..."


Keith called Wrangler the next night. “Hey, son, any truth to the rumor that your girlfriend’s mother’s gonna run with McElwain? When I heard it, I said, ‘Nah, she’s got a new baby.”  Wrangler could hear him spit. “But then I got to thinkin’ that liberal leaning old guy might need her on the bottom of the ticket.”  He chuckled, “That doesn’t sound very conservative, does it? Liberal old guy on top and hot woman on the bottom? That’s dirty, sexy politics.” he laughed again. “Hey, that would make a great title for a book. Even I might  read that one. Or, at least I'd flip through and look at the pictures." He laughed out loud.

Wrangler wondered if his dad had been drinking.

"Before any of my money goes down on this, I figured you could tell me if you seen or heard anything.”

“Don’t think so, Dad.”

 “There’s a story I heard about a boat load of hot-shots had lunch with the governor last summer at the mansion. You know anything about that?  Would’ve been a bunch of rich guys. White guys.” He laughed again , “Rich and white – duh!”

Wrangler winced. It was embarrassing when adults said “duh. ” It was especially embarrassing when it was his own dad.

“So, anyway, did Cristol say anything about that?”

“No, Dad.But, there is something you have to know.  Wrangler got right to the point, and , in spite of their talk last summer, and the warnings his father had voiced then, Keith accepted the news with a degree of enthusiasm. “We’ll teach him to hunt and fish, and camp…” Keith said.

“Sure, Dad, that’ll be great. Even if it’s a girl this time, um, I mean, even if it’s a girl.” 

“It’s got to be a boy, Wrangler. I need a grandson. I’m not good with girls. You see how Porsche and I are. Don’t know why, but she almost hates me,” he said. “Besides, Tad’s gonna want a grandson, too. Lucky that last kid of his is a boy. Even if he is retarded.”

Wrangler didn’t want to talk about Calc. “Okay, Dad,  I need to go now.”

But Keith wasn’t ready to disconnect. This was one of those rare father/son man-to-man talks that happened so rarely. He persisted. “I hope for your sake it’s a boy. It’s tough on a father having girls. There’s extra stuff to worry about with you. You know what I mean. I only got Porsche to worry about, and her being so pretty, it’s hard, you know? But Tad Saplin, he’s got it three times worse. That Maple, she’s gonna bring some heartbreak.  That’s the one I would have guessed would get knocked up. I’d have bet money on it.”

“Dad! Would you please not talk like that? Cristol’s not alone in this.  She’s carrying my baby.”

“Oh, well…sure, but…it’s up to the girl…” Keith came to a halting stop.

“ Just don’t talk bad about her, Dad.”

“Sure, you’re  right. But, all’s I’m sayin’ is, Tad’s got his hands full.  And the pretty one, she sounds like a pisser.”

“Maple?  Yeah, she is.”  Glad to divert the conversation, Wrangler continued, “She’s totally out of control and Mr and Mrs. S don’t know the half of it.  Cristol’s mom even said she’s counting on Maple to be the one who doesn’t get knocked up.  Ha!”

Keith  laughed. “The Governor’s delusional. What else is new?”

Wrangler said, “Grandpa Heat told me my baby makes three generations…” he stopped when he remembered that was a conversation they’d had about Calc.

“What?” Keith asked. “What about three generations?”

Wrangler was experiencing the  difficulty of keeping secrets. “Oh, well, um, see …first it was Cristol’s Grandma Heat, then Mrs. S, and now Cristol.  All three pregnant before marriage.” he said.

“A tri-fecta!”  Keith said. ” That explains why the odds are so low.”

“Odds/ What odds?” Wrangler asked. But his father didn’t hear him.

Keith was enjoying the conversation. “Hey, what was that part about counting on Maple?”

“Oh, yeah, that was kind of funny,” Wrangler smiled, remembering. “When we broke the news, Maple was there, too, and Mrs. S, she wants to make Cristol feel really, really shitty, so she says something like “Maple, you’ve always been the wise one.  At least we know you won’t get pregnant before you’re married.  Can you imagine – she called Maple the wise one! There ain’t no wise anybody in that house.”

Keith Strauss spit again. “Odds right now are 5 to 1 that she will be.”

“Huh? Be what – wise?” Wrangler was proving that he was none too bright himself.

Keith explained. “The bookies are giving odds on Maple getting knocked up before she’s eighteen.  This stuff is very scientific. It’s based on research. That trifecta must be what’s behind these odds. Anyway, my bookmaker follows the Vegas guys, and in Vegas, the odds on this -”

“Dad, I gotta go.” Wrangler suddenly didn't want to hear any more. The Saplins were his family now.

“Okay, son, I understand.”  Keith was used to it. Wrangler didn’t have much time for him anymore. The kid was busy, working part time and going to school (even if it was home school). And now he was going to have to think about the kid that his girlfriend was carrying.  Keith was proud of his son.

“You take care, son. Big stuff coming your way.”

“It’s just a baby, Dad.”

“Not just any baby, a Saplin-Strauss baby!”

“Whatever. No big deal.”

Keith was involuntarily shaking his head. “Good thing you aren’t a bettin’ man.”  

A few minutes after they’d said good bye, Keith Strauss almost swallowed his chew. Shit! Wrangler gave me a hot tip after all – two of ‘em! Cristol bein’ pregnant is gonna get paid off, and the odds for Maple were worth another look…”

He pulled over and made a quick call.

“Hey! This is Keith Strauss. I want to put three thou- no, make it four…”

The person on the other end took Keith’s Cristol Saplin bet, and then a smaller bet on  Maple Saplin getting knocked up within eighteen months. 

Keith thought he was finished until the book maker enticed him with yet a third Saplin-based opportunity to triple his money. 

 “Yeah, that sounds interesting.  I might have some money to put on that one, too,” Keith said, “but, tell me, can it be any girl or does it have to be that minister’s daughter?”


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not quite the final four - White Trash in the Snow Chapter 100, 101, 102, and 103

Hello friends.  This is the next-to-last installment of my novel, White Trash in the Snow.  This book was written during free time as I could find it and it took me about one year.  I finished in August, 2010.  A year and two months later I began writing this blog and after 80 posts in about six months, I had to cut back and tackle personal and family challenges. Big challenges.  That was when I began publishing the book that next week will be fully released.  Thank you for following the story of the fictional Saplin family and thank you for catching some of my typos and mistakes. Your greetings and comments have buoyed me, and repaid me for my weekly efforts. I feel we have been a team.

Next week will not be good bye. It will only be "the end" of a book.  The blog will have another metamorphosis. Can't say yet exactly what it will turn into. Please stay tuned.

By the way, I have used very few real names, but the actor Colleen Boag is a young woman of my acquaintance and the two movies mentioned (Wrangler likes them)  are available from Amazon or for rent through Blockbuster.  Bled White and Plastic are  independent films from the same director, Jose Gomez, also an acquaintance.  Your support, whether it's renting, buying or even if  in the form of a "like" on Facebook, would be a wonderful way to give encouragement to some talented and hardworking young people in a very competitive field.  Colleen also has a blog. If you check out Fear of Flying or her Facebook page, let her know you're a friend of Allison.  

by Allison


Wrangler poured himself a bowl of generic frosted flakes, doused them in milk and set them on the kitchen table. Returning the milk to the refrigerator, he grabbed the quart of orange juice and was ready to take a swig straight from the carton when his sister walked in.

“Don’t or I’ll tell Mom,” she threatened like an eight year old.

“And I’ll deny it,” he shot back in kind.

“You’re such a baby. Grow up.”


“Just sayin’, you need to start acting right so’s when you have a son, you won’t let him drink out of the carton. ”

“Yeah? Well, I don’t have a son. ”  He put the juice back on the shelf and slammed the refrigerator door.

“But before you do - “

“SHUT UP!”  God, he thought, Cristol was right. His mom and Porsche don’t know when to shut up.

Porshe stood wide eyed and motionless except for a trembling lip and wet lashes splashing in pools of tears.  Wrangler wanted to cry, too.  “Sorry,”  he began, “This isn’t your fault.”  He sat down and shoveled cereal into his mouth.  She stood over him.

“You know, Wrangler, you’ve been real jumpy since people found out about, ummm, about those plans…”

He raised an eyebrow and kept eating.

“… and uh, maybe, um, maybe you and Cristol aren’t ready, you know, maybe you should wait..”

He stopped shoveling, finished chewing and then asked. “Did you come in here to get breakfast?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“Then go get it.”  

“Fine,” she said, mistaking it for an invitation. She fixed a bowl of frosted cereal for herself, and added two teaspoons of sugar. “So,” she said as she pulled out  a chair, “I can’t wait to be an auntie.”

“Will you just sit down and shut up?” Wrangler snapped. It was a crude phrase  he’d picked up at the Saplin house. Someone there was always telling somebody else to ‘sit down and shut up.’  In some ways, he was becoming one of them. 

But Porsche was not a “sit down and shut up” kind of girl. She was stubborn, and she was smart, and she almost always spoke her mind. Her smarts were not Harvard scholar level smarts, but she scored solidly in the average IQ range, a good twenty points above anyone else in her family. “You and Cristol are going to get married some day. That makes us almost in-laws.”  She took out a spoonful of her breakfast and talked through the chewing. “And it makes Calc my baby brother-in-law. When will you take us in-laws over there to see the baby?”

“In-laws? To Calc?”

“Yeah, almost anyway.  Pretty soon we’re going to be related.”

Wrangler snorted. “Don’t bet on it. Cristol and I had a fight last night.”

“Another fight? You guys need to grow up.”  It was out before she thought about it, telling her brother again that he was not mature enough to be thinking about having a baby. He looked very angry and she hurried to smooth things over. “Sorry, I just meant that you two fight an awful lot.  But it never lasts ‘cause you two are crazy about each other. By tomorrow whatever you had a fight about will be forgotten. Like always.” 

She changed the subject, something she thought was safer– “Is Calc cute?  Who does he look like? Mom says babies looks change quickly; that’s one reason we really should get to see him soon. Before he changes.  He’s gonna be my baby brother and I want to know all about him. How he looks. How he looks when he cries. And when he sleeps. And –“

“God, Porsche, give it a break.”

“I’ve never had a baby in my family. Hey, can you tell he has Downs Syndrome?”

“It’s not Downs, it’s Down. There’s no ‘s’” he corrected her, avoiding the other questions.

“Are you sure it’s not Downs? Everybody says Downs.” 

Girls! They always have  to argue!  At least there’s one less girl in my life this morning.

  The thought made him hurt inside, a heavy aching like a hole had been opened up below his heart. Wrangler pushed his chair away from the table and headed for the back door. He stomped down the porch stairs and took off in his truck. 

When he saw golden arches up ahead, his stomach reminded him he’d left half his cereal on the table. He pictured a soggy mess. Let mom or Porsche throw it out. That’s all women are good for – picking up after men.  He pulled off the street, into the drive-through, and ordered a man- size breakfast.


After five days hanging out with friends and hunting his mind was still on Cristol. Tonight was changing  things up. He had stopped into the movie rental place and picked out a couple of horror flicks,  then gone home and ordered delivery of a large pepperoni and sausage pizza. Midway through the first movie someone pounded on his bedroom door.

“Yeah, what is it?” He pushed the pause button on the remote and the screen froze showing that pretty blonde actor, Colleen Boag, entering an alley.

“Wrangler, let me in, it’s real important.”

He rolled over and swung his feet off the bed, lumbered slowly to the door, and opened it wide.
"Okay, you’re in. What is it?” he said.

Porsche was visibly upset  “I think Cristol’s going to defriend  me!”  

Wrangler didn’t “do MySpace” or any other social networking site, and he didn’t give a rat’s ass who was in whose top ten friends, who got friended, defriended, poked,  or who gave who a pig. Even Mafia Wars couldn’t hook him, it sounded too much like life in Azzolla.  But, if Wrangler had been a MySpace or Facebook kind of guy, his status right then would have read “miserable, go away and leave me alone.”

“Porsche, that’s bullshit. Get outta my room. I’m busy.” 

Porsche was not to be deterred. “But I’m talking about Cristol! If you two ever have a baby, I’m gonna be the auntie. If you two ever get married, I’m gonna be her sister-in-law. So, we’re family and we need to get along. She can’t defriend me! Don’t you see?”

Details! Why do girls always have to give so many details? 

“No, I don’t see. And. I want to get back to my movie.”

“Wrangler! Nothing’s more important than family!” To his annoyance, she sat down on his bed. It was obvious she planned to keep at this. “I called Cristol yesterday, just, like, to let her know that I was real happy for her, being a new sister again.  You know, uh, excited for her, and all that.”  Porsche’s head was down, she was wringing her hands.  She didn’t see that Wrangler was stealing glimpses at the TV screen. . “And I told her I had some presents for the baby and her that I want to take over there, and she was like, all cold and stuff. I couldn’t figure why she wasn’t happy, I mean, I said I had gifts, and maybe they have a lot more money than we do, but still, these are nice things!”

Wrangler said nothing, but he gave her a look thatshe started again. “And I invited her to come over here Saturday night and see me in my prom dress. Told her how Mom worked real hard makin’ it and it’s going to be one of a kind.”  She didn’t see that her brother’s eyes had glazed over. “Now, I know Cristol might be feeling bad about not going to prom too, but that’s not my fault.” With each of the last three words, she pounded her fist on her thigh. It made Wrangler refocus.  “Then, you know what she did?”  She waited again, as if her brother actually might guess, which, of course, he didn’t.   So after a few beats, Porsche told him what terrible thing his girlfriend had done - “She snorted!”


“You know, like the time she read on MySpace that that girl was going to beat her up. She snorted, remember? You and me we laughed so hard when she snorted! Maybe it’s weird to remember something like that, but I do.  Anyway, do you think she’s going to defriend me?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care.”

“Well, would you ask?”

“How’m I gonna do that? We ain’t spoken in five days.”  It was true. They were both being stubborn. “S’could you leave now?

Porsche finally saw the pain on Wrangler’s face. She shifted her mode to “Best Sister” and got up and hugged him. “Awe. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t dissing Cristol when you are missing Cristol. Oh! Ha! I made a rhyme.  Well, anyway, can I help?”  Her own problems were momentarily set aside for the opportunity to be important to Wrangler. It had been a long time since they hung out,  shared secrets, drunk together or gone camping.  Much too long.

“Nah, it’s nothin’ I ain’t been through before. It’s just Cristol being a pistol.”

“Well I hope you work it out real soon. I want to see that baby.” She left, and he returned to watching the movie. 

An hour later, as the credits were rolling, he got a text from Cristol. It sounded like she was ready to make up. He was all for it. Either they were going to make up real soon, or he was going to start dating again.  He wasn’t going to be without a girlfriend this coming summer. Summer nights were meant for camping and partying, and both required the opposite sex for maximum pleasure. He felt he’d been cheated out of a lot of fun this past year, times with friends that he couldn’t make up. He wasn’t going to miss out on summer’s best this year. No way.

He looked at the text again. “hav BIG suprize for u”

He suspected it was and early present. He was turning eighteen in another week.  That’s a big deal.

“Wat is it”  he texted in reply.

“hav 2 see u 2 give it 2 u”


“2nite!!! Pick me up?”


“No not till 9 cause I hv 2 put Calc 2 bed 1st”

“C U @ 9”

Maybe I should go to the grocery store and get her some flowers, he thought. He closed his phone and put it in his pocket.


Helen extended her stay to help with the deluge of thoughtfulness being shown the Saplin family. So many calls, presents and casseroles. Both the Saplins and the Heats were overwhelmed. It was full time work cataloging and writing thank you notes, and Rachael’s sisters were doing most of it.
During a lull, when Calc was having a nap, and Cristol was in her room trying to catch up on French lessons, Helen and Sally agreed to take a break. Sally put on a pot of coffee and cut two large slices of chocolate cake that some thoughtful Azzle had dropped off.

“How is Rachael getting away with this?” Helen asked, getting out forks and spoons. “The rumors are everywhere. Just read the comments posted online, you’ll see.” 

Sally agreed. “I think a lot of people know.  There’s that gossipy nurse at the hospital – she must have told somebody. And the news people - they have photos. Her figure went from flat to humongous inside of two weeks.”  She put a big forkful of cake into her mouth and tried to savored it in spite of the distasteful reality of their sister’s life.

Helen said, “I know. I know. That big fake empathy belly she wore only once? My God! One week she was using a throw pillow off my sofa, the next week she looked like it was going to be twins.” 

Sally sipped her coffee, then said,“That story of going into labor in Texas and flying home to deliver - Dad really outdid himself on that one,” 

Helen smiled, remembering her sister’s reaction. “Rachael wanted to kill him. And then Mom and Dad with the baby in the hospital corridor? I mean, really. What hospital allows babies to be carried around the hospital corridors picking up germs?” She sipped her coffee and continued, “They don’t. And that one was supposed to be a preemie with special needs and a hole in his heart. Totally absurd.

“Why isn’t this front page news?  She’s the governor, for Pete’s sake. The media isn’t doing it’s job.” 

Neither said anything while they enjoyed the silence, the cake and the coffee.

“Maybe we see it because we know,” said Helen. “Unless you have some reason to be looking for this stuff, you probably can miss it.”  She shook her head, “The story of the year, hiding in plain sight. Un-f’ing-believable.” 

“Rachael should be happy that publicity plan of hers fizzled. What if she had become a national figure?”

“Ho, ho! She’d have been reading about herself in “Who”!  They just had a story about that woman who had the politician’s baby…”

Helen interrupted, “That’s the answer, you know. Really. That’s it - this isn’t real news, it’s tabloid stuff.  Supermarket tabloids are where you read about celebrities having babies. But, like you just said, she’s no celebrity. Hence, no story.”

“And even though there’s a twist, the faked pregnancy, Rachael Saplin isn’t a recognized name. The story’s just not that good – after a month, Rachael and Tad will be just another set of parents whose teenager got knocked up and they are raising the kid, Who cares? 

“Who cares? Who cares!” Sally sing-songed the magazine’s effective slogan, then she laughed.  Poor Sally, needed to laugh. The antidepressants that helped her get through the messy dealings of divorce also kept the synapses from firing like they should.  Most of the time she felt emotionally numb.

Helen had already thought this through, and she was ready to talk with another adult. Sally would do.  Helen said, “Each news outlet has a slant, from the city paper to  “Who” to  Fox to MSNBC.”

“What’s MSNBC?”

Helen sighed, “You know, Hardball? Chris Matthews?” Nothing but a blank look from Sally. “Countdown?” still nothing registered.  “Never mind, you’re probably lucky not to know.”  Helen was a closet Countdown watcher, tuning in to hear what Keith had to say on evenings when her husband wasn’t home.

“Kevin Olbermann, he has this “Worst Person” of the day award, and if Rachael were a known name and her supposed in-labor flight…”

“I’m sorry, Helen,” Sally interrupted. “Kevin who?”

Helen realized she was dangerously close to coming out of the closet and exposing herself as Countdown watcher.  For her own safety, she switched the focus to newspapers. “Never mind.  So, anyway, yup,the editors at the Daily News can ignore the story. It’s trash. Only tabloids would want it. And, like white trash in the snow, it’s easy to ignore, easy to pretend you don’t see it.”

“You know, white trash in the snow – stuff like styrofoam cups and crumpled Kleenex  laying there on the street with no body paying any attention.   White trash is easy to ignore ‘cause it blends in with the snow. That’s Rachael’s phoney pregnancy. A story that’s laying right in front of everyone and yet  easy to ignore, too. Sure, it’s there, but if you don’t want to see it, …well, you get it.”

“I get it, yeah, but at first, I thought you were calling Rachael white trash.”

“No.”  Helen chuckled  “ But, if the shoe fits…” . They smiled at each other.

“So, you don’t think reporters noticed,” Sally stated.

“Oh, they see it, the whole story. They know Cristol disappeared for months. They know she was sent to live with me. They know Rachael didn’t stop running, didn’t stop drinking coffee, didn’t act pregnant. They are ignoring it. They have pictures of  Rachael with her flat stomach claiming to be seven months. They’ve got pictures that show that silly, rectangular pillow shaped stomach. I told her not to use that one.” 

“She never takes advice,” Sally frowned.

“And then, too soon, that that huge strapped on stomach; we both said she wouldn’t waddle around wearing that thing for another six weeks. Yup, that was when we predicted a premature delivery. We know our sister.” 

Sally nodded agreement.

For a minute, they both looked thoughtful.  Sally spoke next. “And then, there was the wildest story ever -  “oops- my- water-broke- I’ll- stay- and- give-a-speech- standing- at- the- podium-in-front-of-hundreds-of-people-not-go-to-a-hospital- fly-eight-hours-take-another-flight-and-fly-three-hours…” She stopped to catch her breath.

Helen took over, “pass- up- another-big- hospital- equipped-to-handle-an-at- risk-delivery- and-drive-an- hour-to-get-to-a-family-doctor- who-only-delivered-three-babies-last-year-so-I-can-be-induced-and-have-my-Downs-Syndrome-child.” She was out of breath, too.

“ with-a-hole-in-his-heart-born -in-a-tiny-hospital-with-no-neo-natal-care-unit,” Sally finished.  “That story is harder to swallow than Dad’s spicey moose ball nuggets.”

“Yup, but reporters ignore it. Pulling it apart would get too sticky.”

“Ha, like opening up a crumpled Kleenex you pick up from the snow.”  Sally started to giggle. “Haven’t we always said our sister was a snot?”

They laughed together.

“Gross,” Sally said, wiping a tear from her eye. “White trash in the snow,” she said again, and another round of laughter began.

Minutes later, their plates held only crumbs and the last drops of coffee had been drained from their cups. “Time to get back to work,”  Helen said. She picked up the dishes and moved them to the sink.

The red message light on the phone base caught her attention and when she pressed the button, a young woman’s voice said, “Hello, this is Francis Decker, Myleen Decker’s daughter. I’m calling all her Luna Moi customers to let them know she won’t be able to fill orders for a while. She’s had a stroke.”

There’s the first casualty,” said Sally.  With a look, her sister sought an explanation.

“She’s that gossipy nurse. The one at the hospital the day Calc was supposedly born. Guess the pressure of keeping this secret must have been too much for her.”

“Or the opposite,” suggested Helen. “The stress of having told someone, and knowing she’s going to pay a price…”

“Ooooo,” Sally caught on, “I wouldn’t want to be Myleen Decker.”

“Me either.”


It was Wrangler’s eighteenth birthday and as a gift to Wrangler, Rachael was going to let Jerrie and Porsche meet Calc.  Jerrie had told herself that it would be a good day to begin to cut back on criticizing her son and his future in-laws. That was before she learned that the baby had accompanied the Governor that very morning to a ribbon cutting ninety miles away. 

“All these weeks we’ve waited to meet him, all these weeks you’ve been sayin’ he can’t be exposed to germs, and making Porsche and me wait.  Us not getting to hold him before now…”  The confrontation was taking place as  Wrangler drove his mom and sister to the Saplin house.“We been real understanding, Wrangler. Real understanding.”

It was a short distance between the two houses, and Wrangler figured he’d let her get this out of her system before they rang the doorbell. Besides, she couldn’t say too much because Porsche still didn’t know the full story. Chewing tobacco and staring straight ahead, he ignored the rant.

“It isn’t right, her dragging that baby all over the place. He’s got problems, he’s delicate. I might not know how to run a state, but I know you don’t expose a little baby with a hole in his heart to all the germs in the world.”

 “How could he be getting proper care when he’s all over the place? What about naps? Babies need routine. Routine comforts them. And what about him getting the therapy that Porsche’s been reading about? That’s real important.”  She turned and looked back at Porsche. “Isn’t that so? Isn’t that what you found out?’

“Yes, Mom.”

Wrangler looked in the rear view mirror and exchanged glances with his sister, who was riding in the rear seat of the double cab. When Jerrie turn forward again,  Porsche rolled her eyes. She wasn’t going to risk getting her brother pissed off.  He could still turn the truck around and call off this visit.

 What was past was past. In a few minutes, she was going to get to hold a baby! She’d never done that. Not a really little one. Nothing else mattered to her tonight. She checked her bag and confirmed that she had brought her camera. Porsche planned to post pictures on her MySpace later tonight, and didn’t want anything to come in the way of her plans.

Jerrie was tightly wound. “He isn’t a political prop. He’s a baby.” Jerrie said. “She should stay home and take care of him.”

Wrangler spit into an old soft drink cup before he spoke. “It’s complicated, Mom.” 

“What’s complicated about staying home?”

Wrangler didn’t want to get into it. He was tired of defending Rachael’s treatment of the child who started out his son and was now his girlfriend’s parent’s son.

“It just is,” he reiterated, “It’s very, very complicated.”