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Friday, June 29, 2012
White Trash in the Snow - Chapters 9 and 10
It's Friday with the Saplins ! Cristol visits Planned Parenthood. Field's girlfriend gets a government job.
And, of course, any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. It is an original work, written by Allison, and published for the first time on the blog The Palin Place.
On a beautiful day one week before summer’s official start,
with signs that her period was coming, Cristol was grateful and relieved. It
had been downright scary to think she was pregnant; it had made her emotional
and crabby and physically sick with headaches and nausea.
I’m going to make
an appointment at Planned Parenthood, she
resolved. I’ll get free condoms and a
prescription for birth control. Though relieved and determined to take the
steps necessary to avoid getting pregnant, Cristol was apprehensive. She had
never talked freely with an adult about sex. Her mother’s lesson on the subject
was five words. “Don’t do what I did,” then she forced Cristol to attend sex
education classes at church, taught by the same woman who had dissed Rachael ten
years before on Easter Sunday. The Youth Minister’s wife was, by then, a mother
of six. Every three months, she took the girls aside for a one hour “abstinence
only” message while her husband delivered the same to the boys. When it came to
alternatives, the church teaching said Planned Parenthood was an evil
organization that profited from killing babies. One evening was almost
intolerable for Crystal, it was the night the teens were given white t-shirts
and fabric paint and instructed to design their own pro-life messages to wear
to church on Pro-Life Sunday. The homeschooled kids in the bunch really got
into it, and Cristol frowned with distain as she painted the shirt that was
headed for the trash as soon as she got home. Unless Pro-Life Sunday fell on
Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Easter, no one at church was going to see her,
anyway. Cristol hated every minute of
those sex education classes and added to her life list “I hate going to sex ed”
and “ I hate that Mom never made Field go to sex ed classes.”
In spite of the indoctrination, Cristol was now thankful
that Planned Parenthood had an Azzolla location. It was a God send after all. Wow, pastor would say that’s blasphemy,
thought Cristol. But I can’t afford a
doctor. And even if I could, I can’t be seen buying contraceptives in a
drugstore. Pastor could never understand how hard it is to be me.
Everyone in town knew the Saplin brood. They knew whose
truck she rode in, and recognized her boyfriends. This meant Wrangler couldn’t
buy rubbers locally, either. She’d made that clear to him on their third date,
after she’d noticed a nearly empty box of them in his glove compartment. “Like,
if someone saw you, and told my grandparents, or my folks…” she didn’t have to
finish the thought.
“I know,” Wrangler agreed. “People talk.” He shook his
head. “Now that I’m hangin’ out with you, if I were seen buying Trojan 12
packs, extra-large, there’d be talk.”
Cristol gave him a playful punch. “God, you are such a
“What?” he said, pretending to be offended. “That’s the
“Oh, sure.” She rolled her eyes and made a face. “Yeah, okay,
“Of course I’m right.” His eyes twinkled.
Cristol looked at his silly grin and laughed, “You’re right
about one thing, people would talk. They’d say, extra-large? Wonder who he’s
shopping for.” She laughed again and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
They used his last Trojan that night.
There were two days a week when volunteers from the Azzolla
Evangelical Church picketed on the corner near the clinic. Cristol knew enough
to avoid those days. Even when she eventually would go, she planned to hide her
face with a hoodie.
Her friends had it so much easier. Some were on the pill
and kept them in their pillow cases so they remembered to take one each day.
That would never work for Cristol, she was too often “on the road” for First
Family trips. She would have to carry them in her purse and run the risk that
nosey sister of hers, Maple, might find them.
Cristol had been inside Planned Parenthood once before. It
was last December when Nova, a senior that she met through Field, had confided
to Cristol that she was pregnant and not sure who the father was. The girl needed
a favor. She had an appointment for an abortion and the clinic required her to bring
someone with a license to take her home and stay with her for the afternoon.
“Why?’ Cristol asked. “Aren’t they supposed to treat you as
“Just in case there’s complications,” the girl answered.
“Oh, okay.” Cristol didn’t have any idea what a
“complication” would look like, and she didn’t want to ask Instead, she tried
to play it cool. “Sure, I can do that for you. No problem,” she said, then
added, “I’m a good driver. Only two tickets so far.”
Nova hadn’t told her friends and family about her
predicament, that was why she needed Cristol’s help. She assumed Cristol knew
how awful it was to be gossiped about and therefore she wouldn’t be a
gossip.“Oh yeah, I hear you,” Cristol commiserated. She felt worldly and almost
It was very dark on the morning of the scheduled
termination. Cristol drove slowly, down the dead-end street looking for the
right house. Nova’s street was deserted, but a set of tracks in the new fallen
snow proved someone else had gone out early, too. The tracks led to Nova’s
parent’s driveway. Cristol pulled Field’s truck over to the curb and while she
waited she watched the falling snow beginning to remove evidence of tires and
At the clinic, Nova signed in at the reception desk and
Cristol took a seat. She felt exposed, self-conscious. Could anyone could tell
she was a Christian trying to pass herself off as “one of them”?
No one gave her a glance, and after a minute it dawned on
her that the others in the room had more to think about than who she was. But,
there was nothing to prevent her from looking around. This was like being
behind enemy lines. Something she could tell Maple about…
A girl about Maple’s age caught her attention. Sitting
alone and looking nervous, her iPod was so loud Cristol could hear a tinny
syncopated whine from across the room. She’s
probably trying to drown out her thoughts, Cristol assumed.
Other teenage girls sat in pairs. Knowing that it was the
time slot reserved for the procedure Nova was scheduled to undergo, Cristol found
herself wondering which in each pair was the client and which the
support-giver. Sometimes it was hard to guess. Then she had a startling thought.
Maybe friends come together and they’re both pregnant. Maybe they have a driver
waiting outside for them. She began to think there was a much bigger world “out
there” than she had ever imagined. The pleasant headiness of feeling grown up
was replaced with the weight of feeling old and burdened.
When Nova was called into the back, Cristol picked up an
old copy of “Who” magazine, a tabloid her mother loved. Snippets of Hollywood’s
most famous couples pictured on the glossy pages held her attention briefly,
but it soon made her realize the room she was in was comparatively short on
men. Where are they, she wondered - the boyfriends and husbands? Didn’t guys
feel a responsibility to at least provide an arm to lean on when it was over?
Or did most girls keep this from them, like Nova had with her baby-daddy,
whoever he is.
The only male in the waiting room was part of a young
couple who sat whispering in corner chairs. They didn’t look yet twenty years
old. When the girl was called, the guy went with her. Married, thought Cristol. And then she realized that was a big assumption.
I’m so conservative, she thought. But, is that a bad thing? No, of course not.
I’m conservative because I’m a Christian. This led to thoughts about fetal
heartbeats and half-inch footprints – stuff she’d learned in church. Don’t these girls know that stuff? she
wondered. She looked around for information on fetal development, but didn’t
see any. Don’t they have to provide
clients with all that technical stuff? Isn’t there a law about telling…maybe
mom needs to make it a law. Maybe these girls don’t know what an abortion does
to that tiny life growing inside them.., jeeze, some of these are just kids,
like, thirteen maybe. If they don’t know… The taste of bile distracted her
from finishing the thought.
After a while, Nova reappeared walking with an escort. She
looked tired. She pointed to Cristol who set aside the magazine and went to
join her friend. A woman in a lab coat with cartoon characters on it gave Nova
a list of instructions, emphasizing the importance of following them all and
taking care of herself for a few days. Bed rest, apply heat, eat lightly,
etc. This was the last day of school
vacation, and Nova was cleared to go but excused from gym class.
The girls spent the rest of the day at the Saplin house
where Cristol got out the heating pad and opened a can of chicken noodle soup
and played nursemaid. The patient was up and moving around by the time anyone
else came home, and just before suppertime, Cristol took Nova home, neither of
them spoke. Nova thanked Cristol when she got out and walked to the house
without looking back. They never spoke to each other again.
In early March, Cristol was in a checkout line at Wal-Mart
and overheard heard two girls talking.
“She dropped out?”
“I heard she’s working at the Chocolate Caribou Cafe and
she’s getting her GED.”
“Why would she drop out just before prom?”
“I know, right? Who would do that?”
“She can’t go to graduation with us.”
“Or the parties afterward!”
“Do you think she’s pregnant?”
“Nova? Pregnant? Sure. Maybe.”
“Why would she drop out for that? S' no reason to quit school.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Nobody drops out for that.”
Cristol tacitly agreed. A baby wasn’t a reason to drop out.
A baby was a reason to celebrate, buy new clothes, shop for cute baby gear,
have your friends throw a big shower, and get lots of presents. After ninth
grade, being pregnant was a pathway to instant popularity. All the pregnant
girls dressed to show their baby bumps and compared belly measurements. They
made lists of baby names during study hall and asked opinions during lunch. It
Besides, Nova wasn’t pregnant. Not anymore. No, Cristol
concluded, Nova’s dropping out couldn’t have anything to do with a baby.
Finished packing up her last minute toiletries from her
room at the mansion, Cristol walked over to the office to find her mother. It
was only a couple blocks, and the June air felt wonderful. Turning the corner,
she saw extra flags lining the walk and stairs leading to the capitol building.
Still high with relief that she wasn’t preggo, Cristol watched the tri-colored
fabric flap and snap in the late afternoon breeze and thought, It’s as if they are celebrating with me!
She pushed through the glass doors, nodded to the security
guard in the lobby, and impatiently pushed the elevator button twice.
Monitoring its descent she sprang forward as soon as the doors began to open,
and bumped into a lithe, blond girl wearing a purple polo shirt and khakis. It
was an outfit no self-respecting teen would pick for themselves, worn only by
the lucky ones who landed jobs as legislative aides. This girl, however, was
working out of title. Officially, on the payroll, she was a commissioner.
“Cristol! Sorry! How are ya?” It was Field’s girlfriend, Brianna
Brianna, like Field, was a recent Azzolla High graduate and
came from a family well known in the valley. Nearly everyone liked Reverend
Hoofilter, Brianna’s father and Mrs. Hoofilter was a social worker; “nice
people,” as Grandpa Heat would say. In this case, it was true.
The Saplins were thrilled that their wayward son was dating
a preacher’s daughter and they were doing everything in their power to keep
Brianna around, which accounted for the uniform and Brianna’s job in the Saplin
administration. It was a perk that had been doled out very recently.
Last month, Governor Saplin was on the dais at the Azzolla
High School’s commencement ceremony, distracted by worries of what the future
held for her son, and fearful that graduation might signal the end of his
relationship with the one consistently positive influence in his life – Brianna
Hoofilter. Then, an idea popped into her head. She sent orders to Tad by text. “will
this ever end? When it does you & grls find Field & i will catch up with you.”
After Tony Zepata crossed the Azzolla Sports Center stage, parents
gathered their things and slowly made their way to lobby to begin looking for
their own graduates in the sea of identically clad young people. The Hoofilters
were pleasantly surprised when the Governor waved and made a great effort to
reach them through clumps of hugging graduates, squealing girls with too much
eye makeup and boys stripping out of bright blue robes.
The Reverend greeted Rachael warmly with an outstretched
hand and Mrs. Hoofilter, who reminded Rachael very much of younger version of
Aunt Bea from the old Andy Griffith show, gave her a reserved hug, graciously
accepting congratulations for Brianna’s achievement.
“Congratulations to you too. Did we hear that Field had
decided on State College? Is that his plan? You must be very proud of him,” the
Reverend’s wife offered.
“State College? Yeah, well, n-no,” Rachael stuttered
slightly. The Governor and Tad had never saved for college for any of the kids.
Tad didn’t have a degree, and he’d done alright, so any money they had above
the mortgage and the bills had gone into snow-machines and recreational land
and cabins. (Cabins which weren’t mentioned on their taxes, saving them money
each year that they now wish had gone into a college savings account.) They had
tried to get Field into the state university as an expense of the governor’s
office. When they didn’t find any loophole that would permit it, Tad got to
work on a project that would create full scholarships to be awarded by the
Governor’s Office, with provisions that one would go to “the son or daughter of
a government worker – someone who has no other scholarships and who excels in
one or more sports.” He hadn’t gotten very far when it became obvious to others
that Field was the intended recipient. A close advisor warned, it would be
“illegal as hell” and Tad resentfully ditched the idea of a scholarship
“Hardworking families serving the State should have
assistance, certainly there is a need and I’m working on getting a law, free
tuition, you know? But that’s not the case at the present wherein there’s no
help for those like us, too, in the long history of this state and this country
who serve and want their kids to have better, also.” Mrs. Hoofilter’s brow
furrowed as she tried to follow the gibberish coming from the state’s highest
“Well, you make an interesting point,” Rev. Dr. Hoofilter
hedged. He had no idea what the point was, but it wasn’t a lie – the way she made her point was
“Oh, don’t get me started,” she said. “There are those who,
the elite it seems, they send their children to Ivy League schools, don’t you
know, then, of course, real Americans get no help. Patriots like you guys and
us, too, of course, we pay taxes and shouldn’t our kids get to go to college?
We are so proud of Field because he won’t let that stop him, no he’ll be
workin’ hard to save up some money. We have a fishing business you know.”
Genuinely interested in his daughter’s boyfriend, Brianna’s
father tried again. “So, he isn’t going to college?” Realizing that sounded
harsh, he hastily added “Field will work
first? That’s admirable.”
“Oh yes, Field will be going to college, of course,
although, too, as I said before, the family fishing business this summer - he
has a native fisherman’s license. Couldn’t have that if he weren’t Tad’s son, you
know, ‘cause it’s the law you got to be native.” Rachael took every opportunity
to confirm that Tad was Field’s father just like she never missed a chance to
say her kids were hard workers. She learned from her father how to create false
impressions to cover weakness. His life was an example of the truth in the
saying “In the absence of knowledge, perception is reality.” His daughter was
following his footsteps, and taking it to a statewide level.
The Hoofilters wanted to move on, but they were standing
exactly where they’d arranged to meet their daughter. They were stuck listening
to Rachael, “…then, perhaps circumstances will be such that he will take a
couple summer school courses at the community college after the fishing season.
So proud of him, yup. Also, too, he should take time to hang out with friends
and, you know, just enjoy being back in Azzolla. After all, he’s still a kid.”
“Oh, yes, we’ve all missed him.” Mrs. Hoofilter liked
Field, but she hoped Brianna would date other boys in college. Field wasn’t
“mature” enough, at least that’s the nicest way she could put it when she had
the discussion with her daughter. “And you are absolutely right, Rachael. Field is still a kid. He needs some growing up time.”
A short silence followed while each of the three of them
scanned the area, the Hoofilters looking for Brianna.
“Here’s why I wanted to find you,” Rachael was finally
getting to the point. “What are Brianna’s plans? Has she found a job?”
“Yes,” the reverend answered, “she’s been hired by Fred
Meyer’s - customer service work. But she’s still looking around. That job won’t
cover a semester abroad, you know. If she’s going to make that happen, she’s
got to find something better.” Rev. Hoofilter shrugged his shoulders. “Her
mother and I can’t do much more; we’ve got the three boys in college already.” The
couple smiled gently at each other. Very minister- and social worker-like
smiles–meek, kind, longsuffering. Then he broke eye contact with her, stood a
little straighter and with a loud, almost theatrical clearing of his throat, he
delivered the proclamation “God will provide.”
“Amen, Praise the Lord,” said his wife.
“Amen, amen.” Rachael nodded, her head bobbing in an
exaggerated vertical arc. Between that, and her clenched hands held chest high,
Mrs. Hoofilter thought the governor looked like a parrot grasping her perch and
repeating stolen words.
“God wants to bless His people, so true, and He owns the
cattle on a thousand hills, and of course, we are meant to enjoy His riches, us
bein’ the children of the King!” The exclamation was punctuated with a waving
fist and a wink.
The minister had heard shysters preaching the “God wants us
all to be rich” message, after which they solicited contributions from the poor
so that they, themselves, could live affluently. He wondered if the governor
bought into that philosophy. Someday he might discuss that with Mrs. Saplin,
but at that moment, she had already switched from scripture to self-pity.”I’m
just a public servant, and Tad is a blue collar worker and he pays union dues
so, again, we are middle class, too, of course our kids are hard workin’ and it
seems Field is going to have to pay his own way through college, then, in
perhaps two years Cristol will, too, and again, Maple only a few years after that.
They’re all gonna have to do like I did, well not win beauty pageants, of
course, though they could, each one of ‘em, my kids are so beautiful, but,
um…so like I said, I paid my own way through college, too. It’s a shame this country has gone so far from
what the founding fathers meant it to be.”
“Pardon me?” Mrs. Hoofilter asked. “The founding fathers?”
“I was saying we’ve lost our constitutional right to
education. The founding fathers wanted everyone to have a college education.
They had common sense, there, which it is that’s been forgotten, you know?”
“Well, I do agree that Americans have some misplaced
values,” said Rev. Hoofilter.
“Yes,” said his wife. “Even with graduate degrees, some professionals
are hardly making ends meet. Americans don’t value those who help others, we
value people who promote themselves. When someone becomes famous, they make
millions selling the use of their name. Look at models and reality TV
personalities. Narcissism can be a quick road to riches. And there’s no accountability
or generosity. No contribution to society. Just interviewing, partying, and
self-promotion. Meanwhile, some of my colleagues with MSWs have to work two
jobs to make the rent. It’s absurd.”
“I hear ya. It really burns me when I see them on the highway.”
“See who on the highway?”
“What foreign cars?”
“All of ‘em. MSWs and Mercedes and all the rest. My daddy
taught me to buy American. I drive a Chevy, I think.”
looked at each other and shrugged. Rachael plundered on. “So hey, here’s the
thing. I want to offer Brianna a job. I’m thinkin’ she’d be a good
Commissioner. It’s honest work and a great gig - good pay, good benefits, and
she can have a room in the mansion. We’ve got lots of ‘em. Free room and
board,” she hesitated, and corrected, “Well, not free, but, anyhow, no cost to
you. Taxpayers are paying for the whole house anyway. Might as well have
another room filled.” She winked again. “And it will pay so much better than
Fred Meyers. So, what do you think?”
The Hoofilters were silent. Neither could believe what
they’d heard. “You guys look like Saul on the Road to Damascus!” Rachael
joked.”Do I look like a talking donkey?”
The minister’s wife politely laughed, which only encouraged
Rachael. “Most people see me as more of an elephant.” She winked again, adding
to Helen Hoofilter’s discomfort but
causing her to chastise herself. Perhaps
the governor has an involuntary facial tic. I shouldn’t judge her. “John?”
she asked with an inflection that told him she hoped he could somehow get them
out of there.
Rev. Hoofilter wasn’t ready to move on. Not until he asked
the logical question, “Commissioner? Commissioner of what? Frankly, Governor,
that sounds farfetched. Brianna’s high school diploma is one hour old. How
could she be commissioner of anything?” His wife nodded.
“ John, Helen, I understand. You’re afraid it would be too
much for her. Let me assure you, it’s just a political appointment. As
Governor, I’ve already made 1700 appointments to lots of different commissions.
Most of ‘em don’t really mean anything.”
“They don’t mean a thing? But they pay well? How can that
be honest work?”
“Well, that’s not exactly what I meant.” Rachael, embarrassed,
groped for a good answer. “It’s real work. It’s, um…it’s a place on the State
Service Commission. Those are the folks that help match needy citizens with
agencies that can help them. Brianna will be doing the Lord’s work, helping the
poor, the widows, and the orphans.” Rachael relaxed, pleased with herself. She
had pulled that one out of her ass. Orphans? It sounded stupid, even to
Rachael. But she kept on smiling while she thought, Now, I’m going to have to remove that guy who’s in there. Hooten?
Whorten? Something like that. Whoever. He’s a left over from the last administration,
so it doesn’t matter. But it’s going to be awkward. I do wish I hadn’t told him
only two days ago what an asset he is. Oh well, I’ll have someone else give him
She gave Brianna’s father a pat on his arm, and said, “Yep,
it’s a great gig, and Brianna is perfect for that spot. It takes a real
Christian to do it right.”
It was four weeks later that newly appointed Commissioner
Hoofilter stood in the lobby talking with the governor’s daughter. Brianna was dropping
off outgoing mail at the security desk. In the two weeks she’d been on the job,
mail duty was the only administrative responsibility she’d been given.
“Brianna! Hi! Isn’t this a great day? I got -” Cristol
caught herself from blurting out that she got her period.
Brianna was happy to see another teenager. “Yeah, Cristol,
what a beautiful day for Flag Day. I never even knew there was such a thing. I’m
learning so much here. It’s awesome. And your mom, she’s awesome, I really owe
her.” These were practiced lines, practiced to recite to her parents. The truth
was, she was a glorified babysitter.
“She likes you a lot, too. But not as much as Pride does.
Man, she’s thrilled having you to play with. Talks about it all the time.”
“Pride’s fun. I hope your mom’s happy with the job I’m
doing. It makes a big difference around here; when the governor’s happy,
everyone’s happy. When the governor’s not -” Brianna reddened. She realized she
being blunt might cost her dearly. Her mother had drilled into her head before she
left, “Never offend a Saplin.” She held her breath.
“Happy? Are you kidding? Mom and dad are thrilled! You keep
Pride from getting underfoot. You’re their favorite employee.”
“Really?” Brianna breathed out a sigh of relief. “Gee,
that’s so nice.”
“Yup, at home Mom calls you Commissioner of Babysitting.
Says she should have thought of it months ago.”
The words stung, but
Brianna didn’t let on. “Ha! It’s the best babysitting job ever. I’ve got health
insurance, paid vacation, tuition reimbursement, and a job title that makes
even my dad jealous.” The truth was that the first couple paychecks felt like
dirty little bribes. But, after a couple of weeks she was ripping open her pay
envelopes with a sense of entitlement. After all, she reasoned, Commissioner Hoofilter
was providing an important service to the State by entertaining the Governor’s
six year old. That freed the Governor to do real government stuff - whatever