Sunday, July 29, 2012

Levi Johnston BACK TO WORK

According to Levi Johnston's public Facebook page, he's going back to work as an electrician.  Does that mean he got his GED?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Some of you said you'd appreciate my posting here from Levi's page, so today is a good day to do that. It's a good news day.  Levi is going to work one month before his daughter is due.  Last weekend's baby shower was fun, he posted a picture of the beautiful diaper cakes Sadie made for it, and Sherry left a message under the picture.

Levi claims the baby is due September 17.  Did he get that from the Palins?  Always say a baby is due on the 17th or 18th.  According to Sunny she is 8 months along. Do the math.  That baby is not due September 17th.

By the way, Sherry gets out an around now.  She has been for months now. Went camping with the kids (grown adult children) over Memorial Day weekend.  Gets glared at by Willow when they run into each other. It's a wonderful life in Wasilla.  And while I'm throwing out random things - Sadie moved out on her own months ago, too. She has a nice place and a nice life,  and that probably is making some not very nice people pretty unhappy.  No, she isn't in Wasilla.

Now, for a little gossip.  Sadie was dating a celebrity earlier this year. It never made it into the tabloids, and it isn't now what it once was, so I didn't make headlines out of it, either.   I'm pretty sure I could name him and be correct, but no one sent any pictures to me and I didn't see them together myself, so this is all I'm comfortable saying.  He is a cutie, and a huge Hollywood star.  They would have been really cute on the cover of the rags.

Enough of the gossip!  Here's Levi's public Facebook updates.  Enjoy!  And, Levi -   congrats and good luck.

Friday, July 27, 2012

TGIF! Chapters Seventeen and Eighteen of " White Trash In the Snow"

It's almost time for school to start again, and Cristol Saplin does not want to go back to the capital. White Trash in the Snow is a work of fiction. But it does take place on planet earth, in the USA. So, you might find some things that have a familiar ring to them. Any similarity to actual persons, or places or events is coincidental. 

Previous  chapters:

White Trash in the Snow

It was August.  Rachael and Cristol seemed to be arguing all the time. Even little things                       became big things because neither one would compromise. On this particular afternoon, Rachael,               dressed for jogging, and water bottle in hand, was humming to herself and almost to the back                      door when Cristol shuffled into the kitchen, sleepy-eyed and hair askew.  Her mother commented                         that school would soon end her daughter's summer sleep-ins.  
 “I’ve got a plan for that. I’m gonna go to the scheduling office on the first day and tell                          them that I need a study hall first period because First Family duties keep me out late on lots of                         
school nights and I’m going to need to sleep in. It’s an accommodation.” (The five  syllables                            had become a household staple since Rachael became governor. It was a passport, of sorts.              One that got the whole Saplin family into concerts, invited to dinners, provided with lodging, and airfare.)                  
“That’s my girl!” Rachael complimented.
Cristol grunted. She was looking for the chewy chocolate granola bars. On an empty  stomach it was hard to take her mother’s pep and self-satisfaction. “Mom! Did Pride eat all the   breakfast bars?”
“How would I know? Why don’t you grab a toaster pastry and come running with me.   This might be the last time we can do that together before you’re stumbling into second period at   Fredrick Douglas High.” 
“The last time?  When was the first time? God, Mom, you’re always makin’ stuff up.”  
Rachael reddened, which encouraged Cristol to continue, “That’s one of the reasons I’m  not going back to the capital. I need a break.”
 The planned run was forgotten. The two became locked into battle over where Cristol    would spend her junior year-  Azzolla High, or Fredrick Douglas High in the state capital, the school she’d been enrolled in the previous spring.
“No way, Mom. NO!” Cristol yelled. “I’ll drop out first.” She turned her back to her mother and crossed her arms. 
            “You are NOT dropping out, young lady! It may be a long shot, but if I’m gonna have any chance of bein’ asked to run for Vice President this family has to look perfect.  THERE ARE NO DROP OUTS IN THE WHITE HOUSE!”
             “It’s always about you, Mom! You and your image. You and your stupid, phony, made up life. It’s always about you. You didn’t make any winning basketball shot in any dumb championship game. You sat on the bench. I know the truth. Wrangler’s dad told him and he told me.”
“That’s a lie. I made two free throws.”
Cristol squinted an “I hate you” look and smiled an evil smile.  “Right, mom. But the game was already put away. I heard the truth. I know you lie. YOU LIE.”
Rachael’s hand flew up and Cristol took two steps back.
"You always pretend everything about your life is perfect. Well it isn’t! And I’m not going back to that awful, hateful school. This is about me! This is about my life mom! My life!” She clenched her fists, and took a deep breath.  “And I’m spending this  school year in Azzolla!”
            Tad came in from the garage to find Cristol, tearful  and Rachael glowering.  “What’s going on?” he demanded.
Rachael wheeled around and growled at Tad. “Talk some sense into your daughter, Tad. She says she isn’t returning to the capital. She thinks she can stay here, unsupervised, and go to school with her friends. Now how would that look?”
           “Calm down, Rachael, I know what you’re saying, but - “
            “But nothing!  Cristol is going back with me. I have a special legislative session to conduct, and I have to be in the capital Mondays and Tuesdays and some Thursdays, too. The kids have to go to school there.”
               Tad’s silence was hard to interpret. Was he going to agree with Rachael? Cristol turned her back to both of them and re-crossed her arms.
              Rachel pushed her arguments further. “And common sense tells you we can’t trust her to stay here alone. Do you know how late she got home last night?”
               Suddenly, it all connected for Rachael. It made sense. She straightened her back, struck a former-beauty queen pose with her head slightly tilted, and smiled like she had just been named Miss Congeniality. In what her kids called her “smart-ass sarcastic voice”, she addressed a question to her daughter’s back.  “This is about Wrangler, isn’t it?”
               Cristal, spun around and stomped her foot.”I hate you!”
               “Now, Cristol –“ her father began.
              “ I hate her, Dad! I really do!”
                Rachael’s eyes could shoot daggers, as sharp as Cristol’s. She shot her daughter a look, then,  with a huff, gave Tad his orders. “You handle this. I’m going running,” and grabbing the water bottle from the counter, out the door she went.
              Rachael Heat discovered running while in Junior High. Running was one of the things she’d held on to since she was fourteen along with writing in a diary every night, and holding grudges. Tad watched his wife run away, thinking to himself that, ever since he’d known her, she’d run away from tough situations.  She’d withdrawn from courses and colleges,  quit jobs, delegated the task of firing people, and walked out of meetings more often than not. Like many times before, she was physically running to get away from making a big decision.  Rachael was a champion at running away from tough things.
             Deliberately choosing to be the opposite of her mother, Cristol hadn’t moved. Arms defensively crossed, tears dropping from her chin, she was a mess. It was a pathetic sight.  It  made her father want to cry, too.
             “Calm down, honey. Your Mom has a lot going on.”
              “I don’t care!” She sniveled,  pulled a paper towel from the rack and blew her nose.
               Tad went to her. He hugged her and she laid her head on his shoulder. As she wept, a wet spot grew on the sleeve of his t-shirt. He imagined her pain washing away with the tears, and he was absorbing it.  For Tad Saplin, this was a new level of sensitivity.
             She pulled away and blew her nose again. “Who cares where I go to school?” she asked.
             “Oh, Honey, your mom is right about that. People do care.”  Tad was relieved. This was something he could talk about  - other people and their shortcomings. “Especially people who care about your mother’s career. You remember that bunch of guys that got off the tour boat and had lunch at the mansion this summer? Just before your Mom went on that trip to Kuwait?”
             “Yeah. So what? They were stuffy old men and Maple and me had to serve them that food from Costco’s that you ran and got.  What’ve they  got to do with me and Wrangler? I mean, with me and school?” She broke eye contact and blushed.
               “Those are very influential guys, and they came to meet your Mom because they might want her to run for Vice President.  The other party has a woman candidate who’s pretty much a sure thing to run on the top of the ticket, so the party bosses are trying to find a woman to run. Your mom has a really good chance.”
              “I think it's a joke.  Mom and her prom hair running the White House? That’s crazy.” Tad was glad to see her smile.  "So," she asked,  “why haven’t I heard about this?”
               “It’s got to be kept a secret. I shouldn’t have even said this much. Those men - that group is like, top secret or something. All hush, hush.” He was sorry he’d said anything, but he had made her smile, so… “So you’ve got to promise not to ever, and I mean ever, repeat this.”  Cristol nodded. “They insisted that we not tell anyone, including family. But I’m trusting you. Keep this a secret.”
               “Politics! I should have known.” She was angry. “Does this group have a name?”
               “Conservative Christian Caucus, but you can’t repeat that, either. That’s secret too.”  Why am I still talking? He could almost hear his wife saying, “Shut up, Tad.”
                  Cristol wanted to get back to her problem. “So, Dad, will you talk to Mom, get her to let me stay here? I need to go to school with my friends. Everyone at Fredrick Douglas hates me. Don’t make me go back there!” she begged.
                 “It’ll be alright, Honey. You know your mom, we have to let her run it off. Everything will be okay. I promise.” He regretted those last two words as soon as they were out. His mouth was out of control.
                “Daddy, you are the best! I knew you would save me from that horrid place. And I promise to keep those Christian Circus guys a secret. You promised me, I promise you!” She gave him a big hug.
                  When she crossed the kitchen to throw away the crumpled paper towels, he notice something different about her. Hmmm, he thought, she must be in one of those in-between stages, where she gets heavy before she shoots up taller. She’s really gotten big this summer. Her face is fuller, she’s put on weight. It made him feel sorry for her all over again. No wonder she’d rather be with old friends than trying to make new ones. What’s the matter with Rachael? Doesn’t she remember how hard it was to be sixteen?
               “I’ve got friends to call, to tell them I’m returning. You’re the best, Dad!” She took the stairs two at a time, going up to her room, but she looked awkward and clumsy. Even more than usual.
                Tad watched her, amazed that he was only just noticing the changes in his oldest daughter. Wow, I bet she’s put on at least ten pounds this summer. I'm going to tell Rachael she ought to have a talk with all the kids about cutting back on junk food. Then, he returned to the garage and promptly forgot all about it.


                Cristol and Sparkler were sitting on the living room floor organizing new stuff they’d bought for school. Folders, paper, pens, pencils and notebooks were scattered about them.
                  “So, your brother is going to be in charge? And he’ll be going to community college? Man, that’s totally awesome. He’s not going to care what you’re doing.” Sparkler was in awe of Cristol’s good fortune.
                Field wasn’t going to be a problem. Things were much better than last spring. After her brother had told her parents she was a stoner, she’d told them he was into OxyContin. It was a mess. Everybody yelling, then her mother shutting down and going into one of her pouting comas. Their dad leaving the house and not coming back for days. It was heavy stuff. Cristol and Field felt responsible for the near-breakup of the family and they felt guilty about being snitches. From then on, they agreed, they would have each other’s backs. And if they couldn’t do that, at least they would refrain from attacking each other.
“Yeah, and my dad will be here every other week, but he’ll be in the garage.” She shrugged, her father’s obsession with his snow mobile and other equipment was not new.  And he was lenient. Even if he caught her and her friends drinking, or found some drugs, or learned she had skipped classes, he would go easy on her. And she had that new secret about the Circus or Caucus or whatever it was. She could threaten to use that if she needed a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
            Cristol had almost no worries. “Only one thing could go wrong that I can see. Grandma and Grandpa are supposed to check on us once in a while, like - you know, unannounced. Field and I are gonna have to watch out for them.”
               “This is gonna be so totally awesome! Everyday…” Sparkler made the motions of opening a beer can and chugging it down. “It’s gonna be great.”
           “Yeah,” Cristol couldn’t identify what was bothering her about the plan. She’d gotten her way. She was going to school in Azzolla, she would have practically no supervision; who wouldn’t love that? What was wrong? Why did she feel empty? 
She tried to shake the blues, “Yeah, it’s gonna be a blast.  My dad isn’t going to miss a few beers once in a while. I know where he keeps his stash. It’s in the garage. If he notices, he’ll probably blame Field.  Besides, what’s he going to do?  He can’t ask who took them…”  
Sparkler understood. “Noooooo. Cause he doesn’t think anybody knows he even has a secret stash.”
“Right.  How lame is that? Dad sneaks beer in the garage because my mom disapproves of him drinking.” Cristol rolled her eyes. “God, my parents are so lame.”
              “Everybody’s parents are lame. At least yours are hardly ever home.” With that pronouncement, Sparkler began picking up. The Ellen DeGeneres show was almost over, signalling it was time for her to go home.
                   Cristol was still trying to figure out her own sadness. The battles she’d won, to stay in Azzolla and go to Azzolla High, meant that she wouldn’t be with the family. Was that it? No, that couldn’t be it. They weren’t a close family; they hardly ever sat down for meals together, unless it was to grab a couple pieces of pizza.  They weren’t like Sparkler’s family – the Jones even played Monopoly together for heaven’s sakes! How last century was that?
                   A twinge of jealousy shot through Cristol. She remembered Sparkler’s laughter that very day as she shared funny moments that happened last night during the Jones family “game night.” It was a weekly event that had been going on as long as Cristol had known her friend. Someday, Cristol vowed, Wrangler and I will have “game night” with our kids. Till then, she knew she  was stuck with the far-from-close-knit Saplin family life.  But still…being hundreds of miles from her Mom, Maple and Pride was going to be a little weird.
                  While they were picking up, they heard the sound of tires on gravel.  Through the sidelights at the front door, they saw Rachael climbing out of the state-issued black SUV. Sparkler flew into a panic. “Find the remote! Turn the station!”
                     Almost a year before, Mrs. Saplin had “caught” Cristol and Sparkler watching Ellen’s show. Cristol’s mom  “went ballistic” – that’s how  Sparkler described it to their friends. The anger that poured from Mrs. Saplin was frightening in its intensity. Sparkler trembled while Mrs. S adlibbed a ten minute sermon on the evils of homosexuality “Cristol! You know better! You’ve been raised better than this! You know what that woman is. And you, Sparkler, perhaps you don’t know, but it’s in the Bible, that which it is that is an abominator, or something, too, which it is, of course, common sense!”
Sparkler was sure the Bible didn’t say it was a sin to watch the Ellen DeGeneres Show, but she’d learned not to argue the Bible with Cristol’s mom. She learned that when Mrs. S had said something about dinosaurs not being real. Sparkler thought it was a joke, and laughed loudly. Whoa!  Big mistake. So, when the governor launched into another Bible tirade,  the one about Ellen and all that stuff, Sparkler kept her head down and just waited for it to end.
The end finally came when Rachael said “that woman Ellen may be making a lot of money now, and livin’ in a mansion, but also, no amount of money can buy you a mansion in heaven.”
             Cristol, totally embarrassed, later apologized to Sparkler for her mother’s outburst.  Her friend made light of it. “Can’t buy a mansion in heaven? Ha!” she said. “I thought that was why televangelists keep asking for all that money!”  Using her best imitation of a faux-sincere elderly white man in an expensive suit and a million dollar smile, she said “For only thirty dollars I’ll send you this cheap little trinket made by children in a third world country who get paid thirty cents a week to make them.”
 She thought she was being quite funny, and was surprised by the reaction she got from her friend. Cristol’s neck tensed and her lips puckered. Sparkler thought she looked like she wanted to fight.
“Don’t joke about Christians, not in my house.”  .
Sparkler backed down quickly. “Sorry.” That was all, and it was enough. The incident hadn’t stopped the girls from watching their favorite daytime show together, but after that, watching Ellen with Cristol always felt more wicked than smoking weed. And, for sure, Sparkler wasn’t going to be caught again.  Spotting the remote under the chair, she grabbed it and flipped the channels, stopping at a rerun of "Law and Order."  Just before the front door opened, she said, "Next week, we're going to watch Ellen every day."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mercede Johnston Tweets About Tripp

Levi's sister has spoken.

What she's talking about is the behavior of her nephew, Bristol and Levi's son Tripp, who's real claim to fame is that his in utero development was paraded across the stage at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Subsequently his life has been spent in front of camera while his no-talent selfish mother attempts to portray herself as someone to be admired for the courage of raising him without his father.  And by the way, Levi would love to have his son in his life, so the whining and complaining is nothing less than a dispicable plan to hurt Levi and increase Bristol's bank account. Bristol has reaped what she's sown. Here's Tripp hitting his mother and his aunt, telling them he hates them, and being bleeped for words nice people don't use.  And by the way, why does Bristol tell him "there are drunk kids" at the pool?  He knows what drunk means at the age of four?  Really, Bristol?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kevin and Wrangler head for the hills: Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen "White Trash in the Snow"


 by Allison

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real persons is strictly coincidence.  I wrote this for fun, and nothing would make me happier than to hear from Friday to Friday that you are finding some enjoyment in reading the adventures of my fictional characters, the Saplin family.  Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  All rights reserved.

Previous  chapters:


Twenty minutes after they left the Azzolla town limits, Wrangler and his dad were invested in a good-natured disagreement about ammunition. Which caliber is best for moose hunting? Kevin Strauss listened with respect to his son’s opinion while he watched the road ahead.

Wrangler was talking about wound areas and high speed bullets when he felt a vibration in his pocket. Normally, he read a text as soon as it came in. Right now, though, he resisted the impulse to look at his phone. This was “Dad time.” Everyone was supposed to leave him alone for the next three days. They’d all been told – mom, Porsche, Cristol, Carver, Dan.  So, who was this? Who has something so g-d important to say they have to bother me right now? His curiosity was strong, but his resentment was stronger.  Whoever it is, they can wait until I get back.

Kevin wasn’t aware of Wrangler’s predicament. He had begun a monologue about some of his most difficult hunting shots, near escapes from wild animals, surviving sudden storms, and other stories of triumph. Along the way, Kevin took a foil pouch off the dashboard and pulled out some chew. The wad of tobacco was inserted without  interruption to the story in progress.

Something about the package on the dash drew Wrangler’s attention.  He reached over and picked it up, turning it over in his hands. He stared at the brown wrapper. It wasn’t familiar. He felt a hollowness inside; a familiar sensation that came whenever he discovered things about his father that he should have already known; things he would have known if his dad lived with them.“Levi Garrett? I thought you always chewed Red Man. You’ve given up on the Indian and the green label?”

“No, son, I haven’t given up the Red Man. Heck, that’s been my brand for years. But a friend gave me this to try and I like it. It’s kinda salty.” He glanced quickly at Wrangler and saw his son looked seriously upset. Eyes back on the highway, he asked, “Want to try some?”

Of course Wrangler wanted to try it. Wrangler wanted to be like his dad in every way. That’s why he hunted with such passion. That’s why he worked so hard at ice hockey. And, someday, he was going to become an electrician, too. Just like his dad.

He took some of the leafy chaw out of the package and put it between his gum and cheek. He’d snuck some of his dad’s Red Man before, and sometimes bought his own at a shop he knew about where they didn’t ask for proof of age. But this was the first time his father had offered it to him. He would handle it like a man. It was another bonding experience that reinforced that Porsche didn’t belong on these hunting trips. There’s some stuff only men can share.

“So, what do you think?”

“Yup, salty.”

“But, it’s good, right?”

They rode in comfortable silence, enjoying the tobacco and spitting into empty plastic water bottles. The beautiful scenery was familiar. Minutes passed, then Wrangler broke the silence, “I like the name.”
Kevin was puzzled. “What name?”
“Levi Garrett. Cool name.”
“Oh, the tobacco.”
“Uh-huh. Cool name. I could name a kid Levi Garrett. That would be cool.”
“Levi Garrett Strauss. ” His dad said it out loud. “How about Levi Kevin , instead?”
 “Levi Kevin Stauss? That could be cool, too.”
“Your mother and I, we almost named you that. I liked it.”
“Really, Dad? Never heard that.”
“Yup, but Jerrie liked the name Wrangler better, so I agreed. Baby names are really important to women.”
“You’re telling me? Cristol talks about them all the time. And if she isn’t talking about baby names, she’s planning our wedding.”
Kevin almost choked on his chew. “Something I should know, Wrangler?” There were secrets. He was left out of a lot of things, sometimes intentionally, sometimes just forgotten. Either way, it hurt. But – come on! A wedding?
Wrangler quickly corrected the mistaken impression. “Oh, god, no. Nothin' like that. She just likes to think about marriage, you know…it wouldn’t be now, but…well, maybe some day.” He paused. “Whatever. You know how girls are.”
Yes, Kevin Strauss new very well “how girls are.” He’d spent too much of his life trying to satisfy a wife and a girlfriend simultaneously. He didn’t wish anything like that for his son. He didn’t want either of his kids to find themselves in a bad marriage. Or getting a divorce - only lawyers are winners in a divorce. This world is made up of lawyers and people who pay lawyers. No Strauss was ever going to be a lawyer, so…
“How serious are you two? I know I don’t ask about it ever, much, but – “ he searched for the words. “But, it’s too soon for …”
“No worries, Dad.”
“You’re using rubbers, right?”
“Sure, Dad.”
“Wrangler, I got nothing against marriage. Even though your mother and I couldn’t make it work forever, we had some good years. There’s worse things than marriage and babies. First though, you need to grow up some and get a job…”
“I know.” How the hell did we get into this? Wrangler wondered.
“ …yeah, well, I’d hoped you’d work with me someday, and-”
“I know, Dad.”
“ … and you have to apprentice first.”
“Yup.” Wrangler was keeping it short, hoping it would end.
“Well, yeah, of course.” Kevin stole another glance at his son. Wrangler’s face was turned away, but it was evident that his jaw was set.
“Hey, never mind. You know all this stuff already. You got good sense. If you can keep from getting eaten by a bear, you can avoid matrimony. Sorry, I only -”
“S’okay.” Wrangler had been staring out the passenger window since the subject of condoms had come up.
“I love you, Wrangler. You know that.”
“Love you, too, Dad.”
“And I like Cristol well enough,” he hedged.
“And your Mom likes her, too. That’s important, let me tell you. If the mother-in-law don’t like the daughter-in-law, it’s bad news.” Wrangler said nothing. “Course it’s worse if the mother-in-law don’t like the son-in-law. When moms and daughters team up, a guy can get mauled worse than if a grizzly got him.” Kevin Strauss looked like he was remembering a bad experience. ”
“Mom likes her,” said Wrangler, keeping to his short answer strategy to end this agony.“Cristol likes Mom, too.” Actually, that was only partially true. Cristol didn’t think Jerrie had “class” but, one compliment she did give her was that Wrangler was “really lucky” to have a mom who loved him so much.
Kevin Strauss had planned to wait until they had set up camp and the stars were out, but he decided this was the time to have “the talk” he’d promised Jerrie he would have with Wrangler. He took a deep breath and began, “Son, there’s something else we need to talk about…”


           For the better part of the next hour, Kevin and Wrangler talked about Azzolla, the Saplins, and something called “The Family.”  The stories his father told could have come out of a Stephen King novel. The common thread running through all the stories was that bad things happened to people who stood up to “The Family” – a  mafia-like group rumored to have powerful influence in all areas of the community – the town board, churches, schools, community groups, business organizations, the hospital board, and the police.
            Many people in town were sure “The Family” was behind Rachael’s public service career from the very start, all the way back to the Azzolla town council.  Indebted to and protected by them, her influence and actions benefited those who held interests in land, oil, and commerce (she was pro-business and anti-big government) and in return, “The Family” protected her, Tad and the extended Saplin/Heat families.  Crime families in New York City might assume The Family would be amateurish, but they were, in fact, highly effective in the valley and beyond.
Kevin had story after story of Azzolla businesses, citizens, and civil servants having bad things happen to them after a disagreement with now-Governor Saplin or with other persons of power.  The implication of wrong-doing was compelling, but Wrangler wasn't sure that there might not be another explanation.  "Son, I've been around a lot longer than you.  With all I've seen, I believe our Governor, and your girlfriend's mother, is ruthless, vindictive, and dangerously ambitious".
           “She’s crazy, that’s for sure. And kinda mean. But, still…I don’t know.”
           “Have you met Cristol’s uncle the state trooper?”
           “Yeah, he’s cool.”
           "Glad you think so, I'm going to tell you a little story..."

         It was a Saplin family story. Ed and Rachael’s sister Sally were getting a divorce, and within a month of the filing, Ed became the subject of an internal workplace investigation. Twelve citizen complaints had been lodged. That would sound like a terrible record, and a basis to believe this was a rogue cop, unless one was told that all twelve reports came from Sally’s family members, including several each from Rachael and Tad and from Buck and Betty Heat. Rumor was that Ed Spivey was going to be fired after a kangaroo court of state-paid officials were done taking statements from Saplin family members and Saplin administration supporters.  

Kevin was a betting man. It was part hobby part addiction. In the valley there were far worse addictions, he reasoned.  “My bookie is saying Spivey will last until December, then they’ll can him. But my money is on six weeks with a five day spread on either side. I think I’m going to do well, I’m gonna make some money.”
           Wrangler remembered things Cristol’s grandparents and parents had said;  jabs and jokes about Uncle Ed and other things he hadn’t understood. He began to see how The Family might be a real force in  the valley. Maybe his dad was going to make money on this bet. He found it kind of creepy and kind of fascinating. Until that day, Wrangler had been oblivious to the political side of life in his small hometown. He summed up his thoughts with an adjective and a noun. “Scary stuff.”
            Kevin nodded.  “I know. I know.  It scares me and I’m a lot older than you. When I was your age – well, no, not your age, but younger - a kid – well, anyways, I loved watching old Superman reruns.  “Truth, Justice, and the American Way!”
Wrangler gave him a look that said “WTF?”
            “Sorry, that's from an old kid's tv show. Superman's just a fantasy and as for truth, that turned out to be fantasy, too.  Justice is for those who can afford a good lawyer. And The American Way? Yeah, right. The American Way is to chase the almighty dollar, climb over other people to get what you want. Lie, cheat and steal, ‘cause everybody else does.”
             Wrangler didn't know what to say. Why was his dad so bummed? 
They traveled for miles without talking, absorbed in their own thoughts. Wrangler wondered if there were something big coming down, something personal that started Kevin’s shit storm of semi-paranoid negativity. What was this talk about lawyers? Did his dad need one?  If so, why?  
Maybe he owed taxes like Mr. and Mrs. S. Last week they were yelling at each other about having to pay an attorney to go to the IRS to get them out of trouble. They had been so loud, that, twenty feet from the back door, he could hear Tad say “It was your idea to not file,” and even louder he heard Rachael’s screech “Property taxes, Stupid! Not income taxes!” Then there was a loud banging sound. And another, after which the Governor shouted, “I said don’t report the cabins!”  Cristol, opening the door, was almost hit by a flying can of creamed corn.
             So, obviously, cheating on taxes is a big thing.  So big, you needed a lawyer for it.  Dad might have some tax troubles, too, he reasoned. Why not?  He cheated on Mom, what would keep him from cheating Uncle Sam?  Man, this trip sucks so far.
 Braking hard for an upcoming curve in the road, Kevin Strauss checked the rear view mirror to confirm that the four wheeler was okay in the truck bed. He picked up the conversation where they’d left off, as if there had been an intermission and the second act was beginning.“ I know I sound harsh, Wrangler, but it's time you start to grow up. Look around. Look how tough life has been for your mom and me. Being an adult is not easy.” Coming out of the curve and seeing more curves, he accelerated slowly. He raised his voice more than necessary to compensate for the roar of the engine. “All that pain your mother lives with - that’s tough on her.” 

  Wrangler kept his mouth shut. His mother had told him many times that physical pain isn’t the worst pain. Heartache is worse..  She’d said that to him ever since he was really little. “Be a man, Wrangler. Never cheat.” The older he got, the more he understood her words, and the more he understood how hard it could be to stay faithful to just one girl.
              Kevin wasn’t the kind of guy to put down his ex-wife. He was glad the kids respected Jerrie and loved her. When he could, he reinforced it. “That’s one thing I’ll say for your mom. She doesn’t complain about pain. Nope. No matter what,” and glancing quickly at Wrangler again, he said, “Gotta respect that.”
                 Staring out the passenger window, Wrangler talked back to his father in his head. Respect? Who are you to talk about  respect? You disrespected Mom. Said you needed that other woman in your life.  And, hey, what about me and Porsche? We needed you, too. Mom’s right -  it’s always about you

“And what about me? It hasn’t been easy for me, either. Ain’t no easy life being on the S-list in this shitty town. Meth capital of the country. More high school drop outs than graduates. Unwed mothers everywhere. A whole valley of undereducated teenagers  begettin’ the next generation of the same. Everybody brags how beautiful our state is. That’s nothing we can take credit for. Nobody I know built any mountain or carved out any lake. Stupid people everywhere build ugly shacks, we got homeschoolers who aren’t studying anything but what’s behind the zipper of their girlfriend or boyfriend’s jeans, and everybody thinks the government ought to send them a check just for breathing. I wish better for you, Wrangler, but you’ll have to find it yourself. Maybe hockey will take you somewhere.”
                 Taking another slow curve, Kevin rolled down his window and spit out his chaw. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and rolled the window back up.
                 “I’m telling ya all this for one reason. If you stay in Azzolla, you gotta learn to protect yourself.”
                   Wrangler almost snorted, “No offense, Dad, but I’m a better shot than you.”
                “ I’m not talking about guns or fists, son. I’m talking about keeping your mouth shut. I’m talking about lookin’ the other way.  When it comes to the likes of the Saplins and the elite bastard's club, well, you keep your head down. Ya hear me?” He didn’t have to make eye contact, his voice captured Wrangler’s full attention. “Makes you hate yourself sometimes, but it’s better than other choices.”
                Wrangler rolled his window down and spit. Wiped his mouth and rolled it up again window. "Choices? What choices?”
                “See, this is what I’m tryin’ to tell you. This is what you got to learn to get by as an adult in the valley. You wanna have work? You play along. You want your kids to get some breaks? You play along.”
                  “What breaks did I ever get?”
                  “You got to play on the hockey team didn’t you?”
                  “I earned that! I’m the best they’ve got.”
                  “Doesn’t matter. You can be Wayne-fucking-Gretsky and you’ll sit the bench if you’re on the shit list. Lucky for you, your mom and I stay under the radar.”
                   Wrangler wasn’t fully believing what he was hearing, but then his father connected.
                     “I made a small mistake a while back, and you paid for it.  That fine you got for a fish out of season? That was ‘cause I had just ticked somebody off. The wrong somebody.  You even said you wondered why you didn’t just get a warning, like, that friend of yours last year – Carver, was it?”
                    “Yeah, ok, Dan. Well anyway, that’s how it is. That was a message to me to stay in line, or my own son might find himself looking over his shoulder all the time.”
 Kevin turned on the radio and found a country station. For a few miles, the only words heard in the cabin were those sung with a twang and told about a lost love named Ruby. When the final chords faded, Kevin started again.   “You might want to think about joinin’ the military, join the army. See the world. That’s one way to escape this place.”
                   “Not the army, Dad.”
                    “You could do worse, Wrangler. They have guns you’ve never seen before. And, after that, maybe college on the GI Bill.”
                    “No college for me. Nope, not happenin’. Like we’ve always said, I’m either going to play hockey or I'm going to become an electrician, like you.”
                     Kevin Strauss was conflicted; he wanted his son working with him some day. They had talked about it since he was little. But if he got some college under his belt, he could advance quicker and not be a grunt all his life, like his dad.
                     “Just sayin’ – some military, some college, those things could come before working with me.”
                     “Cristol’s dad works up there, and he don’t have no college degree.  If it were so bad, he’d have gone somewhere else, right? Wouldn’t that mafia family fix him up? He’s been there for years, so it must be good up there.  Right, Dad?”
                      Kevin Saplin sighed. “Tad Saplin is a mole.  Everyone knows that.”
                      “A mole?”  Wrangler didn’t know the term.
                      “Yeah, he feeds internal confidential information to his wife and other people so they know what’s coming down. That’s what I’ve heard and I believe it. Knowledge is power.”
                     “So Mr. S. has knowledge type of power, huh?”

            “Damn straight. And it’s stolen knowledge. That’s very dangerous power. You watch out, son. Be careful around them Saplins. I’m telling  you The Family is real, don’t mess with them.”
                       Wrangler thought of Mr. S. as a gearhead, a Mr. Mom. Racing snow mobiles was the one thing he did that was cool, but it wasn’t equal to cloak and dagger stuff.
                       “You want that guy for a father-in-law? Here’s what I know for sure – at work, Tad Saplin is a real asshole. Tries to intimidate everyone. I had a foreman that had a disagreement with him outside of work. Something about a fishing license, and three days later the guy’s out of a job. You tell me that ain’t underhanded.” Kevin looked angry, as if it had happened to him. “The guy had a family to feed. Didn’t matter. “ He spit out the window  again, then said, “Remember kid, your girlfriend’s mother is the governor. If you or I do anything to piss her off, neither of us will ever find work in this state again.”  Kevin Strauss knew he’d dumped a lot on Wrangler in one fell swoop, but he felt he had no choice. Wrangler was dating Cristol Saplin. Wrangler had a driver’s license. There were so many pitfalls…
                   “Wrangler, maybe it sounds like I’m crazy, but you need to know that even something as insignificant as saying you might vote against a local road project can put you on the shit-list.  Believe me, life isn’t any fun when you’re getting pulled over by the police for no cause.  It’s not just once, mind you, but every day for six months.  Think about that. You get angry, but, what can you do? It makes you late for work. What are you going to tell your boss? You look in the rear view mirror all the time. The tension wears on all your relationships,  people begin to think you are paranoid or exaggerating. You’re slowly going crazy and there’s no place to turn.”
                   As his father built this scenario, Wrangler watched his face harden and his eyes narrow.  Abruptly, Kevin Strauss slammed a fist against the steering wheel.  “Damn it.” With only a look and a raised eyebrow, Wrangler asked his dad to explain.
                  “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  You’ve heard that? ”
                  “It means people like the Saplins.  They can be dangerous with all that power and all that corruption. So you be smart. Hear me? I don’t want you gettin’ hurt.”
                  “Mrs. S isn’t going to hurt me, dad. Neither is Mr. S. They like me.“
                  The sound Kevin made was a cross between a snort and a laugh. “Parent’s never like the guy that’s dating their daughter.  That would go against nature.” His smile waned, and he said, “And the guy is always blamed if the girl gets knocked up.”
            “Hey, I’m serious.” He pointed an index finger toward Wrangler. “You be careful. No little Levi Kevin Straus’s running around nine months from now.”
             “Dad!”  Wrangler had had enough. This was getting annoying and his father was worrying over nothing.  “You know, Dad, it’s not like when you and Mom…” He stopped. No one ever wants to picture their parents screwing in the backseat. “Just sayin’,” he felt his face getting warm. “Everybody  is …is… “  He and his father had never talked about this stuff, so he didn’t know how. “Don’t worry, okay?”
           “Look, Wrangler, if you are happy being with Cristol, and maybe in a couple more years, if you kids are in love, I’ll be happy to come to your wedding. But think about what I said. Take a good look at their family. Is Cristol’s mother the kind of person you would want to be married to? “
             “Hell, no!”
             “Well, girls become their mothers.” He saw Wrangler start to protest and cut him off with a raised palm. “Hold on. Think about it. Isn’t Porsche a lot like your mother?”
               It was true. Porsche could be very maternal - bossing, correcting, reminding, defending.  Dan and Carver teased him saying, “Wrangler has two mommies,” But, still, did that prove Cristol would become like Mrs. S? That would suck. He had a vision of Cristol closing a bedroom door, and he, himself trying to sleep in the living room.
              “Cristol is nothing like her mom. Really.  She wants to have babies and stay home with them. Her mother has never stayed home. And Cristol hates her for that.  And her parents never talk to each other, except to fight. Sometimes her dad is gone for weeks and weeks, and her mom doesn’t care. She’s gone, too. But, Cristol, heck, she wants to be with me all the time.”
             “All the time? You like that?”
             “Yeah,” he replied quickly, then added, “I mean, I guess so, um, yeah,  most of the time.” He stuttered. “It…it’s okay.” Then, he admitted, “But, yeah, it can be too much sometimes.”
             “So, I gather that Cristol’s controlling, demanding.  Isn’t that like her mother?”
              He had to agree. “Well, yeah, her mother runs the family. Even Mr. S does whatever she says.  So, controlling, yeah…” And everyone else hates her for it, he thought.
               Yet, he was sure Cristol wouldn’t turn out like that because she wouldn’t have a title like “Governor” or even “Mayor.”  He had to make his dad understand. “Mrs. S, well, you know,  she runs the state all day. When she gets home she can’t turn it off.”
            “Maybe - maybe not. The question is - How are you with being bossed around? I know I wouldn’t like it.”  Kevin was trying to make Wrangler think for himself. What he wanted to say was– Run, son! Run as fast as you can!
            “I’m not bossed around,”  Wrangler said, defensively, “I only go along with the stuff I want to.”
            Kevin was sorry the trip had to start this way, but he was glad they’d had this talk. “Well, just think about what I’ve said. That whole family dynamics thing is a bitch.  You’re a smart kid. Keep your Johnson wrapped and don’t do anything to get the Governor and the asshole her married her mad at you.”
           “I won’t. I’m telling you, they like me.”
            They rode miles without talking. Kevin was thinking about a bet he’d placed on a game being played that day. He switched from the country station and began searching for a sports report.
            Wrangler pulled his phone out to check the time and it was then that he remembered he had a new text. It was from Cristol: “ BIG FITE!! MOM & DAD  TALK N DIVORCE!!!!!  MOM LEFT!!! FLU  HOME!!!"

While reading it another message came in. Again, it was Cristol. "Mom and Dad aren't the ones who should be married. We are. Let's elope when I get home.  NOT KIDDING!!!"
             He returned the phone to his pocket. When he got back he’d have to lie. He'd tell her there was no cell reception out in the mountains. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

White Trash in the Snow Chapters THIRTEEN and FOURTEEN


 by Allison

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real persons is strictly coincidence.  I wrote this for fun, and nothing would make me happier than to hear from Friday to Friday that you are finding some enjoyment in reading the adventures of my fictional characters, the Saplin family.  Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  All rights reserved.

Previous  chapters:

From her very earliest memories, Cristol carried a mental picture of her mom being home every day. Cristol was very young when her mother ran for town council in their small, rural town. Rachael Saplin's first election day victory was, for little Cristol, a life changing event. From her current perspective, Cristol could see that it wasn’t really such a big deal, but that didn’t erase the memory of how it felt at the time.
Four-year-old Cristol hated the nights when her mommy had to “go to work.” The child adored her mommy and followed Rachael around while she got ready to go to “Mommy’s meetings.”  Cristol watched as Rachael loosely pinned her hair up on her head and put on makeup. When Rachael described a certain pair of shoes or piece of jewelry, little Cristol would run and find them in her mommy’s closet and in the pretty wooden jewelry box on Mommy’s dresser. It was a game – “Can you find mommy’s black shoes with the gold buckles? Can you find the necklace with the little pearl?”
Cristol would beam when Rachael praised her – “Yes, those are the pair! Good girl. Cristol is so smart. Oh! And that’s the right necklace. Thank-you Honey. Cristol is a big help to Mommy.” Then Rachael would tell Cristol and Field to “be good for Daddy,” give baby Maple a kiss, and head out the door. 
Cristol would run to the front window and watch the car until it disappeared out of sight. On those nights, Cristol missed having her mommy tuck her in and read a story to her. Tad would read to her, but it wasn’t the same; his voice didn’t sound like Cinderella’s fairy godmother no matter how hard he tried. After he gave Cristol a hug good night and left the room, Cristol would usually cry herself to sleep. She loved her daddy but she wanted her mommy.
For a while, after Cristol had said her “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer with her mother or father, she made a special request. “Please God, send me a magic wand.” Her parents thought it was cute, until one night Tad asked what she would do with it. “I’m going to make Mommy's job disappear. Then she can stay home and play with me!”
The magic wand didn’t show up, and the town council position led to bigger things. When Cristol was eight, her mother put so much energy and time into running for mayor that Field and Cristol felt not only ignored but in the way. In retrospect, Cristol believes that is when everything started to slide out of control. Her parents fought more and talked less, her brother picked on her a lot, and she, herself, began to overeat.
Cristol envied Field when he started Middle School and his world opened up. He and his friends seemed to be doing exciting, dangerous, cool things and once in a while, if she promised not to tell on them, they let her tag along. She loved being included when they were shooting hoops, and she would do almost anything to get to go camping and riding snowmobiles with her brother and his friends. Field was very different from Cristol. He was a likeable natural leader, he was popular, he was smart. Other kids followed him with something close to worship. His venturing was often dangerous and some escapades bordered on - or were – illegal, yet that only made him more of a legend among teen Azzles.
Field introduced his sister to an assortment of vices. At thirteen she lit up her first cigarette when he offered it to her. It was Field who showed her how to use a bong, and gave her her first swig of vodka. There were some things her brother tried that even she disagreed with, like doing crystal meth and using OxyContin. His addictions became well known and Cristol promised herself that she was going to be more careful than he had been. She vowed to make better choices.
Cristol was the only girl allowed to go along with Field and his friends on that Halloween when they climbed over the fence at the transportation lot and damaged forty school buses. Inebriated and high on excitement, she had flirted heavily with Wrangler Strauss throughout the evening. She felt rebellious, grownup, sexy, and independent. It was a heady mix. Wrangler was experienced, he was ready to make a move. But as it turned out, it was Wrangler’s friend JJ that she took home with her.
That night she crossed the Rubicon. Later she told Sparkler she had no regrets. “It was, like, totally awesome,” she said, “If my parents knew they would, you know… kill me. But, hey, if I’m old enough to be left alone for the weekend then I’m old enough to make adult choices. Like sleeping with JJ.”
“Yup, they gave you the house to yourself, well, to you and Field. They couldn’t have really thought he’d stay home. Give me a break. And they probably knew what you’d do.”
“No, not my parents,” Cristol said. “They are pretty trusting. My mom always says, 'Don’t do what your father and I did’. Like that’s gonna hold us back. Ha!”
“Your mom admits they did it in high school?”
“No, not exactly. Mom and Dad eloped and Field came seven months later. She says he came early. So what we aren’t supposed to do is elope, but what she’s really saying is don’t get pregnant and have to elope. It’s weird, but we know what she’s saying even though she doesn’t say it.”
“That’s weird.”
“My family is fucked up,” Cristol sighed. “But as long as they continue to go away on weekends, I can deal with that.”
Sparkler nodded. “You are so lucky.”

Azzolla’s new school psychologist could have correctly guessed how the valley kids were spending their long summer nights - drugs, sex and booze. The eldest Saplin daughter’s trifecta of misbehavior was no different than that of other bored, rebellious Azzlles coming of age in a community of inbred ignorance. There were generally two types of teens in Azzolla, those dreaming of “someday” when they could escape to “someplace else” and those who wanted to be an improved version of their own parents. Field was one of the former and Cristol one of the latter.
In Cristol’s projections of “someday“ she and Wrangler had their own home and four kids. In daydreams she furnished and decorated an imaginary nursery. Other times she made wedding plans. Both visions were soft and romantic, whimsical and elaborate, and provided a private escape from reality.
Wrangler thought that talking about baby stuff was “totally lame and boring,” and  a huge waste of phone minutes. Girls! Always talking about who’s having a baby, and stuff like what color crepe paper to use for shower decorations and what nursery theme their friend picked. He’d lived seventeen years unaware that a baby’s bedroom needed a theme.  Then one Saturday, he realized what “blissfully ignorant” meant when he was forced to leave that enviable state.
It all began normally enough. Cristol was craving French fries again, as she had every day that week. The two of them were in McDonald's in mid-afternoon, fries and sodas in front of them on the table. “I have a problem,” she said. “I can’t buy Sareetha a gift until I know the theme.”
“So? Ask her.”
“Can’t, the shower is supposed to be a surprise.”
“So? Ask her mother.”
“Duh, why didn’t I think of that? See why I love you?”
“You owe me,” he said with a smile.
“I’ll pay up tonight,” she said coyly.
Wrangler liked where this was taking them, so he tried to keep it going. “You always talk about themes. I don’t get it.”
“ Oh,” she brightened, happy to explain. “ ummm, a theme is like, you know, like maybe a froggy theme – Christa’s baby has that. Everything is green and has frogs on it.” He looked at her like she had two heads. “Really, I swear. It’s cute. The plastic baby tub has a lily pad painted on the bottom….”
Wrangler was sorry he’d asked.
 “…and Lannie chose that dumb sponge character. I hate that hideous yellow thing. But, Big Bird is yellow, and I do like him. That’s the theme Tasha picked. Big Bird is perfect for her because she doesn’t want to know if she’s having a boy or a girl. She didn't want to know...some girls do and some don't, but, see,  Big Bird is okay either way. I think Big Bird is a boy, though. Don’t you?”
“Whatever.” He was  concentrating on running some fries around inside a tiny paper cup of ketchup.
“ Peter Rabbit is popular again. It’s that old, old Peter Rabbit from, like, maybe the 60s or something. So cute.”
She took a sip of her Coke and ate some fries. Wrangler blessed the silence. 
“ I like zoo animals, that’s a good theme for not knowing if you’re having a boy or a girl. The sky – you know, clouds and balloons and stuff. Bright balloons!”
He kept his eyes down, didn’t want to encourage her.
“We don’t have to know what the baby is to complete the nursery.”
Wrangler noticed she had shifted from other people to themselves. He began to pay more attention.
“Otherwise, like, ummm, if we were having a daughter and wanted a princess theme - ” 
 “Not happening.” He cut her off, clenched teeth on the straw in his Coke. He let go of it and looked straight at her. “And, you know what? If I ran this place, they would use bendy straws.”
“What?” Cristol had no idea what he was talking about.
“You know, bendy straws, like your mom always gets.”
“No, before that; why did you say “not happening? What’s with that?” She sounded pissed.
He set down his drink and laid an arm casually across the back of the vinyl booth.
“The princess thing - not happening. Not for my kid.”
“Oh, really? Who says?”
“I do. My first kid’s going to be a boy.”  
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah, positively.”
 “Well, maybe your first kid is going to be a boy, but that doesn’t mean my first kid has to be a boy.” 
“You heard me.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“ Think about it.”
“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“Maybe I’ll marry Dan. Or maybe Carver. Who knows? Until I have a ring, anything can happen.”
“Have they been hittin’ on you?” This time, he sounded pissed.
 “Oooooo, do I hear jealousy? Dan and Carver are my friends, too, you know.”
Making Wrangler jealous was a game Cristol enjoyed even though, when the  roles were reversed, she didn’t take it well herself. Sometimes she wondered how she’d been lucky enough to catch him when he could have any one of a number of cuter girls. Sparkler once said it was either because Cristol’s mother was governor, or because Cristol was easy. At the time, Cristol was drunk and didn’t take offense. Besides, she didn’t need to be told that. She knew either could be true and maybe it was both - if she was going to keep him, she needed to have a hook, and one was as good as the other. Lately, they’d been fighting a lot. She didn’t want another fight right now, so she quickly said, “Don’t be silly, they aren’t hitting on me. But, technically, you know, I’m available.”
“Yeah?” he looked out the window at beautiful mountains that surrounded Azzolla. They made him wish he were out there hunting. Not turning his head to look at her, he said, “Guess that's so. And technically, I’m available, too.”
Cristol was getting nervous. “Just sayin’, Wrangler, don’t take me for granted.”
“I don’t.” 
He turned and they gave each other annoyed looks across the Formica table. It was a standoff, Wrangler matched her instructions with a set of his own. “Don’t you start flirtin' again. I heard the rumors. You got around when you were away.”
She laughed derisively. It was almost a cackle. It reminded Wrangler  of Mrs. S, and the thought caused him to feel slightly repulsed. “Yeah but that was because I hated it there. It didn’t mean anything.” She reached over and put a hand on his. “Look at you! You really are jealous!”
They sat quietly taking turns drawing long French fries out of the grease stained cardboard container and sipping their drinks. An old rock song with a summer theme subconsciously subdued them. 
The next song was another oldie – The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The words sleep and lion triggered Cristol’s memory. She asked, “Did your bedroom have a theme when you were a little kid? Lion King or something? That’s what Field had.” While “oh-wing-oh-wat, oh-wing-oh-wat” and tribal sounding instruments continued to play in the background, Cristol happily shared more childhood memories.“My theme was “101 Dalmatians.  I think I was Pride’s age.”
Wrangler was struck by the absurdity of it all. This song is ridiculous, and so is this conversation, he thought. But if he said that, she’d probably kick him under the table. Worse than that, she could go into one of those week-long pouting sessions. It was yet another behavior he’d found she shared with her mother.
“Sure, Cristol, my bedroom had a theme, it was “sharing a room with my sister and trying to keep her out of my stuff.”
 She frowned tightly. “Fine, be that way. I can see you aren’t taking me serious at all.”
“Oh, but I am. Today’s theme is ‘dirty clothes. Actually, that’s been my theme since Mom’s back started acting up again about a month ago.’” 
Wrangler’s lopsided grin was irresistible. Cristol couldn’t stay mad. She gave him a grudging smile.
“And tonight, when my room is glowing from the midnight sun the theme will be “Wishing Cristol were here.””
A shiver ran through her. I totally loved this redneck jock.
Searching with her index finger through the fries, she found what she wanted and pulled it out slowly, saying, “Oooooo, yesssss, I love big long ones.”
Suggestively licking her lips, she cocked her head at him and tried to look cute.  “Let’s get out of here.’
”You read my mind.”

A few days later, Wrangler was explaining the concept of nursery themes to his friend Carver while they were cleaning their guns. Carver had been his best friend since kindergarten. They shared almost everything, and he trusted his friend wouldn’t think he was weird just because he found this difference between girls and dudes interesting. Interesting like a two-headed snake- a useless excess, a curiosity...
“I ain’t shittin’ ya, they spend a lot of money on that junk - nursery stuff and such.  I think there’s, like, a rule that they have to outdo the last girl.
“Why? Who cares?”
“Girls care. Oh, man, do they care.” He was shaking his head, “Serious competition, man. You’d think it was the Iron Dog.” Picking up the bore swab, he turned his attention to the shotgun he was cleaning.
“So what if they win? What’s the prize?’ Carver asked.
Wrangler shrugged. “Whatever.”
Another couple of minutes passed in comfortable companionship while they worked on their weapons. Carver used a silicone cloth to wipe fingerprints off, and finishing one gun, he began the process again with another. Lacking a new subject, he said, “You and Cristol talk about really lame stuff.”
 “Nothin’ lame about the payoff,” he assured his friend. Getting laid was a respectable topic any time. “Talkin’ about babies – that’s an aphrodisiac, scientifically proven and everything. Don’t you know that?”
“A what?"
“You know, it gets you laid. That kind of talk is the key. It unlocks the box.”
Carver wasn’t about to let his buddy think he was superior just because he was hooking up with the governor’s daughter. Carver considered Cristol to be one of the biggest players in the school. He didn’t think his friend, or anyone else, should trust her. “No offense dude, but that box ain’t been locked since that Halloween night when JJ-"
In one smooth move, Wrangler put down the stock he was polishing, picked up a pistol and took aim at Carver’s chest. Carver raised his hands and froze – a reaction stemming from a respect for guns, not a fear of his friend. He looked at the gun, then at Wrangler’s trigger finger, and then at his friends steady gaze. He got the message. It wasn’t I’m going to shoot you, it was Don’t talk that way about my girl. Carver was cool with that. The crack about Cristol had been crude and he shouldn’t have said it to Wrangler. He should have waited and said it to their friend Dan. Dan would love it.
“Whoa, man, take it easy.” Carver said.
An extra ten second made the point, and Wrangler, nodded tersely, set down the gun, and said, “Just watch how you talk about Cristol.” Then he picked up the shotgun and went back to work on it.
Carver resumed his work, too, but inside his head he kept thinking about how Wrangler was changing. Dan’s right, since he’s been with Cristol, Wrangler thinks he’s hot shit. And like Dan says, Wrangler’s making an ass of himself over a girl and she’s not even pretty.”
“You know what you are, Wrangler? You’re pussy whipped.”
Wrangler shrugged and spit on the garage floor. “Whatever.” He turned the stock over and looked at it more closely, letting the comment roll off him. But Carver was worked up, and getting more so.
“No one wants your stupid advice, either.” Carver said.
“Fine. Let’s drop it.” Wrangler said, Then he made the mistake of adding, “Just sayin, when ya talk about babies and marriage, girls get real agreeable.”
“Marriage? You talkin’ marriage, too? Shit, it’s worse than I thought.”
“Nah, Cristol does, not me I just let her.” This wasn’t quite true. Wrangler carried his own when they talked about marriage, he liked imagining a time not too far off when he’d have his own home and a wife (could be Cristol) with a big-belly. It would be a boy. First a boy, then a girl, just like he and his younger sister. Just like Field and Cristol. Yup, that’s how it was gonna be, someday.
Carver shook his head.“Wow, that’s all I got to say. Wow.”
Wrangler threw down the rag he was using and said, “Let’s go get some beer.”

They sat together on the stoop of Carver’s back steps, and after four beers apiece, they were both feeling pretty good. Carver leaned back and rested on his elbows. “So,” he said, “am I going to be in the wedding?”
Alcohol had loosened Wrangler’s tongue and he opened up. The Saplin-Strauss wedding plans, all were explicit and he could recite them line by line. “On a perfect summer day - that’s how she always describes it – in her folks’ yard – here’s how she says it,” he changed is voice to a falcetto, - “With the lake as a backdrop.” Carver snickered appropriately. “Anyway,” Wrangler continued, “People will be sittin’ in folding chairs and –"
“Dude, that’s unbelievable.” Carver commented.
“Why? Folding chairs are okay, it’s going to be outside.”
“No, dude, the fuckin’ details. Unbelievable.” Carver took a long draught and crushed the empty can. “Weddings, folding chairs – geesus, Wrangler, you’re gettin’ soft in the head.” 
“Don’t worry about my head, ole’ buddy. When Cristol and me are talkin’ about this stuff, she gets horny and I won’t be soft. Trust me.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and then held it up, palm toward his “ole’ buddy.” Carver gave it a slap, they picked up the empties and went inside.

Cristol and Wrangler agreed that July, 2009 would be an ideal time for them to publicly repeat promises they were now making to each other privately. Yes, it was true that talking about their wedding plans usually resulted in sex, but, Wrangler also liked coming up with ideas for the ceremony. That was what they were doing on the night before the Saplins were leaving on an Hawaiian vacation.

 “Okay,” Cristol said, “You and my minister hear the plane and that’s your signal to turn toward the lake. Once you turn, my mom stands up. After she stands up, everybody else will. But, I’ve been thinking maybe everyone should stay seated cause when Dad helps me down from the plane, I want our friends to get really good pictures.”

“Nobody’s gonna sit, Cristol. It’s a wedding. People stand up. Sheesh, that’s one thing I know after all the movies you’ve made me watch with you.” Over the summer she’d rented every movie she could find that had a wedding scene in it.

“Not so, Mr. Smarty, it all depends on what my mother does. If she stands, then everyone else stands and if she doesn’t then nobody does.”

“Why? Because she’s the governor?”

“No, silly,” laughed Cristol. “It’s wedding etiquette. You know – a rule.”

 Wrangler looked doubtful. “Are you servin’ me a warm load of moose-pie?”

“No, I’m not, and if you don’t know this stuff I gotta wonder what else your mother didn’t teach you.” She meant it playfully, but he took offense.

 “Oh, yeah? Well your mother is a st-“ He stopped just in time. If he said Ms. S was “a stupid phony and she sounds stupid, too,” the chances of a romantic goodbye would be ruined. He looked up to the sky, counted to ten, and acquiesced, “Don’t worry about me or my mom.”

“You’ll tell her not to stand unless my mom does?”

“Yeah, I’ll tell her. Okay? Let’s change the subject.”

“You better tell your friends too. Those guys don’t know anything, either.” Typical Cristol, piling on even though she knew she had Wrangler beat.

“Whatever. Let’s drop it, okay? Now, tell me the next part again, it’s my favorite part,” he lied.

It was Cristol’s favorite part, however - the fairy tale entrance of the bride and her father. “It is the best part, isn’t it?” she said. Then she began to recite, “As the story of Cristol and Wrangler’s Magnificent Wedding continues, the little red Piper Cub, my father’s pride and joy, docks safely…”

The degree of detail went on ad nauseum – short veil waving in a breeze, bouquet of yellow and orange roses gripped tightly in one hand while she steadies herself with the other hand placed on her father’s shoulder. Carver’s right, thought Wrangler, this is freaky. He continued to half listen. He didn’t care who wrote what vows, or who sang a song, or what the cake looked like.“While I’m on the beach in Hawaii, I’m going to look through magazines and get some ideas for our cake.” When she began to list flavors of cake, flavors of frosting, textures and edible decorations, his eyes glazed over.

Though it seemed to take forever, she finally got to the place Wrangler had been hoping for. On the way home that night he pulled out his phone to text Carver and brag that his theory was tested again and proven true. But, he changed his mind when he saw a message from Carver that read, “Where you at? Lookin 4 foldin chairs? LOL ”

Grow up, Carver, thought Wrangler and he put his phone away.
   Wrangler’s girl had been gone four days and he was drinking again with Dan and Carver, this time  in Dan’s garage. He was maudlin. “Why’d they have to go to Hawaii? Cristol said they’ve never had a family vacation before. Not a real vacation like this is. Why now? This is our summer, our best summer. Ya know what I mean? Next year we gotta get jobs and stuff.” He drained another bottle and threw it ten feet, making it into a barrel. There was a satisfying sound of glass breaking. “Yes!” he crowed, but the elation was temporary.“This is it, damn it. This is the end of our childhood. Damn, ten days is a long time.”

“Bet she’s not missin' you,” Dan said. “ Bet there’s a dude on the beach rubbing sun tan lotion on her right now.” Dan, like Carver, was no fan of Cristol. He often told Wrangler he was “whipped by the ice princess.”

“Shut up.” Wrangler, drunk and lonely, didn’t need Dan giving him any shit.
“Cut it out, Dan.” Carver didn’t want the night spoiled by tension between his two best friends. They didn’t get to hang out with Wrangler much anymore and this was supposed to be a fun night. “Here, I got something for you, Wrangler.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a blunt. “This will help.”

Wrangler took it and lit it. Taking a drag, he let his mind drift. He knew his relationship with Cristol was too intense for his buddies. Maybe they were right. Maybe this time apart from his girl was good for him. That’s what his father said while they were making plans for the hunting trip - the trip that they were going to start on the next morning.

Wrangler and his dad were close. Some of his best childhood memories were made with his dad at his side and guns in their hands, shooting bear, elk, caribou, fishing and riding off-road vehicles. Man stuff. They bonded during those times, and though he knew his sister was jealous over the closeness he and his dad shared, he was protective and selfish when it came to camping trips with their dad. Porsche had looked hurt when she found out about the upcoming trip but, Wrangler refused to beat himself up over it. It wasn’t his fault Porsche was a girl.

Even as he told himself that, he knew it was a lame excuse. Porsche could hunt, fish, and ride an ATV better than any guy he knew. Still, his life had too much women stuff going on and he needed the break. His dad understood the daily concessions Wrangler made, living with two women. And now he had Cristol bossing him around, too. Cristol wanted Wrangler to be with her all the time, which meant hanging out at her house and helping take care of her younger sisters. It could be fun, like when he did the cooking – hots and sausage and burgers and steaks. He even wore an apron! (God, he would never let Dan or Carver know that.) And, how many other guys his age would pitch in after supper to do dishes, clean up, and read to Pride before bed? He was more like their dad than Mr. S.

That was another thing he’d never tell Dan and Carver was that he liked being an ex-officio parent. While barbecuing chicken, tending steaks on the grill, setting out the paper plates, and mixing up lemonade he felt happy inside. It was good practice for the day when he and Cristol would have their own kids, and that was only a few years into the future.
 Cristol’s plan was to be two months pregnant when they finished high school, and not quite four months when they got married. That, she explained to Wrangler, was ideal. He'd have a scholarship to play hockey and they'd live together in campus housing. From some of her brother’s friends, she’d heard of a way Wrangler would be able to college even if he didn't get a hockey scholarship.  As an emancipated adult with a wife and child and not much income, he could take courses for free at the state college and she could stay home and cook and clean and care for their son.
Wrangler’s ideal plan diverged from hers. He didn’t want to go on to college any more than she did, which meant “not at all.” If he could get drafted by a professional hockey team he'd skip the college step and he'd travel with the team. He'd be home in the off season. Kind of like all those guys locally who worked on the Slope. They were away a lot. Heck, Mr. S was away more than most.
Yup, she'd have to understand. But for now, there was no reason to tell her. There would be plenty of time for that later.