Friday, July 6, 2012

CHAPTERS ELEVEN and TWELVE of White Trash in the Snow

 FIELD, Field, Field  - oh my!  It's Friday with the Saplins ! 

Thanks to a new Palin Place reader who alerted me to a problem with the links to previous chapters, I have changed the links and they should work.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Remember, 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. 
All rights reserved.

Even twenty hours of sunlight couldn’t pierce the clouds of depression that enveloped Field Saplin. In the nearly seven months since his Mom took office as Governor, Field, like his sisters, had struggled to adjust to a new school, a different routine, and a borrowed house. Unlike his sisters, however, he did that while in exile in Michigan.
It wasn’t because he missed his parents; being without them was normal. Growing up Saplin meant being supervised by grandparents and aunts and uncles, if at all; and when each turned thirteen, they were allowed to stay home alone, even at night.  It had taken a toll on all of them, though it was most evident with Field. The older he got, the wilder he became. He flaunted the law like an Alaskan senator.
The one good thing about Michigan was that people didn’t know about his “little genetic problem.” That’s what Brianna called it. He was only twelve when he began to question who he was. Not in the normal meaning-of-life way, but literally. He wondered who fathered him. After a couple years in school, teachers, playground supervisors, and cafeteria ladies might confuse him with another, younger kid - a boy named Kenneth G. Krebs III.  Both were blue-eyed blondes with lopsided smiles and dimples and funny ears that had a quirky little folds at the top.
In elementary school it became a kind of joke. Then Field matured enough to think about it. By the time he entered Junior High, nagging suspicions prowled like unwelcome visitors in his head, though he lacked the courage to confront them. Through seventh and eighth grades, he suffered in silence.
Then came the inevitable – someone else made the connection. Field was fourteen at the time and had just won a brawl against a much larger boy, establishing himself as a high-school level tough guy. He was strutting proud, letting girls fuss over him and accepting kudos from the guys, when, after the high-fives and slaps on the back began to subside, a frienemy said “Congratulations, Saplin. You’re a pretty good fighter for the son of a dentist.”
 He trudged home with a tear in his shirt and dirt on his jeans; threw away the shirt and put the jeans in the wash. He felt numb, and it had nothing to do with the physical fight that day; he was pummeled emotionally. How was he to handle the rips and the dirtiness he felt in his heart? When the ties to your very own father have been torn away, what do you do? Throw that part of who you are away?  How do you do that?
There was no denying that his ears were like those of his godfather, who was a dentist. The doctor’s son, Kenny, had them, too, and so did Joseph Krebs, the dentist’s brother. Joe the plumber, had done work for the Saplins last year and he’d joked with Field that if the size (large) and shape (funny) of ears indicated brain function, the two of them were “twisted geniuses”.
Images flashed through his head. Images of his mother with…he spat, wiped his mouth, and said aloud, “Mom and Dr. Krebs? GROSS!”
At home that afternoon he got sick. In the bathroom, he found a bottle of Pepto Bismal, but it was too late. He spewed the contents of his stomach. Retching and being alone after school were a miserable combination. No one had ever felt sorrier for themself than Field Saplin on that day. He washed his face, then studied his reflection. Does Dad know? Does Dr. Krebs know?” Wryly, he mimicked a Fox News reporter “Breaking news! Mayor Saplin Caught in Pregnancy-Related Lie!” It was no use, he couldn’t cheer himself up.
He locked himself in his room, pissed and perturbed and blaming himself for not having caught on much earlier. He imagined confronting his mom, “You say you’re a Christian, and you say there’s no such thing as coincidence, so, Mom, why do I look like creepy Kenny Krebs?” He imagined his mom breaking down and confessing. Confessing how she and Dr. Krebs hid their sin. She’d make some Bible story out of it, probably say they were like the original sinners Adam and Eve except instead of fig leaves they used three little letters.  G-O-D in front of the word “father” covered what they didn’t want exposed. She might even quote that verse that says “The truth will set you free.”  
“Shit, I think I’d rather not be free,” he mumbled to himself.
Field stayed in his room when others came home; he said he was sick. He played X box until it bored him, he pulled out his library of porn and vigorously pursued happiness. For a fleeting moment he felt better, then started burning some incense and smoked a joint that he had hidden away. Nothing was enough to stop the pain.  The self -imposed isolation lasted three days. Then, he came out and joined the world, but he was forever changed. 
First, came fights with Tad, even though, even to him, it didn’t make sense. Here was a man who had been cheated on and who had stepped up and become a dad anyway. Why should he take the first hits? But, literally, that’s what happened. Field initiated a confrontation, threw a punch and the two of them went a few rounds. Tad was almost proud of Field for taking a swing at him.  He simply thought it was that stage most boys go through on  the way to establishing their independence.
Field’s anger toward his mother showed in other ways. Rachael became the target of merciless sarcasm.  Unwittingly, she gave him numerous opportunities. She bragged about being an “ethical watchdog;” she said she supported “family values”; she introduced “the Saplin kids” at events. Field was hostile and cutting. His bad behavior embarrassed her,  but Rachael made excuses for him. “It’s all part of growing up. He doesn’t mean it. We have to let him figure out what’s right for him. Different styles of communication, that’s all this is, he’s, well, he’s just experimenting...”
Tad disagreed. “Experiment with rudeness? I don’t think so, Rachael.”
“Oh, but it is. I remember when my brother went through this,” she said. “It’s normal. He’ll outgrow wanting to be a tough guy and settle into some kind of nice, normal adulthood. He’s not meant to be a bully. Deep inside he’s a milquetoast.”
“Don’t ever say that!” Tad snapped back in anger. “No son of mine is a milquetoast.” Rachael had made a big mistake. The funny sounding word was in her mind because Tad had used it recently. He’d used it to describe a certain dentist who’d called to complain for the umpteenth time about Rachael’s extension of the closing time for bars. He lived too near to two of them, and was often disturbed between 3 and 4 am by rowdy patrons.
“His problem is he doesn’t drink enough,” Tad had said with no sympathy. The exact phrase Rachael remembered him using was “Sissy milquetoast.”
 After that disagreement, Tad let Field get away with more than rudeness. Field became a time bomb, and in his junior year of high school, he exploded.
It was during an Azzolla Red Devils hockey game, when Field and an out-of-town opponent were preparing to face off. “Aren’t you Field Saplin?” the boy asked.
”Yup, that’s me.” Field puffed out his chest, imagining his reputation as a formidable opponent being bandied about the visiting team’s locker room. He took his position, eye on the puck, ready to prove the rumors were true. “So, you heard of me, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah, everybody’s heard about you. You’re the kid that showed up nine months after the dentist filled your mother’s cavity.”
After the referees separated them, the other boy was taken to the hospital with a broken hand and Field was thrown out of the game. Rachael and Tad were furious that their son had embarrassed them yet again with his poor sportsmanship.
”So, what happened this time?” his mother demanded when he got home.
Field was ready for her. “You tell me, Mom. Tell me why I look more like my dentist than I look like Dad!” The perfectly delivered shot was Field’s first score of the night. More followed.
Rachael’s defensive instincts took over. She suggested that hormones were fogging his thinking. When that didn’t work, she played the victim, she said she was hurt that he had bought into “that ridiculous conspiracy theory” made up by “wackos” who wanted to damage her reputation. She claimed she’d been a target for years. “Folks have been makin’ that stuff up ever since I first ran for city council,” she said.
“Rachael, why don’t you go upstairs?” Long ago, Tad prepared himself for this day. The evidence was too strong to deny, and he had nothing to be ashamed of. (Actually, he had plenty to be ashamed of, but nothing his family was going to find out about., and nothing directly related to Field’s paternal genetics.) “We always agreed that we would tell him when it was the appropriate time,” he reminded her. He pulled out a stool at the kitchen counter and sat down. “Well, it looks like it’s that time.”
“I hate you,” she said to Tad, then turned and childishly stomped up the stairs. And she wonders why the girls that, Tad thought. A door slammed and then there was silence.
Tad could hear the second hand on the kitchen clock ticking counting down to a conversation neither of them would ever forget.  He motioned for Field to sit on the stool next to him, and took a couple oranges from a bowl on the counter. He  handed one to Field and kept one himself. It was a perfect distraction and cover. Digging into the thick rinds, the boy and the man avoided eye contact. With a citric olfactory accompaniment that would forever link the scent of oranges to Field’s memories of this conversation, Field heard the story of how he came to be.
When he was done, Tad said,  “I decided it didn’t matter, I’m your dad and that’s that.”  
Tad admited that it wasn’t easy for him when Field’s godfather showed up at track meets and cheered loudly for Field, or hustled up to the boy when the team came out after hockey games.
“How can you stand it?” Field asked, perplexed.
“Life happens. Get over it. Move forward.” It was great advice, and Field was able to apply it. Sure, he cried in private and later confided in his girlfriend, but sooner than he’d expected, he found a modicum of peace. At times, however - times when Rachael and Tad were away or when his dad was beginning a month of fishing or a whole season of snowmobile race prep – Field asked himself What would it have been like if I’d been raised by a dentist?

One night, not long after Field learned the truth, Rachael and Tad called a family meeting. “How would you all feel about moving to Washington?”
“And live near grandma’s sister? Why?” asked Maple.
“Not that Washington, “ said Rachael, “the capital, Washington, DC.”
Cristol looked confused. Maple looked like she was thinking about it. Pride hadn’t heard, she had Cristol’s iPod turned up too loudly and was wearing a set of earbuds. And Field didn’t hide his feelings. “No way! God damn it, Mom! No!”
Rachael, consumed by her career, had expected all her children to be excited about their mother taking this step toward becoming a national figure. Instinctively she understood Field’s response came in part out of his closeness with Dr. Kreb and the doctor’s parents who were like a second set of grandparents to Field. She could not let the girls learn the truth.
“Girls, upstairs. Now,” she ordered. She put one hand on her hip and with the other she pointed in the direction of balcony railing.
“But, Mom,” Maple began to protest.
“I said NOW!”
Cristol took Pride by the hand and headed up the stairs. Maple held back and glared at her. There was a standoff between mother and daughter that lasted thirty long seconds. Then Maple stomped her way to the staircase and pounded her way up it making loud, angry thuds that bounced off the walls of the cavernous lower level. The stomping in the upstairs hallway ended with the slamming of a door.
“Where do they get that behavior?” Rachael asked rhetorically.
Tad was amused that she would even ask that, but he was too smart to answer. He got up and turned up the volume on the TV. Not to cover for Maple, but to cover up the discussion that would ensue.
Rachael stood and paced. “I guess you could live with your grandparents.” Rachael told her oldest child. She didn’t wait to hear if he wanted that,  her maternal instincts had atrophied years earlier.  “I’ll talk with them,” she said, as if she was doing Field a favor.
 “Nope, don’t bother.” Field said. “I’ll bet my real dad wouldn’t mind having one more dog-eared kid around. They’ve got a huge house and a huge dining room table. They even eat meals together.  Imagine that,” he added sarcastically.
The words had exactly the effect Field intended. All three of them knew that the Krebs would welcome Field into their home, and that, in spite of his bad choices and troublemaking, their love was unconditional.
But this wasn’t about Field, it was about Rachael’s political career. That would be the only reason to move to the beltway, and it couldn’t succeed if people learned the truth about Field and Dr. Krebs. It was hard enough keeping their son’s misdeeds under the radar of public scrutiny without having Rachael’s secrets unearthed, too.

 Field’s “bad choices” as a youth constructed a long record of juvenile delinquency. By seventeen Field was at risk of doing jail time. One day, in a closed courtroom, the judge issued a stern warning to the young man and his parents. It was made clear that even “a gubernatorial candidate” wouldn’t be able to get him freed if he came before that judge again. Humiliated judge’s scolding, Rachael and Tad argued late into the night, unable to agree on a face-saving solution.
Across town, Field’s other father lay awake wrestling with the same demons, thanks to being tipped off by the judge. Azzolla was a small town and the judge’s daughter had a beautiful smile that showed off some of Dr. Kreb’s best corrective work. His Honor was very grateful to Dr. Krebs. He would do the best he could to help Kenneth with his own kids. Field, he knew, was biologically a Krebs, and letting the doctor know about Field’s last warning was a simple case of quid pro quo.
Dr. Krebs went to the local Saplin for Governor campaign office the next morning. He ignored two women making campaign posters with pink and green markers, and marched into the office in the back where he found her sitting behind a desk signing papers. She looked up, surprised. “Kenny! So nice to see you! Are you here to help?”
“In a way,” he said as he shut the door. “I’m here to help Field.” He sat down across from her and leaned forward and folded his hands on the desk. “I’m worried about him, Rachael. He’s a troubled kid.”
“Oh shoot, Kenny. He’s just being young.” Her gum snapped and she gave her old flame a flirtatious smile.
“Rachael. Listen to me. If he continues on this path he’s on…” he paused when Rachael help up a hand, palm outward.
 “You’re over reacting. Sheesh, Kenny, don’t I know my son? Don’t you worry.”
“Don’t worry? Wake up Rachael! It’s not just Field, you know. All your kids are in trouble! All of them!” 
The smile was gone.  He was glad to see he was getting through. But then,  she glanced quickly at the door  and he knew she wasn’t worried about the kids, she was thinking about the people in the next room. 
“Damn it, Rachael. Stop this foolishness about running for Governor and be a mom for once. Be the mom God want you to be,” he implored. “Time might be running out for Field. I hope not, but even if it is, do it for the girls.” The set of her jaw told him he’d better hurry and finish. Soon she wouldn’t be hearing a thing he said. “I’ve been praying you, and the kids and Tad. I promised God that today I’d put action to my words, so here I am. God gave you children, Rachael, not political props.”
There it was again. That Bible-based criticism that she abhorred. And coming from Kenny made it all the worse. It was like a knife in the heart.
She slammed down the pen on the desk, and attacked. “How dare you come in here saying such thing? How dare you?” She stood up, her hands were balled into fists. This put them face to face and he saw her eyes narrow and flash.“My children are doing fine, I assure you. As for Field and his boyish escapades, well, it seems you should know, that’s what boys do. Kids test boundaries. My kids are brighter than most, and perhaps that’s why they can think of so many ways to …” she stopped herself. “Why am I explaining this to you? I don’t need to explain anything to you. You’re just…well, you know what you are.”
The implication was that Kenneth was only a sperm donor. Rachael loved that phrase, “sperm donor,” almost as much as she disliked the radio personality famous for using it. Rachael thought the radio doctor was far too extreme in her disapproval of working moms. It was her opinion, the talk show host needed a new attitude.
Kenneth Krebs II may have been a sperm donor, but he was a also a Christian who, on that day, was on a save-the-children missionary trip that had taken him into the den of a momma bear. Like all good missionaries, he tried to swallow his fear face his dangers with courage. “Rachael, the whole town’s gossiping about your kids.” Her eyebrows furrowed. “It’s bad.” He lowered his voice, “Drugs, sex, booze…Cristol and Field.”  He hated what he was doing, but he forced himself to finish. “Maple, she’s even…well, I don’t know for a fact, except…except you better watch that boyfriend of hers.”
Rachael sank back into her chair like a balloon deflating slowly.  Kenneth took a seat, too. He remembered one more thing, though now it seems almost petty.“And, Rachael, how can you keep taking them out of school to travel? How can they keep up?”
She put her elbows on the desk and her hands covered her face. Totally withdrawn, she said nothing. He waited. He thought she might be crying.
The silence became too much for him. He quoted a corny line they had come up with together, long ago. “Our lives are intertwined like vines.” As soon as it was out of his mouth he felt stupid; God that sounds stupid. This isn’t some afterschool special Lord, help me do this right..
“For God’s sake, Rachael, show me some respect. Think about what I’ve said. The kids are more important than politics, aren’t they?” He was finished. She remained withdrawn and unresponsive. He was sure he’d failed his mission. Exhausted, he got up and left the way he’d come in.
“Vote for Rachael, she’s the Real Deal,” one of the ladies chirped as he hurried past them and out the door.
By the end of the week, with his godfather’s help, it was arranged for Field to spend his senior year of high school in Michigan, where Lydia Krebs, Kenneth the first’s wife, had been raised. Through their connections, a family with a boy Field’s age took him in for the school year. It was a good decision, the school had a competitive ice hockey team which became the explanation for his spending time in Michigan. “Better than spending time in prison,” quipped Rachael’s dad, Buck when he was told.
Last month Field had returned to Azzolla to “graduate” with his class. His adopted (sort of) grandparents Krebs gave him a combination welcome home and graduation gift – an energetic puppy.  Filed named the dog“Fraud” as an inside dig against his mother’s deception.  It raised eyebrows at first, until Rachael came up with a lie.
 “Hmmm, interesting name,” the falafel-making lady said when Field stopped while walking the dog to buy some of her wares.  Rachael was with them, and quickly came up with a spin.
“His name is F-r-e-d not F-r-a-u-d. We pronounce it like that because we’re teasing Field.  See, he picked up this mid-Western accent, yup. You bethca, of course you heard that our boy was away playing hockey in the big leagues and being watched by scouts, and again, we are seeing great things, he’s gonna get some offers any day now. Golly, that’s a hard-working young man we raised, which of course, he’s never been any trouble…or in any trouble, and it’s…of course his father- that’s Tad – his father and I, we’re so proud.”
Damn she’s good, thought Field. If I'd had that talent, I could have gotten away with a lot more shit.
Azzles suspected that lies prevailed when Saplins spoke, but they accepted it as a given. No one but Field himself actually knew all the misdeeds he had done. And no one knew all of Rachael and Tad’s less-than-honest deeds, either. Small town rumors are passed down from parents to children like an inheritance and Cristol’s enemies made sure they repeated what they heard, not only to each other, but to Cristol and her friends. People said her mom had made it with a half dozen guys in high school, and that Field’s dimples were a proof that their mom was a slut. Cristol saw the dimples in the cheeks of Lydia Krebs, Kenny and Kenny, Jr., but she never talked about those things. Instead, she took on the mantle of “slut,” called herself that, semi-jokingly, diluting the impact of the word when someone else used it.

Cristol had missed her brother during his banishment. She missed him and, at the same time, she was mad at him. How could he have left her alone to deal with their parents? How could he just move out when he knew how much she needed him? Why couldn’t he have just promised he would straighten up? If he had begged Mom and Dad they would have given in. They never mean what they say. He knows that.
Deep inside, she knew why. She knew he resented their parents. When he got in trouble he went on the offense, saying something like “Don’t pretend this is about me. I’m just getting in the way of your plans. You’re afraid you might not get that next trophy or title or donation. It’s all bullshit. I hate you.”
Over the months he spent in Michigan, Field changed, at least that’s what Cristol and Maple said. Their brother was no longer fun. He was quiet and brooding. Sometimes he was surly. If Field had shared his feelings with Cristol, he might not have felt so alone. They both missed the innocence of childhood with its carefree endless summer days and the feeling of security.  Cristol in particular longed for the feeling of those days when her mother was home more than at the office. Before Mom’s job became all anyone cared about around the Saplin household. Field, if he’d been honest, would have had to that he  wanted to be noticed, to have a say in his life, and to be respected. Both really wanted the same thing -  to feel loved.


Anonymous said...

Pivoting. When people try to deceive they seem to only fool themselves. The more they do it, the harder they fall. Good work, Allison. You paint a nice canvas!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your writing. I have enjoyed all of the chapters but these two are my favs.


Rattletrap said...

I don´t read fiction. Don´t have time for it.

I read this.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Lot's of typos in the last chapter. You should fix them.

Jo said...

These are really good, and I would not be surprised if they weren't somewhat close to reality.

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

So you're literally giving up on creating even a somewhat accurate portrait. Well, at least you have a disclaimer because all of the above is based in BS.

Have you ever wondered what the people you're slandering would feel inside after reading your stories? Are you that sociopathic?

Anonymous said...

Good thing this is fiction because this is the only ear comparison you need to realize a bunch of hateful lies have been told.

tinytwotone said...

You are a very talented writer. Really fine prose.