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."


Anonymous said...

The top three paragraphs are showing up in my browser kind of messed up, overlapping the content on the right slightly.

Also, paragraph 3 is a duplicate of paragraph 2.

Allison said...

Thanks, Anon. I'm having problems with Blogger today. It's fighting with me, fighting as hard as Cristol with her mother. I have managed to fix most of this, but now there's a double space that won't go away and doesn't belong in the middle of the paragraph. If I understood HTML maybe I could fix it, but I don't and I'm afraid to make things worse.

Sorry, everybody. This is not how I want it to look, but it's the way it is (for now). Thanks for your help @5:20, and thanks to all for your understanding.

Dis Gusted said...

must be fixed because it looks fine and reads great!

Anonymous said...

Fiction my A**.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 17: Cristol wouldn't be a senior in high school, she would be starting her junior year; plus she was 16 as you noted.

Anonymous said...

De Ja Vu!!!! Love it!

Rattletrap said...

Men I get.

Females, not so much.

I love it when you write about women.

Allison said...

Been one most of my life, Rattletrap. And before that, I was a girl :)

If you're happy, I'm happy. (And yes, that's my femininity coming through).

Allison said...

ANON @ 9:34am Great catch! Thank you, thank you! I need careful and detail-oriented readers. Please stay tuned.

Sarah Palin has a serpent's heart said...

Stephen Douglas High would have been a better name for Cristol's school. He ran against Lincoln in favor of slavery.

Allison said...

Thanks for the appropriate suggestion, SPHASH.