Thursday, August 30, 2012

White Trash in the Snow Chapters Twenty-Nine and Thirty

by Allison

       Chapter Twenty-Nine

The somber sky reflected Wrangler’s mood; the cold north winds carried a sense of foreboding. Everything about the early autumn day was gloomy.
His cell rang just as he put the truck into park. He knew the ring tone, it was his sister.  Earlier, he’d been surprised to find she was up having a bowl of cereal when he walked into the kitchen.
“What’s up?” she asked routinely.
“Nothin’” He tried to sound casual. Pulling a box of cereal out of the cupboard, two others accidentally tumbled out onto the counter. One of them hadn’t been closed up, and now there were dry flakes and raisons on the counter and floor floor. Overreacting, Wrangler slammed the cupboard door.
“Shit. Damn it.”
Porsche deftly moved into her mommy role and retrieved the broom. “Are you okay? You don’t look so good.”
“I’m okay,” he said, begrudgingly. While she swept up, he pushed pieces of Raison Brand off the counter and into the sink. “I accidentally broke something at Cristol’s house,” he lied. “I  have to tell Mrs. S this morning. She’s gonna be really mad.”
It was a good lie, and  Porsche believed it, so much so that she asked him to let her know as soon as it was over because she worried about him. Little did she know how much there was to really worry about. Maybe there was some good reason she called -  like maybe his mom needed him back to the house right away.  Maybe he could cut this short, his mom might need medicine, maybe...
“Yo – what’s up?”
“Hey, Wrangler.  Just wanted to repeat my offer.  If things get real bad you call me.  I’ll come right over.”  
“Porsche, I don’t need help. Okay?” It sounded sharp, but jeeze, he didn’t have time for her silly girl stuff. She could turn almost any plight of Wrangler’s into a script for PG movie. Today, she was probably thinking of  Mrs. S as an evil stepmother or something. 
“Cristol’s mom has always liked me, “ she continued, “so if you need support…”  
“Don’t worry. It’s nothing I can’t handle,” he said, not at all sure it was true.
“Where are you now?” she asked.
”Right out front.  Here come Cristol and Sparkler,” he said. “Gotta go.” He snapped the phone shut with his thumb.
It was odd, Wrangler thought, how foreign this felt.  He’d come over to the Saplin’s lots of times, even before he and Cristol started dating.  Today felt nothing like those other times.  He climbed out of the truck and waited there as Cristol and Sparkler  walked toward him.  He realized that, to anyone watching, this looked like just another Saturday at the Saplins.  How can the whole world be turned upside down, and yet everything goes on the same ?  The clashing realities gave him an odd feeling, like being at a carnival with someone who had a fatal disease. That wasn’t an original thought; he’d heard it from Dan when his friend tried to describe learning that his parents were getting a divorce.
Wrangler knew the feeling, too. At the time of Jerrie and Keith’s separation, his daddy was six-year-old Wrangler’s best friend and superhero. Daddy could do anything. He was strong, and fun, and got all excited about the same things as Wrangler – bugs, animals, mud puddles, anything gooey or smelly or loud, and he let Wrangler use guns!.  He taught Wrangler to skate, and fish. And on Saturday nights they watched Star Trek and ate big bags of potato chips! Life without his daddy left a big hole inside. For the first year or two he missed the simple things like watching his father use tools, riding with him in the truck to take things to the dump, and his daddy’s hugs at bedtime.  
Eventually, there came a time when it seemed normal enough for Wrangler to live with just his mom and younger sister, and have his father live miles away. He visited his dad on alternate weekends, a schedule that his mom resented. His sister was supposed to go, too, but she refused, and even with a court order, Kevin Strauss couldn’t make himself pull a crying child away from the mother she clung to tightly. Later, when she was older, she went, but not as often as Wrangler. Wrangler didn’t mind her staying behind, it allowed him and his dad to do “guy stuff.”
Visiting! The word really bothered Wrangler. Kids should not have to visit parents.  Parents and kids should live together. Always. Well, no, not always, not if they didn’t love each other. But they should stay together until the kids grow up and move out.  A teenager should live with  parents, not visit them.  
Almost all his life, Wrangler had only one wish he used on every candle on every birthday cake, and on every falling star: One simple wish: a home with two parents, happy, secure and loved.  Some people had that. Why couldn’t he?
It occurred to him that he was soon going to get his wish. Cristol and he would stay together. It would be the way it was supposed to be. Even though he was the father, it was the basic version of what he’d wished for –  an intact family where the mom and the dad loved each other. 
The time he spent imagining fatherhood brought another pang of regret. For the last three or four years he had tried to get out of the weekend visits with his father. Once he got into middle school, friends and activities had crowed into the weekend time that some judge somewhere had generously given to his dad. What did a judge know about a boy’s life? Wrangler had stuff to do - hockey practices, dates, and school activities. Even a carwash fundraiser for the wrestling team had looked like more fun than going to dad’s. Whatever the excuse, Keith always said he understood.  And Jerrie seemed happy every time Wrangler made that call to his dad.
Wrangler loved his mom and knew life had been tough for her. Most of the time, he tried not to see that smallness in her.  Most of the time he succeeded. He excused her for the way she’d made it hard for  their father to see him and his sister. Even now, after all these years, she resented it when Dad and the kids did something special together. Not one Christmas morning had been spent with Dad since Wrangler was six. Neither was he a part of Thanksgiving Day; no watching Macy’s annual parade with Daddy, no father carving the turkey. Ditto for kid’s birthdays. All holidays and occasions were spent with Mom and her family.
His Dad tried to make special times on other days, maybe a week or two following the “real” occasion. The three of them, Kevin, Wrangler and Porsche called one particular restaurant “the dad’s diner” because they noticed it seemed to get a lot of dads with kids on weekends , and he’d heard “happy birthday” sung by probably every wait staff member who had worked there in the last ten years. His dad’s own birthdays and father’s days had usually passed without Wrangler even making a call to the old man.  It didn’t seem to matter – until now. Wrangler promised himself he would call him tonight and see if they could meet at “dad’s diner” tomorrow. I’ll even pay the bill, thought Wrangler.
Cristol was nearly to the truck when he opened the truck door and climbed down. Wrangler was five inches taller than Cristol, and as they embraced she laid her head on his broad chest.  He pulled her tight against him.  They stood that way a several minutes. He didn’t want to let go.  He didn’t want to go inside.
She found herself listening to his heartbeat and wondering if the baby inside could hear it, too. She’s read that a baby could hear the steady rhythms of its mother’s heart, and she imagined that at this moment, their baby was feeling secure hearing not only her heart, but also Wrangler’s.  She had no doubt that, in some mysterious and timeless way, their child understood the messages of love enveloping him in his secret hiding place inside her. Two hearts pounding out an assurance that they loved each other and loved him.
“I love you,” she whispered, keeping her cheek pressed against him.
“I love you, too,” he said softly, she felt his breath on the crown of her head.
Finally, they separated, he took her hand, and they headed for the house.  Sparkler followed behind.
Chapter Thirty

None of the three teenagers had ever before experienced such powerful silence. Rachael was in denial, having difficulty processing what she’d heard.  It was Sparkler who had blurted “Cristol’s pregnant” after it became painfully clear that Cristol couldn’t say it herself. Rachael  stared wide-eyed at Sparkler, who was staring at the floor.
On the oversized leather sofa, Cristol sat rigidly between her boyfriend and her best friend, tightly holding on to Wrangler’s hand on her left and squeezing Sparkler’s in her right. In the background, a television commercial’s happy jingle irritated them all. They couldn’t have known it then, but it was a harbinger of the endless flow of ludicrous periphery that would accompany the parents and grandparents of the child in the womb.
Rachael’s face grew red and her chest heaved; Sparkler wished she had never agreed to witness it.  This furious woman in the room wasn’t just Cristol’s mom, this was Governor Saplin.  This was someone who could mess up your life if she didn’t like you. “Never hurt a Saplin kid,” her parents’ warning rang in her head. “Whenever you can, be on their team.” Wow, here she was on their team, alright! Running interference for Cristol, but getting in the way of Rachael Saplin! This wasn’t smart. Sparker wished she could become invisible.
Sparkler cringed watching and waiting for words from Mrs. S. The governor’s lips were pursed so tightly, there was only a line across her face.  Then, she sucked in a breath through clenched teeth, and hissed it out again. She stood up and looked  down at her daughter, hands on her hips. Finally, Rachael spoke. “Cristol, is that true?”
Cristol dropped her eyes, hung her head, and hid behind a curtain of long hair.
Rachael turned to Wrangler. “Isn’t this fantastic?” the sarcasm was thick.”My sixteen year old daughter is pregnant. I wonder how that happened?“  She glared at the boy. He blushed and looked down, too.  Though he had long hair, he wasn’t as lucky as his girlfriend, the mullet didn’t hide his face.
 “For heaven’s sake Cristol! Say something!”
“I’m going to have a baby, mom.” These were the words she had practiced and, to her own surprise, they came out the way she had rehearsed  She promised herself she would stay calm  or the baby’s sake. It wouldn’t be good for the baby if she got hysterical.
“Yeah, right, that trap’s already sprung,” her mother sneared. “What are you going to do, get married? At sixteen?  Because if you think that, you are wrong, young lady. Your father and I are not going to allow you to marry some white trash…”  the look on Cristol’s face stopped her cold.
Rachael crossed her arms and walked over to the big windows and searched the sky over Lake Azzolla. She kept her back to them as tears began to roll down her well-rouged cheeks, wet lashes streaking the lenses of her glasses. She didn’t even try to wipe the tears away. “Oh my God. I can’t believe we are having this conversation.”
Sparkler wanted to die. Wrangler wanted to leave. Cristol wanted her mother to hug her.
“Wrangler and I are in love, Mom.” Cristol wasn’t reciting this time. She nudged Wrangler and made a hand motion to encourage him to say something.
 “Yeah,” he said.
Cristol glared with eyes that said Is that it?
Wrangler began tentatively.“I love Cristol, Mrs. S.”  He stopped, cleared his throat, and continued, “ and I’m looking forward to being a father.” It sounded rehearsed. It was rehearsed. 
There was no reaction.
“I’m sorry.” He added. That was spontaneous.
Rachael spun around and put her hands on her hips.“Sorry? You say your sorry? My chances to be Vice President are ruined and all you can say is YOUR SORRY?”
“I gotta go,” said Sparkler.  She jumped up from the sofa, sprinted across the room, plowed through the dozen pair of shoes deposited by the door and not closing the door, she picked up her speed outside and never looked back.
“Ha. See that Cristol?” Rachael said, “That’s only the first friend who will run off and leave you behind.  Better get used to that. Your life is going  to change so much you won’t even know who you are.” She sat down and put her head in her hands. Everyone was silent for a few minutes. Then, she said, “You and Wrangler made this mess, don’t think for a minute that I’m going to take care of this...this kid. In case you haven’t noticed,  I’m just a little busy. And besides, I’m too old for all that work - pat-a-cake and wiping messes  out of little butt cracks. If you keep this baby you are doing all the night feedings, doctor visits, and all the dirty diapers  - all yours to deal with, they aren’t mine..”
“No body’s asking you for help! Why would I expect you to be a mother to my baby when you’ve never been a real mom to any of us?” Cristol let go with a dagger to the heart. The sharpest of weapons, it had been designed by Rachael herself. Shaped by self-absorbsion and baked in Cristol’s kiln of resentment.
Cristol began to sob. Wrangler sat and waited, not knowing what to do. He didn’t have to wait long. Rachael gave him orders. “You!” she pointed to the door, “Get out!” Her arm was as  straight and locked as a bird dog’s tail.  Wrangler was ready to leave, he welcomed this development. But before going, he gave Cristol a big hug, lingering as long as he dared,  and whispered “I’ll call you. Love you.” He did not hurry as he walked to the door. He maintained his dignity, slowly and firmly shutting the door behind him.
Through the big windows on either side of the door Cristol and her mother watched Wrangler’s truck back out of the driveway. Neither spoke again until he was out of sight.
“Go to your room, Cristol,” Rachael said wearily. “I’ve got to think.”
Cristol stood and headed for the stairs. The open floor plan gave her a view of the kitchen, dining area and living room as she climbed and paused at the landing. Her mother looked small but dangerous, like a pit bull that’s been trained to attack. Rachael had gone to the desk and was scribbling furiously on a tablet.
Cristol went to her room, shut the door quietly, and sat on the bed, slowly running her hands over her growing belly.  "You aren't a secret anymore, little one," she said softly. "And I'm glad. 'Cause keeping secrets is really hard." A deep weariness came over her and she laid her head on her pillow. Very quickly she was asleep.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bonus! Not 2, but 3 chapters (and Maple learns she's going to be an aunt) White Trash in the Snow Chapters 26, 27, 28

by Allison


“There it is. That’s the issue with an article about mom in it.” In a shabby, crowded newspaper and cigar shop inside the shabby, not crowded AK Mall, Cristol reached for the latest copy of Newsweek. “It’s got a nice picture of her, too.  I’ll show you.”  She flipped through a few pages and held it out to him.

“Umm.  No glasses.” Wrangler didn’t care about Governor Saplin’s first nationwide news coup. He had bigger things on his mind. But he knew Cristol wanted to brag, so he attempted to show interest. “Where are the glasses?”

“She thinks she’s more glamorous without them. I don’t agree. She’s got that funny eye. And she wore her hair up, but I think she should have worn it down. She says ‘her brand’ is an up do. Whatever ‘her brand’ means.”

“Yeah, whatever. Your mom say the dumbest stuff.”

The shop owner, a short, bald, pasty-faced guy was hovering near them. It was obvious he thought they might steal something. Wrangler resented it, even though he had some sympathy for the guy when he looked around at the high, tight rows of small items.  Probably a ton of chewing tobacco, candy bars, and Playgirl magazines find their way out into the mall inside other people’s jackets, he thought. But I’m no thief. Just cause my hair is long, he’s thinkin’ I’m a bad-ass…

“C’mon Cristol, let’s get out of here.”

The issue of Newsweek was shoved in the pocket where US News belonged, and Cristol hurried to follow her boyfriend who was already out the door. Catching up, she took his hand and fell into step with him. They mutely strolled, each absorbed in thought. After passing three shoe stores, Famous Fannie’s Falafel’s and a men’s clothier, Wrangler asked the question that was formost in his mind.

  “When are you going to tell your parents?’ he asked.  Just bringing it up made him feel a little better.

“Umm, I’m sure you mean when are we going to tell them. You’re gonna be there, too, Mister.”

“Well, sure. That’s what I meant. ” His voice was low and even softer than usual.  “So when? And how?”

“I think Dad’s going to be home this weekend. I guess we just sit them down and tell them. We could catch them both home at the same time if we do it early enough Saturday morning.

“What about Pride? Is she gonna be around?”

“I thought about that. Usually she stays over at my grandparents, but they can't take her this weekend.  I think I'm going to have to tell Maple to keep Pride busy for us. She'll do it if I tell her why.”

“If you tell Maple, you better be ready to tell your folks right after that.  You know she’s a big snitch.”

“There you go again. WE are going to tell them. Not just me."


Cristol gave him an elbow in the side, but otherwise dropped it rather than making it a bigger issue. They already had a big issue to settle. "So anyway, you are right about Maple, but we don’t have any choice.  We have to trust her.”

Wrangler shrugged his shoulders. They walked further thorugh the mall, turned a corner, and Wrangler stopped to admire a pair of cowboy boots on display. “Half-price sale!”  He brightened, distracted by tooled leather, pointed toes, and a large red tag.

“They're not for you.  We have to save our money now. And pay attention, Wrangler. What I'm saying is important. ” Cristol shook her index finger at him. It was so cliché, Wrangler could almost find it funny - almost but not quite, because his pregnant girlfriend was completely serious. In fact, she had been nothing but serious ever since that pee stick turned blue.  That day when she’d called him up to tell him, the “good news” she’d sounded happy,  even bubbly, but that had only lasted two days. Ever since then  she’d been grumpy, serious, and bossy. Cristol treated him like property.

“Wrangler?” Her voice interrupted. “See what I mean? You don’t pay attention.”

“Pay attention to what?” he snapped back.

“To the subject at hand.” Even she knew she sounded just like her mother. “We need to save all our money for diapers and stuff, remember?”

Wrangler frowned. “I told ya. I’m gonna get a job. I’ll take care of him...and you,” he said. “My momma raised me to be a man.”

 Cristol saw an opportunity and took it. “You aren’t half the man my father is. You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t shoot you on Saturday and give you to grandpa for his collection.” (Buck Heat had more taxidermy on display in his house than any museum in the state.)  

“That isn’t funny,” Wrangler said.

“Actually, Wrangler, you are right. Nothing about this is funny. And my dad is definitely not going to think this is funny. So be prepared…”

“D’you really think your dad will shoot me?”

“Get real, Wrangler, of course not,” she scoffed. “I’m the one he’s gonna want to kill.”

She saw the look on his face and said, “That’s a figure of speech, Stupid.”

“Don’t call me stupid.”

“Well, sometimes…”  Satisfied that she’d gotten the last point in that verbal volley, she redirected the direction of conversation. “What I really expect to happen is that they’ll both yell some and then Mom will remind him that they weren’t perfect at our age. She won’t go so far as to admit they were fucking in High School, but I know they were. I won’t say it, though, ‘cause last time I said that, I got grounded.” Something about the chance of getting grounded now, after getting pregnant, amused her and she smiled to herself.  

They slowed to look in the windows as they walked past  the GAP. “I wish GAP carried maternity clothes. Then we could go in an I could try some stuff on.  You could tell me how I look…”

Wrangler had a frightening thought. This was the voice he would wake up to for the rest of his life. . He and Cristol Saplin were tied together forever. Shoot me now, Mr. S!  Please!

Oblivious to her boyfriend’s state of mind, Cristol droned on,.“Anyway, this is about us. If things get too bad, I will tell them they have no right to point fingers. They may have been in their twenties when Mom got pregnant, and not as young as us, or we, umm... but still, they weren’t married-”

“Whatever,” he said, cutting her off. “I only hope it doesn’t take long.”

Cristol stopped walking, causing a sharp tug on their arms as his momentum continued an extra two steps. “Look at me, Wranger. Look.” He looked down, directly at her belly. “Not there!” She snapped. With index and middle fingers of her right hand, she pointed steadily at her own eyes.  “Look right here and listen.”  When he’d obeyed, and she’d held his eyes with hers for a few seconds, she found her scolding voice again and said, “God, Wrangler, we’re talkin’ about the rest of our lives. You think maybe you got an extra hour on Saturday for something as important as the rest of our lives?”

Wrangler looked duly chastised. The rest of their lives. Wasn’t that what he’d just told himself? No coincidences. He began to feel ill.

In the sprinkling of lethargic mall shoppers strolling the corridor, Cristol spotted a familiar foursome at a far distance.  Lannie, Jennilee, JJ, and Porsche were entering an electronics store. She hurried to finish her reprimand. “So, it will take as long as it takes.  My folks need to understand that we aren’t just having a baby, we love each other. If they aren’t cool about it, maybe I’ll have to move in with you and your mom.”


She frowned. “I know you heard me. I said maybe we should live together at your house.”

Immediately he had the thought My sister would hate that, which was quickly followed by Then the guys will say I have THREE mommies. He put his hands in his pockets, his shoulders sagged, and he subconsciously looked around for the nearest exit.

He didn’t have to suggest they leave, Cristol was already  headed  outside and pulling Wrangler along with her. 


Maple was folding laundry. It was what her mom called her “family contribution”(in other words – chore) and if she got it done on Thursday night, it wouldn’t mess with her weekend social schedule.

“Maple we’ve got to talk”  Cristol interrupted her sister as she was trying to figure out how to fold a queen size fitted sheet. Maple glanced at her and kept on rolling the yards of pale blue cotton blend.

“Fine, but make yourself useful and help me fold this thing,” Maple replied.

Cristol reached out and took hold of  a puckered corner of the sheet and began working with her sister to figure out how to get it under control. She glanced at Maple  with a sense of sadness. Her sister had the same long, straight brown hair as Cristol, same dark eyes, same baby-round face, but she was much prettier. For a moment, Cristol was struck with the thought that pretty soon Maple would start dealing with the temptations of cute guys and pressures of wanting to be popular and wanting to have a guy to be with at dances and hockey games. Hey, maybe she already was wrestling mentally and physically to set some boundaries for her dating life! She wouldn’t have confided in Cristol. They were more like enemies than friends.

But, still, they were sisters.  Nobody better hurt her, Cristol thought. If they do, they’ll have to answer to me and Wrangler.  Wrangler already thought of Maple and Pride as his little sisters and he’d already told Cristol that he’d beat up anyone who messed with them.

“Hey, umm, Maple, I need your help.”  Cristol took a deep breath and felt the heat of tears in her eyes. She  fought against them, and plowed on,“I’ve got to tell Mom and Dad something and it’s going to be really hard.”  

Maple stopped mid-way through folding a top sheet. She recognized something in  Cristol’s voice – a funny pitch that was almost always a  harbinger of bad news. This was the voice that confessed to being involved in the Halloween spray painting fiasco. And the voice that had denied, then admitted to drinking on the field trip when the hockey team won the state championship. It was the voice that confessed, after Field blew her in,  to having a stash in her room. Oh yes, this was that voice, and with curiosity and concern , Maple waited for Cristol to compose herself.

“Saturday morning, will you take Pride outside to play, maybe walk around the lake or something.?  Get her out of the house for about an hour?”

“Saturday morning I’m going to a Junior High hockey match. That’s why I’m folding this stuff tonight. “

“I need you.” Cristol whined. “It’s really, really important.” Suddenly, tears came in a torrent. Cristol dropped to the floor in a heap and covered her face with her hands.

Maple had no idea what was going on, but she knew it had to be bigger than weed hidden under the bed. She sat down on  a basket of folded towels and laid her hand gently on her sister’s shoulder. It upset her to see her older sister this way. Gently, she asked, “What happened? What is it? Whatever it is, it will be okay.”

Cristol usually dealt with frustration, anger, and fear by controlled breathing. It had worked that first night the family spent in the governor’s mansion, and the time Field and Dad had gotten into a fist fight so bad that Field said he was going to run away.  It was a useful tool in her mental survival kit. While Maple waited, Cristol took three deliberate breaths, exhaling slowly each time. After the third breath she spoke, “It’s a baby.”  She took another breath and looked up. Maple was staring at her.  “I’m having a baby.”

Maple’s eyes got very large. Neither spoke for a minute, Cristol sobbing quietly. Maple picked a hand towel out of the clean laundry and gently wiped Cristol’s cheeks, one, then the other.  Though there was still silence between them, it was a comforting silence. Cristol took the towel from her sister’s hand and dabbed the corners of her eyes. She shrugged, sniffled, and smiled weakly, “Guess that means you’re going to be an aunt.”

Cristol and Maple had separate lives. The three years difference in their ages put them into different circles of friends and gave them different opportunities.  But they had always loved each other, even if they fought a lot. When it came to family stuff, like hating to campaign, making fun of their mother, and picking on Pride, they made a strong team.  

There had been times when they saw things the same as Field, and then other times when the two of them agreed and differed with their brother.  For instance, when Dad’s business partner had been around way too much, and, Field said the guy was hitting on Mom, they agreed. But when their brother said “Mom’s been flirting with him, too,” the girls vehemently defended Rachael. He was wrong.  

“Flirting is cheating and  Mom wouldn’t cheat on Dad,” Maple had declared and Cristol had nodded like the dog in the back window of a ’57 Chevy.

“Mom winks at every body, it doesn’t mean anything and that’s not why the business got sold.”  That was Cristol’s contribution to the logic puzzle.

Maple took another turn. “It definitely did not and could not have had anything to do with an affair!”

Cristol moved in for the rebound.“Yeah, that’s impossible.”

Field didn’t really care to play the game. He flipped them the bird and left the house. They both gave Field the silent treatment for a week afterward. He didn’t even notice.

Yes, the family had withstood challenging times before and they would again. But they would always look back at the  twelve months from May 2007 to May 2008 as a having presented a particularly generous cornucopia of crises.


Sparkler couldn’t say no to her BFF.  The final version of the plan was agreed upon  after an hour of discussion which included  bouts of tears from Cristol and, occasionally, some very heavy wet blinking by Wrangler. Keeping things within normal parameters while assembling the cast and crew, it was decided that Sparkler would sleep over on Friday night, and  Saturday morning, 9 am, Wrangler would show up at the house.  Up to that point, everything would  look like a normal early October Saturday.  After Wrangler came in and they told Mrs. S. the good news (that was how Cristol was going to present it), Cristol’s life as a normal teenaager would end and Cristol’s new life as an adult would begin.

Mr. Saplin was going to work overtime and would not be home, a fact that Wrangler took as a sign of good luck. For a brief time Cristol considered cancelling the plan, worried that her mother might get so distraught she’d have a heart attack (after all, she wasn’t young, she was over forty).

“If you don’t tell your Mom this weekend, the baby’s going to do it for you,” said Sparkler. She was right, Cristol wasn’t hiding it well at all.

“Shit, this sucks,” said Cristol “Okay, we’ve got a game plan. Saturday is it.” Then she made them review it one more time.

“With you there, Sparkler, Mom will have to behave; it will keep her from throwin’ things. Once she’s calmed down, you can leave. You know, after the screaming stops.”

They had already told Jerrie, taking the opportunity while Porsche was out with her boyfriend, Wrangler simply said. “Hey Mom, how would you feel about being a grandma?” He had expected crying and yelling, but his mom acted like this grandchild was the best news in the whole world. Cristol told him it was “more than a little weird.”

Now that the date was set and the plans made, Wrangler found time speeding by faster than an opponent’s hockey puck. Before he knew it, it was Saturday morning.
He rehearsed while he drove over to the Saplin’s. The words still stuck in this throat. It didn’t help matters that his square jaw was locked and his hands were sweaty. He looked in the rear view mirror and saw someone he didn’t know in the reflection. He saw someone’s father.

Hope it’s a boy, he thought. I know I can be a good dad to a boy.  I’ll teach him to skate and we’ll play hockey. I’ll teach him to use a gun and we’ll go hunting. His grandpa Tad will teach him how to handle snow mobiles, and together there ain’t going to be anybody can beat the Strauss-Saplin racing team. He hung on to happy thoughts, and pushed his doubts from his mind. I’m ready for this. It’ll be awesome.

Wrangler’s truck made a wide turn into the long driveway passing the hand painted sign “Keep out! Proceed at your own risk.” He put his foot on the brake and looked at the Saplin mansion. That’s what Wrangler called it. Compared to the bungalow his mother raised he and his sister in, the Saplins lived like kings. Compared to almost anyone else in Azzolla, the Saplins lived like kings.

He’d heard talk that the Saplin’s had gotten some under the table deals when they built this house and he believed it was true. Tad was a real wheeler-dealer and arm twister and had a wife with the power to back him up. No one crossed this family, his dad was right. Maybe that group his dad talked about, The Family,  was into construction, too. Could be.

His parents had told him Mrs. S had a nickname in high school  “Rachael the Rottweiler.” He’d seen her mad and it still fit.  And, to his amazement, Mrs. S mentioned it some times. She liked it.  He hoped he wasn't going to see "Rachael the Rottweiler" in action on this Saturday morning. She looked so ugly when she was angry. If she knew that, maybe she'd be nicer. To be prettier. It was a weird thought but he pushed himself to expand on it because it was meaningless. It was a safe haven from the dangers he was trying not to think about.
So he thought about high-school-age Rachael Heat. She had been one of those girls in school who call themselves CAMPs. Cristol said being a member of CAMPs was family tradition, her mom was a founding member. How stupid, he thought. Girls can be really cruel to each other.  If my baby’s a girl, I won’t let her get a big head, even though she, if it is a she, will be a pretty one. My mom and Porsche are pretty, and so’s Mrs. S., he thought.   And Cristol, well, she’s okay. Cuter before she got fat, but, that’s  temporary. Wrangler Strauss doesn’t date any real bow-wows, he told himself.

Mrs. S will be a good lookin’ grandma. “Grandma Rachael” Oh boy, as much as Mrs. S likes titles, he was pretty sure she wasn’t going to like that one. What could she do to get even? he wondered. Will she send that Family out to get me?  Dark thoughts attacked.  He envisioned flying monkeys and could hear  music from the Wizard of Oz playing in his head; a sinister rhythm that generations of adults and children recognize: Dum-da-dum-da-daaaaaa-dum. Dum-da-dum-da-daaaaaa-dum.

“Keep Out!” registered in his peripheral vision, Didn’t the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow get the same warning?  Wrangler was shocked and self-embarrased to find he felt a kinship with those three. His hands were shaking and his mouth was dry. Could he hide it from Cristol?

The car crept closer to the house but Wrangler didn't hear the gravel under the tires.  Dum-da-dum-da-daaaaaa-dum. Dum-da-dum-da-daaaaaa-dum.

NEXT WEEK:     The Governor learns she's going to be a grandma.

This book is a work of fiction.  Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously.  Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.  Contact Allison at


Monday, August 20, 2012

CUTE!!! Levi's Girlfriend Sunny Oglesby's Pregnancy Photo Shoot

Sunny Oglesby, the pretty 20 year -old who is counting the last few weeks before she and Levi Johnston see their daughter Breeze Baretta face to face, recently had a whimsical photo shoot with Candid Chaos Photography.   Lucky for us, Candid Chaos has a Public Facebook and posted some very cute shots of Sunny in the late stages of maternity. All pictures below are the work of Candid Chaos Photograpy of Big Lake, Alaska. (Big Lake is where Sadie is living.)  The artist is young, her Facebook page is one year old (July 27, 2011) and even if her grammar is poor, I think she did a wonderful job on these pictures.   Take a look:

Finally, someone from Wasilla whose photographs make you smile instead of wince.  My own opinion (I have a lot of professional photographers in the family, but I'm not one) is that these are better than the hockey puck pictures we saw of Bristol, and by far more enjoyable than Mercede's Playboy shoot, or Levi's Playgirl poses.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friday - Fun with Fiction! White Trash in the Snow, Chapters Twenty-Four and Twenty-Five

 By Allison


Hanging out in the garage after school, Cristol and Sparkler were sharing weed and gossiping about classmates.
“I heard Sara Luna’s pregnant.” 
“About time, she’s been tryin’ for half a year, hasn’t she?”
“Yup, at least.”
“Who’s the father?”
“She hasn’t said.”
“Think she knows?”
 Sparkler took a drag, and passed the joint to Cristol. “Your Mom hasn’t noticed yet?” –
“Nah, she’s too distracted.”
"Distracted?  How can anyone be that distracted?"
Cristol just shrugged. She had always been average size but fluctuated depending on level of activity.  She was almost thin by the end of a summer of swimming and hiking, but somewhat plump after a winter of watching television.  Her sophomore year had been kind to her; she developed  nicely, and last  June she’d been thrilled when boys commented on  a MySpace bathing suit photo she posted. "Sexy bitch” and "HOT!" were exactly the kind of responses she'd been seeking. 
Mellowed and nostalgic, she remembered the heady sense of opportunity and entitlement she'd enjoyed when wearing the skimpy suit around those boys in early summer. Good feelings swept over her, partly from picturing favorite scenes from summer, partly from inhaling.  Picturing herself in a red two-piece, she unconsciously ran her hands down her tummy, directly into a bunched up center pocket of her hoodie sweatshirt where she'd stuffed tissues to try to camouflage the size of her belly.   Suddenly, June seemed like a very long time ago.  
            "What about Field? He hasn't said anything either?" Sparkler asked. 
            “Nah. He's trying to spend as much time as possible with his girlfriend before he leaves. Brianna's at college, you know.  Left last week.  So he goes up there all the time."
             "He's probably afraid she'll find a new boyfriend when he goes away."
            "Probably. She's too good for him anyway. Minister's daughter with a loser like my brother - it never made sense to me."
             They sat and thought about Field and Brianna. 
            Cristol hadn’t fully forgiven her brother for that episode last spring. Who was he to snitch on her for using drugs?   This was her turn to do the same things he'd done and she wasn’t going to miss it. Before she knew it, she’d be old, too.  Old and a teen mom. She took the joint from Sparkler and put it to her lips.
            "So, he hasn't seen you, or hasn't noticed?"
             “He hasn’t paid any attention to me since he came back from Michigan, except to make trouble. Fuck him. Now it’s all about him getting ready to go away. Army this, boot camp that…mom and dad don’t talk about anything else. Well, not any other family stuff – they always have time for mom’s work," she said with clear resentment. "Anyhow, it's keeping mom and dad preoccupied while I figure out how to tell them."
              “I’m hungry, let’s go to McDonald’s,” Sparkler suggested. “I could go for some burgers, fries and guys."
              “Sure,” Cristol agreed.”I could go for a Big Mac and fries. Giant fries. I’m eating for two.”

Though Cristol didn’t realize it, Rachael had noticed the sweatshirt phase and chalked it up to an identity statement, thinking that maybe Cristol was trying to look like the other kids.  Most families couldn’t afford to shop like the Saplins. Neiman Marcus and other high-end stores in the city were pricey, and most Azzolla shoppers were Wal-Mart clientele.  
The other possibility Rachael considered was teenaged rebellion. That thought almost made the governor happy. If it was rebellion, it was  a quiet rebellion, lots better than the stuff Field put  them through, she thought.  At least they'd never have to force Cristol into joining the Army. 
In the end, hoodies were nothing to make into a “flippin’ big deal.” She told  Tad exactly that, and warned him against getting into anything with Cristol about her attire.  That would just be a distraction, and Rachael and Tad couldn’t afford distractions.
Tad had agreed. He never had any intention of starting something over what the kids wore. It was no concern to him.  He had his priorities.  “We’ve got to stay focused on promoting your career, no silly   distractions.  Hoodies? Why would that matter to me?”
 Cristol's clothing became an unexpected gift to Rachael in one way.  It gave her mother something to talk about to boost her  image as a concerned and involved parent. At  a birthday lunch for one of the Elite Seven, Rachael brought up Cristol’s sweatshirt phase and asked for advise.  One friend suggested maybe Cristol needed to have something in her life over which she had complete control.  "If that's what it is, it's wonderfully harmless and it sure beats other choices, like becoming bulimic or anorexic.”  The Elitist then turned the direction of the conversation toward herself, and reminded the group that her niece had been hospitalized twice for anorexia. Rachael hardly pretended to listen, she was distracted with thoughts of food, now that food had been introduced into the discussion.  
She played with her Ceasar salad and wondered if she should be worried that Cristol was plumping up.  But, no. Rachael herself had been a large girl in High School. Thick thighs  helped her compete in track meets and intimidate smaller girls on the basketball court.   Even in her Miss Azzolla days she carried extra weight. Cristol probably was beginning to show a hereditary tendency toward a solid build. That was all, wasn't it? That, and the need to control something were conspiring together to put a few extra pounds on her.  It was annoying for Rachael, but nothing to lose sleep over.
After that, whenever Cristol’s intentionally sloppy attire began to irritate Rachael, she reminded herself that Cristol had found two relatively harmless  ways  to deal with her teenage issues. Some day soon she would reject baggy sweatshirts and want to get her weight under control. She just needed time.  These thoughts allowed Rachael to stop worrying and be thankful.
Tad and I are lucky. Some kids give their parents much more to worry about.


“… and, Cristol, don’t wear that dress you wore for the Christmas picture, that brown thing wasn’t flattering on you.  When did it get so tight?  Put on that sweater I picked up for you last week in New Orleans. The color looks great on you, and the paper might run the pictures in color."
As always, Rachael told  each family member what to wear to be photographed for publicity shots. This time a reporter was coming to the house, and Rachael wanted  the “just normal folks” look. Cristol had tried to convince her mom that one of her hoodies would be appropriate (the hooded sweatshirts with the front pockets -her everyday wear for a couple weeks now) but that hadn’t worked. She dug into the back of the closet and found the new sweater in a heap of discarded tops– right where she threw it after trying it on the afternoon her mom gave it to her.
The soft sea-foam green was her favorite color, and normally a size medium fit well. But she wasn’t her normal size any more. She tugged the V-neck sweater over her head and pushed her arms through the long sleeves. One look in the mirror confirmed her fears. Her boobs stretched it out above, while her tummy challenged the side stitching at the waist, more than hinting at her condition.  Maybe, with a t-shirt underneath, it would look layered. Layered stuff gets tight sometimes, right?
“Cristol! Get down here!”
She hastened to remove the sweater, put on a white t-shirt, and get back into the sweater before her mother came up to see what was going on.  It seemed a miracle that neither her Mom nor Dad had yet  said anything about what, to her, were obvious changes in her body - clothes getting snugger and snugger.
Today could be the day.  Okay, if this is what brings it on, so be it.
“Cristol, get down here RIGHT NOW!”
Cristol stuck her tongue out; it was a natural reaction. Impudence, even unobserved, made life more bearable.
She posed one last time in front of the full-length mirror. It was no use.  There was no way to stand, pose, or position her hands  that would hide her baby bump. The best she’d come up with was to clasp her hands low in front – definitely not up high, that really accentuated the protrusion. Letting them hang down loosely at her sides wasn’t any good, either. And, besides, that felt awkward. No, she would have to lightly clasp them under the curve and pray that God would somehow make this bump invisible to the camera.
 Broadcasting her bad attitude by clumping down the stairs, Cristol resentfully joined the rest of the family gathered in the kitchen.  Tad was combing snarls out of Pride’s hair and she was whining. Rachael was re-applying lipstick. Maple was eating cold Kraft macaroni and cheese.
Cristol’s phone notified her of an incoming text.  It was from Wrangler.
 “ luv  u  &  r   secrit  2 ”  
“He’s here!” Rachael announced.  "Tad, stop doing that. Pride looks fine. Come with me, we should open the door together."
Cristol quickly  texted “U 2” and stuffed the phone into her back pocket.  Okay, she told herself. I can do this.

He was quick and professional. Twenty minutes after introductions, the shoot was almost done. The digital camera had already stored 30-40 variations on the same theme: The Saplin family is wholesome and happy.  The bucolic setting of the lake at sunset was too good to pass up and all the pictures had been taken outside, some on the lawn and some at the airplane dock.  Everyone had worn jackets, and Cristol was sending mental thank-yous to Jesus when the photographer said, “Let’s take a few more inside.”
In the kitchen, he grouped them in front of the picture windows, still using the lake as a backdrop even though it was getting dark.  Pride positioned herself front and center, but he asked her to move to her left, which put her front of Cristol. 
Thank you, Jesus.  Tense, but surviving, Cristol held her breath.
"Beautiful. Look right here. Hold it..” The camera whirred and clicked in rapid succession, indicating three shots taken.
Cristol smiled. This hadn't been so bad after all.
Then, something inspired the reporter to move Pride slightly toward Maple, leaving Cristol completely exposed.  “Okay, everyone, this is it. Look right here.”  He held a finger in the air, then snapped four more shots. 
“Thank you all. I really appreciate all the time you’ve given me. I’m sure there are some great shots here. Thank you, Governor Saplin. Thank you, Tad. This was very generous of all of you.  You have a lovely home and a lovely family.”
“Of course, our pleasure, and be sure to mention in the story that I’m getting national attention and Newsweek and Vogue are both gonna interview me –“
“Of course, Governor, I’ll work that in. Thank you again, and good night.”  It was over! Cristol made a straight line for the stairs and closed herself in her room.  She had promised Wrangler a call as soon as the photographer left, unless, of course her parents had something they wanted to talk to her about. 
“Hi Babe!” Her bright greeting told him what he needed to know. The baby was still their secret. He was relieved, and yet, he wasn't.  Deep inside, he hoped he would never have to have a formal sit down with Mr. and Mrs. S.   If they discovered it themselves,  while he wasn't over there, it would be so much better - 
"Isn't that funny?"  she asked.
"Yeah, Babe. Sure."  He had no idea what he'd missed.  Nevertheless, he got away with it, and she kept on babbling. He made himself actually listen while she told him about being able to wear a coat for some of the pictures, and how Pride stood in front of her in others.
“Only at the very end did I have to worry. That' s where my bump was probably noticeable, but he won’t want those pictures.  I made sure of that.   I didn’t smile and, you know how it is - they only like smiley pictures. And, besides,  we were all worn out. Everyone else must have looked pretty tired by then, too.  That's bad in photos.  My mom always has a fit if they print pictures that aren't flattering.  They know not to do that. They wouldn't dare. My dad would call them up and..."
Is she ever going to shut up? Wrangler wondered.
Finally, she said,  "So, anyway it’s all good. How was hockey practice?”
Wrangler bragged a bit,  and then they talked about another  couple they'd seen publicly and viciously arguing in the cafeteria at lunch time resulting in the breakup of a long-term relationship. “I can't believe they broke up after all these months.  I would never break up with you, Wrangler,” Cristol promised. “You are perfect for me. And I know you are going to be the best daddy ever. What we are going through right now – all this, umm...this stuff ?  I just know it will help us stay a strong couple forever.  You know what I mean?"
Wrangler understood exactly what she was saying. They had something good.  Even if there was a baby on the way, that was just a bonus. 
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Nothing’s ever gonna break us up.”  

Later that evening, the photographer selected the photo to accompany the story about Governor Saplin and her lovely family.  Her lovely, smiling family. Something drew him back more than once to the final picture of the group.  The oldest girl wasn't smiling, but it was a great shot in composition and lighting, and there was drama in the darkness of the sky and lake beyond the window.  He studied the  look on the teenage girl sensing something deep going on, something much more interesting than a smile could ever be. 
When he submitted his work to his editor, he made his pitch for the picture he liked best – the very last one. “Sunsets and lakes are great if you don’t have interesting subject matter, ” he said, “But look at this one. See it? The  teenager with serious eyes juxtaposed against the carefree smiles on the younger girls; the parents kind of above it all. I tell you, there’s something intriguing there.”  
The editor agreed and the article was scheduled for the Sunday magazine section.    

* * * * * * * 
Thank you for being here, friends.  If you've missed any previous chapters, there are links provided below.  Have a wonderful Friday.

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.