Friday, August 3, 2012

Chapters Nineteen and Twenty WHITE TRASH IN THE SNOW

Even though this chapter includes one of Bristol Palin's go-to words,  "puke,"  readers should not confuse the character Cristol Saplin for the Palin family princess. This is fiction. Any similarity is coincidence.  But you already knew that, so read, enjoy, have a great weekend.

White Trash in the Snow
by Allison

Pulling away from the porcelain, Cristol thought about staying home from school. She washed her face while she imagined the consequences of her options. It was mid-August and school started only two days ago; most teachers were still reviewing old material to see how much had been retained over the summer. She wouldn’t miss anything important in the classroom, but -
Another wave of nausea rose and fell. Shit! She couldn’t think about school. It was a day to puke and go back to bed until she had to puke again. If she felt better by noon, she would get up, and add some more music to her iPod, then watch TV and eat ice cream. (Lately she’d been seeing more of Ben and Jerry than Wrangler.) Maybe she would do the homework she didn’t do last night. And maybe not.
Shit! The reality of staying home came on as suddenly as the nausea.. If she skipped school today, Sparkler’s cousin, Jennilee Jones would be free to upsize her daily flirtations with Wrangler. It was no secret that the tall blonde cheerleader was competition for Cristol and would stop at nothing to win the attention of the boy she called “the dark haired hunk.” Wrangler couldn’t be trusted, either. If Cristol were not in school today, what would stop Wrangler from going home with Jennilee?.
Jennilee was Porsche’s best friend and spent a good deal of time at the Strauss house where Wrangler’s mom pretty much let the kids be kids. They went there if they skipped school. They had no curfew, and anyone was welcome to spend the night. Cristol had even stayed overnight. Porsche’s MySpace was littered with pictures of good times with her best friends. Dozens of pictures posted this summer showed Porsche with Jennilee, an assortment of friends and an assortment of booze. Cristol didn’t let Porsche take pictures of her for that very reason. They would end up on MySpace.
Wrangler didn’t do MySpace, and like Cristol, he didn’t like his picture taken. But once in a while he relented, or his sister caught him in the background.  It totally pissed off Cristol whenever Porsche posted photos of herself and her friends drinking with Wrangler.  It always made Cristol suspicious that Wrangler wasn’t being faithful. Everyone – Wrangler, Porsche, Sparkler, and all their friends – knew Cristol’s reactions, yet Porsche flatly refused to remove any of them, and added to the online collection as often as she could. Sparkler suspected Porsche and Jennilee wanted to bait Cristol into a fight with Wrangler over the pictures, and warned Cristol not to take the bait. They both knew that when it came down to it, Wrangler would defend Porsche’s right to have pictures on her MySpace, and a fight would work out to be an advantage for Jennilee.  It wasn’t rocket science. Everybody knew that.
Only yesterday, Sparkler had offered a solution. “I’ll pick a fight with Jennilee. I’ll beat her up for you. I’ll break her pretty little nose. Wrangler won’t look at her after that.” 
The idea sent Cristol into a gale of giggles, but she couldn’t agree.  “You can’t do it,” she said.  “It would backfire somehow.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“I know I’m right.  Wrangler would end up giving her sympathy.”
“Strauss style sympathy – the kind where underwear is optional.”
Cr istol giggled. Sparkler was right. That would be just like Wrangler.
The memory of that line of Sparkler’s pushed Cristol to get moving. She washed her face again, brushed her teeth, picked up yesterday’s jeans from the floor, and dragged herself to the closet to pick out a comfy hoody.  Thirty minutes later she was outside Azzolla High, the scanning crowd of mingling students.
Where is Wrangler? He better not have skipped today. If I got here, he better have….  She spotted him over by the edge of the parking lot with Dan and Carver.   They were laughing and hadn’t yet spotted her, but she overheard part of their conversation. “…and she’s really toned,”  Wrangler was saying.
“Who’s really toned? Jennilee? Oh, wait, you’re talking about Lannie!”
“Oh, uh, hi Cristol,” Wrangler stuttered. He didn’t look her in the eye.
It didn’t matter what he said. It wasn’t a question as much as it was an accusation. Texts and calls had come in on Saturday night telling her that Wrangler had been flirting with Lannie Rias Saturday afternoon in Walmart.  He’d told Cristol he couldn’t help babysit Pride because his mom wanted to pick out some school clothes for him and his sister. It had sounded like something Wrangler’s mom would want to do, so Cristol hadn’t made a big deal out of it. Not until the first text came in while she was home eating ice cream and watching some lame rented movie  her dad had forgotten to return.
Lannie and Cristol used to be best friends and it was Lannie who, late in seventh grade, had first noticed how cute Wrangler had become. Lannie and Wrangler had dated, things had gotten serious, and Lannie had openly shared with Cristol and Sparkler the intimate details.Though Lannie had been his most steady relationship, Wrangler “went with” several girls at one time in eighth and ninth grades. He liked to say he was just “a good ‘ole boy and couldn’t be tied down.” 
Maybe it was jealous rivalry, maybe it was hormone-driven attraction, but whatever it was, girls had been vying for Wrangler’s heart and parts for a long time now. It was stiff competition. Cristol hadn’t even been a runner up through those Middle School years. It wasn’t until late May, when she returned home for the summer, that Cristol began to triumph. Finally, she was on top and now, she was scared to death of losing him.
The two of them had lost some friends over their hook up.  People took sides when she broke up with JJ after she’d been with Wrangler behind his back, and of course they both lost JJ’s friendship.It embarrassed her to remember how possessive she had been of her former boyfriend. Paranoid that he would cheat on her while she was far away, she had behaved like a controlling bitch, sending at least thirty text messages a day to interrupt any wayward thoughts or actions, stalking MySpace for postings or pictures to suggest that he’d been with other girls, and freaking out if he didn’t call every night. The kid put up with a lot, only to have his girl make it with one of his friends as soon as she returned for the summer.
Lannie had still, technically, been Wrangler’s girlfriend when Cristol first had sex with him. It made Cristol fearful that karma was going to get her. If he left Lannie – “toned Lannie” - for her, then what would keep him faithful to Cristol now?  Nothing except keeping an eye on him, which was why Cristol fought the battle to stay in Azzolla for the school year. Her mother had been right. It really was about Wrangler Strauss.
All the  thoughts that flashed through her head reinforced the strong suspicion that it was Lannie’s toned structure making these guys almost giddy on a Monday morning. I hate Lannie. She and her obsession with dance. I’d be thin, too, if I had dance lessons twice a week. Real dancing has to be a lot harder than basketball. She’s in great shape.
Gradually, over the summer, Cristol had gotten  chubby. Last week Maple said loudly, while they were with a group of cousins, “Hey sis, you’re getting’ to be a real  porker!” Cristol tried to give her a punch in the arm, but Maple was expecting it and stepped back. The fist whiffed through the air along with Cristol’s words. “Shut up! It’s just water weight.”
Since then, Maple had been calling her “Water-Weight.” Maple was good at being rude.
This morning, what Cristol assumed was water weight was bulging around her middle. Her new jeans were already too tight. Why can’t I get regular periods? Why do I have to be one of those girls the doctor talked about. One with an irregular period.. She said it takes some girls four or five years before it straightens out. What if I’m one of those that doesn’t get regular until I have a baby. I need to have a baby so my periods will become regular Ha! Like mom would buy that story! She was momentarily amused. But her next thoughts weren’t funny at all.
Maybe it wasn’t water weight. She had to admit, she’d been eating a lot of junk food.  If she could just fight her craving for “Moose Tracks” she was sure she could be in shape for the school’s Fall Formal. It was one of the big events of the year. It wasn’t the dancing she looked forward to, no, not at all. (Even with music playing, she moved like a refrigerator). She was looking forward to shopping for a sexy dress and going to the parties afterward. It would be a drink-till-you-pass-out night when parents didn’t expect you to come home until morning. There was no way she’d miss it. Damn, I’ve got to start a diet today.
Wrangler had turned back to his friends, which annoyed Cristol all the more. She was wasn’t done making him pay for his flirtations. Touching Wrangler’s arm, she gave him a snide smile “Toned - is that what they call it now?”  Carver and Dan snickered. Wrangler reddened. Cristol pulled Wrangler by the hand and he broke from the group. Side by side, they walked into school.  
“So, who’s toned?”
“You were saying, ‘she’s toned’.  Who?”
“Yeah, ummm,  I was just…” he stammered.
“Just what?” she demanded, coming to a standstill in the center of a hall and forcing other kids to flow around them.
“Just saying that Lannie is toned.  So what?”
“So, why? ”
“Why what?”
She raised her voice. “Why were you talking about Lannie? What’s going on Wrangler? You’ve been  hanging out with that bitch again, haven’t you? ”  He saw that familiar look - eyes narrow and jaw clenched. He hated when she did that, it was so like Mrs. S.Oh, God, he thought, Dad warned me.
“What are you getting all pissed off about?” he said. “Sheeesh, Cristol, loosen up the leash!”
Wrangler turned and walked angrily back outside.
Cristol felt tears welling up in her eyes. She hurried to her locker, opened it and squatted down, letting her long hair hide her face while she pretended to sort through books and papers. If he wants to go back to Lannie, why should I care? She deserves him. I deserve better.
The tears came faster. What’s the matter with me? I’ve never been the crying type.
It was true. In public, she could remain stoic through anything, a skill she’d developed young and used often.
Stop it! Cristol. Stop being such a baby!  She scolded herself. She stood up, straightened her shoulders, and slammed her locker. Turning around, she saw Lannie and Jennilee walking in with Dan, Carver, and Wrangler.
She slipped into the girl’s room, locked herself in a stall, and threw up.

Because her Mom was  a political figure and the whole Saplin family lived in the spotlight, Cristol could deal with strangers calling out to her by name, people wanting to take pictures of her  and reporters asking inane questions, all without a trace of emotion; she simply didn’t invest in trying to respond. She might give a polite smile, but that was as good as it got. Even last year on election night, she hadn’t been happy. In fact, Cristol hated that night.  She tried to act happy, but she was a terrible actress, so she fell back on her standard, blank stare..
A picture of Cristol, Maple,  Pride, and their father had been snapped by a reporter a few minutes after  the announcement was made that Rachael Saplin would be the next governor.  Amidst Saplin supporters in a crowed auditorium, Pride is perched on her dad’s shoulders, the older girls next to them. Everyone in the crowd is exuberant - cheering and waving flags. Everyone, that is, except the Governor-elect’s just-turned- sixteen-year old daughter.  The camera captured her gut reaction - shock and pain. When she sees the photo – framed in her mother’s office – she remembers how the shock made her ears buzz, the pain felt like a punch in the stomach. Every time she is in her mother’s office, Cristol moves the picture so that it is out of sight behind a large one of her mother’s swearing in ceremony. Someone – maybe her mother – always restores it to its place afterward.
What mystifies Cristol is the fact that no one has ever asked her about it. Her mom and dad both think it’s a cute picture of Pride. Her grandparents Heat said the same and put a copy on their wall of family pictures. Maple liked the picture because she thought it made her look older than her age.  Cristol expected to be asked about her clear discomfort, but no one ever has. She’s thought about that and come to an understanding: Either no one noticed or no one cared. Aren’t they really the same thing?
Rachael Saplin had decided to run for governor without consulting her children. She’d learned that lesson when Field refused to move to Washington, DC.  Nothing was going to stop her ever again.
Rachael knew what they would have said, anyway. She knew the three oldest ones didn’t want her to run the state. They didn’t care what she did, they just cared what it did to them. And they didn’t want to be at public appearances all over the state.
And so, not quite two years ago, Rachael had invited twenty friends and supporters over to the house on Cristol’s fifteenth birthday and made the official announcement that she was running. After the cheering and toasting, Rachael said “Let’s all sing “Happy Birthday to Cristol and have some cake.”  If she thought that would make Cristol feel better about the whole thing, she couldn’t have been more wrong.
Crying into her pillow that night, Cristol resented being used (again) and disrespected  (again) by her mother. Messing with her birthday was a new low. During the following twelve months, campaigning strategies and events got more attention than any subsequent family birthday, anniversary, or family tradition. The family suffered from emotional neglect, and the symptoms cropped up in all seasons. Cristol’s school work suffered, Maple had her first cigarette and beer and Field found new ways to abuse his parent’s trust and his own body.
Then, last year, when Cristol turned sixteen, she was glad the year of campaign obligation was almost over. Expecting, hoping, and praying that her mom would lose the upcoming election, she looked forward to the best year in her whole life. “Happy birthday, Cristol” said Grandma Heat as she carried in the cake. Tad and Rachael were late coming home from last minute campaigning, and the Heats had come over with cake and ice cream so that Cristol’s day wouldn’t pass without at least a small party. “Make a wish and blow out the candles,” Betty urged.
Cristol, closed her eyes and made her one official wish: that her mom would take time off from politics and stay home for at least a year. She blew them all out. Yes! I get my wish, she told herself, grasping at silly superstition because it felt good.
“Wait! Look! What’s happening?” asked Pride. The candles were re-igniting.
“Trick candles!” said Maple. She’d seen them before and guessed right away who was behind it. “Grandpa!”.
 Grandpa Heat thought he’d played a great joke. “But Grandpa,” said Pride, “now Cristol’s wish won’t come true.”
 A week later, the dried out remains of birthday cake sat forgotten in the Saplin’s kitchen in Azzolla, while the beaming new governor was shown around one of her satellite offices two hundred miles away.

Previous  chapters of this work of fiction can be accessed through the links below.  Any similarity to actual persons or places is coincidental. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Mirror image!

mary b said...

I am loving this more and more every week!!
How many more delicious Chapter's are coming?
I look forward to Friday's all because of this book.
I so wish it could/would be Published!

Allison said...

Many more, Mary. I'll entertain you into the winter. As long as people are reading (I follow the stats and it's steady) I will keep putting these out.

I wish I could blog more, but all of a sudden my job is taking 6-7 days a week. Yes, seven. It's a long-term project that's eating into everything in my life.

But this book was finished two years ago. It's ready to go, and I'm enjoying editing (as much as time allows) the two chapters each week.

Thanks for the encouragement.

Anonymous said...

I was happy to see these chapters up and ready to read late, late Thursday (in my time zone), when I was up grading papers. I know what happens and I'm still riveted.

Anonymous said...

long-time reader...first time poster...

You've got a real talent Allison! You have really brought your characters to life with exquisite detail. I am another who can't wait until the next installment. I imagine you probably have quite a few readers from Wasilla. And, of course, regular readers who check in from their Blackberries on the go!

Are you shopping around for a publisher? I truly hope someone picks this up.

Allison said...

Anon and Anon, and others, yes, I shopped for an agent for a year. It's much harder to do than to write and not fun at all. I suspect that book agent careers are going the way of the television repairman. (Man - not person- used intentionally to take us back to a time when, as Peggy once said on Mad Men, "If I'm going to get into the University Club, they tell me I have to be in a cake."

After the whole book is out on this blog, I can quickly e-publish. If I hear from an agent in the meantime, fine, I would talk with them. But otherwise, I will take the Little Red Hen route and do it myself.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for comments that let me know why you are here. I miss writing posts, but, well, I've said it before. LIFE! It's got me in the crosshairs.

Anonymous said...

This book just gets better and better. Shaytripp

Anonymous said...

Just checking to see if you posted early. Can't wait until tomorrow! Be back later!