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.


Anonymous said...

You gotta love the image of Raison Brand on the floor floor. Wonder which fruit they come from?

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Dis Gusted said...


looks like you pissed somebody off

the TRUTH hurts

Duncan said...

Good job Allison...

Anonymous said...

Alison...."She promised herself she would stay calm FOR the babies sake". You have "OR" the babies sake.

See Wasilla has been in the house! I hope you don't remove my comment this week.

Love your writing! Keep up the good work! It must be hitting a nerve!

Mrs Gunka

Anonymous said...

Chapter 30??? Wow, you really spend a lot of time thinking about someone you profess to hate.

Anonymous said...

It's called exposing the truth. If they don't like to be exposed, maybe they should stay out of the spotlight. Con artists need exposing. Decent people don't like to be lied to. If you don't like the heat stay out of the kitchen and if you are too dumb to realize this, go back to school and stay off blogs that are trying to expose these things.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused with the first part of the first chapter this week. First Wrangler and Porsche are together and she is sweeping up his spilled raisEn bran, and the next they are on the phone without any transition. Iread it a bunch of times. Needs cleaning up please if you want to publish. Thanks.