Thursday, September 13, 2012

White Trash in the Snow - Chapter Thirty-Three and Chapter Thirty-Four

White Trash in the Snow

by Allison

Helen had mixed feelings about her sister’s call. It would be sad if Cristol were pregnant, but it would take Rachael off her high horse. Rachael had always been outspoken about her perceived place in God’s pecking order and it galled Helen. How many times had Helen bit her tongue while hearing Rachael brag that “God has blessed me. I listen to God. God will find a way for me. I’m doing God’s will.” When Rachael made campaign like slogans out of scripture it disgusted Helen and her husband Kurt, but they only said so to each other. To do otherwise would set off a family feud where there would be no winners.  Buck, Jr. didn’t have any interest in political or family gamesmanship. He was as neutral as Switzerland.  But Betty and Buck and Sally all took advantage of Rachael’s political power, and they wouldn’t tolerate any criticism. Buck in particular was sensitive about the million dollar debt the Saplin administration created with the building of the athletic facility, and would verbally eviscerate anyone who dared raise a reasonable concern. His tongue could fillet a neighbor as cleanly as his knife gut the salmon he brought home after a day of fishing.

Thoughts of the sports arena distracted Helen momentarily. That big house Tad claims he built “with a couple of buddies.” What a joke. Helen had seen the fence Tad had erected in the side yard. That flimsy thing isn’t going to last the winter. If he can’t erect a decent fence, he sure didn’t build that half million dollar house.

Like most people in town, Helen had heard rumors. People linked Rachael’s big push  for the sports arena to a house built on  Lake Azzolla. Helen had to admit that Rachael’s veto preventing construction records from being filed with the town looked suspicious. That had sealed it for Kurt – “I know she’s your sister, Helen, but she’s also a conniver, a liar and a thief. And Tad! My conscience won’t let me repeat the things I’ve heard about him. I have no proof, but, damn it Helen, it makes me not want to even set foot in that house.” Kurt wasn’t one for swearing, and Helen understood clearly that whatever it was Kurt had heard about Tad, he was trying to protect her from it so she didn’t have to carry the same burden of suspicion. She wasn’t good at keeping things to herself, not that she was a gossip – no, that would be a sin. When she had worries, fears,  and unease, she sought out prayer partners.  To her, it was the only acceptable thing to do, and as a Christian, why,  it was almost mandatory.

Kurt didn’t see it the same way, so he kept some things to himself, like the thing about Tad. Whatever that was.  And they agreed to disagree, each handling the weight of troubling knowledge in ways that suited them best. Partnering in prayer was Helen's chosen outlet.

Doesn’t the Bible say to agree in prayer?  Well, it takes two or more to agree, so if I want prayer from brothers and sisters in the Lord…

That’s it! I need to ask friends to pray for Cristol and for Rachael.

Helen usually waited until Tuesday’s Bible study meetings to ask for prayer for friends and family.  When it was her turn to pray out loud, she would say something like “Lord, please don’t let my sister Rachael give in to temptation. Spirits of bribery, greed and pride we bind you in the precious name of Jesus. Please, God, help her to be a witness for you by living humbly, a living sacrifice to you in this sinful world. Destroy those who  try to influence her for their own selfish gain and evil purposes. In Jesus’ name.” . Afterward there were always those who asked for details so that they could “pray more specifically” for Rachael’s needs. This freed Helen to dish the dirt, though she would be offended if she heard it put that way. Her favorite scripture was “Pray without ceasing.” And only last Sunday Pastor had said in his sermon that everyone should share prayer burdens with their brothers and sisters in the Lord so that somewhere, at all times, someone would be lifting that request up to God, sharing the yoke, carrying your burden while you are asleep, or while you are tending to an earthly responsibility.  Yes, it was a holy thing to do and Helen tried to live in a way that allowed her to pray without ceasing.

She was faithful to ask for prayer for her sister’s family. For instance, last April, when Field, using “secular vernacular” as Helen called it, told his parents Cristol was “a stoner.” (With Field’s own drug history, he had to be taken seriously.)  Tad and Rachael had confronted Cristol, she’d denied it, and after plenty of yelling and crying, she’d been grounded for a weekend. Helen had no confidence that her neice had ceased any of her risky behaviors after she’d done her two days and three nights of home confinement, so Helen shared the concern with her prayer group. They had faithfully brought up the governor’s daughter when praying allowed every meeting for the past five months.  And yet, as far as Helen knew, nothing had changed in that department. Sometimes you have to wait on the Lord and trust His timing.  

And after that incident, Helen learned that Cristol and Field had a violent argument over his being a tattler, which led to another round of prayer.  In a MySpace posting to JJ, Cristol told her then-boyfriend and, in effect, dozens of teens in Azzolla and the capital, “…when i got home i kicked him in the balls…showed his little bitch ass for telling my parents I'm a stoner…”  Helen had been shocked by the language and added to her prayer list: “pray for Cristol to forgive Field” and “pray for Field to forgive Cristol,” and “Pray that Cristol will be convicted in her heart that she should not use crude language.”  The following Tuesday, Aunt Helen pulled  the list out of her  purse; but this crisis couldn’t wait until the next Bible study.

I must get as many people praying as I can. Helen started by calling an old friend from Azzolla, Barbara Judd.  The phone began to ring, and while she waited she thanked God silently for the blessing of faithful friends. How awful it must be for unbelievers to not have prayer partners. No wonder so many of them fall into Satan’s trap of gossip. 

The repetition of digital rings was finally broken by Barbara Judd’s recorded voice. At the beep Helen said,“Barb, are you there? Pick up. It’s Helen. I have a prayer request.My sister Rachael’s gir-“

 “Helen, what’s up with the Governor?”  Barb was home after all.

The story poured out from Helen and Barb eagerly lapped it up. She didn’t miss a speck. Afterwards, between appropriately sympathetic phrases she dug for more. “Who’s the father? Umm, we should pray for him, too,” she hastened to add. “ Do his parent’s know? They must be scared what the Saplins will do…I mean, ummm, are they going to get married?”

Barb was one of those people who didn’t know when to quit and didn’t take hints. Helen was relieved when the questions finally stopped and Barb said she would hang up to “begin lifting the whole Saplin family up to the Lord in prayer.”

“Of course, it’s my privilege to  pray for our great governor and poor little Cristol,” Barb gushed. “Promise me you’ll let me know what happens – I mean, ummm,  be sure to let me know what wonderful work God does in their lives in answer to our prayers.”  It was awkward, but Helen didn’t notice because she was feeling a twinge of embarrassment and was trying to figure out why.

 “Bye, Helen. And God bless.”  As soon as she hung up,  Barb dialed her best friend Mylene Decker.

Cell phones aren’t designed for large, pudgy hands, and Mylene’s phone rang six times before she managed to extract it from her tight jeans and get it open.  Barbara heard a familiar, nasally “Hell-o,” and launched right in to telling the latest prayer needs in the Saplin family. Mylene was a nurse at a small hospital about 20 minutes from Azzolla and  Barb worked in medical billing at the same hospital. There was unspoken competition between them to be the first to have news  about a death, an accident, or the someone’s biopsy – all done with a stated intention of seeking prayer. Mylene even learned to send text messages just for this purpose. Those fat fingers hit a lot of wrong letters, but she persevered. She was a saint, that Mylene Decker, and proud of it.

Barb launched into an excited recital of the latest Saplin family drama; she couldn’t help herself from adding a few new “facts” (Cristol and the Governor aren’t speaking to each other) and assumptions (she’ll give the baby up for adoption).  When Barb paused to catch her breath,  Mylene jumped in, “How far along is she?” Mylene was trying to recall the last time she’d seen Cristol at church. She couldn’t remember. “Why didn’t Helen tell you the father’s name? Do you think she doesn't know who...” She needed to know who else to pray for, didn’t she?  The two of them guessed it was that kid named JJ who was the suspect in last Spring’s underwear episode.

After exhausting their collective imaginations, revisiting old trespasses and extensively rehashing old Saplin family sins, they disconnected after agreeing to let each other know if they learned anything more to pray about. The last thing Mylene said before hanging up, brought the situation back into focus.( For Mylene, the primary focus of any conversation was herself. ) “Someday, when they’ve triumphed and God has revealed His purpose, the governor will want to thank us for helping their family through a deep crisis.”

 Mylene was flushed and excited. She headed to the  kitchen to find a snack, and  while smearing mayonnaise on the bottom of a slice of cold pizza, she envisioned Rachael and her family being called up to the platform during a Sunday morning service, and the governor herself taking a microphone and saying “I want to especially thank Mylene Decker for holding my family up in prayer.”  I hope I will know which Sunday the Governor will come to do that.  Mylene thought, I will want to have a new dress.   She pictured herself about forty pounds lighter than reality, walking up the aisle, taking the microphone and saying, “I’m just a humble servant doing the Lord’s work. “  And then the governor would praise her for having “a servant’s heart.”  Oh yeah,  I’m gonna need a new dress.

As Mylene tried to force the phone deep into the front pocket of her tight jeans, the eight gaudy rings stacked on her fingers got caught in the fabric. They twisted and dug into her flesh.  “Shit! Goddammit,”  the wounded saint exclaimed.


Notes began to appear on Cristol’s pillow. Notes encouraging her to explore her options. One said that “under these less than ideal circumstances people will understand whatever choices you make.”

The realization that her mother could suddenly, when faced with a “crisis pregnancy”, even consider abortion, was as much a shock to Cristol as learning she was pregnant.  Rachael’s teaching and preaching over Cristol’s lifetime had embedded the belief in her daughter’s heads that abortion was evil, cruel, and should be outlawed. From her first political race, a race for a seat on the town council, Rachael Saplin used her pro-life stance to ask for votes even though it wasn’t a relevant issue. In the gubernatorial election, a debate host queried, “What about in the case of rape or incest?”  Rachael the, only female candidate, responded, “I’d counsel the girl to choose adoption.”

So now, because circumstances were “less than ideal” for her own daughter, abortion was an acceptable option?  After the third note appeared, Cristol accused her mother of hypocrisy. The subsequent argument was epic, neither won, and, afterwards,  ironically, Barbara Judd’s embellished report came true -  they didn’t speak to each other for a week.

During the argument Cristol yelled “Now I know why your called “The Terminator.” It was a clever and cutting double entendre.  Since the first days of Rachael Saplin’s service as mayor, she’d been ruthless, firing hard working staff on a whim.  She told the press that any terminations were based on loyalty (which was giving intolerance a positive spin). She would not tolerate differences of opinion from “lessor persons.”  It didn’t matter if they were long-standing friends and supporters or not. If a person fell into disfavor they were gone, usually without warning. The bad news never came directly from Rachael, Either she wrote a memorandum or had an assistant deliver the message. It was part of the act of diminishing their self-worth.

Callous, cold, self-serving, were the words anonymous witnesses used to describe Rachael Saplin’s staff cuts. “She acts as though they aren’t human beings with egos, families, careers, and debts to pay,” said one source the paper found. “People are being tossed out like broken chairs and outdated copiers. " When Cristol learned that termination also meant abortion, she immediately made the connection between her mother’s cowardly yet ruthless treatment of disenfranchised staff members and the unsigned encouragements to eliminate the baby.  Whether friend, foe, or family, when her mother decided someone did not fit into her plans for her organizations, for whatever reason, fact or whimsy, she wanted them gone.  

Cristol had looked at one of the websites her mother suggested. It was for a Women’s Clinic  in New York. Why New York? Must be Mom isn’t very good at using Google. Doesn’t matter, though, ‘cause I’m not going to one of these places.

 On the home page was a thin, smiling, young woman in a business suit, arms flung out like she was doing the opening scene in that old movie Sound Of Music.

WTF?  Who would have an abortion and come out beaming and spinning?

 The picture turned her stomach. Or… wait…

She grabbed for her phone and sent Wrangler a message: 

guess wat???  i think i fel the baby moving!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh my, the thought plickens! The descriptions of the prayer group gave me a chuckle. 8 rings! She must spend a lot of time on ebay. :-) That was exactly like an acquaintance to a T! Fly-over country has a surplus of these. Gossip? teehee. I thought this was suppose to be did some detective work. Love it, love it, love it! Too bad cell phones don't have the old party lines so the gossip spreads even faster. It was the fore-runner of Fiber Optics in the 30's-50's! What's the old saying about facts we weave when first we practice to deceive? Gossip personified!

Thanks Allison. So far your depictions is so real!