Thursday, December 27, 2012
Minor mentions of Cristol's chin, and Tad's sin - Chapters 72 and 73 White Trash in the Snow
Another installment of this familiar sounding story with people who could almost be real. Except that I made it all up. Like an episode of Law and Order, even though you may think you know what inspired dialogue and turns of events, and perhaps even think you know what's going to happen by the end, it's entertainment, not news. It's entertainment for people who don't just follow the news, they investigate for themselves.
Happy New Year 2013 to all the Palin Place community and visitors! Thanks for being here.
WHITE TRASH IN THE SNOW
A novel by Allison
Later in February, Cristol started working part time at a discount pharmacy. Her parents told her that if she was going to raise Calc, she would be responsible for buying all the diapers and the bottles and formula. Formula! That was just her mother refusing to accept that Cristol had chosen to nurse him. When she had seen how delicate he was, her maternal instincts swelled. A nurse had suggested that one thing only she could do for him would be to express milk that could then be given to him. Cristol became adept at expressing every three hours, and intended to keep on until her son was able to nurse. His sucking reflex was not yet developed, a condition not uncommon to preemies, and exacerbated by his extra chromosome.
Though she didn’t have to buy formula, diapers were expensive and the job was necessary. Even if she weren’t buying them, Cristol would have wanted a job. The four hour shifts had become a mundane haven from her personal problems. People didn’t know her. She got along with two other girls who worked there, girls who, in her previous life would have never have been good enough to be her friends.
Work also provided a beginning step towards independence. The plan was that, as soon as she and Wrangler finished school next year, they would move out on their own. Most days, that seemed a long way off, but sometimes, not so much. Anyway, the job fit into that plan.
Wrangler had been working and saving, too. He told her he would keep baby supplies at his mother’s house, so that when they took Calc over there they would have everything he needed. Jerrie was anxious to meet her grandson. Wrangler had no pictures to show her, he wasn’t allowed to have any. And though Cristol carried some hidden in her wallet, that did Jerrie no good. She hadn’t been to Jerrie’s since before Thanksgiving.
On the Saturday that Cristol was busy with the luncheon event, Wrangler took his mom to the store for groceries. After bringing all the bags into the kitchen, they both began the task of putting things away.
“When am I gonna get to see - ”
“Dunno yet, Mom.” He had no more patience. It was almost like she had a verbal tic. She asked the same question over and over. Whenever Wrangler came in the house, she asked. Every time he called her while he was with Cristol, she asked. The only thing that kept her from asking was Porsche. If Porsche was near, they couldn’t talk about Calc. On this afternoon, Jerrie didn’t realize her daughter was in the house until she stepped into the kitchen.
“It’s because I’m friends with Lannie, Mom.”
“What?” Jerrie was confused. Where did Porsche come from and how did Porsche learn about the baby, and why would Porsche’s friendship with Wrangler’s old girl friend keep Cristol from letting the family meet their own flesh and blood? “I don’t get it,” she said.
“Cristol said she won’t set foot in our house if Lannie is welcome here. It’s bullshit. Lannie has as much right to visit here as any of my friends.” She shook her finger at her brother. “You should tell your girlfriend to grow up.”
Wrangler slapped her hand away from his face. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh yeah? I know more than you think!”
Wrangler and Jerrie both froze in place. Their eyes sought each other’s and the question was asked without words. Did you tell her? The slight shake of the head each gave the other said No, not me. I didn’t tell.
Porsche missed the quiet communication. She’d spotted a new bag of apples and pulled out the biggest one, polished it against her sweater and took a bite. “Cristol’s being a bitch, and she gets that from her mother. You shouldn’t put up with it, Wrangler. I know she had that chin of hers worked on. That’s why she stayed in the car when you ran in with Christmas presents. And that was weeks ago. She has to come out sometime. You think I’m stupid, but I’m not. She’s been talking about plastic surgery for years. I don’t know why you’d think I’d buy that story you told about her having a big zit and not wanting us to see it. Why can’t you just tell the truth?”
Wrangler shrugged. “She doesn’t want me telling her business to people.”
“But we’re practically family. We can keep a secret.”
“Forget about it. Okay?”
“Sure, okay. I can forget about it, ‘cause I don’t care about her chin, anyway. But I do care that she’s such a bitch. She’s not nice Wrangler. Not a nice person.”
Jerrie tried to change the subject. “Saw the Governor on the cover of a magazine at the grocery store. I wanted to read the story, but the manager came along and opened up a new checkout for me. That other line was movin’ real slow. I probably could’a read the whole thing.” Jerrie wouldn’t shell out the $5.95 for a women’s magazine, her grocery money was for food. “But it don’t matter. If there was anything in that article that I don’t already know, then it’s probably a lie. I got my own first-person reporter on the inside. He tells me all about the Governor. And he puts my groceries away, too.”
Wrangler grunted. “Yeah, I know about that magazine. She went out and got herself a hundred copies. Ya’d think she’s a movie star, posing by the airplane. Took off her glasses. Thinkin’ she’s all that.” He opened the refrigerator and took out a beer. “She made Cristol ask her boss at the store for a discount on ‘em. Mrs S is so cheap. And s’not even her own money, it’s left over campaign money.” He frowned, then took a drink. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“How embarrassing for that girl,” Jerry said. “Doesn’t her mother ever think about-”.
Porsche cut her off again. “She knows, Mom. Rachael uses her kids all the time. If it’s good for her, she doesn’t care what it does to them. She’s a bad mother.”
“Porsche, you’ve got to try to be nice,” her mother chided. “She is practically family, like you said, and we don’t talk that way about family.”
“The only nice thing I can think of is that we get bigger checks since she became governor. That’s nice. But she isn’t.”
“Give it a rest, Porsche,” Wrangler said.
“Good idea,” said Jerrie. Her back pain was intense today. She wouldn’t be able to refill the Oxycodone for another week. Her disability checks only stretched so far. Maybe she’d lay down and rest and read something frivolous.
“Hey, Wrangler, did she give you one of those magazines?”
“No, Mom. She doesn’t give me nothing.”
“Nothing but grief,” Porsche said, eliciting a middle finger salute from her brother.
Complain as she might, Wrangler knew that his sister and his mom both liked him being the boyfriend of the Governor’s daughter. His sister recognized the perks of being on the right side of the political and social power players.Until he and Cristol hooked up, the names Saplin and Strauss were perfect examples of how different life could be depending on social status. Jerrie enjoyed it the most. She compared it to the story of Cinderella - one of them had nothing, and the other lived in a mansion, of sorts. In this real life story, though, it was her son who was the handsome one. Cristol, she thought, was rather plain and dull. More like the step-sister than a princess.
But, even that day, Jerrie had been in line behind five other shoppers at the checkout and the manager opened up a new lane. Maybe it was coincidence, but she told Wrangler it was because she’d achieved a new level of respect as a Saplin near-in-law. Jerrie was going to have that respect for a long time now that Cristol and Wrangler were going to parent together. Baby Calc was a ticket to the other side of the tracks, whether Jerrie had met him yet or not.
In the month leading up to the National Governor’s Convention, Rachael had been fixated on primary results, particularly Steve McElwain’s primary results. “Tad, my God-ordained destiny is tied to Steve McElwain, I feel it in my bones.” Being the devout follower of Christ that she claimed to be, she demonstrated her acceptance of God’s will in this “calling” by sacrificing time with family and letting staff do the work at the office, while she concentrated on publicity, calling press conferences, traveling nationally, and handling interviews one after another in order to get noticed by the Grand Old Party and its front runner.
Gaining celebrity status was work, and she was not getting there fast enough to assure her shot at the election this year. Family slipped more and more into the periphery of her life as ambition took over her days and weeks. Morning, noon, and night she followed news about the McElwain campaign as if it were her own. When Tad pointed out that she might be missing something by studying only McElwain, she acted on his advice and sent her staff on a mission to accumulate all the information they could on Mindy McElwain. As it turned out, there was more than one surprise in that box of Cracker Jacks.
There is no such thing as coincidence she repeated to herself as she read multiple stories about McElwain’s predilection for beautiful women. His first wife had been a beauty who lost her appeal to him when she was struggled against a life threatening condition that stole from her some of the physical beauty that had turned the heads of strangers. McElwain, it was rumored, ran around behind her back while she went through a long period of recovery. Then he sought a divorce in order to marry Mindy – a young woman who at that time was only a half dozen years older than what Cristol was right now. Some reports included sniping by people who suggested he married her for her money – she had a gazillion dollars as a tobacco heiress – but Rachael didn’t think that wasn’t fair reporting. After all, Mindy was a beauty queen, too, and McElwain couldn’t resist flirting with such a pretty young woman. Boys will be boys. Right?
They fell in love. It happens. Fair and balanced reporting would have said he wanted more than her money. And those more recent stories about Mindy’s addiction to prescription drugs, and McElwain’s affair with a gorgeous young campaign aide, those were trash talk. All part of the American political culture. If you want to play on the national stage and run for public office, you had no business whining about the tough treatment. Enquirer exposés and all.
A former first lady was running hard to be the other party’s nominee, and just yesterday Rachael had been asked if the first lady’s complaints of disparate treatment were valid “Of course not, that doesn’t do women any good,” she’d said. “You know what you’re in for in national elections. If you can’t take it, don’t run. But don’t whine, for heaven’s sake. Rumors and stories and lies - those things always happens in campaigns. I’ve got advice for her. With all due respect, suck it up.”
McElwain himself had had experience on both ends of the dirty rumor game. She was confident that he would prevail in spite of the rumors about himself and about Mindy. Yup, you gotta have tough skin and big cojones if your running on the big ticket, thought Rachael. And I’ve got both.
Rachael and Tad had met Steve and Mindy McElwaine at the dinner the first night of the convention. For her age, Mindy looked great. A tall thin blonde. Wow, she has every right to act snooty. Darn tootin’ Rachael thought. Anyway, It’s obviously Botox that prevents her from coming across as genuine and warm. As the evening had worn on, Rachael studied Mindy’s face as much as she could without being obvious. Was there anything about Botox that reacted negatively under tanning bed lights? She would have to find out about that. Looks were important to her, and obviously were a requirement if any woman was going to be associated with Steve McElwain.
Rachael was momentarily distracted with thoughts of a story the media had run about McElwain’s aids warning him to distance himself from an attractive woman on his team. Rachael and Tad had both had experiences with rumors about themselves and others. Rachael with Tad’s business partner. It was a period in her past that she never allowed herself to revisit. Mentally shouting down the thoughts trying to assert themselves, she pictured the woman that Tad had been linked to in rumor. Whether that had been true or not, she and Tad were together here and now, and that was where her mind needed to stay.
Back to the McElwain rumor, that McElwain had been having an affair, that certainly hurt Mindy badly. Rachael could identify with that. Such mean spiritedness must have come from political enemies. But, she questioned, were some of them Republicans? It had been done in previous campaigns. Who could know? But, she asked herself, who was more likely to be so nasty? Answering her own question, she knew it was the other side that came up with that rumor, no doubt in her mind at all.
Rachael and Tad had practiced what they would say. On script, when introduced to Mindy, Rachael gushed, “You are even prettier in person than in your pictures.” It came out “purdier” but the line was well received.
Tad took his cue and whispered to McElwain, “You and I have a lot in common. We both have beautiful wives.” Whispering was a trick the Saplins used to make people feel they were being let in on something from which others were excluded. The context of the statement had been crafted with equal care. It was meant to plant the seed that Rachael was in Mindy’s league beauty-wise, a feather in McElwain’s cap should he choose her to run with him, and also, to give him a sense that Rachael and Tadd were cut of the same cloth as he, sharing the same values and preferences understanding his ego. Their platitude-driven plan needed no real substance to make it effective. It targeted the pride of a prideful man and his prideful wife. How could it miss?
Tad’ comment had also been designed to force McElwain to think about Rachael’s good looks. Not just to notice, but to consider. There was a difference.
In the fishing analogies the Saplins used, Tad was baiting the hook. Both having experience with professional fishing, they likened the primary season to a fishing season, and becoming a VP running mate to landing a big fish. Over the past six months, they had come to the conclusion that Steve McElwain wouldn’t have the strength of character to pull this hook out once he’d swallowed it. They knew that mong those named as reasonable choices for a VP that year, none were like her. Those others had more experience, certainly, and foreign affairs experience, of course. Nationally recognized names, yes. Accomplishments in national politics, sure. And on, and on.
But they didn’t have the one thing that she had, the thing she was counting on to blow the other hopefuls out of the water. Sexual tension. And what could be more powerful? Nothing. Rachael Saplin had political instincts as strong Bill Clinton’s. “It’s the economy, stupid worked in 1992. And “Sex sells” would work in 2008. She was sure of it. Anyone who thinks politicians can separate their work from their gonads must have spent the last half century in a coma.
Rachael was equally sure McElwain must be part of God’s plan. He was especially vulnerable to tight skirts, high heels, and nice legs. Now, he was the front runner and she was his perfect running mate. See? No such thing as coincidence, it’s all God’s plan.
Tad encouraged his wife to use her sexuality. Having other men admire his wife made him feel powerful, too. For a guy with a blue-collar job who hadn’t finished college, he led an amazing life. Hob-knobbing in high places, people fawning over him, trying to win favor, giving him expensive gifts and special treatment – all because he’s married to Rachael. If he weren’t married to the Governor, would anybody even want to watch the Super Bowl with him, let alone pay $300 a piece for the privilege? No one in their right mind, that was for sure. But just a few weeks ago he’d hosted some lobbyists and legislators at the mansion, raising a few thou for the people’s house, as Rachael liked to call the mansion. That ought to cover the tanning bed costs nicely. No, he had to thank his wife for the good life he led. And while his father in law occasionally tried to say Tad was less than a man because his wife out shown him, Tad wasn’t ashamed to be riding the wave she set into motion. He deserved his share of the benefits. Hadn’t he stuck by her after that little blond head popped out seven months two weeks and two days after their wedding? Hadn’t he had kept his mouth shut about that, embarrassing as it was? And didn’t he pretend if it was normal as the sun at midnight to have pictures of the Maynards mixed right in with the wall of family pictures of various Heat and Saplin relatives? Yup, he had always played along in the charade. And yup, she owed him big.
Rachael got some things with a wink, and others with a threat. When it came to using her looks, she felt there was no shame in using God’s gifts. If God hadn’t wanted her to have that advantage, he wouldn’t have given it to her. She believed that God knows the beginning from the end. He foreordained her to be the Governor. He knew she would, at this time in her life, be meeting the potential next President of the United States and that he liked women who were sexy, gorgeous, and conservative. God knew all that. Obviously, this was God’s plan. If He opened the door, she was gonna plow right through it. Hey, if He so much as let her see the door, she was gonna pry it open. Praise the Lord and pass the crow bar.
Someday, Rachael Saplin would be President of the United States. She had talked with her pastor already, about giving the invocation at her inauguration. At first he didn’t get what she was saying, and then God must have opened his eyes. “Why, of course, what an honor, to open in prayer when you become President.” Then- was he joking – he said he hoped Tad wouldn’t charge him too much to spend a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Rachael hadn’t quiet heard what he’d said. What she thought the minister said sent her into a panic. “Why pastor, those rumors are not true. He doesn’t charge for…and our bedroom. Well, anyway, shoot, it’s just wackos and haters. Tad, he would never…it’s revolting…like gambling and so many other sins…but making money by exploiting…when there are those that which are so desperate, like as to accuse my husband because he’s so good looking. Well, of course you’ve seen Tad. That’s it! It’s his good looks that which make some men so jealous of him and women, too, yes, women jealous of me, that they have started these rumors about…”
“Rachael, I’m not sure-“
“…and if he goes out of state it’s with me!” she finished and stood up. “I have to go. Thank you, Reverend.” She left quickly, leaving a puzzled clergyman wondering what had happened.
In the car, she bowed her head.
God, I need to get to the White House. I know it’s your plan to have me be President and have Tad be followed by the Secret Service day and night. It’s the answer to all my prayers. Thank you, Lord. Amen.