Thursday, December 20, 2012
White Trash in the Snow Chapters 70 and 71
WHITE TRASH IN THE SNOW
A novel by Allison
The two men approached the governor cautiously. Rachael thought she knew what these staff members were going to say. There was little doubt. What she wondered, as they stepped up to her desk with their heads hanging like naughty boys preparing to be scolded, was which one would say it. Which one lost the coin toss?
“Governor Saplin? There’s something you should know. People are talking.”
“Okay, what are they sayin’?’”
“That your daughter Cristol is-“
A long pause followed. Rachael let them squirm. If I make it uncomfortable enough for them to say it, they won’t go repeating it, she thought. Or at least that’s what she hoped.
The second staffer spoke up. “There’s a rumor that Cristol is pregnant.”
“Well, that’s ridiculous. I can assure you, Cristol is not pregnant. But thank you, boys, for telling me about these flippin’ unbelievable rumors.” She saw the staffers begin to relax. She got up from her desk to look them straight in the eyes. “The First Family is under attack from haters, which, of course, that’s all part of being the First Family, though, too, it’s totally unfair to the children. And your jobs are to support me and my family, then, and that means never gossiping, and also, too, always defending the children, and Tad, even though he wouldn’t want to think he needs defendin’ because he’s a man and a champion racer, and…” She paused while she tried to remember what point she was trying to make. “So, thank you for bringing those rumors here to me, to be put to rest, and thank you for always supporting me, of course.”
Absolutely denying that her daughter was pregnant was easy. She wasn’t. So, Rachael went about setting the record straight. She sought out one of the few people she used (she called it trust) as a mouthpiece for her administration.“Dale, the rumors about Cristol are not true. She isn’t pregnant.”
Dale flinched; not because of the content of the rumors - no, he’d heard them already. But why would the governor stoop to denying these malicious falsehoods? There were always rumors about the First Family. Last year it was mostly about Field and his “boys will be boys” episodes. Army enlistment took care of that. And stories circulated about Cristol drinking, dabbling in drugs, and partying in general. Those accounts reached a peak last summer, but had been put to rest since the girl came down with mono. It was a very bad case.
Anyway, about the pregnancy thing - he’d already dismissed that as gutter talk. There were a lot of people who would like to see this governor “get what’s coming to her” for stepping on people, forgetting who helped her along the way, and for micromanaging their personal lives. She had a real problem working with people, but that didn’t mean the kids were fair game. No, he defended the kids every chance he had. And he defended the Governor, too.
“Well, Governor, if anyone has the balls to repeat that rumor in my presence, I will set them straight.”
“Good,” she said.
Dale beamed. He adored his boss. She was feisty. She was real. And she had a flirtatious wink that made him sit up taller and pay attention. In meetings, he never took his eyes off her. If she was worked up about something, she’d lick her lips –“
“Dale?” she interrupted his thoughts. “Don’t say ‘balls,’ Christians don’t say that.” She turned on her four inch heel and strode away.
Click. Click. Click.Click. It was a sound that struck fear in the heart of middle-aged white men in government offices all over the capital, and Dale’s fear grew in direct proportion to the fading of the sound. How badly had he offended the Governor?
The worried aide headed straight to his office
He couldn’t afford to waste any time. If he didn’t hurry, his verbal faux pas would be firmly planted in Governor Saplin’s psyche. He pictured her hearing someone say “balls” and her face contorting with the memory of today’s exchange in the hallway; that word, in the most innocent and common usage could remind her of today and she’d be mentally snarling and growling at him. After all, Rachael Saplin had earned that nickname “Rotweiler.” Dale knew he was about to write the email upon which the future of his career would hinge.
Damn! Trying to recall which of the Ten Commandments would be relevant to quote, fear and frustration were creating panic. Which one? Which one is relevant? I’ll show her I’m a Christian!
He breezed past another staffer, locked himself in his office and dropped into his chair. Striking a couple keys to wake up the computer he mumbled “hurry up!” under his breath. This was a race against time. He had to save himself. Whether or not the rumors were true, the only truth that mattered right then was that the Governor truly had one nasty never-forget-always -get- even nature. What if that stupid “balls” comment had sounded like he wasn’t taking her problem seriously? He clicked on his email logo and typed in Rachael.firstname.lastname@example.org, his collar gathering moisture while the machine whirred and he waited.
Subject line -“Commandment # ” he typed in. Then he pulled up a search engine and tried to find a holy reference to liars from God’s Top Ten. “Thou shalt not bear false witness” matched the message and the tone he wanted. He changed the subject of the email: “Those Who Bear False Witness.” It wasn’t quite as clever as he would have liked, but it was definitely religious, and that was the chord he needed to strike. He liked the capital letters, too. They gave the heading a serious look.
Dale and Rachael had attended the same church in Azzolla and he used words based on that evangelical upbringing to strike the chord he thought he needed.“Thank you, Governor, for sharing from your heart the burden you are bearing. We know that the truth shall set you free. What others intend for evil, God will use for good. Rest assured, if the enemy rears his head in my presence, I will smite him a mighty blow with the sword of truth.” (Oh, yeah, that sounded very, very Christian.) He closed with “God Bless You Governor, and God Bless the First Family.)
Dale hit “send,” put his arms on his desk and cradled his head. He was emotionally spent.
Rachael Saplin saw the new message on her Blackberry. She pursed her lips and thought, Let’s see what this pervert has to say. But when she read it, she smiled. “Good boy, Dale.”
Many an evening when Dale got home, he would unwind by telling his wife about his day. Politics had lots of pitfalls, and laughing with his wife over the ironies therein helped keep Dale from getting depressed. That night when he walked in , she could see the stress on his face. Thinking she might lighten his mood with humor, she put one hand on her hip and in her best imitation of Governor Saplin’s snide side, she elevated her voice and said, “So, I gotta ask, how’s that holy-churchy stuff working for ya?” Then she winked.
“It’d better be working fucking great,” he answered, then he sunk into a chair and began his account of the day.
The message left on Cristol’s phone didn’t come as a complete surprise. Her mom had already told her it was time to get out and be seen again at public functions.
“Cristol, there is a women’s heart health luncheon next Saturday. You’ve got to go so don’t give me any crap. Maple and Pride are going, and you are, too. Find something nice to wear- something red.”
Wear red? Like Scarlet O’Hara going to Melanie’s birthday party? (In what she called “mother/daughter bonding,” Cristol had suffered through the whole three-hours of her mother’s favorite movie the day after Christmas.) Ha! I get it. Mom sees this as my public re-appearance after hiding my sin. Just like in the movie, I’ll be the curiosity of a bunch of women who may have been gossiping and doubting the story of my long bout with mono. And now I’m living out of town with an aunt. How 1950’s is that?” She deleted the message and texted to Wrangler, “my mom is soooo lame.”
The promise that Maple and Pride would be there, too, gave Cristol something to look forward to. Commiserating together through an old-lady luncheon would feel like old times. For Cristol and Maple, it would be like it was before Calc came along. Pride wouldn’t know the difference.
It really had not been difficult to keep the baby a secret from her younger sister. Pride hadn’t even seemed to notice Cristol’s weight gain or her pre-delivery girth under that fluffy bathrobe she’d worn every day, all day. And, as for her older sister’s temporary residence with Aunt Helen, the kindergartener accepted it as normal. It must be was what big sisters do when they get “that old.” In her innocence, Pride assumed that in a few years, it would be Maple’s turn to live with Aunt Helen. And someday, Pride, too, would be able to live with the cousins.
Pride knew her own life was different from her schoolmates. She liked the differences, they were things that made her friends jealous – having two big houses in different places, traveling a lot, and standing on stages and waving “just like a rock star,” Strangers gave her gifts. A “million grownups” said she was “adorable” “ cute” and “a beautiful child.” This was Pride’s life, she loved it all.
Pride Saplin knew without a doubt that the Saplin family was better than any other. After all, they were the First Family. Saplins are number one. When Field’s hockey team won the championship everyone shouted they were number one, right? . So Saplins if her family was the number one family, that meant they were the best. Other kid’s parents didn’t have important stuff to do like Pride’s mommy and daddy. At least not First Family stuff like being on TV a lot. Everybody knows that being on TV makes you special.
“Special” was a key word in Pride’s vocabulary. She couldn’t describe her family without it. Just last week her teacher heard her telling another kindergartener “My Mommy and Daddy are special. Mommy’s the Guvner and Daddy’s the First Dad. My sister Cristol’s special. Maple’s special,too. And I’m the most special-er one.” Then, in what sounded like an after thought, she added, “And Field’s a soldier.”
As the plane landed, Cristol began to worry. Did she look okay? After you’ve had a baby, is there something about you that other mom’s can sense? What if she leaked and got her shirt wet in spite of the so-called nursing pads? If anybody at this women’s thing brought a baby with them, the sight or sound of that baby could set her own milk flowing. Yipes, she was going to keep her puffy vest on.
“Oh God, help me,” the involuntary prayer escaped her and she quickly looked around to see if she’d been overheard. No one was paying any attention.
Damn! What had become of her life? A year ago her frustrations were about two-faced girlfriends and fears of getting caught texting answers during a test. Now everything she did somehow tied to having a baby.
“Over here!” It was Maple’s voice. Cristol had been spotted by her mother and sisters. After brief hugs all around, Pride proudly showed off the new gap in her smile where a tooth had come out the night before.
“How much did the tooth fairy leave you?” Cristol asked.
“A whole dollar!” Pride answered. “And no, I’m not gonna share. Maple already asked me that.”
Cristol smiled. “I see nothing’s changed.” The truth in that was comforting. The light teasing and banter continued as they made their way back to the Suburban in the parking lot. Cristol began to let go of her tensions, there was a sweet sense of normalcy in the four of them going to some generic gathering for a generic meal in a small room with generic people.
They entered the room as a group. It was set up with red table paper table cloths and a head table with a bouquet of heart shaped balloons. Cristol noticed a few heads turn, a few fingers pointing, and some apparent whispering. Even though she knew that these things happened everywhere her mother went since being elected, Cristol couldn’t help but wonder if they were talking about her, looking at her, gossiping about her. The girls grabbed a table near the back and Rachael headed up to the front.
“Hey Cristol,” Pride said, tugging her sleeve. “Take off your jacket.”
“No, I’m keeping it on.”
“I’m still not all better,” Cristol said. She saw Maple roll her eyes. “I get cold easily..”
Pride stood and put her arms around her, leaning her head against her sister’s shoulder. “That’s okay, Cristol,” her chirpy voice was muffled in the puffy nylon, “ You can leave it on. I’ll keep my coat on, too. We’ll look like twins!”
Cristol reached out and returned the hug. “Thanks, baby.” She looked at her seriously, and said, “You know what you are, Pride? You are the best.”
“I know that,” Pride said. She stuck her tongue out through the space in her jack-o-lantern grin.
Cristol watched as Pride skipped off and find their mother. Rachael was on the other side of the room working the crowd with effortless warmth. Cristol turned to Maple and saw that she was texting underneath the table.
Wow, this is so normal it’s weird. My life has changed but nothing has changed with my family. Nothing. This is so weird.