Friday, January 4, 2013

No one is sleeping like a baby except the baby. White Trash in the Snow Chapters 74, 75 and 76

Nurse/gossip/self-proclaimed Christian Mylene Decker is back!   If you would like to reacquaint yourself with this character, she appeared  initially in Chapter 33,  most recently in Chapter 55.

A novel by Allison


The early morning birth of Calc Saplin Strauss on the first of January had been fortuitous and problematic. It was good that Cristol could get out of the house again, be seen, go to school. It was bad because the premature birth set off all kinds of complications. Because of those complications, Rachael Saplin tossed and turned all night, every night, wrestling with the same questions.  How long can he be in the hospital before someone catches on that this is my grandson?  Who can we find to raise him? How do I get Cristol back on track with her life? Is there some way I can still get tapped to run for Vice President this year?
During insomnia, she ran through the scenarios she and Tad had considered, reconsidered, and discarded. At first, Calc was not expected to live. Rachael saw it as God’s plan. But the baby didn’t die, and he was going to need lots of  attention and care. Rachael and Tad couldn’t adopt him now, they had busy schedules, responsibilities. It wouldn’t be believable. Besides, there was increased chatter in the political realm about Rachael as a long shot to run as VP on the Republican ticket. No, this was not the time to have another baby in the family, not even a healthy one.
Every relative had been given consideration. Rachael and Tad would be willing to help with costs, of course, and whomever raised the child must agree to give Cristol plenty of access to dote on  her “cousin” Calc.  First on the list of potential guardians were Helen and Kurt, the obvious choice. Rachael and Tad approached them together, pointing out that Helen was “cut out for” raising special needs children, and sighting Helen and Kurt’s son as proof of “God’s divine plan” for their lives as caregivers to challenged children. When Helen said they didn’t see it that way, Rachael quickly moved on to sister/potential parent number two. “Do you think Sally could handle the responsibility?” she’d asked Helen.

“How can you even suggest that? “ her sister chided. “Sally's going through a divorce! She’s being treated for depression! Why, she’s barely keeping it together.” Rachael started to open her mouth but her older sister stopped her before she could speak. “Rachael,” she said. “Stop being so selfish. Don’t even ask Sally. She might not have the presence of mind to say no. You already owe her, she’s practically raised your other four. ” That one stung, and Rachael glared. Helen was glad she’d said it. She had one more thing to say. “And now I’m parenting Cristol. You know what? You and Tad are sorry excuses for parents.”

Her sister’s words added to the insomnia and closed the door on two of the Heat-sibling options. Which left one.  Rachael’s brother was not in the running for raising a special needs child.  He was too much like Buck. ‘Nough said.

Tad’s family gave them no better options. Tad’s brother had two kids and had never been married. He saw his own kids on a limited schedule. In Rachael’s nighttime search for answers, he was never seriously under consideration as a candidate for Calc’s caregiver.

Rachael and Tad were pretty sure Tad’s half sister Dorinda would have loved to take him - for the right price. She’d obviously needed the money. Arrested three times in the last year for breaking into  neighborhood houses, she had legal fees to pay.  Perhaps if her five year old daughter had been a better look out, she might have been in less of a mess. Tad and Rachael’s attitude was that anyone could make a mistake, and anyone could get desperate if they were broke.  They could almost look past Dorinda’s arrest record, but then she pleaded temporary insanity on the grounds that she was jonesing for a fix, and sure enough, tests showed she was using multiple substances, one of which was meth.

 “Damn,” said Tad when he heard the report.“There goes our last option.”  

And along with it went any chance the Rachael could get a good night’s sleep. Compounding Rachael’s worries was the fact that even if she had a solution, Cristol wanted to keep her baby. Rachael enlisted Abigail Barten-Curtain to give Cristol an eye-opening vision of the life she would lead if she took full responsibility for Calc after he was released from the hospital. It was one thing to have round the clock medical specialists taking care of him, and quite another to be doing it on her own, sometimes while sick or without enough sleep or both, and unable to be doing normal teenage things, missing out on her senior year of high school, and forgoing college.  Dr. ABC was an expert in the field of teenage pregnancy issues. She explained thoughtfully and carefully the pros and cons to the young couple. If they found someone to adopt Calc, someone with resources and lots of love, then they could feel good about it and know that it was the best thing for their son. It would be best for her and Wrangler, too. Wrangler could finish school, and they could go to college. No reason to feel guilty about adoption, it was the best for everyone. It would be the most loving thing to do.

Cristol eventually had agreed. “Okay,” she told Dr. Barten-Curtain. “If you find a really good home for him, then okay.”
Wrangler nodded. “Whatever Cristol wants.” So, with adoption being agreed upon, it looked to Rachael like she and Tad were going to have to step up and be the parents in spite of the challenges that presented. Pulling that off meant faking a pregnancy. And that was the thought currently keeping Rachael from enjoying a night with Mr. Sandman.


Calc’s other grandmother was not sleeping well, either. Jerrie tried to be patient while her son and the Governor’s daughter were deciding what was best for their baby, but it was such a mess. So unfair. Now that Calc had survived critical junctures, Rachael (whom Wrangler had started calling “Gov Granny” behind her back) was trying to take charge. Jerrie didn’t want to add to the pressure the kids were under,  all she asked was to have a chance to hold the little fellow and search his face for familial features.  That didn’t seem like too much to ask. Why couldn’t they sneak her in to see him? She tossed and turned and punched her pillow, getting no answers and no sleep.
Day time for Jerrie was no better. The little guy was on her mind all the time, and she had no one to talk to about her frustrations. It made her feel blue.  But then, one Sunday morning, she found a solution for her particular strain of baby blues. 
Jerrie was pushing her shopping cart through Walmart and began noticing babies, grandmothers, toddlers, young parents and whole families. Everyone, it seemed, had kids. One young mom looked something like Cristol. Her baby was tiny. Calc might be that size, she thought. Unconsciously, she began to go wherever the girl went. Then it became a conscious effort, pausing when she did, and pretended to look at things on shelves that she had no interest in buying.
 Finally, the mother turned and said, “Are you following me?”
Jerrie blushed. “Um, why, yes…um…I couldn’t help but admire the baby.”
The mother frowned. “Well thanks, but don’t stalk us. That’s creepy.”
“Oh, no, I wasn’t stalking,” she said, searching for an excuse, “I only…I…you see…” She ran her fingers through her scalp. “I have a grandbaby and…”  Jerrie caught her breath, Oh, Lord, I’ve said too much.   “and I wanted to ask you where you found such a cute outfit for him.”  Jerrie smiled.
The girl didn’t return the smile, but she seemed to buy Jerrie’s alibi. “They are right over there,” she pointed to the baby section. “I got it here last week. There’s lots of ‘em.”
And that was how Jerrie found a coping mechanism for dealing with her unique strain of baby blues.  On that Sunday, and many other days afterward, Jerrie Strauss could be found lingering in the aisles of infant and baby wares in the Azzolla Walmart. The baby section. Browsing racks of cheerful little items, she almost believed that soon she could bundle her new grandson in one of the soft little outfits and rock him to sleep. It was a harmless new habit. Or so she thought.
The weekend clerk in Infants and Toddlers took note that Mrs. Strauss, week after week, was checking out  the latest arrivals in newborn outfits, gently running a hand over the soft baby quilts, and checking price tags on diaper bags. A one time visit wouldn’t have meant anything. This was Azzolla, where it was more likely than not that a woman over forty was already a grandmother (or at least a  great-aunt). So, Jerrie’s first detour past bottles and botties didn’t mean anything. But then she returned. And she stayed longer. She pondered. And then came the Sunday when  she purchased a few things.
The sales associate on duty was not only a smock-clad stock shelfer, she was also a prayer warrior who shared “concerns” with Barbara Judd and Mylene Decker.  She’d  recognized the woman lingering in infant wear the very first time she saw her. Someone who didn’t know the prayer concerns of the Governor's sister Helen might assume from Jerrie’s mom jeans and cheap shoes that she  was not one of Azzolla’s elite. But this clerk knew better. The clerk knew that this woman’s son dated the Governor’s daughter. Months ago Mylene Decker, on behalf of Helen, had asked for prayer for the Governor’s family because the sixteen year old daughter was possibly pregnant.   The purchase of baby items after several weeks of shopping – this was something to  report to the prayer team on Tuesday night. After all, the prayer team needed to know more in order to pray effectively.
Mylene missed that Tuesday night’s prayer meeting. She’d gotten behind in her second job, and stayed home to calculate and fill orders of God’s blessed drink, Luna Moi.  Half way through the task, she was interrupted by a call. It confirmed for her that she was meant to stay home that night. The call was from her daughter in Boston, and the news was a miracle. Thirty seven year old Francis had a date! 
All details and possibilities were examined and re-examined. When Mylene and Francis finally ended the call, Mylene couldn’t wait to share the news with her best friend and hospital co-worker, Barb Judd. First, it would make her jealous, and second, it meant there was hope for all three that somewhere “out there” there were men who weren’t obsessed with thin women. Homely and portly, if Francis could get a date, there was hope for the divorced Mylene and the never-married Barbara. “Call me as soon as pryer group ends” she texted to her friend.  Then she poured herself a glass of Luna Moi and turned on the television to pass the time.
The show was only background noise. All Mylene could think about was Francis and the doctor. No need to mention his specialty, to Barbara, though proctology was a perfectly respectable field. There were a few other details Barb didn’t need to know, too, such as this man was seventeen years Francis’ senior, and the fact that it was a blind date.
The cell rang and caller ID confirmed it was Barb. In under three seconds, Mylene  flipped the phone open and snorted out her usual “hello.”
The news of Francis’s upcoming date was quickly overshadowed by Barbara’s own surprising news. Mylene couldn’t believe what she was hearing. How could she have not been at prayer group on this of all nights?
 “Walmart?...And she’s sure it was Jerrie Strauss?”  Mylene pressed Barbara to remember more details, and repeated them as if to confirm. “Baby stuff?  What colors were-“
“Mostly blue. And a sleep set in a hockey print!” Barbara was very matter-of-fact.
“It’s a boy!” Mylene whispered with glee.  Francis’ date had been forgotten.  The only date Mylene and Barb wanted to talk about was the date Cristol Saplin had a baby boy.  “When do you think she had it?” asked Mylene.
“Don’t know. No one knows,” Barb answered. “No one has seen the baby yet.”
“Well, let’s start asking around,” Mylene said. “You can’t keep a thing like this a secret forever.”


Cristol’s life seemed to be nothing but problems. Not only was the baby a burden on her mind, but she hated her new school. It was huge. She felt invisible. Without friends, what was the point of school? She loathed being a nobody. But, wasn’t that the point of moving in with her aunt?   Still, if she only had a couple in-school friends – just to make the  days tolerable. She’d played basketball in both her other high schools and it might have been her path to friendships in this third school of her sophomore year, but she had no time for sports. She’d always been part of the popular crowd, too. So, it was a shock to her when, in this huge school, all the popular girls shunned her and all the popular boys looked right through her. She’d never cared about acceptance by the smart crowd before, but here they were her only hope, and she resigned herself to becoming a cool geek – a nerd with privileges.  It was the last straw when that clique easily discerned that she wasn’t one of them.  If she’d been doing drugs again there could have been superficial friendships forged with suppliers and other users. But even that was out of her life now.
She was out of options for group identity. Cristol Saplin, for the first time in her life was in that wide, deep pool of nobodies that miserably put in their time in the halls of public schools. She hated it.
If there was one bright spot in her school life, it was a nursing preparatory class. Cristol thought this might be her path to a career, and besides, she liked the teacher. Mrs. Matthews was a young woman and a natural instructor. She had a way of making even the toughest topics understandable. She was no-nonsense, too. 
On the day lab partners were announced, Mrs. Matthews smiled as she said, “Barbie Roberts, you’ll work with Cristol Saplin.”
Barbie’s hand immediately shot into the air. “But, Ms. Matthews…”
Christine Matthews shut her down with a look. And so, once a week, on lab days, Cristol was forced to share data and practice techniques with someone whose distain for her was palpable.
No one would have thought the two were compatible. Barbie was a living replica of her namesake, and Cristol was plain and sweatshirt-clad. And this girl lived up to the  mantra of the plastic Barbie – that girl could do anything. She was tall, smart, very pretty, popular, college-bound, captain of the girl’s basketball team, and girlfriend of the captain of the hockey team.  Only one thing brought down the otherwise near-perfect image. Tacky as it was, she had a tramp stamp that read “Made by Mattel.” 
Cristol was no where near her lab partner’s level of intelligence, popularity, fashion sense, or beauty. She and Barbie were equals in only one thing – high school bitchiness. 
Ms. Matthews was aware of the mutual ill-will between the two, and intentionally matched the girls up in order to force them to work it out.  Learning to work with someone you didn’t like was a  valuable lesson and a transferable skill.  This wasn’t bullying, she would have stopped that. No, this was merely two self-important girls taking a dislike to each other. Barbie and Cristol would be better nurses for having had this experience.
On a Friday, after what seemed like a ten day week, Cristol was having lunch alone, and thinking about the weekend ahead with Wrangler, and a visit to Calc, when Barbie sat down across from her. “Everyone hates you, Cristol.  We all have to study for Monday’s test, but not you. Your mother will see to it that you don’t fail no matter how miserable you do on the test. It isn’t fair. The rest of us earn our grades.” She looked over at the table where her friends were watching and snickering. She turned back to Cristol and said, “Did I say we all hate you?”  
Barbie’s friends were laughing as she walked back to join them. High fives were shared all around and every one of the girls looked over at Cristol.
Monday morning Cristol wasn’t in lab class. Ms. Matthews asked Barbie where she was. “ Cristol’s name isn’t on the absentee list, has she shown up?” 
Barbie gave a gleaming smile. “No, Ms. Matthews, she hasn’t come to class yet.”
 Later, Ms. Matthews learned  Cristol had been in the guidance office dropping her third period class.  
That weekend, Cristol told Wrangler that she was glad she quit the class, she wouldn’t have been able to resist punching out Barbie if she had to work with that girl another minute. Besides, nursing looked like a lot of work. She didn’t want to do that kind of work. Office work would be more suited to her personality. Maybe office manager in some doctor’s office. That would combine her former interest with her new understanding of herself.  Yes, that was it! She’d get an office position working for some cool kind of doctor, like, um, the place where her mom got liposuction and botox.  
Her only regret was that she hated being like her mother. “So that’s the last time I’m going to be a quitter,” she vowed. “And that goes for raising our son,” she said. “I will never give up on on Calc. I love you and we are going to be a family, forever. I don’t care what Dr. ABC said, and I don’t care what my parents say. We are not going to quit being parents. We’re not quitters. We’re a family. Period. ”
“Right.” said Wrangler. “We love each other. And now we have a kid. We are a family. We will always be a family.” For Wrangler it was really that simple. For Cristol it was that simple, too.  But just like with the pregnancy, complications were about to set in.


Anonymous said...

I just love Fridays! Getting better and better! Thanks!

Duncan said...

Thanks Allison,

This is much better than what I imagine Fred's book would be.

mary b said...

BTW~ What ever happened to Fred's Book?

Dis Gusted said...


just like a reality show.....

eva marie said...

Oh yeah, whatever happened to Fred's book??

Also what happened to Me Again?? I seem to have missed her departure.

jk said...

Another great installment, Alison. I look forward to Friday (or, very late Thursday night) every week.

Anonymous said...

Edit - disdain is mispelled as distain