Thursday, January 17, 2013
White Trash In the Snow - Chapters 80, 81 and 82 Pride and Maple: unhappy days
WHITE TRASH IN THE SNOW
The imaginary Saplin family has an imaginary bun in the oven. Pride's not happy about that. Maple's not happy about a lot of things. And then there's Field, half a world away from Azzolla - what does he know and how does he feel about that?
Welcome back ! So glad to have friends stopping by for a Friday rummage through White Trash in the Snow. And to our new friends and our visitors - I'm honored to have you here. Welcome to you, too.
It was April and it was cold; cold enough for long pants and heavy shirts indoors. Nevertheless, Pride insisted on wearing a lacey yellow short sleeved dress to go to Grandma Heat’s. Maple was in charge, and she knew her little sister could go from benign to brat in a nanosecond, so she offered no argument. “You want to wear that? Go ahead. Freeze your ass off. I don’t care.” .
“Oooooh! I’m gonna tell mommy! You said a bad word!”
“What bad word? Assets? I said assets. And you can’t prove I didn’t.” Maple tugged her sister’s hair and Pride stuck her tongue out. They’d both felt some jealousy in the weeks since they’d learned that there was going to be a new baby brother in the house, and the petty bickering was like balm. It was soothingly normal. They grinned at each other. Pride giggled. “There’s Grandma pulling in,” said Maple. “Get your coat and scram.”
Pride hugged Maple, then ran to greet her grandmother.
“There’s my girl,:” said.Betty, “My, you look lovely today.” She motioned for Pride to turn around, and as the child twirled, Betty gave Maple a knowing wink.
Pride stopped revolving and puffed up her tiny chest. “I’m Princess Pride.” She aimed a ‘so there’ smirk her sister.
“Prideful Princess is more like it,” Maple said under her breath.
Pride could be annoying, but right now, she was all Maple had. The Governor and First Spouse were doing so much travel, Cristol was living at Aunt Helen’s, Field was in the army - who was there to be “family” for Maple except Pride? The downside was that Maple, even though she was young, too, had to be the guardian most of the time. Both resented it and their relationship had become strained. Grandma Heat had seen the pressure building and arranged to have Pride and her closest-in-age cousin Kendrea Spivey visit on Saturday and stay over for the night. Betty would bring them home on Sunday after a chocolate chip pancake breakfast.
Maple was stoked. Her boyfriend Robert was coming over. As soon as Grandma’s car was down the driveway she called him. “Come NOW.” Thank God for Grandma and Grandpa, Maple thought. And thank God Pride really likes going to that animal mortuary they call home.
My family is so weird. 'Specially Grandpa Heat. No wonder Mom is so weird.
As the afternoon wore on, Pride and Kendrea played together but separately in the fur-and-feather-filled living room. Each girl was absorbed in a handheld game, thumbs working and faces twitching. With the exclamation of a jubilant “Yes!” each let the other know each time they had scored, destroyed, completed, or won. In their worlds, this passed as camaraderie.
Kendrea was curled up on the sofa, steadying her game using a sealskin pillow. Pride was on the floor, her bare legs tickled by the bear skin rug. Pride yawned and turned off the toy. Mildly obsessive compulsive, she carefully nestled the game under the bear’s ear as was her habit. She’d spent hours in this house on this dead animal playing with this game. Not until she had tucked it into it’s spot was free to go. She patted the bear’s ear and scrambled to her feet, unladylike and flashing pink zebra print girl’s Fruit of the Looms. Kendrea wasn’t noticing, she was busy. On her way to the kitchen, Pride tugged lightly on the tail of the fox another harmless impulse she couldn’t resist.
Betty Heat was preparing supper. She was unaware that Pride had come up behind her, and jumped when the child grabbed her around the legs with a big hug.
“Grandma? “ Pride asked.
Looking over her shoulder, Betty checked to see which of the girls had her in their grip. “Why, hello, Pride. You surprised Grandma.” Turning off the faucet, she asked, “Do you need something?”
“Yes,” Pride stamped her foot. “I need to ask something. Why does Mommy want to have a baby?”
“Well, Dear, don’t you think babies are nice? I think your mommy does, and that’s a good reason to have a baby.”
“But, I’m Daddy and her’s baby,” said Pride. She folded her arms, dropped her chin, and pouted in expert fashion.
“Well, I guess they want you to have a little brother.” Betty set the pan on the sink, took Pride by the hand, and walked with her over to the table. She pulled out a chair, sat, and patting her lap, invited Pride to climb up. Yellow lace and rough crinoline scratched Pride’s thighs as she squirmed to get cozy, her grandmother securing her with an arm around her waist.
Pride reached up and draped her little arms around Betty’s neck and looked into her face with a serious expression. “I don’t want a brother. I don’t want any baby. Mommy shouldn’t have a baby. ”
“Oh, Pride, you don’t understand. ” Betty’s voice was compassionate but firm. “When the baby comes you’ll fall in love with him. You’ll see. He will be like a little doll.”
“I don’t like dolls.” Pride could be very loud, especially when she was obstinate. She reminded Betty of Rachael at that age. And there was that familiar pout, again.
Betty put a finger under the girl’s chin and lifted it. She looked her in the yes. She smiled gently. “Pride, dear, your Mommy’s going to need your help. You can be lots of help. Your mommy will need you to help give your brother a bottle, and help sing him to sleep, and help change diapers, and…”
“Ewwee! Pride made a face. “I’m not changing yucky diapers.”
Betty sighed. When Betty was six, Betsy Wetsey was her favorite doll. Even now she thought a peeing doll was a desirable commodity. ”Well, we’ll see,” she said, easing Pride off her lap. “Want to help Grandma mix the potato flakes? Go get the box.” Pride nodded and Betty watched her skip over to the pantry.
Many times Betty had told Rachael Pride was not having a normal childhood. It was a worry. “She spends too much time with adults. A child needs to develop social skills. She needs to be with other children.”
Rachael’s reply was always the same. God intended Pride’s life to be special. Pride was unplanned and therefore God chose her to be born to a Mayor, and he knew she’d be the daughter of the Governor. He had a purpose for Pride’s life, and Rachael wasn’t going to interfere with that.
Exactly why God wouldn’t want the child to have more friends and more time to play, Betty didn’t know. But now, the poor girl was feeling threatened by this next gift from God on the way. Betty searched her mind for comforting words for her granddaughter.
“Pride, you’re going to be even more special to Mommy and Daddy when the baby gets here.”
“Because you’ll be the baby’s big sister. You will still be Pride the little sister that everybody loves, but soon, you’ll also be a big sister! Like sprinkles on ice cream!”
“Grandma, I want some ice cream. Can I have some ice cream?”
Betty smiled. “Not now. Go play with Kendrea and let me make supper.”
“Grandma, will Mommy love the baby better than me?”
Betty stopped smiling and got very serious. “Pride, there is no chance of that. Your mommy could never love the baby more than you. I promise you that.”
Pride thought about it. “Okay, but if you’re wrong, I’ll run away and live with Aunt Sally. Kendrea and me’ll be twins! I always wanted to be twins.” She looked earnestly up at her grandmother.
Pride’s chubby cheeks reminded Betty of all of her own kids at that age. Children grow up so fast, she thought. Why doesn’t Rachael see what she’s missing ? Missing those cookie-making, bedtime story-reading, Sesame Street singing moments. Little things that make big memories. That’s what gives a child security. Betty’s knees creaked as she squatted down to look eye-to-eye with Pride. “That sounds like fun. But if you weren’t part of your family any more, Field and Cristol and Maple would be sad.”
“But Grandma, I want to keep them and be in Kendrea’s family, too. I want Aunt Sally to be my mommy like Aunt Helen is Cristol’s new mommy.”
Ouch, thought Betty. I wish Rachael had been here to receive that slap.
“Nope, it doesn’t work that way.” Like there are real rules to this. “If you don’t want to be your mommy’s girl you can’t keep your brother and sister.”
Pride crossed her arms and stomped her foot.
“So, if that’s what you want, I’ll take you home to Aunt Sally’s house. You might as well go tonight. Shall we call her and tell her you are coming?” Sally picked the portable phone off the counter.
“No! Stop!” Pride slapped her Grandmother’s hand. She pulled on her arm. “Stop!” Pride was half yelling and half crying. ”I don’t want to live at Aunt Sally’s.”
Kendrea suddenly appeared in the kitchen. She looked hurt and confused. . “I don’t want you to live at my house either,” she yelled.
“Oh dear,” Betty said, “Kendrea, sweetheart, you don’t understand. Pride and I were talking. It isn’t polite to listen in, and it’s not polite to interrupt.” Betty put a hand on each girl’s shoulder. “Tonight you girls are having a special night here with Grandma and Grandpa, and tomorrow I take you home.
“I wanna go home now,” Pride whined. “ to MY HOUSE,” she was very clear.
“Yeah,” said Kendrea,” not MY house.”
Pride glared at her cousin. “My house has a trampoline.” She new it was the one thing her cousin coveted.
“Okay, Pride, I’ll take you home.. Home where the trampoline is.”
She gave her cousin a so-there look, and remembered something else Kendrea envied. “And Fraud! I want to go home and play with Fraud.”
“Ah, Pride, that will be a big help. That dog needs someone to play with. See? You are a natural helper to everyone in your family. And they love you and even if-“
“Take me home NOW, Grandma!”
“Okay, Pride, I’ll take you home. Get your coats on, girls.” She checked to make sure she didn’t have anything on the stove, put on her own jacket, and located a set of keys. “Let’s go, girls.”
Pride stuck her tongue out at Kendrea and ran ahead. Kendrea, puzzled and hurt, took her grandma’s hand and went along.
Betty’s car passed a snow mobile pulling out of the Saplin driveway. Maple’s boyfriend put up a hand and waved, recognizing the car as one of several family taxies that shuffled Saplin kids from relative to relative. To him, it was weird the way Mr. and Mrs. Saplin and their four kids were almost never together. Maple said her father had been raised the same way – depending on relatives as much as parents - and he saw nothing wrong with it. And, according to Maple, Mrs. Saplin believed it was God’s plan for their relatives to contribute to raising the Governor’s kids. It was a service to God because He chose her – Rachael Saplin – to be elected to her job and someday, she was going to be President of the United States. That, thought Robert, would only happen as an act of God. A woman President? Ha! That’s not gonna happen. .
To Robert, Mrs. Saplin was a nut, a friendly enough nut, and Mr. Saplin seemed okay, but he was a loner. In the winter, preparations for racing kept him away from his family for months. In the summer he was far away running a business. The other two seasons, which Robert called pre- winter and post- winter, Maple’s dad was home more, but still not much. He had no idea what his daughters were doing. Or, if he did, maybe he didn’t have time to care.
Robert and Maple had just had five uninterrupted hours alone in the Saplin house. Five hours! That would never be possible in his own house. And if Maple wasn’t alone, she was taking care of her little sister. It didn’t seem fair. Just because Cristol had to go away to hide that she was pregnant (he wasn’t supposed to know that but Maple trusted him with the secret) why should Maple have to suddenly be an adult? And it was affecting his life, too. Maple loved to party, but there were lots of parties she missed because of Pride. There was one tonight, but if that car he just passed meant Pride was being returned home, he might have to be a bachelor again tonight. Maybe he could sneak a bottle out of his parents liquor cabinet and they could have their own party instead after Pride was asleep.
Moving away from Los Angles last summer, Robert and his brother expected to experience culture shock. They figured they’d be sophisticated in comparison to the kids from this hillbilly hangout. And, they were right when it came to fashion, world issues, college plans, citizenship. But, Azzolla kids were more advanced in one adult area. When it came to mixing fun and pharmaceuticals, kids in the valley were advanced. They started early. Those who hadn’t had the first beer experience by middle school were either social outcasts or Jesus freakoids. Robert and his brother learned that it was “an A-Hole thing.”
The offensive sounding phrase was coined by the young people in the valley to shock adults and to describe social and cultural phenomenon unique to the area. Robert first heard it used by Wrangler Stauss. It was last summer, and Robert and Maple were swimming in the lake at the Saplin’s when Cristol showed up wearing and American flag bikini with pink knee-high vinyl boots. Robert had snickered and Wrangler, explained to the new kid, “Robert, my man, that there is classic Azzolla. Won’t find style like that anywhere else. It’s an A-Hole thing.”
Then there had been that other unforgettable lesson. The one delivered when Maple’s mom paid a visit last fall and, along with a white flower, she delivered a threat. “If anyone as much as laughs at the ridiculous rumor that Cristal is pregnant, I would take that personally and as governor, I would have to believe that rumor-repeaters are my enemies. But, I don’t worry stuff like that. That’s what the State Police are for. You betcha’.”
Robert’s parents weren’t dumb. “Boys,” his father said, “When in Azzolla, do as the A-Holes do. Mind your own business. And remember, you can act like one, but don’t become one.”
CHAPTER EIGHTY TWO
Maple locked her bedroom door. She pulled out her cell and slumped in the purple bean bag chair. Selecting Field’s cell number, she texted U there?
Half a world away, her brother responded. roger that
Maple was glad she’d reached him. There wasn’t anyone else to complain to about their mom. Except Cristol, but she couldn’t sympathize with Maple, she had too many issues of her own. Thumbs working in tandem, Maple wrote: moms gone crazy
LOL !! Not news!
NO REALLY CRAZY
she ordered a fake baby belly
To wear! Unnder her shirt : (
U r kiddin ?
NO!!!! Sooooo IMBARASNG !!
Field responded with sympathy and advice OK, def not cool BUT u need 2 stay cool tho
Stay cool? He wasn’t the one watching Mom walking around with the sofa throw pillows under her jackets. Now she was going to wear this ginormous phony belly thing! I’d like to see him stay cool. He’s lucky to be in Iraq. I’d trade places right now. Her fingers found the letters to spell: I M freekin! I can’t B cool ”
He obviously didn’t understand the risks their Mom was taking.
U R not here. If this belly falls off, Ill die!
There was a long silence. What was the matter? Where had Field gone? Oh, wait. Horrified,, she realized that message should not be sent flippanly to someone in that part of the world. Not cool She wished she could get it back.
U R right she typed. “I can b cool. Thanks.”
You can do it Maple. You can B strong. Gotta go
She missed him. She wanted him to know. Miss U
Maple pulled a furry blanket over her and curled up. She thought about how awful it must be for all the soldiers in Iraq, far away from their families, dads and moms not getting to see their babies. Those people had messed up lives, too. And for a good cause. For our country. To find the people responsible for September 11th. And stuff like that. By comparison, her mother’s actions looked even more selfish,
I need to spend more time thinking about Field and asking God to keep him safe. Maple had been raised to be a Christian. So I’ll pray more, and try not to be totally absorbed with mom and the pregnancy stuff. Silently, she asked God to protect her brother and keep him safe. But she couldn’t stay focused. She had a vision of her mother standing in front of a group and a big, pink, baby belly thing slipping out from under her shirt, and people whispering and her mother not aware… Oh God, keep all of us safe from enemies. Field, in Iraq and us back here.
Maple wasn’t the only one praying. Field pocketed his phone and said a quick prayer that God would help his sisters get through this period of new crazy-ass-stuff that his folks had brought upon the family. He looked around the air conditioned computer tent to which he was assigned, and thought how lucky he was that strings could be pulled to put him in an IT unit even without any technology background, making his life comfortable in a place like this while his sisters were miserably enduring life as the Governor’s daughters back home. Ironic, he thought. I didn’t want to enlist, but now, I thank God I’m in the army.