Thursday, March 25, 2010


Kayla is caught up in a bad situation at Brian Kepler’s party…  Kayla has been a frequent character at OGW, and is now a main character in my next book, Somebody’s Daughter.  To catch up with Kayla and her friends in earlier parts of this thread, read OGW 10/1, 11/5, 11/12, 12/10, 12/31, 1/14, 2/11.

Kayla:  I feel weird.  Everyone is looking, and I don’t like to be looked at.  I’m Rain’s best friend, but I’m not like her, especially not tonight.  She’s more than her usual self, like possessed or something. 
“Come on, Kayla,” Rain whispers.  “You want Brian to notice you!”
I look around the hot tub.  Brian isn’t noticing me, that’s true.  He doesn’t even know I’m here.  I want to pretend he’s looking at me out of the corner of his eye, and he isn’t talking to me because he respects me too much to grab my breast the way he just did that other giggling girl, oh shit, I am a loser.  I can’t believe it took me two beers and this stupid, insanely stupid, visit to the hot tub for me to realize that.  Where is Casey?  I want to just go home, so I stand up. 
Like an idiot, like a little baby, I want to cry, and I’m just standing there, shivering, when Rain stands up next to me, and she’s all “Oh yeah, you go Kayla,” and she’s bumping my skinny hip to make me dance and now everyone is looking and we look so stupid, Shit Rain stop!
She doesn’t stop.  Before I can even say, “let’s go,” she’s pulled off her bikini top!  Before I can even grab her and pull her under the water and ask her what she’s on and why she’s doing this, before I can even—
She pulls off my top!  Holy shit!  My nipples are cold and hard, and I don’t feel good, but now Brian is looking, and he’s forgotten about the other skanks, and he’s cheering us on! 
Someone hands me a jello shot, which I swallow, and then a beer, which I chug, and then I, little, meek, pathetic eleventh-grader at a senior party, not-even-invited girl, I wiggle my hips, and dance with Rain.
She says, “They want to see a show, Kayla, should we give them a show?”
My head is a little swimmy.  I see Casey coming toward us, and she looks concerned and nervous and as if she’s about to put a stop to all this.  For a moment I’m torn between the comfort of my old self, promised by Casey, and the promise of following Rain’s lewd behavior and branding myself in Brian’s mind forever -- but then Brian’s best friends Kris and Damien from the basketball team, they get in the way so I can’t see Casey anymore.  All I see is how happy Rain and I are making the boys and I’m thinking, Brian will never forget me, and when Rain squirts me with beer, I squirt her back with the beer that magically appears in my hands, and now those other girls who were in the hot tub before have disappeared, fucking disappeared!  It’s all Rain, it’s all me!  We play fight, and everyone is cheering, everyone loves us.
We put on an awesome show.  Rain spreads beer foam on me and you won’t believe this, but I lick it off her stomach, because that’s what the crowd wants!  They love me!  Afterward, when I’m sweaty and breathless and drunk, Brian – Brian Kepler! -- gently lifts me out of the hot tub and ties my bathing suit top back on for me.
“You don’t belong up there” he says. He smiles at me!  He likes me, me!  “Come on,” he says, grinning, “let me get you a beer or something.”
Arm in arm, Brian and I walk to the keg, if you can call what I’m doing walking.  Really, it’s more like I’m floating.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Jenna:  Jenna is from Spun, a novel I wrote about a girl with a crystal meth addiction.  Here, she’s been clean for several weeks, but her boyfriend Josh convinces her to get high again.

Jenna:  One sniff, and it’s back.
            Confidence, yes.  I mean, Yes!  Who did I think I was before, trying to be someone
            What?  Who?
            This is me.  The real me.
            All that tormenting of myself, wondering if I was worth anything, wondering if it was okay for Josh, or my mother, or drugs to complete me, and now here I am, and when Josh offers me the cd case again, I snort another line of meth without even thinking about it because all that crap about feeling my feelings was just crap, and now I feel it, I feel it all, it’s all good, and I’m all in my head:  Josh, Mom, Paige!  I love you guys!  Ruby!  And that great writer I love too, that Yann Martel who is totally awesome!
            Burning in my nose and brain, and I’m a little anxious and my thinking is going all over the place but so what!
            “Did you ever read Life of Pi?” I ask Josh, whose hands are on me, and it makes me uncomfortable (but I love him!  I do and it. is. all. good. smiles.) The author, Yann Martel said-- 
Don’t know why I’m talking to Josh about a book right now it’s crazy and has nothing to do with me really, and yet it does, because now everything means something.  I want to cry.
            “I love that you’re the smart one,” Josh says, kissing my neck.
            Hey!  I’m trying to talk here!
            Josh isn’t listening, but I say anyway, because I am so profound right now, and I am the smart one, why didn’t I see that before?  “Life and death, birth and love,”
            “Mm hmm,” Josh says. 
            Straighten up, Jenna.  I try to remember the whole quote from that author guy I love whose name I can’t even think of right now because I feel buzzy in my head, and it’s like every book I ever read is spinning around in there.  Suddenly, out of the whirl, I pull out, “Life and death, birth and love….They’re not problems, they’re life itself.”
            That’s it.  That’s me and my experience.  High on meth again, and it’s all in focus for an instant, and I’m not so sure anymore.
Josh doesn’t answer, but I don’t care, I’m just wishing I could get that initial buzz-burn back, that feeling of everything inside of me, but I can’t. 
            Whoa.  I am suddenly empty, I feel nothing.  When Josh tries to lift my shirt over my head, I say “No,” for the first time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Caitlin’s younger brother Corey matters even more to her than her mermaid collection.  If she can’t have him in her life anymore, she doesn’t want anything…

Caitlin:  There’s an old glass salad bowl on my desk at home, full of mermaids.  All I have to do is reach in, and grab a memory.
     Like this one – She is missing her tail, so technically she’s a little girl with a sparkly bikini top and nothing on the bottom but jointed legs.  When I was four, my parents took me to Catalina Island, and they told me a story about the mermaid fairy, who lived off the shore of the island, and who brought good little girls mermaid dolls in their sleep.  I woke up in the morning with a little girl mermaid under my pillow, a mermaid as young as I was, but with a real tail that came off and everything.
     There’s a picture of a mermaid fountain outside a bar where my mother took me, six, and my baby brother.  We used to go there everyday after my mother picked me up from school, and stay until just before Daddy got home.  I ate grilled cheese.  She had a small bowl of lobster bisque and three vodka doubles rocks everytime.
     The mermaid with the broken tail fin.  I pick it up.  The ceramic is cool against my cheek.  The edge of the broken fin matches the scar on my eyebrow like a jigsaw puzzle.  Corey threw it at me when he was eight.  I needed seven stitches.  He said seven was his favorite number, and he cried.  He always loved me, and I always loved him, and we always had each other.
     Until I was fourteen.  He was ten.  It was the first time he was sent away.  My parents couldn’t control him.  He was ten, but he sent me a letter asking me if I could get him any acid and bring it when I visited.  I wasn’t allowed to visit, they said he wouldn’t get better if he always had me.  Here’s the mermaid I got in New Hampshire at Storyland, where my mother took me while my Dad visited Corey at “camp,” they called it.  I was too old for Storyland.  Corey was too young for “camp”.
     This silver mermaid on a leather cord was a gift from Corey the day my mother was a year sober, and Corey was home for the weekend.  He stole the mermaid, but I didn’t tell.  I never told.  He said he wanted to put a bomb in my mother’s car that would blow her up when she got in to go to one of her meetings with all her new friends.  He was so angry, always so angry at her.  I never told.
     The mermaid on a rock, topless, from the white elephant sale at the carnival where I met Corey when he was thirteen.  I brought him clothes and food.  He said he didn’t need it.  He smelled bad.  His teeth were brown.  One was blacked out from a fight.  He wore an old army jacket from my Dad’s closet. He said, “That’s a nice mermaid, Kath.”  He said goodbye.
     I don’t have a mermaid for today, but I found this head, copper colored with flowing hair, and it could be a mermaid’s head.  I place it in the bowl.  My Mass card doesn’t have a mermaid on it either, but I place it in the bowl, too. 
     When I was five, I told my mother everyday, “I want a baby.”  She’d be tired, and her hair would be wild, andf she only wanted to kiss me goodnight, her good girl, and she’d say, “If we have another baby, it will cost money and time.  What if we can’t get you that mermaid costume you want?”  I said that was okay, I just wanted a little brother or sister.  She said she’d think about it.  In the end, she got me the mermaid costume anyway, and a mermaid Barbie too, that I used to take a bath with.  It’s in the bowl with its glamorous eyes stained from our hard water. 
     “Goodbye Corey,” I say.  Then I pick up the bowl and throw it.  Mermaids and memories break and scatter and I suck in air, but it won’t come.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Juliet:  “You’re wearing your mermaid dress,” I say to my mother as she pours us to-go cups of dark coffee.  Is my smile stretched too tightly?  I’m just so happy that she’s so happy – as indicated by her wearing her “mermaid dress,” a long, spaghetti-strapped, emerald green casual gown covered with cheap lace, worn under a faded denim jacket that matches mine.  Her “happy” -- so happy she’s like immortal -- dress.
     I’m wearing a faded black tank with a faded silver arched cat on it, over a bright white tee, under my denim jacket.  Black leggings, knee-high boots with zippers up the backs.  Everything soft and worn, from my heart to my heels.
     “You should try wearing a tee shirt and leggings and cute boots sometime,” I say, getting into her car.  She never drives me!  This is way special.  I am way special today…  I don’t even miss not getting a ride from Derek, even though he’s my best friend and he’s driven me every day for this whole year and even though this year he turned into a total hottie, not that it matters -- Michael is, and always has been my one true love…
     I shake my head so that my thoughts stop jumbling.  My curls fall out from behind my ears, and I look even more like my mother.  Smiley and red-headed.  “I mean, it feels really good,” I continue – “I always feel really good when I wear this outfit.  Like, calm.  Comfy, but also kind of shiny, you know what I mean?”
     My mother pauses, the car key poised to turn.  Did I say something wrong?  Oh Goddess no… why can’t I do anything right?  I love you Mommy --
     But my mother doesn’t burst into tears, she just says, “Interesting, very interesting.”  Then she smiles at me, and I lean in close, holding on to her arm and breathing in her scent – peaches and bergamot and coffee.  Rosemary in her hair.  Love in her warmth.  She loves me!
     But suddenly, she’s gone!  Just like that, on the way to my school with me hanging on to her every word and movement and mood.  She’s drifted into a world I only get to watch-- Heavy lids, eyes almost unfocused but not enough that she can’t multi-task – still letting me hold tightly to one of her arms, and driving at the same time.  This while her brain has sunken into creative mode.  The artist at work in my element…
     Sliding into a parking space at school, she suddenly breaks the surface, splashing up at me with an excited sparkle– “When I wear my mermaid dress, I feel slinky and cool, like I’ve just risen from the deepest, darkest part of the ocean, up into the light.  I feel renewed.”  My mother ruffles my hair as she says, “And shiny, too.”
     “Um… interesting?” I say, trying to see where she’s going with this.
     “Okay, picture this – I’m onstage—“
     “Or me, I’m onstage—“
     My mother waves at me with one hand.  “Shh, shh.”
     I hate when she does that.
     She continues, the ideas bubbling up like the froth of a wave, crash! Ideas! And bubbly-bubble— “and the show’s called ‘You Are What You Wear,’ and I have on an outfit, and I’m talking about how it makes me feel and—“
     I join in.  Crash!  “—it’s one outfit, but it’s in layers that I peel back into other outfits, each one with a different feeling attached—“
     My mother has clasped my hands in hers.  (Crash!)  “We must make lists.  Of outfits, different outfits and feelings that go with them.”
     (Crash!)  “We’ll have to go shopping!” I add.
     “Maybe one of us will be lit at a time, and the other changes clothes meantime instead of showing the layers revealed—“
     “—maybe we call the show, ‘Layers Revealed’!”
     “No, honey, ‘You are what you wear.’ Is better, it’s like ‘You Are What You Eat,’ but--”
     “We should practice wearing our outfits one at a time all day and write down what we’re feeling—“
     This is so great, I don’t even want to go to school, I’m all—
     Oh no.  Shit no!  All of a sudden she has those glassy eyes again.  Mommy’s hands grow cold as she withdraws into her own creative space again.  Without me.  Goddess damn it!
     A boy whistles.
     Michael?  No he did not.
     OMG, it was Michael.  Not whistling at my mother, not not not!
     Was.  Was whistling.  At.  My.  MOTHER!
     I tilt my head down and hurry out of the car, run into school.  I will not cry. 
     I will not cry!  Leave that to her.  Let her cry.