Drew, the narrator (I guess I don’t ever even actually mention her name in this particular story), is a character I’ve gotten to know closely over the years. So much so that if a guy intentionally broke her heart I’d pour sticky things on his truck (what? they always drive trucks) and say mean, vulgar things about him on my Facebook page. THAT’s the kind of relationship Drew and I have.
She was the original heroine of the novel I started three or so years ago, but I was still in desperate pursuit of my voice back then and so I shredded all her stories and burned the shreds in a bonfire (not for dramatic flair, but just because that’s what we do with paper scraps). She is now a secondary character in the novel I’m currently working on. But she’s no less dear to me.
It still feels a little vulnerable and unnatural for me to share my fiction, but I want to share this piece because I like it. The refrain that truly makes it what it is also makes it so that it doesn’t fit well in the novel, but for some reason I just can’t stand to leave it in the back of a desk drawer with the other misfits.
The lovely comedian, Sarah Silverman, said in an interview I saw one time that your glitch can also be its own superpower. I think she’s a neat lady so I believe her.
Here is my novel’s glitch:
You’ll Understand When You’re Older
I feel the glass shatter before I hear it.
Mama’s shrill goddamn it rings out from the kitchen. She’s always telling him to damn something.
Annalise rolls her wooden train across the living room carpet. She is silent, but I shoot a look that says try to be quieter, and bookmark my page to see if Mama needs any help. She doesn’t, of course, and I must be the glutton for punishment Daddy says I am because even after she yells at me I kneel down to pick up the bigger pieces. That is until she sweeps me out of the way with the broom.
She rambles on about broken glass and my bare feet, but I know she just needs to yell. And since Daddy’s not here, and the bowl is already broken, I apologize insincerely (in the snotty tone she hates). I exit the room before she sees the smirk tugging at the corners of my mouth.
When I return a half hour later she’s a brand new person, humming into a pot of white chili. She bends down to let me try it. I nod and give her the thumbs up. The cilantro, she says, is fresh picked from her vegetable garden- well the garden that had almost been able to pass for a vegetable one until the dogs ate the broccoli and tomatoes. But its fate was sealed when Mama mistook the corn sprouts for weeds. Daddy teases her about it often. She plays along coolly, but I can tell the smile hurts her cheeks. *
She told me a story one time about how she tried to revive a carton of eggs. She laid them out on a bed of grass carefully selected from the softest parts of the yard, and picked some of her mother’s elephant ears to cover them. She ran an extension cord through her bedroom window, plugged up a hairdryer as a makeshift incubator, and warmed them up, waiting for baby chicks to pop out. Then the neighbor girl came over with her new puppy.
By the time Mama remembered the eggs her mother had cleaned it all up and sat her down to have a talk about wastefulness and respect for other peoples’ things. After she grew old enough to know that it never would have worked anyhow, she decided it was better she didn’t find out on that day. Somehow it was easier to think she’d let them down, than to accept that she hadn’t been enough in the first place.
Mama sets the pot to simmer, looks at me curiously, and asks if I want to talk about anything. I don’t, of course, and she must be the manic depressive Daddy says she is because even after I tell her I’m fine she hovers over me like I’m the volatile one. That is until I shrug her off.
I ramble on about how I’m really tired, that’s all, but she knows I just need to sulk. And since Daddy’s not here, and so many of her own thoughts remain unspoken, she apologizes sincerely (in the anxious tone I hate). She exits the room before I can see the tears tugging at the corners of her eyes.
*This paragraph was taken directly from my own life. I love to make white chili, and I used to add fresh cilantro until our dogs ate my garden. My husband, however, does not tease me about it because he’s the one who rescued the dogs. And also he’s the husband…so naturally it’s all his fault no matter what.