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In the Tenderloin

The Tenderloin. 11:30 a.m. November. 

Hey, you how ya doing? You look lovely today.”

He was youngish, somewhere between 19 and 30, with dark brown skin the color of wood smoked oak. His head shaved with new hair growing a shadowy crown of ebony. His face was fine; Swazi nose, Zulu chin, Xhosa face, a child of ancestral Southern Africa whittled away over a century of abuse, and replaced with poverty, drugs and anger. An American boy.

He was such a good boy when he was little.” Grandma used to say. “Such a nice boy.”

(Grandmothers cry a lot these days. )

His dark brown slacks sagged slightly over a practiced limp in his walk. Swagger. His jacket oversized and bulky, black, and worn, but kept as clean as the streets allow.

“Thank you.” I said. My heels clicking against the sidewalk. The sound loud and obtuse. I had bought them recently, put them on layaway and made small payments. I had wanted nice shoes. Heels that were good for my feet but also flattering. This was an expensive requirement that took two months to pay off. They seemed too loud now.

He matched my step never looking at me always looking around or forward. If he glanced my way it was only to look at my body never my face. I forced myself to look at him to not allow fear keep my head down. A “nice” woman keeps her head down. This tactic has never worked in history, and yet we repeat, repeat, repeat.

He pulls out a phone from his coat, and I wince at the movement. Don’t be silly, don’t be silly, I think, keep walking, don’t slow down, don’t speed up, maintain the pace- maintain the pace. Nothing is wrong and I am not scared.

“Can I have your number?”

I keep walking. I don’t change my speed. I keep the same pace. I wonder how long he is going to walk with me. He holds his hand behind his back, and I wonder what he has hidden there. It is mid-day, but the light, and the people do not give me feelings of safety. I have stumbled unsuspectingly into the Tenderloin.

He leans heavily onto his right leg and swings his left forward in a well rehearsed strut. It’s so rehearsed that now it is his natural walk.

“When he was a baby he would stick out his belly and it would lead him around.”

Another man, gaunt face, chestnut skin pulled taught over his high jutting cheekbones, passes us. As he does he holds up two fingers. My unwanted companion nods. The chestnut man brushes against my shoulder, like a dying twig on a fall branch snags a sweater, and I am like a ghost to him; invisible in his world.

Another man pulls his car up to the curb. He rolls down his window and sticks his out his shaved head. His dark eyes and high cheekbones eclipse all other features nearly erased by his bone skin. He reminds me of pictures of boys in Southern Eastern European. I can see his blue track suit and automatically I think he is Russian. I secretly smile at my assumption- how do I know he’s Russian? Television? Magazines? Track Suits? He probably is Russian. He nods to my unwanted companion and lifts two fingers in the same manner as the chestnut man. My new-friend nods in response, but never stops walking alongside me.

As we share this walk, on a San Francisco street block that in my mind suddenly became the size of four city blocks, more men pass with nods and raised double digits. We were waking through a wave of nods and fingers.

His hands have been behind his back the entire time hidden under his heavy dark jacket. I wonder what he has under that jacket and if he will use it on me. I balance on the edge of fear and reason.

“So what do you do for work?” He asks me.

“I’m a teacher.” I say.

“A teacher?”

“Yes.”

He takes this information in like a fine cognac, inhaling first before placing the words to his lips and slowly sipping, then swallows with a nod to no man on the street but himself. He shifts his hands and arms but doesn’t reveal  them.

‘You know,” he begins, “I’m tryin’ to get back on my feet.”

“Such a good boy. And so smart too. Just whip smart.”

I don’t say anything. I just keep walking. I know at this point that he isn’t going to ask me for any money, not that it mattered, but if he didn’t want money, what did he want? Why the long walk?

“So, can I have your number?”

“I dont live here.” I say.

“I don’t either.” He says, “What does it matter? I want to be your friend. I’ll go where you are.”

“You gonna go to China?” I say, half smiling at his friend request. I still want to see his hands.

“I’m tryin’ to clean up. I’m thinkin’ about gettin’ my G.E.D.”

“You should.”

“I don’t know what I want to be yet.”

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Grandma asks. “I wanna be a police man so I can save people!” Baby says.

“Doesn’t matter.” I say, “Start with your G.E.D. You can be anything. Imagine what you can be.”

Grandma must have said that more than once. “Momma? Poppa? Can I be anything? Anything I want? Momma? Poppa?”

I look at his face. His young dark face already too old. Twenties? Thirties? Maybe, just maybe a teenager in the body of a hardened man.

“I wanna be your friend.” He says, “Can I be your friend?”

He never looks at me. Never looks at my face not the way I look at his face. I make him human he doesn’t do that for me.

He brings his hand out and holds a phone ready to take my number.

“We can’t be friends.” I say. “We can be acquaintances.”

“What’s that?” He says finally looking at me.

“Doing what we are doing right now. Walking together to the end of a block. We talk. We’re friendly. We say good-bye. We leave each other.”

“Oh. Well. I don’t want to waste anymore of my time.” He spins on his heavy leg and turns back up the street.

And leaves me with no good-bye, and like that I was dumped. In the Tenderloin.

My are you lookin’ lovely today!” A  giant black man with shiny skin is standing akimbo and yelling at me as I walk toward him. His white bleached shirt white as his teeth and tucked into pressed blue jeans stretched over colossus muscles. Huddle at his legs like a frightened children are a frail lady tweaker and a pile of rags with a toothless grin. They all smile at me. The woman’s skin which was once white is yellow and dry with a red sore on her chin and one on her cheek. Too much picking. Her clothes are dirty, but no where near the level of muck that is the Raggedy Cousin It hunched beside her.

“You sure are lovely.” The man yells again, and his voice is booming a deep rich baritone. The tone is to warm to be bothered, and only exasperated amusement rises into my being.

“Thank you.” I boom right back.

They were all children once too.

They all smile, and laugh cheerfully as I step off the curb onto the next block.

This new block is empty except for a schizophrenic man who is yelling to his invisibles.

“I know! I know! I’m upset! Yes! Yes! I am because that’s not what it’s about! I’ll gut it! I swear, I’ll gut it out! They’ll get it! They’ll get it!”

I walk pass him without incident. I am not a part of his visions.

I smile in the Tenderloin.

The banter is not cheap on the sidewalk, and it’s full of visions and monsters. Men and women who were once children shrink into reptiles because the light is too harsh and too cold. This is a place where the light is evil and the dark is good. A person can’t help where they were born. Not everyone was given equal opportunity, no matter how American one is.

“Fluorescents! It’s the fluorescents!” The man yells, and his voice falls behind me.

I agree with him it is the fluorescents. The grey pale light steals all the color. Whitewashes even the white.

Hunger suddenly diverts my thinking. I too am reptilian. I think of food. I could snap in a single jump to catch my prey, and everything else like fear of the street, fades in this one impulse of hunger. I must eat.

The Olympic cafe.

An old diner with faded pink linoleum tables, and a black and white checkered floor. Black  stools line the bar. I take a seat at a small single style booth. This is a place that once had smoking and non-smoking separated by this side of the room and that side of the room. I order bacon and eggs and black coffee.

Sometimes, I want to be an old man, anonymous, and alone with my shot of whisky, my cup of hot coffee, and my cigarette: “You youngsters you look at me and think I am sad, lonely, and pathetic, but I’m just sitting here being fine lost in my thoughts. My stimulants are small as you binge in your excess of partying such reckless youth. Now, I, I ease into my drink like a sage wrapped in a single sheet of bourbon: not a lake, there is no need to drown just to float. I am not waiting to die like Dylan Thomas. I am not gently waiting for the night to take me; I’ve a fine life. Leave your projections at the counter”.

I dream about being an old man. I will be an old woman. I want them both.

My thoughts are interrupted by an old black man his skin ash with age and the street. His hands in prayer shaking with pious pity and true religion. The owner of this timeless diner stares through the glass with dark Greek eyes. Pain through pane glass. The owner slowly shakes his head closing his eyes, he is hard-nosed, but not angry. “No.” He says.

They have a history these two.

Two old men. Old Americans: one stolen, sold, and bought; one who sold himself to come to the new country. Choices and no choices. America in the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin in America.

All babies grow old. Come little children, let’s play kick the can ’cause all babies grow old. Hey, little baby’ll be an old woman soon. An old grandma looking at old men staring at each other through windows of pain. I want to be them both at once. I want to be the old America, the grizzled broken dream; the death of a salesman and the raisin in the sun.

I eat my eggs, and drink my coffee in the Tenderloin.

Version 2

 

NaNo- Struggling to keep writing…

Time: 1986

Han Solo

Han Solo

“When are you going to be finished?” I whined.

I was sitting in the library waiting for Roseland to finish her research homework. Her mom had invited us over to bake some cookies and to play some board games. Wendy was grounded as usual, and Angel had made plans with some of her other friends. I wouldn’t say that Angel was popular not like a normal kind of popular where all the kids want to hang out with you, but she had a group of friends, and those friends had no desire to hang out with the other popular kids. You knew they were the bad kids. Most of them were the younger siblings of older bad kids. Families that had bad reputations. I was never exactly sure why they had bad reputations it was just known that good kids did not hang out with them and if you did then you would turn bad and there was no going back to the good side. For some reason it all kind of sounded to me like the Star Wars movies. The dark side and the side that was protected by all the Jedi nights. Once you turned to the dark side that’s it you’re done. The more I thought about it though I started to get a little confused on who exactly was the dark side. Angel’s friends, hung out with older kids, and we knew those older kids did bad things like drink and smoke. Some of the twelve year olds even smoke. I think even Angel has tried smoking. I know some of the older kids have sex too which grosses me out to even think about, but I had heard stories about Angel, stories that she once lifted her skirt in the boys bathroom and showed off her underwear. She also wears a bra which is totally funny because she doesn’t have any boobs at all, and sometimes in her class she likes to let her bra strap show on her shoulder so that all the boys know she is wearing one. I had heard even worse things about her from some of the other kids. You usually get all of your information on the playground or when your waiting outside for the teacher to let you into the classroom or when you work in groups. You can hear all of the gossip even if you don’t hang out with the people gossiping. Probably the only kids who don’t know anything that’s going on at school are the kids that are the total rejects that have been left out so much they don’t even know that people are talking. If it wasn’t for me and Roseland that would be Wendy. I don’t even know why we talk about other kids. We shouldn’t care what other kids are doing, but I guess we just get bored sometimes.

Roseland got up and walked over to the card catalogues to look for a book and then disappeared into the halls of shelves. Normally I really liked the library. I liked it when the librarians shushed you like they really cared about the books and the quiet. I liked to be surrounded by the books and it was always quiet and the perfect temperature. Warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It was funny how none of the classrooms were ever warm enough or cool enough, but the library was always perfect just like baby bear’s stuff. I had read all of the Grimms Fairytales after my brother died. I already felt like I was an orphan because neither of my parents would pay any attention to me so I would just get lost in those stories and I could be anything. Sometimes I would be the princes or the prince even but lots of times I’d be the bad guy but in my head I would change the ending and I would win. I liked to pretend I was the wolf the most of all. I doodled a tiny R2D2, and thought back to my idea that our elementary school was like Star Wars. This dark and jedi thing wasn’t not working in my head. Like the dark side was supposed to be bad, and the kids Angel hung out with when she wasn’t with us were bad. Then the Jedi’s and the rebels where all supposed to be good, and who was that? Was that suppose to be all the normal kids the kids that I used to play with? But Angel’s friends were bad like they smoked and said bad words and hung out with older kids and didn’t study and I know for a fact that they sniffed glue because I saw some kids doing it on the bus once, but they were never mean to other kids. They just stayed by themselves and did there own thing. They were never mean to all the kids that didn’t fit in or to kids like Wendy. I didn’t think they ever wanted to be there at school at all. Then the good side which were my old friends all were mean and made fun of the other kids, they made fun of me and Wendy and Roseland all because we were a little different. They sounded more like the dark side. Maybe the school was the federation and all those kids were the federation soldiers all wearing the same clothes and looking and sounding exactly the same, and the bad kids were the rebels. But, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia would never smoke or sniff glue, so maybe they are all the aliens in the bar in  the first Stars Wars where they meet Han Solo. So, who was the Emperor and who was Darth Vader? A teacher maybe? Mrs. Crabtree? Sam Rider had to be a good guy like a rebel leader Luke Skywalker maybe after he gains the force.

Roseland sat back down with some books.

What about us? I kept on daydreaming. We didn’t fit with anyone we were our own group. Maybe we were the Han Solo team. They were criminals and so were we. Han Solo and Chewbacca smuggled intergalactic stuff and we egged the houses of old racist people. Heroes and criminals. I was really onto something here and I had to share my discovery with Roseland.

“If we were the main people in Star Wars who do you think you’d be? I want to be Han Solo.”

“Shhhh.” The librarian hushed us and gave us a quick glare.

I felt myself smile. I spoke loudly on purpose just to hear that wonderful shush.

Roseland began packing up her backpack. “I’d be C3PO.” She said.

“Really?” I asked. “But he’s always whining and complaining.”

“Yeah, but he’s smart, and I like his gold color and his best friend is R2D2.”

“But R2D2 is like the cool droid.” I said.

“Yeah, sure everyone likes R2, but no one really knows or is connected to R2 like C3Po and I think that is pretty special. C3PO is loyal and under all that whining is a faithful friend that would die for you.” She grabbed the books off the table. “And he’s a really pretty gold color. And I always just liked him when I was little cause he made me laugh really hard.” She walked over toward the library counter. “I have to check out these books and then we can go.”

“What is your report on?” I asked.

“I have to do a report on something about the California gold rush like the 49’ers and stuff like that.”

“Oh that sounds kind of boring.” I said.

“Yeah.” She said. “But were are working on California history and all the good stuff already got taken.

NaNo-Days behind, and unsure if I will make the deadline.

Time: 1986

“Without Wendy who are we going to have for our look out?” Asked Roseland. She was rubbing her arm because one of the boys who grabbed her pinched her skin right above her elbow. “I mean. It’s like we have so many things to have to watch out for. The mean old church people, the man in the red corvette, the police, other adults, Angel’s brothers and their friends- what are we supposed to do? We shouldn’t do this.”

“It will be fine.” I said, “In fact, it’s perfect because we can blame it on her brothers.”

“How?” Angel asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe we can get some blood from your brother’s costume and leave it there so that way they’ll know its a kid that was bloody, and we’ll tell your mom they are out there beating up kids and causing trouble.”

“Yeah.” Said Angel gleefully, “Let’s get them all back at once.”

“I don’t know.” said Roseland. “I’m scared.”

“It will be okay.” I said, “although having a look-out is important.”

As soon as we walked into the door of Angel’s house Angel began yelling to her mom about her brothers jumping us in the graveyard. Her mother was quickly moving around the house only half listening to her.

“Listen, Angel, She stopped moving and picked up a lit cigarette and took a quick drag then blew the smoke towards the ceiling, “I’m having some friends over tonight we are going to be having a little party, so I told your brothers that they could go out to their own party. Why don’t you and the girls go with them?”

“What?” Angel’s mouth dropped open.

Both Roseland and I stole glances at each other before looking back at Angel’s mom.

“Mom!” Angel was yelling, “We are twelve that’s a teenager party. And I just told you they grabbed us in the graveyard. Rodger totally pulled my dress up while Sonny held me.”

“He’s just flirting with you.” Her mother stabbed the ashtray and then grabbed a glass filled with ice and a brown liquid like a watered down coke. She took a drink and then carried it with her to the kitchen. She set the drink down on the counter and started putting cans of beer in the fridge and pulling down bottles of liquor.

Angel was yelling that type of yell that only kids can make. They kind where you are yelling and whining at the same time. My mom would say she always hated it when I used that whine and that I sounded childish. To which I would always reply, but I’m a child.

“He’s my brother. He can’t flirt with me. That’s totally gross.”

“I meant Sonny. Now get away from me Angel. I’m trying to get stuff ready for tonight.”

“But, what about me? You said you would take us trick or treating.”

Roseland and I glanced at each other again. We had no intention of going trick or treating with her mother.

“Angel.” Her mother gave her the stare that all mom’s do when they are fed up with their kids. “I never said that. I said you girls could stay here and sort out your candy and go trick or treating but I did not say I would go with you.”

“But, it will be loud here. And I have school tomorrow.” She gave out a final whine.

“Angel. Don’t give me this shit. I know that you can sleep through anything. Or you can stay the night at one of your girlfriends. We are not discussing this. I’m your mother, and I deserve to have a good time every once in awhile. Your useless father never takes me out and he’s off doing god knows what so I’m having a party and I’m not having a child tell me what I can or can not do in my own house.”

“It’s my house too!” Angel screamed.

“When you start paying the bills and putting some food on the table then it will be your house but until then you listen to what I say. I feed you, I clothe you, you get whatever you want. You’re ungrateful. And look at you starting a fight with me in front of your friends. Get out now. You either get out of my sight right now or you get out of those clothes tell your friends to go home and go to bed.”

Angel scrunched up her face. “I hate you!” She screamed. She spun around with her witch skirt twisting up around her knees and stomped off to her bedroom.

“I hate you too.” Her mother mumbled before taking sip of her drink. “Kids.” She said shaking her head at us like we totally understood her point of view. “Go girls.” She nodded her head in the direction of Angel’s room. We both ran to find Angel.

When we found her she was lying face down on her bed and crying. We sat down on the bed at her feet. “I hate her!” She screamed into her pillow and then kicked her legs hard onto her bed. Roseland and I moved out of the way of her tantrum. Angel lifted her head and looked back at us. Her green make-up had smeared onto her pillow and there were light green streams running from under her eyes wear her tears had fallen. “She doesn’t even care about me. She doesn’t even know or care.” She dropped her face back into her pillow.

Roseland sat back down on the bed and put her hand on Angel’s back. “You can stay at my house tonight. My mom won’t care.”

I looked out the window. The sun was quickly beginning to set. Kids had already begun to start trick or treating and we still needed to get our supplies.

“You guys. We have to go.” I said.

“Why do you care so much about doing this?” Roseland asked. “Let’s just stay here.”

“What? Don’t you want to?” I was surprised out of all of us I thought for sure Roseland would be the one who would want to do it the most.

“No. I don’t care.” Roseland looked down at Angel. “I don’t ever want to see those people again.”

“But, Roseland, they were awful to you. You can’t let them get away with that.” I said imploringly. In truth I don’t know why I wanted to do it so bad. Maybe it was if we got revenge on those people it would be like getting revenge on all the awful adults in the world. All the adults that didn’t pay any attention to us, all the adults who didn’t see that we were people too, all the mean kids that picked on other kids, and all the people who were terrible in the world. I didn’t understand how Roseland wouldn’t want to go after them. “Well… we can’t stay here. We should at least go trick or treating.”

“No we should just stay here and hang out with Angel.” Roseland said.

“We can’t. There’s going to be a grown up party here. A grown up party with Angel’s mom’s friends. Have you seen these adults? They’re like bikers, and dirty people and they drink.

“It doesn’t matter.” Roseland snapped at me. “You go. I’m staying here with Angel.

“No!” Angel yelled. She sat up and looked at us both. She wiped the tears from her eyes smearing more of her green make-up. “We’re going. And we’re sticking to our plan.” She stood up and looked in her mirror. “I need to fix my make-up, but we should get some of the stuff ready first.”

“Are you sure?” Roseland asked. She had her hands in her lap and was picking at her fingernails.

“Listen, Roseland, if you want to be a sissy that’s fine. They were mean to you so I don’t know why you don’t want to do this, but Brianna and I are gonna do this with or without you.”

“Maybe I can just be the look out?” She asked.

“That’s fine.” I said. “But you carry the poop.”

We had big white pillow cases as our trick or treat bags but inside our bags we had shoved toilet paper, and four white sheets, and bags of dog poop that we shoveled from Angle’s backyard. It was her brothers’ responsibility to clean the dog poop from their three dogs in the back, but they never did so we had plenty of poop. Angel’s mother had been so busy greeting her friends and making drinks that she didn’t notice us with the shovel and plastic bags. We stood in Angel’s room checking all of our supplies. Her bedroom stunk like a poo factory.

“Ugh. This is so gross.” Roseland said holding out her bag of poop.

I pulled out the extra white sheet. “I should pull this one out since Wendy isn’t coming.” I tossed it onto the bed.

“No we should take it with us and hide it so my mom doesn’t see a white sheet missing. If she finds out I stole her linen she’ll kill me.” Angel said.

“I don’t think we can ever give the pillows back. My bag is going to stink forever.” Roseland said.

There was a rapping on the window. We all jumped back. It was dark outside so we couldn’t see who it was. The rapping continued. We moved towards the door.

“It’s probably my stupid brothers.” Angel whispered.

“You guys!” We heard a familiar voice. “You guys, it’s me Wendy.”

“Wendy?” We said her name all together and stumbled over each other too get to the window. Angel opened the window and the three of us looked down on Wendy, still dressed as a hooker, and holding a huge bag of eggs.

“How did you get here?” I asked completely shocked to see her.

“I walked.”

“From our houses? That’s like so far.” I said.

“I know it took me forever.”

“You walked here dressed like that? On the road?” Asked Roseland. “How did you not get seen or picked up or what about your mom?”

“Oh my mom’s so stoned right now she doesn’t even remember she has kids. That’s what my brother said before he snuck out of the house. I snuck out after him so he couldn’t tell on me. I took the old Billie road. You know the one that no one drives on anymore. It goes all the way along the Pearson road, but it’s more in the woods so no one sees you.”

“Weren’t you scared?” I asked.

“Totally.” She smiled, “but I wanted to be with you guys.” She held up her bag. “I brought eggs.” She stuck her head into Angel’s room. “Man your room smells like dog poop.”

“I know. Get out.” Angel said pushing her head back out the window. “Did anyone see you?”

“No.”

“Good. Now we can make it look like four kids then adults who saw us out together will think there are only three of us.” She threw the final sheet out the window at Wendy. “Here.” She said. “Now shove that in your pillow case.”

“I don’t don’t have a pillowcase. I only have this pumpkin.” She held up a small plastic pumpkin.

The three of us groaned.

“Do you have the candy?” I asked.

“Yeah it’s under my bed.”

Angel pulled a box out and then grabbed two giant bags of candy. She gave them to Wendy who was standing outside. “My mom’s going to be so pissed when she sees all the halloween candy gone. She’ll totally think my brothers took it.”

There was a quick knock on the door and then it swung open and her mom stepped inside. “Woah! It smells like shit in her. Really bad. You girls need to check your shoes. Angel. You need to keep you window open.”

“We know. Brianna had some dog shit on her shoe and we just finished washing it off. We’re leaving to go trick or treating now.”

I shot her a dirty look. Why was I the one that was to take the blame for the room smelling like shit?

“Okay, well Brianna, I think you should leave through the window I don’t want you tracking that shit through the house.”

“Yes mam.” I said.

“Don’t you dare ever call me mam again.” She said.

I dropped my bag out the window and then climbed out. Roseland decided to do the same.

Angel looked out the window. “I’ll meet you two out front by the road.” She winked and then shut her window leaving it open a crack.

“Why doesn’t she want to meet all three of us?” Wendy asked.

“Oh just come on.” Roseland said grabbing Wendy by the shoulder of her pink t-shirt that she was trying to pretend was a hooker dress.

Angel walked toward us and stopped. She looked back at her house that now had cars and motorcycles parked on the lawn and people walking around laughing and growing louder. She lifted a jug from out of her bag. It was a full bottle of fake blood.

“If my brothers can somehow be blamed for what we are going to do then I will be  happy. Let’s go do some tricking.”

Nano Day 11: Still Pugging away.

Time: 1986
Current word count: 24,503

“It was the summer time before the story came out about the girl who saw him. We had only lived here for a month. My brother and I would go down to the river by ourselves all the time. My mom didn’t know that we were going that far she always thought we were just going down to the creek that was behind The Ghetto. Which is what we used to do, but one day we started exploring and we wandered down along the canyon and we found this great spot on the river that was like a magic place. We had to walk a little while to get there and for part of the walk we had to go along the Pearson road that went past the old white church on the corner. Once we went past the church we walked down onto a dirt road called Virginia Way and off that there was a path that took us down to the water. We found it in a funny way. My brother was always into exploring especially since we didn’t get to go very far in the city and now our mom gave us a lot more time to play outside because it was safer here until that story about the girl came out. My brother had figured that the water from the creek had to be coming from a bigger source of water and he wanted to find it so that we could go swimming. The creek was fine but it wasn’t very deep and sometimes there were too many mosquitos. He was at the market on the corner when he heard some teenagers talking about going to the river and that they needed to go to the bottom of Virginia Way. We found the path from the creek up to Pearson road and then walked one way then the other till we found Virginia Way. It took us a couple of days to find it. We can get to Pearson from  the top of the road that takes you to the Ghetto, but from the creek its faster and also we didn’t want our mother to know where we were going. She’d be too afraid of us drowning. When we moved here my mom heard a story about a boy that drowned in the river the year before and that there had been a lot of drownings because the water had a deceptive current. We weren’t afraid because we just swam in this area that was kind of cut off from the moving part of the river and it looked like a pool. It was the best place in the world. My brother and I would go there all day and nobody knew about it. We think it’s because all the teenagers would go to a different part and since we just found some secret trail we thought maybe the person that made it stopped going there or maybe it was made by deer. At least that’s what my brother thought.

It was a really hot day in July, and Malcolm, my brother and I spent the whole day at the river playing and swimming. It started to get dark and we decided we needed to hurry up and get home. While we were walking back we got in a fight. We fight all the time, and usually our fights end with me storming off and that’s exactly what happened. I got mad and I marched off up to the road. I think as I walked faster that he probably slowed down because he had absolutely no interest in catching up with me. I was just fumin’ about something he said, and honestly, now I can’t remember why we fought at all , but at the moment I was so angry that I didn’t notice anything that was going on around me. When I heard the man call out to me it totally scared me. Not because I was afraid, but because I hadn’t heard or noticed a car. I turned and saw that a man in a red car was driving slowly beside me. I hadn’t heard about the girl, and I didn’t know what a corvette looked like at the time, but I didn’t feel safe. We grew up in the city and we always had to be careful around strangers and so it was just some kind of nature thing for me to be nervous. I looked over my shoulder to see if my brother was anywhere that I could see him, but he wasn’t. I didn’t want to stop or go back I just kept walking. He asked me if I was okay and I said yes. Then he asked me if I needed a ride anywhere and I said no thank you. He said, that it wasn’t a problem and that he could take me home and that my mom would probably feel safer. Still, I said no. Then he said in a real mean voice, little girl you need to get in the car. That made me stop and look at him, and he looked at me and I just knew he was evil like a devil maybe and I just started to run, but he sped up in his car and drove the car up on the sidewalk and threw the car door open like he was gonna jump out and grab me. So I turned and I ran to the old church and I ran as fast as I could to the house that was behind the old church. I saw that there were some lights on in the house so I ran up the steps and I started banging on the door. I looked over my shoulder and I saw that the red car was still there but that the headlights were off and he was standing beside the car watching me. I banged harder on the door till a man pulled the door open. I said please help me there was man following me, and I reached for the screen door because I was just gonna run right inside, but the man held the door shut. He said for me to get the hell off of his porch. I said, please sir, please let me in that there was a man following me. He kicked the screen door open and I fell back a few steps and he came out onto the porch like he was gonna hit me. I saw his wife walk up behind him and ask him what was happening and he said that “there was little nigger girl tryin to get into the house.” I held up my hands and said, please sir over there and I pointed toward the car, but it was gone. The woman said that I was probably a thief and not to listen to me. The man pushed me off the porch and I skinned my knees on their sidewalk. When I looked up from the ground I could see just a part of the car on the other side of the church. He was waiting for me and listening he knew that these people were not gonna help me. The man from the house was standing over me and he gave me a push with his foot. Now you get the hell of my lawn and my property girl. I’m not gonna fall for your shenanigans. You should be ashamed of yourself coming to the house of the lord and trying your devilish scams. I hated this man, but I was terrified of the man in the red car. I turned to the man and got on my knees to pray to him. Please sir. There is a man in a red car he’s tryin’ to get me please if you don’t help me or call the police he’s going to hurt me. The man called for his wife to turn the water on on the hose and said if I didn’t get off his lawn he was going to hose me down, but I wouldn’t move I just stayed there on my knees begging him. Then I felt the freezing water from the hose they had turned it on me full blast and sprayed my face. It wasn’t that it was cold. It was a hot night so the cold water would normally feel good, but I was so scared that I was already freezing and I couldn’t breath because he had blasted it into my face. I took off running as the man in the house kept yelling at me and calling me all kinds of mean words and things. I knew the man in the red car was waiting for me on the other side of the church. There was a fence at the end of the parking lot, but I didn’t think I could climb over it and I knew once I turned the corner he would be there with his car. I saw a hole under the church and I crawled under it and I hid under the church in the darkness and the dirt. I could hear him walking around the church and I saw his feet right outside the opening. I didn’t know if he was going to crawl in or if he was going to try to pull me out or if  he could even fit. He kneeled down and looked in. I wasn’t sure if he could see me or not. I pushed myself into the darkest corner I could find. I could see his car through the cracks. He walked away and then I could hear him talking and it was like he was right behind me. I wanted to scream but I put my hands over my mouth. He said that he was a patient man and that he was going to wait for me to come out, but that maybe if I didn’t come out then he would just wait for my brother to come by and he’d get him instead. I didn’t think I could get more scared than I already was, but once he started talking about my brother than I knew that he had seen us before. And that’s what he said, that he knew where we lived and that he was going to come and get us and that no one was going to help us because they didn’t like us here, and that everyone was going to treat us just like that man in the house beside the church, that not even a pastor thought we were worth helping. He said that if I wanted to help my family and protect my brother than I had better come out. But, I couldn’t move. I didn’t want my brother to get hurt but I couldn’t move. I didn’t know where Malcolm was- he could be coming right up the street by the church at that moment. Then suddenly the man got in his car and drove off. I thought that it was my brother that maybe he had seen my brother and I cried out and I scrambled out from under the house and ran to the parking lot and I could see the car turn the corner. My brother. I just knew he had my brother. I ran all the way home. I felt sick and my skin hurt and I couldn’t breath, but I kept running. I ran to The Ghetto and I did’t know what to do or how to get help.  I ran into the house calling for my mom, and I was crying. She came out of the kitchen and held me. She asked my why I was wet and covered in mud. I couldn’t stop crying I couldn’t tell her about Malcolm. We had to save him. Then my dad and Malcolm stepped out of the kitchen to see what was wrong with me. As soon as I saw Malcolm I started crying even harder. I felt so bad like I would have let him get taken by that man. I saved myself instead of my brother. ”

I felt scared listening to Roseland’s story. Scared and sad and angry, but I understood now why we couldn’t just catch this man.

“Did you tell your mom what happened?” Angel asked.

“No. I didn’t say anything.”

“Why?” She asked.

“I don’t know. I was scared like if I said anything he would know where we were or he would come after us.”

“Did you tell your brother?” Wendy asked.

“No. I was afraid. I thought he would know how terrible I was that I wouldn’t have saved him.”

“I would be so afraid to go outside and play ever again.” Said Wendy. “I think I am now.”

“I was.” Said Roseland. “I stopped going to the river with Malcom. and I was terrified every time he would go.” She sighed. “I wouldn’t even go to the river with him on his last day here. That man ruined the magic spot.”

“How do you even walk to school without being scared?” I asked.

“Well I was really scared at first and I would always take the bus, but then after I heard about that girl getting followed by the man in the red car I figured that he stayed on the same street.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, that girl lived on Pearson. And we were walking up Person almost everyday to get to the river. I think that’s where he hunts. He must have seen my brother and I on that street and thought maybe we lived there.”

“Pearson is the main street that goes from Ridgeview into Greely that takes you to I-5 and it also goes up to Magalia and up into the Pines.” I said. “He might not even live here and that’s why people haven’t seen the car around.”

“I can’t believe those old people wouldn’t help you.” Wendy said her voice almost shaking like she was about to cry. “And they called you all those bad names and sprayed you with water. How could they do that? You’re just a kid.”

“Huh, and that man is supposed to be a man of God. How horrible.” Angel said.

“I hate him.” Roseland said, and you could tell she was starting to cry. “I hate him more than the man in the red car. I hate him.”

I put my arms around her and hugged her. “I hate him too Roseland.” And I did I really hated that man and his wife. “As long as you are here and we are friends I wont let anyone treat you like that again.”

“Neither will I.” I heard Angel say and I felt her arms go around Roseland and I.

“I wont let that happen either.” Said Wendy. “And I’d hug you too but I’m already being hugged and I can’t move my arms.

Wendy’s voice sounded a little breathless like she was being smothered and this made all of us laugh and we let her and Roseland go.

Roseland’s story had exhausted all of us and we all began to drift off to sleep. In the middle of the night I woke up because I felt cramped and hot from the other girls so I crawled out of bed and went onto the floor and climbed into my sleeping bag. I listened to the sound of the others breathing and to the crickets chirping outside. I thought about the movie we had watched that evening. We were like those boys. Wendy was like Vern dumb but sweet, and she was also a little bit like Teddy Lachance with a horrible mother that once burnt her back with a curling iron because Wendy forgot to shut the front door. She still had the scar. Roseland was a little like Chris Chambers how she knew what was right and wrong. And Maybe Angel as much as I didn’t want to admit it was also a little like Chris Chambers a kid from a bad family with a bad reputation and no future. It wasn’t easy to place which of the girls would be one of those boys if our life was a boy movie, but there was no denying that I was Gordy. Just like Gordy my older brother died and I became the invisible kid. I became so invisible that my mother forgot she had me and she ate all those pills the doctor gave her and my dad… my dad hates me, why else would he leave. We needed to do something great something special just like those boys something that would show people that we were strong and brave just like those boys we needed it. What could we do that would make us heroes? We had to do something. Then I got an idea. Maybe it wouldn’t make us heroes, but it would give us revenge.

NaNo Day 10! Still Writing!

Time: 1986

Cover of "She's So Unusual"

She’s So Unusual release date 1983

“Boys eat snails!” I shouted.

They stopped wrestling and looked at me for a second and then they all started laughing. I told them my story about Cathy’s brother, but I skipped the part about Cathy’s mom telling us how babies were born. I felt like I had some real grown-up information with knowing about the truth behind babies, but I didn’t want to share.

“What are little girls made of?” Angel asked.

“Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.” Said Roseland. Laughing.

“What are little boys made of?” Asked Angel.

“Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.” We all shouted and laughed.

My mom used to say that to my brother and me all the time, especially when my brother was causing some kind of mess. To me if I was acting up she would say, “There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.” I guess maybe all our moms had known these rhymes.
“Angel’s bedroom door swung open and her mom walked in. “You girls need to quiet down.” She said. “Angel, your dad is gonna be home in about an hour and I want you girls to turn the lights out and be in bed by then you understand?”
“Yeh.” Angel said.
“I mean it. You’re dad isn’t gonna want to hear girls giggling all night and no one will be comin’ over again.”
“Okay.” Angel said with a whine in her voice.
Her mother gave Angel a look and then shut the door.
Angel’s mother was a skinny thin blonde lady. She was almost pretty but she had a tired look to her face and she wore a lot of blue eyeshadow and other make-up. She smelled like cigarettes and had a can of beer in her hand when she opened the door to talk to us. The whole house smelled like cigarettes except for Angels room. Angels room smelled like Loves Baby soft. A lot of girls had this perfume. I didn’t because I didn’t like it. It smelled like baby powder. My grandma on my mom’s side had given me a bottle of tea rose perfume once, and I really liked the smell of that a lot more than baby powder. I didn’t really like to see grown ups drinking. I never really thought about it or noticed it before like at barbecues when adults would have drinks, stuff that kids couldn’t drink. My parents never drank beer or wine at home. Sometimes my dad would have beer when he was with the other fathers but never at home. Once my brother died that all changed. My mom just got really quiet and didn’t do anything. She’s just sit on the couch all day with her pills that the doctor gave her or she would just cry then take her pills and go to sleep. My dad tried to help her at first, but then he would get mad, and they would fight. Always yelling at each other and my dad started coming home late from work, and sometimes he would smell like beer, and he’d talk funny. Then once my mom died dad started being like her always just sitting on the couch and drinking beer like she ate pills. Sometimes I would try to talk to him like if we didn’t have any food, and I’d call to him to tell him we needed food, but he wouldn’t say anything he’d just keep drinking. Then maybe a little later he’d stand up and say that he was going out to get some food, but he would come back for hours, and I’d be starving. Maybe he’d come home and wake me up and he’d put some Burger King bag on my bed then he’d just sit there staring at me and tell me I looked so much like my mother. Then he’d cry and walk out and I could hear the t.v. turn on and I knew I would find him in the morning with the t.v. on and cans of beer all over the floor. I’d always put my burger king bag on my light stand even though I was hungry, but I knew if I ate it that night that there wouldn’t be any breakfast in the next day. I knew my dad was sad, but the beer made him seem weird and different and he always stunk the next day. I did’t trust adults who drank all the time because I thought that something had to be wrong with them, like maybe they were too sad, and they couldn’t take care of their kids anymore.
“We should plan what we are going to wear for halloween before my dad get’s home.” Angel said sliding of of her bed, and walking over to her closet.
“I want to be a hooker.” Wendy said.
“What’s a hooker?” Roseland asked.
“It’s a woman that dresses funny. Like in high heels and lots of make-up. It’s really funny looking.”
“Oh. I think I want to be a tiger. Do you have a black leotard?” She asked Angel. “I have tights and black shoes and my mom can make me a tail.
“Tigers aren’t black.” I said.
“Well. I’ll be a leopard then.”
“I’m going to be a baby. I have a footie pajama suit that I can wear and I have a pacifier. I just need to do something with my hair.” I said.
“I’m going to be a witch. I have all the stuff. I’m going to be a bad witch like in the Wizard of Oz. I even have green face paint.” Angel said. “I like scary things on halloween. Wendy you should be a dead hooker.”
“I still don’t understand what a hooker is.” Said Roseland.
“It’s a bad woman.” Angel said. “They dress like sluts. Really short skirts and a lot of make-up.”
“Like you.” I said.
“I don’t dress like a slut.” Angel said turning and looking at me.
“You wear really short skirts and you say you want to wear make-up.”
“I don’t look like a slut.” She walked over close to me and put her hands on her hips. “I dress just like Madonnna, and she’s not a slut.”
“I thought you liked Madonna.” Wendy said looking at me.
I pulled away and walked toward Angel’s boom box and started looking through her tapes. “I do.” I muttered.
“Who said you could look through my tapes?” Angel asked. She still had her hands on her hips and she was looking at me like she was daring me to fight.
“No one.” I said still looking.
“Come on you guys.” Roseland said, tugging on Angel’s arm. “We need to find clothes for Wendy.”
I could feel Angel staring at me as I continued to look at her music, and then she turned back to her closet and started looking through her clothes.
It was weird because I liked a lot of the same things as Angel and sometimes when I forgot how much I didn’t like her or her family I kind of liked her, but then I would think about my brother and my mom and then I would hate her all over again. I just would get this feeling almost like being really hungry of wanting to be as mean as I could be to her even though I think she could probably beat me up. Still, I did like that she dressed like Madonna, and I did like her music, and we both liked the same movies and t.v. shows and I also like to be scary. I would be a dead baby, but I didn’t want her to think it was her idea. I noticed a tape of something I had never seen before. I picked it up and looked at the picture. It was a woman with bright red hair like a color crayon red, and she was wearing a dress with all these ruffles and she had on fish net stocking and boots and it was like she was dancing. I had never in my entire life seen anyone that looked like her before. It said Cyndi Lauper on the front. I turned to Angel. I couldn’t help but talk to her about this tape.
“Whose this?” I said holding up the tape.
She popped her head out from her closet and had a mean look on her face but it went away as soon as she saw what tape I was holding.
“Oh my gosh. You’ve never heard that before?” Oh my gosh.” She rushed over and snatched the tape out of my hand. “You guys have got to hear this. She’s like the best thing in the whole world.”
She put the tape in her boom box, and for the first time the three of us listened to Cyndi Lauper and Girls just wanna have fun. As I listened and looked at the picture of this colorful woman I thought that maybe my life was going to change. That maybe I would never be the same again. I decided right at that moment that I was going to stop wearing black. I wanted to look like her.

Angel’s dad had come home and we could hear him and her mother in the kitchen, and we could hear the t.v. come on. We were suppose to be asleep, but instead we were all lying under the covers of Angel’s bed with a flashlight and we were whispering. Angel had a big bed but we still had to huddle close for all of us to fit. We had brought our sleeping bags, but when we were talking her mother had heard us and we all got in trouble so we decided to all cuddle in Angel’s bed so we could keep talking. It was not possible for girls at a sleep-over to go to bed like it was a school night. This was Wendy’s first real sleep-over so she was excited and for the rest of us it was the first time that we had ever had a sleep-over together. I thought Angel’s mom was crazy to think we could sleep. I felt like Roseland’s mom would have understood. Angel said, it wasn’t really her mom but because her dad got angry so easily and that was why we had to be quiet so early. I had forgotten about being angry at Angel ever since we listened to Cyndi Lauper’s tape and I wanted to ask my grandma if I could buy her record. My grandma pretty much let me have anything because my dad abandoned me. Everything except a boom box. She said I already had a record player and that I didn’t need to have a boom box too, but I really wanted one. I would just have to settle for the record for now. At least the photo’s were bigger on the album then on a tape.
As we lied snuggled in Angel’s bed we talked about all kinds of things, like what we like to do and our favorite t.v. shows and then our conversation went back to boys and movie boys that we thought were cute. Well, at least Angel and I could talk about that more than Wendy and Roseland although they did have some opinions.
“I think Ricky Schorder, River Phoenix, and Ralph Maccio are cute.” Said Angel.
“Me too.” I said.
“I think those boys are cute.” Said Roseland.
“I think Kirk Cameron, and all the boys from the Explorers, and Thomas C. Howell are cute.” I said.
“Me too.” Roseland said.
“I think, Matt Dillon, and Rob Lowe are super cute.” Angel said.
“They’re kind of old.” I said.
“I know. I like older boys. I even think Han Solo is super duper cute.” Angel said.
“Ewww.” Roseland giggled. “He’s really old, but I think he’s kind of cute like in a funny way.”
“Why don’t you like any black boys?” Wendy asked. “Is it because your dad is white?”
Roseland shined the flashlight on Wendy’s face causing Wendy to squint. “Wendy, if you were not you I’d totally knock you on the head with this flashlight. Tell me have you ever seen a black boy on t.v. that isn’t old? Tell me of one that you have seen.”
We all got quiet for a moment.
“Wow.” Whispered Angel. “I’ve never thought about it before but you’re right, there aren’t any black boys on t.v. or in the movies. That’s so weird.”
“What about Michael Jackson?” I said.
“He isn’t in the movies and he’s too old. He’s like almost thirty or something and that’s super old.” She said. “So he doesn’t count.”
I sat up making the blankets over my head form a tent. “There’s not one.” Like Angel I had never thought of this before, but it was true I couldn’t think of one movie with a black boy our age or that was a teenager that was in the movies or on t.v.
“There aren’t any Indian boys either.” Wendy said. “Maybe I’d think boys were cute if there were any Indian ones.”
“I don’t even know what and Indian looks like.” Angel said.
“They look like me and my brother. Our dad was Indian.” Wendy said.
“There are Indians on tv. Like on westerns and stuff.” Roseland said.
“No, I think those are white men painted red. They look funny like they have make-up on their skin.” I said.
“Yeah. And their old.” Wendy said.
“What about the crying Indian?” Angel said. “The one that is crying in the street because of all the litter?”
“Oh, that’s on super late at night.” I said.
“He’s super old!” Wendy almost yelled.
“Shhhhh.” Angel whispered. “Quiet. My mom will kill us if she hears us.”
“What about Teddy Lachance? Maybe he’s Indian. You kind of look like him.” Roseland whispered.
Wendy gasped. “No I don’t!” She whisper yelled.
“Kind of. He’s got dark hair like you and his skin is not as white as the other boys in that movie.” Roseland whispered.
“I do not look like Mouth!” She whisper yelled.
We all started to giggle. Mouth was the kid from The Goonies movie and he was played by the same boy that played Teddy Lachance. The Goonies was maybe the best kid adventure movie ever.
“Man,” I whispered. “Boys have all the fun.”
“What do you mean?” Angel asked.
I lied back down on the bed my head pressing gently against Roseland’s. “I mean look at all the movies that are about boys having adventures. You never see girls in the movies having adventures.” I said.
“There are girls in The Goonies.” Roseland said.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t their idea. They just came along because Andy like Mikey’s brother.” I said.
“They were still on the adventure.” Angel said.
“Yeah. I know, but I mean what about a movie where the girls make up the adventure? Like when the girls have the map and the plan and they find something, and the only reason there are any boys it’s because the boys want to follow the girls and not the other way around?” I said.
“I don’t know.” Said Wendy. “Because girls are dumb maybe.”
“We’re girls.” Said Roseland. “Do you think we’re dumb?”
“No. But, I think I’m dumb, and teachers think I’m dumb. But I mean. I think that people think girls are dumb or not important. You can tell. I mean boys have more fun and freedom and once a girl gets her period than it’s all over. You have to start acting different and stuff and then you get boobs and ugh. Then things change and you can’t play anymore. Boys get to play and men go do whatever they want and women all they do is wait for the men to come home. I don’t ever want to grow up and be a woman.” Wendy turned on her side away from us.
“I have my period, and it’s no big deal.” Angel said.
“Do you really have your period?” I asked skeptically.
Angel was quiet. “No, but don’t you tell anyone or I swear I’ll kill you.” She got quiet again. “I could any day now though. My mom said she got her period when she was eleven and I’m already twelve.”
“Why do you want it?” Wendy asked.
“Why’d you lie?” Roseland asked.
“I don’t know.” Angel sighed. “My other friends say they have and some of them are older, and I don’t know it makes you more grown up. I want to be a grown up. I want to grow up and get out of this house far away from my parents and far away from this town and just be able to do what I want.”
“I don’t want to grow up, but I don’t want to be around my parents either.” Wendy said.
“I like my parents.” Roseland whispered.
“You’re lucky.” I whispered.
“What are your parents like?” Roseland asked.
I was silent for a moment. In fact the room felt quiet. I could hear the crickets outside and there was movement in the hallway. We could all sense that a grown-up was standing outside. They stood at the door listening we guessed and then they walked away. I was still quiet and it felt like the girls had fallen asleep, but I knew they were awake and waiting. Wendy and Angel knew what my parents were like now, but they didn’t know anything about what they were like.
“They used to be okay.” I said. “But their gone now.”
“Oh.” Roseland whispered.
“Did they die?” She asked.
“Kind of.” I said. “But I don’t feel like talking about it.”
“Okay.” She said.
It was quiet again. I didn’t feel like talking about it because I didn’t want Angel to know anything about it, but I also didn’t want anyone of them to know about it. No one liked to admit that their parents hated them. That stupid Jason Sanders was right. I was a freak and a weirdo. My parents hated me so much that my mom killed herself and my dad threw me away. I didn’t want to say anything about it. I wanted to forget and just start life all over like as if I never had parents or a brother at all. Suddenly I got an idea. It was so great that I sat up again pulling the covers off the girls who made quiet whispering protests. I positioned the covers up over us all like it was a tent again. I held up the flashlight.
“We should have an adventure.” I said.
“Whaddya mean?” Asked Angel.
“We should have an adventure. We should do something big something that can make us heroes like in Stand by Me.” I said nearly shaking with excitement.
“I don’t want to see a dead body.” Wendy whimpered.
“I don’t mean find a dead body. We don’t even know of anyone that’s missing or dead. I just mean we should do something. There were four of those boys and there’s four of us. We’re kind of like them, and we live in the woods and there’s got to be some kind of adventure we can have.” I almost felt desperate. “There must be something for us some kind of thing that we can do.”
“I don’t know.” Said Angel. “I mean what?”
We were all quiet. I thought about something that would make us famous and heroes. The I got the perfect idea.
“You guys know about the man in the red corvette?” I said whispering even quieter.
“Yeah.” They whispered back.
“We could catch him?” I said.
“What?” Angel said. “How?”
“I’m scared.” Wendy whispered.
“We can plan some kind of trap. Like we can set him up.” I said.
The others were quiet.
“We’d be heroes.” I said. “We be famous and be in the paper and maybe on the news.”
“But how?” Angel asked.
“No.” Roseland said. “We can’t. That man is bad. He’s real bad.”
“That’s why we should stop him.”
“No.” Roseland said firmly and with finality. “We can’t. He could hurt us, and adults wont help us if we get in trouble.”
“Yes they will.” I said.
“Well, they wont help me and I know this is true.” Roseland said. “I want an adventure too and I think we should do something else like find something like treasure or something, but we can’t get that man.”
I was disappointed. “Where are we going to find treasure?” I said. “I bet he’s not that bad just a weirdo.”
“No. He’s bad.” Roseland said. “I’ve seen him.”
We all got real quiet.
“Can I tell you guys something?” Roseland asked. “But you have to swear. Swear to God and on your mother’s grave that you will never ever tell anyone.”
We all swore. We swore and we waited to hear Roseland’s story.

Nano-Day 9 (I missed day 8 so now I have to make up for it) First Draft

Time:1986
Current word count: 18,173

*Part in italics taken from the end of Day 7, and not included in todays word count

Cover of "Stand By Me (Deluxe Edition)"

Stand By Me 

“Oh my gosh! River Phoenix is sooooooo cute! I totally want to marry Chris Chambers! ” Angel squealed at the end of the movie and grabbed a pillow and hugged it close to her body as she rolled onto her bed.

“He dies?” Roseland was sitting on the edge of the bed. She had both her hands up and out like a question. “He grows up and tries to help someone and he dies?” She looks over at us. “That’s lame. I don’t like that. He shouldn’t have died.”

“Oh who cares.” said Angel sighing, “It’s just a movie. At least River Phoenix is alive and he is going to live forever and I am going to marry him!”

“You just said you wanted to marry Chris Chambers.” I said feeling irritated. “So Chris Chambers is who you get, and he dies so too bad so sad.”

I had never really liked boys much before this year. Some of my friends from before had boyfriends even when they were in second grade, but I didn’t like them. I thought most of them were pretty stupid. I remember when I was six and I was playing with this neighbor girl Cathy. Her mom and her dad were both doctors and they had just had a baby. He was almost a year old when her mom got pregnant again and her stomach started to get big. We both knew that babies came out of moms’ stomachs, but we didn’t understand how they actually got there. I had seen puppies be born before so I could kind of understand how the babies got out, but I wasn’t really sure how they come out of a mom because dogs and people were different. So one day Cathy and I asked her mom how babies were made and born. Her mom sat us down in their living room and she brought out a book that had all these pictures that were drawn, and she told us everything, the whole story about how babies were made and born. She showed us the drawing of a penis on a boy and a vagina on a girl. She told us that the boy puts his penis in the vagina of the girl and then a baby get’s made. Then she told us how it is a fetus and it grows into a baby and then it comes out of the girl’s vagina. I did not like this story one bit. After words I had felt really disturbed like something was really wrong with the whole world. I remember that Cathy didn’t say much either. We went and played on her swing set. It was one of those fancy new metal swing sets that you can buy in the store and put together at home. They had put the swing set under the huge fig tree that grew in their backyard. I remember as we were swinging that I could smell the figs and see them turning purple some of them were still green on the top but they would be ripe soon. A few had fallen to the ground and the gooshy insides and purple seeds had splattered onto the path that her parents had built in their backyard. The hanging and fallen fruit made me think of pregnant women. Her mother had walked out of the house carrying her baby brother. She had him on her hip but it looked like he was riding on her belly and sitting on the new baby that was growing inside her. She set him in the garden as she did some work watering the plants and picking some of the vegetables. We swung back and forth on the swing set neither one of us were talking and there was only the sound of the swings squeaking and the smell of figs. I watched her brother sitting in the garden as he picked up a snail. He held it in his hands and then pulled the snail out of it’s shell and put it in his mouth. He chewed on it for a little bit and then spit it out and as the chewed snail fell out of his mouth brown spit came out too. I felt my stomach get sick and I thought, boys are so gross. A that moment I looked at my friend Cathy who was also watching her brother. “I don’t care what grown ups say,” I said to her, “I don’t want a baby. And I will never ever ever let a boy put his penis in my vagina. Ever.” She nodded in agreement.

I had really thought boys were more of a bother than anything. I liked to play with them to beat them at games and stuff and some boys were okay to play with but older boys were just stupid, and my brother got more and more dumb the older he got. I was fine without them, but like I said some of the girls that used to be my friends liked boys differently. I had thought if they new about how babies were really born then they might not feel the same about boys as they did today. I never liked them until the first day of school this year. I really hated boys after my brother died, and not just because they were simply boys, but because once I started to change like wear all black and stop playing with the girls I used to play with the boys got mean. Boys being mean can not compete with girls being mean, but still it made me mad that boys who I used to play with or boys that once were friends with my brother started calling me a freak, and trying to push me around and stuff. They don’t try stuff now since last year I pretty much beat up every boy in my class, but like Jason Sanders they like to try and call me names when they are out of my arms reach. I really didn’t like them at all not even to play with until this school year. On the third day of school a new boy came to our school. His name was Sam Rider. He had been living in Ridgeview his whole life, but he had been going to the other elementary school, but his parents had sold their house and moved to the North Ridge. We would have lived in the same neighborhood if my dad hadn’t of moved me to my grandparents. I didn’t know exactly why I liked Sam. It was weird because I had always hated boys, but Sam was different. It was the first time I actually really noticed a boy. It was really weird, but I thought Sam was cute. Sam looked kind of like River Phoenix in the Stand by Me movie. I never really thought even movie actor boys were cute until I saw Sam. I was keeping it a secret though because I didn’t know why but I didn’t want to let anyone know that I liked him. I haven’t even tried to talk to him, but sometimes I find myself just staring at him. He dresses different from all the other boys and I was wondering if it was because things were different at the South Ridge elementary, but in a “What I did for Summer Vacation” paper that we had to read out loud in class we learned that Sam had spent his summer in France. He had an older sister who was an exchange student in France and that his parents let him stay with her for the whole summer. I don’t think any kid wanted to read their paper in front of the class after hearing Sam’s story. What was really strange was that sometimes boys like Sam get bullied at my school. Most kids here would think he was showing off that he lived in France or that he was better then them he was certainly different, but somehow Sam became the most popular boy in school in the first week he was there. He was nice to everyone and he was really funny. It was like he was magic or something. Lots of girls liked to talk to him and he never sat at lunch alone. I kept as far away from him as possible, but sometimes I when Wendy and I would sit outside at the school picnic table and Sam was out on the field playing with his friends most of who used to be my friends I would just kind of stare at him and not even hear what Wendy was saying. I didn’t do that much now that we had Roseland because now there were three of us, but that was okay. He sat in the front of my class and I sat in the back and I really liked this because I could stare at him anytime I wanted and he couldn’t see me. It was funny because I knew that girls who liked boys liked to talk about liking boys, but I hated it. I really didn’t like liking Sam and sometimes it made want to be even meaner to all the other boys.

“I don’t really like boys that much.” Said Wendy.

I could always count on Wendy.

“What?” Angel sat up on her bed. “You don’t? I don’t think that’s normal.”

“It’s normal.” I said coming to Wendy’s defense.

“Do you like boys?” She said asking me.

I shrugged. I wasn’t about to come clean to her about anything, but at the same time I was worried about not seeming normal and I didn’t know what Roseland would think. “They’re okay. They’d be better if they weren’t so stupid all the time.”

“But you think River Phoenix is cute don’t you?” She asked.

“Yeah. Sure. I like Chris Chambers in the movie.” I said because that seemed safe. Then I had a strange realization about all the boys in the movie, I kind of liked all the boys in the movie, but I didn’t know why. “I kind a like all the boys in that movie.”

“Yeah, but I mean like differently. Like do you want to marry Teddy LaChance or do you want to marry Chris Chambers?”

I didn’t even have to think about it. “Chris Chambers.”

“Do you like boys?” Wendy asked Roseland.

She shrugged like I did. “A little.” She said. “There was this boy last year that I liked to play with and I liked him like you know like just  normal kind of boy, but sometimes I felt like I liked him more, but I don’t know. I don’t like any boys at this school though so I don’t really think about it much.”

“Wow.” Said Angel. “I’ve liked boys since kindergarten. I remember there was this boy Matt that would chase all the girls around and when he’d catch them he would kiss them, and I always let him catch me.”

“Ewwww. Matt Foster? Ewww. He would chase me too and I thought it was gross. I did not let him catch me.” I said totally disgusted.

“Ewww. Me neither.” Said Wendy.

“Well, I don’t like him now. I just mean that I liked boys ever when I was little.” Angel said. “My other friends like boys too. It’s mostly what we talk about. We like the junior high boys. Next year when we go to junior high there will be boys from South Ridgeview there and if they are all like Sam Rider its going to be so great.”

I felt my face get hot and I had a really strange feeling in my stomach that was kind of like all my insides fell out. I felt like I was going to be really really mad. First my family and then my friends, then River Phoenix and now Sam Rider? I was about to belt her one right in the face, but Roseland sat next to her on the bed. Then Wendy climbed on the bed too. I stayed on the floor just staring at them. I felt really betrayed and angry, but I didn’t want to let anyone know. I didn’t like how I was feeling and I just wanted to be mean to Angel. Really mean, but I didn’t know how.

“I don’t like boys that much.” Roseland said again, “They just kind of annoy me, but I do think some boys on t.v. are cute, but they seem different.”

“I like boys.” Wendy said.

” I thought you just said you didn’t like them.” I kind of barked at her. “One minute you like them the next you don’t. What are you just tryin’ to look cool for Angel or something.”

Angel wrinkled her eye brows at me as the other two just looked at me strangely for a second.

“No. I mean I like to play with boys but I don’t like ’em like ’em.”

I felt a little stupid with them all staring at me like they were so I didn’t say anything else.

“I want to play the same kind of games as boys sometimes, you know. Like I like to play race cars, and run and climb trees and play pranks and stuff. I like my dolls still, but sometimes I want to play with boys, like when I was little I used to play with all the boys in the neighborhood, but they don’t like me anymore. They all say I’m gross or that I have cooties, but I just want to play.” Wendy looked really sad.

“I don’t play with dolls.” Angel said. “I don’t like boy things. I like clothes and I want to wear make-up, but my mom says no, but maybe next year. I just like to kiss boys.”

“EEEEwa!” Squealed Roseland with a short laugh. She shook her hands in disgust. “Gross!” She laughed and threw her face into a pillow.

“What?” Angel yelled. She wasn’t mad I could tell because she was smiling.

Wendy looked grossed out. “You kiss boys?” She stuck her tongue out like she was going to puke.

“So.” Angel laughed.

“Gross!” Roseland screamed into the pillow. She started kicking her legs on the bed and the other two started laughing and piling on top of her. I smiled at them and part of me wanted to climb on the bed to and crawl into the pile, but I also felt too mad at Angel to join them so I stayed on the floor and watched. My smile began to fade as a feeling of being lonely came over me. I felt like I wasn’t a part of their group. They were all misfits too. Angel was too loose at too young of an age, Wendy was not accepted as normal by other kids and she was slow and awkward, and Roseland while being a really cool girl was the only black girl at school and that made kids be mean to her. If they knew that she had a black mother and a white father who knew how the kids would be. They were all misfits and rejects, and I still didn’t fit in with them.

Roseland pulled herself out of the pile. She was still laughing as she kicked at Angel. “I think if a boy kissed me I would puke.”

“You have to use your tongue.” Angel said.

“Ewwwwww!” She screamed again throwing herself back down on the bed.

We all screamed even me. That was way too much all I could think about was Cathy’s brother and that chewed up snail and brown spit coming out of his mouth.

NaNo Day 7- First Draft

Time: 1986
Current word count: 15,794

Roseland’s parents were probably the nicest grown-ups I had ever met in my life. I used to think that my parents were the best parents in the world, but all that changed of course, now I don’t have any parents. Roseland’s parents were different then mine were like Roseland’s parents seemed younger than my mom and dad. My parents had all kinds of rules for themselves and us, but Roseland’s parents still kind of acted like kids. They also asked Roseland for her opinion of things that were going on in the house. They actually asked her opinion about things going on in The Ghetto, because it was a community and the community had a say on everything. I thought the whole thing was totally weird, but her parents were really cool. It was Roseland’s choice to go to our school. She said her mom homeschooled her, and none of us had ever heard of anything like that before, but the idea of not having to go to school sounded like the greatest invention on the planet, and why in the hell would she choose to go to public school. After she told us about how she didn’t like it because she didn’t have any kids to hang out with that were her age and that she got lonely I kind of got it. She said, our school sucked because we had a lot of kids in the school that said stupid and mean things to her and it was really bad for her brother in the middle school and that was why he left, but that if she hadn’t gone to our school she wouldn’t have met us. I thought that was a really nice thing to say and it kind of made me feel good. I thought about the idea of being homeschooled and thought maybe I wouldn’t like it. I’d be stuck at home with my grandma all day. She didn’t know anything. She was nice, but she only graduated from high school and then was a wife and a mother. She only knew how to do things around the house, and she didn’t like to think too deep. That’s what she’d say. Don’t ask me that honey, I don’t like to think too deep, she told me once when I was asking her for help on my geography homework. I knew homeschool would be terrible for Wendy. It would just be her having to work around the house, getting beat, and not learning anything. I think at that moment that I kind of realized that public school was for kids like Wendy and maybe Angel because if they didn’t have public school how would they learn anything? If my mom was still around and things had never gone bad then maybe she would be a good teacher for me and my brother. I’d let Roseland’s mother teach me, but I also understood about getting lonely and wanting to meet other kids your age. There wasn’t really any other way to meet kids here except for school. There was no where to hang out and no place that was the main place to play. School and the neighborhood you live in and that’s it. I used to love Ridgeview, but now that I’m twelve I’m kinda starting to find it boring. Maybe it’s just because I don’t feel good anymore.

Roseland’s dad made a really good lasagna. It was so yummy that I didn’t even miss the meat. Wendy tried her hardest to eat, but she picked around the carrots and zucchini and only ate the fat ribbony pieces of pasta, the cheese, and the sauce. Roseland’s mom was so nice though she didn’t even give Wendy a hard time about it. If it bothered her you couldn’t tell. Sometimes adults that aren’t your parents or teachers like to tell kids what to do like they know better. Maybe they do know better, but still it doesn’t seem right that just because you are a grown-up that you can say things to kids about how they eat or dress or talk if they are not your parent or teacher. It’s not like Wendy is hitting other kids she just doesn’t like her vegetables. I noticed some stranger adult will say something like you kids shouldn’t act that way, but they never stop a kid from bullying another kid. Where are the adults then? When I grow up I’m going to be different. I’m never gonna tell kids, I know more than you even if I do know more because its like they think we don’t have a brain or feelings. Like adults who knew my parents or my brother are always saying you should stop wearing black, or go out and be social it is good for you or you’ll feel better. Whatever. They were my parents. My heart. I wished I could trade places with Roseland. I wanted to tell her parents what happened. I wondered if they would adopt me. Would they do that thing where they shake their head, and give me the pity act? I wondered, if their kid died and the other one lived would they act the same as my parents did? Of course, Roseland’s brother had a different dad. Roseland’s dad would never leave his daughter, but would her mother be like mine? I wondered.

After dinner Roseland’s dad drove us home. Even though Angle lived close enough for her to walk Roseland’s dad wanted to drive her. Ridgeview was normally a safe town, but last month a girl said that a man in a red corvette had followed her and asked her if she wanted a ride and that when he opened his door he didn’t have any pants or underwear on and that he was touching his thing. Roseland’s parents were like the Ridge parents even though they were poor an they were hippies living in a commune called The Ghetto they made sure all the kids were safe. Wendy’s parents and I think maybe Angels parents probably didn’t even know this guy was out there. When I was six I could go around anywhere I wanted by myself or with my friends even when it was dark, but everything changed after that boy Adam Walsh got killed. All the parents got scared. I was just a kid then, but I remember watching it on the news and I didn’t know why but I couldn’t stop watching it. I wasn’t scared. I didn’t know what I was I just knew that he was my age. When the movie about him came out I really wanted to see it, but my mom didn’t let me or my brother watch it. She said, it would give us nightmares. I think  really she was worried about her own nightmares. They never caught the person that killed him either. He was still out there. He could be the guy in the corvette. I kind of made myself feel a little sick thinking about all of this stuff so I thought about the dinner and what I learned about Roseland’s family.

Roseland’s mother was born in Oakland. I knew where Oakland was because I’d been to the Bay Area a lot, but I had never been to Oakland before. Her mother was really smart in school, but she had gotten pregnant when she was sixteen. Her boyfriend was black like her and they tried to live together and be parents, but she said it just didn’t work but that he was a good man and loved his son. When her mom was a little older she went to Berkeley. She said she was involved in the women’s movement and the environmental and civil rights and she wanted to change the world and they way people thought about the world and others and it was at one of these different meetings that she met her now husband Roseland’s dad. She said that he loved her son like he was his own, but also didn’t get weird about Rosleand’s son’s father. They moved to San Francisco together because of the hippie movement and some stuff about music and art and stuff, but they decided to move to further into Northern California to get out of the city and have a communal life with some friends that had already set all this stuff. It was all over my head really, but I liked to listen to them talk. I also liked that I had never met any people like them before and I hoped that maybe more people who were different would move to Ridgeview. Now it seemed like there were only people who were poor and people who thought they had money but they all acted the same kind of boring. Also, Roseland’s mom and dad were not married because they said they didn’t believe in that institution, even though they call each other husband and wife. I didn’t know really what they meant by that, but I did know that most grown-ups thought you had to get married when you became an adult, even though in truth I wasn’t exactly sure why you had to get married I just knew that you did. I mean everyone got married, even the people who got divorced got married again. I’d never heard of it called the institution, but it seemed like they acted the same as being married so it didn’t really matter to me. I wondered how Wendy was handling all of this new kind of life. I bet her brain was just melting and I knew she couldn’t wait to get out of the car so she could ask me all kinds of questions. Of course we couldn’t talk much because I knew she had to get home. She was for sure going to get a whipping for getting home late, and not because her mom is worried about the guy in the red corvette.

We dropped off Angel and she waved goodbye before running into her house. I was really upset that she had weaseled her way into our group. I had to think of a way to get rid of her. Now we had plans to go over to her house tomorrow to watch Stand by Me and to make halloween costumes. Halloween was on a Monday this year but that didn’t stop anyone from going trick or treating and we needed costumes for school. Angel said she had a ton of clothes that we could use as costumes. I already know that Wendy is going to wanna be Madonna and of course Angel has the clothes for that. I didn’t care what I was I just wanted to get rid of Angel. Why did she want to hang out with us anyway? She already had friends. She hung out with all the bad sixth graders who hung out with all of the older kids in middle school and even high school. They acted more grown up even though I knew they were still kids. She was into boys and once I heard her say she already had her period. I wondered what she was up too. I wondered if she was just trying to get to Roseland or maybe even take Wendy away from me. I felt like her family already took away everyone I ever loved so why wouldn’t she try to take over my friends too? I didn’t even want to go over to her house tomorrow, and it was supposed to be a sleep-over. I thought that maybe I should just say no and tell they others that if they hang out with her than our friendship was over, but I did kinda want to see all her clothes and I wanted to watch Stand by Me so I was going to have to think of another way to get rid of her, but how?

***********************************************************************

“Oh my gosh! River Phoenix is sooooooo cute! I totally want to marry Chris Chambers! ” Angel squealed at the end of the movie and grabbed a pillow and hugged it close to her body as she rolled onto her bed.

“He dies?” Roseland was sitting on the edge of the bed. She had both her hands up and out like a question. “He grows up and tries to help someone and he dies?” She looks over at us. “That’s lame. I don’t like that. He shouldn’t have died.”

“Oh who cares.” said Angel sighing, “It’s just a movie. At least River Phoenix is alive and he is going to live forever and I am going to marry him!”

“You just said you wanted to marry Chris Chambers.” I said feeling irritated. “So Chris Chambers is who you get, and he dies so too bad so sad.”