Monday, July 12, 2010

Foray Into Fiction

She left on a Tuesday morning.

The kids were fine--they loved the sitter; they knew their routine: lunch at noon, naps for the younger ones at one, videos for the older kids; mom back by three so the sitter could get to her other job in the coffee shop by four.  But today she'd be late.  Ronnie would be too responsible to leave the kids alone.  She'd call the cell phone and leave a perplexed message:  "Um, Janie, this is Ronnie.  I'm just wondering if you'll be home soon.  I was supposed to leave at 3 today.  Um, OK.  Bye."

But the cell phone was turned off.  She'd dropped it into the laundry basket, where someone would find it eventually.  Paul, maybe, or maybe even a cop, when he eventually called the police.

Ronnie would try Paul at the office, but she'd probably get voice mail there, too.  He'd pick it up and call her right back.  "She's not there?  Did she say where she was going?"  They'd go over a few unlikely scenarios, but in the end, he'd pack up his work and leave early.

He'd swear under his breath as he powered off his computer and arranged the papers on his desk into orderly piles.  He'd get mad first, and worry later.  He would load files into his briefcase like he did every night--files with names like STAT PROG and CHECK CODE--but tonight he wouldn't get to them until well after 9:30, after the last pajamaed child padded out for the last hug and the last glass of water, wondering my Mommy didn't come in to kiss him goodnight.

Checking the calendar on the refrigerator, Paul wondered if he had forgotten girls' night out.  It had happened before: Paul was supposed to be home by five to give her a chance to change clothes and put on makeup.  He knew that some days she didn't even make it into the shower before 11 a.m.; some days, not at all.  He couldn't really imagine what it was like, taking care of four young children all day, all alone--but he tried, and he tried to make sure that he helped out when she asked, and came home early when she needed him to.  He didn't even mind the expense of the sitter two days a week, to give her a chance to run errands, have some down time.

"Shit," he said, falling back into the butt-shaped divot on the leather couch.  "Where the hell is she?"

Janie was driving across Oklahoma in a beige Toyota--she'd sold her own car in Missouri, and bought this one with cash--carefully observing the speed limit and listening to Josh Turner asking why don't they just dance.

"I'm not a big fan of country music," she said out loud, looking over at the empty seat as though he were there.  "But if I listened to you for very long, I think I might just change my mind."  I'm going to be changing a lot of things, she thought, starting with my name.

Amanda.  Jenny.  Kate.  Janie ran through the names in her mind, seeing how they matched up with the new life she was envisioning for herself.  It wasn't a glamorous life--she didn't need Roberto Cavalli sunglasses or a Hermes handbag.  She needed to be a real person, to feel true, to experience a life that made her eyes open wide and her breath catch in her throat.

She'd felt that way once, when Mattie was born.  She couldn't get enough of his smell, his softness, his tiny perfection.  But the sweetness of those moments had faded with sleep deprivation and the intensity of day-in and day-out parenting.  Soon the other three kids joined him.  The fourth, Boo-Boo, was an accident--Janie already knew that three kids was tipping her over the edge--and the last traces of her identity circled the drain and disappeared like that blue Polly Pocket shoe last week.

Her friends all laughed over margaritas, and commiserated with one another--"I just can't wait until I can pee without someone watching me!"--but Janie knew that only drastic action would save her.  Hence, Oklahoma, the Toyota, the soon-to-be-chopped-off-hair, the new name.

"Kate," Janie decided.  "I'm going to be Kate.  I'm going to work at a bookstore during the day, and play guitar on weekends."  Under the vast night sky, she drove toward Texas; and she wondered if Paul remembered to give Boo-Boo his antibiotic.


J said...

Nice work! I liked this very much. good tension, thoughtful tidbits.

Made me think of the New York Magazine article about parenting that my friend posted on FB last week called "All Joy and No Fun - Why Parents Hate Parenting".

Thanks for a great break from my late afternoon work nonsense.

E. Peevie said...

Thanks, J. I was a little scared to put it out there, because I've never written fiction before.

Last night, when I was getting ready to run an errand, Mr. Peevie said, "You're not going to Texas, are you?"

Heh. Fiction, Mr. Peevie. Why would I leave my great life?

jeanie said...

Love it. Want more. When is it coming?