the following is an excerpt from a tale – The Millionaire Rig Veda – soon to be published in a novella collection sometime in late 2011:
Ginny Staithe, when she could, wore sweatpants like a uniform. Her motto was Why Walk When You Could Run? The sweats were both an athletic thing and a symbol of her complimentary devotion to leisure. Because, if she thought about it, it went the other way too: Why Sit When You Could Lie Down? Ginny didn’t do anything half-way, and that included fixing her car. At the mechanic’s, dressed in her sweatpants and a cute (but understated) hoodie, she circled the Jeep and the mechanic on his knees beside it, pointing out everything that needed fixing with an unpolished fingertip. From the missing antennae to the back hatch which needed gas shocks, the timing belt, and the rear passenger door that stuck in the cold.
I live up here because I’m ahead of the curve. Soon you’ll all be leaving your beloved cities like rats from a sinking ship and guess where you’ll come? She still couldn’t believe she’d said it. Not because she didn’t think it – she did – but that it’d come out of defensiveness, out of caring what someone else thought, and Ginny Staithe had believed herself to be passed all that.
“Rotator cam is shot,” said the mechanic from underneath the Jeep.
Ginny’s cell phone rang in her bag. She had the one-strap back pack slung around her – no purse when you went to the mechanic’s; they saw that and they tried to rake you over the coals and that just pissed Ginny off. She reached in, grabbed it out of there and flipped it open without looking at the incoming number displayed.
It was Emily.
“Hi, Em. You-”
“I just wanted to say something. I just wanted to say one thing, okay? You talk about him like he’s dead. He’s not dead. Okay?”
Ginny closed her eyes. She swallowed. When she opened them again, the world swam for a moment, the colors running. It was only the briefest of seconds, but it had been there. She thought she also felt the beginnings of a headache, like a storm, brewing behind her forehead. A good frontal lobe whanger, she thought.
“Em, I’m at the car place right now. Let’s talk about this another time.”
“There’s nothing to talk about. I just had to tell you. It’s been…it’s one of those things that’s been one my mind, that keeps me up, like a little pin in the pin cushion.” Emily was calming now. That was how Emily was. She came on big and strong, just about tidal, and receded full of doubt, guilt, backing out the door like a head-bobbing bird.
In her mind she saw Emily at college, years ago now, affecting her patented Aussie accent and saying down undah and absoluteleh while people partying with her cracked up, tears tracking down faces. When Em was on, she was on. Should’ve been a stand-up comedian, Ginny had told her once. Missed your calling. Now Em had dried up. Seriously. Dried right up. Em was a resistor, a control freak – had to take everything and run it through her system, evaluating and scrutinizing and ultimately sitting indefinitely on that fucking fence about everything. She always had to have a crisis, a drama. She had to get something to get mad about, to get riled up about and organize against because, well, that was all she had left. Ginny knew this, she understood it, but, sometimes she was still a bitch too. And, who was to blame her? She was trying for upright and honorable, but she’d settle for listing and half-decent. Didn’t everybody?
“Em, he’s a deadbeat asshole, and you know it. He’s your brother, so you’re in denial. Not as much as your mother, who thinks his turds are royal and glimmer like jewels, but you’re still in denial – and it ain’t the river in Egypt. If I act like he’s dead, it’s my fucking right. To me, after all the shit he’s pulled, he might as well be. Deal with it.”
Ginny listened for the rebuttal, for Em’s return to her blustery storm mode (sometimes, yes, sometimes she didn’t go out with a whimper, not at all, but hung tenaciously to her judgment and bitterness as a drowning woman to a floating log) and as Em’s first word -leader of an army with their bayonets thrust forward- came out – “You” – Ginny snapped the phone shut. She looked at it, saw that the call had lasted one minute and forty-nine seconds, and realized she should use the caller ID more often. Em wasn’t likely to call back. Her dignity was at stake – she’d been hung up on, the ultimate glove in the face. No, she wouldn’t call back over and over in a blind rage like some. Em would plot her revenge.
Ginny shook her head. “Jesus,” she said softly, slipping her phone back in her bag.
From beneath the Jeep, the mechanic said, “I’ll say.”