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Shine On

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Oct. 23rd, 2012 | 11:20 am

Young Adult Novel - This is part 4.5. Parts two, three, four, five, and the end of the book; part one is not yet posted.

I have no idea what to wear. By the time Grampa knocks on my door, most of my closet has become a floordrobe. Shakespeare made up words all the time, so gimme a break.

“You ready?”


He comes in anyway. I scream and grab some pants out of the pile.

Calm down. I’m wearing a dress. Besides, he saw me born.

“What’s wrong with what you got on?”

“Too dressy.”

“There’s always jeans.”

“Yeah, everyone will be wearing jeans.”

His look speaks a thousand words. I go into my bathroom and change into jeans and a blouse. I debate earrings but it’s been so long I think my holes are closed up. Boots. I have cute ankle boots that mom got me when she left the house once. Yeah, I’ll get to that later.

Grampa’s halfway through hanging my clothes back up when I emerge. When I was a kid and didn’t know any better, he used to come in my room in the mornings while I was at school and make my bed, pull all the crap out from underneath and put it in little piles. Then he was sick one week and I missed him so much I started doing it because it made me feel like he was still in the house. Now I’m a neat freak, as Samuel puts it, nail polish bottles arranged in a spectrum on my bookshelf and scarves and necklaces in the same pattern on the hooks on the back of my door. Closet is by color, then type, then long to short. Grampa says it reminds him of stocking the PX in Korea, which is what he always says when someone asks him what he did in the service.

“Stacked up cans of shaving cream and wasted Uncle Sam’s time and your tax dollars!”

Usually the person stops asking. Only mom and I know he was a Green Beret, and I think I probably know more than mom about Korea, and about lying in the mud and waiting to see someone’s eyes in the dark, and drinking coffee black all the time.

I start passing Grampa pants and shirts and we’re done with the closet. I can’t stand coming home to a mess in my room. Grampa’s room is like a monk’s cell with an army blanket. Mine’s more like a really organized vintage store, and Sally Ann’s where I get most of my stuff. The three stores I go to on Saturday morning at the beginning of the month sometimes save stuff for me if they think I’ll like it. I don’t buy very much—no money, honey—and plus I have a rule, one thing in, one thing out.

My mom does not have this rule.

I close my door and lock it. Grampa heads down the hall and checks the light switch.


We both know not to say anything. There are over a hundred lightbulbs in the kitchen closet. But you’d need to be able to put a chair below the fixture in the center of the living room.

Grampa pulls his flashlight off his belt and pops it on. Mine’s a little LED that lives on my keychain, good enough for coming in at night. He’s got the big Maglite that doubles as a club. You know, in case things get rough at the Putt-n-Play. We slide through the piles like ninja bank robbers, don’t catch your shoulder on those magazines. QVC Corner is getting a little full, and Grampa snakes out his hand and snags a figurine like pulling out a pick-up-stick. Nothing else moves and it’s in his hand, still in the original package—

“Ya gotta save the box! They aren’t worth anything ‘less you’ve got the box!”

--and then it’s in his jacket and we’re across the room. Grampa turns his flashlight off, the back door’s open and there’s moonlight in the kitchen.

“Susan?” he calls out. “I’m takin’ Aurora to her party.”

Mom leans in the kitchen door, turning her head to blow a mouthful of smoke back outside. Her cigarette glows, and suddenly points of light flash all over the room.



“We haven’t had these in years,” Mom says. “Guess them rippin’ down that development down the street gave ‘em a place to live.”

Mom flicks her butt into the yard and I can feel Grampa wince beside me but he doesn’t say anything. We stand in the kitchen and watch them, little flashes over the stove, around the fridge, hovering over the breakfast table. I reach out my hands and gently cup one, watching it flash on and off. They are almost in unison, blinking nearly together, and the one in my hands lights up my palms. Against the moonlight, my mom looks like we’re the same age, like she’s ready to go to the party with me and see if a boy likes her, find out what happens next. Next door, someone pulls into the neighbor’s driveway, revs his engine and hits the brights. The fireflies fade into long, skinny black bugs. What happens next is getting knocked up with me and then being alone, having her dad move in and spending the days buying shit on TV. She already knows.

What happened to your dream deferred?

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Comments {4}


I'm surprised that no one answered your question...

from: ellakite
date: Oct. 24th, 2012 01:37 am (UTC)

What happened to your dream deferred?

Well, for a very long time -- about 20 years -- mine sagged like a heavy load. Then for the last five years it dried up, like a raisin in the sun.

I suppose I should count my blessings: it never stank, festered or exploded... but then again it never crusted and sugared over like a syrupy sweet.

But things may be about to change. Maybe, just maybe, the deferment period will actually end...

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Re: I'm surprised that no one answered your question...

from: whipchick
date: Nov. 1st, 2012 04:14 am (UTC)

Oh, how I hope so :)

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

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from: halfshellvenus
date: Oct. 24th, 2012 08:46 pm (UTC)

Oh, what an interesting and kind of dark addition to this novel. You get the sense of the mother being agoraphobic near the beginning, and perhaps messy, but the hoarding traits... no wonder the narrator and her grandfather keep their possessions so under control. Their rooms are the only part of the house they can maintain in a way they like.

I had a little trouble parsing the last two sentences here, because they seemed as if they could mean "happens next" to the narrator and not to her mother.

How about, "What happened next was..." etc? I think past tense for that one sentence would make that completely clear.

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(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Nov. 1st, 2012 04:15 am (UTC)

Thanks! I realized I hadn't written the mother yet and all of a sudden "hoarder" sprung into my mind and there she was...

You're right, that's a little clunky - thanks!!

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