(I also saw a bear. Sorry, no pics.)
As promised, here’s chapter one of my forthcoming novel, Ellipsis:
. . .
I’m not going to tell you it seemed like a good idea at the time, because it didn’t. I’m not stupid – running away from home by wrangling my way into the truck of a man I barely knew was not a good idea any way you cut it. But I did it anyway. Because Alana would have told me to do it.
I had a mother, an aunt, a counselor at the community college, three teachers, advice columnists, and a bevy of bad examples on daytime television that I could have consulted for advice, but Alana was the only one who ever gave me good advice – advice I could actually act on. It never seemed to occur to Alana that I might not have the same abilities she did. As far as I could ever tell she honestly thought I could do anything she could do.
It broke with our plan, Alana’s and my plan to get jobs (no matter how dismal) and degrees (or even just certificates) from the community college and split rent somewhere far away from our mothers, but it had the same end result: I would not turn into Melanie Meacham. I wouldn’t be sharing rent with Alana, but I wouldn’t be on Section 8 and Disability, either.
Look at it this way: I was 21 and looked 15. I had a crap job under the table. The only person I gave two shits about was dead. I was taking one class a quarter at junior college for the foreseeable future. I had no car. No resume. No prospects. No friends.
What, really, did I have to lose?
· · ·
My unwitting ticket out of this fresh hell was a shady character named John Crawford.
The first thing I noticed about John was that he was all wrong for my mother. He was older than her for sure (she liked men as young as me if she could snag them). The heavy old work clothes obscured a lot, but there was no way he was ribby under there. But Melanie was between boyfriends in very much the same way that other people were between jobs. John was not her type, but she invited him in anyway, and got right to work on him.
It was a shame, (and I suppose it always was, but it was hard to feel sorry for most of those douchebags), because John was undeniably the dark and handsome stranger archetype. And my mother was going to work him for every penny he’d cough up.
He had dark hair and dark eyes and he was going a little gray at the temples and heavily gray in the muzzle, the way an old dog might. But his eyes were not at all like those of your friend’s eleven year-old Lab who likes to lay his head on your knee until he falls asleep and drools through your jeans. They lacked that rheumy film. His lids were heavy and he looked tired, but not at all diminished.
This old dog was not the kind to fall for the invisible ball throw.
When Melanie let him in I let myself out. When I got back after class, three hours later, it was dark out. Tall, Dark, and Texan was still sitting at our rickety kitchen table and Melanie was still working on him.
John looked even wearier than when he had arrived.
Melanie looked excessively chipper.
Whatever she was pretending to cook needed to be stirred. I could hear the sloppy burble and hiss one would expect from one of those hot mud pools at Yellowstone and I could just make out the metallic tang of something starting to burn and adhere itself to the bottom of the pot.
I had to pass through the kitchen to escape to my room, but I did not pass unchallenged.
“Hey, Dot, sugar,” Melanie said, dripping sweetness.
Sugar, huh? You figure that’s what southern belles call their stunted daughters?
The last boyfriend had been a regular at Open Door Baptist. When he lived with us, Melanie called me her “little blessing.” Before that guy had been Donnie or Douggie or something, who struggled in vain at the gym. Then she called him “Hunk” and me “Pest.”
(Melanie’s default personality, without male influence, was practically catatonic.)
In and among and in between boyfriends I was just Dot. Reduced to a single syllable synonymous with a small fleck of something: a period on a page, a blip of ink or paint, a thing too small to support the whole three syllables of my name – though sometimes she tripled the nickname (“Dot dot dot”), which made the contraction a moot point. She would call me that, with a ripple of laughter under her voice, like she thought she was so clever.
Three dots in a row is an ellipsis: the mark of an absence of words or thoughts or information. In parentheses or brackets it means a swath of information has been removed or redacted. I was a tiny thing in so many ways, and easy to delete.
(The boyfriends didn’t call me anything. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.)
“You want some dinner?”
Oh, God, no. I don’t eat food I can’t identify.
“No thanks, Mel.”
. . .