Izzy gets ready for a night on the town but runs into an obstacle.
|"Could be a tornado. Look at the clouds, how they're turning." The old man leaned on the scratched glass counter, pointing out the dirty windows while the gas station attendant stared with dead eyes and nodded.
I slapped my credit card on the counter. "Pump one," I said. My patience was threadbare and the last thing I wanted to talk about was the weather.
The attendant took my card and started tapping at the machines. She couldn't have been more than eighteen, a young and vibrant age, but she stopped several times to check a sheet of instructions taped to the cigarette cases.
"Haven't seen a real twister since 1972," the old man continued. I tried to ignore him and the body odor burning my nostrils. Looking at him, he probably wasn't as old as I thought. Maybe in his fifties, sixties at the latest. I think his stained tee-shirt from a fishing tournament long past might have been older.
He persisted in making conversation, nudging me with his elbow and pointing out the window. "See how they're spinnin'? I think we might actually see one tonight. Took out the shed back in 1976, the last one. Ripped it right out of my yard."
The clerk slid my card across the counter and handed me a receipt. "If a tornado lands tonight, it'll prove that we live in hell." I couldn't hold my tongue. It'd been a long day.
"Hell?" He slammed his dirt stained hand on the counter and the skin hanging from his cheeks started to shake. "This here's God's Land."
I took my card and receipt and walked away, shoving the door open and bursting into the wind that wrapped my hair around my face.
God's Land. That's what they say as you gaze across a landscape of nothingness. No trees. No hills. If you're lucky, you might spot a slew on the horizon.
Ask any one over the age of 45, sitting at the local diner with their cups of coffee in advertising mugs and overalls. That's what they'll tell you. We are living in God's Land.
What they don't tell you is that it isn't the front yard of God's property, with the nice rolling green grass where children want to play a game of tag. It isn't even the flower garden in the backyard where moonflowers bloom blue in the morning, climbing up the trellis's so thick that they lean towards the patches of lilies, blooming in every shade found in nature. We don't even live further back where the squash sprawl across the ground, their broad leaves nearly covering the string bean plants, dripping with crisp beans to be eaten raw as you sit beside the blooming tomato plants, guarded by old coffee cans.
We live in the part of God's Land, way in the back where he outlaws the broken down El Camino whose brown paint is being eaten by rust and the back windshield is broken out, leaving it open to birds and squirrels, squatters fighting for possession. It's where avocado green refrigerators sit, their doors hanging from a single hinge, begging the waist high weeds to grow inside like whores on the street, wrapping around the cracked plastic drawers, still lined with mold. The part of his land inviting cats to stalk around, preying on the hordes of mice running free. If you listen close enough, you can hear their conversations, calling their buddies to move in because the living is cheap and plentiful in high pitched squeals. Come on down. The people here, they don't care. They even gave us a house. It's avocado green, but we don't care.
That's the part of God's Land we live in, down here in the shelter belt, the backwoods of a world that keeps moving ahead and hoping that if they ignore us, we won't cause too much trouble.
I pulled to a stop light and was joined by a pair of white boys with zits and rags on their heads, blasting some mad tunes about living in the ghetto, their heads bobbing as if they understand and it makes me laugh.
The light turned green and the ghetto wannabe's hit the gas. I laughed as their Dodge Neon eased down the road while the cars behind me honked, anxious to return to their less than average lives.
"Settle down." I eased on the gas as my phone barked from the pile of receipts and bills cluttering the passenger seat. Vicious dogs barking was the ring tone I picked for James, my beloved brother. "What?" I asked as an obese woman passed, waving politely with her middle finger.
The laughter in his voice tempted me to flip the phone closed, but I refrained, pulling into the turning lane that led to the street that would guide me to the sanctity of home. "What do you want?"
"Just reminding you that Dad needs to be picked up from dialysis."
"I knew you'd forget."
"Shut up, James. Why don't you go get him?" I knew the answer, but asking gave me a sense of victorious content. "I'm on my way." I closed the phone before he could taunt me any more with petty cracks. Of course he couldn't drive to the hospital and help our father, dizzy from having his blood run through machines for the past four hours, to the car. James couldn't drive thanks to, what he calls, the dutiful pigs. Not because he wasn't drunk. Not because he hasn't spent years since his teenaged days in trouble with the law. Not because he's generally irresponsible, leaving me with the burden of responsibility for our ailing father.
It was none of those things. The reason James couldn't drive to pick up their father from the hospital, or to the grocery store, or Wal-Mart for a new flannel shirt to keep him warm in the frigid winters, was purely because the cops had it "out" for him.
None of it was his fault.
I whipped into an abandoned parking lot and headed back to Highway 20, turning north towards the hospital at the top of the hill. Dad, sick or not, was as much to blame as James. Since we were children, James had no responsibility for his actions. James lit the cat on fire because, as Dad would say, "Boys will be boys." James graduated with a "D"ploma from High School because the teachers maintained stereotypes against football players. James didn't "knock up" a girl the first night he met her. She seduced him, planning through each button undone, so that she could trap the football star into a convenient marriage. And, of course, it was her fault that James didn't go to college and earn a degree in Political Science or Law. It's her fault James isn't running for President of the United States right now. James was an innocent by-stander in all that life has thrown at him. A victim of other's malicious plans.
"You have to take responsibility, Izzie. It's your life and your mistake." James does a much better imitation of Dad, but it made me feel better feel better mocking his words along with the rock station on the radio. "God Damn It, Izzie, just tell me the truth. Why is there tar on the truck? Where did you take it?"
He never believed that I took the truck to Brookings to find research for debate. I told him to call Brookings. Find out if they are re-tarring the roads north of the University Campus. No, he didn't want to believe.
Even now, when he's frustrated because I won't buy him a bag of Hot and Spicy Doritos because they have too much salt and he can't go to dialysis for two more days, he stomps into the living room and throws himself into his recliner, mumbling about the time I drove the pick up all over hell where roads are, apparently, always being re-tarred.
"That was 14 years ago," I shout from the kitchen to let him know that I can hear him. "Fourteen fucking years ago, dad. Get over it."
I pull into the hospital parking and finds the closest space, easing the car to a stop and sitting for a minute so that I won't tear into the hospital with a bad attitude and take it out on the nurses in charge of my father's well being. As I sat there, an old lady, well into her eighties, pushed her walker through the automatic doors. She stopped and stared into the sky, watching the turning clouds before shuffling down the sidewalk.
I rushed down the marble tiled hallway past the art of local landscape towards the dialysis ward, my feet shuffling across the slick surface and I worried for my own safety, much less the safety of those with mobility issues. I burst through the doors to find my father slouched in a chair watching an episode of Dr. Phil with a scowl on his face. He looked up and the scowl didn't change.
"You're late," he said, pushing himself out of the chair with a grunt. "Did you forget me?"
I reached for his arm but he pulled away.
"I walked myself in here, I'll walk myself out."
I followed him to the doors and looked at the nurse who buried her nose in a pile of fascinating patient charts. "Have a good day," I said.
She raised her eyes and for one second, she wanted to smile.
"Have a nice day now that you've ruined mine," Dad grumbled as he shoved the doors open with his beefy arms. A look of fear crossed the nurses fear as she returned to her reading materials and diversion from my father's foul attitude.
Once the doors were shut behind us, I followed a step behind my father as I said, "You know, it's not her fault that you're kidneys are failing. You shouldn't take it out on her."
"She's shitty with a needle," he said, waving away my words. "Besides, she took me down to many points. I was queasy when I got up. And why do they have to keep it so damn cold in that room. I bet it's for her. If she'd lose some weight, she could handle a little warmer temperatures instead of freezing out the poor patients that are there hanging onto their lives." He continued his rant as all three hundred pounds of him stomped down the hallways.
I wasn't worried about him slipping. He was well weighted down with fat and hypocrisy.
We walked into the wind blowing about rotten leaves from the fall and bits of garbage. "We've got a storm coming. Get me home before it hits."
I climbed into the drivers side and turned on the ignition as I tried to ignore his struggle to ease himself into the tiny seat so low to the ground. As the car turned over, my radio blasted with the latest song from a band with a name so stupid I never bothered remembering it. Dad reached over and started punching the buttons until he found the local country station. "Can't stand that shit you listen to," he grumbled, slamming the door shut and shaking the car.
I pulled onto St. Anne's hill while Dad pressed his forehead against the window, studying the clouds rushing past us above, desperate to get out of his way before he unleashed on them.
It didn't seem like a threat, as he sang along with some woman twanging about some man drinking whiskey with a bleach blond bimbo. As the chorus neared, I paid attention to the lyrics.
"Right now, he's probably up behind her with a pool-stick, showing her how to shoot a combo." Sounded like an anal rape scene to me, but I continued listening. "And he don't know that I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up four- wheel drive. Carved my name into his leather seats," the girl sang.
"What kind of idiot leaves proof of identity at a crime scene."
"I like this song. Shh." Dad hushed me and continued singing.
"I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights, slashed a hole in all four tires. Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats."
"What's this song called?"
"Before he cheats," Dad said, pressing a finger to his lips.
"Before I Commit Intentional Damage to Property" would be a more appropriate title. The follow up could be called, "My cell mate made her bitch last night.""
Dad rolled his eyes and I listened to the rest of the song, wondering if there was some woman somewhere who thought this song was a great idea and decided to act on it.
I pulled into the driveway of Dad's house and decided that the girl in the song was awful considerate to save the next girl from this man's cheating ways.
"What's for dinner?" Dad asked, opening the door before the car came to a stop. I hit the brakes and waited for him to climb out and slam the door before banging my head against the steering wheel. I hadn't intended on cooking for him. I had plans for the night and dogs to let out at home. I wanted a shower and some time away from the insanity of my life.
Instead, I switched the radio station, cursing country music, and shut off the car while going over the list of groceries I'd helped him buy last Wednesday, trying to figure out a concoction that he would eat without too much salt.
By the time I pulled into my driveway, the sun was setting beyond the line of run down houses. Gatsby stared out the window until he spotted me walking from the garage. Then he ducked beneath the window only to pop back up again, his giant Great Dane ears bouncing against his jowls. Tom peeked from the other corner, watching until I disappeared from sight, when he began his Chihuahua war cry. I swung open the door and they rushed to greet me, Gatsby sliding to my feet like a train avoiding a crash. Tom jumped out of the way and leapt into my arms, stretching his neck to lick my face.
"Settle down, boys," I said, hooking Gatsby to the chain that had to be screwed to the support beam because he pulled everything else loose. I dropped Tom outside the door and waited while he did his business then ran back inside, dashing for the food dish, which I promptly filled. "Eat up, Tom. You know nothing will be left by the time Gatsby comes in." I left him crunching on the pieces and settled in for a long bath.
The phone rang as I climbed out and I grabbed it with dripping hands. "Hello?" I said, wrapping a towel around myself and perching on the edge of the bathtub.
"Hey, going out tonight?" Kimberly's voice was bubbly as every, fizzing through the phone. We only met a few months ago, but she seemed content to move into my life, wanting to watch empowering heartbreak movies together and shop in hip, young stores that cater to the new generation of skeezy strumpets.
"Yeah. I just got out of the bath, so it'll be a while."
"I could swing by and pick you up when you're ready."
I dried my toes and decided on another coat of red polish. "Why don't I just meet you there? I'm not sure when I'll be ready."
"Okay. So, are you doing it up tonight, or going low key?"
I hadn't even had a chance to think about it and looked at the clock. "I got time. I'll probably dress it up a little."
"Good. So will I. I just didn't want to be the only one. Heels or no?"
"Alright. We're on the same page. Give me a call when you're heading down and I'll meet you there, okay?” She went out before we met and sometimes I wonder how she managed to walk into a bar by herself without a friend holding her hand or telling her what to wear.
I let Gatsby in and boiled some frozen spinach. While the water boiled, I opened my closet and pulled out a pair of jeans then pushed through the potential "dressed up" shirts from which to choose. I went with an Asian inspired, kimono style and pulled it off the plastic hanger, debating only for a moment to wear a simple t-shirt, just to be contradictory. Dropping the towel to the floor, I ran conditioner through my hair and used the rest on my hands for lotion on my clean shaven legs. Reaching for the jeans, I caught myself in the mirror and smiled. Thirty-one's been good to me, I thought as I turned and flexed my back muscles, searching for a new line. Much better than my twenties, when I was nothing but skin draped over bone. My finger traced the lines contouring my arms. I wasn't Gladiator Girl by any means, but I never need help at the lumber yard lifting boards.
"No thank you. Why don't you go help that man?" I've always wanted to say that when a worker offers to help me lift a simple eight foot two by four.
I leaned against the sink and pulled the jeans over my sculpted calves and past my lean hips. Why are women afraid of muscles? Why do they prefer needing men to care for basic needs like carrying a bag of dog food to their car? I asked Kimberly that question once, just as a basic conversation starter.
"Men don't like women with muscles. It's not sexy."
"I've heard that before," I said to her as a man watched me with a half cocked smile from the bar. "From a man I was dating."
I returned the man's smile and took a swallow of beer. "That was the day I started lifting weights."
Kimberly looked at me with a furrowed forehead.
"All I could think, in the back of my mind, was "All the better to strangle you, my dear." Maybe any man who finds muscles unattractive is the kind of man threatened by a woman being independent. Maybe they only want weak, whimpering idiots that they can push around."
She just shrugged and the conversation was over.
I snapped my bra on and pulled the top over my head. I flexed one more time before heading towards the kitchen for dinner.
More Coming...Let me know if you'd like to continue reading as the story grows and I will alert you through email. Until then, check out Chapter 2 "Per Diventare Due"
Thanks for Reading!