My mom always did know the right things to say. I definitely hated it here in Spoons, and I DID want her to come pick me up, but I couldn't live my life knowing there was one hot guy in the world who had seen me and not thought I was beautiful. So I typed up my response to Mom--
"Mom, you never know the right things to say, do you. Of course I don't want you to pick me up... that would mean I lose! I'm a stronger woman than that, Mom.
Back when things were easier, when Mom and Charlie would spend their time trying to put me in the middle of their relationship problems, things were, well, just easier. I remember once, after a particularly awkward telephone call with Charlie, as he was blubbering on the phone about missing us, Mom slipped me the sweetest note:
"Stella, You've never looked whiter or more exclusively beautiful. You can do anything. And your Dad wanted me to have an abortion."
I had given her my winningest dejected broken home smile - this was the year 2006 in Provo, Utah, and marriages didn't split up. But Mom was strong and refused to be labeled, I noted, as Rex her new carefree drunkard of a boyfriend swatted her on the butt and they both toppled onto the bed of the Lucky 8 suite we had moved into. I wanted to laugh but was so turned off by Charlie's ridiculous sobbing that all I could do was slam the phone down on the receiver and storm into the kitchenette, listening to Rex talk about squealing pigs. At least Mom was happy then. Not rejected and hurt by the only people who were attractive enough to matter-- like I was now.
I spent the rest of the day in a fuming haze, and I even burned Charlie's Hot Pocket by accident. But he didn't complain, I guess because he's so grateful for the things I do for him, and also he was quite taken by the lights and sounds of the smoke detector. I was so mad at the world just then, that I didn't even realize how cute that was. I did my homework in red ink because I was that mad.
I didn't know WHAT I was going to do tomorrow. By the time I went to bed, I had considered every option imaginable. Not going to school in the morning, not peeing on myself, reporting the stolen Volvo, walking straight up to Edgar and giving him a piece of my mind (ooh-- I shuddered), switching shampoos, getting myself hit by a car right in front of Edgar so he'd have to save my life... But those were all stupid ideas that could never possibly result in Edgar loving me the way Heathcliff loved Catherine. And I would settle for no less. That much I knew.
After an exhausting night of dreams about Volvos which I won't even describe for you because they're, well, personal... But at least it didn't have anything to do with Edgar whatsoever... I went downstairs to find Charlie bellowing hoarsely into the upside-down telephone. (I'd been saying for years now that he should get a cell phone, they're so much easier and more intuitive than those complicated land-lines with two parts that look identical and no instructions which one to talk into and which one to listen to.) "I TOLD you it wasn't street legal Billy, that was PART - OF - THE - DEAL. I can't keep making EXCEPTIONS for you just because you're a native! When you're in Amer'ca, you gotta follow Amer'can laws, OK? Geeeesh."
"Mornin Dad," I said cheerfully. My mood had improved drastically from last night, probably because of my Volvo dream.
"Hey Stells, listen, can you do me a favor?" said Charlie without putting the phone down. "Well, it's really a favor for BILLY who could have easily stopped this from happening! But, remember Billy's native kid?"
"Yeah he needs a ride to school, Billy got pulled over in his wheelchair even though I TOLD him it wasn't street legal. Dang natives, I swear to God."
"He got pulled over for being in a wheelchair?" I asked.
"Yes, honey, on the road. On OUR roads. I had to do it, I did the same to him as I woulda done one of our own."
"You arrested him?"
"I am a marine, Stells."
"So you'll drive the Native kid to school?"
"I think his name's Jacob Dad."
"Stella's gonna drive your kid to school, okay? You stay there at the station until I come up with something you can bribe me with. But goddang it, Billy, I can't keep making exceptions for you just cause we're friends! And you should know better than to bribe a Green Beret. I rooted for my country's future in Vietnam, and what did you do? Yeah, two weeks and then back home relying on us good taxpayers for a set of new legs. Billy, get a grip, before I get a grip for you!"
And he hung up the phone in a fit of rage, but performing some type of jig I'd never see him perform.
"What are you doing, Charlie?"
"That's sodomy, Stells, me Dad told me, now hand me one of those cigars from the cigar jar, because Pappy's off to get himself some doo-dah-dooh-dooh-dah-ditty!"
And I did. And I guess he did, eventually, figure out the locking mechanism on the back screen door, but from the time I had left, he was standing in front of it, puzzled, readying his pepper spray.
I was excited. I would get to test out my new shampoo on Jacob before I even saw Edgar! Kiwi Banana! Usually a sure-fire hit. But if Jacob didn't like it, I'd still have time to come back and re-shower, because the native schools start so much earlier than civilized schools.
OK, you're right, I was terrified. The Natives didn't go to our schools - they, of course, had a school of their own. I was positive it would be everything I imagined a reserve would be like, when I had lived in Provo. Ugly, with dirt roads, wigwams, and scary natives wearing loincloths, and face-paint on parts of their body besides just their face, peeping out from behind trees and pointing bows and arrows at me as I cruised by with my windows up and my strange god-like American music blaring loud enough so that I didn't have to hear their freaky battle cries.
It was 6:45am as I bottomed out the ole' General Lee towards the reserve, slammin'er into 2nd gear just to see what she was made of, I noticed how nice the White Rural community had become. Everywhere friends were helping fertilize their neighbour's soil, raise chicken coops and deliver materials for barn raising. What a great people we are. I felt proud.
Then, things changed. As quickly as my front wheels left the burnt out bridge to come thundering down within inches of missing the escarpment at the other end, I saw the sign: "La Cush". And I panicked. Things had changed, seriously. No longer was I surrounded by the happy youth of the middle American success story called "Spoons", rather a terrifying shadowy wood. It was like I had entered the Seventh Level of Hell. A vapid mist held its tendrils around foliage, entwining everything like a goon's fist warning against the indiscretion of ratting them out.
Shacks leaned against trees, dropping down to a river, where pontoon outriggers sat, centuries old and had I not been driving in a blind panic, I would be more readily able, to tell you, that yes, I am certain, scalpless skulls sat atop post boxes. Everywhere, the burnt out cars, some charred in what could only have been some Birthday gone shamefully, morbidly wrong, peered from a top hunkered cinder blocks, like totems watching my every move.
Then out it came, bounding across the road, in one clumsy, bestial gait, causing me to cut 'er down to first, the General Lee, pouring out clutch in ample response, and bringing her rear end around to kiss the spot I had just set my eyes on, smoke and dust pushing the mysterious mist aside, I was livid. And terrified.