The Day With the Pink and Green Comforters

•June 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

My twin sister, Shayna, was moving to California.

We graduated from high school two weeks ago. Momma had already put a snapshot of us on the mantle. We’re both wearing the maroon graduation gowns. I’m wearing a long denim skirt that peeks out underneath it. I have my arm wrapped around Shayna and a close-mouthed smile on my face. About five minutes before that photo was taken is when she told me she was moving. I can see the distress in my eyes. Shayna has a toothy smile and her eyes are wide in pretend-surprise.

Despite my disappointment, I was helping her pack. It was proving to be an easy enough task, she didn’t seem to want to take anything with her.

“What about all these shorts?” I held them up, tiny size 2 jean shorts. She had about 12 pairs. The pair I was holding were offensively short and tight on her. They tended to ride up her labia which always made me wince. Why she couldn’t admit she was a size 4 was beyond me. I was a size 8 going on 10. It didn’t bother me at all. I had stopped caring about stuff like that a year ago.

“Oh hell no, Kaysee,” she yanked them out of my hands and held them up to her hips, “Talk about trailer park. I can’t wear stuff like this in California. Jordache! Ugh!” She threw them into the black plastic trash bag hanging off the doorknob.

In the two weeks since she had told me she was moving it seemed very little was good enough to go with her into this new life she was heading to. All her clothes were “a bunch of KMart, Walmart, SHIT.” Her shoes weren’t the right brands. Banana clips and scrunchies were for “hussies and welfare moms.” So far she had a suitcase with two dresses and one expensive pair of designer jeans that she had convinced Granddaddy to buy her as a graduation present.

I sat on the end of my twin bed and looked at her as she slipped out of her flip flops and put on some heels she had gotten a couple of months ago to go to prom in. They were sky high making her calves look amazing. I fiddled with the loose thread on my mint green comforter. Tears had been on the edge of my lids for a long time, it felt like. Nothing had spilled over yet but hearing her reject all these items that I had shared with her was becoming too much. I had been through enough.

“Shayna, wanna talk for a few? Take a break from all this?” I knew my voice sounded funny. I also knew that despite the stranger she had turned into over the past couple of weeks, we were still twins. I knew she could feel my heart ache. Couldn’t she?

“Sure, ok. But just for a few, Andrew is coming over to say bye in a little while. I want to have some alone time,” she sat on the edge of her pink comforter, facing me. Andrew was her sort-of boyfriend. He’d taken her to prom. Had sex with her. She had known him for a few months. He was a year older, a baseball player at a community college. He had mean eyes and dipped tobacco. He was awful.

“Right. Well…” I hadn’t really thought of what I even wanted to talk about. There was so much I felt about all of this and no way to express it while her dirty Juicy sweatpants stared at me from the floor.

All of a sudden, her tinny laughter, “Hey remember that time when my favorite colors were pink and green? So Momma bought us these comforters and ten years later here we are sitting on these damn things and I’m fixin’ to move to CALIFORNIA??” She was squealing. I looked at her and wanted to both punch her in the face and hug her and never let go. I loved her so much for existing and hated her so much for leaving me. To be a MODEL. Jesus Christ, did it get any more typical than a pretty country girl moving to the city to make it big? It always seemed so ridiculous until it was your twin sister. Then it just seemed fucking SCARY.

“Yep…pretty crazy. Still kind of getting use to it if I’m being honest…” I laid down, hands behind my head. Sometimes it was easier for me to talk to her when I wasn’t looking right at her. So I said it to our ceiling instead:

“I think you’re making a mistake leaving here. I don’t think you have planned enough, I don’t think you have enough money, and I don’t think you know what you’re in for, Shayna, I just really fucking don’t.”

“Oh hell, here it comes. Shit, Kaysee, I’ve already heard this from everyone else, I never expected you to-”

“What? You never expected me to be HONEST with you? After the year I’ve had? I mean, what are you even thinking? You have what? Something like two thousand dollars to your name? And a shitty ass LeBaron that I doubt even makes it to Arkansas,” I knew she was getting pissed but I had to let it out of me, “and you’re not that fucking hot, Shayna. You’re hot for Johnson City but you’re not Hollywood hot. You’re going to end up hurt as hell if you leave. There is nothing. there. for. you. You can leave all the cheap clothes behind but you can’t leave who you are, Shayna. That never fucking goes away!” I was crying now, my fore arm covering my eyes. I would have said anything to keep her there. No matter how much it hurt her.

I expected her to jump on me, slap me. That’s what she would have done when we were kids. The day she had been talking about- the day with the green and pink comforters when we were 8- I had wanted red and blue. I had told her pink was for prissy girls and green was for grandmas. She had wrestled with me in the aisle at Kmart until I took it back. Until she got her way,

She didn’t do that. What she did was worse. She stood up, took the heels she’d been trying on, slipped on her flip flops and walked out of our room.



•June 1, 2011 • 12 Comments

It’s my first week doing the Indie Ink challenge. ( ) Prompt follows the post.


Does anyone else measure their life by their summers?

When I was eight years old my family started going to Nagshead for a week every summer… just like every other family in the Richmond metro area.

It was always either Nagshead or Myrtle Beach, am I right, kids?

Anyway, we went with the McNallys who had a son, Steven, who was my age. His parents were great friends with mine and at night I would fall asleep on the trundle bed downstairs with cool sheets wrapped around my brown legs, listening to them laughing upstairs, playing spades. My parents really loved spades. They were a dynamic duo when it came to cards. No one could beat them. No one even came close.

They were very proud of this.

Those were great summers. We would go to the beach all day… I remember driving by the incredible dunes the outer banks are so famous for and being in awe of all that sand. We’d wake up early to hot donuts on the kitchen table that my dad had picked up. At night we’d ride bumper boats, go-carts, play miniature golf. Eat. Eat. Eat. Sleep the kind of sleep you can only get on vacation… the kind you can only get when you’re eight years old and have no idea what you’re in for.

Before you know that being good at cards is not enough.


When I was twenty two years old I was spending my summers at a completely different beach.

Oh, Panama City Beach, how I miss you! Days spent sleeping in until noon after nights of easy intoxication with beautiful southern boys from places like Altoona, Valdosta, Birmingham, Troy, Mobile. They were as disingenuous as any other boys in any other state but they looked and sounded so much better when they were lying to you.

My friend Karri and I would drive down the strip in my Jeep Cherokee and just wait to see who would be the first to approach us. That was how it was there and still is today to the best of my knowledge. (At least I HOPE SO) You didn’t have to look for the good times. They walked right up to your car and they were usually wearing a ball cap and khaki shorts. My kryptonite at the time.

I lived in a little white house with blue trim on the west end of the beach. Worked in a cheap beach motel that had been around since the 1950’s. The Fiesta Motel. The furniture was Golden Girls wicker, the comforters were moldy. People always complained about the palmetto bugs that were everywhere. The place was a dump and a half. But it was on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach so people complained but never left. It was worth the cockroach infestation for the view alone.

I worked with a woman named Kris who had fibromyalgia and loved crystal meth. We would put the “Be Back in 15 Minutes” sign up for three hours while we went down to the beach to drink left over hunch punch and stare at the tourists wearing bathing suits they shouldn’t have been. Bless their hearts. Kris would get high in the bathroom while I did the daily audits. We made a great team.

I worked the swing shift so the night was always when I felt alive. It was my happy hour. Hunch punch! Boys! Skinny dipping with both! Peeing in the sea oats just because we could! I was twenty two years old and I had the entire world to throw away if I wanted to.

It was one of the best summers of my life.


July is my mom leaving. I was 13 years old the night my dad found out about The Other One.

I’ll let your own imaginations run with that. I don’t have the stomach to even write the details of that unfortunate night. Poor Dad.

My memory tends to be fuzzy regarding that month in general. It was a very strange month for me. Sure, my parents split. Big deal I guess. Sure it was a catalyst of sorts. It defined my adolescence. Perhaps my life. I remember being in church either before or after The Incident and being itchy just to do SOMETHING to just get this shit UNDER CONTROL.

So I ended up practically lurching myself forward out of my pew and getting saved. My grandma was really happy that although I was “going through hell on earth I would at least be on my way to heaven.” I remember standing next to Pastor Frakes as he asked the congregation if they were happy about my leap of faith and listening to their choruses of “AMEN!” and feeling happy I did it. That I had something under control.

I was going to heaven, y’all!

Afterwards we had Ukrops chicken salad and White House Rolls washed down by caffeine free Pepsi. I remember floating on my back in my grandma’s pool hoping that maybe me being saved would save my parents’ marriage. That it could save my father.

I would love to say that it did.


My first summer in Las Vegas was hell.

I still had my Jeep but the Jeep did not have its air conditioning. I would roll down the windows for some sort of relief and all I would get was what felt like a blow dryer hitting my face. On high. That was manufactured in hell. By Satan’s Daddy.

It was horrible. I wanted to die every time I had to drive anywhere. I couldn’t touch my steering wheel half the time. I don’t know if you know this… but the steering wheel is important to be able to touch while you’re driving.

July is also meeting my first husband. I still hate the fact I have to say “first husband.” I truly am white trash. I met him in a bar which makes this story even worse. He had on khakis (KRYPTONITE) and had dark hair and dark eyes. He was also sober, a condition I would not see him in often.

I guess I mention that because its important. Its important I had a first husband, I guess. I don’t remember much else from that summer besides being with Chris and swimming with Steve and Nikaela. That was the summer they fell in love as well.

I guess my point is that summer is a great time to fall in love with the wrong people. Summer is a tricky bitch like that. Especially the Vegas summer.


The first time I ever got drunk was in the summer time. So was my first make out session (hello, Brian Taylor!) Actually, both happened the same summer. The summer of 1999. The summer after high school graduation. The summer of firsts and lasts.

Wow. How cheesetastic was that last line?

If that summer had a taste it would taste like Miller High Life and pickles. It would smell like wet grass. I remember every night being an adventure. Because when you grow up in a place like Mechanicsville you DO have to make and choose your own adventures. I have never lived a summer like I did the summer I was 18. Walking down the road next to my house at night past the cornfields. Driving to Tappahannock with Jessica Weiss at 1 am because we were too bored and sober to think of anything else to do. Sitting on a sweaty bar stool at the cash register at ServiStar Hardware talking to old men about lawnmower sparkplugs and how pretty they thought I was. OBVIOUSLY two of my favorite topics of discussion

Swimming in my grandma’s pool at night. Driving around in Whitney Beck and/or Jamie Baughan’s mustang listening to pop music and laughing. LOUD. Going to Friday Cheers and feeling SO COOL for being there. Falling in love with three different boys at the same time… none of whom knew who the hell I was… or worse, they did know. And they didn’t love me back.

Being 18 and thinking you were going to be alone the rest of your life.

I miss that kind of melodrama.EVERY.THING. MATTERED. And meant something. Every day was soapy and beautiful and full.

But the hell if I would ever go back there for anything. It was all too very… much.


The tail end of last summer my Dad and I drove cross country together in my brother’s Mitsubishi Eclipse.

I would love to tell you it was four days of daughter/Dad bonding with a beginning, a middle, and heart warming end. But this is reality. We went without fighting all the way to Kingman, AZ. But then I wanted to stop at Cracker Barrel and Dad thought he would be able to get to AMARILLO, TEXAS by that night. Um… unrealistic much? When we had to stop in Gallup, NM he was all pouty. He was in such a hurry to get from here to there… which, of course, is understandable. He was ready to see my brother. My brother had been in Iraq for almost a year. Dad was ready to stop jumping every time the cell phone rang. He was ready to see his son.

It wasn’t all bad though. We sang a lot. When we could agree on the radio station. We argued over routes a lot. He finally handed me three Tylenol PM and begged me to take them, “at least so I can get through Texas, Alison. I mean FUCK.” We had a heated political debate near Texarkana and at one point I was positive he was going to leave me behind outside of Memphis.

But we made it. In a little less than 4 days we made it to the Old Dominion.

The next day my Dad got to see his son. It was, if not the best, one of the most memorable and vivid days of my life. There is something to be said about seeing one of the top three people you love in the world come off a plane after being away in a dangerous place for almost a year.

I remember Dad saying “He’s home now. We’re all here. We’re all alive and life can move forward. My son is home!” Its like my Dad had been holding his breath for 12 months and was now finally exhaling.

If I had known that day that a year from now my Dad wouldn’t be with us any more I don’t think I could have taken it. Some days, even now, I still can’t take it. Shit, its why I am writing this bullshit now. It’s like my life is now spinning around the day he died, spinning and twirling around that event. I would do anything, pay any amount of money, give any organ or limb, to have that horrible road trip back… to have that summer back.

Anything. That is the personal hell I live with. That as much as I want to relive these events, to warn the people in them what’s heading their way: I can’ t. No one can.


So anyway thanks for reading if you made it this far. My prompt was from Lazidaisical (find her at her blog! It was “What would your own personal hell be like?” I wanted to be funny and talk about the DMV but this is what came out.

The Most Important

•May 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The roads were slick with oil. It rained maybe 7 days out of the year in Las Vegas and when it did the roads were a mess. She had been thinking this all afternoon while she cleaned out his closet. The town car was coming to pick her up at six o’clock and she hoped the driver knew how to drive in the rain. She needed to be at the airport on time. It had never been more important.

When she had opened the closet the heavy, stale smell of Benson and Hedges had smacked her hard. She’d had to step away for a moment, get some better air. Big floral prints hung on wiry hangers in the tiny closet that had been his. They waited for him to come back, to look at them and decide. Which one would it be? There was the black one with big yellow floral. A favorite. Another was navy blue with little pink flowers swirling across the part that would cover his torso. That had been HER favorite. She could see him sitting in his cab wearing that shirt, his left hand hanging disinterested out the window with a cigarette between its fingers, the right hand clutching a cell phone to his ear, his voice loud and deep and hardy. Talk radio blaring from the speakers if he didn’t have a ride.

She didn’t know whether she should take all of them or none of them. This decision suddenly was the most important of her life. If she didn’t take them all, would she later regret it? Would she later wish she had them to look at? Would she need them to remember if she ever forgot?

His shoes sat below the shirts. He only had three pair. A pair of almost new Nikes he’d bought last month at Famous Footwear, on sale. He’d bought them for the walks he planned on taking once he started his newest diet. Always the fucking dieting. Yesterday before she got the call he had been eating chicken wings from Maria’s. Twenty of them.

The next pair of shoes was his work shoes, a pair of brown topsiders. She couldn’t remember a time he had never owned them.

The third pair was with him.

She looked at the topsiders again. She slipped out of her flip flops and shoved her feet into them. They were cool on the inside, the leather worn into the shape of flat footed size 12’s. She looked at the shirts again, tried to remember every moment she’d had with him in each one. It was impossible.

She would take all of them.


The driver was early, thankfully. He was young and handsome, though a little thin. An Ethiopian, like most of them. His black suit hung off him, at least a size too big. He was warm and polite but not chatty which was perfect. He didn’t grimace at how much luggage she had. She told him she didn’t expect him to help her with it, that she would rather him not. He didn’t argue with her out of obligation. He stood sweetly by the passenger door and commented on the nasty weather. She gave no response. She planned on tipping him well so she didn’t feel guilty. She knew that was what mattered in Vegas anyway.

She hadn’t taken the shirts off the hangers. Just wrapped her arms around them and taken them out of the closet, stuffing them into a garment bag her ex-husband was letting her borrow. She had another large duffel bag full of his shoes, photos, hats, books. She wanted to leave nothing behind. She never knew what would matter later.

In her purse was over four thousand dollars that she had found in various hiding places all over the weekly rental. That was just like him. He never trusted banks completely. He had a bank account, she knew that much. It probably had a few hundred in it. But he had always loved having cash on him. She had spent two hours scouring the place to make sure she found it all. None of the bills were small of course. She hated the thought of some tweaker moving in after him and finding his hard earned money in the empty panel of a cabinet. The thought made her so angry that she wanted to stay and spend even more time scouring but she knew there was no time.

The driver had popped the trunk for her while she was in the room making sure she hadn’t forgotten anything.  The garment bag, the enormous duffel bag, a suitcase, and her carry-on sat on the curb waiting. She appreciated that he hadn’t touched them. She wasn’t really sure why she didn’t want him to. She just didn’t.

“Thanks,” she smiled as she walked to the car, “I appreciate you being a little early. I’m going to load this stuff myself, you can just wait in the car and I’ll be ready.”

“Sure,” she could tell he felt awkward, that she was robbing him of doing his job and he didn’t understand why. But she appreciated the lack of questions or insistence.

The duffel bag went in first, it was the heaviest. Then the suitcase, the carry-on and finally the garment bag on top. She slammed the trunk, satisfied that something had been done and she had done it. She opened her own door and slid inside to soft leather seats. A sweating water bottle was in her cup holder, a Sade song hummed softly through the speakers.

“Thank you again,” she spoke to the driver who looked at her with smiling brown eyes in his rearview mirror.

“You’re most welcome. To the airport, correct? Delta?”

“Yes, that’s it. Perfect.”

The feeling of the car pulling away from the curb felt fantastic. She could feel the driver looking at her again but she stared out the window, sipping her water. As they pulled through the parking lot she saw barefoot children climbing all over a generator. Their mothers sat complacently on a curb next to them smoking and talking about something she imagined was very mundane. She wanted to believe they knew what had happened. Maybe they did. Maybe that’s what they were talking about. How unfair it was, how life was shitty, particularly in this town. This comforted her, imagining this.

“…you flying to?”

She realized the driver had been speaking to her and although she wished he wouldn’t, she couldn’t be too rude.

“I’m so sorry, can you repeat that? I was tuned out for a moment.”

He smiled, forgiving and sweet. She could tell he was a very happy young man. Probably fairly new here. His english was distinguished and deliberate, a faint accent but completely easy to understand. If this was any other time in her life she would have engaged him, asked him questions about his love life, his job, his children. She would have told him anything he wanted to know about her, she would have been hoping he’d ask.

“Where are you flying to?” Oh, of course. They always asked that.

“ Virginia.” She said it in a way she hoped conveyed she was not interested in speaking about it any further. It was something completely foreign to her, this new aloofness. She wondered if this was how she would be forever.

“Oh! Virginia is so beautiful! I have a brother who lives in Charlottesville.”  They were at a red light. His eyes were on her again, smiling.

“How nice,” she said. The old her would have gushed about the mountains, the university there, the grounds, Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, the leaves in fall. She would have told him about going to college in Staunton, just 40 minutes north. How she had fallen in love with a boy from there, how he was an asshole and they would have laughed about how TYPICAL that was.

The light turned green and she again felt relief at the movement of the town car. The driver didn’t speak again, not right away. She stared out the window, looked at the convenience stores and strip malls blurring by. She hoped this was the last she ever saw of any of it. She thought of the shirts in the garment bag, the shoes stuffed into the bottom of the duffel bag. It excited her to know they would all be far away from here when they saw the light of day.

At Trop and Las Vegas Boulevard the driver spoke again.

“Will you be on vacation in Virginia?” his eyes smiled at her again. She was snapped from her thoughts and it annoyed her. She was raised to hide such feelings but she couldn’t hide them today.

“No. I’m not. I’d rather not talk about it, if I’m being honest,” she said it in a crueler way than she meant to. She liked the driver very much, she did. But she was tired and anxious and more than anything she wanted to be where she was going.

“Oh… I’m so sorry, ma’am. Of course,” he looked away from the mirror. He really must be new to this town.

The car moved again and she could hear the planes.  She wondered if he had arrived yet. They had told her they would be on the same flight, it had been arranged. She was anxious to know he had gotten to the airport ok. She wondered what he was wearing. She had all his clothes. She had meant to ask them what he would be wearing, how he would be dressed, so she would know.

The driver had turned up the music. She didn’t recognize the song but it was beautiful. The old her would have asked the driver who this was, what a beautiful song, what a beautiful voice. The driver hadn’t looked at her since she had snapped at him. She felt so bad.

They were pulling off Trop turning right into McCarran. She felt good knowing everything was running as smoothly as it was.  She wanted to be on the plane knowing things were in motion, knowing he was on the plane with her and that they were flying far away from here, far away from everything that had happened.

The airport wasn’t busy at all. Most of the cabs were in front of the Delta departures but it wasn’t a huge mess, thankfully. Her driver pulled up right next to the curb under the Delta sign. She went to open the door but it was locked. Of course. The driver wasn’t stupid.  He wasn’t THAT new.

“That will be 63,” the driver had turned to her, same smile. She could see one of his front teeth was chipped a bit and he was missing another one farther in the back. His gums were purple.

“Oh, yes. Of course,” she had forgotten about this part. She should have been ready. She fumbled through her purse. He politely looked away as she went through the hundreds she had already managed to crumble. What must he think of this?

The smell was even on the money. Jesus, how much had he been smoking? She handed the driver a hundred, the only kind of bill she had. She could see his panic but she soothed him quickly, “I don’t need any change.”

His smile was back and the bill quickly disappeared into a jacket pocket as he pushed opened his door and ran quickly around the car to open her door on the curbside.

“Thank you. I do insist on getting your bags this time. Please,” he held open the door with one hand, reached in to help her out with the other.

“I guess that would be ok,” she said as the heat hit her. Only April and the desert was already turning on them. How she would be glad to get them both away from here! The luggage had lost its importance once the heat violated her façade. She just wanted to be in air conditioning. Fast.

The driver was gentle with her baggage. She could only imagine what he thought was in it. What would she think if roles were reversed? Did she look like someone with a secret?

The driver had gotten the duffel bag out and had called over one of the handlers to take her bags to check in. She smiled at his kindness, he even tipped the handler himself and told him in a pleasantly austere way to take care of these bags, that they were “most important.”

Once the bags were gone she smiled politely at the driver, thanked him again and began to walk towards the terminal. The sliding doors slid open quickly and she was almost inside when she heard the driver calling to her from the car.

“I hope Virginia makes you happy again!”

It was a peculiar thing to say to a stranger. It startled her so much that she had to turn and look at him but he was already in the car. His eyes were on the cabs, limos, and cars passing by as he attempted to pull from the curb. His face was forward and he was already thinking about something else. She could tell. He wasn’t as new as she thought he was.

Her happiness was the last thing on her mind. Of course it was. The definition of it was completely new to her now and she guessed it would be a long while before she would discover it again. She imagined it wouldn’t be unlike coming across a new word in a book. She would have to look it up the first time to catch the meaning of it. Soon after she would forget it, forget ever finding it, forget it existed. And then one day she would come across it again, most unexpectedly, and from then on it would stick with her.

At least she hoped that was how it would work.

The woman at the ticket counter was short, sphere-like. She wore unflattering navy blue pants that tapered and a blouse with buttons that pulled. She could see the woman’s nude colored bra through the openings between them. The woman’s eyes didn’t smile but her mouth did, revealing braces. She was always alarmed by a grown woman wearing braces. Particularly when there were more obvious things she could be correcting.

“Name please?” the woman’s voice was high, a desperate kind of pitch.

“Marnie McCurtis,” she shifted her purse which had dug a strap indention into her right shoulder.

The woman clicked her tongue. It was a horrible sound.

“Yesssss, ok, I see you here. And you’re also flying with…” the woman glanced up and looked behind her as if she expected another person to pop up from behind  and yell SURPRISE while wiggling their jazz hands. She stared at the woman and waited for her to say it.

“…with Michael McCurtis? I see the tickets were booked for both of you?”

“Yeah but he’s not coming. I mean… He won’t be sitting with me.” She hated this woman. She hated her for making her have to explain it. A decent person would just KNOW. A decent person would be able to read the writing on her face. It said DON’T FUCKING ASK.

“Oh, “ the woman clicked her tongue again, “Is he getting a different flight, does he need a refund? Because these tickets were booked online so they’re non refundable… “

“Yeah,” she said, “He knows. But he won’t be needing a seat. Which actually brings me to another question…” She looked at the woman who had finally stopped the clicking and now looked at her prepared to say no to anything she was going to say.

She continued, “I actually have some pretty precious cargo that should be on this same flight with me. I was told to confirm with y’all that it had arrived and was being loaded.”

She noticed the woman’s name tag sitting at an angle on her ample and droopy left breast, “Neena. Sorry, what a lovely name. Yes, it’s actually my father… He passed away yesterday and Fairfield Mortuary had arranged it so he would be on this flight home to Virginia and I just want to make sure everything is still on schedule and he’s being boarded.”

Neena’s eyes  had widened and she immediately looked at her computer screen, “Oh of course! And let me just say,” Neena’s face contorted into empty sympathy, “We here at Delta are so sorry for your loss. If I could just get his name…”

“Michael. Michael McCurtis.”

Neena’s face lit up. Finally. The lightbulb had turned on. She hated herself for being so self absorbed to think that everyone should just KNOW. But she truly felt they should. She didn’t care how pathetic or delusional that was.

“Oh Miss McCurtis, I’m so sorry. I just didn’t realize…” Neena fumbled and Marnie felt guilty. Guilty and sick and ready to be done with this part. She was already exhausted from all the telling.

“So your father was going to be a passenger… originally?” Neena was hesitant she could tell. Stuck between being nosy and professional.

“Yep,” Marnie sighed and laid the purse on the counter,”We were going to Virginia to visit my uncle. It’s his 50th birthday tomorrow. So the timing has been incredibly perfect.” She fumbled through her money again, “How much do I owe you for my luggage? I know a lot of it was overweight.”

Neena looked at her with genuine pity, “Oh. Well, Miss McCurtis in light of this tragedy let me see if I can waive one of the baggage fees.” Neena punched the keys quickly and smiled, “Yes, I can go ahead and waive the smaller bag’s fee. So the total will beeee… eighty-five dollars for the rest. Since, right, one of the bags was over the weight limit. Slightly.” She smiled again. Marnie threw a hundred on the counter. It would have been exciting to have this money yesterday. Today it was just a means to an end.

“Keep the change, Neena. Thanks for that, really.” And she meant it. She grabbed her ticket and her driver’s license back and turned away. Something else accomplished.

She’d had a mental checklist going on since last night. People to call. Things to arrange. It was slowly becoming smaller and smaller which scared her. Once there was no more checklist, the real thinking would begin.

Guilty Pleasures and Self-Destructive Thoughts

•February 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

My guilty pleasure is reading O Magazine.

It just seems kind of lame. And old. Like reading Oprah magazine is a very matronly thing, you know? Even the advertisements scream OLD. Coldwater Creek. DRESS BARN. Abilify. Seroquel. Come to think of it, there were a TON of ads for depression meds. Hmmmm…

Anyway. I couldn’t sleep tonight because I am having flu-like symptoms so I thumbed through it. There were some good articles. I always really like the book section. Oprah knows good books, I don’t care what anyone says. Or at least her staff does. I always get annoyed with people that are put off by books with the Oprah approved stamp on them. Those are the same people that will hate a band once it goes mainstream. (Arcade Fire? Whaaaa?)

What caught my eye was the book section and the debut novel Tiger’s Wife. I mean, the synopsis was fine and dandy but what REALLY caught my eye was the author’s age.

25. 25. 25. 25!!!

I get all squirmy and uncomfortable when I see people younger than me reaching huge milestones that I am not even close to reaching. And it’s not just writing a book. It’s Ph.D’s. Grammys. Oscars. Babies. Second marriages. Not that I am capable of attaining some of these things. And I know I know I know, I just status’d the other day that “Every journey is different!!! For everybody!!!” I think that was me facebooking on Vicodin (totally prescribed and legal Vicodin) and I was probably in a happy state but most of the time its pretty impossible to think like that. I wish I could. Oprah Magazine tells me to. I should LIVE MY BEST LIFE.

But I am still stuck comparing mine to others. And I hate that because I know it’s ultimately pointless and leads to nothing. But me blogging at 5 am. I don’t know. I think it’s my first challenge in my 30’s, frankly. I need to get the hell over myself.

And also… I am legitimately and completely happy for my successful friends. Because 90 percent of the friends on my FB I have known for a decade or more and I know our struggles and I like to see that success and fairy tales are possible with hard work.

Again, eyes on my own test paper.

Here’s another excerpt from another part of my novel that I hope to finish before I am 40.


When I was four years old my sister Shayna put me in the trunk of our dad’s Toyota Corolla and tried to drive it into the James River with both of us still in it.  She was high on methamphetamines at the time after her boyfriend Milton Carr had just broken up with her 3 hours earlier. He had told her it was because her family was too crazy, too trashy. I never really understood what I had to do with the whole damn thing. I think it had something to do with her wanting to hurt Daddy because he loved me so damn much. I don’t know, she never really told me her motives. I see her all the time nowadays and we never really talk about my attempted murder.  Mostly we talk about her three kids and how hard it is to find a man when you’ve got so much baggage.

After she tried to kill me Daddy put her in a mental hospital for almost two years. She was sixteen when she went in, eighteen when she got out. She didn’t go to college or anything, she ended up running off to Nevada and becoming a cocktail waitress at The Mirage. She met some cab driver and got pregnant. She moved back to Virginia and then got pregnant again with twins. They all live with my Daddy in the same house we grew up with down on JEB Stuart Drive.


Daddy loved her too though. He loved her enough to visit her every Saturday afternoon while she was in the hospital. Sometimes he would take me along for the trip and those are my first memories. We would take the truck and I would sit in the passenger seat and hum along to his Eagles cassette.  He would try to dress me up but Daddy was still a country man and sometimes I would show up at the hospital with an Osh-Kosh dress that was on backwards and drooping pigtails.

We would sit outside on concrete patio furniture and listen to Shayna talk about her newest roommate who was in for cutting her dogs ears off and then running down the busiest street in town with all her clothes off. Shayna didn’t like her and wanted her own room. Daddy would tell her he would see what he could do and she would start crying, telling him she was sorry for what she had done. They sometimes would share a cigarette and I would play lookout to make sure one of the bull dog faced nurses wouldn’t sneak up on us and scold.

The drive back was always kind of sad. We wouldn’t listen to any music and Daddy wouldn’t talk. He’d just drive and smoke about ten cigarettes. Sometimes I would read a Golden Book to pass the time or count the mailboxes whirling past us.  I would wish I had a Mom and that she could be there to make Daddy happy despite having a daughter in the looney bin.

A Beginning?

•February 6, 2011 • 3 Comments


I haven’t blogged in a while. I have had too much of my actual life happening. Ironically, many things that were blogworthy have happened in my life but I haven’t had it in me to articulate it. I don’t think I could give it all justice anyway. I’m not that great of a writer. I have had a Hemingway type of year.

So anyway, I actually am hoping to kind of take this blog in a new direction. Or really, A direction since I don’t think it really had one to begin with.

I have been spending a lot of time at home due to me having a shitty (pun INTENDED) chronic illness called Crohn’s Disease that has kept me on the couch a lot. So I have been reading a lot which inspired me to write a lot which made me want friends/people to read what I have written. It feels really self-indulgent but… that’s just what happens when you have too much time on your hands to think about stuff.

So anyway. I am going to be posting little excerpts from stuff I am working on. Mostly bad fiction. I don’t know. If I really thought it was horrible I guess I wouldn’t want people to read it. I promised myself I would try to be less passive aggressive and transparent so here it is: I think it might be readable. And if you think it is ok/decent please feel free to comment. OR even better… if you can see where I could improve please feel free to comment as well. And also… If YOU have stuff you write (whoever YOU are) I would love to read it as well. I am in need of a critique/workshop group/partner.

This time to myself reminded me how much I love this. I love the human story. We all have one afterall.


Untitled. As of now.



When I was thirteen years old I won the Virginia State Spelling Bee. The word I won on was “ichthyology.” If you don’t know what that is, it’s the branch of zoology that concentrates on the study of fish. I knew this because at the time I wanted to be a zoologist myself. I had visited the National Zoo in Washington, DC and decided that would be my calling. So when Mrs. Whitestone, who was the superintendent of Richmond City Schools, asked me to spell ichthyology, I knew just where the o’s and y’s went. I won 1,000 dollars and a set of Grolier’s encyclopedias. It was really thrilling, had my picture in the Local and everything. In the picture I have these horrible thick bangs and my cheeks are real shiny.

The week after that there was a real big race at the Richmond speedway. It was a real big deal and all because it was the last time the great Richard Petty would race in Richmond. The powers that be thought it would be real cute to have me go up to the podium and introduce him during his practice laps. The man running the show asked, “And how do you spell Richard Petty, Marnie?” I pretended to pause as if it was a very difficult question and finally said “Richard Petty. T-H-E K-I-N-G. Richard Petty, the king.” Every one hooted and hollered and stood up after I said that. Those Nascar people love Richard Petty.

I didn’t get to go to the National Spelling Bee because we moved just about two weeks later to South Carolina. My momma was tired of Virginia. I would learn later that she was really tired of her boyfriend staying married to his wife. I begged her to just put up with him for one more month. I really didn’t think that was so much to ask. The state was sending me to DC for three days and two nights all expenses paid and if I won I got a really big scholarship and some other stuff too. Momma told me in South Carolina the kids weren’t as smart as the kids in Virginia, and if I wanted I could win the spelling bee there and go to DC next year. I didn’t even bother telling her that they didn’t have spelling bees after middle school. I would be too old next year. My only chance to win the National Spelling Bee was gone. I didn’t even bother telling any one at school I was moving. My alternate was a boy named Bradley from Fairfax. He was short and stumpy and he had a harelip.


South Carolina ended up being no different from Virginia. It was hotter there. That was just about it. The heat was the heavy kind that made your hair flat and sticky. We lived near the low country so everything smelled like mildew. My school didn’t have air conditioning but fortunately I only had to endure the classroom for one month. By the time we moved there the school year was just about over. My grades were good and I finished out middle school with honors. I was accepted into all of the advanced classes at my high school for the fall. Now all I had to do was wait around for high school. It would be a long summer.

My brothers were older and Momma made them get jobs at the Winn-Dixie as bag boys. I was too young to work so I was forced to stay locked in the house all day, box fans in all the rooms humming and whirling as I sat around our five room house deciding what to do with myself and trying my best to keep my under arms dry. I mostly read my Grolier’s encyclopedias. Momma had made me get rid of all my Babysitter Club and Sweet Valley Twin books before moving. She said we didn’t have room for them in the car and if I could spell ichthyology I should be reading more advanced material. I asked her what her idea of advanced was, all I had ever seen her read was People magazine but she told me not to sass her, she had enough trouble as it was.


My momma’s name is Elizabeth Gregory McDunn Washington. I know for a fact her real first name is Ruby-Janeen but Momma hates that name and switched me the day I found her birth certificate that said it. It was a skinny switch she used from our dogwood on the side of our yard and it left horrible welts on my back thighs. She told me I shouldn’t go through her private things. I asked her if it was so private why did she put it in the same box with my old report cards? She didn’t have an answer for that so she stopped switching me.

My Momma is a real great gal though. When she was in high school she was voted Best Smile, Best Looks, and Best All Around. She was also voted Most Talented for her ability to twirl batons with fire balls on the end of them. There is an old newspaper clipping that shows her in her town’s Easter Parade twirling these batons with fire all between her legs and up in the air and crazy stuff like that. I asked her why she didn’t parlay that into a career. She just looked at me and told me I was dumb for someone who had a high school reading level.

Momma is funny about things. Like that newspaper clipping- she keeps the article but she blacked out the date on it and her first name. Guess that’s when she was Ruby-Janeen. I don’t know why she blocked out the date but I think it might have to do with her fear of birthdays. She cries every year on hers.


“Marnie, you seen my heels?” Momma’s voice called down from the bedroom her and I shared. I was lounging on the recliner reading a fat paperback copy of Gone With the Wind for the fortieth time. I had dropped it in the bathtub so many times that the pages had expanded making a thick book even thicker. I could hear her feet padding around.

“I think I saw them in the box of shoes I put in the closet. There are two pairs under my Keds,” I paused to see if she found what I was talking about. I heard her tearing through the box imagining the mess I would have to clean up once she left.

“Yep. Found ‘em. Thanks, baby.” Now the padding was the clicking of Payless pumps and I could hear her moving around again, “How about that white ruffled blouse I got before we moved? I’ve been looking…”

I sighed and placed the paperback on my seat and went upstairs. I had packed almost everything so Momma didn’t have a clue where anything was. We were still living out of old liquor boxes from the bar she use to work at for going on a month and a half now. My brothers and I weren’t in a hurry to unpack them. We weren’t sure how long this new phase was going to last.

When I got upstairs Momma was bent over a different box full of my old sweaters. She was in a black pencil skirt, the heels, and a black lacy bra.

“Momma, you can’t wear that blouse you’re talking about with a black bra.”

“Oh, I guess you’re right. Damn it. I can’t find anything! Where did you put all MY stuff, girl? This is ridiculous.”

Ridiculous? Ridiculous was her. She had about a pound of make up on that she didn’t need. I could see she hadn’t blended it, her face was bronze and her neck was white. Her hair was teased and sprayed to death. Her bangs were crispy. She was 1986 in 1995.

“You keep asking me that. All your boxes are over here,” I walked over to three boxes that looked like they hadn’t been touched since the day the thick necked moving men had put them there, “You keep wearing MY clothes instead of going through these boxes. You’ve gotta open them sooner or later.” I opened the top box and right on top was the blouse with the red tag still on it from when she got it at TJ Maxx.

“Thanks, baby,” she fingered the blouse after I handed it to her. I could tell there was more she wanted to say, more she wanted to talk about. I had that feeling all morning which is why I had tried to stay invisible downstairs with my lemonade and Rhett Butler. I looked at her expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” Momma sat on the edge of the mattress and box springs that were on the floor. The sheets and comforter were all piled up and twisted in the middle, “I’m just nervous about this whole thing. I know moving here was a sudden thing and I know y’all don’t understand why or what I was thinking doing this.” She was still looking down at the blouse.

“ I get it,” I sat down next to her, “You wanted something new. And don’t be nervous about this interview, it’ll just make you more stressed which will make it harder.” She looked up and I could see one eye had her usual smokey eye shadow and fake lashes and the other eye hadn’t been done yet. She smiled and I could see lipstick on her teeth. She WAS nervous.

“You’re so right. Damn, I’ve got a smart baby girl.”


Momma needed to do well on that interview. It was for a job as a collector for a credit card company based out of Charleston. I had found it in the want ads that previous Sunday. She had already interviewed for every secretarial position in the area with not even a call back. She claimed it was because the people interviewing her were all women and Momma didn’t get along with other women.

Momma was that woman that really lit up when a man was in the room. She would smile and laugh this different laugh that only seemed to come out when there was a man in the room or she’d had too much to drink. She never laughed that way around me or my brothers. In Virginia at my school Open House my friends’ mommas would purse their lips and all but ignore her. Their husbands were always more friendly. Momma liked to be noticed. She wore tight dresses and skirts with low cut blouses. Her hair was always big, her make up was always thick and she was always ready for the next good time.


•May 3, 2009 • 2 Comments

I want to write about my dad.

But I can’t. I know he would want me to. He loved to read everything I wrote, from the time I was six years old to now… my dad was a fan of everything that I did. A fan of everything that was ME. I have had no one in my life that  ever loved me as much as my dad did.  Someone who loved me at my absolute worst. I am scared of this life without him. No… I am PETRIFIED of life without him. Sometimes the grief washes over me like a heavy fog and it takes me a moment to shake myself out of it. I’ll be driving and I will think of that horrible day and I can barely stand to breathe. I can barely stand to live.

When does this pain end? People are telling me it dulls down. But, for me, it only seems to be get worse. Oh, Dad. I would give ANYTHING ANYTHING ANYTHING ANYTHING to see you one more time. To tell you that you were good enough. That you were the best thing that God ever gave me. That I love you more then anything. That no one NO ONE NO ONE will be able to fill this void in my very broken heart.

Tainted Love?

•March 12, 2009 • 1 Comment

Hmmm. I can’t sleep for the second night in a row. I refuse to take any sleeping aids because… well, frankly I hate being so dependent on a substance for any sort of function I should be able to do on my own. I won’t even take laxatives.

Like you REALLY needed to know that, right?

I have spent the last couple of days coping with a friend’s break up with her psychotic boyfriend. I can honestly say, in this case, he truly was the ENTIRE problem in their relationship. Well… along with her enabling his histrionic and fucking narcissitic tendencies. He’s a mess. He will die alone. For sure. There’s just no way anyone will be able to tolerate him. And live.

Break ups are so draining.

I have so many great break up stories. None of them are my own. My break ups are A) pretty limited and B) ridiculously boring. I guess the only interesting one was the guy I dated in Florida who followed me ALL THE WAY TO TEXAS when I drove from Florida to San Antonio for one of my friend’s bootcamp graduations. Do you know how scary it is to realize someone has been following you almost 800 miles across 4 states? ITS DISTURBING.I don’t know why I dated him anyway. He wore Kangol hats for Christ’s sakes.

But really I have to say most of the best break up stories I have are the ones where the woman was the psycho. When a woman goes nuts its so very different then when a man does. I am seriously convinced that almost all women are mentally ill when it comes to dealing with men. Myself included.

I mean… I feel like I have progressed a little bit in the last decade. I no longer harbor infatuations for guys that have no idea who I am like I did for much of high school. (Wow. I read my journal entries from those days and CRINGE. I was delusional TO PUT IT KINDLY)

So here it is… Alison’s Top Break Up Stories (So Far) –

— My girl friend was seeing this guy who was a pilot in the Air Force. They seemingly had one of those relationships that everyone thinks is perfect until the dramatic conclusion when all the baggage comes flying out of the closet. They had date nights, she had a vanity plate with their initials on it, they named their future children, they had one of those long white trash engagements that lasts 4 years. He never cheated on her. He never did anything but love the shit out of her but she slowly and gradually just picked him dry. She left him notes EVERYWHERE. On his bathroom mirror every morning “Don’t forget to walk Mimi (their bichon) Don’t forget to put the Cox bill in the mail. Don’t forget to get my Rx from CVS and DONT FORGET I LOVE YOU MORE THEN ANYTHING.” She signed his yearbook… and they didn’t go to high school together. She would creep his myspace and facebook for all the attractive women friends he had and ask him thirty questions on each one with the final question always being “But who is prettier, me or her?” and when he ALWAYS said she was she would then say “No, you can be honest, really. She’s prettier, right?” until he would want to shove her face into a broiling oven…that she didn’t know how to use.

So he finally gets the nerve to break up with her. After years of putting up with all of this (and a 40 pound weight gain on her part) he lets her know one Sunday night AFTER THEY HAVE JUST HAD SEX that he would like her to move out of his townhouse.

Now. Thats pretty ballsy. Not only to dump your “fiancee” of 4 years after just having your penis inside of her but to also ask her to vacate the home you shared together in the next 48 hours because “I already found a roommate on Craigslist and he has to move in pretty soon.”

She went ballistic. Of course. Nothing COPS worthy, but insane all the same. She immediately became territorial over insignificant items. They had a 2 day argument over who was getting their juicer. THAT THEY NEVER EVEN USED, NOT ONCE. She would have these manic episodes where she would be screaming the vilest, nastiest insults at him one moment and then strip down naked and beg him to take her back the next. It was the most bizarre thing to witness. It took him a whole month to get her out of the place.

Her passive aggressive way of getting vengeance was by using her post-its as weapons. She wrote, literally, hundreds of scathing notes that she would leave in various places in his house. For instance he might open the cabinet to get a bowl for his cereal and find a post it on it that said “Your dick is small. Real small.” Or another one inside a book he hadn’t opened in a while “You’ll never be truly happy. NEVER. FUCKER!!” Or another one in his shaving kit “I hate you.”

I have no doubt he is still finding notes and this break up happened three years ago.

— My other girl friend who when confronted with the fact that her boyfriend was cheating on her with one of her co-workers, got the keys to his car while he was sleeping and took a shit in his front seat. AND THEY ARE STILL TOGETHER.

— OR the girl friend who, angered by a boyfriend obsessed with his XBox and World of Warcraft, stripped down naked and ran into the living room screaming and crying and begging him to fuck her… while all of his friends who were over for a Rockband tournament watched in horror. I was one of those friends. It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen a woman do. They are NOT still together and last I heard she had leeched herself onto a blackjack dealer at Jokers Wild on Boulder Highway and was back on the crank.

— Or maybe one of the worst ones, my girl friend who dated a guy for a year until he was arrested and charged for raping some college girl that he threw off a blacony at the hotel THAT HE WAS A SECURITY GUARD AT. In this case she is clearly not a psycho but I had to add this one in because its just insane. Can you imagine finding out your boyfriend was capable of something like that?? SHUDDER.

Anyway. Love makes us all do some crazy shit. I’ll never understand it. Which I guess is the… beauty of it?

Perhaps… not so much.