Sunday, April 20, 2008

part of my short story, "Why I Am Iris" - middle

That night, I dreamt my parents got divorced. It was bizarre, a mix of Little Manhattan, which I'd just watched, and my mom and dad's fight over Bailey. It had been the middle of dinner when the dog's leavings had been spotted on the front hall rug. My dad loved that rug. He'd bought it as a Christmas (which we celebrate for fun) present for himself, along with the cell phone for my sister and new curtains for me. My mom and I, however, hated the rug with a passion and wanted to get rid of it, expose the beautiful, golden hardwood floors with honey-colored diagonal slats that ran a constant throughout our entire house. To put it simply, the rug was ugly and reminded us of stewed tomatoes; the floor was pretty and reminded us of caramel; basic human instinct appeals towards physical attractiveness.

My dad was to this rule, as with every other, an exception. He went for tattered Converses, paint-spattered jeans, leaving cobwebs trapped inside the windows because they provided "character." He adored the tomato-sauce rug with the polluted-ocean border and was terrified to remove it lest the wood floors' glow become diminished by thunking backpacks and stomping feet. When he spied, out of the corner of his eye, the dog turd on the carpet, he got that look in his eye. The look he got when talking about putting his dad's huge old Poughkeepsie house on the market, the look he got when my sister talked back, the look he got when my brother left the seltzer uncapped or I didn't say hi to him after he got home from a week in Boston. This was what we liked to call the don't-look-at-me-like-that look. If only looks could kill.

So he sent the death glare to ten-week-old Bailey, eating the strap on Hannah's flip flop, and stormed over.

"Do it how the vet said," my mom piped up. My dad, of course, grabbed the thing's neck so hard that I screamed. I am not a scream-y girl, but when I heard Bailey squeal like that, I admittedly got scared. He shut Bailey in the crate and returned to his seat at the head of the table. At this point, my peaceful night of chicken and rice became Dinner Theater.

"I would really like it if the dog were paper-trained," Dad said angrily, eyes glistening.

"Well this is how I'm doing this," Mom replied, still calm. "I raised four dogs, all paper-trained like this. I know what I'm doing."

My dad's face hardened. "I'm getting sick and tired of my house getting ruined by the damn thing." He was pulling the man-of-the-house card. Don't do it, I mentally cautioned him, don't do it, she hates that, don't...

"Fine. Do you want me to put down the paper and station myself in the kitchen and watch it all hours of the day? 'Cause that's great. I'd do it. I have nothing else to do." This is what happens, I telepathically told Dad. She has unearthly amounts to do. Don't even go near that nerve. She's gonna kill you. Or worse, she might even cry...oh Dad, please...

He rolled his eyes at the speed of quicksilver. "I just don't see much of an effort being put into it."

That was it. Right to the chase. I could sense what was about to happen. "You don't see much of anything." Ouch. I felt a vibe; I knew Hannah and even little Nat were both thinking about Dad's other life in Boston, how much he was never home and we missed him, how much Mom must have missed him. It was almost like she was a single mother. I remembered how, last winter, Dad had promised to tell his boss Mary that the traveling had to stop or he would quit. Since then, the flying back and forth had increased so much that every single week, without fail, Dad spent two, three, maybe even four nights a week in Boston. Whatever happened to promises? I could kill Mary.

Mom went upstairs. I looked at my chicken. Nat looked at Hannah. Dad had the look.

So the day after that fiasco, when I woke up from the divorce dream, I ran downstairs to make sure my dad's other promise hadn't been broken: that he would not repeat his parents' actions and put us through the turmoil of divorce. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Dad bent over an Ampad Evidence legal pad. His arm rested at an odd angle. I tilted my head to further examine it. I must have turned my head too much, because he glanced up momentarily and yelped, knocking over a carton of orange-mango juice with his weirdly bent elbow. He let out a colorful streak of swears. "Sorry," I offered.

"Jesus Christ." Apparently he'd spilled most of the juice onto his lap.

"Don't use that language, please, Brett," my mom sang, appearing in the cupboard with Bailey in her arms. She'd walked from the landing to the kitchen by using a short stairwell we'd dubbed the "secret stairs." I never understood why it was ten steps shorter than the staircase we used to get from the same landing to the front hall. I probably never would.

"Don't let the dog—" Dad stopped short at Mom's warning glance. "There's decaf in the second coffeemaker," he sighed with a tone of slight defeat.

"Great." She smiled and put Bailey down, who promptly dove into her Ikea food bowl. I walked around to the kitchen table and pulled a chair over to the cabinet with the plates, reaching for the highest shelf. I needed to wake up. Hopefully pulling a muscle or two in my arm would do the trick, since I couldn't make my own coffee and obviously no one was offering.

"What the hell." Hannah made her charming entrance.

I jumped down from the chair. "Iris, your father hates when you do that," Mom said drearily. Was this supposed to be news? As four- and two-year-olds, my sister and I had been disallowed to even jump up and down for fear of knocking down the plaster on Dad's precious basement ceiling. Thus I ignored her.

"What the hell yourself, Hannah." I punched her carelessly on the head. "What are those, like, swim shorts or something?"

"They're called Soffes, idiot." She kicked me in the back. I grabbed my spine in pain.

"I know they're Soffes but those are, like, obscene. Where'd you get them, Maggie?" Maggie was her tiny, scantily clad best friend.

"Shut up," Hannah retorted, all-knowing. She selected a coffee granola bar and pulled off the wrapper lazily.

"Hey...those are mine...I need caffeine..." I halfheartedly tried to grab it from her, but Hannah crammed it in her mouth. "Twit," I groaned.

"Butthole," she responded, mouth full of coffee beans that were rightfully mine. "Whereza ice cream?" she demanded, opening the freezer. She found it and commenced eating Rocky Road with a tablespoon.

I resigned myself to position of eldest-child bottom-feeder.

Mom had ignored the entire interaction between me and Hannah but thankfully picked up the word 'caffeine.' "Iris, would you like some coffee?" My eyes widened. "Can you make it yourself?" I opened my mouth to respond that she knew I couldn't make my own. "I mean add your own sugar and Lactaid and whatever." I nodded dolefully. "Here." She handed me a steaming mug of coffee and a sack of sugar. I dumped as much as would fit into my cup.

"Thanks." I started up the stairs.

"Go get dressed," she yelled after me. I sighed and jogged up the three flights of stairs to my attic room.

School that day was uneventful except that I fell up the stairs on the way to science, making me late for the test. Luckily my entire class was also late because the school administrators obviously had no idea that they were putting one huge clique together in the same science class. Except me. I was not part of this clique. But that was probably good for my health in the end.
When my mom pulled up the car at home, I jumped out of the passenger's seat and flew over the porch stairs to check the mail. Frantically, I flicked aside Oriental Trading, Pottery Barn, ShopRite coupons, Vanguard bills, and various other unwanted junk until I got a paper cut on my thumb. Sucking on the bleeding finger, I looked down at what had slit me open: a tiny envelope. "Yes!" I called out to my mom.

"How many today?" she asked, climbing up the porch steps—with much effort, due to the four bags of grading I had not helped her with.

"Um..." I turned over the envelope. "Crap." I hate when she does that, I thought.

"What's wrong?" She turned the key in the door.

"Nothing..." I muttered. Hannah skipped through the front hall, kicked me in the shin, and leapt over the couch. "You know," I called to her, grabbing a piece of cold pizza, "I really appreciate that you open the response cards for me."

"No problem."

"I mean, why would I want to know who's coming to my bat mitzvah? I mean, like, duh." I sifted through the trifle bowl containing the 'yes' response cards, looking for the one that had come today, whose envelope had been left out on the porch. Aha—oh. Into the 'yes' bowl, Hannah had put a response card saying that the Anand family of five could not come.

"I know you love me," Hannah said in a singsong voice. "And also, hey, did you notice the envelope I left out there?"

"Ya think?" I shoved my bleeding thumb in her face. She shoved an exaggerated toothy smile right back in mine.

"Help me." She walked backwards on her heels, sort of dancing, to the dining room table, where a red binder completely obliterated by the name 'Hannah' and a myriad of smiley faces lay uncomfortably underneath a math textbook with a tie-dye Book Sox cover. "Now."

"No." I heaved my backpack onto my left shoulder and began trudging upstairs. Nat's iPod lay on the third stair. I swiped it; mine had gotten destroyed in the washing machine.

"You suck," Hannah yelled up to me.

"Love ya too." And as was customary of my sister and me when we were trying to get back at the other for something minor, I taped the picture of Kevin and Brennan, the dorky family friends who were the same ages as us, onto her bedroom door. Above it I scrawled the words 'Hannah + Brennan' in a heart. It was immature, but even the slightest, most ridiculous suggestion that we would like one of the Hughes boys irked us to no end. I smiled at myself and went upstairs to work.


Weezer's Biggest Fan said...

OMFG that is amazing.








And oh yeah, the macbook air could have been easily slipped into my sweatshirt... hmm


Meg (who doesnt want to log in) said...



Thin said...

Cool, thats a good story.. whats the point though? Does the dad actually leave just like her dream or something?
I love it, because its so like real life... I wish I had acctic bedroom and a serect stairwell (the stairs were a good idea)

Anyway. I am going to put it on my blog, maybe.

I may review it or something..

anyway, my blog is up and running again and you can read why!! on my blog... lol


Someone who is completely lost when it comes to their socail standards said...

i know ur talking about ur wonderful life with some exxageration!! I AM SOO NOT FRIENDS WITH: medel,aaron,tess,james,kevin,ed (either),or richie soo take out teh EVEYON is in the clique !!! love the story is that 4 english because if it is and mr jones doesnt give you and a+++++++++++++ i will seriously sue and protest!!