Dirty Deeds Done on Spoon Lane

back bus education school
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I can’t even. Think. I’ve never this stumped before.  Writing prompts are not improving the flow of creative energy through the synapses of this brain.  So, I decided to post this essay that won second place in my university writing contest in two parts.

 

Dirty Deeds Done on Spoon Lane
(Part One)

Anderson Union High School bus #94 squeals to a stop and the yellow double doors swing open. The bus driver, Aunt Pat, wishes me good luck as I drag and stall my exit. I dread the half-mile walk home, more so today than any other in my 16 years. I glance at her over my right shoulder and tears begin to sprout from the corner of my blue eyes. I wipe them away.

“You got to go, Janet,” she says, “Get it over with.”

I step out onto the dirt. Five mailboxes line the road; all are labelled SPOON. I grab envelopes from the box reading Tim Spoon. I deliver their mail (it’s on my way home) and go inside for a chat with my cousins and enjoy an ice-cold Coke––staving off the inevitable.

The telephone rings––Mom wants me home.

I have spent my entire life in the tiny town of Cottonwood, California. I say I am from Cottonwood. In truth, I’m not sure. I have a Cottonwood address, Anderson phone number, attended Cottonwood elementary schools and now am at Anderson High School––a Bermuda Triangle.  I am in a sea of cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents. No action escapes notice––ever. I am safe from reproach only with my cousins––my cohorts in crime­––33 of my 56 first cousins live in Cottonwood proper.

I trek toward home, kicking small rocks from the dirt and gravel with the toe of my black and white Converse tennis shoe. I approach a muddy, slushy pond, divided in two by the road. I grab   the contraband from the right front jeans pocket and toss it among the cheerful daffodils, planted years before by my grandmother. I think of her as I stare at the flowers, belying my mood.

Half-way home the surge of a diesel motor snaps me into reality­­––it’s my Dad. I slump my shoulders and slow my walk to a crawl. He waves, and I am grateful he doesn’t stop for me­­­––that’s his way­––no special treatment just because I happen to be his daughter.

I trudge heavy feet up the porch of the yellow house at the end of Spoon Lane. The sliding doors open; Mom’s face is the color of gray ash as she tells me she had an interesting phone call from Mr. Litaker, the school’s principal. I say I know and look around for Dad. His chair is empty, and I know he is still outside. I stomp to my room, slam the door and throw myself down on the squeaky springs of my bed.

Within moments, Dad roars, “Janet Lee, get out here. Now.”

I think how I know I’m in trouble when both names are called.  I explain to both parents what happened, holding nothing back. Daddy wants to know what I did with the rest of it. I tell him they are in the pond. Sharp pangs stab at my intestines but it is my elbow he grabs and marches me in silence to the scene of one of my crimes. I dig in the mud. By now a cold spring rain is drizzling then increases in intensity. I wonder if God is weeping over my sins.

“Dad, I’m telling the truth. I threw them in there, but I can’t find them. Please, can we go? I’m freezing,” as I extend muddy hands before him.

I wash the muck from my hands, relishing the water’s warmth. I wash the tears stains, change into pajamas––pink with large, white polka dots––and crawl under bedding. Mom and Dad are arguing in their room, next door. Mom says I ought to be flogged. Dad says just take her driver’s license and keys for the next month. Their bedroom phone rings––twice, before Mom says a weak, timid hello.

A knock at my door drives me from my cocoon. My mother’s shrill voice squawks that my arraignment is set for 10:00 the next morning, in Cottonwood.  She shakes her index finger and launches a tirade, a litany of my evils. For the umpteenth time, she asks what kind of mother people will think she is for all my bad behavior. I say she should worry more about what I think. Doors slam. I retreat to beneath the handmade quilt Gramma Spoon willed me. I position the goose-down pillow over my ears and close the baby-blues.

I dream my mug shot, on over-sized posters––Wanted––decorate the walls of the Post Office. Morning comes. My brother and sister get dressed for school.  Dad left for work in the woods at 3:00 a.m. Mom reminds me I have other places to go. No one asks if I slept well.

The Woman in the Wallpaper Part Three

Today’s post is the conclusion to the short essay titled “The Woman in the Wallpaper.” The piece was composed in response to a course requirement at Simpson University.

This true account was originally written in past tense. At the advice of my professor, for the purpose of this blog (and other future publications) it was rewritten in the present tense, as it is presented here.

The Woman in the Wallpaper Part Three

I’m stretched full-length on a soft, pillowy gray couch.  My head rests on a small bolster near the arm and my stockinged toes touch the armrest opposite. The room is dimly lit with lavender scented air that lends to the serene, safe atmosphere. Gail, my crisis counselor, is seated in a plush, charcoal colored, high-backed chair opposite me.

I begin the session with the encounter with my mother. I also tell her of the quiet voice that went unheeded that day. I add that I have never mentioned this to anyone before. I tell Gail how I wanted to tell my mother that God had been trying to keep me from being hurt that day. I say that even though I ignored the voice, God still kept breath and life within my tortured body.

I ask a rhetorical question: “Did my mom forget the phone call to come say good-bye as I was not expected to live through that night?” Gail doesn’t answer.

“You didn’t mention any of this to your mother?” she asks.

“No.”

 “Why do you think that is?”

“I don’t know. She wouldn’t believe it anyway.”  I envision my mother scoffing at the idea that God wanted to keep me safe.

“Why didn’t you get out of the truck?” she questions with a soft and gentle tone yet her steel-gray eyes drill through me like an awl that seems to touch my spine.

My head and shoulders droop, my eyes focus on the fingers of my right hand resting on my lap and clutching a battered tissue as I anguish.

I explain that there were a lot of reasons: the lack of a ride––no one to call to pick me up­­–– and my desire to spend Independence Day with my love.  I tell her how I wanted to avoid my sister, Lisa, who was staying in our house––we had been bickering.  I didn’t want to spend my holiday arguing with her. I tell her that’s just how me and Lisa are: we get along great for about two days, then the tensions roil into ugly scenes. It was our third day together and I was fearful things would turn. I lower my voice and add that maybe that’s what I told myself in the moment to justify my staying on the truck.

                                                                * *  *  *

I am like Gilman’s woman in the yellow wallpaper; searching and longing to escape my self-imposed prison.  This prison of shame since that blistering-hot July afternoon. This voice of shame––­a frenemy carrying the false claim as protectorate of my soul–­–is squawking in my ear like a parrot belting out mimicry.

Platitudes such as ‘beauty is only skin deep’ and ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ fail. The game continues, still, 19 years of you take it––no you take it. Why should I take on your gift of shame? This is only something that happened to me.

fullsizeoutput_38c5