Category Archives: Fiction and Poetry

An Ark for Atlanta? Rain Totals for 2013 Top All of 2012

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Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain
Telling me just what a fool I’ve been.
I wish that it would go and let me cry in vain
And let me be alone again…
— “Rhythm of the Rain,” by the Cascades, 1963

It’s the end of a drenched July 4th weekend in metro Atlanta. Neighbors have posted pictures of downed trees and, Friday evening, I had to just caulk the minivan and float home from work. On Independence Day, everything was cancelled – fireworks shows, parades, concerts, all of it, throughout the region. Everything seems to have been pushed back to Labor Day, which is odd in a region that has such political misgivings about organized labor, but whatever.

What’s odd is, a few short years ago, some municipalities cancelled their fireworks shows for just the opposite reason: a prolonged drought had left vegetation dead and brittle, raising fears that a stray spark might start a conflagration a la California or New Mexico. Even the windshield wipers on my van dry rotted.

Rainy Driveway

Rain, rain, go away. I need to mow my grass someday.

And now, here we are, lamenting the rain amid our washed-out camping trips and family outings, our postponed celebrations and overgrown yards. Just glance at your Atlanta-area Facebook friends’ postings, sarcastically musing over the irregular appearance of that “great orange thing in the sky that’s so hot” and pretending they’re hoping the Seahawks have a good season this year.

This year has been a wet one. Last year’s rainfall totals for Atlanta was 37.03 inches, according to the National Weather Service. As of the end of June 2013, we’ve hit 37.32 inches, and that’s only about halfway through the year and doesn’t count the fact that it’s rained almost daily for the first two weeks of July – much of it what you’d call “torrential” in nature.

Folks didn’t seem to mind at first, given how dry the past several years have been. The arid environments of the region’s reservoirs were raising fears for the city and warnings that Atlanta was destined to be the next Phoenix, but without all the turquoise and dreamcatchers. So far, 2009 holds the record over the past decade, boasting 69.43 inches of rain during the course of the year and three months over the course of the year that endured more than eight inches of rainfall.

So far for 2013, June has been our most moist month, with 9.57 inches of rainfall. February, though shorter by several days than its calendar contemporaries, comes in second with 7.5 inches. And, looking ahead at the weather forecast for the next week, July’s ready to give ‘em both a run for the records.

Why so wet? It was just our turn, I reckon. I don’t aim to complain about the rain; for too long I feel like we’ve been without. Granted, it was nice only having to mow the lawn once a month, and never worrying that rain might wash out an upcoming outdoor event.

Now, however, my house looks like it’s in foreclosure. It’s been three weeks since I’ve had a sunny weekend to mow the yard. And I’ve begun to grow weary of the broadcaster’s banter about whether or not the Braves game at Turner Field will wrap up before the heavens open again. Why must Chip and Joe spend so much time talking about the weather?

There are, fortunately, ways to cope, of course. I suggest drinking plenty of alcohol. That seems to help most things. Make use of that Netflix subscription you keep paying for out of habit and nostalgia. Start a blog that no one reads. Drink some more.

And, the most important thing: don’t bitch about it. It’s raining. That’s good. Know what happens when it doesn’t rain? You become Somalia. Or worse, El Paso.

So I’m sorry if you can’t fill my Facebook timeline with selfies of you sunning yourself. Consider that the rain is doing both of us a favor.

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Whimper and Wail

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Tickin’ and slidin’
Vibrato strings,
Hardened fingertips
Slow and wanting blues
With tight strums
And runs …
 
Fill your head with
Wishy-washy slosh
Swayin’ and a-swingin’
With the rhythm
Of a-chuggin’
 
Find your slur,
Whimpers
Into Words
Quicken
Into Breath
Out again,
LOUD!
 
LOUDER!
Condemning
That pain
Under closed eyes
Willing to

Let

It

Go …
 
Stomp and fury
Beats, beatin’
Sweat, dripped
And lyric poised
From deep …

A
WAIL

Of finished
Deceit.

Burned

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'A Winter Night in a Suburban Street'

'A Winter Night in a Suburban Street' (Credit: Julia and Tania)

Sagney sat on the steps and starred at the house across the street. It was not much to look at; never had been. The gutters brimmed with leaves from the sprawling half-dead oak in the front yard, which needed one last summer mowing before the raking season began. The plants in the hanging baskets on the porch had turned a brittle brown, waiting for a touch to dissolve them into an organic powder. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Weeds pushed their way through the steps, shoving aside the brick in their quest for light and life.

It was evening, very nearly dusk, and the glow of the light in the upstairs window was already clear. Beyond the window was Mr. Florence’s room, with a wide, antique four-poster bed in a light-colored wood, two nightstands, a dresser and chest-of-drawers, and a tiny old television set that, when on, cast a beam of light that moved with shadow and color from the room.

Sagney’s father had remarked at breakfast that morning that he’d noticed it on when he woke up at 2 and thought about calling Mr. Florence to see if he was OK, but decided that it might come across as nosy. No sense bothering a man who’s sitting up reading, or just left the light on while he went to the bathroom.

Mr. Florence lived alone, which was the source of the concern expressed by Sagney’s father, who himself had grown up in a poor village where survival required that everyone look out for each other. There was safety in numbers, and everyone brought something different to the community. Even if you didn’t care for your neighbor, you might still need his pots or his cobbling skills to haul your water or mend your shoes. Sagney’s father looked at this neighborhood in the same light; everyone had a use, no matter how obnoxious they might be.

Sagney watched as the light seemed to grow brighter as the sun dwindled and sank along the horizon. Life continued all around – cars motored down the street, children laughed, somewhere nearby some older boys were throwing around a football. Sagney could hear the plastic pigskin slap against the boys’ palms as they caught the ball.

Darker, darker. The sun slipped at last behind the horizon, leaving a lingering pink hue to the sky. Up and down the suburban street, the security lights flashed on in the chaotic way that electronic eyes with difference definitions of darkness will do.

The homes on either side of Mr. Florence’s were quiet. Sagney could see through their windows that the televisions were on. They were eating dinner, perhaps, or watching a movie. No matter. No one sits and stares out a window anymore. Distraction had its uses, Sagney decided.

The street up and down the block was quiet. The front yards and narrow porches were deserted. Sagney stood, looked back at his own house, then sprinted across the street and slipped around the back of Mr. Florence’s home. There was a shed in the corner of the yard. It was never locked. Mr. Florence always said there wasn’t anything in there worth someone busting the door for. He pulled the door open, slowly, so as not to cause the old hinges to squeak. There in the middle of the floor was the cache Sagney was looking for – jugs of gasoline, about a dozen of them, almost all full.

He’d been collecting them for weeks, snatching them from neighbors’ yards and sheds and porches. It was a difficult task – people will stop and question a young teenager walking along the sidewalk with a bright red gas can, after all. But still, he’d been intrepid, smuggling what he could in a backpack. Those that were empty he’d refilled as best he could, siphoning fuel from his father’s car. In a stroke of fortune, it happened that Mr. Florence had accumulated five of them himself, ranging in age from ancient metal casks of flaking red paint to more contemporary plastic ones. Sagney slipped on a pair of old work gloves.

One by one, Sagney stole across the yard with them, depositing them on the stoop just outside Mr. Florence’s back door. Though a privacy fence concealed his progress, Sagney’s eyes scanned constantly for interlopers who might question – or at least quietly note – his unusual activities.

The last trip, Sagney grabbed a paper dust mask from an old box on a shelf. It would be of little use, he knew, but something – anything – to filter his nose would be welcome.

When he opened the door, the stench from inside the house barrelled through him like a large dog welcoming his master. Quickly, Sagney shoveled the jugs and tins of gasoline into the tiny mud room in the back of the house.

His plans required him to act quickly, though he was sure he had all evening if he liked. It was the stench that produced the urgency. From a toolbox in the mudroom, Sagney grabbed a hammer – a new-ish one, with a bright yellow fiberglass handle. In the living room, Mr. Florence’s computer sat on a tiny desk in a corner of the room. Still wearing his work gloves, Sagney operated on the machine, pulling off its cover. With all the grace of a brutally inept surgeon, Sagney battered loose the hard drive, largely smashing the components to smithereens in the process. He then slipped the cover back on the computer and refastened it into place.

At the back of the house, Sagney tossed it onto the concrete landing at the bottom of the back stairs.

He grabbed two jugs of gasoline – large ones, full ones – and headed up the stairs. The smell was suffocating. He wanted to wretch. The house had been shut up for more than a week, keeping the horrid odor inside. Sagney approached the door to Mr. Florence’s bedroom and pushed the door open. It didn’t latch; Sagney knew it didn’t latch. You had to lift up on it to knob to latch it. But it was no matter – a nail kept on top of the doorjamb ensured that, even if you were to shut it, even if you did lock it, even if you pressed against it with all your weight and squeezed the knob between your hands as tightly as you could to keep it from turning, he could still insert the end of the nail into the little hole on the outside of the knob, press the lock’s release mechanism, turn it, and shove the door open. Sagney shoved the door open with his knee.

The room was buzzing. Much of the activity centered on the bed. Flies flew in an out of the edge of the blanket that covered a long, lumpy object beneath. Sagney dropped one of the jugs of gasoline and pulled the lit off the other, leaving the build-in spout on the floor. He doused the mass in the fuel, soaking the blankets and sheets and pillows. He dedicated about half the other container to the same purpose, reserving the rest to cover the room as best he could.

Trip after trip, Sagney doused the furniture, carpets, tablecloths – everything that would retain gasoline, everything that would burn, all around the house, until they at last were all empty but one.

Back in Mr. Florence’s bedroom, Sagney pulled a rag from his pocket and shoved it into the end of the can of gasoline, soaking a little of it in the fuel. He drew the curtains, then pulled a pack of matches from his pocket and carefully struck one. This would be the hard part.

He lit the rag, threw the pack of matches onto the bed and sprinted for the door. His feet didn’t touch the stairs at all as he flew down them, landing at the bottom and bolting straight for the backdoor. As he reached it, he heard the combustion upstairs – loud to him, but not too loud. Not loud enough that someone inside another house would hear it. He shot through the back door and ran back to the shed, where he replaced the gloves and waited and watched. The house seemed quiet from back here.

Sagney pulled the latch back in place on the shed and raced back to the back door, grabbed the hard drive off the pavement, then ran around to the front of the house. Still no traffic, still no one in a front yard anywhere along the block, still no one wise that anything was amiss.

He returned to his stoop, sat, and gasped for air. He wiped his forehead on his sleeve and looked up at Mr. Florence’s bedroom window. The curtains were moving, but barely. There was light coming from the living room window, and from the drawing room across from it. Sagney trotted upstairs to his own room, lifted the edge of his mattress and shoved the hard drive as far underneath it as he could.

Sagney then returned to his porch to watch, and wait, and see how much of the house could grow consumed before he felt obliged to tell his father that anything was wrong.

Little Deaths

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She looks questioningly up at him.  She doesn’t understand.  He always wants her there.  He hates that she lives so far away.

So how can he be asking, pushing her to leave?  Yes, it’s late, and she has class the next afternoon, but that’s never kept him from holding her until the last possible second.

She knows this is best, that she should leave, because it’s the last week before finals, but she can’t help the crushing feelings from all but overwhelming her.  He walks her to her car, kisses her tenderly, and walks back to his apartment.

* * * * * * *

She’s eating dinner with her best friend and his buddy from high school.  They joke, laugh, and entertain her with stories from their past, but she can’t get past the feeling that she just doesn’t like Chris’s old friend.  He’s arrogant, somehow.

Midway through the pizza and wings, Zack looks up at her and asks, “So you’re dating someone at the Lawrenceville Friday’s?”

She shoots an annoyed glance at Chris who just gives a guilty, boyish grin.

“Yeah.  His name’s Tony.  Why?”

“Really?  I work there.  Tony and I hang out sometimes.  I didn’t know he was seeing someone at GSW.”  He has this smile that’s shifty, sneaky, satisfied, and gloating in one.  How could anyone truly like this guy?

She’s already decided to ignore him when she hears Chris ask, “What’s that supposed to mean?”  Apparently, he had heard the hidden implications as well.

“Forget it, Chris.  It doesn’t matter.”

Chris looks at her, says, “Okay,” then glares at his old friend.

* * * * * * *

“How was your trip?  Did you guys have fun at the bachelor party?  Where did y’all take him?”

“Vanessa, we need to talk.  Take a seat, I’ll order you some coffee.  White mocha?”

“Sure.”

What had happened?  Was he okay?  Had they gotten into trouble?  She fidgets with the edge of her red skirt and the straps of her bookbag, worrying about the seriousness in Chris’s face.

Chris was always smiling – what could have happened?

He squeezes his way back over with two coffees, sits, and begins to nurse his own.

She blows to cool hers, waiting as patiently as she can.

Several minutes pass, and Chris watches people passing outside with dark clothes and umbrellas.  It’s not a pretty day.

“Well?” she demands.

He visibly steels himself, turns to look at her, and baldy states, “Tony’s cheating on you.”

Nothing.

“I saw him last night at Friday’s before we took Zack to the strip club.  He was waiting tables.  Every time he had a minute away from his tables, he and this girl were all over each other.  Zack caught me before I did something you might regret.”

“That’s not funny, Chris.”

He looked worn, much older than his twenty-one years.  He closed his eyes and nodded once.

“Why would you say that?  Tony loves me!  He wants to marry me!  I can’t believe you would do this to me…”

She storms out of the cafe, angry with Chris and his games.  Why couldn’t he ever just be happy for her?  As she passed the window next to their booth, she noticed that he hadn’t moved a muscle.

* * * * * * *

In the hour since she’d stormed out of Joe’s, Chris had called her ten times.  She was at the point of turning it off for awhile when “Brown-eyed Girl” sang from its speakers.

She almost dropped it in her haste to answer.  “Tony!” she breathed in relief.  She hadn’t even realized she was holding her breath until that moment.

“Ness.”  He’d been crying.

“What’s the matter, hon?”

“Ness, I’m so sorry.  I’m so stupid.  I’m so sorry.”

Cold fear spread from her fingertips and toes, up her arms and legs, through her torso and around her heart.  When it managed to pierce even there, tremors began racking her limbs.  How long all of this took, how long she sat shaking, she wasn’t sure.

“Ness?  Vanessa?  Oh, baby… Can we see each other?  I need to see you.  I’ll drive there-”

“No.”  She didn’t want him here, bringing his bad news to her warm, safe apartment.  “I’ll drive to you.”

She hit the end button and began throwing random things into a bag.  As she was locking the door, she realized she had no idea what was in the bag, because what could she possibly use from her living room to fix this?

The drive didn’t seem to take nearly as long as it should.  She pulls into a spot just below his stairs, grabs her bag, and is at his door with no knowledge of ascending the stairs.  She hopes she locked her doors.

He comes to the door, bringing a whiff of the cologne she bought him for Christmas, pulls her into his arms, releases her with something like fear or shock – she’s not sure which – in his expression.

They walk to his bedroom; he’s carrying her bag of miscellaneous items.  She numbly realizes he’s probably thinking she came to spend the night.  He places it on the chair outside his bathroom door, and they sit facing each other on his futon.

She uses all her self-possession to keep from jumping off this unfaithful bed, from spitting on its lumpy old comforter.

He pulls her hand into his lap, and he begins to talk.

* * * * * * *

She didn’t scream or rage, and she didn’t cry like she thought she would.  But her insides are still frozen, and she’s been pulling away physically every few moments.  He’s done.  He’s been done.  He’s waiting for her, and she thinks she sees a trace of that earlier fear before looking back at her interlocked hands.

“Is that all?”  He nods, tears escaping onto his khakis.  “Okay.  I should leave, then.”

She makes to go, and he clings to her.  “Wait!  Can’t we, can’t we talk?  You can’t just leave.  We have to talk.  We have to figure this out!”

She’s never seen him beg before, never seen such raw, yet boyish, pain.  She considers him for a minute, then gently unclasps his hands from hers.  She shoulders her bag and leaves, closing his bedroom door behind her.  She takes a moment, then makes her way through his now crowded living room, blindly nodding at who she assumes are his roommates, and she arrives at the door.  She turns the handle for the last time, pulls it to her, and slips into the chilling air.  Funny.  She didn’t notice the winter wind earlier.  She climbs down the first set of stairs before sinking onto the landing.

The gates are open.  The flood has come.  She succumbs.

Her arms wrap themselves around her knees, her bag is gone, her head falls forward.  She sits for days releasing her pain, washing her heart clean.

A distant jingle-jangle dances through the air, and she thinks of her cat, her furball, sitting at home waiting for her.  She’s almost to her feet, wiping her eyes as she pushes herself up, and “Vanessa!” cuts through the cold night and lands in her chest.

She doesn’t turn, she doesn’t answer.  She can only look down at the beautifully carved hilt sticking from her breast, knowing she won’t be able to remove it.

Tony picks up her bag from some three or four steps below, looks up into her face, then lifts her across his chest.  He carries her back to his room, murmuring sweet thanks into her ear, heedless of the blood and life seeping from under his hands.

Electric

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He’s running late.  Or maybe my watch is fast.  Why did mother have to set me up on a blind date?  I’m not interested in a boyfriend, I don‘t have time for one with all my extracurricular activities and girlfriends.  Maybe she suspects.

There’s the door!  What will I say to him?  I hope he doesn’t want to go out – unless it’s a movie, then we won’t have to talk.  Ugh.  I reach up and touch my hair, then decide I don’t care how I look, not for him.  Without looking through the peephole, I swing the door wide, and I am momentarily frozen.  He’s gorgeous!

“Are you Sarah?” he asks.  I think I nod.  He reaches for my hand and introduces himself as David.

I clumsily gesture him into our living room and onto the couch, where I sit beside him in Daddy’s armchair, stupidly looking around as if I’ve never seen my own house.  He attempts small talk about school, the sports I play, “Your mom was telling me how great a shortstop you are,” and the construction of the new stadium in our town.  “I don’t understand why we’re spending so many tax dollars on such a grand stadium – we don’t even have a football team!  This has to be some sort of ploy to attract one, or maybe they’re hoping to be chosen to host the Special Olympics.  I’ve heard it brings in a lot of revenue.”  He’s a pretty good conversationalist, considering I’m still staring at the paintings and sculptures my mom has all over the wall and shelves above his blond head.  Why can’t I look at him?  This is silly.  I force my eyes to move down to his face, where they’re attracted to his full lips.  I watch them move, answering with, “Yeah,” and, “Really?” whenever I notice a small pause.  Something in my chest does a tight flip-flop when I chance a glance to his big, chocolate brown eyes.  The Clark Kent-style glasses he wears should detract from them, but instead magnify their depths.

This isn’t happening.  I’m not attracted to him.  I like girls.  I’ve always liked girls.  I think it almost as a little mantra.  I like girls.  I like girls.  My stomach is tightening with the knowledge I’m trying to resist.  Suddenly, though, I’m broken out of my stupor by his voice mentioning the loss of the Cubs last night.  I hear him say, “The Cubs will never make it to the play-offs if they continue with such lousy performances.”  My blood boils.  If there’s one thing about which I’m passionate, it’s the Cubs, and the way most of their fans are fair-weather.

I launch into a tirade about the depth of the talent we have this year, the great coaching skills, and the lack of support the rookies have from fans.  “Everyone should show up and support the team!  The half-empty stadium is largely responsible for the occasional bad games, and the mismanagement of the team is lowering the morale of the players.  If someone who was passionate about the Cubs went into the dressing room with confidence and positive energy, we wouldn‘t have ‘lousy performances.’”  I feel my face flush and my body tense, and I know David’s looking at me with surprise and interest because of the sudden outburst.  I try to calm myself so I may argue rationally about the Cubs’ chance for a playoff season, when he reaches over to pat my leg in an effort to pacify me.

The contact sends heat up my thigh and makes me tingle slightly, causing a new warmth to spread to my other limbs.  I jump up, knocking his hand from me, and march to the door, opening it.

The meaning is clear to him, so he slowly rises and straightens his jacket – which I realize I never offered to take from him – before walking through the door without so much as a backward glance.  It takes a minute for me to register that the door’s still open.  I close it and sink onto the glass surface of the coffee table, wondering where to file this new information about myself and what it means.

Wishful Thinking

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Trying to forecast this function

Work out my variables

 Of strength and value

Maxmize, if only, the illusion of courage

While minimizing the pain of risk.

I can only see adventure

Through the shadows

Of this tedious grind;

Day after day.

Grasping the thought of optimism

As a virtue

That will enlighten

My declining hope

 To someday wash my hands

Of this grime

One last time

And grin as I discover

My feet on new ground,

My old tension freshly unwound

And my heart filled

Over the brim;

A meniscus of

Passionate connections.

Broken

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She pushed up her visor, brushed her hair impatiently from her eyes, and swung her new Epic bat fiercely.  It created a wide circle around her body, and she brought it back to position, swinging it a second time.  This was Jessica’s first game of the season, and she was determined to make her first at-bat count.

As she pulled the bat back around for a third practice swing, she caught movement in the bleachers to her right.  The bat slid from her hands as she turned sharply to peer at the short, portly man who had come up to the fence to yell encouragement to the current batter.  Jessica’s eyes were wide, as if trying to take in as much of the picture as possible, but she narrowed them quickly.  Berating herself internally for her intense reaction, she stooped to pick up her bat, trying to focus again on the game and her swing.

The damage had been done, though.  Jessica was now thinking of the man she thought she had seen, the person who crept unwillingly into her mind at inconvenient times, the jerk who had single-handedly destroyed her bright and happy world.  At thirteen years old, Jessica had moments when she felt and behaved much older.  In those moments, there was darkness, a heaviness, as if she were drowning in a dark pool.  Her mother never recognized these times for what they were, but her father was a little more acute, and he saw what others disregarded.  Only he noticed the fear, anger, and hate that swam in her big brown eyes.  Only he realized how much she still hurt.

“Jess, you’re up!” yelled the third-base coach.

Jessica quickly shook her head, realizing Brittany must have made it to first base, grabbed the pink bat her teammate had cast aside and threw it back towards the dugout.  She could faintly hear the cheers from parents, siblings, and players alike through the subtle roaring that rushed in her ears.  Get ahold of yourself.  Focus on the ball and the field, that’s all that matters right now.

She stepped up to the plate, dug the ball of her left foot into the dirt, and faced the pitcher.  Georgia had been her friend since first grade, when they first played ball together.  They had been on every basketball, softball, and soccer team together since then, and this was the first year they ever had to play against one another.  Georgia had been there for Jessica’s first slumber party, her first camp-out in the backyard, her first “boyfriend,” and she was by her side when Jessica first admitted what her uncle did to her.  It seemed as though they would always be friends; nothing could part them.  Eighth grade started this way, but things soon began to change.  Georgia was developing at a much faster rate than Jessica, so she, of course, became the most popular girl of their class, surrounded by the cutest boys and the silliest girls.

As Jessica glared at Georgia standing on the mound, she recalled lunch last Wednesday.  Jessica was sitting with a couple of her friends, discussing the new art teacher and the wild blue earrings he wore that morning, when Hank, Jessica’s boyfriend, strode over to thrust a folded piece of paper quickly into her hands, then practically ran to get away from her.  When she opened it, she read five little words that stabbed her in the chest like five tiny knives.  Hank was breaking up with her, on Valentine’s Day, in a note.

Jessica felt her pain and anger rise as she heard a peal of laughter from two tables over.  Looking up, Jessica saw Georgia, surrounded by her usual group of giggling girls, pointing her way with one hand and holding Hank’s in her other.

Focus.  FOCUS!  Jessica barely pulled herself from her reverie to watch the ball fall gracefully into the catcher’s mitt.  “Strike!”  She dug her foot into the red clay again, focusing all of her hatred and humiliation into the hands gripping her bat.  When the next pitch came, she slammed it, red crowding into her vision, the force of the impact so much that she almost stumbled.  She slowly remembered that she was supposed to be running, and by the time she became fully aware, she heard screams of pain and shock.  Halfway to first base, she turned toward the noise that had become a howl.  Georgia was crouched on the ground, clutching her face, her teammates and coaches circling her.

“Ohnoohnoohno,” Jessica muttered to herself.  Without looking around, she ran as hard as she could – losing her helmet and bat – towards the opponent’s empty dugout, through the gate, around the concession stand, and into the bathroom, only stopping once she had locked herself into the handicapped stall.  She would be in so much trouble now.  She knew from past experiences that things like this were always her fault.  No matter who Jessica thought was really responsible, or if things were simply an accident, her mother yelled at her.  Her mother had yelled when Jessica failed a spelling test, when Scratchy the cat ran away, if the water bill was too high, if there wasn’t any popcorn, and when Jessica told her dad what always happened when Uncle Steven came to visit.

Yes, her mother blamed Jessica for her brother’s imprisonment.  Steven was her favorite older brother, the one who always looked out for her when she was younger.  She called Jessica a liar, a bitch, a slut, every nasty thing she could think of, until Jessica’s dad finally told her to lay off, or he would divorce her.  But Jessica still knew how her mother felt.  Jessica knew who her mother would blame.  Jessica knew she would be punished for Georgia’s injury.

As she reflected on this, Hank’s and Georgia’s betrayals, and Uncle Steven’s roaming hands, she sank to the floor, her head between her knees, sobbing so arduously that there were no actual tears.