Monday, October 24, 2016

I HAVEN'T ADDED TO AGGIE'S STORY IN SUCH A LONG TIME

Prologue

You've heard people say their lives changed overnight, right? They woke up and heard the lottery numbers and knew they were millionaires. They fell in love at first sight. 

More often, the change is bad because one day everything is fine, and the next? 

It is all fucked up. 

I read once that Marie Antoinette's hair turned white overnight in jail while she awaited the loss of her head. 

What people don't think about is that the overnight device is a saying. Nothing but a cliché. It hardly ever takes that long: eight hours, twelve hours, or however you define overnight, for a life to be transformed. Most of the time, it happens in one or two seconds.

I bet Marie's hair betrayed her during a few seconds of a nightmare when she saw the guillotine's blade slice through her own milky neck.

How many seconds does it take to purchase that lottery ticket or to decide to stop someplace for ice cream? These decisions may be part of a change that's a long time in the making, but when the hair whitening attacks, it happens in a flash. 

And the flash of the blade in the sunlight can be so bright it nearly blinds you. 

Chapter One

Clue

The yellow piece of paper on the windshield of Aggie's black minivan stood out like a beacon in the dusky evening light as she left the urgent care center. She waddled along with a purse and diaper bag slung behind her right shoulder, Ruth Ann perched on her right hip, and a still sobbing Elliot hanging on for dear life to her left hand.

She shook free of El's sweaty grasp so she could pull the paper out from under the wiper and unfold it. "ASSHOLE" it said, printed neatly in red letters on a scrap torn from a legal pad.

"Mom!" Elliot pawed at her, as Ruth Ann's head drooped onto Aggie's shoulder. Aggie stood rooted to the asphalt next to the car so she could check out the area. What had she done this time?

White painted lines of parking spaces, empty now, spread out across the parking lot like whitecaps on the ocean. White, white, white, except around her car, where she now saw yellow lines. Two yellow lines on each side of the van and an arrow underneath it that marked the route to exit the lot. The only route between the parking spaces.

Drivers must have woven around her van for hours before the lot cleared out. Tire tracks in the mud provided evidence that they ran her blockade by driving off the asphalt and into the landscaped border along the sidewalk. Flowers and juvenile trees had been flattened.

Aggie pictured the line of vehicles and hated herself. The waiting cars stretched for miles. An imaginary driver, his face contorted in righteous indignation, jumped out of his expensive car with a legal pad in his left hand and a red pen in his right. Angry lawyer. Furious lawyer. Late for an appointment and it was her fault. He held the pen in the air, a sword that dripped bloody ink, chose the perfect word, wrote it, and jammed the note in place.

Then sedans, sports cars, and pickup trucks careened around the sidewalk as pedestrians dragged their children out of the way. Jam-packed cars held drivers and passengers drawn as cartoons. "ASSHOLE" filled every balloon above their mouths because they all knew what she was.

"I am an asshole."

The words played as though they were a stuck record in her mind and fixed themselves to the tune of a children's song about being a pizza.

IIIIIIIII am an assss-hoooole.

She wanted to laugh at her song, but she forgot her pleasure as soon as it struck because being an asshole wasn't funny at all. Then she wished she could bawl along with El, but someone had to be in charge.

She had rushed to the urgent care center to have a cut on Elliot's chin seen to and parked in a hurry. She thought the yellow lines marked a parking spot. They sat in a dingy waiting room most of the afternoon and into suppertime before an arrogant doctor looked at El for two seconds and informed a nurse, who then told Aggie, that the cut didn't need stitches. A butterfly bandage would do. She could have put that on herself and never left home, but if she'd been wrong, there would have been hell to pay. She'd never hear the end of it from John.

When her husband did see the cut, he would probably complain that the doctor had been wrong, the cut needed stitches. Nobody, especially Aggie, did anything right in John's hallowed opinion. The sound of his voice criticizing her for going to the wrong doctor replaced the "asshole" song playing in her mind.

But then her own angry voice took over. Dr. High-and-Mighty was never around to take care of his own kids. He'd throw a fit if Aggie bothered him at work, so she had to go to the nearest urgent care center and wait for hours until somebody looked at this damn kid who fell off his bike every two seconds.

She guessed that had been her license plate announced over the loudspeaker. The whining voice had demanded over and over, "Vehicle number hrrm-hrrm-hrrm must be moved immediately."

She hadn't been able to hear anything over Elliot whining that his chin hurt and Ruth Ann begging to have a story read to her.

"Don't touch those books. They've covered in filth from sick people," she'd told Ruth Ann.

By the time Elliot gave up complaining and Ruth Ann fell asleep, the announcements had stopped. All the patients had been treated and gone home, the center was about to close, and it no longer mattered where her mini-van was parked.

Elliot grabbed Aggie's arm and pulled on it so she remember she stood in a parking lot staring at an ugly word. She crumpled the yellow paper and flung it toward the arrow under her car.







21 comments:

  1. Ooh, I wouldn't want to be Aggie. She doesn't have a very happy life right now.

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    Replies
    1. No, she doesn't. We'll have to see if her situation improves.

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  2. sudden changes in movies seems attractive but i need something grave in writing

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    1. Grave as in a place to be buried? My kids have a spot picked out for me.

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  3. "They've covered in filth from sick people"-Ahhhhh words I said to my kids over and over!!!!!!

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    1. Why would anyone read the magazines in an emergency room?

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  4. I'll be waiting to hear more about Aggie. :)

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    Replies
    1. Aggie told me she's waiting to hear more about you. Maybe she'll establish an identity and start following blogs.

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  5. I assume this will be continued?!!

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    Replies
    1. hrrrm hrrrm hrrrm

      I've never written much fiction, so it kinda sorta remains to be seen.

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  6. This builds at a compelling pace.

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  7. Bloody hell this was great just saying so you know because unless you're told how do you know

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    Replies
    1. Jo-Anne, you're the best. You are one of the nicest people ever.

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  8. OH, Janie - this is wonderful! In an awful way because you made me feel what poor Aggie was feeling. She's not really an asshole because she didn't mean to do it but I'm sure that's how she felt.

    That prologue - so poignant. It can happen in two seconds flat.

    P.S. Hi!!!

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Vebbie! I wuv you! You are quite the busy writing lady these days.

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  9. Well done!
    She may have, indeed, been an asshole, but I empathized with her.

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    1. She doesn't mean to be an asshole. It was a mistake. She's very hard on herself.

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  10. You leave us all wanting to hear more. Poor Aggie! I hope you have future stories where her life gets easier. Maybe something will happen in just a second or two that will change the course of her life.

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