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My first posting No Fish on Fridays part one

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  • cindy pace
    This is my first posting I look forward to your comments Thanks -Cindy She’s dead. That’s what I thought while I was walking home from the bus. The other
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 5, 2003
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      This is my first posting
      I look forward to your comments
      Thanks
      -Cindy


      She�s dead. That�s what I thought while I was walking
      home from the bus. The other houses were clamping shut
      after their kids returned home. I could smell the
      cookies, see the arms opened from mothers who pined
      all day while their beloved children were at school.
      The clouds are moving around, fluttering over the
      trees taunting us that a thunderstorm will soon slip
      around and grab us. The wind blew smacking the
      shutters shut and carrying the smell of fried fish all
      the way from the sea port to my nose. There goes Jack
      into his house with his black hair waving around his
      head and his book bag banging against his knee. There
      goes Calista- she�s the one who has no germs- she
      tells me everyday that her mother said that she
      doesn�t have germs and that I do because I�m always
      sick. I tell her I�m not really always sick I just
      pretend I�m sick so I don�t have to go to school. It
      doesn�t matter now I think as I head towards the house
      with eyes- my house on the corner at the end of the
      street near the woods. I hate our house the windows
      look like eyes. Before I even get there I know that
      she�s dead. I know it. In my gut. I�m finally going to
      be an orphan. Part of me is relieved and then the
      other part of me starts to panic. I twirl my hair
      around my finger so tightly I think I might actually
      rip it out.

      When I get to the house it�s empty. There is no key
      under the mat. There is no open door. I go around to
      the side of the house, poked my arm through the rose
      bushes very carefully so that I wouldn�t scratch
      myself, popped out the screen of the kitchen window,
      pulled myself up, scraped my knee on the metal and
      fell into the kitchen. �Hello?� there wasn�t anyone
      home. I know she�s dead. She probably drank too much
      of that horrible raspberry whiskey and took too many
      of those little white pills the doctor gave her for
      her bad back. I go upstairs and check out the bedroom.
      Empty. The bed is made. The smell of cigarettes
      lingers slightly which means that Mimi is here or is
      coming. She could still be dead I think again as I
      head to the refrigerator and pull out the peanut
      butter. This is my favorite part of the day. I have an
      entire routine down. I pull out the peanut butter
      stick it in the microwave until it melts just a
      little, put on the television that sits on the
      counter, open the shades so that I can see the gray
      warm sky as I dip my crackers into the melted peanut
      butter and watch Phil Donohue talk about how hard it
      is to be a grown up. I can�t help it but I keep
      glancing at the clock. It�s only 3:15.

      3:20. 3:30. She should be here. She�s usually here by
      now but if she�s dead then she�s never coming home
      again. I imagine her car wrapped around a tree and
      her blonde moppy head bouncing around like my doll. Or
      I imagine that she just dies. That�s it. No excuses,
      no explanations, she�s just had enough. Aunt Mimi is
      definitely coming to visit. I knew this because there
      was a big bottle of Whiskey on the counter with a
      purple satin bag around it and a ribbon on top and
      next to that was a big glass ashtray that was always
      waiting for Aunt Mimi who would stroll in with her
      long blonde hair, her long cigarette holder and dab a
      little of her ashes here and there and I would follow
      her putting out the ashes worried that they would set
      the house on fire. How could she be getting ready for
      Aunt Mimi if she�s dead? Just then the garage door
      rumbled and I threw out the peanut butter before I
      could even really enjoy the melted chocolate.
      Damn-She�s not dead. She just went to get a facial
      that lasted too long and she forgot about me.

      And you know Jessica if you eat that you�re going to
      be a little fatty! And mommy doesn�t want a little
      fatty!
      I thought you were dead.
      She laughs and dumps a bag at my feet. I peer inside
      to see an ugly white shirt and blue socks.
      For your uniform. For your new school.
      I rolled the shirt up in a ball and threw it at her.
      I thought you were dead!
      Aunt Mimi is coming for dinner with cousin cheri.
      Cheri. Oh god.
      Cheri is the tall stunning breast popping snot who
      goes to private school and loves to come and show me
      all the boys who have tried to kiss her and all the
      ones that she�s going to sleep with. Whatever I just
      think she looks like a big slut with her cherry
      colored hair that I know she got out of a box from
      Rite Aid and her mother putting those plastic fake
      nails on her hands that she pretends are real. No one
      has cherry colored hair at 14. And I seriously think
      that she stuffs her bra. Because there isn�t anyone
      around in our family whose got boobs like her.
      Whatever. I spend two hours a day in the bathroom
      squeezing my boobs together and pushing them up and
      tugging on them because Magda my best friend said that
      her sister Maria who is the most popular girl at
      Winslow high did that for two years when she was 12
      like me and she got huge boobs. But now that they are
      finally starting to sprout I�m thinking I want to
      change my mind because my dad is always noticing.
      He�ll say Jessie look at you you�re sprouting beans
      over there.
      And my face will get all hot and I�ll tug on my shirt.
      She needs a bra, my mother will say with a cigarette
      dripping out of her mouth and her hair in curlers as
      she rolls around the house trying to cook, clean and
      get ready for their big Friday night out.
      I don�t want a bra!
      She don�t need a bra- them things aren�t enough to
      fill a bra yet Frannie.
      What do you know about it?
      I know what I know and that girl doesn�t need a bra
      yet- she�s only 12.
      Why can�t we have hamburgers tonight?
      Yeah, I want hamburgers. Jack my little brother
      smashes his fist on the table upsetting the glasses
      that I just put down and Dad grabs his wrists real
      tightly until Jack�s little face turns white and he
      sits down quietly in his chair.
      You know we don�t have meat on Fridays Jack why do you
      even ask?
      The door bell rings.
      Oh that�s Mimi! Frannie skids across the kitchen
      floor, frying pan in hand, hair flying out of her
      rollers. Dad takes his plate and disappears into the
      other room.
      Why can�t I go watch tv and eat dinner like Pop?
      Jack you get your little butt down at this table and
      you too Jessie- you are eating dinner here at the
      table, under God. Now sit down.
      She dumps the fried fish, soaking in oil, onto our
      plates and then zips off to grab the door. I watch
      from the kitchen as Jack pokes at his fried fish. He
      rolls it up into a ball and puts it in his pocket.
      I hate Fridays. I hate Mimi. Jack grabs the jar of
      peanut butter and disappears upstairs. I�m left alone
      at the table with the dead greasy fried fish.
      MIMI!!!!!! Frannie yells and jumps on her sister
      wrapping her legs around her waist and swinging
      around.
      My wife is a damn fool. Is all we hear from Dad in the
      other room.
      FRANNIE!!!
      They do their dance together. They woop and bump their
      butts together in the hallway of our house and then
      Mimi pretends that she�s too old to be doing such
      things and pulls out one of her long lady ciggies and
      puts on her black gloves- which are coming back into
      style- she says this every year and waits for Cheri to
      pull out her gold lighter and light the cigarette.
      It�s all very dramatic.

      Come here dahling.
      She reaches for me and tugs my hair. Child you need to
      do something with this hair. Frannie how come you let
      this girl look like this? I mean she is one of us- our
      blood you know. The girls from New Orleans don�t go
      around with hair like this.
      I know Mimi but she won�t listen. I mean she still
      wears undershirts for christ�s sake!
      They gasp. Cheri and Mimi. I can feel my skin burning
      and I want to take Mimi�s cigarette and stick it on my
      arm until all the hair singes off.

      We�re in the car on the way to Macy�s before they
      close.
      My mother is passing her silver flask back to Mimi as
      she drives. I keep my eyes peeled for the police.
      Because even in 1979 you can get arrested for drinking
      and driving- even I know that. Cheri is busy putting
      on her makeup and her purse is spilling all over the
      black leather seats. I hate the black leather seats
      they get hot and I slide all over because I�m
      sweating.
      So how is he?
      You know the same. Nothing�s changed much. We still
      see each other. My mother says and then lights the
      cigarette.
      I put my hand over my ears and Cheri gives me the
      arched eyebrow that she�s practiced for hours in the
      mirror. She rolls her eyes- another art that she has
      perfected.
      It�s not attractive to do that Jesse. Take your hands
      off of your ears!
      She�s just so sensitive I can�t stand it sometimes. I
      was never like that- I�m not a prickly little cactus.
      I mean she doesn�t even get it that we are out here to
      get her a bra so her boobs don�t sag down to her feet
      when she�s 20. You know there is no gratitude when
      you�re a mother. You will appreciate this someday
      young lady!
      Maybe she doesn�t want to hear about your affair,
      Cheri pipes up and slaps her lipstick shut and I can�t
      believe what I�m hearing. Did she just defend me?
      That�s enough out of you Cheri,� Mimi scolds. We are
      the women of this family girls- you are a part of us-
      we share our secrets it�s the family code. You don�t
      talk about this stuff with those people out there-
      there is no one out there who will be there for you
      like the women in this car, there is no one out there
      who has your best interests at heart like the women in
      this car, we are the women of this family and we are
      all we have and don�t either of you ever forget it
      because when men start to disappoint you and they
      start to lose the things you thought you couldn�t live
      without it�s here in this car with these women that
      you will find solace. Out there everyone is going to
      want to take what you have and don�t you ever, ever
      forget it they don�t say that blood is thicker than
      water for no reason mon petites cherries.
      And we went into Macy�s and bought me my first bra.
      The woman was pulling and tugging on me and then
      finally resigned herself with her stupid measuring
      tape to tell my mother.
      �She�s mostly baby fat, I don�t even know if she needs
      a bra.�
      �Of course she needs a bra! And this dear Frannie is
      why I never shop retail for my Cheri. We should have
      gone to my lady in the city. She knows what to do for
      special cases like Jesse-with her little weight
      problem.�
      I roam away from them into the racks of clothes, in
      between the clothes, hiding in the middle,it�s like a
      little Island on the metal bars and I wonder if I hold
      my breath if they will ever find me. I could live here
      in the mall. There�s the food court so I wouldn�t get
      hungry, the bookstore so I wouldn�t get lonely, and
      all the beds and comfy pillows in Macys that I could
      sleep on. Maybe if I hide here long enough they�ll
      never notice and they�ll get all the way home and
      it�ll be too late..
      Her hand is tight on my arm and she pulls me out of
      the rack so hard that it tips over and all the silk
      panties and bras topple over on top of each other
      causing the saleslady to squeal and run around.
      What is wrong with you!? You are 12 years old Jesse!
      12! You will be a woman next year or sooner! You can�t
      be hiding in clothes racks like a ten year old- like
      Jack would do! I don�t know what to do with her Mimi.
      You know I think that you�re right. I think she should
      stay with you for awhile. Maybe I�m just not capable
      of handling a 12 year old. I mean look at me I don�t
      even look old enough to have a 12 year old. She stops
      in front of the mirror and glances at her face and
      pulls on her skin. No wrinkles here.
      Dahling, there is no reason to have a fit in the
      store. Let�s take our business outside.
      So you�re not getting her the bra? I mean I really
      think she needs it, �Cheri snaps her gum as she holds
      up two different types. Frannie her eyes bulging out
      of her head making her look like that circus freak
      lady who can pop her eyes out of head and then they
      roll around on the ground.
      �Get the goddamn bra then! J.C. almighty Lord why am I
      saddled with this life??�
      Mimi grabs Frannie and ushers her to the cashier while
      I sit back with Cheri who takes out her makeup bag and
      starts to dab at my cheeks.
      What are you doing?
      You know Jess you have a really pretty face. You
      should try some of this stuff. And you know coming to
      live with us in the city might not be such a bad idea.
      She pats my lips with some Vaseline and then turns me
      to look in the mirror. The girl looking back at me is
      so pretty I almost cry. I grab Cheri�s arm.
      Show me where to buy this stuff.
      She smiles just as Mimi and Frannie come flying
      towards us. Frannie grabs me and kisses my head hard
      as she squeezes me tightly and I stiffen.
      Why don�t you ever want to kiss your mama? Do you know
      I was in labor for three days with you child?
      I force a smile as she hands me the bag with the bra
      in it.

      That night Frannie and Mimi turn up the soul music as
      my dad calls it and they dance while they get ready
      for their big night out. All I can hear is the clink
      clink of Mimi�s whiskey that floats around between the
      glaciers of ice. Cheri steals a sip when Mimi isn�t
      looking and then offers me some. I don�t want to try
      it because if my mother smells it on me she�ll be me
      to death with the belt but Cheri is winking at me and
      for once I want her to like me so I do it and it
      burns. It rips my throat apart as it goes down- why
      would anyone want to drink this stuff? It�s poison!
      Cheri laughs at my face.
      You look like a turtle when you do that!
      Glad I could entertain you while I�m dying here.
      Just give it a few minutes.

      Three hours later Cheri and I were lounging on the
      hammock listening to Led Zeppelin and watching the
      shooting stars that happen every now and then.
      Do you think everyone�s family is crazy? I ask just as
      my mother, wearing a plastic red fireman�s cap is
      carrying the fish tank, with Mimi�s help to the patio
      where they are going to dump out the water and clean
      Henry my gold fish.
      They are going to kill him I think but I can�t feel my
      feet so running to them is not an option.
      I try not to think about any of it, Cheri says and
      lights a cigarette. I mean who really cares when the
      sky looks like this and I�m only there for three more
      years tops and then she�s alone and that�s enough
      punishment for her I think.
      I nod.
      Frannie will go nuts if she�s ever left alone.
      Mimi drops her end of the fish tank and it crashes and
      the water rolls down the patio into the grass creating
      a puddle of mud.
      What the hell are you stupid women doing?
      Dad has come out from the darkness in his underwear
      scratching his head.
      Mimi and Frannie are hysterical laughing as they sit
      on the patio talking to the fish the water floating
      all around them.
      You little fishie you want to come out and play.
      I tried to get up and save Henry but my legs were like
      glue to the hammock.
      Cheri was snoring and I couldn�t push her off the
      hammock to get to him my eyes were closing and very
      heavy and I kept thinking that if I just push myself
      up I won�t drown but it was too late..I fell asleep.

      I woke up freezing. My teeth were chattering so hard I
      thought I would break them. Cheri was gone and I was
      alone in the yard. When I cleared my eyes I ran over
      to the broken fish tank and realized that yes indeed
      Henry was dead. I picked him up and rubbed his little
      back. Come on Henry you can do it- wake up. But he
      didn�t move. Not an inch. Nothing. That�s it! I�ve had
      enough!

      I took Henry and slammed into the house. Mimi was
      sleeping on the couch, snoring and the smell of
      pancakes was drifting through the house.

      Hungry pumpkin
      No! I�m not fucking hungry!
      Frannie turned to me with the spatula in her hand and
      smacked my face so hard that Henry went flying into
      the sink.
      You don�t talk to your mother like that ever young
      lady do you hear me?!
      Do you hear me?!?!
      I don�t care- go ahead hit me again you big drunk- you
      KILLED HENRY!
      What?
      YOU KILLED MY FISH!
      I don�t know what on earth you are going on about
      child. I did no such thing?!
      Yes you did! I saw you! I saw you and Mimi doing
      something with the fish tank last night and I found
      Henry on the patio this morning-dead!
      Well dahling you do have a crazy imagination. I did no
      such thing. Mimi and I went to sleep around midnight
      after we tucked you girls in.
      Tucked us in? We slept on the hammock! Cheri! Cheri!
      I went around the house looking for my cousin and I
      found her in the bedroom tucked into the spare twin
      bed.
      Jess! Come on down honey and have some pancakes. I
      made your favorite with strawberry sauce come on
      honey.
      Cheri? Cheri??
      She rolls over and pulls up her eye mask. What?
      �When did you come inside? Why didn�t you wake me up?�
      �I�m asleep. �
      She rolls back over and moans.
      I go to the bathroom and flush Henry down the toilet.
      I�m sorry Henry. He gets swallowed up by the bubbling
      water and I never see him again.

      This is what I think of when I�m taking my own 12 year
      old son to get his first fish.
      Mom! MOM!!!
      Yes honey I�m ready, ok is that the one that you want?
      He nods vigorously and grabs the plastic bag from the
      kid who looks like he�s stoned.
      In the car on the way home I put my hands on the
      leather seats and it burns but I don�t move it.
      Mom put the AC on or it�ll kill him-
      What are you going to name him?
      I don�t know- maybe Marlin or something
      Marlin?
      Henry?
      Henry? No. That�s a dumb name.
      I nod and turn on the AC full blast. He hops eagerly
      in the seat and we drive home.
      We pass my high school.
      Travis you know-
      That is where I will go to high school.
      I don�t know why I point this out everytime I pass the
      large campus that over looks a valley but I do as if
      it�s new information as if it�s going to interest my
      twelve year old son in any way.


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    • Torey Claiborne Griesman
      Hi Cindy, I liked the submission, and think that you have good descriptive and scene setting skills. However, I m not really seeing any story emerging, any
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 6, 2003
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        Hi Cindy,

        I liked the submission, and think that you have good descriptive and
        scene setting skills. However, I'm not really seeing any story
        emerging, any crisis, any forward direction. At the moment, this
        seems to be a bunch of snapshots of this girl's life, almost stream-
        of-consiousness. I liked the intial "She's dead" idea, and the build-
        up of wondering whether she might be dead, but then the thread just
        kind of fizzles. She isn't dead, but there is no real understanding
        of why this matters. Also, the tenses seem out of whack, sometimes
        present, sometimes past. I found myself working to make sense of it
        at times. I would work on focusing in on a story, to really hook me.

        -Torey
      • cindy pace
        Torey, Thanks for your comments. I have many more pages that I didn t post. I just wanted to get a sense of how the first few pages on the first draft were
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 6, 2003
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          Torey,
          Thanks for your comments. I have many more pages that
          I didn't post. I just wanted to get a sense of how the
          first few pages on the first draft were doing and your
          thoughts were helpful. She thinks that her mother is
          dead- and it's just showing how irresponsible her
          mother is and how she as a 12 year old has to deal
          with this woman.
          To sum it up- this is a novel about a woman who is
          dealing with the death of her son from a hazing
          accident where she teaches at UC Berkley. It's a year
          later and her life is still in a spiral as is her
          marriage- she decides to take a teaching job in Paris-
          where she went to college 20 years earlier. Throughout
          she deals with the past-her family, her mother and how
          that has molded her present and what she can do to
          change her life. The moral being does the past truly
          mold the future and if so how can we overcome the
          dysfunction of our childhoods?
          -Cindy
          --- Torey Claiborne Griesman <tgriesman@...>
          wrote:
          > Hi Cindy,
          >
          > I liked the submission, and think that you have good
          > descriptive and
          > scene setting skills. However, I'm not really
          > seeing any story
          > emerging, any crisis, any forward direction. At the
          > moment, this
          > seems to be a bunch of snapshots of this girl's
          > life, almost stream-
          > of-consiousness. I liked the intial "She's dead"
          > idea, and the build-
          > up of wondering whether she might be dead, but then
          > the thread just
          > kind of fizzles. She isn't dead, but there is no
          > real understanding
          > of why this matters. Also, the tenses seem out of
          > whack, sometimes
          > present, sometimes past. I found myself working to
          > make sense of it
          > at times. I would work on focusing in on a story,
          > to really hook me.
          >
          > -Torey
          >
          >
          >
          >


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