Saturday, June 27, 2015

Introducing Nine to Five and Then Some

I went to Ikea today, just to look at the furniture and moon over all the things I can't buy right now because of a whole litany of reasons. It caused a bit of anxiety - I'm still a little annoyed that I'm 25 and still not published (and you know, gloriously successful and well-renowned and all that jazz) - but it seemed like that anxiety was mirrored in the faces of the other families milling around the show floor too.  Everyone wants everything nice in the Ikea show floor, but it's very few of us that can actually afford to kit out our homes and apartments in Ikea finery. Especially the younger, Millennial crowd. We take photos of all the nice things and then grumble when our paychecks go to various other bills instead of that cute pink couch that I NEED RIGHT NOW OMG.

You might be wondering, "Elisa, what does this have to do with your blog or your novel you're refusing to tell us about?"

Well, a lot and not a lot at the same time.

Nine to Five and Then Some is about that anxiety you feel when your life isn't going to the way you want it to and you have no idea how to fix it. It's about being twenty-something and feeling like your life is passing you by, and you're not sure how you became a passenger on this journey instead of the driver.

Sounds depressing, huh? Why would you ever want to read that?

What if I promised you it was really funny? Don't believe me? Here's a sample for you:

When I turn thirty-five, life as I know it will end.  I’ll wake up on that fateful day a new woman, one with wrinkles, sagging breasts, underarm flaps, and an empty spot next to me in bed that my unlucky husband will have fled in the night.  It’s a fate that’s inescapable.  Cosmo blares warnings about it every issue, the commercials for night creams, eye creams, breast creams, and neck creams whip viewers in propaganda-fueled frenzy, and Sephora makes billions of dollars a year preying on those fears.  Their sales associates are always horrified to hear that I only use POND’s Cold Cream as a moisturizer.

   “Honey,” they say to me whenever I’m in the store. “You’re going to have wrinkles by the time you’re twenty-five if you don’t start using this serum immediately.  Put some on the back of your hand.  See how it tightens your skin?  You need this on your neck and face.  It’s only $125, a great deal for you.”

   I’m twenty-four now and I don’t see any wrinkles yet, but I’m sure once June rolls around again, my face will instantly morph into the Crypt Keeper’s if I don’t start spending all of my paycheck on Sephora’s products.  Dr. Perricone’s cold plasma treatment, here I come.

   I’ve also decided that since I only have eleven years left, and since only one of them is left on the good side of twenty-five, I’m going to have to be less cynical about life and start embracing every day as the miraculous gift of joy that it is.  It’s hard to live like that though, especially when you’re watching your oldest friend gasp out her last breath on your porch like I am.

   There’s nothing I can do for Professor Amelie Rhodes but make her as comfortable as possible while she’s dying, so I sit next to her and stroke her head and let her know that I’m here for her, everything’s going to be okay.  And she responds in typical fashion by catching my hand in her mouth and sinking her teeth into my wrist one last time.

   It’s so typical of her.  I feel the sarcasm rising in my chest, a coping mechanism maybe to keep the grief at bay, and I swallow it down.  Death is a natural part of life and should be treated with respect.  Death should not be snarked at.

   I gather Professor Amelie in my arms and carry her next door to Howard’s house.  I know he’s home - his truck is parked in the street and his the gate to his driveway is open.  I take her to the side entrance.  Howard never uses or answers the front door.  It’s for show, he told me once.  It’s meant to be seen but never used.  He even has a little plaque attached to it politely asking visitors to go to the side entrance or please leave.

   Her body is already stiffening, and the bite marks on my wrist have already begun to itch.  I need Benadryl before I start to swell.  This is definitely not how I thought the day would go.  

   Howard answers on the third knock and takes in the sight of me holding his dead cat in my arms.  I think it could probably go better.  I’m not wrong.

   “I’ll kill the sonofabitch!” he yells, bearing down on me and seizing hold of the cat.  He storms down the driveway, holding her by her tail, body swinging against his side as he continues yelling.  “Sonofabitch! I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him!”

   I sneeze, eyes watering.  Howard’s door opens again.  “Dad?”  Dad, what’s going on?”  Summoned by his father’s rage, Howard Jr., his only son and the pride and joy of his life, peeks out from the doorway.  “Magda?  What’s going on?”

   I sneeze again.  “Professor Amelie is dead.  I’m sorry.”

   Howard Jr. pushes past me and runs down the driveway after his father.  “Dad! Dad, come back!”

   He’s too late.  Howard’s already stomped across the street and is banging on Jim’s door with a heavy fist, shouting curses and promises of retribution. A few doors from neighbors open, and curious faces peep out.  But for the most part, everyone ignores the spectacle.  This isn’t something that’s uncommon.  It’s the latest incident that their feud has produced.  I scurry back to my stoop and watch from the safety of the railing.  Howard Jr. hovers behind his father.

   “Come out, you coward!  I know you did this!  Come out like a man, you pathetic woman!”

   Jim throws open the door and puffs out his chest, strutting out with murder in his eyes.

   “You dare come onto my property, behaving like a drunk fool?”

   Howard thrusts Amelie at him.  A few neighbors gasp.  A child begins to cry.  “My cat!  You killed my cat!”

   “Proof!  Show me proof I killed your cat, you sniveling dog!”

   It’s like watching a bad high school rendition of Macbeth.  Howard Jr. seems to think the same.  He drops his head in his hands and steps away from his father.  From behind Jim, Jim Jr. sticks his head out and frowns, glaring at his father.

   “I need no proof!  I know it was you!”

   “Prove it!”

   “This is the latest attack on my family!” Howard addresses the block with a sweep of his arm.  “You all see it! He tries to run me out of this time, as his family did to mine years and years ago!”

   “I only wish the best for this town!” Jim shouts with a sweeping gesture of his own.  “My wish is that everyone be happy and healthy and safe!  He pauses, eyes downturned.  “I worry for the well-being of the children, with so many guns readily available.”  
    Howard turns purple.

   “Hunting rifles are not guns!”

   “The hunter denies that the bullet takes a life?”

   This is all becoming a bit much.  Howard’s face goes apoplectic, and for one intense moment, I think he might have a fit or a heart attack.  But Jim ruins it by adding under his breath, “The cat was the bane of the neighborhood anyway.  Anyone would poison it.”

   Howard snaps around and throws Professor Amelie at Jim, who bats her down with a quick karate chop and she hits the concrete with a sharp crack.  Jim and Howard Jr. rush forward to rescue her and retreat into the street, clutching the cat and throwing massive dirty looks at both their parents. A murmur breaks out among the audience.  Jim goes red.

   “Poisoned!” Howard points an accusing finger at Jim.  “The guilty party reveals himself!”

   “I demand proof!  Show me the poison!”

   This goes on for another half an hour, neither party backing down.  Jim and Howard Jr. disappear with Professor Amelie’s body, and the rest of the audience gives up and goes back to their daily lives.  I continue watching because Professor Amelie was a personal friend and I feel obligated to sit this through to the end, even if she decided that she wanted hated me at any given moment in time.
If you're interested in reading more, let me know and we can arrange something. I'm always looking for more beta-readers! (Shameless plug? Naw, of course not.)

Next up: Scheduling minutiae fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment