Friday, January 29, 2010

Whitlash - Chapter 3

- Carson's view -

“Aunt Bea – why didn't you tell me sooner?”

Because I didn't want you to worry. You're always worrying – just like your mother. Nothing but worry, worry, worry.

“Of course I'm worried! I have every reason to be.”

And when you're not busy being worried, you're being reckless like your father! I'm FINE.

“You're not fine. How bad is your headache?”

I am fine. Just get me a glass of water, and quit your yammerin'.

No recourse but to bite my tongue and turn away. GRARGH! But she's like a bighorn when she's starting an episode! Totally rammy. I need some time to ruminate about how to goat her into telling me important things--without making her feel sheepish. It's enough to make a man go on the lamb....I kid, I kid! Couldn't ditch her at a time like this.

Oh Aunt Bea, what am I going to do with you? If I'd known her insulin supply was low six days ago, I would've driven out before the snow got so deep. This living arrangement is straining and draining-- an odd mix of obstinence and obligation.

When the power's back up, I'm phony phoning the institute with a burner cell to tell them (in my best Kermit voice) that one Carson Gallagher has gone MIA from Mt. Brown. Don't alert the milk carton printers. How hard could a quick change of my name and a David Blaine disappearing act be? I hear the Galapagos is nice this time of year. Been stuck in this house too long...

Shining the flashlight into the mostly-useless fridge, I grab the Brita pitcher and pour a small glass. It's cold enough here that nothing needs refrigeration, but there's some comfort to maintaining familiar habits.

When I get back to Beatrice, 
she's moved to the lazyboy and has her hand resting across her rapidly rising and falling chest. She's out of breath just from changing chairs.

My voice is soft with her this time.
“Aunt Bea, drink this.”
I let her start sipping, so I can talk without immediately being rebuffed.
“I think the snow is going to slow up this evening. Do you remember Herb Davis from the Christmas Eve Service? He has a kid with type I. I'm going to take the snow mobile, and see if we can borrow some of his supply. Don't say no. I already decided.”

Beatrice's face darkens. My legs ready for the incoming force of her repudiation. And it comes. And I stand for it. And it lasts about 15 minutes. When she's emptied her lungs, Bea looks down at her black orthotic shoes. Three steps forward, I lean down and plant a kiss on the top of her spiral permed head.
“Love you, too. I'll be back before you can miss me.”

It had been mom's idea. When the research grant took me to Mt. Brown three months ago, mom was the first to insist I move in with her aging sister. The conversation went something along the lines of: It'll be so convenient—you know there's no rental market up there. Besides, your Aunt could use some help around the house. I'm sure you two will be peas in a pod.

We're more like two watermelons in a pea-sized pod. The house is tiny and her personality large. I guess my stubborn streak is shining these days, too. Our genes are ripe with it.

Bea's kitchen hasn't changed since the 70s. Yellow linoleum floor, gold flecked laminate countertops, and a puke-green pastoral scene wallpapered behind the dinner table. Lights don't need to be on to envision it. Her one car garage is through the kitchen on the right. The key rack jingles merrily as I feel around for the palm tree shaped keychain. This piece is a real gem. It's one of those snow globe types filled with liquid and glitter. Scrawled on an angle in gut-wrenching pink papyrus font it reads: “MERRY CHRISTMAS, KEY WEST!”

Key West key chain. Clever.

Bea and Hank must've saved up for a romantic trip to Florida years ago. I miss my Uncle Hank. He was always good for a piece of bazooka bubblegum and a big-fish story.

Key located, I head into the garage. Nope. Too cold.

Okay, okay --- retreat long enough to grab my gloves – then back out....but I'm not making eye-contact with Auntie. Even Mom would admit that Bea could sis-kabob her with just a stab of her skewering glare.

I skulk down the hall to Kyle's room. Kyle, my redneck (but genial) cousin, is in college at Troy State University---and, while he learns microfinance between games of beer pong, I'd settled into his room back home.

As an adult, it's totally bizarre intruding into someone else's living space. I feel like such an interloper. So far, I've been careful not to leaf through any marble journals or mess-up his cased Randy Johnson baseball. When Kyle comes home on break, I'll thank him for letting me crash in his bed (even if my feet hang over the edge a little bit), but those magazines I found while unpacking my clothing into his drawers? I do NOT want answers.

It's getting late. Better get a move on before the Davises turn in for the night. Parting the mustard taffeta curtains lets me gaze out at the falling snow. I've seen heavier. It's now or never. Time to proverbially saddle up: two layers of wool socks, under armor shirt, long underwear---don't mock it til you try it, canvas pants, Moosejaw fleece, knit beanie, Kyle's smelly motocross gloves, and my Uncle's old Carhartt hooded jacket. I feel like the Michelin man moving around in this much clothing. *Shrugs * No one to impress anyway—better warm than sorry.

While I'm trying to sneak back down the hall, the tell tale snow gear swishing gives me away, and Aunt Bea starts squawking.
You really don't have to go, 'Son. At least take your cell phone.

“Can't! The batt's dead. I'll call you from the Davis' house before I ride back. At least the landlines are working.”
I don't like this one bit. You're going to make an old lady die of angina! If I so much as...

The sound of her admonitions are instantly muted by the thwack of the back door shutting.

I've stuffed my pockets with two importants: a precious flashlight and a package of hostess cakes. You know, the kind with a crumb topping and 85 bajillion grams of saturated fat. The flashlight is for safety. The crumb cake is for motivation. I can't eat it til I'm back in this garage.

NO SLEEP TIL BROOKLAND – suddenly changes to NO SNACK TIL HOMELAND and plays in my head on repeat as I ready the snowmobile. I like to think the Beastie Boys could get behind this rendition.

Someone graciously thought to toss a sheet over the snowmobile last year. Making like a magician ripping a table cloth from beneath a perfect dish setting, I grab the sheet and pull it off with a flourish. MISTAKE. Cough—gag! 365 days of dust flies with fury into my lungs. Hopefully I'm more mechanic than magician, because this thing looks like it needs work.

Mental checklist: Spark plugs, oil, gasoline, coolant, fuel filter, chain case oil – errr, so how am I supposed to marco polo all this stuff in the dark? Hmm, I'll settle for an oil and gasoline check. The rest---well---sorry ski-doo. The 24 point inspection will have to wait.

After a full hunt (hide and go seek is more fun when you're eight), red gas can is located between a genuine, vintage Skip-It (probably last rhythmically slammed against the asphalt in 1994) and a box of tacky Halloween decorations. Yellow jug of Pennzoil is fortuitously nearby.

It takes a few minutes of finagling and a few more minutes of mild swearing before the snowmobile roars to life. No more time to lose. I push my classy, neon ride out of the garage and hop on.

Right now you're probably think---how cool! Carson fixes things, researches stuff on mountains, affectionately cares for his ornery aunt, and rides snowmobiles like a pro. Basically he should be in the X-games with an I <3 Auntie tattoo on his arm. Hold on, hold on friends – lest you form misinformed positive opinions of me. Sorry to disappoint, but I have no plans to do sick 360s or handstands on this thing as I fly over hills. I've ridden this ski-doo a few dozen times on winter trips up here, but I'm much more of a hiking, trail biking, book-loving fellow. Athleticism runs in my family, but I'm no meathead. people even use that word anymore?

HOLY SMOKES it's cold out here. Would've loved to call ahead, but I've got their phone number in my cell...and well...I've already been over that powerless tragedy. No google maps to help me now. It'll all be dead reckoning and trying to pick out frosted landmarks in the dark. Yep, now or never. Helmet on. Safety first, kids.

There's a 70% chance I've made a wrong turn. There's 43% chance I've made 2 wrong turns. There's a 13% chance I've made 6 wrong turns---but heck, I don't even remember making 6 turns. I'm not lost. I just need to backtrack and reorient---that's all. I'm not stubborn either. Never.

It's probably been about 40 minutes since I left Bea's one floor rancher. Honestly, I thought I would've been there by now. Pretty sure I crossed over Breed Creek ten minutes ago, but --- now it's hard to tell with the swirling snow---but I'm pretty sure the creek is coming up again.

Eff it, I was trying to follow the main roads, but when the creek comes up again --- I'll follow the bed. It either has to lead toward Mount Brown or away towards the “main town.” Hah, main town. That's a good one. All 5 houses of it. Naturally, the Davises live in one of those five---the one with lilac shutters. Either way, I should reach familiar territory. It'll mean cutting across some property lines to keep with the creek, but no one is going to notice or give a rat's ass in this weather.

I squeeze the brake lever with my left hand and the ski-doo comes sliding to a standstill. The engine continues to rumble beneath my legs as I plan my route forward (the stones throw distance I can see). Thumb throttling back to life, machine and I take off over someone's fallow field. Pines flank the creek, so I stick as close as I dare to the tree-line. Over the hills I bound, and then I settle into a groove.

When the loud hum of the craft drowns out all other sounds in the night, your brain starts talking louder to be heard. My mind wanders to the farthest corners. Is hubba bubble tape reliably 1.8 meters and about the joy killing fall of bubble wrap. Will X-files be tarnished by reviving the series, and how are claw machines actually rigged? Rising stock price of lithium, and whether it's hard to speak a tonal language when you have a cold. Can you even imagine having laryngitis and speaking Hmong? Are all the word meanings altered by your squeaking voice, or can you keep the rising and falling tones when you're projecting at an octave higher than normal? If you were trying to ask about the price of lithi....

The loudest sound I've ever heard in my entire life comes shrieking through my skull. I vaguely feel like flying but also falling or maybe floating. Nope, definitely falling. Falling. Flipping? Falling. FMPFHH.


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  1. I should have waited until next Monday and Chapter 4 to read this one, now I am even more curious than before;-) But thanks anyway for chapter 3 and the little backstory, you are such a talented writer and certainly know how to keep the supspense! I hope there will be much more chapters to come!!

    1. Teehee--all will be revealed! Well, probably. Mostly. I'm working on writing chapter 6 now, so unless an asteroid hits...

      Thank you for reading and commenting! I really do appreciate it!

  2. Argh Anniemouse! You cannot leave it on that note! I'm literally dying here): But thanks for another chapter, loving the (relatively) fast updates! (:

    1. Noooo--don't die, Nessa! The two-way radio is down. I can't call for help!

      Hehe, thank you heaps for commenting! The steady chapters should keep going at least for a while.

  3. whoah, this chapter was way too short ;)
    (i doubt anything you write ever COULD be long enough though!)
    cant wait for the next chapter <3

  4. Amazing! I love him already...

  5. Can't Wait for the next update! (:

  6. I'm intrigued so far. There is one small thing that bothers me a little though. If Aunt Bea is running low on insulin, from personal experience at least, she would try to conserve it and either stay away from sugar (juice) or let her blood sugar run higher than normal. In this chapter though it seems as if her blood sugar is running low. It is definitely possible to happen but, without explanation, it seems less likely.

    1. Thanks So, so much for your feedback! I did some research before I wrote that section, but I didn't have any first hand sources. This will definitely help--I'll plan to rework that section tomorrow evening. Thanks again!

    2. FIXED! Well--at least I hope I've fixed it! If you have any more insight or a good idea about how to make it more accurate, shoot me an email to:

    3. Awesome! Very accurate. If you have any questions about diabetes you can email me too.

  7. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!