Identical, p.11

Identical, page 11



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My escape is successful.

  Once again

  Mick greets me with an

  uncomplicated Hey.

  Once again

  he points the Avalanche

  away from town, heads

  into the countryside.

  Once again

  he leaves it to me to roll

  and light a fatty. Has it only

  been a few days since I last

  indulged this not-so-bad habit?

  Once again

  we engage in easy sex,

  hardly a word exchanged

  between us. We are so not

  about conversation, and only

  body-to-body communication.

  Once again

  we clean up the obvious,

  straighten our clothing, pop

  a few breath mints, and start

  back toward school. Only

  this time, Mick’s erratic driving

  draws unwanted attention.

  He Announces the Problem

  With a most eloquent

  Holy fucking shit.

  It is then I notice the flashing

  red and blue lights coming

  up fast behind us. Holy

  fucking shit is right.

  Down go the windows,

  nothing obvious about that,

  but the damn truck smells like

  a den of promiscuous skunks.

  Mick doesn’t have a choice

  except to pull over.

  This could go a number of ways,

  from a simple ticket to a trip

  to county lockup. I hope

  it’s Option Number One.

  But as the cop—

  a burly deputy sheriff—

  strides purposefully closer,

  my heart slides down into my gut.

  Poor Mick is white.

  Do something!

  Do Something?

  Is he talking to me?

  “Like what, exactly?”

  I dunno. Tell him

  you’ll give him head?

  Hmm. Nah. “Just shut

  up and don’t panic.”

  Believe it or not, he shuts

  up. As the cop reaches

  the window, he sniffs.

  Uh, license and registration.

  Mick digs for his wallet,

  reaches too quickly toward

  the glove box. The cop’s hand

  dives in the direction of

  his holster. Easy now,

  he urges. Open it slowly.

  What? Is he thinking gun?

  “No problem, Officer,” I say.

  He looks across Mick, to

  me. Instant recognition.

  Hey. Aren’t you Kay

  Gardella’s daughter?

  Damn news conference!

  What can I say? “Mm-hmm.”

  This, Too, Could Go

  A number of ways, depending

  on how the guy feels about Mom.

  Maybe even how he feels about Daddy.

  Both of my parents carry plenty

  of baggage—both good and not so—

  with local law enforcement.

  See, before Mom ran for Congress,

  she was a county supervisor.

  Not everyone was always happy

  about the decisions the board

  made, especially when they

  involved money. Still, she has always

  been a fan of law enforcement.

  As for Daddy, his decisions aren’t

  always favorable toward the arresting

  officer, although Mom is right. He’s

  a reasonable judge who does the best

  he can within the structure of the law.

  So, depending on too many variables

  to have a clue, the outcome of this

  particular encounter is unpredictable.

  And beyond all that, it just may come

  down to how much of a tight-ass

  this particular cop happens to be.


  It’s so tight it squeaks

  when he walks. He takes

  Mick’s information back

  to his patrol car. We watch

  in the rearview mirror as

  he radios in. This is not

  looking particularly good.

  Back he comes, hand

  dipping toward his hip

  and what’s attached to it.

  He stands back from

  the door. Please exit

  the vehicle.

  Okay, really, really not

  good. We exit the vehicle

  and Mr. Policeman gestures

  for us to move to the front

  of the truck. I am an idiot!

  Holy shit. My dad is so

  going to be pissed!

  I noticed a definite odor

  of marijuana in your vehicle.

  Have you been smoking

  pot this afternoon?

  Can’t see how lying is going

  to help at this point, but I’m

  not real keen about admitting

  it either. I shake my head

  just about the time Mick

  is dumb enough to say, Yeah.

  Which seems to amuse Deputy

  Dawg. I should probably haul

  your ass in just for being so

  stupid, Mr. Moron….

  That’s Morona, with an a, replies

  the moron(a) in question.

  The cop pretends to look

  at Mick’s license. Oh yes, I see

  it now. Well, Mr. Morona, you

  wait right there for a minute.

  Ms. Gardella, would you

  please come with me?

  Not Sure Where

  This is headed, but I trail

  the deputy to his car, out

  of earshot of Mick.

  The cop gives me a hard

  glare, then softens. What

  exactly do you think

  you’re doing? This is

  too stupid for words,

  you know that, right?

  I nod and finally glance at

  the name pinned to his chest.

  Deputy Carson. Familiar.

  Okay, here’s what I’m

  going to do. You go

  get whatever is stashed

  in that pickup. I’m going

  to write Mr. Morona

  a ticket, sixty in a forty-five…

  Holy crap. He’s going

  to let us walk. My eyes

  must betray my disbelief.

  I’d probably do things

  differently, but Kay

  deserves to win that seat.

  Won’t happen if the press

  gets hold of the news that

  her daughter is a stoner.

  Kay? Sounds terribly

  informal. Exactly how

  well does he know her?

  The man is good at reading

  body language. Yes, I know

  her. We met eight years ago.

  I was a highway patrolman

  then. First on the scene

  at a certain accident….

  I stare hard at his face,

  try to erase several years,

  and sure enough, it swims

  into view, just as it did

  in the backseat of Daddy’s

  wiped-out Mercedes.

  I Rejoin Mick

  As Deputy Carson writes

  the ticket. When I break

  the news about his pricey

  ounce, he actually gets mad.

  What? No way! That cost

  three bills. Add the fine

  for speeding, I’m out more

  than five hundred dollars.

  “Shut the hell up, would you?

  At least you’re not going to jail….”

  And I’m not going to juvie, and

  my parents won’t be involved.

  As the deputy hands Mick
  Moron his ticket, I’m feeling

  all warm and fuzzy, until

  his final admonition.

  I know the last eight years

  cannot have been easy.

  But hanging out with losers

  won’t make your life better.

  I’ve come to believe that people

  who survive accidents like that one

  are either just plain evil, or saved

  for a reason. Which are you?

  Most of the Time

  I don’t feel evil. But saved

  for a reason? Like what?

  I guess I’m pretty good

  at sex, but I don’t think

  I was saved

  because the world needs

  more (even better) sex.

  Maybe Deputy Carson

  is completely full of it.

  Was I saved,

  or was fate simply too

  damn busy killing other

  people that day to catch

  up to me, too?

  I don’t

  let myself return to that

  backseat very often. It’s

  the place every waking

  nightmare began. I


  (think, anyway) that had

  that day gone any other way,

  nothing would be as it is

  now. Right? Right? I guess

  I really don’t know.


  PE Today

  Could have been ugly.

  My leg is swollen, the cut

  raw and inflamed. Jean germs?

  I was saved,

  believe it or not, by a bomb

  threat. They evacuated

  the whole school. Turned

  out it was just a prank.

  Was I saved

  or was it only a fabulous

  coincidence, one that kept me

  fully clothed (hippie style) but

  shivering in the pale afternoon?

  I don’t

  think rescue is a big focus of fate,

  or whatever (whoever?) may

  or may not orchestrate history’s

  page turns. I’d like to


  that I have the ability to

  mold my own future, that if

  I work really hard, I can turn

  it all around. But truth is,

  I really don’t know.

  Maybe Life Is Random

  No fate. No God. Just time.

  The concept of God escapes

  me. Some all-powerful being,

  who rules sometimes gently,

  and often not so, all in the name

  of love? Who dreamed that up?

  I see people who really believe

  in God, in hope, in charity.

  Mostly, they look pretty happy

  and, on the surface, satisfied.

  Christian. Like Christ. So why

  are so many Christians unlike him?

  We don’t go to church, but in

  my search for personal answers,

  I have explored the Bible some.

  (Weird, I know, but when you get

  no answers at all, you reach.)

  The Old Testament is scary,

  filled with misery. That God

  was pretty creepy, all in all.

  But Christ’s testament asks

  for patience, harmony. Not war,

  nor ostracism. Not hate crimes, lies,

  or offering plates filled to the brim.

  I wonder if there’s really a place

  in heaven for hypocrites

  who preach love, all the while

  kicking the downtrodden.

  Still, I might have bought into

  the essence of Christ, except,

  according to the scriptures, he

  also asked for understanding

  and forgiveness, even of our

  enemies. And if he really expected

  that, I could not pass muster.

  Some people I’ll never forgive.

  It Was Greta

  Who first turned me on to the Bible.

  Whenever my life takes a wrong

  turn, I look there for direction.

  I went there often, she said, when

  I was no more than your age and

  the Nazis overran my country.

  The Bible, she said, offered comfort.

  But it couldn’t save the Jews who

  were marked for execution. It took

  people to do that, and my people,

  Lutherans, were not afraid to

  interfere. Every life is precious.

  The Bible, she said, gave no solutions.

  But it did let us know God

  helps those who help themselves.

  In our Danish eyes, Lutherans,

  Jews, and all in between were no

  more nor less than Danes.

  Comforted, validated, they went to work.

  Once we got word the Germans

  were definitely coming for our

  Jewish brothers and sisters,

  we smuggled them to safe houses

  along the eastern coastline.

  And, to make the original “fisher of people” proud,

  Mostly at night, but sometimes

  day, we put them on fishing boats

  and took them safely to Sweden.

  We lost four hundred, but saved

  thousands from the camps.

  They lost more than their Jewish friends.

  At first the Nazis took little

  except food, but with the Resistance,

  they confiscated property, possessions.

  The freedom fighters they caught

  went to the camps. Or disappeared.

  Some were even martyred on the spot.

  Many of us were just children.

  I saw a friend gunned down in

  the street. But we were doing

  the Lord’s work, and we reaped

  his mercy from that time forward.

  She Believes That Too

  Must be nice to have that kind

  of unshakable belief

  in a merciful higher power.

  I believe in a higher power,

  but you can’t call

  it merciful. No, not at all.

  It’s the power of my father, all

  will and rules and law,

  and governed himself by

  Deadly Sins, chief among them

  avarice and lust.

  The only two that don’t apply

  are sloth and gluttony. That last

  one I lay claim to, and

  before I go to work, I plan on

  giving into it wholeheartedly.

  Gluttony interrupted

  leads to Gluttony, with a capital G.

  No Time for a Major Lovefest

  I’ll have to make do with

  a sugar OD, leave the five

  food groups for next time.

  Look at me, already plotting

  a next time. What’s up?

  Stupid question, Kaeleigh.

  What isn’t up? You can’t

  maintain a relationship

  with the only guy in

  the world worth loving.

  Your father’s a freak,

  your mother is invisible,

  your friends don’t get

  you at all, and you for

  real like it that way.

  School used to be an escape.

  Now it’s just another place

  with too much pressure,

  too much confrontation,

  and so not enough joy.

  Your entire life is joyless.

  Go ahead. Eat. Pig out, in fact.

  Food is real, too much

  of it the only thing you feel.

  (Except the razor.) So feel.

  Still Feeling It

  As I pedal my bike up the hill

  toward the Luthera
n home.

  Several days until the time

  change, it shouldn’t be too dark

  when I leave. But I’m going to

  have to figure out a better way

  to and from this place once night

  falls when it’s still afternoon.

  I despise the short days of winter.

  Don’t even like the holidays,

  and why would I? The only good

  thing about them is the omnipresent

  food. But all that phony good cheer?

  Spare me. Or jump me straight

  from Halloween to Easter.

  I definitely do candy, so I’m great

  with those noncelebrations.

  Halloween is actually stupid,

  unless you’re under twelve.

  I know some adults like to dress

  up (or down) in costumes,

  drink too much, and ogle

  one another. I remember Mom

  and Daddy doing that when

  Raeanne and I were little.

  But I totally think everyone

  past middle school really ought

  to give it a break. Except maybe

  witches and vampires. I don’t

  believe in werewolves. But moon

  worship, bonfires, and—oh yeah,

  especially—a little bloodletting

  seem like reasonable things to me.

  I doubt anyone here at the old

  folks’ home would want to play

  those games. But they are having

  a Halloween party. William, dressed

  up like a pirate? Greta, maybe

  a French maid? Ha! Too funny.


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