Thursday, May 5, 2011

NEBRASKA: A NOVEL (Sample chapter included!)

A few years ago, Nebraska was in the news when several parents abandoned their teen children at hospitals, without reprisal, due to a loophole in a Safe Haven law. The law was intended to allow parents to give unwanted newborns to hospitals as opposed to leaving them in dumpsters and other unsafe place.

I was mesmerized by this notion. What does it take to feel that is your only choice? And how do you march toward that choice? That is how NEBRASKA was born. Told in alternating chapters, it explores one mother's past while she drives with her teen children toward Nebraska.

Here is a chapter for your reading pleasure. Lorabee, the protagonist, is a teen and her father's girlfriend, a woman she adores, is moving out.

You can get the book direct on Kindle (check out the free apps for Mac and phone!).

Chapter 19

My dork of a brother dangled a pendulum over his Kreskin ESP game and watched with fierce concentration as it oscillated. He was crouched over the fortune-telling part of the board while straddling the stone wall that ran from our house down along the gravel driveway, the driveway in which Claire’s feeble parents and my suddenly old-looking father were loading her things into the back of a pick up truck. Their Cadillac was parked at the end of the driveway, shining like a grand prize in the hot August sun. We weren’t allowed to put any of Claire’s things in the Cadillac. “No way, young lady. There is cat hair on everything. Goes there,” Claire’s father had scolded, flinging his arthritic hand in the direction of the pick up truck which meant I had traveled an extra 30 steps or so with a heavy load of Claire’s hair products. I dropped the box on the driveway and decided to take it out on John.

“How come he doesn’t have to help?” I yelled to my father. “Huh? How come?”

John held up his arm, the one with the cast on it. “I have a broken arm is why!” he yelled back. My brother had decided that jumping off of the low part of our roof into a puddle would have made a fantastic splash but didn’t count on slipping in the mud. “You’re lucky you only broke your arm, fella,” is what Claire told him, rubbing his head. We had stopped to get ice cream on the way home from the hospital.

“Seriously!” I said, trying to win some of her affection. “You could have been killed.”

“Well that’s a little extreme, Lorabee,” Claire said, gesturing for the waitress to bring us a check. She couldn’t even look at me.

That same night, over fish sticks, my father told us she was moving out. John started crying which made Claire start crying. She stood up, kissed John on the head, said “I’m so sorry,” and left the room. I opened my mouth to say something and my father pointed his finger like he was drawing a gun on me. “Don’t you dare,” he said. “Don’t you dare.” He got up from the table, grabbed his car keys, and left the house. I shrugged my shoulders and picked up a fish stick from Claire’s plate and ate it.

“That’s not yours,” John cried. He was so lame.

“No duh,” I said.

In my driveway, in the 90-degree heat, I picked the box back up and walked toward the pick up truck. It started to slip out of my arms so I worked to get a better grip on it. And as I did, the bottom of the box came open and all of Claire’s beauty products came tumbling out on the driveway.

“Shit!” I said.

“Dad!” John said.

“Jesus Christ,” my dad said.

Claire was on the porch, organizing boxes. She turned around and saw the mess I had made of her fancy Sassoon shampoo and Lipsmackers and Noxzema and everything ever made by the Love’s Baby Soft people.

“Just put it back in the box and leave it,” she said.

“But I broke the Opium,” I told her. My dad had gotten the same perfume for each of us two Christmas’ ago, back when there was still hope in our house. “I’ll go get you mine,” I said. I started to run toward the house. This task, this perfume replacement mission, seemed very important to me. I could help here. This is something I messed up that I could actually fix.

I was on the porch by the time Claire could respond. “I don’t want it,” Claire said. “It actually makes me a little sick, to tell you the truth,” she said. I stopped dead in my tracks.

“But you said you loved it,” I told her, willing her to look up from the box she was writing on, willing her to look at me.

“Well I lied,” she said, replacing the cap on the marker and lifting a box to hand to her father.

“Does anyone want me to predict the future?” John yelled from the driveway.

I slammed the door and went inside the house. I went to my room to wait for someone to come make me return to the job of helping Claire move. No one ever came. By the time I came back downstairs, she was gone.

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