Girl unmoored, p.1
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       Girl Unmoored, p.1

           Jennifer Gooch Hummer
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Girl Unmoored

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.

  The Fiction Studio

  P.O. Box 4613

  Stamford, CT 06907

  Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer Gooch Hummer

  Author photo © 2011 by Chuck Espinosa

  Print ISBN-13: 978-1-936558-30-8

  E-book ISBN-13: 978-1-936558-31-5

  Visit our website at

  All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by U.S. Copyright Law. For information, address The Fiction Studio.

  First Fiction Studio Printing: March 2012

  Printed in the United States of America

  For Mike

  As you ramble on through Life, Brother

  Whatever be your goal

  Keep your Eye upon the donut

  And not upon the Hole

  – Downyflake Doughnuts, Nantucket Mass.



  Begin here.

  Jesus was in his underwear. That was the first thing I noticed. He had long blond hair that looked like he forgot to rinse the conditioner out of it and every time it flew in front of his face, he whipped it back over his shoulder.

  “Wow, Jesus is foxy,” Rennie said with her gummy-bear breath. But I tightened my jaw. Loud music was banging everywhere and colored lights were blinking. I looked at Rennie and watched her cheeks flash from red to purple.

  On the way to the theater, while Rennie was putting on her lip gloss for the thousandth time and Mr. Perry was driving and Mrs. Perry was throwing her arms up and yelling, “Slow down, Bill!” I sat there looking normal but thinking about how much I wished we were going to see the real Jesus. Everyone needed a miracle once in a while.

  But my life slammed back into me when we got out of the car and Mrs. Perry handed us our tickets. Jesus Christ Superstar, The Musical, it said, clear as day.

  It should have said Jesus Christ Freak Show because so far there was just him and his underwear walking around angry dancers with big hair and big belts singing “What’s the buzz?” every second. Even the sweaty faith healings that Grandma Bramhall watched on TV were better than this. At least those people got out of their wheelchairs in the end.

  I put my feet up to block it all out. Our seats were smack dab in the middle of everybody and everywhere I looked people and their flashing faces were following Jesus. Even the old lady sitting on the other side of me who smelled like baby powder tapped her foot, and she had an eye patch so clearly she could have used a miracle. Her hand was shaking too, but I couldn’t tell if it was because of the music or because her arm was plugged in wrong like Grandma Bramhall’s neck.

  Rennie frowned at my feet and nudged me with her elbow. I frowned back and sat up again. Then I slipped my bracelet out from under my sleeve and turned it right side up so Holly Bramh #08092 was flat on top and Maine Med was on the bottom. There were 08091 other people in the hospital that could have used a little help too.

  After a few more songs, Jesus froze. Then he turned and walked off stage. I slipped one arm into my coat and started to stand until a bang happened and the lights got dimmer and the music got darker. Someone kicked my seat and said, “Hey, do you mind?” so I slid down again.

  Next, two guys in black capes started singing like they were running out of batteries. I tried not to listen, but their voices were low enough to crawl up your back. Even with my eyes shut, I could see their whips. The music sped up and a crowd of dark-hooded people grabbed Jesus and begged for things. He wanted to fix them—you could tell by how slowly he touched their foreheads—but it wasn’t going to happen and he knew it. Still, they kept on grabbing. Until finally when they were about to suffocate him, Jesus pushed them all away and yelled, “Save yourselves!”

  That stopped everyone all right.

  “All you have to do to conquer death,” he sang slowly, like it hurt, “is to die.”

  Which was ridiculous.

  I looked around. You can’t conquer death if you’re dead. But no one else looked confused, not even Mrs. Perry, who can’t take in too much information at once or she’ll check on her big curl and say, “You lost me, now. Start again?”

  After the song, Jesus looked worse.

  Mary made him lie down in the middle of the stage. Then she started singing, “Everything’s all right, yes, everything’s fine …” and rubbing something on his forehead, which wasn’t going to help him. No one ever gets saved by a forehead rub. Ask Laura Ingalls Wilder if you don’t believe me. But Mary kept doing it anyway, begging him to let the world turn without him tonight because everything was all right—which it wasn’t, because even his best friend, Judas, was acting weird. I snuck a look at Rennie to see if she was thinking what I was thinking, but she had her same old face on, blinking away like Bambi. Finally, Jesus went to sleep and Judas found the black capes and told them where Jesus would be on Thursday.

  Then the lights came on.

  “Is that it?” I asked Rennie, who was looking through her fancy silk pocket book for her Cherry Fine lip gloss. “Can we leave?”

  “It’s intermission, Apron. You’re so naïve,” she said shaking her head and standing. “I don’t know why my mom had to invite you, anyway.”

  But I did. I was there when Eeebs told his mom he wouldn’t be caught dead watching a bunch of faggots dance around. “And besides,” he said. “It’s the JV trip to Funtown Splashtown,” which Mrs. Perry had forgotten about when she bought the four tickets. I knew almost everything about the Perrys. So I put my Playbill down on my seat and filed out like everybody else.

  In the aisles, things got hectic. Everyone pushed and someone stepped right onto the back of my flip-flop.

  Eeeb’s flip-flops actually. Mrs. Perry said, “Sorry, Apron,” but that was my best bet because Rennie’s shoes were too small and Mrs. Perry’s shoes were too fancy, and what happened was: I forgot my high heels. Last night when Mrs. Perry called me I forgot to pay attention to the skirt thing and didn’t remember it again until after my dad dropped me off. Rennie rolled her eyes at my Stride Rites and reminded me that you have to wear a skirt for the theater. Mrs. Perry had an ugly yellow one with green frogs on it that fit me as long as I wore her pink belt with seagulls on it, but no shoes. Which was why now, in line at the confession stand, I got stepped on twice. And by the time Rennie and I both got our DOTS, I got stepped on two more times. Mrs. Perry was one of the times, but I hadn’t brought any money and she had given me two dollars and said, “Here, honey, get whatever you want,” so I wasn’t about to get mad at her for almost breaking my toes.

  “There’s Seth Chambers!” Rennie whispered, jumping behind me and grabbing my shoulder. It was true. There was Seth Chambers. He might be dumb as wood, but he was also as handsome as ever: his blond hair long enough to tuck back behind his ears, his perfect teeth flashing white. Something drilled into my bellybutton when I saw him, but I wasn’t about to tell Rennie that. She had so many Rennie Chambers scribbled in her math book she had to buy a new one. “Do you think I should go talk to him?” she asked my underarm.

  I tried to say no, but the DOTS had cemented my teeth together. So I groaned instead. Finally Seth left and Rennie let go, sighing and chewing on another DOTS, which, if I was lucky, might cement her teeth together forever.

  Then the lights flickered. In Maine that usually meant there were thunderstorms coming, but in the theater it meant get back to your seat. Someone stepped on the ba
ck of my flip-flop again and this time one of the sides popped out. Without any more flip in that flop, I had to skate it. Mrs. Perry said, “That’s okay, honey,” when she saw Eeeb’s shoe was broken, but her mad face looked the same as her glad one, so you never really knew what was going on in between that curl.

  The old lady was there when I sat down. I had some DOTS leftover, but I didn’t ask her if she wanted any because then she’d have to buy new eyes and new dentures. Mr. and Mrs. Perry sat down again, too. They never held hands. And never once had I seen them kiss. I used to catch my dad hugging my mom by the icebox, but now I catch him hugging M there instead. M used to be Nurse De Costa. I’m supposed to call her Margie. But M is as good as it’s going to get.

  Mrs. Perry leaned her perfect tight curl over Rennie’s lap and said, “Do you like it so far, girls?” I said, “Yes, thank you,” but Rennie said, “Can I get some more candy after?”

  When the lights went down again, I slumped as low as I could in my seat and got ready for another round. And then things went really wrong. The hippies were back up there dancing and the low batteries were still warning everyone, and now Jesus was sadder and more tired. He didn’t dance anymore and he hardly ever sang, except to say he was sad and tired even though he used to be inspired. And it turned out Mary was wrong and I was right. Everything wasn’t all right and Judas was a traitor and Jesus got dragged around to see some kings and one of them whipped him. Then Judas died and Jesus got beaten up some more and wouldn’t even ask them to stop and when that barrel of laughs was over, Jesus got put on the cross. He flipped his head back and moaned and asked in one long yell why he had been forsaken.

  That made me sit up.

  The hooded people went back to clawing at him and then all of a sudden it got so quiet you could hear a pin drop and Jesus was dead. You could tell by the way his hair hung down all over his face and he didn’t whip it back.

  Then that was it. The curtains smashed together and everyone clapped and yelled and stood. The noise came too fast. I blinked and tried to stand but couldn’t get my feet to work.

  “It’s a standing O,” Rennie said pulling me up.

  The hippies and low batteries were taking their bow and when Jesus came out he was smiling and whipping and waving, not looking so forsaken to me anymore.

  Just fake.

  My stomach cramped.

  “Cut your hair!” I yelled.

  “What’s your problem, Apron? Shut up,” Rennie said, looking at me with her face all crooked.

  “Don’t you think he looks a little too much like the real one? He shouldn’t get people’s hopes up like that.”

  Rennie pulled one side of her lip up. She wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but that wasn’t why she didn’t understand. I looked past her to Mr. and Mrs. Perry. Rennie probably didn’t even know what forsaken meant. She didn’t need to.

  When I looked back up at the stage again, Jesus was gone.

  In the lobby, Rennie grabbed her mother’s elbow and told her she needed to go to the bathroom.

  “Can’t you wait, kiddo? Look at the line,” Mr. Perry asked, his voice iced in hope. “The exit’ll be gridlocked.”

  But Mrs. Perry gave him a glare and steered Rennie toward the line anyway. Her uncle somebody died trying not to go to the bathroom when he was a boy, he just exploded inside out at the Thanksgiving table because he was too shy to tell his parents. That’s what her glare said. I looked over at Mr. Perry. If I’d heard this story a thousand times already, imagine how many times he’d heard it by now.

  Instead of looking like he remembered, he turned and walked toward a black shiny wall, picking his way against the flow of people headed for the exit. I skated my flop behind him, both of us stopping every few steps not to break up a family.

  The black wall turned out to be a waterfall with two small hoses sticking out from the marble. Big silver letters spelling out SPRAGUE THEATER were staying nice and dry just below them.

  Mr. Perry sat on a stone wall that came out in a corner, the water splashing behind him. I sat down next to him. On the other side of the corner, two mothers were trying to bounce the boredom out of their crying babies.

  “You should pray for sons,” Mr. Perry sighed. “There’s never a line for the men’s room.”

  “Okay,” I said, not really smiling back. The Perrys were the kind of people who always warned kids about stuff that happens to you when you get old. Which I guess is all you have left to think about once you never have homework again for the rest of your life.

  Mr. Perry and I said nothing until everyone left and things finally got quiet. I could hear the uneven splashes behind me.

  “So. How are you holding up, Apron?” he glanced at me.

  “Okay,” I said wondering for a moment if he meant my broken shoe. But his face was more serious than a flip-flop, so I looked away and added a shrug. “I guess.”

  “Six months seems like a minute and a lifetime ago, doesn’t it.” Another stupid thing to say. All it seemed like to me was a lifetime ago.

  “Not really.”

  Mr. Perry shook his head at himself. “Oh gosh. Of course it doesn’t.” Then he nodded at me with his eyes dialed on full. “I’m sorry, Apron.”

  A few leftover people walked by us and Mr. Perry stared down at his shoes. “Apron, I …” he hesitated, his voice coming out in little jumps. “We all miss her. Holly was a very beautiful woman.”

  “Who’s beautiful?”

  Rennie was standing over us with her arms crossed. Those bouncing mothers were nowhere to be seen now.

  “There she is,” Mr. Perry smiled, wiping his hands on his pants and standing.

  Rennie dropped her arms. “Mom and I have been standing out there, waiting.”

  “Oops,” he said, taking Rennie’s arm and starting toward the door; the two of them ignoring me and my flop trying to keep up.

  “So what did you think, girls?” Mrs. Perry asked in the car after we pulled out of the lot. I looked at the back of Mr. Perry’s head, waiting for Rennie to answer first. Mr. Perry had an empty spot the size of a golf ball, but my dad’s head was still fully covered. People with red hair don’t usually go bald.

  “Girls?” Mrs. Perry asked again and this time I looked up, catching Mr. Perry’s frown by mistake in the rearview mirror.

  “Great,” I lied.

  Rennie had been staring out her window ever since we got into the car.

  “Rennie,” Mrs. Perry asked, shifting herself around so she could see her.

  “That was the worst musical I’ve ever seen,” Rennie said finally. “There wasn’t even a happy ending. He just died. ”

  “Yes, but remember, he died so he could save us all,” Mrs. Perry smiled. “You can talk to Reverend Hunter about it in Sunday School.” She looked at me. I didn’t go to Sunday School and we both knew it.

  “It’s still a bad ending,” Rennie whispered.

  I nodded, but Rennie didn’t see it.

  “Well. I will say, those people certainly can sing,” Mrs. Perry sighed, glancing at Mr. Perry as she faced forward again.

  “What people?” Rennie asked.

  Mr. Perry snapped, “No people” and gave Mrs. Perry a sideways look. “And you wonder where Eeebs gets it from, Sue.”

  Mrs. Perry huffed at her window. “Just an observation, Bill,” she said. “Most of them can carry a tune, that’s all.”

  Mr. Perry shook his head.

  Usually when the Perrys fought, Rennie would roll her eyes at me and mimic them. But this time she turned her head toward her window again and said nothing. So I said nothing back.

  When Mr. Perry turned on the radio, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” blared out. Rennie and I turned to each other with sudden smiles. Mr. Perry had taken us to a Cyndi Lauper concert for Rennie’s birthday last year. Mrs. Perry wouldn’t come so my mom did instead and he bought all three of us a Cyndi Lauper backpack. But now, Mr. Perry tightened his jaw and flipped the station. Mrs. Perry didn’t
like that kind of music.

  “Dad!” Rennie whined.

  But he was done talking. He stopped on some piano playing.

  I waited for Rennie to whine some more like she usually did, but she didn’t. She just went back to her window. So I turned to mine and watched the streetlights whiz by in one long yellow streak until finally they started flashing and by the time we came to a red light they were just plain old streetlights again.

  “And why was Jesus in his underwear, anyway?” Rennie asked.

  “Those were shorts, dear,” Mrs. Perry said, bothered about it.

  “Well, they looked like underwear,” Rennie smirked. And then I couldn’t help it; I started laughing. Mr. Perry told us to tone it down, but it was too late and before we knew it we were laughing hard enough for it to feel like things were back to normal. Until Mr. Perry turned right and we started down our long dirt road where there weren’t any streetlights at all and normal was a lifetime ago.


  Si vis pacem, para bellum.

  If you want peace, prepare for war.

  My dad was staring down at me smelling like coffee not wine, so you knew it had to be morning.

  “Time to get up, Apron,” he said.

  He looked tired; his freckles were hanging too low on his face. He used to have brown ones like mine, but now those were graying too.

  “And don’t forget the tunics for the Meaningless Bowl. Twelve greens and eleven blues, unless,” his voice faded, “Jesus H. Christ, that moron, Chambers, shows up again.” I groaned, but my dad said, “Hurry up” or “Fire truck,” I couldn’t tell which, and walked out the door.

  I blinked enough to window wash the sleep out of my eyes and twisted my bracelet around. It was going to be sunny today. Already a streak of yellow was sneaking in from under the window shade, lighting up the Little House on the Prairie books on my shelf. I had read every book in the series by the time I was eight, and a few hundred times over since then. I have to sneak them now, though, otherwise my dad says, “Aren’t we a little past those, Apron? I mean really. How about some Moby-Dick?” But the truth was that Laura Ingalls Wilder was the nicest girl I’d ever not known. Rennie would throw me under a bus for a piece of chocolate. M’s chocolate anyway. M told her it was from Brazil, but you could find the same kind at Stop & Shop if you knew where to look.

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