A glass of crazy, p.7
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.7

           Tina Laningham
 
School sucked on the first day back, but the triple Ps plus Megan were nowhere to be found so at least I didn't have to deal with them and neither did Mr. Oliver. Rafa and I sat in our usual spots in the back and since half the kids were still absent because of the hurricane, we weren't exactly well hidden. By the way he paced back and forth and spoke to the ceiling, Mr. Oliver seemed oblivious to the fact that hardly anyone was there.

  "Necessitas non habet legem." He read it aloud from a book and placed his finger at his temple as if deep in thought. "What does it mean?"

  I could've cared less. I had much bigger things to worry about than trying to translate whatever he'd said and since no one else seemed to have a clue, Mr. Oliver finally decided to just tell us.

  "Necessity has no law," he said. "It's a Latin proverb from the Middle Ages."

  Rafa poked me with a pencil. "We have to write about the looters?"

  If that was the assignment, I didn't have anything to write about because the looter who broke into my house didn't take anything, and if he had gone upstairs and taken something, he probably needed it more than we ever did. A month ago, I wouldn't have felt that way, but a month ago, I came from a family where everyone acted out their roles perfectly. When everyone stops acting and you realize you're the only sane person in the family, material things become less important.

  "Taking something without asking is wrong," Rafa whispered, "even if you're homeless."

  I disagreed, but didn't feel like debating, even though it was usually my favorite sport. Instead, I wrote a half-hearted essay on a homeless person's right to steal food if they were starving to death. I'm sure it could've been better, but I really wasn't in the mood.

  When he was finished, Rafa handed me his paper. Not surprisingly, he wrote about how immoral it was to steal, even if you're the only person left on an island after a hurricane. I guess if you're poor and someone steals your stuff, it's different.

  We passed our papers to the front. Rafa's family had solid beliefs in right and wrong. Obviously, my parents didn't believe in anything. I sunk down in my seat and for the rest of class, I could barely look Rafa in the eye.

  I'd almost forgotten about the note I'd written to Mr. Oliver requesting to be excused from the sucky journal writing assignment until he handed back my story about Hurricane Abby. If I was going to win that novel writing contest this year, I needed to get started. I flipped to the last page. Mr. Oliver had given me a ninety-eight on the story, but after my note, he'd scribbled the words: You may do both.

  That was so unfair. How did he expect me to write a brilliant fantasy novel while constantly puking my sordid life into a journal?

  Mr. Oliver peeked over his wire rims at the few kids who dotted the classroom. "Before class is dismissed, I want to leave you with a thought."

  Dismissing class was the best thought Mr. Oliver could've left me with at that moment. With slumped shoulders, I waited for his words of wisdom that would probably make me feel worse about myself than I already did.

  "I don't want you to answer this question out loud and I don't want you to write about it." He paced up and down the rows of desks. "I just want you to think about it."

  I didn't want to be curious about whatever he was going to say next since we weren't even going to be graded on it, but for some reason, I was.

  "Most of you are still fourteen, but for a moment, I want you to pretend you know how to drive."

  Rafa bolted straight up in his seat. "I know how to drive," he said as if Mr. Oliver had personally insulted him. His jaw was set.

  I looked twice. Maybe Rafa wasn't really gay.

  "Good." Mr. Oliver smiled. "Then you won't have to pretend. Now close your eyes and imagine you're driving through the desert. The land is flat and nothing is around for miles and miles."

  I never did close my eyes, but Rafa squished his eyes tight and pretended to grip a steering wheel. From the back of the class, I couldn't see the faces of the kids in front of me, but I kept my eyes open.

  "Up ahead you see an intersection with a stop sign," Mr. Oliver continued. "Since the land is flat, you can see there are no other cars anywhere in sight. No one would ever know if you made the decision to not stop."

  Mr. Oliver raised his black caterpillar brows at me. At first I thought I was busted for not closing my eyes, but then he turned and continued talking.

  "The question I am posing to you is this: Would you stop?" He spun around and pressed his paper thin lips. "Just give it some thought. Class dismissed."

  "That's a stupid question." Rafa zipped his backpack. "Of course I would stop."

  I rolled my eyes.

  Under a giant oak, Rafa told stories about his grandmother and cousins in San Antonio and the fun things they did while I was cooped up with Mom in Dad's apartment. I took a bite of a grilled chicken leg from Rafa's lunch sack and said, "Uh-huh," but I was barely listening.

  Eventually Rafa ran out of stories and the silence started stressing me out. I tossed the chicken bone on a piece of aluminum foil and said, "Don't you think it's weird that after I wrote about a hurricane, it really happened?"

  "I know." Rafa's eyes widened. "I was telling my cousins in San Antonio about that and now they call you la bruja."

  I gave him the say-it-in-English look.

  "They think you're a witch."

  I scrunched my eyes. "So they think Hurricane Ike's my fault?"

  "I told them, 'She's not a witch. She's a curandera.'"

  "A what?"

  "A curandera has magic powers and sometimes they can predict the future."

  "But what if I caused all that destruction?" I grabbed Rafa's arm. "Ohmygod, what if I'm evil?"

  Rafa laughed. "You're not evil."

  "Probably just a coincidence," I said, looking around for a trash can.

  "There's only one way to find out?" The bell rang over whatever Rafa was going to say next. He jumped up and slung on the backpack.

  "Wait!" I followed Rafa back to the building. "How?"

  "You have to write another story and see if it happens," he yelled over his shoulder. "This time, write about something good." Rafa winked and disappeared into the crush of kids in the hallway.

  ?

  That night, Mom sniffled in bed on the other side of the partition. I started to go see what was wrong, but she had been on the verge of tears all afternoon and it was probably another one of those serious grownup things that would turn my stomach if I knew. I was almost asleep when dishes rattled quietly at the other end of the apartment as if Mom was doing her best to not make any noise. I decided to get up.

  "Hey," was all I could think of to say. Mom sat at the kitchen table with her forehead resting on the palm of her hand. In the other hand she twirled the stem of a glass full of wine. When I sat down, she bunched a napkin in her eyes and tried not to sob, but it wasn't working very well. I swear, in my fourteen years on this planet, I'd never seen Mom cry. I didn't know what to do, except sit quietly and wait like Rafa had done for me.

  Finally she said, "I spoke to my divorce attorney today."

  My stomach squished like a sponge.

  "Your father has an enormous amount of debt that I knew nothing about." Mom started to get up. "Would you like some cookies, dear?"

  "No. Please. Chill."

  "I wish I could." She scooped up the glass, gulped down several swallows of wine, and stared out the window. "We have to sell the house."

  I could deal with that. Mom was obviously having a full-blown panic attack, but I was surprisingly calm.

  "We'll live here," I said. Wait, we needed bedrooms with doors that shut. "Or we'll get a house. A smaller one."

  "We can't buy another house," she said. "There's no money."

  I got up and pulled an orange soda from the fridge, but what I really wanted was a glass of that wine.

  "We can't stay here, either," she said. "This apartment is more than your father can afford."

  I slid back into the chair. "We're homel
ess?"

  "No honey, it's not that bad."

  "Right. And where exactly are we going to live?"

  "After the divorce, which your father is pushing through the courts quickly-" Mom took another gulp of wine. "I'll only get a few hundred dollars a month in child support."

  "For me?"

  "Well, yes. But the money isn't yours. It helps me pay for your food, clothes and everything else you need."

  "What about Dad's place in Austin?"

  Mom shook her head. "He's selling it. We'll get a cheaper place here in Galveston."

  "And Dad's gonna pay for that?"

  "No, honey," she said without looking up. "I have to get a job. I applied at a place that sells appliances today."

  Silence. I mean pure silence, except for the ticking of a clock at the other end of the apartment. Tick?Tick. The sound grew louder, slower.

  "Appliances?" I asked.

  When Mom emptied the bottle of wine in the glass, my heart sank. We were definitely going to need more wine.

  "I don't have any sperience, Abby."

  Oh God, Mom was drunk.

  "I married your father right out of high school. He always did like younger women."

  She took another gulp.

  "Anway, I'll go to college online or somesing, you know, at night." Her head was bobbing.

  "Let's get you to bed," I said, trying to gather her up.

  At first I led her by the arm while her feet shuffled across the hardwood floors, but after taking a tumble on the living room rug, I grabbed her waist and had to practically pull her to bed. She chattered on and on about something, but most of it didn't make sense. Still, I understood the things she told me after I tucked her in. They weren't things parents were supposed to tell their kids, but I didn't stop her. I couldn't stop listening.

  After Mom was fast asleep, I returned to the kitchen. The things she'd blabbed about our family were twisted and wrong on so many levels. I sat at the table, just like Mom had, and polished off her glass of wine. As it went down, a wave of euphoria washed over me and I smiled for no reason. Yes, for one long, slow moment, I was simply happy, which made no sense, except maybe in La-La Land.

  - 8 -

 
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