Subject: fiction

Summer of Eternity

a work in progress

Paige Meredith

Special Of The Moment
Try Me?

He's coming back this way. I don't have anything but my keys, which I guess could inflict some damage if I swing them or something, but that's the best I can think of. it's like my legs are cemented down, my head rigid, my throat {constricted and} all dry, my eyes and ears directly connected and alert. I can see colors, shapes, but not as parts on one another. Red blur, beige blur, round fist, huge black eyes like giant thumbtacks. Or jarts.

Usually I won't let anyone yards near me, whether it's that they need directions or the time or what. Someone approaches me, I'm off like a shot. I get this face on me, like a bulldog you fed horseradish or something. I'll cross the street, even. I'm a bitch on the street and it's an effective way to maneuver around, especially when you're scared as hell of the world. Somehow, this one caught me off guard, and before I knew it, had me dragged over here. It's amazing, too, because we're not three feet from where I was standing, all visible on the sidewalk. He must have done this here before, I keep thinking, because he knew the exact place where the cars driving by lose their line of sight as the grass gets taller. No one lives along this stretch of road, no one's anywhere on any side, and I'm watching myself up against a tree becoming some goddamn statue, like I'm the star in a feature film, like it's not me at all but some actress I'm watching while I'm sucking down raisinettes and sprite. What a novel rape scene, I'm thinking. How creative. He fucked her standing up. Three stars, for sure.

He'd knocked me down and kicked me in the ear and started walking away and zipping up his fly at the same time. he looked back, though, way too quickly, and saw that I wasn't unconscious after all, since as soon as he walked off I was wiping some blood and some of my own wet off my mouth, and he called me a Fucking Cunt for the eighth or ninth time. I had been set to run, but he turned back. With his medusa eyes. I'm paralyzed, and he's coming back this way. And as absolutely fucking sick as this sounds, at this point, after what just happened, it's almost like my head believes we have some kind of relationship or rapport going, though in what capacity I cannot imagine, and apparently there's a sick, sick, socialized part of me that's making me unable to turn and run. my face is wet and cold with his sweat and my snot. my thighs are wet with sperms and sweat, obviously both his, and I'm standing there and experiencing the world entirely through how things feel. And smell. The wet, the cold, the paralysis. No words, no logic, no presence of mind. But once he really starts moving toward me I guess my brain finally kicks in and I do the only thing I can think to do, I run into the middle of the street, and nearly get hit by a couple of cars, till one stops, cause the guy inside it notices that I'm bleeding down my legs, my head, my chest, and that I'm naked except for a bra hanging from one shoulder and my dress that I'm somehow dragging along, all bunched up onto my left ankle. There's blood in a streak from my ear down my chin, like the strap for a helmet. I'm probably in shock, cause I'm in the middle of the street, a two way street, dripping and naked, and not crying or anything, but just becoming a statue again, big eyes and hair like ropes, and watching myself do all this from somewhere in the balcony with the blue velveteen seats. I can't hear what the man is saying to me, but he puts his jacket around me, backward, so my front is fully covered, and I look like a mental patient, and he has me sit down on the passenger seat of his car with the door open over onto the curb. Medusa Man is long gone by now; his sperm's all over my shoes. They're suede, so they're ruined.

I can suddenly hear, and someone, a voice from some tunnel, is there. I can only remember thinking what a stupid question - only much later did I realize that the answer would give her a gauge of just how mortified it would be appropriate to be. Thirteen, I tell her, then correct myself, since I've been fourteen for a couple of weeks. All I am is cold. I can't get warm. And I can't feel my toes, except somehow I know they're wet.

He made it look like a dance, maybe, was the idea, fucked me standing, punching up into me like gutting a fish, right down the middle. and the whole time his one hand's on my neck and the other on my mouth, and he's dancing into me, until he comes, with a steamy bleach smell, and then kicks me in the crotch just to tear up whatever's still whole.


We usually went to church on Christmas and when somebody died, and sometimes Easter if the weather was bad. The only other time I remember being in a church was for Bible day-care, where we cut out lambs and shepherds and stuck them on a big green board on the wall and learned how WE were those sheep, being guided by Him, though maybe not quite so furry as they were.

This one Sunday, though, Mama came into my room special, with a tray of breakfast (she hadn't even done that when I came home from the hospital - she insisted I eat at the table with my sisters like a Normal Person, even though she knew that it hurt me Down There to sit up for too long), and told me to eat up and put on my blue dress with the yellow collar that I had worn for school portraits back in September. Before I know it, we're in church. It'd been nine days - as soon as the bandage on my head was gone and my half-face wasn't as lumpy and purply-green and looked pretty much like everybody else's. I still had some bandaging on my ear, since the doctor had said I would have to have some surgery later on to make it look like a normal ear again. But once Mama put a hat on my head , you mostly couldn't see the gauze. I'd always thought that blue hat was so pretty, and she finally let me wear it - so that cheered my spirits a bit. It was also right around this time when Mama started letting me sit out on the porch again, and go get the mail or a pint of milk for baby Charles Calvin.

I was sitting in between Mama on my left, and Addie Loy on my right. Addie always wore this thick lavender perfume - The smell of her was making the start of a headache, right behind my nose. I kept thinking that, if I ever had the nerve to give her one of my famous back-handed compliments, it'd be something like, "My, Addie, don't you smell close." It's all in the tone with things like that. She'd be pleased that someone had noticed. The reverend has an irritating habit of rubbing on his wedding band while he speaks - he does it so much that, after a while, that's the only thing you can concentrate on. He was saying how you can choose your destiny, that we are all weak men (I may be weak, and I may not be beyond an A cup just yet, but I'm sure as hellfire not a man), and we can, indeed, must, choose between the wicked and the true, the vengeful and the peaceful. He spat a lot, trying to get out all that passion that was in there, I guess. He was waving his head like a turkey, saying how we sin because we choose to sin, and we as sinners must hide ourselves away, because we commit two sins, yes TWO, if we not only sin but also allow others to be influenced by our wicked ways. He said how God does not allow his lambs to fall far, far into the canyon of despair, but just enough to test our faith, and then right back out again so that we may witness to those equally as troubled as we of the Father's compassion and devotion and light to guide us, if only we choose to see that light with our whole hearts. Bad things happen, he said, because our hearts are closed - we bring the sins upon ourselves and become wicked, vile, unfit.


Sometimes it comes like a fog, creeping about me bit by bit until I all of a sudden see that I'm surrounded. But unlike fog or mist, it can't be waved or blown away - it hangs, cloying. It sticks to my eyes. The pressure is unbearable.

I've never been a pretty girl, though I've been told that I clean up nicely when I want to. I guess it would be hard to want more than that. There is a benefit to being plain at times. You can sneak up on life and only announce yourself when you are exactly prepared. Does wonders for men, too -- what man could resist a woman who changes right to beautiful and back again? The second he thinks he's got plain me, I turn and then blam. He can fall into lust right over again. blam. I am a hundred women and I pay my own way. And I just have to laugh, cause a lot of guys think they've found The Only True Pearl Left once I've whipped out that wallet. What a simple and amazing thing. Good thing the really beautiful ones never discovered my secret.

Do you know when I knew I was for certain and real in love with this one? It's when he took me over to his house and deposited me on his couch like so many groceries. And I sat there searching around -- I had never seen carpet so white and springy or ceilings so high, a fridge with no frost, black and white photography, sparse, modern furniture. No dust at all. I knew I could love a man who owned a house like that.

Eventually we got to bed, which was half unplanned, since I had forgotten my housekeys and had nowhere to stay till morning when the super would let me in. I had left those stupid keys just sitting right there on the counter -- I guess I get distracted a lot. So he offered, since any chivalrous man not insane would have done so, and even though he hadn't the boldness to so much as kiss my cheek earlier in the night, the darkness made him brave -- which is something I notice pretty regularly about men. I was there the whole time with my squirmy noises, scratching his back and marveling at just how high a cathedral ceiling actually is. And believe me, there was not a single cobweb in that room.

I've noticed that men actually prefer if you don't talk much to them, or at least use a lot of ambiguous phrases, I guess. This way they can project onto you the kind of woman you'd end up being if they were actually molding you from dough. The best thing is just to answer when asked. And always answer yes. You can talk with your eyes and moon at them, pretend they're handsome, fawn all over them, grabbing their arm and acting like your legs suddenly have no bones, as if your feet were bound and they were the only possible means of support strong enough to keep you off the ground. And keep your hands clasped on him like a big old crab.

If he starts being touchy or weird, just disappear on him. There are a thousand just like you -- he won't have a difficult time replacing you at all. But watch which bridges you burn -- the touchy ones usually end up being the better catch. They're hard to tolerate at times, but when they're apologetic, you can have damn near anything in the world if you'll just take them back, that one more time.

M This one's new. A week ago I met him and I've seen him four times; it would have been five but I wanted to be mysterious a little, you know how that goes. He's a sweet boy, a good eight years younger than I am and still all amazed at the world. But he's sorely mistaken if he thinks he's the love interest in this film for longer than six weeks, tops. I guess it's the difference between tv dinners and your very own mama's sensible, if mushy and grey, Sunday meal.

Those young boys taste different, all salt and cologne (something too expensive but with an edge of cheap), and semen somehow more bitter and slimier so it sticks, cloying, right at the top of your throat, for hours after.

Sometimes I just feel so disconnected from the world, and I simply hate everybody. And I don't think I'll ever come to comprehend real security. Trust. Calm.

I have never had calm. I imagine it's a time when everything in your gut and your ears just stops whirling, just for a moment. Like putting the conch shell to your ear and actually focusing enough to hear it - the swirling echo of the sea that's not really there.

I don't trust any of the men I see. It's something that I think a lot of women do, present a false trust - a trust that the world can touch and identify - but there's always a place deep inside - the genuine you, the pearl , that's never given over. That's the trick, then. Being able to present that pearl to someone and knowing with all your soul that they'll cherish it and take it on faith, and not stick it between their teeth to feel whether it's gritty with passion and the sticky coatings of time, they'll not put it between their pointy little teeth, possibly crushing it to bits. It takes years, decades to make a pearl. And only the one you can trust understands just how fragile something built up from layers can be. The pearl is the layer cake of the soul. But one loud bang, and it'll fall. You can't unfall a cake. Maybe you can prop it up with toothpicks, and from a distance it'll surely look like a solid and edible thing, but closer up, obviously the little nubs of wood are gonna be poking right through. That'll give you away every single time.


From the time I was old enough to wander around by myself, I would go into Hammond's Ma and Pop Shop in the afternoons, where they had a huge barrel full of whole dill pickles swimming in their own briny world. You don't find pickles like this just anywhere - these are pickles to consider - pickles you had to sit down to eat - preferably on the front steps on a sunny day. At Hammond's Ma and Pop they let you get your own pickle and trusted that you'd take it to the counter to pay for it. Strangely enough, I never knew anyone who stole any. I have friends who took scads of other things from Hammond's. Emmaline Swanson, one time, took an entire frozen chicken - stuck it up underneath her dress when old man Hammond was helping Emmaline's mama load their Rambler with groceries. I admit, me, myself, I've taken stupid things like penny bazooka and paddleballs from time to time. But it somehow seemed wrong to steal the pickles since the store was putting their trust in you like that. It made you want to own up, to bring a pickle to the counter just to prove that you were worthy.

This particular afternoon it was extra-hot out, hot like being directly in front of the fireplace so your face glows red, only there's no fireplace at all, just that angry sun making your head throb and your butt sweat. I'd gone to Hammond's cause Mama made me, and stayed longer than I should have because of the air conditioning. Eventually,I approached the counter and set down my stuff - milk for Baby Charles Calvin, three potatoes in a clear plastic bag, and my pickle - lying like a little sunbather in its white stiff cardboard holder. The Store Man was there - since school had ended for the summer it had always been the same man, whom I had taken to calling Store Man, at least in my own head. He looked exactly perfect - a clean, crisp apron and sparkly eyes that looked like they could remember a whole lot of prices without even looking. If I were making a movie and needed to cast a Store Man, he's who I would choose.

There are two kinds of respectable - mean respectable, like teachers who are nuns and you respect because you fear, and the other kind, like Store Man. If the Store Man came up to me and asked to borrow my entire life savings and promised to pay it back the very next week, I think I'd hand it over, no questions asked. Looking at him, you just knew he'd pay it back. That's more than I can say for most nuns I know of. I looked up at him as he looked down to see what I wanted to take out of the store. He grinned, like he just couldn't help himself. Like his whole day revolved around me showing up. I wondered how old he was - I've never been good at figuring age. He was one of those people who could have been 18 or 40, at least that's how he seemed to me. I'd always wanted to stop and talk to him, but I tend to make it a policy to scowl a lot in public and pretend I'm deaf. You wouldn't believe how much easier it makes things.

"Every time I turn around, it's you, getting pickles. What's with the pickles?"

"I would have to say," I leaned in close like it was mysterious and important, "That they're my weakness," I nodded my head, real small but in a confident way.

"Well, how about I start calling you Pickle Girl, then?"

"Only if I can call you Store Man," I said.

"Why don't you call me Wally instead?"

I have to admit, the moment he said his name, I had to force back little chuckles into the roof of my mouth and the insides of my cheeks. Was anyone really named that? Walleye, like the fish?

"I'm Missy," I said, trying to turn my mean laughter at the sound of his name into just a nice cordial smile of introduction.

"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Missy."

Wally stuck out his hand and it took me a second to realize that he wanted to shake mine. I'd seen men do that but never up close, and I had never seen a man shake a woman's hand before. I stuck mine out to meet his. He laughed softly, clasped my hand in both of his, dropped that hand and shook my right one. It seemed a little bit complicated to me, but I guess that was the part I'd always missed, never having witnessed the act all up close and personal.

It turned out that Wally was old man Hammond's son. Old man Hammond had had a stroke about a year before and so Wally was running things in his stead. He'd been in the Navy for six years and was honorably discharged two months ago, after some moron shot him in the foot while he was trying to clean his rifle. They'd had to amputate three of Wally's toes, so I guess they figured he wouldn't have been able to march so well after that.

While he was telling all this to me, every once in a while he'd wink, real quick, so that you couldn't even really be sure you hadn't imagined it. Every time he winked I got that roller coaster thing deep in my gut, like when I forget my spelling homework and I'm sitting there praying Mrs. Miller doesn't call on me, only a good twinge instead of a bad one. He had the best eyes I'd ever seen, blue like the blue that eggs turn when you color them, and sparkly like those candy ruby rings. Wally was twenty-four. I was smitten. To top it all, he had little dimples in his cheeks. Between the winking and the dimples appearing and vanishing, I was just plain transported. Even his name didn't seem stupid anymore. It seemed downright appropriate. I knew right that instant that there would be a lot more pickles in my future.

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