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She watched dusty Colorado speed by as the cruiser made its way into town. Thinking about the rats at the dump last night and about being in the same clothes she had on then. She lifted up her right arm and stuck her nose under her arm. Man, this was bad. Now she was going to be stuck in town all day with no car and smelly clothes and unwashed hair. Maybe she could scrape paint off the windows of the motel for a few bucks. She needed money for breakfast and money for a beer or two at lunch.
The thoughts just whirled around in her fogged mind. She didn’t think about why she had to call home. She knew why. Her father wanted her to come home. He wanted her to “face reality” and get a real job. He wanted her home with him where he could keep an eye on her and guide her in the “right direction” for a happier life. A life like his with a good job and responsibilities. She talked to him a few days ago from California. He begged her to come home. She refused and got mad and hung up angry.
The phone rang right back and it was her Dad again. “Phoebe, it’s your bag you will never be this free again, do what you want.” She said “Thanks Dad” and hung up. It was then, right there in LA, that she decided to go home. She would surprise him; she loved him for giving her that freedom. That’s all she ever wanted. Freedom to make up her own mind, to decide herself. He gave her in that one sentence, all she wanted. She had to stop off in Colorado for a few days before she headed East to home.
Oh man, I wish I were still asleep on that porch. She tried to think back to before the knock came on the door. What was that dream about? Maybe I could get a little sleep right here before we get into town. The people in the front seat are awful quite. Is everyone hung over today? How am I going to get back to the cabin? Will this cop chauffer me back? Shit, what do I care, I really just want to go back to sleep. I am going home tomorrow anyway; it’s going to be a big surprise.
Thinking back she couldn’t remember whether she fell asleep in the back of the cruiser or just went into a deep daze. The car came to an abrupt stop and shot her out of where ever she was. Meredith was turned around staring at her. “Phoebs” her friend said very slowly and with a sad face. Why is everyone so morose around here, she thought? God, get a grip, it’s a new day, we’re in the Rockies, and we’re at Rockys. “Huh, we’re at Rockys in the Rockies” she laughed sharing her funny thought with the group. No one laughed.
“I think I need to get a some coffee before this call is made.” She said to the ground while climbing out of the back seat onto the dirt drive in front of the stable. Her head slammed into the cop who was standing way to close to her door as she got out. He offered her a hand she didn’t take. She looked up at him he was not smiling. No one was, no one but her. Not odd, it was that way lots of times. Lots of times Phoebs thought things were funny and no one else did.
“No, no coffee, you need to call home right away.” The cop said to her still standing way to close. He blocked her from moving and Meredith just watched. This was just too weird for a Saturday morning. She peered around the uniform to see if she could catch the eye of a friend. Maybe someone wondering up the dirt street heading towards the Chuck Hole for a cup. The street was deserted. No one was up this early on a Saturday, or any day. Trapped by the big blue uniform she stared at the guns hanging in leather.
Still seating in the back seat with long legs out on the ground and staring up at the cop she thought of unsnapping that snap, pulling out the gun and holding it to the cops balls. She wanted to say, ‘A cup of coffee or I blow your balls off.’ She started laughing at how funny that would be, how funny that was, but she didn’t say a word. She just laughed. God, things were funny so much. Her family thought things were funny. If her Dad were there he would have laughed his ass off at that thought.
If her dad were there he would have laughed his ass off just knowing that was what she was thinking cause he would have been thinking the same thing. She laughed, pushed past the cop and thought that if it were her dad trying to call she would tell him how she almost blew the cops balls off for a cup of coffee, but not really, Just a thought. He would have laughed. She knew he would have. He loved her and he got her. He got what the problems were. He got why she didn’t get along with authority.
Ok, get past the cop and let him keep the balls and lets go make the call with no coffee. Giving in but who cares. Lets just get this over with. Rocky the Mayor was inside his office. He wasn’t laughing either. She said “Sorry to bother you so early…family stuff I guess. Nothing to worry about.” Meredith never took her eyes off her friend Phoebe. She stood close by almost holding her with out her arms, she didn’t want to alert her yet, get her all worked up. That was coming next. They all knew what was coming.
. “So who is looking for me?” Phoebs finally said. “Do I call home?” Meredith pressed her lips together and nodded her head as if she was in a slow motion movie. Everything and everybody was soon to enter the slow motion bad movie. “Call Home Phoebs.” Her friend said as if turned down to 33 rpm. She dialed the number that would forever be in her memory. That number would last in her brain longer then any number she ever knew. The day she died that number would repeat itself one more time before her brain turned off for good.
She stuck her forefinger in the dial holes and pulled up and around the black phone. Pulling her finger out when she reached the top she was mesmerized by the spinning back of the holes in the phone. A summer morning in 1968 in that office connected to the barn where the horses snorted and smacked the old wooden floor with their heavy hoofs and swung their tails wildly around their backs to rid the flies. On that morning she slowly dialed the numbers connecting her to home. The last number was 2, a short little pull around the top.
Why is everyone watching me, she thought? Meredith, the cop and Rocky stood there as if prepared to catch her if she fell. This was very weird she thought as she listened to the ringing of the phone 2,000 miles away in the kitchen on the farm. “Hello” a shaky voice answered. “Hey, whose this?” Phoeb said not recognizing the voice. “Deary, this is your Aunt Dean.” Aunt Betty was her Dad’s brother’s wife and crazy as a figgin’ loon. Phoebe always called her Betty, she had changed her name to Dean cause she thought it was classier or something.
“Betty?” This was a complete surprise. Why would crazy Betty be answering the phone in her kitchen? This was crazy. This was not making sense. “Its Dean, dear” “Betty, what’s going on?” “Dad’s gone.” “Ah? Your dad’s gone?” Phoebe thought this very strange, Betty had finally flipped completely inside out. “Where did he go Betty?” Not that she cared, she didn’t even know the old guy, thought he was dead anyway. She didn’t give a shit where he was going. “What’s the skinny here Betty?” she said louder now, trying to snap her crazy Aunt back to reality. “Jim’s gone?”
“Jim? You mean Dad? Were did he go?” Phoebe started to shake and the room started to spin. She felt the unbearable start to load up. “Your Dad is dead.” Phoebe just stood there with the phone to her ear for what seemed like forever. She tried her damndest to stop time, to reverse time, to stop all breathing and moving of every living thing on earth. She tried to make her Aunt Betty disappear from the phone, from her life. Phoebe’s heart stopped and her legs gave out. The phone fell and hung from its cord beside the table.
The morning swirled around her. The spinning air blurred the objects and the colors until everything was racing out of control. Wasn’t it odd that she was still standing with no legs? Was she standing? She couldn’t tell. Phoebe couldn’t feel where her body began or ended; there was no way of telling if her feet were on the ground, if she was alive or dead, if she was home or far away. She didn’t care at all. There was nothing anymore. She wanted to stay in this state forever, never knowing where she was. She didn’t want to know.
She could hear her friend’s soft voice; she could feel a hand stroking her back. Voices and hands from a world she didn’t want anything to do with. She was never going back to that world. If the voices would only stop and the hands would go away she could be in her own world. What did they see? She wondered. Did they see her on the floor? Phoebe did not want to pick her head up, ever. She could not stand to look at anyone. She would have to say something, have some verbal reaction. She couldn’t, not ever.
Maybe a minute went by, an hour; maybe a year went by, maybe even a lifetime, her lifetime anyway. A million lifetimes. Phoebe thought of that time line they showed you in school, the line with the life of the world on it. She thought about the end of it and the length of time human life was on this earth. A very short line. Is it over yet? I think its time enough, she thought., over now. Great, that was fun, long enough for anyone. She thought about her own lifeline. Nineteen years, I think I am done now.
“Phoebes… Phoebes” Meredith bent her head down low to try and see her friends face. She tried to hug her. It was like hugging a big ball. All that was visible was Phoebe’s back. Her head was down under her. Her knees pulled up under her back. She was trying to make herself really small, it wasn’t working. She felt really big. She felt like the room was closing in and she was gigantic. The other people were tiny and way down near the floor. God, she was in her room at home, big and pressed up against the ceiling.
How did she get big? She barely fit in the room, her back now pressed against the ceiling as she watched her friends down below. Meredith tried to comfort her but she just remained in a ball on the floor. This was getting weird. Was she down there on the floor in a ball or up here on the ceiling? Phoebe felt sorry for her friend Meredith. She felt responsible for Meredith’s confusion. She knew her friend didn’t know what to do with the situation. Phoebe felt selfish. She would stop having sad feelings, and then everybody would feel better.
She stood up and smiled. “I’m ok, really, I’m fine.” Her eyes so wet from tears she couldn’t see. The back of her hand moved all around her face spreading the tears. Rocky handed her a tissue. Rocky? Oh my god, he’s here too. How horrible for these people to see this pain in her. Meredith tried to hug her now that she was a normal size but Phoebe pulled away. “Don’t” she said through her smile…”Really, I’m fine. Hey Mere, lets go get some coffee, what happen to you last night, you just disappeared, how did you get home?”
“I walked home.” Meredith spoke low and slow. She leaned in close to Phoebes face trying to anticipate the next move this woman on the edge might make. “Oh, man Mere, that’s a long walk.” “Phoebe, do you want me to drive you to Denver, your going home now, right? Are you ok? What can I do?” “Mere, everything is fine, I’m ok. Really. Yes, I will go home.” For a second Phoebe forgot where home was. For a second she forgot what she was doing at Rocky’s place. Oh yeah, dear, yikes…hold it together, don’t freak these people out.
“I have to go home. My mother is going to be so freaked out about all this. I have to go take care of my mother.” Phoebe pictured her kitchen with her Mom and her brother and sister. Man, what a mess this was going to be. This was going to get very real when she got home. Her mother was going to be so messed up. What would be the reaction of her brother, her sister, all the relatives? She hoped none of them would try to console her. She didn’t need consoling and they would not understand that.
Phoebe pressed her shoulders back and jerked her chin up. Biting down on her teeth, her lips pressed tight she walked out of the dark room. Blinking eyes against the strong morning sun, the heat drying her tear streaked face she walked up the dirt road that ran down the middle of Grand Lake, Colorado. Phoebe could hear Meredith behind her. She wanted to be left alone but she knew her friend would follow. “Phoebe, stop, wait, where are you going?” Phoebe kept walking, walking, she thought maybe if could just walk fast enough she could walk her life backwards.
Meredith caught up, breathing hard and walking fast to keep a little ahead so she could see her friends face. She was out of breath but Phoebe didn’t seem to be breathing hard. She was just gliding down Main Street, those long legs springing out in front of her, one gigantic stride at a time. Meredith was used to her friend moving like this. Phoebe always moved as if there was something very important to attend to even if she was just crossing the street to the sunny side with no particular place to go. “Phoebe, where are you going?”
Phoebe was afraid to look at her friend or open her mouth. She was afraid that if she let her jaw loose it would create a chain reaction and her whole body and mind would fall apart. When she was twelve she had heavy silver braces put on her teeth. The Orthodontist made a mold of her mouth, crooked teeth, then two years later, perfect teeth. She remembered now how the two white copies of her mouth where sitting behind glass in the doctor’s office. The difference was so phenomenal it was displayed it for all prospective customers to see.
She held her mouth like that now. As if she was biting on that soft substance waiting for it to harden into the shape of her teeth, her mouth, her face, her whole body and soul. She would harden a mold she could live with. One she could exist with for the rest of her life. Phoebe veered a little to the left as she headed off the center of the street. Meredith knew then that they were going to The Chuck Hole for coffee. Phoebe stepped up onto the boardwalk that ran the length of this tiny mountain town.
She plowed through the door of the restaurant allowing the screen door to slam into Meredith. Meredith was used to this to. Phoebe turned around, and said “Sorry Mere” just like she did every morning when she slammed the screen door in her friends face. It was as if for a second everything was as it had been just yesterday. Phoebe even smiled a tad, sincerely sorry, as she always was. “It’s ok, Phoebe,” Meredith said as she placed her palm up to catch the door, just like she always did. Things were happening the same. How weird was that?
Phoebe felt the mold was beginning to harden and she could loosen her jaw, just a little. Things were starting to fall into their normal place. She was in the town she had spent all summer in; this was her friend following her into The Chuck Hole restaurant. Facing the familiar waitress behind the counter she swung her leg around the right of the swivel stool and lowered her skinny butt down onto the soft plastic. With the tip of her toes she moved her legs back and forth as her butt moved in the opposite direction of her knees.
Back and forth, back and forth she swung that swivel chair as she stared up at the breakfast menu. Her jaw tightened again. She felt the reality of her morning start to take over. The menu was a blur and the waitress behind the counter looked like she was on acid, her face became distorted and her teeth grew large and twisted. Phoebe bit down harder, wondering if anyone else noticed things weren’t the same as they usually were. The distorted waitress turned to grab the coffee pot. She placed two cups down in front of the girls and poured.
She just stood there staring at Phoebe. Knowing the ritual but never bored by it. Phoebe blew on her black coffee, mesmerized by the swirls she created with her breath. She waited long enough to not burn herself, took a sip and slowly placed the cup back in the saucer. Picking up the creamer with her right hand, a teaspoon with her left she filled the spoon with cream till only the surface tension kept it from overflowing. Shaking a bit but never spilling, Phoebe lifted the spoon to her mouth and drank the cream. She did this twice. Always.
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