Actually, I was writing a book. Approximately 2,000 words a week, every week, up until the day I found out my husband was seriously abusing prescription medications. I had written approximately 22,000 words when I stopped. Once the divorce got rolling, I put away my book, because I didn't want to contaminate it with what I was going through.
That was November 2, 2009, and I haven't touched it since.
Actually, my crazy life/divorce was the reason I started this blog in the first place. I absolutely love to write, and I wanted to stay in practice so I decided to take a page from my friend Amy, and start a blog.
But I miss my book. I miss Beauregard, Georgia (pop. 2386). I miss Ginny and Gus. Gus has a severe case of ADHD, but depending upon the outcome of his ASD evaluation on Wednesday, Gus may end up with a diagnosis of Asperger's. Or PDD-NOS. Or simply Generalized Anxiety Disorder with a side of Oppositional Defiant Disorder thrown in for good measure. I also miss Nana Jane, Grumpy Bob, Cosey, and Paul Westerveldt. I miss Aunt Marcia, Jeffrey and Sonia, and Uncle Rick, with his belt made out of 309 aluminum recovery coins. So I'm going to share them with you, in the hopes that I will become motivated enough to actually finish/improve/burn this book.
It's been suggested that Ginny's vocabulary is much too formal and advanced for a girl of 13, so she may end up with Asperger's, and Gus will remain ADHD.
So here it is. And yes, I know it probably sucks. But here it is anyway. And yes, I've used real-life examples in my book.
The Evolution of Ginny Brandt
evolution: \,e-vә-‘lü-shәn (n.)
a: a process of change in a certain direction: UNFOLDING
b: the action or an instance of forming and giving something off: EMMISSION
c: a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state: GROWTH
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see an individual being; entirely complete and utterly unique in thought, form and sensibility?
Here is what I see. I see that this moment in time, this moment right now, is simply a cross-section of our lives, placed under a microscope and magnified 100 times. People come into our lives; family and friends, teachers and bosses, neighbors and acquaintances, co-workers and classmates, lovers and criminals and enemies.
These individuals come into our world for a period of time, and then one day they are gone; leaving behind the tangible and intangible evidence of their love, the emotional or physical fingerprints of their crimes, the aftermath of their self absorption and the throat tightening ache of their absence.
Regardless of whom they are, or how long they are a part of our lives, the proof of their existence will always be with us, right down to the bitter end. Their stamp will evidence itself in a hundred different ways, and will color our interactions every day of our lives.
The harshness we impose on ourselves and others, the desperate need for external validation, or the never-ending search for the perfect partner. We are, all of us, made up of a thousand different people, most of whom are not of our own choosing.
So what do you do on the morning you wake up, and realize that the unique and whole person you thought you were is, in fact, the sum total of everyone you have ever known; reflected crazily in the jagged pieces of a fractured mirror?
It’s the last week of school, and I’m standing outside of
at on a Friday afternoon, waiting for my little brother to appear. Walking Gus home from school was added to my list of duties the day he and Jason Lee decided to set Jason’s mom’s lawn on fire this past April. Jefferson Davis Consolidated School
Gus is seven, and has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD, better known as perpetual-pain-in-my-ass-syndrome.
Jason Lee’s mom is the town gardener extraordinaire, and she has won the prestigious Magnolia Award four years in a row for her fabulous gardens, all proudly grown without the aid of chemical pesticides or herbicides.
Japanese maples, black iris, lilies, orchids and poppies; her lush, ecologically conscientious gardens were even featured in the previous year’s June edition of the Beauregard Bazaar. The Magnolia Award is sponsored by the Beauregard Ladies’ Gardening Guild, which is a very exclusive committee that hasn’t admitted a new member in more than nine years.
Mrs. Lee prides herself on her creative landscaping, and she looks down her dainty nose at those who rely on synthetic plant boosters. She has been known to corner neighbors, whose only crime had been to comment on her lovely gardens, and tirelessly discuss the pros of eggshells, coffee grounds, stale bread and vegetable peelings.
It got to the point at which even her friends would cross the street when they saw her coming, just to avoid having to make conversation that would inevitably turn to chemicals versus compost. People really got fed up with Mrs. Lee after she won her forth Magnolia Award, and there was a rumor circulating that she had her plants flown in from a hothouse in
, and simply passed them off as her own. New York
Jason’s mom had a cottonwood tree in her front yard, and it went into bloom, as it always does, at the beginning of April. The cottonwood blossoms floated down, as they always do, and covered Mrs. Lee’s immaculate green lawn in a thick coating of white fluff two inches deep.
Nothing new so far, except this past year my parents had decided to try a homeopathic remedy for Gus’ ADHD, something my mom heard about on Oprah, I think. So anyway, my under-medicated brother went over to Jason Lee’s house one day after school, saw the layer of cottonwood blossoms on Mr. and Mrs. Lee’s yard and his hamster brain kicked into overdrive.
From what Officer Johnson and Fire Chief Duggar were later able to piece together, Jason was sweet talked into getting his dad’s Zippo out of the kitchen drawer by my brother. Gus has all the charisma and persuasive powers of Charles Manson, the good intentions of a premier motivational speaker and the destructive ability of an F-5 tornado.
So Jason handed this weapon of destruction over to my brother, who proceeded to light up the edge of the cottonwood blanket, and WHOOSH, up went the entire yard, as if it had been soaked in gasoline; the fire decimated the lawn from front to back in a straight line, like Moses parting one side of the Red Sea. Turned out Mrs. Lee had just had her lawn chemically treated, and not for the first time, either. Her lawn and gardens had been the unfortunate victims of a recent jimson weed takeover, and poor Mrs. Lee was forced to subvert her conscience and rely on a chemical arsenal of pesticides, applied in total secrecy.
So my parents had to pay Mr. and Mrs. Lee for the cost of a new lawn, the Beauregard Bazaar was forced to run a retraction column about Mrs. Lee’s “green” gardens, Gus was brought home by the police, and I got stuck walking him home every day after school.
My family moved to Beauregard
, pop. 2386, from Georgia six years ago. The move was prompted by a late-night phone call from Nana Jane, threatening to do murderous harm to my grandfather, Grumpy Bob, after he’d driven off to Chicago in her Volvo for the third time with his Jamaican home healthcare nurse, Cosey. Savannah
Unfortunately for my grandfather, gambling is illegal in the state of Georgia, but Grumpy Bob had apparently discovered that nearby Savannah had a gambling boat that would take him three miles into international waters, where gambling was legal. Each time he wanted to gamble, Cosey had to go along as both the driver and provider of oxygen and fentanyl patches.
Mom and Dad were used to the middle of the night phone calls complaining about Grumpy Bob, but apparently this time Nana Jane had a viable plan for snuffing out Grumpy Bob’s life, and she assured my parents she would willingly do the prison time. So, we moved down here, Grumpy Bob moved into the
and Cosey moved back to Ocho Rios. Now she makes a living wandering the resort beaches and offering to braid the tourists’ hair. She sent us a postcard last year and said she’d netted $34,500 for the fiscal year. Not bad. Beauregard Senior Assisted Living Center
Upon arriving in Beauregard, I was enrolled at Jefferson Davis Consolidated, which is where every kid in Beauregard between the ages of five and fourteen attends school. Since the town is so small, they only need two schools, Jefferson Davis, which is K-8, and the high school. Gus started at J.D. two years ago, and I have to say, after having experienced the public school system of Chicago, which boasts 666 elementary and high schools, it was a step down to be going to the same school as my five year old brother, but I don’t see him much. The upper grades are released at and the lower grades get out at .
My mom’s younger sister, Aunt Marcia, lives about 60 miles from us, also in
. She’s the coolest adult I know. She comes to visit about once a month, and we have “spa days” at “Bonnie’s Hair You Are”, which is the only beauty shop in a 28 mile radius. Spa days at Bonnie’s consist of a manicure given by her elderly mother-in-law, Mrs. Ruth. Savannah
Mrs. Ruth’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be, and her hands tremble from Parkinson’s, so Aunt Marcia and I usually just opt for a buff and a clear gloss. Mrs. Ruth also did pedicures at one time, but she quit doing them when she accidentally cut one of her customers with a callous remover.
Needless to say, spa days at Bonnie’s are always an adventure. After our spa day, Aunt Marcia and I go for lunch in town, then head for home.
Beauregard’s only restaurant in town is the Dairy Queen Brazier owned by an ultra-Christian husband and wife team who plaster bizarre religious sayings on their marquee, right underneath the special of the week. For instance, last week it was “celebrate grads and Dads with a personalized DQ cake...Jesus died for your sins, have you thanked him lately?” They actually own their store; it’s not a franchise, so they can pretty much do what they want.
They also train the employees to witness to customers at the cash register; “Would you like fries with that, and, um, do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” Unfortunately, it’s the only place in town where people can go to get ice cream or a quick meal out, so they have to put up with the witnessing if they want their food.
Things kind of got out of hand last week when one of the newer employees, Joseph Bender, “jumped up for Jesus”, as they like to say at the D.Q. Apparently Joseph was trying to lead a stray lamb back to the Lord. The stray lamb appeared in the form of Mr. Gusset, the boy’s P.E. and football coach, who also happens to have held several high school wrestling titles back in the day.
According to eye witness accounts, Joseph started earnestly witnessing to Coach Gusset, but Coach just wasn’t in the mood. Coach Gusset turned to walk away when Joseph leaped over the counter and tackled him, knocking Coach Gusset to the floor.
Information gets pretty hazy on the next part, but it seems Joseph started speaking in tongues and calling the devil out of Coach Gusset, urging Coach to repent of his wicked ways, while Coach’s Cookies ’n Cream Blizzard lay melting on the floor. Coach drove his head into Joseph’s gut, simultaneously brought his hands behind Joseph’s knees, pulled in and brought Joseph to the floor. A flawless double leg takedown, perfectly executed. The put-upon townspeople applauded and Coach was treated to a week’s worth of free Blizzards by the restaurant owners, in exchange for the promise that he wouldn’t press charges.
I snap out of my reverie as I hear the 3:15 primary school bell ring; I look up to see Gus racing out of the school’s double doors, his curly blonde head reflecting the light of the sweltering Georgia sun.
“Ginny!” he shouts, bounding toward me like Tigger on crack. I take a deep breath and brace myself, attempting to remain on my feet during what I know is coming next. He tackles me, nearly knocking me down in his rush to give me all the love he’s been forced by the formal educational system to withhold all day. “Giinnnnyyyy!”
“Gus! Chill it, will you? You’re embarrassing me! You just saw me this morning!” I whisper hoarsely to him, furtively looking around to see if anyone has noticed this humiliating attack upon my person. I am awkward, as only a 13-going-on-14 year old girl can be, and Gus is oblivious, as usual, to typical social expectations. He takes my hand as we begin to walk toward home.
We walk a few steps in silence, before Gus announces, “Randy Serg went retarded today. His mom called in for him.”
I freeze in my tracks, and Gus stumbles and nearly falls as a result.
“What? You can’t say retarded, it’s rude!” I screech.
“Well, that’s what Mrs. Tucker told our teacher on the intercom today. ‘Mrs. Anderson, Randy won’t be in class this morning, his mother called and said he’s gone retarded’”, my brother mimics perfectly, right down to the prissy way Mrs. Tucker purses her lips during announcements. He tugs at my hand and I reluctantly fall into step with him. This I have got to hear.
“So what did everyone say?” I question, morbidly curious, the way passersby are curious about a three car pileup as they drive by it.
“Nothing, that’s the weird part, they acted like Mrs. Tucker didn’t say anything about Randy going retarded.”
Silence. I don’t know what to say.
Gus chatters on, “so, at recess I told everyone we need to be extra nice to Randy when he comes back to school, cuz, you know, he probably forgot how to add and stuff. Joey Morgan is in charge of counting out Randy’s lunch money every day, and Suzy Walker is going to push him in his wheelchair.”
I am speechless. I glance at Gus out of the corner of my eye, waiting for the punch line, but it doesn’t come. We continue walking and Gus’ forehead puckers up. “Ginny? What if I go retarded? I mean, I never knew you could just go retarded....”
“Will you please stop saying ‘go retarded’?”
“Ok, ok! I mean, what if I just wake up one morning and I’m retarded? Will Mom have to call me in retarded, like if I was sick?”
“I doubt very much that Randy Serg woke up retarded this morning!” I snap. I can’t believe I am having this conversation.
“But Mrs. Tucker said! Do you think he’ll...?”
Just then, a slender kid about my brother’s age comes running up to us. He is wearing jeans, sneakers and a striped shirt, and he has short brown hair and round glasses. He seems out of breath as he nears us.
“Ginny! That’s him! That’s Randy Serg!” my brother exclaims in a loud stage whisper.
“Gus, did you tell everybody I was retarded?” the boy demands, ignoring me as he shields his eyes against the sun.
“Yesss?” comes my brother’s dubious reply. He seems somewhat taken aback by Randy’s verbal skills and mobility. “But can he still do math?” I can almost hear my brother wondering to himself.
“Why?” exclaims Randy, looking bewildered and upset.
“Cuz Mrs. Tucker came in over the loudspeaker and told us.” Gus replies slowly, enunciating every word for Randy’s benefit.
“Mrs. Tucker told you I was retarded?” the other boy asks in disbelief.
“Yup. She said ‘Randy Serg’s mother phoned and said he won’t be in class this morning, he’s gone retarded.” My brother repeats firmly.
I wince, but say nothing.
Randy closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, in through his nose and out through his mouth. Then he lowers his head and pinches the bridge of his nose for several seconds. He has apparently had dealings with my brother before.
“Not retarded, you idiot! Tardy! My mom called the school and said I was going to be tardy!”
“I had to go to the dentist,” he explains to me.
I nod politely, fascinated by the exchange.
Understanding lights up my brother’s face. “Ohhhh! Well, I’m glad you didn’t go....” he stops himself and glances up at me. He begins again. “Well, I’m glad you’re ok, I....”
Just then, a group of 2nd graders, five or six in all, see us and run over.
“Randy! Gus told us you went retarded, I’m going to push you in your wheelchair!” exclaims a cheerfully overweight girl wearing a t-shirt that proclaims, “Conceive It, Believe It, Achieve It!”
She appears oblivious to the fact that: A.) Randy isn’t in a wheelchair, and B.) Having a cognitive deficit does not automatically necessitate the need for alternative modes of transportation.
Randy rolls his eyes. “I’M NOT RETARDED!” he shouts over the din of his excessively helpful and excited classmates.
Gus tugs at my hand, “Ginny? Do you think we could stop at the D.Q. on the way home?” he asks.
I sigh. The last place I want to be is the D.Q., for several reasons, but I know I’m fighting a losing battle when it means coming between Gus and ice cream. It’s easier to just give in on this one, and he knows it.
Gus smells a victory. “Yay!” he exclaims before I even agree. I shake my head in resignation. We turn south on
Elm street and quickly cover the three blocks between the school and the D.Q.
I pause at the double doors leading to the inside of the eatery, contemplating just giving Gus the money for his ice cream while I wait outside for him. No, that’s the coward’s way out. I heave a breath and pull open the door leading inside.
Just before I herd Gus inside, I glance up at the marquee. “You don’t have to be brain dead to live for Jesus, but when you are, you’ll be glad you did! – Cherry Cheesecake Blizzards 2 for $1.99.” What?? I shake my head in disbelief, and we head through the doors, still hand in hand.