A MULTIMEDIA DOCUMENTARY PROJECT ON THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION: THE LAST GENERATION TO REMEMBER A TIME WITHOUT THE INTERNET.
It had been over a week since Emily Warren had taken the morning-after pill.
She had never taken this particular form of contraception before. Emily was curious as to how much of her current discomfort could be attributed to the pill. Her stomach was cramping up, she had a headache and nausea—though it could all be chalked up to stress. It had been a long night in a series of long nights , that made up for a long month. The swollen breasts, she credited to the pill.
Angela, the teenager Emily had hired to babysit for the night, was sitting next to her in the passenger seat of the mini-van. Angela’s head hung slightly, she gazed ahead at the road solemnly. The bar had closed not long ago, and Emily knew that those who were driving on the road now were behind the wheel drunk. Wary of this, Emily drove slowly through town, cautious of every block.
The moon hovered alone in the dark, looking bright and handsome,They came to a stretch of town without streetlights, though the night sky was bright enough to make the alleys and yards visible.
like god's single tooth in a wide-open mouth.
Emily craned her neck forward to look out the top of the windshield. The moon hovered alone in the dark, looking bright and handsome, like god’s single tooth in a wide-open mouth.
“Look at that moon Angela.”
Angela looked above briefly. She nodded. Emily leaned back in the car seat. “Would you really want to miss that? A beautiful night.” Emily looked at Angela and then wished she hadn’t said anything.
Emily felt her stomach contracting painfully; tremors ran up her spine, and there was a cold pain in her shoulders. Hormones, she thought. I’m thirty-six and I just got around to taking the morning-after pill. Emily wanted to laugh. She had quit taking her regular birth control when Thomas had moved out. So when they reconciled, she was unprepared.
And now I’m driving my emotionally-disturbed babysitter home, she thought. Emily suppressed a smile. When I get home, Tom and me are going laugh about this, she thought, though Emily couldn’t say Tom’s name, not even in her head, without feeling the bitter sting that lingers after betrayal.
***Emily had had two serious boyfriends before Thomas. There was her boyfriend from high school, Jake, an athlete. Jake had been decent to her. He was a junior when Emily had been a freshman. Jake, a star linebacker, received a scholarship to Texas Tech that was later revoked for misconduct; he had been arrested on two accounts of indecent exposure.
Then there was Benjamin. Emily had Benjamin during her freshman year as a student at San Angelo State University. Benjamin was a musician, he waited tables, and his parents owned the house he lived in with three of his friends in San Angelo. Benjamin had been sweet, but untrue. She had not forgiven him.
There were other lovers, but none she gave herself fully to. They were something to do; a way to get out of the dorm. After her breakup with Benjamin, Emily had stopped looking forward to going to parties the same way she had when she was a freshman.
Then, there was Thomas. A graduate student, he was twenty-five. His friends adored him, and he was soft and easy with everyone he met. Thomas was also a musician, a true musician; he played
horns and keyboards, and was a student of music. Emily had met him once, at Benjamin’s house. Benjamin had wanted to recruit Thomas for his band, but over the course of the night had become jealous of Thomas’ celebrity. Emily had to console Benjamin, assuring him that Thomas was not the right man for his band. Emily was secretly enamored with Thomas, but forgot him without the constant reminder of his presence. It was several months after their first meeting—just weeks after her final break-up with Benjamin—when Emily was at her lowest that Thomas introduced himself to her. It was at a wrap party for a school play; Hamlet, re-imagined as having taken place in a post-apocalyptic world. Thomas had helped score the play, a fact that seemed to embarrass him.
She spent it with Thomas in the small town of Bronte, reading during the day, making love during his lunch break, drinking beer in the evenings and watching movies on VHS.Emily began sleeping at Thomas’s apartment. Thomas introduced Emily to pot. She found it made her horny. She moved out of her dorm and began living with Thomas. She did not tell her family this.
Thomas graduated, and began teaching at the
Coke County Juvenile Justice center, moving to the town of Bronte to do so. The summer of her sophomore year Emily didn’t go home. She spent it with Thomas in the small town of Bronte, reading during the day, making love during his lunch break, drinking beer in the evenings and watching movies on VHS. At the end of the summer, Thomas called Emily’s father on the phone and asked permission to marry her. Her father said it was fine with him.
The first two years of their marriage, they lived apart; Emily at school in San Angelo, and Thomas working in Bronte. It was then that they went into debt: calling long distance, Emily buying things on credit, the new car and Thomas’s student loans.
Emily had wanted a child, but Thomas insisted they hold off till Emily graduated college and till their debt was taken care of. Thomas took a job in Ballinger, Texas as the High School band director.
Emily had had her reservations about the move. Ballinger had just erected a giant cross on hill that over looked the town. Thomas didn’t believe in god, or at least in one that died on the cross. He had convinced Emily of this, though Emily still prayed through out the day. Emily worried they wouldn’t fit in with all the pious small town folk. She still had hopes of moving to Austin.
After Emily had graduated college, she finally moved in with Thomas. The move to Ballinger, and the house they were to mortgage, plunged them more into debt. Thomas studied many nights: marching band patterns and sheet music. Emily took a job at the First National Bank. All the while, the threat of bankruptcy loomed. The women at the bank seemed to like her and she was friendly with them. She would sometimes accompany Lana, one of the tellers, to bingo at the V.F.W. Her new friends would gently pressure her to join a church. Emily had called her mother to ask her what church she belonged to. Her mother told her they were Baptists. She began calling her mother more and more.
Emily had called her mother to ask her what church she belonged to. Her mother told her they were Baptists.First, for advice like how to cook a potato, or what to do when the pilot goes out on the stove. Then she began to call her mother just for the company. Soon, there wasn’t a night that went by without them speaking. Thomas bought cell phones for Emily, and her mother to cut down on the long distance phone bills. The cell phones felt like a luxury in those far away days when cell phones were considered restricted to those well-off, or the extremely busy.
The Warren household was a happy one. Thomas was popular with the students and, more importantly, their parents. He had taken the Ballinger marching band on to win district honors two years in a row.
But then, there was the scandal at the First National Bank when one of Emily’s supervisors accused her of stealing. Emily quit abruptly, her name tarnished in the community. Thomas worried that the accusations would ruin his high school career. There were fights in their home. It was eventually revealed that the supervisor was stealing, and the town forgave Emily—but her faith in community was lost. She had been upset at Thomas. He hadn’t stood up for her; not in the way she had wanted. Thomas had been too concerned with the way things looked, and in her heart, she felt that he had sided with the town rather than her. She never told Thomas this; she kept it in her mind and her heart, and when she eventually forgave him, she kept that to herself as well.
***She clung to Thomas more and more. It was the summer of 2002. Emily was now twenty-eight and she wanted a baby. Thomas promised they would have a baby soon enough; soon as the house was
paid for, soon as the bank is off our backs. We are not dumb rednecks having babies recklessly. If we do something, we do it right, he would say. Emily began cutting back on her expenses. She collected coupons, she stopped driving to San Angelo on the weekends to go shopping, and she took a job at a gift shop on the main street Ballinger. Thomas started playing fiddle and keyboards in a local Texas swing band. They performed shows outside of Ballinger at dances and holidays; he made extra money on weekends playing in bars. Emily went to the shows and would drink. During the breaks, Thomas would join her at a table and they would hold hands and laugh together.
Emily got pregnant at thirty. She gave birth to her son Daniel at thirty-one. Every mother she had spoken to had warned her how hard the first year was. For Emily, the first year was her greatest joy. It was when the child was two years of age he was diagnosed with Type One diabetes. Emily felt Thomas blamed her for Daniel’s affliction, though she also knew this thought was baseless.
At the age of four, it was necessary to give the boy daily injections of insulin. Thomas usually administered the injections, unless he was away at out-of-town football games. Sometimes Emily would travel with the high school band, and Daniel would sit on the laps of the students, and
the girls would fuss with him, and the boys would try to be his friend. Thomas would drive the school bus. Emily was happy to be around the students; she was happy to be sitting in the bleachers with her child, watching her husband conduct the fight songs. She was happy playing in the yard, watching her son as he discovered things that she had long forgotten: The strange eyes of grasshoppers, the sap on trees.
***Then, Thomas started getting moody. Their conversations became brief. He spent more time rehearsing with the swing band on the weekends. He began jogging in the early mornings, lifting weights with the football team at the high school gym. Emily felt that Thomas’s sudden interest in fitness was a way to goad her into losing weight. Emily began to resent him. I’m not that fat, she would say to herself. There was also that girl, she sang in swing band now. Her name was Rachel, and she was a hometown girl who had left and come back, living with her elderly mother, working as an accountant’s secretary in an office across the street from the courthouse. Emily began checking Thomas’s cell phone text messages, though she found nothing.
Then, one day, Thomas left home without signing
out of his email. Emily went through all the emails they had sent one another. Emily called Thomas while he was at work. There was a fight over the phone, and then Thomas came home and they fought more. Daniel was sent outside to play in the yard, when he had come back for supper, his father was gone.
Thomas had cheated and lied. After he had left Emily standing in the kitchen, he drove around town for several hours. He slept in his clothes in his office at the high school. He had called Rachel to tell her what had happened. Rachel became sick to her stomach.
“I just thought I should let you know what happened. Just so you’re prepared.”
“Prepared for what? Is she gonna try to kill me?”
“No. Just. It’s going be a shit storm for awhile.”
“Should I come over?”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Rachel knew that it was over; that he was going to stay with his wife. She only wished she could explain, explain that she was lonely. But that wasn’t it.
She wasn't lonely, no lonelier than anyone else.
She was vain, she knew that. She was living with her mother. She hadn’t wanted to move back to Ballinger, she didn’t like seeing her old high school friends with their water-headed babies and lackey husbands. She separated herself from them by singing in the band, by being on a stage, by carrying on an affair.
Rachel’s personality changed after the affair went public. She began to fear the people that came into the accountant’s office. She began shopping for her groceries outside of town.
In many ways, the weeks after Thomas left the house were not unlike those first two years of marriage, when he and Emily had lived apart in two separate towns. Emily and Thomas communicated throughout the day with text messages. They sent each other emails. These messages usually concerned Daniel. They were void of emotion; there was an almost surgical coldness to them.
Who would pick up Daniel? What foods are appropriate at what times of day? Who would give Daniel his shot? Initially, when Emily received an email from Thomas she would feel a rush of pain, as though her body had been dumped in ice water. But soon she grew accustomed to them. She even looked forward toThomas’s emails. A new routine was forming
between them, and its mechanical humdrum seemed to reinforce the numbness she felt. There were moments, however, where she longed to throw in a How are you doing? But she fought that impulse. She began to think her heart had died and that her body was just moving along without her. Daniel was there to remind her. To remind her that her heart was there, and that is was there for Daniel. She loved her son with a newfound urgency.
Thomas was living at the Budget Inn. He had worked out a deal with the owner, paying three hundred a month.Thomas was living at the Budget Inn. He had worked out a deal with the owner, paying three hundred a month. He quit jogging in the mornings; he still lifted weights with the football team. The coaches treated him kindly. One of the younger assistant coaches would stop by his room at the Budget Inn and they would drink together, watching college basketball on the television.
“It shore is a pickle,” the coach would tell him, “but I know what it is to stand in dem shoes, by god.” Thomas was never at ease with the assistant coach. He didn’t like how young he was. But they were able to talk basketball.
The swing band held out hopes that they would get back together some day. They tried to lure Thomas back to practices by claiming there were weddings and the Rowena street dance, all paying gigs, in the near future. Thomas was not remotely tempted to play music.
“You know, Rachel ain’t coming in no more,” they would tell him. Thomas told them he would need more time.
Airplane commercials,Thomas would pick up Daniel from school on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. He would take the boy to the high school where the drum section would look after him while Thomas conducted the orchestra. Daniel would sit in Thomas’ office, or sit in on drums. After practice they’d stand in the parking lot watching families pick up their kids, and they wouldn’t leave till every student had gone home. Then, Thomas would drive Daniel to the house he was no longer welcome in. Thomas would give the boy his injections in the car before sending him inside to his mother. He’s such a brave boy, thought Thomas. Then, back in his room he’d drink watered down vodka, watch television, sometimes crying in
commercials about paper towels, he didn't understand why these made him cry.
spells during commercials. Airplane commercials, commercials about paper towels, he didn’t understand why these made him cry.
***It was Lana, Emily’s friend from her days at First National, who suggested they go out. Emily hired Angela, one of the flag girls in the marching band, to babysit. Emily drank a beer as she rode with Lana to San Angelo. The drive took about an hour. They had dinner at the Olive Garden and went to a sports bar near the college. Lana believed Emily should divorce the son of a bitch.
“If he does it once, he’ll do it again,” was Lana’s belief.
“I just need time to think. That’s what we’re doing right now. Giving each other time to think.”
Emily found herself defending Thomas. They drank at the bar, which was near empty. They left for Ballinger around nine and pulled into town at nine. They stopped to have one more beer at the sports bar in Ballinger. She was drunk when Thomas walked in.
Thomas sat down in the chair across from her. Lana who was at the bar walked a beer over to Emily; she placed it in front of her, then walked
back to the bar.
“Who’s watching Daniel?”
“You didn’t want me to watch him?”
“I didn’t want you to know I was going out.”
Thomas nodded his head. There was a bout of silence between them before Thomas asked if she wanted to go somewhere to talk. Emily said sure, and she stood. Thomas grabbed Emily’s full beer from off the table and downed it. As he walked to the exit, he placed the empty bottle on the windowsill. Emily walked to the bar and told Lana thank you. Lana shook her head at Emily.
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” said Lana.
At the Budget Inn they made love. Emily exaggerated her moans: She wanted it to hurt. And afterwards, when Thomas lay on top of her, she thought of how much she enjoyed making love in hotels. Wondered why they didn’t take a trip somewhere and just screw their brains out in hotel rooms. Then she cried. She cried for a long time. Thomas got up and said they had to get going, to relieve the babysitter. Emily said she’d get ready.
Thomas parked the car on the street behind their mini van. Emily grabbed him by the hand. Come in, she said. Thomas dipped his head, he looked away briefly. Alright, he said. Angela was surprised to see them together. It made her feel confused, then happy. More than anything she was glad to be taken home. Emily paid her. She handed Angela two twenty-dollar bills, and Thomas said he’d drive her home.
Angela was navigating Thomas across the tracks, toward the outskirts of town. Thomas always felt that Angela was dumb. Now,he realized she was poor as well. When Thomas let Angela out in front of her house, he handed her an extra twenty.
“Thanks Mr. Warren.”
“Thank you, Angela.”
It was close to midnight; Thomas drove around the backstreets of Ballinger aimlessly. He was smoking a Camel cigarette. His headlights were cutting jagged shadows on the dilapidated yards of the poor. He finished his cigarette, and headed to the all-night convenience store for another pack. While purchasing his pack of cigarettes, a group of his students walked in the store. He felt a great shame being scene by minors buying cigarettes; he wanted to present them with a good example. Thomas wanted to walk by them and
tell them to not do as he does, but he decided against it.
“Hey, Mister Warren.”
“Hey there kids.” He walked away from them quickly, hearing their laughter behind him.
He pulled the car into the driveway. It had been several weeks since he had done this, and the feeling he got now was strange. He sat transfixed for a moment, staring at his house. Once inside, he turned off the living room light. He walked to his son’s bedroom and watched the boy sleep. He knelt down on one knee and petted the boy’s head. He kissed the boy’s forehead, and felt the boy’s hair brush against his nose. The boy smelt faintly of soap and lotion. Thomas stood, left the boy’s door open, and walked the hallway to Emily and his bedroom.
The room was clean, which surprised him. He sat on the end of the bed, and Emily sat up and placed her arms around him. She kissed his neck and his cheek. She helped him undress. Thomas asked if Daniel got his insulin, and Emily told him that he had. They made love again—this time, tenderly, with the lights off.
In the morning, Daniel sat on his father’s lap all through breakfast. They took the mini van on a
family outing to San Angelo. They bought Daniel a baseball glove and a few plastic toys; they loaded the van up with groceries. Emily walked across the parking lot toward the pharmacy. She approached the woman at the counter. The counter lady with her puckered face and parted yellow bangs would not sell Emily the morning-after pill. The woman walked to the back and got the pharmacist. It was the pharmacist who took Emily’s money, the counter lady scowling in the back. When Emily walked out, Thomas was giving Daniel his insulin shot in the van. She felt things might be okay. On the drive home she held Thomas’s hand. They looked at one another warmly.
Thomas moved his things back into the house. He did dishes, even cooked some meals. He took baths with her; he bought her a necklace, a bottle of tequila, European chocolates. And Emily bought lingerie, and, while Thomas still had a paid room at the Budget Inn, they would meet there and make love in front of the full body mirror. They would smoke marijuana that Thomas had bought off of one of the members of the swing band. Then they’d take a shower together.
They never spent the night, for they had to get back to Daniel, and now Thomas felt obligated to pay Angela sixty dollars for each babysitting after
he had over-compensated her the once. Thomas always wondered why, of all the potential babysitters, Emily chose Angela. He never found Angela to be all that bright and there were rumors going around the high school that she was loose. Thomas could care less if she were; he just worried she’d be using his house.
When they needed a babysitter, Thomas was glad they had her. Every day was hard now. He felt that at any moment Emily would lose it. After one particular episode of shouting, they decided to go on a date, a real date, not just screwing in a rented room.
They left Daniel with Angela and drove out to San Angelo to go to the movies. Thomas hoped for something intellectual and well-acted that would carry him away from his troubles for just an hour or two. Something they could hopefully talk about on the way home. Emily didn’t care what they saw. She just wanted to get through it. Every day had become a struggle for her, too; a struggle to keep it together, to not show any signs of hurt to Thomas. Though she hated herself for that, why couldn’t she fall apart? Had her heart not been broken? Wasn’t her heart still broken? Why did she have to be the strong one?
Emily told herself that she was trying, and Thomas seemed to be trying as well. That's what
she told herself. She told herself that these things happen, but no matter how many times she told herself this, there was an opposing voice that rose up in her, screaming, not to me, not to me you son of a bitch.
As they drove on to San Angelo, she calmed herself. She put on her brave face. She smiled at Thomas as he drove, sipping her diet coke from a straw and trying to think of something to say. Something he would want to hear.
They agreed to see the new Leo DiCaprio movie, they bought their tickets on-line printing them out on the schools computers. The show didn’t start till eight, so they drove around San Angelo and reminisced about their days as students. Emily mentioned her boyfriend Benjamin. How he had felt threatened by Thomas in those early years. Thomas laughed. He wanted to know all about it.
“He didn’t like that everyone liked you, that you could read music, that you were well-read.”
“I wasn’t well-read.”
“You were better-read than he was, I can assure you that. He just didn’t like that you were both musicians and that you were better looking than him.”
“I wonder what he’s doing now?”
“He called me, that second year of our marriage. Before we were living together.”
“He wanted to have lunch.”
“I bet he did.”
Emily looked at Thomas driving. His hands were tense on the wheel and she could see the long muscles in his forearms bulge.
“I had lunch with him.”
“Did you?” Thomas was cutting a U-turn in traffic, heading back toward the movie theater. “I hope he paid.” He said after awhile.
“He did.” Emily said looking out the window.
They pulled into the parking lot of the movie theater; there were no parking spaces next to the theater, so they drove around the strip mall, parking in the back next to a Pizza Hut. It was another twenty minutes till the movie started, but people were already lined up. “I didn’t realize it was opening night,” said Thomas.
“Neither did I,” said Emily.
“I’ve never been to a movie on opening night.”
They made there way to the end of the line. They were holding hands as they walked. At the end of the line were teenagers yelling at one another. Some college kids with tanned faces and tight clothing. Emily stood in front of Thomas and he pulled her close to him, her ass pressed against his loins. Thomas put his hand around her waist and began necking her.
“You stop.” Thomas put his hand in front of her crotch. Emily turned around quickly and kissed him.
“You want a hand job in the theater, is that it?”
Thomas laughed. He thought about her offer, but knew he wasn’t going to press it. They gave their tickets to the man in the ticket booth. He explained to them that they only had to buy their tickets at the booth, that the doorman would take their tickets. They apologized. The man looked mildly upset.
“You just stand’ded in line fer nuthin’,” he remarked.
They laughed as they walked through the glass doors into the lobby of the theater. Thomas handed the tickets to the usher. The usher instructed them that their show was on Screen Two.
Emily was the one who saw her first. Thomas felt something was wrong, asking, “What is it?” He pulled Emily to the side so that others could enter the theater, then looked to where she was looking. Rachel was standing at the concession stand. She was standing next to the assistant coach who was buying them popcorn and soda. Rachel looked over shoulder and she saw them. Her eyes grew large in her skull. The assistant coach turned to see them. He too looked stunned. Thomas felt the slightest bang of jealousy when he saw that Rachel and the assistant coach were there together. That son of a bitch, he thought.
“There she is Tom. You want me to leave you two alone?”
“Well. What’s stopping ya. She’s right there, Tom.”
Thomas grabbed Emily by the arm, pressing his thumb deep into her flesh and spinning her around so that they faced the crowd outside.
“Do not make a scene. You’ll regret it.”
“You’ll be the one regretting it.”
Emily shook free of Thomas’ grip. Later, she would have a bruise on the inside of her bicep, not knowing how it got there.
“I’m not going in there.”
“You want to get outta here?”
“Well I’m not going to a movie now. Not with her sitting in there. Fuck, Tom, how could you?”
“Fine. We won’t see a movie. We’ll go home then.”
Only they didn’t go home. They drove around San Angelo while Emily cried. Emily suggested they get a drink and talk. They went to their old bar, the one next to the college. The place was empty, and though there was daylight outside, the bar itself was dark. They sat at a corner table parallel to the bar. Emily drank vodka and soda. Thomas was drinking a double of whiskey and a beer.
“I can’t defend myself. What do you want me to say?”
“I just want to understand how you could do it. How could you do this to me? You must… hate me.”
“I don’t hate you.”
“What about Daniel? How could you do this to Daniel?”
“I love Daniel more than anything. You know that. This wasn’t about you or Daniel. It was about me. It’s nobody’s fault but mine. ”
“So Daniel and I got to suffer ‘cause of your sorry cock? That’s not good enough. Tell me everything.
It was an excuse, and Emily resented him for it. She wanted more than an apology.Thomas told Emily everything. Everything, as he choose to remember it. He tried to explain what he was feeling. Then he gave everything up and admitted himself to be a son of a bitch. He wallowed in self-deprecation. But even this was hardly an apology. It was an excuse, and Emily resented him for it. She wanted more than an apology. She wanted a pound of flesh.
She wanted a pound of flesh.
“Do you want to move on?” Thomas asked.
“Haven’t you already?”
“No. I mean. Do you want us to move on? Together.”
“Then let’s move on. You have got to forgive me.”
“You haven’t said you were sorry.”
“I’ve said I was sorry. I am sorry.”
“You want me to forgive you. Just like that. Then what? You haven’t learned anything. You’ve haven’t paid for anything. What if I never came back?”
“I’m the one that left.”
Emily slapped him in the face. She stood halfway in her chair and punched him several times. She opened up his lip and blood ran down his chin. Thomas held up his hand. She stopped and sat down. The bartender was waiting for Thomas to hit her back. That way, he could do something. But Thomas never hit her back, and so he stood there, waiting.
“I’m sorry,” Emily said. Thomas wiped his blood on a napkin. He said he was sorry too.
Before they left San Angelo for home, they stopped at the Sonic drive-thru for burgers and onion rings. The carhop handed over the food, and when she did, she asked, ”Is everything alright in there?” When the carhop had left, Thomas imitated her, saying is everyting awwrieght in der? He continued mocking the carhop when Emily started laughing. Soon, he had her laughing so hard she was holding her sides. He was laughing too. They became hysterical. People in neighboring cars began to point at them and that only made them laugh more. After their fit of laughter they kissed.
“Do you love me?”
“You just want to pretend it didn’t happen? Is that what you want to do?”
“I just know the more we talk about it the more it takes away from us.”
“You’ve already taken everything from us. Don’t you see that?”
Thomas let his head fall, his chin resting above his collarbone. He began to cry.
Emily felt that this was progress. She wrapped him in her arms and patted him on the back.
They drove home in good spirits, laughing a lot, and talking honestly about who they were. Thomas felt a great unloading and Emily felt a greater wealth. Thomas agreed to apologize to Emily’s mother. Emily knew, however, that the spell wouldn’t last; that it was going to be a battle. It is a young heart that is unforgiving, she thought, once you’re older, love is nothing but forgiving. But what if anything is unforgivable? She knew she would never trust Thomas again. She knew they would fall back into the repetitions of their lives, but that things would never be as they were. She wondered how to go about getting a divorce. Then she wondered where she and Daniel would live.
For that moment, though, they were happy as they pulled into the driveway. Thomas left the car running and they walked into the house together to gather Angela and take her home. They saw Daniel on the living room floor, his toys scattered about the room. There was a DVD of a Disney cartoon on the computer, and he was staring up at it from the floor.
Emily picked the boy up and held him.
“What are you doing up?” she asked.
She kissed Daniel’s cheek; Daniel turned his head to greet her. “Where is Angela?” Thomas asked.
“Angela. Time to head home!” called Thomas.
Thomas checked the guest bathroom, and Daniel’s room. Walking through the hall, he shrugged his shoulders at Emily.
“I don’t know where she’s gone to,” he said. Emily walked to the bedroom. The door to their bathroom was locked. She knocked on the door. She called to Angela from behind the door and waited for a response.
She walked back to the hallway and called for Thomas. Thomas walked with her to the bedroom. He too knocked on the bathroom door. They waited, looking at each other curiously, then he knocked louder. It was decided he was to break the door open, which he did after two attempts.
Angela was on the floor. She looked unconscious. Daniel’s syringe was in her arm.Thomas instructed Emily not to touch her, to call an ambulance. What kind of a crazy bitch kills herself babysitting, he thought, more angry than concerned. He pulled the needle out of her arm and held it to the light. There was a transparent liquid inside. He broke the syringe and poured the little bit of liquid in his hand. Then he smelled
his hand. He looked around the bathroom. Thomas found the plastic bottles of bathroom cleaning supplies standing under the sink. Inspecting them, he found the little holes where Angela had punctured each bottle with the syringe.
“Angela, stand up.”
Emily ran into the bathroom. Thomas instructed her to call off the ambulance. Emily was scared. “Why?” she asked.
“Angela injected herself with bathroom chemicals.”
“Oh my god.”
“But what Angela here failed to realize is that this here is all organic. There’s no poison in this, Angela. It says so right on the label. Non-Poisonous. Look here. You can’t kill yourself with this. We don’t keep poison in this house on account of Daniel.”
“Thank heavens,” said Emily.
Angela began to squirm on the ground. Her face looked like it had been pinched as she began to whine loudly. Emily went to her, saying, there there. By the looks of her, there didn’t seem to be
anything physically wrong with Angela. They called the town doctor anyway. While waiting for the doctor to arrive, Thomas and Emily discussed how to tell Angela’s parents. They looked on as Daniel and Angela watched DVDs on the computer screen. It was decided that Emily would tell the parents.
“That’s the last time she’s babysitting.”
“We can’t cut her loose, Thomas.”
“Why the hell not?”
“'Cause she needs us now.”
The doctor came in with his leather bag of medical instruments. He flashed a light in Angela’s eyes. He checked her blood pressure. The doctor had Thomas go get the bottle of the cleaning product she had injected. He read the label and declared she’d be fine.
“That is no way to solve a problem,” the doctor told her.
***“If you’re having problems at home you can tell me. You don’t have to say anything now. I just want you to know that you can. Thomas, I mean, Mr. Warren and I love you very much. We are not mad at you. We just want you to be alright.”
Emily was driving along the backstreets of Ballinger. She turned right on N. Broadway and could see the giant cross in the distance. She didn’t want to take Angela home; she wanted to keep her in sight. Unlike Thomas, she was concerned the girl might make another attempt on her life. Emily took a right on Hutchings Ave and headed for the Dairy Queen. Emily was glad to see that the Dairy Queen hadn’t quite closed for the night. They were mopping the floors but the lights were still on.
She drove around to the drive-thru window. There was a man mopping the floor with his back to them. Emily saw him look over his shoulders and she waved idiotically to him. She could tell he had just said a swear word of some kind. He leaned his mop against the counter and walked toward them. He opened the window and faced
them. He looked too old too be working at a fast food restaurant. Emily wondered if he might be simple.
“We’re closed Ma’me.”
“We just want some ice cream.”
“Our blizzard machine is busted.”
“What do you have?”
“I can make you a dip cone.”
Emily bought two dip cones: vanilla ice cream dipped in melted chocolate. The man held them out to her.
She had enacted a strict diet, and had already eaten fast food for dinner, but it's not everyday your babysitter tries to kill herself.“Der ya go.” he said. Emily regretted buying herself an ice cream. She had enacted a strict diet, and had already eaten fast food for dinner, but it’s not everyday your babysitter tries to kill herself. Besides, the ice cream seemed to calm the cramping. Emily drove out of the parking lot, and, back on the road, cruised around slowly.
She followed the main drag heading out of town. She drove out of city limits.
“Was it a boy?” Emily looked over at Angela. Angela was licking the side of the ice cream. She shook her head no.
“I sure hope it wasn’t a boy.”
Emily pulled the mini van around and they began heading back to town. There wasn’t any traffic and outside the air was hot. Soon, she’d be in Angela’s home explaining to her parents what had happened. They would offer her coffee. Kids these days, the mother would say, they don’t know they got so much to live for. Emily would drink the cup of coffee. No they sure don’t, she would say.
A former oil field worker in Marfa, Texas, Zane was an aspiring musician that moved to New York City to pursue his dream. After publishing music on Fortnight, rock star Patti Smith responded to him onstage at the Fortnight benefit concert. As a result, Zane has developed a steady fan base and extensive press for his work.