*This is a companion to my first Friday Feature The Thank You Note
I am almost happy when I hear that California has fallen into the ocean.
You see, even though the idea of my evil stepmother suffering an agonizing death via act of God does fill me with glee, I still love my old man.
I can’t help it.
Yeah, maybe he wasn’t the kind of dad that threw balls in the yard with me or helped out with my Pine Wood Derby car back in Cub Scouts, but after mom died in that freak liposuction accident, he was all I had left.
I hated Candy from the first. We met her at the funeral home. It was one of those ridiculous silver plated places, but Mom’s posse of girlfriends wouldn’t hear of anything less. Candy was burying her third octogenarian ‘husband,’ a trio of tiny yappy dogs poking out of her purse.
Then she just conveniently showed up at mom’s funeral. I still remember her fawning over my mother’s outfit. That must have been what tipped her off to the family fortune. Either that or the yammering of Mom’s girlfriends. She was one of the girls from the start; that’s what happens when you all get high off the same nail polish fumes.
They were engaged less than two weeks later. Dad bought a yacht and began acting as if he were my little brother. We moved into her dead husband’s place. After all, while her husband was dying, she was working hard getting it just the way she wanted it.
At first, she ignored me. I was only thirteen then and I wasn’t exactly an attractive specimen: acne, braces, glasses, bad posture, a weight issue and no sense about things like deodorant. I miss those days.
When I was fifteen, I became an Eagle Scout. I liked scouting, but my dad just saw it as a notch on my college application. To him, Eagle Scout meant been there, done that. After my Court of Honor, he said:
“Kassidy, you’re a good kid. But I think it’s time you were more well-rounded. Why don’t you go out for the football team or something?”
Football? What did I know about football? I was more the camping and hiking type.
“Yeah, I think a varsity letter or two would be good for you. Maybe a little basketball and baseball in the off seasons.”
His meaning was clear. I’m going to give you hell until you fill college application notches one, two and three with sports. Even if he was too busy working and acting like an over stimulated twelve year old, I knew he’d make good. He always did that sort of thing.
The eighth grade robotics competition.
So anyway. I went out for sports. Not football because I’m not a miracle worker or a masochist. Or basketball. Or baseball. I went for the ones that were kind of a sure thing: cross country, rowing and . . . yell.
So can you hear the nail going into my coffin?
What can I really say? I got my varsity letters. My father got to check off his little boxes and brag to the boys at the yacht club. And yes, for a little while, the physical activity was good for me.
Braces came off, got contacts, experimented with soap.
I was even in talks with this girl in my English class. Life seemed pretty good.
And then . . . Candy tried to seduce me. Yup. She snuck into my room one night and tried to do this whole maternal thing.
How was your day?
Are you getting enough to eat?
Are your teachers nice?
How’s the homework going?
Any trouble with the car?
Do you have any weekend plans?
Are your friends good kids?
What do you think about sex with older women?
I don’t want to talk about what happened or didn’t happen. The whole thing just makes me feel so stupid. I mean, how many times has she actually tried to have a conversation with me? She’d never even been in my room before that day. The pool guy got more attention than I did. Probably because she was banging him.
And who wears lacy black lingerie to go talk to their stepson about school?
I keep asking myself how any of this could have happened. I mean, I was an honor student. I got decent test scores. I was on the freak’n honor roll since preschool. Doesn’t that mean that I have a few working brain cells?
I hate her.
I hate her so much that if Mother Frik’n Teresa stood between that woman and a gun placed in my hand, I would kill Mother Teresa to kill her.
I told her no. I don’t know if I can tell you how many times I said no. I should have locked the door and called the police. I have recorded the conversation. I should have escaped through my bedroom window. I should have told my dad.
But I didn’t. She hid pornos, date rape drugs and other paraphernalia in my room. She had the pool boy forge a bunch of erotic letters. She told my dad that I had orgies with the yell team. And what could I say about any of it? I looked like the worst kind of perv. There were naked pictures of her in my sock drawer.
Dad sent me off to a private military school. It’s nothing more than a conversion camp with push-ups. Last week they made a couple of guys do roman chairs all day with their hands duct taped to their knees because they were caught kissing.
They house me with the hardcore deviants. It’s like jail. My roommate boils down cough syrup and acetaminophen in my closet. I let him because he’s the kind of guy that wouldn’t think twice about killing me in my sleep.
My dad has ways of getting his point across. Don’t shame me. Or you will pay.
I always wanted to be that guy. I wanted to speak softly and carry a big stick. I wanted people to jump at the slightest raise of my eyebrow, to obsess over the drumming of my fingers. That’s what makes my father a great man. I still want to be a great man.
Did you hear the news? California has finally fallen into the ocean.
They say it was an earthquake.
No, it was a tsunami.
I heard it was a forest fire.
Or mudslides. Maybe the housing crisis? Drought? Rolling brown outs?
Naw. Bet it had something to do with hippies and marijuana. It was practically legal there, you know.
Almost forty million people died.
I smile at first.
Hysterical laughter convulses in my chest.
Under it, my legs give way, my stomach cramping into a small bouncing ball.
She’s dead! This must be what the Munchkins felt when a house landed on The Wicked Witch of the East. I could jump up and sing Disney songs forever. I want to cackle and scream: And your little dogs too. When I imagine sharks surrounding her bloated rotted out body, the cramping, convulsing laughter is so thick that I can not breathe.
But then . . . what about my dad? He is all I have left. I always thought that he would see me graduate from college, that he would be there when I got married, he would someday hold his first grandchild. He always seemed so big, so all-powerful, some sort of giant mighty superhero. Death couldn’t . . .
“Seymoure.” Before I can break, the principal is kneeling beside me. He slaps me hard across the cheeks because that sort of thing is allowed here. “Go wash up, Seymoure. Put on your dress uniform and be in my office in thirty seconds.”
I stand and do what he says. Is this how they tell kids that they are orphans now? I guess tact doesn’t really matter. There’s nothing to feel when your brain is as broken as mine. The same loop, the same thoughts come back over and over. But I don’t really know them. The knowledge is like a song I can almost hear through a brick wall.
My body feels cold as the principal talks to me. This is like someone else’s life. I must be watching TV or something. In a minute, there will be a commercial and I’ll get up to get a snack. I’ll change the channel to something better, something happier. Maybe there’s a special on scuba diving. I always did like the ocean.
“Seymoure? Hey! Snap out of it!”
“Your family. Everyone’s okay. They were out on their yacht, celebrating the adoption of your new sister. The whole state’s a mess, but they’re okay.”
“They want to talk to you. Your stepmom has been on hold for the last fifteen minutes.”
The principal gestures to a large monitor on the wall.
“Kassidyyyyyyyyy! Hiiiiii!” My stepmother’s face is on the television. The sound of her voice makes the speakers vibrate, her little dogs yipping in the background. She sounds a little tinnier, more digitized than she does in real life. My father is there in the background, a fishing pole in his hand. An olive-skinned girl with bleach blond hair wanders at the edge of the boat, swaying as if she were about to keel over. My hatred for Candy starts to come back like blood filling a sleeping limb. I set my face while she babbles.
“Who would have thought! The state of California is buoyant! We saw her go under water and then she just bobbed right back up like some kind of duck! Oh my gosh!!!!! Things are going to be so much better now! We live on an island! I’ve always dreamed of living on an island! I mean, hello? Talk about exotic!!!! Property values are going to be so much higher now and the water will be so much cleaner now that we’re away from the mainland! We can do whatever and the EPA won’t pitch a fit. Plus we won’t have immigration problems to worry about any more! The channel is too rough to swim. And guess what!!!! Disneyland just tweeted!!!! They’re back open for business already. I’m going to get you an annual pass!!!! Won’t that be great, Kassidy? Aren't I the best mom ever!!!! You can take your new adopted sister, Eva Lisa.”
I picture shooting her right through Mother Teresa’s sainted body.
I love you. Bam.
I'm bringing you home. Bam.
We’re going to be the perfect family. Bam. Bam. Bam.