Slate – One of the Rejects

Here’s one of the stories that spent two years with me, making it all the way to the final, final round of cuts, and then, for better or worse, got the axe. The artwork, like all of the artwork in the collection, is by the talented Kara Hemsworth, and all of the artwork in the collection is available for purchase in full color, photo quality prints through Kara’s website and through the book’s website.

If you like what you read here, remember, this is a story that didn’t make it. When it All Went to Hell to purchase the book.

 

SLATE

 

My new room was all the way over on the other wing, next to Martin’s room. Martin was my fourteen-year-old brother who, since turning fourteen in April, acted exactly like a fourteen- year-old brother. Whatever he’d been going through in the past year was ungodly, I swear I could’ve called the exterminator like a bagillion times, and the exterminator could have shot martin with all the tranquilizers in his rifle, and the wound-up, horny little shit would have just kept on Red-Bulling around the house. Testosterone does ridiculous things to boys. It should be freaking outlawed.

All my stuff from the old house (where we’d really experienced our childhoods), the farmhouse that mom and dad had bought when they were in their early thirties that sat on a lush acre of land, was still in boxes that stacked from the entrance to my room all across the left wall. The new walls were white. The carpet was white. The whole freaking house was white – the kitchen, appliances, the blinds and trim, all the doors, and even the paint on the outside of the house. Mom said that she thought the new house looked like a porcelain bird’s bath. Dad asked her who the freak had porcelain birdbaths? She said that she just might get a porcelain birdbath for the new yard. Dad said that sounded like a dumb idea. Martin said the new house looked like a hospital. I said it felt like a morgue. Mom said be quiet, Sam.

Just don’t hit the freaking walls, Dad said, as he and Martin were carrying the pieces of the pool table into the game room. They were trying to navigate in from the back patio that had these awkward double doors with latches at the top and bottom. Dad couldn’t get the left door unlocked. He’d spent like five minutes trying to unlatch the thing. Martin and I could tell he was getting frustrated. When he gave up he yelled, I thought this was supposed to be a new freaking house, I guess I’ll just deal with that later, come on, Martin, let’s get this stuff in here.

My job was to make sure that Martin didn’t bang into the walls with any of the carefully boxed up pieces of the pool table. There was this oddly placed column off the back patio, just outside of the doors that made it so you couldn’t just load straight into the “game room,” you had to come at a 45 degree angle.

I kept reminding dad that it would have been much easier to bypass the awkward angle situation if he could get that left door open. After a couple of reminders, dad finally said, shut it, Samantha. When I asked if he was referring to the door or my mouth, dad stopped walking and looked at me with his “I freaking mean it” look. I was standing to the left of the doors, making sure that Martin didn’t bang into the wall while walking into the room backwards.

Slow down, dad said, relax. Martin was all wound up – he looked like at any moment his sneakers would start rumbling and a giant plume of smoke would fire out of his dumb ankle socks, and then he’d shoot into the air like some teenage spaceship that was tired of countdowns, tired of standing at the ready, and just wanted to freaking launch. Martin said, what? Dad said, slow down. Martin stopped walking backwards, and dad asked him what he was doing, and Martin said, you told me to slow down. I didn’t say freaking stop, dad said, and Martin started walking again. Quit being a dick, I said to Martin. Dad told me to watch my mouth. Martin mimicked dad’s deep voice and said, watch your mouth Samantha, and then he backed up right into me. His elbow punched me in the stomach, and I yelled, what the heck, Martin! Dad yelled at Martin to quit horsing around or they’d be here all night. I didn’t want to start crying, but when he hit me it actually hurt. I kind of moaned for a second, and said, forget this I’m going upstairs.Look at what you did? Dad said, as I was walking out of the game room into the downstairs living room.

The living room was all white, and the truck with all of our furniture hadn’t arrived there yet so the whole room was empty. It was just this strange, infinite whiteness, like something out of that Space Odyssey movie – the one with the talking computer – or some type of optical illusion. I opened the next set of double doors that led into the big staircase that shot up through the middle of the house and was the main chute that connected all three floors. It was a big staircase, too. I already hated it, the house I mean. Mom and dad already loved it. The whole trip over they kept saying how the new house was a chance to start over, a clean slate, they’d said.

I walked out from the stairwell door – yes, there was a door to the entrance to the stairwell – and to my right there was the foyer that went up like thirty feet, the main living room in front of me was recessed into the floor, connected to the left side of the living room was the dining room, and to the right of the living room was the kitchen. About fifty feet down the left hallway were the guest bedrooms and a couple of bathrooms, and I guess fifty feet past the kitchen and down the hallway was where Martin’s room and mine were.

I started towards the kitchen and looked out the big windows that ran the entire backside of the house and looked onto the lake out back. The windows were floor to ceiling, and they were thick. In the afternoons, on the two days we’d been there at least, they let in this blinding sunlight. There was a mix-up with the blinds – at least that’s what mom said, because there weren’t any. So after two o’clock in the afternoon, when the sun started shining through those windows, it felt like staring into the blast point of a bomb. It felt like what getting a migraine must feel like, except if they didn’t come on gradually, but instead you were having a good day and then all of a sudden out of nowhere, bam, migraine. So, unless you wanted to lose your retinas, you really couldn’t spend time in the living or dining rooms (or the foyer). Not that you would really want to anyways, because the truck with the furniture hadn’t arrived yet, so it’s not like there was anywhere to sit.

Mom called out from the kitchen, how’s it going down there, honey? She was leaning against the heavy slab of pearl white granite that made up the island in the middle of the kitchen, and she was looking at the newest issue of Home and Garden. I told her that Martin elbowed me in the stomach, and that dad couldn’t get the door opened because it was jammed or something, and she said, Mmhmm. She asked me what I thought about this one and then pointed to some picture in the magazine, and I told her that I really didn’t care. Well you should care, honey, she said, this is our new home, and I’m asking for your input on how we decorate it. Since they’d decided on renting out the old house, mom was just going to buy new everything, and they’d leave all the old furniture and stuff in the old place. New everything was made possible by dad’s promotion at the real-estate company, P-TEX. I told her it didn’t make a difference to me, and that I still liked the old house and our old stuff too much, and that I’d rather not talk about it. Mom said that it was fine if I didn’t want to talk about it, but that I’d better accept the changes that we’d decided on as a family, because we were here now, and we were here to stay, we were here to start fresh. I told her I’d had as much say in the move as one of those girls in India that “decides” who she’ll marry. That’s not a nice thing to say, mom said, and then I walked to my room and shut the door.

I looked at the small stack of boxes in my room that reached from the white carpet to halfway up the white wall, my ration of what we were able to fit in the SUV. I didn’t have a desk, I didn’t have any bookshelves, and I didn’t even have a bed. My bed was still at the old house. The new bed was coming on a truck with all of the rest of the furniture. We’ll just have to wait a day or two for the semi, dad said. I thought it was kind of funny at first when the pool table that dad had ordered showed up before the rest of the furniture, but now as I looked at my room – this ugly white cube with a brown stack of cardboard boxes against the wall – I realized that I really wished the freaking furniture truck had already shown up.

The new room didn’t feel like my room, which was probably normal considering we’d just moved in two days ago. But still, it felt like someone else’s. Actually, it felt like nobody’s. A new house is weird – there’s no history. Nothing has happened there before you. You’re the first person who will occupy that space, and you have the responsibility to set the trend for what will happen there, for future generations. When someone stumbles into something that’s been lived in before, or used, it has those faint scuffmarks or slight wears that tell a story about what’s taken place before you got there – like a scar on your boyfriend’s knee, or a chipped tooth. As I sat on the floor, looking up at all those boxes full of clothes and books and CDs and all of the other junk that made up my old room that I was allowed to bring with me, I wondered whether or not I had enough stuff to actually make a mark on the new house, to actually fill it with enough of me that it could tell a story too.

I lay down on the carpet, and as I watched the sun’s bright rays shine through my wall of windows and gently shift the color of those moving boxes from an ugly and boring brown to shades of burnt orange and amber, I eventually fell asleep.

When I awoke, the sun had set and it was dark outside. My room was dark, and I struggled to remember whether the light switch was on the left or right side of the door. I felt around for the better part of a minute before realizing that the switch was actually in the hallway. I reached around the door and turned the lights on, my room and the hallway, before walking down the corridor. I could hear faint noises coming from the basement, the game room, like muffled cries for help from some poor trapped animal in a sewer drain.

Walking through the kitchen to see if mom was still there (she wasn’t), I noticed the Home and Garden magazine flipped open to a page that was titled, “How to Make Your Home, Your Home.” So boring, I couldn’t believe mom spent so much of her time looking at what to buy next, like we could just make this place feel like home because we had money now. I continued down the hallway and into the foyer slash living room slash dining room areas. All of the lights were on, and the glare from the giant windows that overlooked the lake out back reflected this awful image – me, standing there, with nothing but whitewashed walls and floors. I wondered if this was how Neil Armstrong felt when he was slowly walking along the surface of the moon – out there, alone, surrounded by this alien place.

When I opened the door to the stairwell, I could hear some yelling coming from the game room. Someone yelled, freaking, but I couldn’t tell if it was dad or Martin. As I was walking towards the game room, I saw mom’s back standing just inside the entrance, like she was hesitant to fully enter but also concerned about what would happen if she left – as if it were a bad movie that she couldn’t make herself leave. I stood next to mom, and I said, oh wow they got the table together, and she shot me a look, and I shrugged back at her like, what? Martin was on his hands and knees, and dad was trying to lift the pool table off the ground. All of the pool balls were on the table, but they were all mashed together against the left railing of green felt. Dad got the pool table off the ground, and all of the balls rolled to the right, and while he had the table in the air, Martin shoved a magazine under the table’s leg nearest dad. When Dad set the table back down on top of the magazine, the table’s weight just squished into the new carpeting and, with complete disregard for the efforts Martin, dad, or the copy of popular mechanics had put in, the balls rolled back across the table and onto the left side railing.

It’s not the pool table, Dad, Martin said. It has to be the freaking table, Dad said. Dad’s face was red, and he looked down at Martin and said, go get something else. Dear, mom said. What, Karen? Dad said, and he raised his voice when he said it (which he’d promised never to do again) so mom turned around and left. Jesus, Karen, Dad said, but mom was gone. It’s not the table, Martin said, again, I’m telling you it’s the freaking house. What do you mean, Dad said, obviously one of these legs is shorter than the other, and if I knew which box my G D tape measure was in, I’d prove it. No way, Martin said, dad, don’t be stupid, that’s why we couldn’t get that freaking door open. Martin pointed at the doors that led to the patio. Dad scoffed, but he didn’t turn his head.

 

 

 

 

 

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