Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~ Stephen King

Friday, June 4, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Fridays

This is the next chapter of the novel (or project, as I continue to insist on calling it) that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It's sat dormant long enough - time for me to take another look at it - and to give you a peek at it as well.

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition

Chapter 4: Brunch
Chapter 5: Ted's Farm
Chapter 6: Helmet Reflections
Chapter 7: The Real World
Chapter 8: Hooligan's

Chapter 9.

Cal called both Monday and Tuesday and they talked for lost hours. They talked the way people do when they’re getting to know someone new. Someone they think is delicious. Someone they want to soak up like a sponge. They talked about everything and nothing and they hated to hang up, although Marnie refused to engage in the ‘you hang up first’ game. Cal talked about his kids and his job search and growing up on the farm. He talked about losing his parents. He talked about how he met Josh and Andy. Marnie loved his voice. He could’ve read the phone book and she would’ve listened. She loved his stories. He talked about his dog, Riff, and the dog he had growing up. And when he asked about Marnie, he listened to her answers.

For her part, Marnie talked about her sisters and her parents. She talked about college and how she’d grown apart from most of her friends but still stayed in touch with a couple. She talked about how she met Josh. They agreed that they owed Josh a thank you – without their connection to him, they never would have met. They talked about how weird that was, because he was so unlike both of them. She talked about her job. She talked about her grandmother.

Cal was an open book. Marnie was more guarded. It wasn’t that she had secrets to keep – although who doesn’t? – it was just that she wasn’t sure how he’d react to stories about her privileged upbringing. She didn’t want to blow this before it had a chance. No one was more surprised than Marnie, therefore, when she heard herself say, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Ted and Susie are spending it with Susie’s family, so I figured I’d just hang out at home and watch football.”

“Why don’t you join me?”

“Join you?”

“My mom always sets out a huge spread. Believe me – there’s room for one more.”

“I don’t know…”

“No imposition! I’d love to have you there. I mean – I understand if you don’t want to…”

“No, I want to.”

“My family can be a little – I don’t know…”

“All families are like that.”

“Not yours.”

“Not Ted and Susie. You haven’t met anyone else.”

“Fair enough. Well, if you’re sure you’re up for it…”

“I’d love to meet the family that made you who you are.”

“I’m – I’m not my family, Cal. Remember that, ok?”


“Alright. Let me call Mom and tell her to set another place.”

“You want me to pick you up to go to Josh’s tomorrow night?”

“Yes. Absolutely.”

There was a full contingency at Josh’s when they arrived Wednesday evening. Sonya was hovering over Josh possessively and it was pretty clear that Josh was not digging this. Andy stood up and came to meet them at the door. He had been talking to Cal over the past couple days, and he enveloped the two of them in a bear hug. It felt like a stamp of approval.

Joan was already at the table, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. She looked a little out of it. Between drinks and drags, she rested her head on her arms on the table. “How long has she been here?” Marnie asked, concern creeping into her voice and her face.

“She was like that when she got here. We’re not sure what’s up.” Andy answered. He looked a little concerned, too. “Hey Joan!” She didn’t respond. “Joanie!” he tried, much louder. She lifted her head in slow motion and looked at Andy with one open eye.”

“This isn’t good.” Marnie stated, her brow furrowing, “I don’t like this.”

“Joanie, sweetheart, you okay?” Andy asked, sitting next to her and putting his arm around her. She waved him away.

“She just needs a little pick-me-up.” Sonya said. “Get some toot in this woman, stat!” She said to Josh.

Josh cut out a few lines and offered the mirror to Joan first. She raised her head and took a snort, then another. She smiled at Josh; “Thank you, baby.” She patted his hand, and put her head back on the table.

Marnie and Cal exchanged a worried glance, then took a seat at the table with Mike, Kristen, and a young girl they’d never met. She was introduced as Kristen’s roommate, Jen. The mirror made it’s way to them. Marnie inhaled, tilted her head back and shut her eyes. She opened them when she heard Cal’s familiar tap, tap, tap.

When the mirror made its way to Joan again, she didn’t sit up. “We should just put her in a bed – or on the sofa.” Sonya said with an air of authority and ownership that clearly didn’t sit well with Josh.

“She can’t crash here, idiot, her husband is a cop. You’ve got to think sometimes, Sonya.”

“Fuck you.” She said, quietly. The insult had stung. She knew he was annoyed with her and she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why. She’d crashed here for the past three nights and had made his meals and done his dishes. She’d even brought a toothbrush and some clothes over so she didn’t have to run home so much. And the sex was amazing. So why was he treating her like she had no right to be here? Dick. Ungrateful dick.

Andy approached Joan again. Her cigarette had burned to a stub in her hand. Andy removed it and snuffed it out in the ash tray. “Joan? Joanie? JOAN?” Andy looked up, panicked, “You guys? I don’t think she’s ok. I think we need to get her to a hospital.”

Josh went to the table to assess the situation for himself. He sat next to Joan and said very quietly and patiently, “Joanie? What did you do? Talk to me here. Let me know what I’m talking to.” Kristen started to remind him that he was talking to a who not a what, but when Joanie did not respond she wisely realized that perhaps semantic arguments were best left for another day.

“Oh, shit.” Said Josh, rising and pacing the room manically, “Shit shit shit. This can’t be happening. JOAN, DAMMIT, DON’T DO THIS TO ME!!!” He covered his face with his hands. Sonya put her arm around him and he threw her off. “You don’t get it, do you? Her husband is a fucking cop! We’re fucking dead meat!”

Sonya sulked in the next room. She knew he was right, but he didn’t have to be so fucking mean about it. It’s not like any of this was her fault.

Marnie went over to where Andy was attempting to tend to Joan. She was completely unresponsive. Marnie searched for a pulse but couldn’t find one, which wasn’t terribly unusual because she could rarely if ever find her own, either. Still. Joan wasn’t right. Her skin felt cold and clammy. “For real, Josh, we’ve got to call a squad. She’s gonna die here without some help. I’m calling.” She picked up her purse and dug in it for her cell.

“Think about this!” Josh screamed. “If we have a squad come here we’re all fucking accomplices to whatever fuck…her husband is a fucking cop…” he repeated, collapsing into a chair with his head in his hands.

“How about if I just take her to the hospital and drop her off, then?” Andy suggested. “Cal and Marnie can ride with me. We’ll just drop her off without ID. They’ll take care of her.”

Josh agreed. Cal and Andy picked Joan up, no small feat as she was completely dead weight. They carried her to Andy’s truck and laid her across the back seat. Marnie sat at her feet and Cal jumped in the front with Andy. Marnie stroked Joan’s hair and whispered reassurances that it was all going to be ok. Everything was going to be ok. She was quite cognizant of the fact that this was more for her benefit than for Joan’s. She just needed to feel like she was doing something. The ride to the only hospital in town seemed endless. Andy stayed within the speed limit and stopped at every stop sign. No way was he going to risk being pulled over tonight, with the passed out, overdosed, half dead wife of a police officer in his back seat. No one had much to say. When they pulled into the Emergency Room entrance, Andy ran in and quickly grabbed a wheelchair. He pushed it back to the truck where Cal and Marnie had been working to pull an unresponsive Joan out of the backseat. They managed to get her slumped into the wheelchair. Cal pushed the wheelchair to the entrance and left her there, just inside the automatic doors, while Andy pulled the truck up to the door so Cal could jump in quickly.

When they were a few blocks away from the hospital, Marnie started to sob. She was sitting in the front between Andy and Cal now. She had been strong when she needed to be, but she didn’t need to be anymore. She succumbed to the feeling of helplessness and fear that had been building up. What if things didn’t work out ok? What if Joan… she couldn’t even complete the thought in her head, it was too much. It was all too much. Cal put his arm around her and pulled her head into his chest. Joan was their friend, and they had just dumped her and hoped for the best. It wasn’t right. “I need to call her husband.” She said. She started rooting through Joan’s purse for a cell phone. They had agreed not to leave her purse with her at the hospital – let them treat her like a Jane Doe. Marnie couldn’t remember now why they’d decided to do that. It had seemed like a sound idea at the time.

Cal took the purse from her. “They’ll figure it all out, honey, don’t worry.”

“He’s her HUSBAND! He deserves to know!”

“He’s a COP! It will be our asses!”

“I’m sorry. I have to do it.” She retrieved the purse from Cal and he didn’t resist her. She found the cell phone and looked through Joan’s contacts until she found the name she was looking for. Jerry. Joan occasionally talked about Jerry. Officer Jerry Ormond. She hit send.

“Hey, honey! What’s up?”

“Officer Ormond, this isn’t Joan. This is a friend of hers.”

Jerry’s voice changed in an instant. “Where’s Joan? Who are you?”

“I’m a friend. Joan was – we just dropped Joan off at the ER without ID. You need to get down there and ask about Jane Does.”

“What the hell happened? Who are you?”

“Jerry? Officer Ormond? She’s been doing drugs. Coke that we know of, but we suspect something else. We don’t know what, or we’d tell you, I swear. We think she overdosed. We took her to the hospital – we wanted her to be taken care of.”

“No – you’re lying…” She could hear the desperation in Jerry’s voice. He didn’t want to believe it.

“I’m not, Jerry, Officer Ormond. I’ve told you all I know. I thought I’d call you and let you know so you could get down there and identify her before they went to the trouble and expense of trying to figure out who she is. I’m very sorry, sir. But you better get to your wife.” Marnie clicked the phone shut and put her head in her hands. Cal rubbed her shoulders.

“You did the right thing, babe. He had a right to know.”

“What a fuckin’ mess.” Andy added. The ride back to Josh’s went a lot more quickly. The room became silent when the three of them walked in. If the expression on every face could be summed up in one word, that word would be: WELL?

They relayed the story together, interrupting each other to clarify points. They all agreed that they’d done the right thing. The mirror made its way around the table a few more times, but the party never really built up any momentum. It’s difficult to feel festive when a cops wife has just OD’d in the house and you’ve dumped her, unidentified, at the ER. They were all in it together. A big, ugly secret hung over them like the sword of Damocles. Everyone took off as soon as the last of the coke had been passed around, eager to be away from it. Sonya clung to Josh. He allowed it.

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