Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)
TITLE: Surly Sally
By Angeline oppenheimer
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She was weary of her mom and her holier-than-thou preachiness. Her faith had brought nothing but misery into their lives. When will her mom stand up for herself? Sally had watched her dad pushed her around. The long days of verbal and physical abuse ended for her mom, but they lingered in her heart. Some days, she could still hear her dad’s crazy ranting, even though it had been four years since her dad walked out. She can’t understand how her mom can talk about forgiveness when all she saw were shrapnels of broken dreams and hope--a single mom working herself to shreds, and she--a lost girl waiting for some semblance of cohesiveness in this insane world.
There is no decency in their lives anymore. So why pretend there is? She would roll the dice of defiance and play the game. It’s the only game that could elicit a response from her mom. Like the time her mom grasped when she saw her eyes embolden with dark kohl, her lips slivers of charcoal, a sash of dangling silver cords around her waist. She can still recall her countless pleadings:
“Sal, what’s that pink and black rose on your belly. Tell me it’s fake.”
“Please, honey, not another ear piercing…your ear is mutilated enough.”
“Look at me, I need you to tell me you haven’t been drinking.”
She would never forget the time her mom allowed tears to gush down her face as she pleaded with her, “Sal, tell me where did I go wrong. I try to give you everything you need. Maybe, you should break away from your friends, maybe, you should join an activity that will keep you busy….maybe…” and she had stomped out of the kitchen before her mom could say another word.
Any response is good--it silences the hurt screaming inside, a hurt she doesn’t know how to bandage. Sure, anyone can see she’s hanging with the wrong crowd. Sally knows it too but they are the ones who help her belong. Jennifer has a dad in prison, Rosalind’s mom works at the strip club and her dad zigzags in and out of her life, Matt lives with a set of stuffy foster parents and Joe---he was kicked out of the last school he attended.
Together, they find common ground to hurl hostility at world they have grown to distrust.
Outside the salon, Sally texted her gang: “ Pharm party, right?”
“Sure, “ came the quick reply, “Jennifer’s mom is gone for the night. Don’t forget to pharm your mom’s cabinet.”
That evening, Sally was unusually nice to her mom. Her mom looked a little quizzical, and Sally tried to add a little surliness to defray her suspicion.
“Oh yeah, mom? I need to go over to Jennifer’s…we’ve to study for a Math test tomorrow.”
“Really? That’s nice…call me if you’re running late.”
At Jennifer‘s, each produced a handful of medications---Vocodin, Oxycontin, Xanax, Ritalin, Adderall and a bottle of cough syrup, . Put in a bowl, they looked like a bunch of overdeveloped jelly beans, their very own “trail mix.”. The last time, they had dared each other to pop as many pills as they could. It was hard-core daredevil. Numbed, desensitized, they were carried on the high of hallucinations. Romping in the river of make-believe bliss, nothing can hurt them.
Soon, they were daring each other on. All had gradually entered some stage of altered consciousness. The heat was on and nobody wanted to stop. All of a sudden, Rosalind collapsed on the floor, convulsing, white foam seeping down the side of her mouth. Everyone laughed. No response. Jennifer went over and noticed her limp body.
“Guys, she’s not breathing….”
Everyone rushed over, except Sally. Her body had turned heavy, slumped at the edge of the sofa.
As they debated on whether they should call 911, Sally couldn’t make out what they were saying. A sea of mouths, opening and closing. Her mind had drifted and she was standing outside her family room, looking in---
Mom singing softly in her faded pajamas, like a desperate prayer, “Jesus take the wheel…”
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