Tag Archives: chapter four part one

Plaster of Paris; chapter four, part one

I hurry home and take a quick nap before hopping in the shower.  Nothing feels as good as the water running down my body.  The steam soothes the prickliness I feel, but to my horror, I start to cry.  The tears I’ve been repressing all night long storm to the surface and spill over, mingling with the shower water on the way down.  I start to sob loudly, unable to control my response.  I can’t control my shivering, no matter how hot I make the water.  I place my hand on the wall to steady myself, but my knees are trembling and I feel as if I’m going to fall over.  I close my eyes and try not to lose my balance.  My legs aren’t listening to my commands, and down I go.  I land on my ass with a thud—it’s cold on the ground.  I wrap my arms around my knees and just let the water fall onto me.

“Rainbow!  Where are you?”  My mother’s voice shouting for me jolts me out of the trance I have put myself in.  I am still on the floor under the pouring water, but it’s turned cold in the time I’ve been zonked.  My mother bursts into the bathroom and shuts off the tap.  She hauls me to my feet, clucking the whole time.  She’s talking to herself in Taiwanese as she wraps a towel around me.  I catch a phrase here and there, but my mind can’t process what she’s saying.  I idly wonder how fast she had driven as she seems to have made it across the bridge in good time.  Then again, I did take a nap, albeit a short one.  My mother ushers me to my room and sits me on the bed.  She rummages through my closet, pulling out a blue sweatshirt I got from A Brighter Day, the agency where I work, and a pair of blue jeans.  She finds a bra and underwear before presenting the pile to me.  I pull on the clothes without saying a word.  She watches as I dress myself, waiting until I’m finished before speaking.

“Are you all right?”  She asks the question deliberately, peering anxiously into my eyes.  She speaks English to make sure I understand.  Taiwanese may be her first language, but English is mine.  I look at her dully, not comprehending what she wants from me.  Am I all right?  My best friend is in the hospital because someone tried to make road-kill out of him, and she wants to know if I’m all right?  I pick at my fingernails, losing interest in the conversation.  All the nervous energy I was feeling earlier is now spent, leaving me as limp as a dish rag.  She walks over to me and deliberately slaps me across the face.  I rear my head back in surprise.

“What the hell did you do that for?”  I snap, some color returning to my face.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter four, part one

“I’m here for the trauma group,” I say softly to the sympathetic-looking receptionist who nods her head encouragingly at me.

“Spreading Our Wings,” she says, patting her red curls.  The name tag on her desk reads ‘Tessa Simpson’.

“Pardon?”  I am unsure what she is trying to convey.

“That’s the name of the group,” Tessa says with a wide smile.

“I can’t call it that,” I protest.  I think for a minute before adding, “You do realize that the initials spell out S.O.W.?”

“It was done that way on purpose,” Tessa assures me earnestly.  “Think of all the hard work a sow has to do.  Birthing her piglets, feeding them, nurturing them.  Watching them get taken away to be used as food.  Talk about your traumatic events!  How would you get over something like that?”

“You’re kidding me.”  I am unsure whether to take this woman seriously.  She looks at me for a minute before bursting into laughter.  Relieved, I join her.

“Yes, I am,” she confesses, still smiling.  She has fine wrinkles around the corners of her hazel eyes which are gazing at me in friendly interest.  “I love the look on newbies’ faces when I spin that tale for them.  In reality, Carol—Ms. Sayers—just liked the way it sounded and only realized belatedly the unfortunate acronym.  I’m the one who thought up the sow story.”  Her open countenance invites me to laugh with her, so I do.  “Carol should be out here in a minute.  Have a seat.”  She nods at the wooden lobby chairs.  They look as if they would barely hold my weight, so I remain standing.  I’ve never been in the A Ray of Hope building before, and like most nonprofit agencies, the building itself is not prepossessing in the least.  There are the usual drab paintings on the beige walls.  I pray the room the meetings take place in is not this boring.  I spy a painting or two done by a kid, which I always enjoy.  At least kids put some feeling into their art, unlike many adult artists.  There is a coffee machine in the corner with the usual Styrofoam cups.  I grab a cup of tepid coffee and stir in plenty of milk and sugar.  It doesn’t help; the coffee is undrinkable.  I toss the cup in the garbage and finally sit down to wait.  The chair is sturdier than it looks.

Ten minutes pass.  I am annoyed.  Ms. Sayers had asked me to come a half an hour earlier so she could do an intake before the meeting.  I know I shouldn’t let it get to me as time in a nonprofit agency is notoriously fluid.  I sometimes joke at my agency about them running on CP time, but nobody finds that very funny.  They’re a bunch of stiffs who wouldn’t know a joke if it bit them in the ass, though, so I don’t take it personally.  I lean back in my chair and try to breathe deeply.  There is a tightness in my chest that won’t loosen no matter what I try.  I inhale through my nostrils for a count of seven, hold it for a count of four before slowly releasing it through my mouth for a count of seven.  I don’t know how I came up with those numbers, but it does the trick nine out of ten times.  Wouldn’t you know it, this is the tenth time?

The root of my discomfort is my dislike of groups in general, ‘the girls’ not-with-standing.  I also find it daunting the idea of spilling my guts in front of not one, but multiple women.  I remind myself that I don’t have to speak if I don’t want to, but that is small comfort.  Intellectually, I realize that if I want to get something out of the group, at some point I have to participate.  I bolt up in my chair.  Some groups make their members speak.  What if this is one of those groups?  If so, I’m not sticking around.  It is one thing about us Californians that I will never understand—diarrhea of the mouth.  As a Midwest person I know once said, ‘Back home, you could know someone for fifteen years and never really know what they’re thinking, while here, you know someone fifteen minutes, and they tell you their whole life. story’  My response was that I must be a Midwesterner, then, because I hate people who impart their whole life stories the first time they meet you.  Actually, I think it’s my way of rebelling against the openness of my hippie parents.

“Ms. Liang?  I’m Carol Sayers.”  A voice jars me out of my thoughts.  I look up at a slim, forty-something woman with blond hair cut in a fashionable bob and green eyes that gaze at me with friendliness.  She holds out her hand, and I rise before taking it.  Her handshake is firm, but not punishing.  I check her out discreetly.  She is wearing jeans and a white Oxford shirt.  Not exactly professional, but that’s California for you.  Go with the flow, man.

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Dogged Ma: Chapter four, part one

Chapter Four, Part One

“Margaret—earth to Margaret!  Where did you go?”  I snapped back to earth to find my friend, Jenna, staring expectantly at me.  My two other friends, Belinda and Caryn, were staring as well.  I had lunch with them one Saturday a month, and this was it.  I hadn’t wanted to go, but I knew I’d catch serious hell from them if I didn’t.  We’d been friends since college, but maybe it was time to loosen the apron strings.  I didn’t find them nearly as entertaining as I had when we were in school.  It had been two weeks since I found out I was pregnant, and I hadn’t heard from the Father in nearly a week.

“Honestly, Mags, you were a million light-years away.”  Belinda looked at me from under her lashes, fluffing her blond curls with her other hand.  She was the stunner of the group with her Barbie-doll figure and plump, full lips, and she knew it.  So even though she was ostensibly talking to me, she was playing to the table of appreciative yuppies who were ogling her quite openly.  Ah, the refined crowd of TGIF—what could possibly be better?  It hadn’t been my choice to come here, but I had been outvoted three to one.

“Girl, you’ve been out of it all day.  Spill.”  Jenna snapped her fingers at me.  She was the ‘hip’ one with her mod cut and Macy clothes.  Too bad her features were equine-like, similar to those of Princess Anne.  Or was it Margaret?  Whichever was the horsey-one.  Still, it didn’t stop her from getting laid which went to show that if you had a great bod and money, you only needed a passable face.

“There must be a new man in your life,” Caryn said, nodding her head knowingly.  She was Asian like me, but Japanese rather than Taiwanese.  I didn’t hold her tiny figure against her as she didn’t act like your typical Japanese American Princess.  She was tough as nails, and she had a black belt in taekwondo.  Any guy who thought he could mess with her usually ended up with a black eye or crushed testicles.

“No,” I said, sipping at my margarita.  Damned if I was going to give up alcohol before it was strictly necessary.  “I just, uh, it’s a work thing.  One of my kids is in trouble.  You know, the usual.”  I sent a silent apology to my students who’d been unusually good this past week.  My slander meant that one of them would be out of control this week; I was resigned to it.

“Uh, huh.”  Belinda nodded her head, cutting her eyes to the yuppies who were still eyeing her.  “I’m with Caryn.  There’s a boy involved.  Who is he?”  The three of them turned their attention to me, which was a bit disconcerting.

I hadn’t told them about being pregnant yet because what the fuck could I say?  The Lord, our Father, decided that I should be the next Mother of God?  Oh, and it’s a girl, but He promised not to kill her this time around?  It sounded crazy to my ears, and I’d met Him, so I knew they wouldn’t believe me.  I half-expected God to come down out of the sky as was His wont, but He didn’t.  Briefly, I wondered what’d happened to Him, but I had more important things to consider.  Like what to tell the three stooges looking at me so avidly.  I knew that nothing less than an epic romance would satisfy this trio, but I didn’t want to lie.  I felt as if I had no choice, however, so I gave it the old college try.

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Trip on This: Chapter Four (Part One)

Chapter Four (Part One)

“I need to talk to Mr. Renaldo DiCalvo,” Trip says firmly to the receptionist, a woman about Trip’s age, also Asian, who is looking at Trip with bored disdain.  The receptionist is Chinese-pretty with slanted eyes and planed cheekbones—Lucy Liu in the flesh.  These North Beach bitches have such an attitude.

“Who?”  The receptionist asks, her voice nasal.  She’s twirling a lock of her shiny black hair around her finger with its perfectly-manicured fingernail, and Trip has the urge to reach across the desk and strangle the woman.

“Mr. Renaldo DiCalvo,” Trip says, enunciating carefully.  Her voice is flat, but menacing.  She doesn’t have time for this bullshit.  “I need to talk to him now.”

“There’s nobody here by that name,” the receptionist informs Trip, her tone implying that perhaps Trip better stop taking whatever drug it is she’s ingesting.  There is also a hint of smugness that sets Trip’s teeth on edge.

“Look,” Trip begins, then shuts her mouth.  This is the same receptionist she saw when she visited yesterday.  Either she’s losing her mind, or Nicole—as her nameplate says—is lying through her pearly-white teeth.  “I’d like to speak to whoever occupies the corner office, then.  The one with the great view and the elevated chair.”  Her tone is hard, and her eyes are staring into Nicole’s.  The latter would have to be made of sterner stuff or making more than twenty dollars an hour to stand up to Trip, so she merely nods and presses a button on her phone while picking up the receiver.

“Mr. O’Reilly?  There is a, uh, there’s someone here to talk to you.”  Nicole pauses to listen, and her cheeks are stained red.  “I know, but, uh, OK.”  She turns back to Trip, a bit more steel in her voice.  “Mr. O’Reilly is not to be disturb.  I’m sorry, Miss….You’ll have to make an appointment.”  Her voice is smug, as if she’s won a coup over Trip.  She pats her glossy hair, preening at a job well done.  Trip looks at Nicole until the latter’s eyes fall.  Nodding to herself, Trip walks past the desk and through the unlocked door.  “Hey!”  Nicole bustles after her, her voice bristling with indignation.  “You can’t just charge back there like you own the place.”  She totters after Trip in impossibly-high heels, swaying dangerously as she moves.

“You aren’t going to stop me.”  Trip halts in her tracks, turns and steps towards Nicole.  Trip’s biceps bulge as she clenches her fists.  Nicole emits a little squeak and takes a step back.  She is one of those Asian women who thinks it’s better to be tiny and cute than in shape.  Satisfied, Trip turns around and continues until she reaches the same office where she had met with Renaldo DiCalvo.  Without knocking on the door, she opens it and strides on in.  She stops when she sees what’s going on.  There is a man about six feet, stretched out on what looks to be a masseuse’s table, his white hair obscuring his face.  He is naked except for a towel wrapped around his mid-section.  Behind him is a breathtaking Japanese woman dressed in a traditional kimono, her hair pulled back in an elaborate bun.  The man doesn’t even bother looking up, but the Japanese woman does.  When her eyes catch Trip’s, she looks away in embarrassment.  Trip glares, angry at this woman for perpetuating that stupid fucking stereotype.

Trip takes several breaths to calm down, looking around the office as she does.  It’s definitely the same office, but there is no trace of DiCalvo.  Trip walks over to the desk, ignoring the other people in the room.  The pile of papers are gone; the picture is gone; the desk is sparse and clean with a neat pile of business cards perched on the corner.  Trip’s fury mounts as she silently contemplates what to do.  There is nothing in the this room that identifies it as the one where she had met DiCalvo.  There are now diplomas on the walls from prestigious Ivy League schools with the name, Caleb O’Reilly prominently penned on each one.  The man on the table doesn’t look like he’s Irish, but really, what has Trip seen of him other than his undercooked body and his shock of white hair?

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