Thursday, January 10, 2013

Yesteryou Chapter 11

            Molly told the men that she wanted to drive to Beth’s apartment in Phoenix alone to look for her, and both Richard and George weakly protested, because Molly was stubborn in a way that inspired respect in both of them; she insisted on taking the hardest tasks.  She wanted to be the one to find her mom because she was in one of her fed up moods in which the men’s lenience toward Beth’s lifelong string of mess-ups seemed solely predicated on a misunderstanding of Beth’s motivations, of her entire personality.  The men thought Beth couldn’t help herself.  Molly, when she wasn’t feeling sentimental of yielding, just thought Beth was dangerously lazy, a hurricane barreling through terrains careless and deadly, ruining everything, disappearing as quick as she’d appeared.  So Molly had driven to Beth’s apartment in Phoenix the day it finally seemed too spooky not to be able to reach her on the phone, the day they received Beth’s vague letter to Richard.
            It took a day to drive from the house she lived in with her dad to Beth’s apartment in Phoenix.  She ate beef jerky and drank coffee on the road, and went over and over the few scenes between herself and Beth that she’d been most stuck on lately.  When she heard her mom screaming in the doctor’s office, for instance.  Her and George were sitting in two orange plastic chairs which were cold to the touch, in a Kaiser Permanente waiting room with flickering fluorescent overhead lights that hummed a constant, ruthless dirge.  All of a sudden, the air was pierced with a scream so rich with terror, it struck Molly as a scream that belonged in a horror film, and even before she saw the men holding her firmly and walking, half-dragging her out of the doctor’s office, Molly had already known that the scream belonged to her mother.  “Oh dear,” was all George felt inclined to say (actually, his internal voice uttered “Oh fuck,” but Molly imagined him more naïve).  Did these scenes ever shock him, or was he unshockable? 
            “What’s wrong with her?” Molly demanded of him in a whisper.                  
“I think they’re trying to make her go into a treatment program.  I think this doctor she’s seeing has been threatening to do it against her will.  It’s okay, let’s just get her out of here.”  He bent down to pick up Beth’s purse where it sat at his feet, and took Beth over, the men who had been restraining her gladly giving up their charge.  On the car ride to Beth’s home (this was one of Molly’s weekends to spend with Beth, and she couldn’t go back to Richard because she knew he was getting away to Mexico for the weekend), Beth didn’t stop screaming.  “What should we do?” Molly wanted to know, but before he had time to answer (though, was he planning to answer?), she said, “Pull over right here, behind this truck.”  It was an ice cream truck she’d bought things from occasionally, and she liked it because it sold pretty little toys, cheap things with mermaid and star motifs.  She had a dollar in her pocket and she told the short Guatemalan man behind the shallow counter of the truck, “Give me the prettiest one of these,” gesturing with a nod of her head towards the water guns.  The command amused the man, who liked that she valued the beauty of the little knickknacks, which he painted by hand with nail polish and White-Out, and he stealthily handed her one that had a dragon with the breasts of a woman and a halo painted over its head.  She ran back to the car and shoved the item into her mom’s hands.  Beth quieted down immediately.  Maybe she’d felt embarrassed at the scene she’d made in the doctor’s office, and maybe she was just content to receive the toy; Molly would never know.  Beth remained silent for a couple hours.  The sun set, George sat with Molly for awhile on the cluttered and dusty couch before tentatively getting up to leave.  “See ya,” Molly said bravely.  Beth started to make dinner.  Then she came into the living room, examined the image of her daughter there on the couch, and she could have said, “Thank you for this little toy.  It’s really pretty.”  That would have made Molly happy.  But Beth just turned around and went back into the kitchen, stubbing her toe on the chair that stayed propped against the oven door to keep it closed.
            In Phoenix, she drove immediately to Beth’s apartment.  Beth’s neighbor was outside, cleaning out her car. 
            “Molly, right?” 
            “Yes.  Your name is Susan, right?  You’re her neighbor?” 
            “Sweetheart, I don’t know what to tell you.  I spend most of the day listening for some sound coming from her place, or keeping my eye on the window to see if she goes out, and I just don’t hear a peep from her.  I asked the cops to break down the door, but they had some law they told me about, some reason they can’t interfere.  I guess there has to be a missing person report filed.  Have you done that yet?” 
            “Uh, I’m not sure.  My dad might have, I don’t know.  She didn’t give you a spare key to her place, I guess?” 
            “No, I’m afraid not.”  
            “Okay,” Molly had a short attention span for conversations.  “I’m going to snoop around a little, okay?” 
            “Help yourself, sweetie,” Susan said, and when she turned back to emptying out the papers on the floor of her car, Molly saw that Susan’s thighs were marred with green and blue spider veins, even though she was fairly young, and it was one of those brief reminders of inevitable ugly mortality that depressed Molly even more than she already felt.
            For a half hour, Molly sat on Beth’s side of the porch (it was a duplex apartment building), exhausted and unsure what further to do; she’d tried peering into all the windows, knocked for several minutes on the front and back door, and called, her lips close to the peeled turquoise paint of the front door, “Mom, are you there?”  Finally, Susan sat down on her side of the porch.  “Do you mind if I ask you what happened?” she asked.
            “You mean about the car crash?  I don’t really know the details.”
            “I was just wondering, is it true that Beth ran someone over?”
            “Yeah, a guy on a little motorcycle that I guess wasn’t right for the freeway.”
            “And do you know why she’s disappeared?  I mean, is she wanted by the law, for manslaughter or something?”
            The question made Molly feel defensive, but Susan was obviously asking out of a curiosity untainted with judgment.  She said as much a moment later, after Molly told her that the crash was rightly judged an accident that had been the motorcyclist’s fault.
            “Sorry about the questioning, I wasn’t trying to make Beth sound guilty of murder.  I’m just confused.  One day she goes to court about the crash, then later that night I hear her coming back home, then not a peep from her since then, she just disappears.  I like her.  So, I guess I’m just bewildered by the whole situation.  It seems like if she’s not in trouble – ‘
More to herself than to Susan, Molly mumbled, “Fuck, she must feel so guilty.  I can’t even imagine.”

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