Friday, January 11, 2013

Yesteryou Chapter 12

            "What do you think we should do, George?  I’m ready to follow your lead, whatever you think.  I don't know what to think.  She’s changed from when I used to really know her.”
            “To tell you the truth, Richard, she’s always changing.  I’m really frightened.  I don’t worry about her killing herself anymore, I don't know why, I just get the feeling she wouldn’t try it again.  But where could she be?  The only money she gets is her SSI checks, which I’m in charge of.  I’ve sent her a couple checks since the accident, and then I call and check with the bank to see if she’s cashed them, and she hasn’t.  Molly stayed in Phoenix two days, sleeping on Beth’s back porch and listening for any sound coming from inside – she’s sure Beth isn’t there.  But where could she go, with no money?"

Molly entered the room carrying a big bowl of popcorn, "Come on, you guys," she said, "This is really just another typical day in the life of George, Dick, or Molly.  Raise your hand if you haven’t had to call the ambulance to have her stomach pumped, or if you’ve never had to duck from her throwing something heavy your way."  George was sitting on an overstuffed corduroy loveseat with his head held in his hands, poised like a writer overburdened with sad information in a photo on the back cover of a literary novel.
            "You're right of course, Molly, she’s always in some kind of trouble.  But I really can't stand not knowing where she is like this."  Distressed, he began a fit of coughing painful to witness and common since his latest surgery to have a new mass of cancer removed from one of his lungs. 
Shortly before Beth's collision and disappearance, Richard had been nursing an infatuation with his secretary.  She was intelligent, with a self-deprecating sense of humor he found attractive, and he also liked her looks, her pale red wavy hair and the way she dressed a bit like Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde.  But now, all he could think about was Beth, to pause throughout the day and wonder exactly what her thoughts were, this exact moment.  He'd known her to panic so bad she had trouble breathing over something benign as getting caught out in one of her white lies, and now she'd killed someone.  He found himself whispering "shh" when he was alone, and then visualizing Beth somehow telepathically registering this token of comfort, wherever she was (not dead, please god, not dead like those horribly selfish women she used to idolize so, the female literary suicides, Plath, Sexton, Woolf).

"I want to find her myself," George stated abruptly, jarring the silence the three had fallen into, "I don't want to involve the cops in this" 
"I agree," Richard and Molly said at the same time, and Richard gestured for Molly to continue her thoughts:  "None of us really feels at ease talking to the type of person cops usually are, and also mom might have a bunch of street pills or something else on her, she might just get herself in trouble if cops find her."
            "You're right, sweetheart," said Richard, "We're not really sure what your mom is going through right now.  Listen guys, how about we call it a night, worrying-wise?  How about I order us a pizza and George, you want to spend the night?"

            As they sat at the coffee table eating pizza that night, Molly replayed in her memory, more than once, a recent exchange between herself and her mother that occurred the last time they spoke on the phone, before the death of the motorcyclist.  Speaking to Beth, she usually became childishly sarcastic and defensive, and this phone call was no exception.  Her mother loved the writer John Updike, and had inculcated Molly with this love of his writing too, since she was a teenager, but then Beth was absentminded about Molly's likes and dislikes and never remembered the conversations they'd had about Updike novels and short story collections after Molly'd finished reading them.  So during this last pre-tragedy phone call when Beth had remarked, completely innocently, "I just found this Updike book I'd been looking for since last year hiding behind the dresser, of all places.  It's called "Music School".  You should read it," Molly snapped back "I've read it like twenty times, mom.  I probably know it backwards and forwards by heart."  Beth had mumbled, "You're so smart, you’re breathtaking," and Molly had not known what to make of the remark, whether it was genuine or sarcastic.
            While Molly's thoughts ran to the recent past, Richard was softly agonizing over the same horrible image he'd been agitating himself with for days; he was imagining the young motorcyclist’s bones crushing under the speed and weight of Beth's car's tires.  He was imagining the young man's skull bursting like a watermelon thrown from the balcony of a penthouse apartment to the sidewalk below.  And George, he'd gotten an old forgotten one-time favorite song stuck in his head.  The lyrics were mostly questions:  "Where did it go?  That yester glow?  When we could feel the wheel of life turn our way."  He loved the soothing incompleteness of questions, like the pale pink light of a pre-dawn sky, like touching Beth's sweatered elbow instead of her bare face.

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