Thursday, September 27, 2012


Angela, Going Home

Rod Lindsey


No one else was awake while Angela nursed her second cup of coffee, thinking.  It was early morning.  Still dark.  She sat in the dimly-lit kitchen at a wobbly table near the back door, a castaway on an island of thought in a sea of scuffed black-and-white linoleum – population one.  Angela pondered her circumstances with a furrowed brow, feeling tormented about what to do next, wondering for the hundredth time if what she was doing was worth the effort.  If it would make any difference.  If it even mattered to anyone but her.
          She had awakened from the clutches of fitful sleep nearly an hour ago, aching and disoriented and shaking off dark dreams.  She was anxious, vexed with the irrepressible feeling that she had to hurry.  There were things that needed to be done, set straight.  She couldn’t turn back, now.  It was too late.
Worried about her kids, Angela called her sister-in-law in Seattle.  Got the answering machine – too early! – and hung up without leaving a message.  She proceeded to have a good hiccuppy cry and then told herself to get over it, knowing the kids were as well-cared-for as possible under the circumstances.
She asked herself; And how is that knowledge supposed to make it better?  Make me miss them less…make them miss their mother less?
Maybe Angela’s anxiety was simply a matter of ordinary grief jerking at her heartstrings.  After all, it was only last month when Daddy died…
Only last month – the end of her father’s life and she had not been at his bedside to say goodbye.  To say I’m sorry.
She had always assumed that reconciliation between herself and her father would occur in some vague, far-off future.  That she would be there in the end and there would be time to talk.  But there wasn’t time.  She wasn’t there and now it was too late.  That was a cold fact, one of those unpleasant reality bites that inevitably come with little or no warning.  She had missed the funeral, too.  Another unpleasant bite. 
Angela, with Les’ dogged help, had determined that the cost of airfare to return to the Midwest on short notice was beyond their means, the close-to-the-bone budget they lived on.  She swore to Les she didn’t blame him for that.  But it was a lie: she sure as hell did blame him.  Who else?  And now she was heading home anyhow – because and in spite of it all.  She was just taking something of a circuitous route.Maybe what she was doing was a last-ditch slap at Les, an elaborate stop-taking-me-for-granted gesture. Maybe it was the sudden and painful growth of a backbone. Or only a silly girl’s walk on the wild side. These were easy notions for Angela to stomach, this level of egocentric self-flagellation. Much better than the idea that she may be guilty of inflicting grief on everyone she knew for nothing but her own vanity. Her foolishness. Her selfishness. Les deserved a good slap, after all. Whereas she…
Angela plunged her hand into a bag of Celtic Runes she’d found on Liz’s bookcase, loving the cool touch of the porcelain tiles, mixing them up. She drew a single tile for guidance and drew Kano, the Rune of Opening, portending seriousness, clear intent, and concentration. 
           That’s just great, she thought…clear intent? – I’ve never had clear intent my entire life that I’m aware of. Making concise and meaningful plans was not something Angela accomplished easily. Maybe this was because she’d never really had to, Daddy always there to point the way until Les came along and replaced him. Now Daddy was gone and Les was…incapable. 
          Making meaningful plans required looking into the future. And projecting herself into the future had always been a frightening concept to Angela, so daunting sometimes that she ended-up feeling like a hunkered down rabbit. The result was that she kept her ambitions close and humble. Plenty of times while growing up – and screwing up – constantly afraid of making bad choices, she’d thought that she actually liked that hunkered-down feeling. Believed that it kept her safe.  But those days were over. Now it was time to stick her nose out and sniff.  She put away the Runes, lit a cigarette, and dialed a different number.

Dark in Spokane Washington and not so dark in Joplin Missouri where it was two hours earlier and the sun rose a bit higher on the horizon. The call to Nikki was cold, the phone spitting out words that were stiff and brittle.
          “It’s me, Sis.” Angela said.
          “Oh my God…Angie! Where are you?”
          “I’m okay. I’m safe.”
          There was a pause. The last two words seemed to have temporarily got lost in a fiber-optic vacuum somewhere before falling out at the other end.
          “The Tukwila police called here,” Nikki finally replied in a flat tone. “Said you were missing.”
          “Already?” Les evidently reacted quicker and with more urgency than Angela had thought he would. She wondered if it even occurred to him to call his long-detested sister, guessing the kids might be there. “I’m not missing. I’m AWOL,” she said.
          “But, where are you? Are you okay?”
          “Don’t worry. I’m fine. Don’t bother to star sixty-nine me – I’m in Spokane Washington and I’ll be leaving here soon. If the Tukwila police call back just tell them I’m somewhere in the middle of America.”
            Another pause. More words getting lost. Then; “God, Angie…Don’t you know Les and your kids are worried to death!”
          “What about the kids? Has Les called?”  Angela imagined the question beaming like a Star Trek laser from Spokane some twenty-two thousand miles into space where it bounced off a satellite in geostationary orbit, journeying back to earth in Joplin where it was twenty-eight degrees, windy, and snowing, words arriving frigid and numb from the journey.
          “No. Just the police,” Nikki finally answered.
          “If Les had a brain he would have called his sister – or you – before he called the police. I swear the man could turn an ordinary zit into skin cancer without a second thought.”
          “They only said you went missing. Without the kids. Said they’re okay.”
          “There you go, then. And please don’t try to make me feel worse about the kids than I already do. I’m sure they’re fine. Les’s sister will see to it.”
            “Are you coming home?”
            “You mean to Joplin?”
           “Uh huh.”
            “Yeah. I suppose I am.”
            Shorter pause. Words finding their way now. “When?”
            “How are Kenny and Mom?”
            “’Bout the same,” Nikki answered, sighing. “We’re all sad about Daddy. Worried about you.”
            “Try to loosen up some, Sis,” Angela said. “You don’t need to be so tight. Everything will work out.” 
            “Okay. Sure,” Nikki answered. “When are you coming?”
            It occurred to Angela that she knew little-to-nothing of her sister’s life the past nine years – even less of her mother’s – and hadn’t really missed the knowledge until she got word of Daddy’s death. No amount of catching up could possibly find what was lost after she dropped out of high school with only three months to go and ran off with Les to become a wife and mother. She had already missed her father’s passing. Missed his funeral. Missed the whole last decade of her family’s history – so what was the urgency?
            “Might be a while.”
            “Please make it soon. Be here by Christmas?”
            “See ya, Sis.”
            “Goodbye, Angie.”
            Angie. She hadn’t been called that in a very long time. Angie…her sister’s voice already fading from her memory, the name sounding odd, part of a whole world that had shattered, the pieces falling away so fast it made her dizzy. Did she really need to hold on to the few bits she still possessed? 
            What did she need?  She wasn’t sure. All she knew was that it felt like there was a big empty place deep inside her where a stranger lurked – an altogether new her waiting to take up residence in the void – and she could feel that hollowness making a buzzing noise inside her, sounding like the dead telephone receiver buzzing in her ear. 
            Yes, it was a hollowness that needed filling before the stranger took over. 
            But not today.

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