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Murder and Misfortune
Bonesteel County Newsline
Wednesday May 5th, 2010
Misfortune in Minnesota
By: Dorothy Printz
Grief struck the Bonesteel house when the body of Garrison County's librarian and sister to Bonesteel's own Mayor Lillian Bonesteel, Joan J. Arnold, 43, was finally discovered three days after her mysterious disappearance. Local fishermen rowed upon the woman during an early morning trip to Maple Lake, just a mile from the small town. Police later arrived at the scene and determined the death an accident due to blunt trauma to the woman's head. Blood matching Arnold's was removed from the dock, where officials claim she slipped on the rotting wood, knocked herself unconscious and fell into the cold waters. Arnold's never woke and drown. The funeral has yet to be announced, thought Mayor Bonesteel has arranged for a conference outside of City Hall in the next few days to speak a few final words for the late Joan Arnold.
''God, that's so tragic,'' Tessa Fitz says, and glances back at me. I try not to notice, just sit back with my arms across my chest. I haven't looked anyone in the eyes with my blood-orange hair putting a curtain between us. I just keep my green eyes glaring at the D.A.R.E. poster.
One reason was because I didn't know my aunt Joan very much. My mother says Joan had abandoned the family for a drifter. I can still remember their argument the day Joan moved away. Or the screaming my mom did into the phone before slamming it down onto the receiver. Another fond memory of their close relationship was when all the photos of Joan Bonesteel disappeared off the walls through the house and landed in boxes in the attic. And not many dinner conversations involved what Joan was up to, or even if she were still alive.
My mother received the news of Joan's disappearance a day before her body was recovered from the lake. It was still so sudden. One moment someone you love is alive, and the next they're on the autopsy table. Time moves by so quickly when you hate someone.
''No more than the next,'' came the all too familiar voice of the most negative human male on the face of planet dirt, Harven Adrian. He flips to the next page of a magazine, his old-money green eyes keep their focus on the lines of an article. His dark hair lay to one side and out of his face. Which, lets be honest with ourselves, was absolutely angelic. He was tall, lanky and very deep. You couldn't win against him. Not with words, or physically, anyways. I wouldn't know. And when I said deep, I mean his choice of weapons were his words, which cut in deep. You wouldn't know he's insulting you, not till your puny brain finally grasped the meaning of the words a couple days later. Yeah, he was so good at being bad it made you think for days.
''Mr. Cynical,'' Georgia Clarke greets nonchalantly. She pushes the long locks of gold hair over her shoulder and folds the newspaper. She turns sideways in the chair and crosses her legs in the aisle.
''What's it going to be today? Hmm? Another depressing article about a squashed kitty in the road? Another mind-bottling murder that just doesn't phase your contemptuous state of small mindedness?''
''The fact that you can even say contemptuous just blows my small mindedness all together,'' he answers her, turning in his seat as well. ''Did you cry at the end of Titanic?''
''What the hell does that have to do with anything?'' Georgia says.
''A simple fact that if you cried, which I'm sure you did, when Leonardo DeCaprio sank to the bottom of the freezing ocean because Kate Winslet just refuse to share whatever it was she was floating on, you fell for the idiotic mistakes. Those of which were made by none other than Captain Edward John Smith and shipbuilder Thomas Andrew. Thousands of people died, frozen with contorted faces and out-stretched arms. A historical tragedy that lead to more safety regulations on ships. And yet, survivors of that doomed ship still slept soundlessly when they returned home. It all boils down to one thing, everyone looks out for number one. So, because one person dies, appose to another person, lets say, lost in the Amazon for days and being eaten alive by God knows what, you just fall apart. Really, I question your structure. Oh, one more thing, that mask of condolences you put on, is fake. You're as deep as a tide pool.''
Georgia narrows her diamond eyes and tightens her jaw. Tessa chews on the inside of her cheek, trying to find some way to get past the bombs he's thrown unusually early in their ritual battle everyday in American Literature. But the girls, both dressing from head to toe in the expensive wear ordered from the Fifth Avenue catalog, began fidgeting with their black Prada jackets. Tessa successfully pulls a strain from her denim jeans without Adrian seeing it. Georgia adjust the hem of her cotton blue dress. We weren't friends, but they had just defended my aunt Joan's death against the darkest soul in this black hole of a universe. I couldn't let them crash and burn alone.
''Wow. It must be agonizing to deal with all that self-loathing by yourself. All those homoerotic wet dreams will go away once you accept who you are. A pitiless self-absorbed b******. You're right. We all look out for number one. At least we don't put it out there like a bad sitcom,'' I tell Adrian. He turns those eyes on me, making it feel like a spot light had suddenly been trained on your head and you look down to discover you came to school in only underwear. He sounds like the typical Hollywood-cute-bad-boy-slash-closet-poet just looking for friendship and acceptance, but don't let him fool you. He's worse. And yes, he really makes you feel like you've been stripped of clothes and dignity.
''Better advertising a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sitcom than dumping all my dirty laundry on the front lawn for neighbors to pick and analyze. I don't pretend to be anything, Bonesteel. Your make-up isn't the only thing you put on this morning, either. It's been, as last years newspaper covered, thirteen years since you saw you're estranged aunt last. Hmm? You've got so much blowing in the wind that after awhile, that mask to hide all your business, isn't really something you need to put on anymore. Everyone knows everything about you. The Mayor's b****** child. Never married so that's what you have to be titled. To make it all even better, Mary-Kate and Ashley over there could probably tell me your favorite movie, or favorite gemstone. And you're not even friends. I suggest before you open your mouth to talk, you shouldn't.''
''Next time you open your mouth to breathe, think about the air you're depriving from the more important people who need it to live. Next time you're standing in the grocery store, just step out of line, more important people need that space you're wasting. In fact, do us all a favor and disappear so no one can care,'' I shrug my shoulders and huff, ''You can't honestly think that you'll ever mount to anything higher than a dung beetle s*** ball, right? Or does your mom tell you to say that to yourself in the mirror? She should really stay off the powder, it kills roots in the family tree.''
''Say arrogant-unpalatable b**** again, your mouth looks provocatively sexy when you do,'' Adrian counters.
''Say inept-facetious putz first and I'll let you see my bra strap,'' I answer, throwing a sarcastic smile at him.
''My Virginia Woolf researchers will be Harven Adrian and Penny Bonesteel,'' Mr. Kemmel says, speaking for the first time since the class period began twenty-three minutes ago. ''I can see the real chemistry between you two.''
''I will not work with that loner,'' I protest, planting my feet in the ground. A sure sign I would not budge an inch till he changes the research arrangements.
I slam the door to my car, to the front door, to the closet door after throwing my jacket in, and even the kitchen pantry. The water bottle I rip from the shelves of the refrigerator must have been glued shut with CrazyGlue because no matter how hard I twist at the cap, it refuses to budge. I hold the bottle between my knees, root my feet into the tile and lean my backside against the cabinet. I try both hands, grunting like, well, like I was constipated.
''Penelope? What did I say about slamming the doors?'' I hear my mother call from her office. There's a shuffling sound following her voice. She's brought her work home with her. Again.
''What?'' I answer, pretending not to hear her. I squeeze the bottle cap hard, hoping to will it to twist open with wishful thinking. ''Come on. Come on. Come on,'' I whisper to the bottle. ''Open, fat head.''
''Penelope.'' My mother was coming out of her office. I should probably get my video camera and record it. When I mentioned exactly zero dinner conversations about aunt Joan, I should have been more exact. The only dinner conversation was between me, myself and I. But I can't argue, three makes a party. And Me had the key to the liquor cabinet. All was right in the Bonesteel mansion. The only mansion in Bonesteel, a small town just north of Nebraska.
I turn, grab a knife from the drain board and turn it on the resisting cap. My fingers curl around the plastic bottle, applying pressure to the top. I was so angry at the moment, I almost just passed the kitchen and went straight to the dining room. Right next to the door was the wine rack. Under the wine rack was the key. I needn't say more.
''This is your stupid head, Adrian,'' I start muttering to the bottle, aiming the tip of the knife down into the cap. ''And this is my big knife, you stupid, vile-waste-of-human existence. Ugh! Open you sonofabitch bottle!''
The kitchen door behind me swings open, slapping my butt and startling me. I stab clean through the water bottle, squirting it into my face. I gasp and drop the bottle. It splatters up onto my pants, making me look like I've just wet myself. I turn around, arms spread to shake the water off. My mother balanced a clip board on the length of her right forearm. Her faded red hair, looking super granny like, was boy short and spiked up. But not like a biker's old lady. Lillian's not that cool. Her eyes were pasture green, sort of like the skirt suit she sports around the office. And the house.
''Lillian, maybe coming through the door no one ever uses isn't the best idea,'' I tell her.
''Yes, well, it was the closest,'' she answered, a frown still gracing her milk face. She seems less than thrilled that I was home.
''How was school?'' Ah! First task of her daughter-to-mother-to-do-list. Pretend you care, Lillian.
''Fan-friggin'-tastic. I lost my virginity in the girls bathroom,'' I answer. I peer at her face hard, tightening my jaw. Show me some emotion. Come on Lillian, you can do it.
She stops writing and without lifting her head, meets my eyes. She looked angry. Like she wanted to burn the flesh off my face with X-ray vision. Her eyes, complete with wrinkles and the soft foot prints of past freckles, glare a abnormally bright green. Man, they could tell you so much when she wanted you to see through to her soul. Her black, endless, pitiless soul. The Devil wasn't in the gays. It was here, in a small town just north of Nebraska. The Devil was the major of my own personal Hell. And my damned mother. Who did I kill in a past life? Lincoln? Maybe Kennedy.
''Is that suppose to be funny?'' she demands to know in a voice so piercing my ears rang. ''I don't find jokes like that to be funny. Girls in foreign countries have their virginity taken from them because some p**** has to get off. And then go on to bare their child. So next time you think about making wise crack like that, about something as serious as death, I would advice you not to do so. For both our sakes.''
''Surrender, Dorothy,'' I answer her, lifting my hands up, palms facing her for a sign of submission. ''Bad day at the office or did Shannon use Pledge instead of Windex?''
''Go to your room,'' she tells me. My shoulders droop a little. She's early to send me away like that, and missing a few steps in her mother-to-daughter Pretend-I-Love-You list. Usually she hits me, or calls me scum or something pleasant like that. Or has Shannon make me dinner then throw it on the floor. Hmm. Baked chicken. Last nights dinner smell really good too.
''Or what?'' I ask, holding up the big, nasty knife to make a point. No pun intended. ''You'll spank me and tell me I've been a naughty girl?''
''I haven't the time for your nonsense this evening. Go to your room,'' she repeats, marking violently on her sheets of mayor-like business.
''No,'' I reply. ''Not tonight.''
Battle Royal! Unless she stakes me like the vampire she thinks I am with that silver pen, she wouldn't dare test the sharp edge of the double bladed knife. I'm not a killer, or even crazy enough to keep the knife pointed at her if she charged, which she has done before. But I'm seventeen, dammit! I had a right to act like one. I'm not a scared little child with half a bruised face anymore. Or a broken arm.
I was like my mother in more ways than red hair and green eyes. We have attitude and zero-tolerance. We're short-tempered, and bad-tempered. And we are stubborn as hell. That's like introducing a toaster to water and hoping they get along. I didn't like her. And I'm pretty positive she didn't care much for me either. Not till we're in the public eye at least.
''Fine. I don't have enough hours in the day for your archaic behavior,'' she folds and heads back to her office. I turn the knife down and nod once in victory. The old falcon was finally realizing just as well as I was. I wasn't small anymore, or weak.
''Bye, Lillian,'' I yell cheerfully through the swing door as she vanishes' behind it. There was one thing Adrian had wrong. My dirty laundry wasn't out on the lawn for all to see. In Bonesteel, we're the perfect family. I wasn't a b****** child. She appears committed to her family. And she was. But I'm not sure committing to make someone's life crap is on other people's committing list. Committing to reject love probably isn't a check mark box either. Or committing to avoid your daughter like a quarantine patient. I could go on. My mother was a endless cesspool of committing to hating me. Why?
Well, how exactly is a rainbow made? Why does the Mississippi River flow backwards? Why does my mother, the one person biologically programmed to love me, hate the very essences of me? I don't know.