I’ve been quiet the last few months, the reason being… I’m attempting to write a book. No, I’m not trying to be the next Pulitzer prize winning novelist. I hope to just make people laugh a little.
Anyway, below I’ve included the first attempted chapter of the book I’m writing entitled “Perils of a PTA Princess”. I’d love to have some feedback. Since this is my first time switching to fiction, any tips are welcome! Let me know what you think, and what needs work. I appreciate your help!
So without further ado…
PERILS OF A PTA PRINCESS
I thought I was out.
But no, that stupid, tube-top wearing twit Stacey Lancaster and her miscreant children decided to move to the other side of the river three weeks back so she could shack up with her new boyfriend. She met him on that good ‘ol boy dating website called bootstraplovin.com. He wears flannel in summer, for God sakes. FLANNEL. Pearl Jam doesn’t even wear flannel any more. No wonder he’s on disability. He overheats constantly just wearing those damn fuzzy shirts.
Last year, Stacey promised to take over as president of the Franklinville PTA. Yes, she would have been a horrible leader, but after three years at the helm, I really didn’t care. Sure, everyone knows she’s been selling drugs since her six-year-old brought that glass “bubble blower” in for show and tell. But really, who better to push your product on than to overworked mothers looking for some relief? It was a win-win situation, until Eddie Vedder’s grandpa stepped into the picture.
And now I’m reduced, again, to this hell. I watch as hundreds of kids run amuck. Their parents plead and curse like savages as they stand in long lines, waiting to fill out paperwork and meet the people who will spend six hours a day babysitting their offspring.
Nothing screams perdition like elementary school registration.
“Would you like a Franklinville Elementary car decal? Or how about a popsicle for the little one? Courtesy of PTA. Welcome back to another fun-filled year of school,” I say with fake sincerity to a lady in the new student line. My sweetness is noxious. But the mother I am talking to is either too stupid or too much of a bitch herself to notice.
“You got purple? Emma only eats purple,” she barks back, her overstuffed purse slipping off her shoulder. It slams into my knee like a battering ram.
I continue to grin despite the thump, like one of those circus monkeys with cymbals that you wind up and let loose on the coffee table. I dream of that monkey turning rabid and insane and clashing the metal circles together against this vulgar woman’s huge head.
I want to say to this disastrous duo, just take a damn popsicle before I shove one down your insanely-too-low-for-school-not-to-mention-your-weight t-shirt. I have a premonition that this very act has happened to this wench before, and that she quite enjoyed it.
And then, it all becomes clear. She’s a Kindergarten mom. Kindergarten moms dress like this, especially the ones who birthed their kids while still in high school. Thirty-six year olds, particularly those like me whose bodies resemble a prepubescent boy, cringe when we encounter these teen moms who didn’t make the cut to form their own reality TV show.
The woman must feel my contempt. She clears her throat. A slight wiff of smoke catches my attention. I wonder if her hacking was really an attempt to be noticed or the beginnings of emphysema.
“Sorry, they’re all wrapped. I can’t make out the colors,” I reply, remembering the appearance of proper manners.
The girl’s chubby cheeks tense up; I know this look. I have three little devils of my own, not even counting my husband. Experience has taught me that she’s going to scream.
“Mama, I wanna a purple,” she screeches. If her face were a popsicle it would be cherry.
This is exactly why I never bring my kids to any PTA events.
“Can’t she just have a purple one? Let ‘er open that one. If it’s not a purple, I’ll eat it and she can try again,” snarls the woman in a condescending tone. She obviously doesn’t know who I am, who my family is, and that I don’t tolerate condescending. Well, outwardly I might. But inside, I’m already plotting my revenge.
Like Kenny Rogers, I know when to hold them and know when to fold them. I choose to give the kid five frozen treats and walk away, not run. No thank you. No appreciation. No problem. Welcome to my world.
Defeated by a kindergartener, I rejoin the rest of our PTA contingency behind a long table decked out with green plastic grass borders and palm trees. We’re wearing neon leis and hula skirts to “celebrate” our school theme this year, “Riding the Wave to Success”. I cringe.
Someone with a sense of humor has placed us alongside the back wall with the other school extra-curricular rejects. Directly to the right of us, the Cub Scouts have erected a tent with a fake fire pit, their yellow kerchiefs knot awkwardly at their necks. I can imagine why a boy, or their 42-year-old leader, would want to wear a chintzy version of a fine British ascot, but then again, I look like I’m attending a pig roast in the Pacific, so who am I to judge.
With registration in the cafetorium, the platypusary of all combo rooms that merges the lunch area with a stage, we are allowed to hand out Dixie cups filled with fruit punch and cocktail umbrellas to potential members. A better incentive would be to add rum to the mixture, but I’ve been warned one too many times about the legality of having alcohol on school grounds.
“Does anyone know the name of that woman over there in line? The one with the kid who looks like she has tentacles made of multicolor popsicles?” I inquire, swooshing my high ponytail in the direction of the offenders.
Son of a gun. The kids eating four at once including the pink, blue and orange ones. Game on, little girl. Game on.
“Now, Whitney, you should know that face. That’s Lanie Fry’s cousin? Rumor has it that she’s still on pain pills from that back surgery she had last year. I’m surprised she’s off the couch,” says Beth Ann Bilbright in a loud whisper. We don’t hide our badmouthing in these parts.
If you need an answer to any town related question, ask Beth Ann. Her ancestors settled Franklinville back in the early 1800’s. She’s related to roughly a quarter of its 10,000 inhabitants. Good for gossip. Bad for dating. She actually married her third cousin twice removed without even knowing it. Of course, most people wouldn’t know it. But small town folks seem to keep track of human pedigrees better than the lineages of their championship bulls.
“Well, she’s on my list. I’m penciling in her name right now. Maybe if she signs up to do the Veteran’s Day reception, we’ll talk. But until then, she’s number seven.” The air from my proclamation sends a gentle wave through Beth Ann’s towering blonde bouffant. She crinkles her eyes, afraid I messed up her do, and I swear I see a snowfall of silver eye shadow cascade over her lashes. Few people realize how south Southern Indiana really is, but we have the hair and drawl, to prove it.
“You and your list. It’s not right. You need to learn to let go and forgive,” chides our savior Connie Flattery, her short cropped brown hair shaking in disapproval. She’s about as tall as my ribcage, medium build and sweet as the honeysuckles in June. Lord bless her, Connie never talks bad about anybody. But somehow she still manages to make you feel like shit without uttering a single sinful word. It’s really a useful gift to have, and one I greatly admire.
“My list serves me well. Every name deserves to be on there. Especially number one. I had a run in with that El Numero Uno Ms. Hilzger earlier today. That old hag called me President Priss again and told me to go to hell, all for asking if we could store our ice pops in the schools walk-in freezer. How they allow her around kids, I’ll never know,” I say. Connie smiles a little, no doubt in agreement with the nickname. It’s a good thing she makes such awesome cupcakes or she’d be on the list too.
Our head lunch lady hates me. She’s holding a grudge against something I’ve done. Trust me; I know a thing or twelve about grudges. Here’s the thing. I can’t recall doing one bad thing to her. Well, not to her face. I always have invited her to all the staff dinners that I have organized and have been extra kind with gifts during the holidays. For some reason, the mean old gal reminds me of home. Down where I’m from by Louisville, my own mama use to have to wait tables to make ends meet. People would sometimes treat her just like she was the dirty crumbs she vacuumed up at the end of her shift. I might be a prissy at times now, but I’ll never forget where, and who, I came from.
Regardless, Ms. Hilzger still’s on the list.
“So how’d you get them back in the freezer? What’d you have to promise the old bird?” asked Beth Ann.
“Not a damn thing. I have other ways of getting around her majesty. It pays to know the right people, or should I say person.” I pause and raise the corner of my mouth, just to let that statement settle. “In fact, I stapled the note that granted me permission right on the popsicle box. It even has ‘Attn: Ms. Hilzger’ in black sharpie. This one will eat her alive. I expect her any minute to come out here in a tizzy. Hopefully she’ll be carrying the popsicles with her. We could use a refill.”
“Whitney Wilkes, you are something. Why I…”
Beth Ann begins to speak, but suddenly stops and stares over my shoulder. Her body transforms from her women-talking pose to her I-need-a-man position. She stands more erect and her fake boobs shove out. Thank goodness no children were around, or I fear an eye could have been lost. She fixes her grass skirt and runs her tongue over her teeth, checking to make sure that terrible fire engine red lipstick didn’t stain her pearly whites.
Throughout the cafetorium, half the women are making similar adjustments, their eyes bright with lust. This could only mean one thing. I turn slowly.
“Hey there, Mr. Murphy.” Beth Ann’s voice rings out in joy, a slight longing to her tone.
Standing behind me is one of the prettiest men I have ever laid eyes on. He’s 6’3”, green eyes and gelled, golden brown hair that forms a widow’s peak perfectly atop his bronzed forehead. And don’t get me started talking about his body. His ID pokes out of his light blue shirt pocket, the top driven up by the most exquisite pecks you’ve ever seen, or most likely felt, for that matter. Throw in a perfect smile and we have ourselves a winner, although some of the ladies most likely wish they could have his wiener as well.
Meet our Principal, Travis Murphy, one of my very best friends. Did I mention he’s gay? I probably shouldn’t. Due to his position, no one around here knows except me. For some reason, people like to tell me their secrets. It doesn’t seem to matter that I spill half of them. Guess I have a trusting look. Or maybe people mistake my friendliness for compassion. They’d be wrong on both accounts.
When you’re a merchant of gossip, sometimes you unknowingly become the news. Supposedly, tongues are a waggin’ that Travis and I are engaged in a secret and scandalous affair. If anything, this talk makes him look straight while I appear pretty desirable, especially after my asshole of a husband cheated on me with the high school cheerleading sponsor. As the boys’ head varsity basketball coach and a local legend, everybody loves my husband, everybody that is except me. I’m sorry to say we’re still together. It drives me crazy how most people don’t believe the truth about that bastard but are more than willing to trust the negative lies about me. Positive lies, though, are just fine, but the negative?
As the good book says, judge not lest thee be judged. I’ve had my fair share of being judged. Now it’s high time I return the favor.
“Leis and tropical drinks? Nice touch, ladies. I feel the trade winds calling,” Travis says as he gives me a sharp nudge. The other mothers look on, jealously wishing he would touch them in some similarly frivolous way.
“Best lay of any kind I’ve had in a while,” Beth Ann predictably shouts, unaware of the virgin ears listening around her. Not that virgin ears matter much to Beth Ann. She’s been known to wear skimpy bikinis and shamelessly flirt with her son’s 16-year-old guy friends on more than one occasion. I expect her to debut on “To Catch a Predator” any day now.
Travis changes the subject, ignoring the pathetic attempt at middle school humor. “Did you get that request from Mrs. Borgin about the Skool is Kewl Drug program? They could really use the funding from you guys.”
“Yeah, although I hesitate to pay for any presentation that misspells school AND cool.”
“So, you’re doing it though, right?”
“Of course. But it will cost you. I get to bring my kids in late four times this month without being counted as tardy.”
“Three and we have a deal.” He nods in approval. I hate carrying on conversations with Travis in front of all these people. He’s always putting on a show, frightened that the parents would revolt if they found out he liked men. I don’t blame him. Although I wish he’d have a little more faith though. He grew up in Franklinville. The people know him as one of their own. Despite my disdain for a few, a whole lot of good folks still live and work in this town. Maybe soon he’ll be able to trust them enough to stop the charade.
A Cub Scout from next door prances over and slyly tries to pilfer another ice pop. I ask what he has to trade. He shrugs. I hand over one and tell him to get his mom to join the other cool chicks on PTA. As long as you speak in a sweet voice, you can basically say anything to a kid. Except maybe “Your mother is a whore”. I’ve thought about saying that to a few little bastards, but haven’t managed to work it into a conversation quite yet.
“We’re down to the last few popsicles,” whines Beth Ann as she flips open her cooler. Normally, it stores cans of cheap beer rather than icepops. “Can you go in the back and grab some more?”
She’s trying to get rid of me so she can have Travis all to herself. I shoot him a look of distress, hoping he might offer to come with me, but his eyes remain unchanged. He’s in principal mode now. And even though he’ll never admit it, I think he enjoys all this attention. He is a man after all.
“Fine, if I run into Mrs. Hilzger, it’s both your asses. We’re going to turn the moveable chalk board to a vertical, table top position, and I’ll water board you with hand sanitizer. I witnessed it being performed in First Grade once. Not. Pretty.”
“Go on now, little Miss Smarty Pants,” she teases, keeping her eye on the proverbial prize.
I grab Travis’ keys and head back to a door hidden in the corner of the cafetorium. One of the staff members has decorated the window with pink butcher’s paper. It’s blocking my view. Mrs. Hilzger might be lurking about, and I can’t see a dang thing. Perfect.
I turn the key and peek inside. A cool silence permeates the industrial looking kitchen. I tip toe toward the walk-in freezer, the stainless steel counter tops glistening in their cleanliness. I notice Mrs. Hilzger’s cap strewn haphazardly on the floor. A clump of grey hairs are still attached to the fastener in the back. Thank goodness I’m not that gray, I think to myself, but how odd? The cafeteria ladies usually keep this place immaculate. Do I finally have something on the old girl?
I hustle a little faster. An unnatural chill hits my bones, not unlike the feeling I get when my husband touches me. This breeze comes from a one inch opening that leads into the walk-in. Oh, crap. Connie forgot to shut the freezer door. I’ll hear about this in the morning.
I grasp the silver handle and pull the door open farther. Every time I do this, this irrational fear of being locked in the cooler returns. I prepare to grab the box of popsicles and run. As the door creaks open, I notice a small pool of red mush gathering by the case of frozen chicken. Surely Connie didn’t tump over some grape juice too? A weird, metallic odor hits my nostrils. It reminds me of paper cut fingers and scraped knees.
And then I notice her. She’s resting sideways against a huge crate of chocolate milk, dark brown eyes stare frozen down at the floor. Her throat has been hacked, the exposed tendons underneath look almost crystallized. A long knife still protrudes from her left side. Blood splotches have frozen on its silver dotted handle.
I stare for a moment, thinking the scene before me might be some elaborate joke, before I sprint and find Travis. I grab him from behind.
“Holy Mother,” I stammer, not giving a rat’s ass if the kids can hear me. “Someone just killed the lunch lady.”