We'd been in Oregon for two months. On the coast, in a neat little house in the woods. The town's called Yachats, an Indian word. Pronounced "YaHOTS." I was born in England, but have lived in Canada since age four. We came down from Vancouver when Del had a sculpture show in a Yachats gallery. The show sold well and Del was offered a job teaching summertime Adult Extension sculpture classes at a college not far away, in Eugene. I got to make some money too, being her model, which I've done, on and off, since I was little.
It was there, in Eugene, where I met Marcus. I had finished modelling for Del's 2-to-4-o'clock class. She still had her 6-to-8 once-a-week night class to do (with a male model), so I decided to go into town and pick up the white sweater I was paying off. I love white things, even though they get dirty fast. The best colour of all, I think, is like the skin in Renoir paintings. It's real hard to find. "Deco peach," Del says it is. Art stuff, instant-home stuff, bend-over stuff and 60s English music and clothes are Del's strongest areas of knowledge.
So, I was on my way to the Fashion Plate (which Del spells p-l-a-i-t. It's a Del joke; in London slang "plait" is going down on a guy, and Del thinks Fashion Plate clothes suck) when I saw this guy. Truly, the best-looking guy I had ever seen. I mean personally seen, as opposed to film, telly, poster or album cover. For a start, he was HUGE! Not fat huge. Tall huge. Six-something. And he had this great hair. It's hard to describe Marcus's hair colour. It was red, brown, gold -- and the whole thing went crazy with beautifulness when the sunlight hit it. And he had this really sexy lower lip. And hands. Big hands.
As far back as I can remember I've had this thing about guys with big hands. When I was little, 6 or 7, I'd see a big-handed guy and suddenly all at once I'd love that person so much! Then, when I was about 9, I would look and think, "Please pick me up! Lift me up!" I like leaving the ground. Del does too. It's inherited. Sometimes, I'd dream I was being held in the palm of his open hand and he'd take me around town. Not any town I've actually ever lived in. A fantasy beach town with this incredible carousel right on the beach. Beautiful carved lacquer-shiny painted horses going round and round. Me watching, sitting in the palm of this huge, beautiful hand. And the hand never closes on me or drops me. I think it's going to, but it doesn't.
At about that time, when the dreams first started happening, I won this drawing contest at school (to make the illustration for a poster about how reading was good). When the man from the library gave me the prize, he said, "Let's give the little girl a great big hand." That made me think of my dream and I got these stupid giggles. People looked at me like they thought I was weird, which I know some of them thought anyway. There was no way I could explain, so I just giggled until the giggle died.
Anyway, this guy in Eugene had hands that were so big and so amazingly beautiful that I loved them all at once and completely and could hardly breathe. He was looking at me. (It's possible I looked weird. If I looked on the outside like I felt on the inside, I'm SURE I looked weird!) He laughed. It wasn't a mean making-fun-of-a-person laugh, but I was embarrassed and took off running for the Fashion Plate.
The night, no surprise, I had the Hand Dream again. Only this time, ditto no surprise, the big hand belonged to the guy from Eugene.
Usually, when I would see somebody I thought was hot, I'd tell Del about it, and she'd tease me and say semi-gross things, and we'd both laugh. This time, though, I didn't say anything. I didn't feel like being teased about it. I think because the hands were in it so much. The hands thing was just so MAJOR for me that I'd never told ANYONE about it. Not even Del. I think people need to keep some stuff. Not tell it.
The following Tuesday I was modelling. I modelled nude but it was OK. Most of the people in Del's classes were really trying to make some kind of art. There was one guy with a sort of pervo way of looking at people. Del told me he was just a little walleyed. Besides, they all knew I was Del's daughter. While I was holding the pose, I kept thinking about the Eugene guy's hands. "Stop fidgeting, Rosie," Del said.
After modelling, while I was waiting for Del to finish her night class and drive us home, I looked around town for Mr. Big Hands, but he wasn't anywhere.
He was somewhere the following week. I wasn't even looking. Things like that are like that. If you want to find someone, it's better if you don't look. I think there's a sort of mystical phantom committee whose whole job is to keep people from getting what they want, and if you don't let on, they get bored with watching you and go off to deny other people stuff and your Wanted Thing slips past them.
Anyway, I was in this croissant place having an apple juice (apple is my favourite juice. Orange churns my guts up. Del's too. Inherited) and drawing. I'm not an artist-artist professionally. I'm a cartoonist. Like Searle and R. Crumb and D.D.A. I've had cartoons printed in school papers, and once in a real newspaper. In Salmon Arm when I was 11. When Del was with Stavro.
So there I was, in the croissant place, drawing this cartoon of a starfish regenerating, when in came the big hands guy. He sat down at the table next to mine, smiled this terrific smile and said, "Hi." I was so glad, this great huge gladness, that I said, actually said, "Yay." It was so right out there in the road we both laughed.
That was Marcus. He said he was 29 so I said I was 16. I knew that 14 sometimes made older guys nervous but 16 was usually OK. We were both lying. Him down, me up, but I didn't know that then.
It was really easy talking with him. He was working at the college too. Teaching Adult Extension short-story writing. Same as the thing Del was doing with drawing. He came from Seattle and had written a book of short stories. He walked me over to the BookNook so I could see it. Bought me a copy. I didn't tell him not to (I think people who say "You shouldn't have!" when they're really happy about being given something are dishonest jerks). He signed, "To Roanne, who has just begun to regenerate -- from Marcus Willoughby, who is still doing so as best he can." He wrote that because of my starfish cartoon, which he said he really liked. So I gave it to him. He asked me to sign it. I'm usually good with words, because of having an English mum, and reading a lot, but all I could think of to write was, "Glad you like this, from Roanne Chappell." Pathetic, eh? Then he had to go teach his night class. I said "Bye" and that it was nice to meet him. Then I stuck his book inside my denim jacket and went back to the croissant place to wait for Del. She was already there, parked at the curb. I could see that the two young guys at the table by the window were impressed. It wasn't about Del. It was about the Morgan.
Being an artist means sometimes being majorly broke. Del and I both know how to make do with whatever. When I was little and there was nothing to eat but bologna (which I hated), Del would point at the slimy pink slices pooching up in the pan and say, "Look, Rosie! Chinese hats!" It didn't make the pink slime taste any better but at least she was trying to make it interesting. Last year, she told me she hated bologna too. It had just been at a good stealing location in Mac's Milk.
The Morgan was Del's extravagance. Even when we were broke, she took really good care of it, telling people it was "a classic," that it had a "wooden frame" and ran "like a thoroughbred." It's dark green and shaped like a Labrador retriever's head. Being a sportscar, it only has two proper seats. With all the paintings and sculptures Del has to haul around, she really needs something like a station wagon, but she loves the Morgan like family, so she just goes back and forth with stuff a lot.
Del was in this really terrific mood. I could tell because she was singing old Brit rock stuff, and when we got to the coast road she did some four-wheel drifts. That's a crazy steering thing you can do in sportscars on winding roads. It feels like the car's going to lose it, but there's a technique to it. Del learned it from this racing car driver she went out with for a while when I was five. He was Italian, with a really low voice and a pretty name. Corrado. When I was little I was scared of four-wheel drifts. I'm used to them now.
So there was Del, singing "Guhn, guhn, gilly guhn guh-uhn, walk on gilded splin...TAHS" and driving all over the road while I felt the sea wind in my face and Marcus's book inside my jacket against my body. It was a happy car.
That night, in my bed, I read one of Marcus's stories. I've always loved to read. Since I was three. Del taught me because I pestered her all the time. I wanted to be on the inside of the secret of the black squiggles. I think when you move around a lot and don't relate really well with kids your own age, books can be an important alternative to suicide. I'm usually more optimistic about my life now. Books helped with that by showing me possible ways out when my wherever and whatever weren't as terrific as they could be. I still read a lot, but now it's mostly just because I like to.
I started one Marcus-story, about a divorcing couple who were fighting over books and records. I couldn't get into it. Then I found "Ursa Major." The woman in the story is on a camping trip with her boring husband. She sees a large, beautiful bear. She leaves food out for him. The next day, she finds a bright blue bead where the food had been. She knows it's crazy, but she's certain that the bear left the bead. She strings it on a shoelace and wears it around her neck, telling her husband she found it in the woods. After a week, she has seven bright blue beads on her necklace. At night, while her husband is sleeping, she leaves their tent and walks to the food and beads place. The bear is there. The woman, Alice, feels there's a sense, "an echo" of a man's face within the bear face, "an echo of a man's body within the bear body." The bear kneels in front of her. She drops to her knees facing him/it, smiling. "Alice saw the arrow glinting in the night sky, lit by the moon. It described a wide arc. As she cried out, the arrow found its mark. The bear's mouth opened in surprise, making no sound. His great Kodiak body pitched sideways and fell with a thud to the ground. Once again, as he had deliberately and by accident for ten years, her husband had stepped between Alice and something interesting." I really liked that one. I understood it PERSONALLY. For a while I'd been feeling that something interesting was trying to happen to me, and that someone, or something, was in the road between me and it.
I loved the words "described a wide arc." I wanted to make a cartoon of that, but was too sleepy. I dreamt I was held in the bear's paw. Inside the paw was a man's hand. It was, of course, Marcus's.
The next day, in the teachers' room, while Del was changing into her smock, I looked up Marcus's schedule on the bulletin board. He had a 2:30 to 4:30. I decided that after I finished modelling in Del's 2-to-4 class, I would casually walk by in front of his room. Say hello and see what he said back.
At four, I toreassed out of Del's class and ran upstairs to the women's loo on Marcus's floor. Hair up or hair down? Down was sexier but Del was always saying I had "a gorgeous neck and clavicles" that I "obscured with too much hair." Marcus was closer to Del's age than mine, so I decided to go for a high ponytail. Did lips, did eyes, and hauled my heartbreaker clavicles down the hall. Timing, perfecto! Marcus's class was breaking up and people were coming through the door. Then Marcus came out. He was talking to a woman. She looked low end of older. About 25, 26. Blondish. Fattish. He didn't see me. "Hi," I said brilliantly. They both looked at me. "Oh, hello, Roanne," he said, sounding like what a beige wall would sound like if a beige wall could talk. The woman was looking at me with that "Oh, really?" face female persons sometimes use to make other female persons feel stupid and wrong. It worked great. I said something truly babbloid about having to model for my mother's class, then ran off down the hall. Behind me, I heard them laugh. I was sure it was something about me. Probably about my body. "You're in no position to do body jokes, Miss Lard-ass Bleacho Bloato!" I wanted to say, but I got a grip on it. Back on the second floor, all flushed, I turned on the water fountain, stuck my hand in it and wet my face. Damn, I thought, I don't know how to do this stuff! What was I supposed to do, turn around and bend over?
"Hello, you." It was Marcus. I was still mad at him for laughing at me the day before, with the fat blonde. It had been my plan to cut him dead the next time I saw him.
"Hi!!" I said. Then I remembered my plan and went back to my cartoon of a fat blonde being penetrated rectally by a schoolbus.
"May I sit down?"
"If you like."
I was pleased with that. Cool, but not rude.
Marcus, however, didn't seem to notice. He sat down, smiling his terrific smile. "I want to use some lapidary, different colored stones, as part of a writing exercise for tomorrow's class. There's a shop, Clyde's Rock House, out on the coast road. Would you like to take a ride out there with me?"
1) I'm too busy. 2) Sorry, I'm meeting somebody. 3) Fuck you. I couldn't decide which one to use. "OK," I said.
I knew Clyde's. Knew Clyde. Nice old guy. Skinny. Missing his two bottom front teeth. He'd owned the Shell station next to the rock shop. Sold the station to his nephew Buzz and opened the Rock House because he loved rocks. Clyde had a big black dog, mostly Lab, named Geronimo. Geronimo really liked me, and Clyde let me take him for runs on the beach. I had bought some stones from Clyde too. His prices were lots better than in Vancouver. Even with the money difference between American and Canadian.
I told Marcus all this as we drove along the coast road. It was a gray day and a little cold, so Marcus gave me his jacket to wear. It was green corduroy and smelled like him. It felt like I was wearing Marcus. Like I was the man echo inside the bear.
Marcus drove a Jeep. I liked it. Funky-elegant. Like Marcus. He was wearing a green-and-gray checked flannel shirt and old black jeans. Button fly. He looked incredibly hot. I felt like screaming "Yippieshit!" I told him I'd read "Ursa Major," and that I thought it was "quite good."
He smiled, but kept his eyes on the road. "Did you? I'm glad." He squeezed my knee for a quick minute. I thought I was going to explode.
Clyde was happy to see me (which made me look important in front of Marcus), but nowhere near as happy as Geronimo, who jumped all over me and licked my face. Marcus looked through the boxes of stones. He bought amethysts, carnelian, lapis, malachite and, I think, topaz. Geronimo was galumphing back and forth. He wanted a beach run. I asked Marcus if he'd mind.
"Not at all," he said. "I'd enjoy a beach run myself."
There was about a minute of drizzle, then bam!, it was pissing with rain. Geronimo didn't mind. He was already soaking wet from running in and out of the sea. Marcus and I ran for cover under the pier.
I'd love to say it was this incredibly perfect experience. Two Bodies Moving as One and all that. But it wasn't. Not even a little bit. What it was was:
1. A boulderette in the sand grinding into the left cheek of my bum.
2. Rain coming through the boards of the pier into my eyes (which I closed). And my nose (which I could not close).
3. Sand in pretty much everything I had that could get sand in it.
As for two bodies moving as one, forget it! My fault. I kept trying to go up when Marcus went down. But, what with the rock and the sand and the rain in my nose, I would lose the rhythm. When I moved down as Marcus moved up, he'd fall out and one of us, sometimes both of us, would have to put him back in. I was very wet inside and it made his thing slippery and sticky and it took forever to put it back. Marcus asked me to say his name over and over, and to say "fuck me," so I said "Marcus, Marcus, fuck me, fuck me." Or, "Marcus, fuck me, Marcus, fuck me." Then he came, saying, "Yes, baby, yes!" I didn't come. While he was coming and yessing, I said, "I love you." I said it very softly so he wouldn't feel obligated to love me back.
When Marcus pulled out I found out why I was so wet. His thing was covered with blood! Perfect, Roanne! Absolutely fucking brilliant! I felt like the scummiest, grossest person anybody could possibly be with. I started to cry and couldn't stop. I kept sobbing these huge gulpy sobs and saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Marcus was very sweet, sweeter than I would've been if somebody bled all over ME! He sat up and held me. He rocked me in his arms and petted my hair. He kept saying, "It's OK, baby, it's OK." Geronimo was trying to lick between my legs.
It had gotten dark while we were under the pier, so we put just our shirts on and sat in the shallow water to wash ourselves off. Then we finished dressing and walked Geronimo back to Clyde's.
Driving me home, Marcus asked, "How do you feel?" I said I was OK. He held my hand and played with my fingers. I asked if he wanted to go for a pizza. He said he couldn't. That he had a meeting with a writing student. That he'd see me at the college.
After you're with someone for the first time, it's really, really important that they ask you out again. With someone sexually, I mean. Not that I would've blamed Marcus if he didn't want more actual sex with me. I wasn't very good at it. And I bled on him. But after a first time, a woman or girl or whatever feels really open. It's like you give yourself over, give up a lot of the control you have over who you are, over how it is with you. With the roadie, I knew when we were doing it that he was only in town for the one night. And he was a rock 'n' roll person. Marcus was going to be in Eugene all summer. And he wrote books, which isn't occupationally as flaky. So I needed to have him at least ask if I wanted to have lunch or something. He didn't.
When I got inside the house, I called the college and asked the woman who answered to please tell Delores Chappell, the art teacher in 232, that her daughter got a ride home and would see her there. Then I put on a Bob Marley tape, washed out my panties and the crotch of my jeans, took a hot bath and put in a plug. Then I made a grilled cheese sandwich but had this awful, majorly large crying gulpo after I ate it which made me throw the sandwich back up. Then I started crying again. Felt like a real jerk. Went out and sat on the porch. It had stopped raining. There was a breeze. Everything smelled green and good. I had to stop thinking of Marcus's beautiful hands on my body or I'd start crying again. So I got the Interesting and/or Pretty Words book that I had been making, turned to the Foreign Words section and said the words out loud.
"Pipistrello" felt best in my mouth, so I rocked back and forth in the swing chair and said it over and over until the crying burned off.
I woke when I heard the Morgan pull up.
"Hullo, Rosie mine! Give us a hand, would you, love?" She was trying to wrestle an enormous wood sculpture out of the passenger seat. It was supergood! A cluster of naked people all tangled together. We hauled it onto the porch.
"This is great, Del. I love it."
"It's not finished. I decided to bring it home and refine it on the porch so I can work naked. Have you eaten?" I gave the short answer, "No." Del set about to make us a salade Nicoise. I've always loved watching Del do stuff with her hands. It fills her with energy and makes her glow. That night, she was looking particularly beautiful. She was wearing her floaty dress, the one made out of old chiffon scarves. White, pale blue and pale green. The odd flower print here and there. Her amazing Irish setter-colored hair was all curly and shiny. My hair, which is almost black, is the same type, only Del's looks Art Nouveau whereas mine mostly looks messy. Big hair is like big tits and bums. You have to grow into it.
We had eaten our salads and Del was smoking a joint when she asked, "Who drove you home?"
Oh well, what the hell. "One of the teachers from the college. He had to go to Clyde's. Name's Marcus."
"Uh-huh. Do you know him?"
"Yes, I do. He's a lovely guy."
As far back as I could remember, whenever Del was fucking somebody, she'd describe him as "a lovely guy."
I couldn't get it out of my mind. No matter what else I was doing or thinking about, "lovely guy" would come into my head. Del and Marcus. I tried to remember if there'd ever been a "lovely guy" Del hadn't gone to bed with. Couldn't think of one. I knew I had no real right to be mad at Del. She didn't know I'd done it with Marcus. I thought of telling her. Telling her what? That he wanted me to be his girl? Since Blood on the Beach, he hadn't even phoned me or looked for me. The one time I saw him, in the hall at the college, he was walking with two very tall women, nodding and saying "Mm-hmm" while the one with the largest nose nattered away about a person or place called "Dooney Barns." He saw me, said, "Hi, Roanne" and kept walking.
Del and I had always spent a lot of time hanging out together. Talking. Laughing. Just goofing on stuff. After the Lovely Guy Thing, I couldn't do that. I was all turned around inside, and afraid I'd start to cry or say something dumb. When I wasn't doing Del's classes I was real pulled-in and quiet. Del and I are both sort of moody people, and I knew she wasn't pressing it, was trying to give me room.
I was in the croissant place, drawing.
"I've been looking for you. Would you like to have lunch at my place on Saturday?" It had been five days since we drove out to Clyde's. Maybe he had just been waiting for me to stop bleeding.
I decided to tell Del. There was no point expecting her to respect a situation she didn't know about. She was lying on the chesterfield in a long white shirt, listening to Dr. John the Night Tripper on the stereo. I didn't want to be too intense.
"Hi," I said and went into the kitchen. "Want a spiced milk?" She didn't, but asked me to have mine out on the porch with her.
She was in the swing chair. I still felt shy, which I wasn't used to feeling with Del. I sat on the top step, facing her. We talked for a while about a woman in her class who was doing a really good sculpture of me. Then I said, "I like Marcus Willoughby."
She laughed. "Of course you do. He's bloody gorgeous!"
I looked down. I didn't know why, but it was all a little scary. "He's asked me to lunch on Saturday."
"I see...isn't he a bit old for you, Rosie?"
"I've sort of given myself a 30 ceiling. Marcus is 29."
"He told me 29."
Del lit a cigarette. Her eyes, in the Zippo light, looked...I don't know what. Something. Worried?
"Look, Rosie...I give you lots of room. Always have, right? I do it because I know you're smart. Always were. Even when you were small you did fewer arsehole things than most people. Do...what you like. You will anyway, you're my kid. But, please...be careful. Don't get yourself into a bad corner. People aren't always as they seem. They rarely are, in fact...do you understand?"
"I think so."
Del got up, walked up to me, lifted my face, tapped my nose. "Good. I'm going to crash. It's been a long day. I'm drained." She went inside.
I walked over to the wood sculpture. I ran my hands over the bodies and little round heads of the naked wooden people. What did she mean, "bad corner"? Should I have told her that Marcus already did me? That I wanted, very much, for him to do me again, with me being better at it?
I've reviewed Thursday night over and over in my mind. I know that what I did was violent and wrong. That I did an injury to somebody who loves me because of somebody who did not. When I play it back, though, which I do all the time, I cannot see myself doing anything other than what I did.
I had submitted some cartoons to The Eugene Weekly Thang, an alternative newspaper that was working out of the college. Their editor left a note for me in Del's box saying the editorial board liked my stuff and inviting me to a staff meeting at the college on Thursday evening. Del congratulated me when I told her about it and agreed to let me out of her night class a half hour earlier.
Some woman was reading her article on cosmetics and feminism. It wasn't that I wasn't interested. It was just a very long article, so I was sort of looking out the window. I could see Del outside, sitting in the Morgan, talking with a guy in the passenger seat. I couldn't see the guy's face. I could see his size. I could see his hair. The Morgan pulled out of the parking lot. I excused myself and ran downstairs. I had modelling money in my bag. I could afford the taxi home.
I heard them upstairs. Not words, just laughing and mumbles. I went up the steps on all fours, because my knees and hands make less noise than my feet. Del's bedroom door was open. It was a full-moon night, moonlight came through the window and onto the bed. Del was on top. Marcus's hands were moving over her body. From her tits to her sides to her ass and back up her sides to her tits. Del's ass was moving. Up and down, up and down. In the moonlight, it looked HUGE. I didn't snap until Marcus said, "Say my name," and she did.
It happened very fast. I got to the bed as Del's ass was moving up. I remember it as being the size of the world and pale yellow. As it rose, I sank my teeth into it. I knew I went through the skin because I tasted blood. There was screaming and cursing. I heard my name as I ran down the stairs and out the door. Then I was running through the woods to the coast road. I kept on running. Running as fast as I could to nowhere in particular.
Clyde's. Pigsweat and panting, standing in front of the Rock House. There weren't any lights on in Clyde's apartment above the shop. Geronimo, who was guarding the Rock House and Shell station, started to bark, but stopped when he saw it was me. He put his front paws on my shoulders and licked my face. I let him do that for a while because it felt really good and was helping me to slow down inside. Then I walked him behind the building to the toolshed where he slept. Wasted, I flopped down on the shed floor. The shed was dank-smelling, but the cement floor felt cool. Geronimo curled up beside me. I threw an arm over him. He licked my hand. I nuzzled his fur. I think he was glad to have company.
I closed my eyes but couldn't sleep right away because I was thinking about the grenaded kid, like I always do when people do bad surprises. The kid was American. From Iowa or Ohio (I always get those two places confused. Whichever one you say it feels like you're mispronouncing the other one). Anyway, one day this kid, he was eight years old, found a grenade. He didn't know what it was, but he thought it was interesting so he kept it. The newspaper said he told his little sister it was "pretty." Then one day he was in his room playing with all the found stuff he'd collected. He was looking at his pretty grenade, holding it real close to his face. It exploded and blew his face off. Away. Gone. I thought then and I think now that people are like that. They're interesting and they're pretty and because you don't know, or just keep forgetting they can blow up, you take them home and you're all relaxed and looking at them up close when blammo! they go off in your face. Always, when people grenaded me, it was Del who helped me put myself back together. Some of my Grenade People were kids. Some were teachers or other grown-ups. Some were even real close friends, like Brian. Sober Brian. But when Drunk Brian turned into a Grenade Person, that one night, Del threw him out. She really liked him, but when he grenaded she packed him off. So OK, Marcus grenaded, but this time Del grenaded with him and I got double-blammo! With one of the blammers being my major protector. To be fair, I don't think people always mean to grenade. It's just they've got this grenade-y stuff inside and it goes off whenever. So you need at least one put-you-back-together person. That was Del. Now maybe it wasn't.
Then there's the Starfish Thing. When I was eight we found a starfish on the beach. Del told me that when they lose one of their starpoints, it "regenerates." Grows back. So, maybe if everybody else is a grenade, I had to learn to be a starfish. But how? I'm a person. Could a person learn starfishness, or did I have to learn grenading and go off before the other grenade does?
Lying there with Geronimo, that's what I was thinking about. I didn't want to be a damn grenade. I mean, that boy in Ohiowa lost his whole face. Lost his whole fucking life! I didn't want to do things that did like that. What I wanted was for other people to not do it to me. If I didn't want to learn grenade, I would absolutely have to learn starfish. When I fell asleep I dreamt I could do it, but I almost always do really well with stuff like that in dreams. Awake Life is harder.
When the morning light came through the shed window, I woke up. At first I didn't know where I was, like when I was little and we moved around really a lot. My hands and arms were filthy, my pink tanktop was all black-smudgy from the shed floor and my armpits smelled like rotting roast beef and puppy's breath. Geronimo was in a corner, slurping from his water dish. I crawled over and nudged him out of the way. His water was dusty-tasting but I was thirsty. He didn't seem to mind sharing, but he tilted his head to one side. I laughed. "Looks weird, eh?" It was probably about 6 A.M. We went for a beach run, though I was still pretty tired and mostly walked along the beach while he did his regulation goofy freaking-in-the-sea thing. I knew that I had to go home and deal with the whole shitstorm.
Del was not there. I knew she wouldn't be. She was at the college, using God knows who as a model. It was supposed to be me, but just showing up as usual seemed like a less than brilliant idea. I took a major bath, with bubbles, then baked a couple of potatoes. When I was seven, and Del was seeing Brian, who was Irish, he said, "When all else is out of the question, a person needs to eat a potato," that potatoes would "soothe you, whether you were sick at heart or sick in body." I don't know if it was just the power of suggestion, but ever since he said it, baked potatoes have been one of my major comfort foods.
There had never been any violence thing between Del and me. I knew other kids had violence with their parents, but Del never hit me. It was also true, however, that I'd never before bit her ass while she was fucking. This was all really new stuff and I had no idea what the appropriate behavior was. I decided to write a note:
I am in the woods. I'd like to come in and work out all our stuff, but I don't want to if it's going to be scary. If you still like me (dumb joke) and want to talk, please come out on the porch and call my name. If you're too pissed off to do that I will understand.
Her chance comes after she discovers, much to her horror, that the professor she had slept with is also bedding her mother. "I just can't seem to stop feeling like one of those air-sucking dogs people leave in cars with the windows open just a tiny bit. I need to put my whole face, my whole self, in the air for a while to try and figure out who I am when I'm not standing next to my amazing mum."
To clear her head, Roanne begins a journey and goes from feeling like an outsider to being embraced by a very special group of people -- people whom most others have found strange or different but with whom Roanne feels right at home. From a marriage proposal by the teenage son of the founders of the Christian Rebirth Center, to her relationship with new best friend Gilbey Tarr -- the sixteen-year-old "Teenage Goddess from Outer Space" -- to a reunion with Dickie Siggins -- international pop star and her mother's life-long friend -- to a bittersweet reconciliation with Del, Roanne soars headfirst into a world of tragedy and comedy, and in the process learns about life, love, and death -- and everything in between.
With this richly satisfying debut novel, Gale Zoë Garnett has channeled Roanne's outsized passions into a tightly crafted and powerfully moving narrative, charting a journey to lands unknown, emotions untapped, and experience unforeseen.
Visible Amazement injects contemporary fiction with welcome jolts of crackling humor and unexpected drama. Written in a totally original and unique voice, the novel, like its heroine, is delightful, disturbing, and utterly unforgettable.