Friday, October 7, 2011

Charlie Foster, (the novel) continued

(Really having fun with this!)

It was a well-known fact that Trish Vander had a habit of telling gigantic lies and stories. She was the girl who was famous for allegedly sleeping with four of the five main players on the varsity basketball team. Everyone knew that this could have very well been the truth, but when the story broke around school, it was peppered with misinformation, and information that she herself had spread. Apparently, she wanted everyone to know that her goal was to take them one at a time in the back of a truck at a party in the desert on the same night. Mike Berry, she said, was the only one on the team who refused her generosity, but it was also known that Frank Hernandez would never consider getting in the back of a truck with Trish Vander, and besides, as Steven Cornell had pointed out, Frank wasn't even at the party, he was camping with his family, but this was just Trish, doing her thing. She seemed to thrive on everyone knowing about her sexual conquests, something that some of the girls even envied, though they would never really say it.

It was also known that if you wanted pills, Trish was your girl. Her parents' medicine cabinet had an endless supply, and if you knew Trish, or hung out with her for a day to listen to her stories, you could probably get them for free. She liked valium the best, she said, because they relax you, and as Trish was famous for saying, "God only knows, that I like to relax!" She was also the only girl at school who had been sent home for breaking the dress code, sometimes wearing skirts so short and tight that it often sent teachers into a panic. Her leopard skin skirt had caused Coach Myers to hyperventilate so badly that he had to leave school that day. Coach Myers was a Christian, as he often pointed out, and he had told the principal that Trish Vander was on a speedboat to hell, and something had to be done about it. Of course there were rumors that he was driving the speedboat, but that was also another one of Trish's stories. Even though everyone laughed at the image of Coach Myers driving Trish's speedboat, no one believed that Coach was even remotely involved with Trish Vander, but she did it seems, have an effect on his breathing.

On the morning that Charlie Foster had drowned in the river, Trish was being her wonderful self, and had one goal in mind that day, Mike Berry. This had been going on for the better half of the year. Mike was never mean to her, but he also wished she would just leave him alone. He could not seem to bring himself to tell her that, however, and so they were often seen together under suspicious circumstances. That afternoon, Trish had on her skimpiest black bikini, even though it was rainy and cool. As Stephanie Knox had pointed out, she was hanging onto Mike Berry's neck like a noose on a condemned man that day, and everyone saw that he was finally giving into her seduction. Of course when Charlie fell into the river, that changed everything. Mike Berry was left lamenting the death of Charlie Foster on a rock, and it would be the last time they ever saw each other.

No one could have predicted the impact that Charlie Foster's death had on the school. New relationships were formed, old ones were ruined, and for the next two months moving right on into summer, Charlie Foster was to become the most popular kid in the school. Of course, Charlie probably didn't know it, even though Jimmy Dallance said he was most definitely still walking the halls. Jimmy even claimed he talked to Charlie one night after taking some acid. Jimmy was always coming up with new stories while he was taking drugs, but oddly enough, they all had a moment of truth that only Jimmy was capable of delivering. Many of the kids were scared that he was going to die in some awful way like Charlie had because he was so out of control, as Nancy pointed out, but people still listened to him and believed his Charlie Foster story. Jimmy said that he was sitting under a streetlamp watching the bugs fly around the light, when Charlie suddenly flew down and sat next to him. Jimmy said that Charlie just sat there smiling at him, and then started to talk about all the things he didn't get to do while he was on earth. Jimmy said he just sat there and listened to all of Charlie's ramblings, and then Charlie just got up and walked away. It would have been a story that would have been dismissed by most, but it was Jimmy Dallance, and even though it was widely known that Jimmy liked his drugs, the fact that Jimmy even mentioned cats was freaky, especially to the ones who had gone to the funeral and saw the cats in front of the casket. He also said that Charlie's face was completely zit free, and that his body was lit up like a glow stick. The most hair raising part of Jimmy's story was that Jimmy stopped taking all drugs except for smoking pot after Charlie appeared to him, and then he got a job at a bakery.

Chapter Three

The week after Charlie's funeral, a teacher from the university started teaching an improvisation class after school to drama students who wanted to participate. Juliet and Jodie went together, and were rarely seen apart after Charlie's funeral. At the funeral, they had sat next to each other and then spent the afternoon, listening to music, eating half of a chocolate cake and finally ending the evening watching Jesus's Son, a movie starring Billy Crudup and Samantha Morton, one of Jodie's favorite actresses. They found that they had so much in common that it was even a little disturbing, as though fate had resisted as long as it could, and finally brought them together. Or, as Jodie, said, Charlie Foster brought them together. They both loved to read books, especially classical novels, and both of them wanted to be actresses when they finally left school. Although they were both juniors, they were relieved that they had one more year to finally get more fully involved in the drama department, even though, as Juliet finally said, they were both scared to death of being on stage. Together, however, they began a journey that would take all fear away from life and stage, as Trish liked to say, "I didn't always like it, I mean, they were kind of like that movie, you know, Single White Female. They were like one person, sometimes Jodie would be the killer, and sometimes it would be Juliet." Jodie thought it was funny when she heard Trish had said that, but Juliet didn't like it at all. Although she only knew Trish through stories and from that day at the river, she was determined to say something about it. It probably wouldn't have been to big of a deal except a kid in her drama class started calling her single white female. It didn't bother her at first, until Jodie and her watched the movie. Jodie thought it was funny, but Juliet was deeply offended by it.

"Why do you let it bother you so much?" Jodie had said to her.

"Because Jennifer Jason Leigh is a killer in the movie," Juliet had responded.

"Just let it go."

"That girl is a such a whore and a stoner." Juliet had said.

"She's actually pretty entertaining. I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't someone else who started the story." Jodie responded, "it's really not her style, her stories are usually about herself."

It's true that Jodie and Juliet had become fast friends but that was pretty normal in high school. I mean most girls had their best friend, so why was it different for them?

"Its because we are in the drama department. Most kids think its weird. Comparing us to a horror movie is their way of complimenting us really. I mean, its Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bridgett Fonda, I think that's pretty cool," Jodie explained, "besides, Trish's day is coming. Her stories will come to haunt her. Hey, maybe we should kill her!"

"Shut up! Why would you say that!"

"I'm only kidding!"

"Well don't kid like that, it freaks me out." Juliet replied.

"It freaks you out because you probably thought about it." Jodie pressed.

"What?" Jodie said loudly.

"Remember the first rule of improvisation?"

"Find the truth in the given circumstance," Juliet responded, finally laughing.

"Oh my God, that's funny." Jodie laughed.

As Jodie and Juliet were becoming friends, Jeff was still struggling with the death of Charlie. Although his hand had not been seriously injured, it had taken him a full two weeks to get back in the water and swim. Even though swimming season had come and gone, the coach had required that all of the swimmers get their hours in the pool for the whole year. For two weeks, he would get in to his swimming suit but could not get himself into the water. He found himself standing on the edge of the pool, unable to dive in. Sometimes, he would just sit on one of the benches and go over the situation with Charlie again and again. Finally, at the end of the two weeks, he dove straight in and swam for three miles. When he finally did stop, he found himself crying uncontrollably at one end of the pool. No one was in the pool area, and he found a relief in allowing himself just to cry about it. He couldn't remember crying before, even as a small child.

Jeff was also having dreams about that day. Each time, he would feel Charlie's wrist with his hand, and see bubbles coming out of Charlie's mouth and nose in the water. Even though the water was muddy that day, it seemed to him that beneath the bank of the river, the water was clear and very green. Charlie's eyes were always open during the dream, and he could see his hand, wrapped around a root of a bush that pushed out into the water. A teacher, Mr. Collins, had reached out to Jeff after class, and told Jeff that it might help if he would write down what he was feeling. He even gave him a composition book to do so, but it wasn't until after that first day in the pool that he wrote anything down.

First rule of water safety. If you go near the water, you better know how to swim, he wrote, one of many rules he would write down through the rest of the year and into the summer.


Gerry said...

It is not so strange that I would be getting into the hereafter more in my novel as you are getting into the aftermath of a death of one of the students in high school that had a big effect on some, as a death often does on the impressionable young who are most apt to be risking their own lives, too. What a younger man would write as compared to his more ancient mother. I just felt death very close today as I found out Dave with the bad legs, as I always referred to him when talking outside the complex, finally left the earth after a very brave battle for his life, for months and months. He just went to sleep peacefully. He was outside just a couple of days ago, sleeping in the midst of us talking around him. As though he felt more comfortable napping there with the hubbub of his friends and acquaintances talking in his ears. So death is always with us, a very scary visitor to high school kids who imagine they are immortal while learning how dangerous life really can be if you ignore the safety net. I think of Ben who barely escaped death at 12 years old behind a runaway team on a wagon, and dying for real a few months later from a gun shot too fast before it was entirely raised over the heads of the kids who were with the young hunter. It was as though destiny had chased him down the second time and this time he did not escape. In play form I know this story you are writing was very affecting to the high school kids who performed in it as well as saw it. I think of Darrell falling off the school house ledge rolling rocks, a dare devil. Called by his right name or challenged by it. Always called a dare devil, until his twin Darwin (the dark one) managed to catch up with him by shooting himself not once but twice, at home, and to his uncle's house with a 30-30. The other bullet was not fast enough to suit him. Darwin was considered the most daring wild horse rider in town. Too fearless.
Capturing the essence of tragedy and its effect on people is the challenge to the writer. One day at a time.

kanyonland King said...

I think of the drowning death at Monroe and the effect it had on so many, especially the lifeguards on duty. I wasn't there, but was still upset by the death of a young man. He was a kid that would go down and stay as long as he could. His sister pushed him in and he must have taken in water right away. The lifeguards got him out, but he died of water pneumonia the next day. Loni and Ben (brother and sister) were lifeguards that day. I'm sure that day altered both their lives.
There were a few scares over the years and I learned to act when I was scared. Everyone is affected by a death of the young and too close.
I didn't know Ben so well, but knew Larry and we still talk about it 50 years later. Darrel and Darwin were tragic.

Bohemian Cowboy said...

Aunt Ann, thanks for sharing the comment on the drowning. I also wanted to let you know that I've been reading 'The Spiritual Tourist', and am loving it! When I was in high school there were many who died for those two years and a half years (on and off) I was at PV high school. One particular one was very sad. It was an accidental shooting while hunting, of a friend of mine's older brother. What made it even more tragic was he was shot by his best friend. For some reason, (I kind of know now) I was very aware and sensitive about these kind of events. I watched the change and effect it had on Mickey Norman, (my friend) but also how it effected all the various players in his life. The shooter was one of the best football players on the team, and as I say in the novel, none of us ever saw him again. I still don't know what happened, perhaps his family decided to move him away from such a tragedy. There were other deaths that year, and of course, while living in Phoenix during the summer, with the Salt River running high, there was a story almost every weekend about a drowning that had occurred. Castle Rock was a real place where teenagers 'partied', and there was one tragedy after another. They were always too close for comfort. And it is true, that when we are young we live like immortals, as you know, there were a thousand angels keeping me from an early death. The struggle continues. Thanks again, for reading. I love these characters, and have had the opportunity to see them come alive every year in the Charlie Foster play. Fernando is taking the play to the thespian conference this year, with his top kids. Its very exciting. I really hope one day that the play will catch on. It has such power. Charlie Foster IS the kid no one paid attention to, until he died, then he was the most popular kid in the school, so true, so true, and so tragic. Tragedy is my forte...