This is a short excerpt from my second book; Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head, The Childhood Memoir of a towheaded Air Force Brat.
Mama doesn’t love sewing but she’s pretty good at it, and on an enlisted man’s salary, is forced back to the sewing machine to make most of our clothes when we’re very young.
She makes several things we call ‘bubble suits’ which are basically onesies with elastic at the top of each leg and buttons at the top of each shoulder. You only had to undo one button to step into the suit, put one arm through the arm hole, then put your other arm in place and button that side.
There’s a pretty bubble suit with little yellow flowers on it that’s my favorite. I put it on one summer day and notice that it’s kind of tight, but I leave it on and go outside to play. Mama sees me a while later and scolds me to ‘go inside and change before that thing cuts you in half’.
I’m probably six or seven and too old to be wearing a bubble suit anyway, but it is a sad day because I know that I have just outgrown all the homemade ‘baby’ clothes Mama made for us.
In this part of the story, Shane and I are on the run from the FBI and we have made our way to Alaska. Shane has just picked up a hitchhiker…against my better judgment. It is the summer of 1985.
The drifter and Shane exchange fake names and after looking through him for a second or two I turn my attention back to the countryside outside my window. With a southern accent the guy says he’s from Tennessee. I don’t like his long, greasy dishwater blond hair, his cold dark eyes, his large biceps, or his quiet, guilty manner. My mind races through one bad scenario after another wondering what brought him to the side of the road between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. I think to myself that he has surely committed far greater crimes than those that have landed me and Shane here. He doesn’t talk much and I’m convinced that what little he does say must all be lies. I catch him staring at me once or twice and it makes me nervous.
Shane is calling himself Roy. It is hard for me to call him that but I have no choice. In my mind he does not look like a Roy. He should have let me pick the name I was going to have to call him. Chase would have worked because he is on the run, or Mark or Steve or anything but Roy. But he didn’t ask me. He just makes me call him Roy, which ironically, means king — another reason for me to hate calling him that. When you’ve been with a man named Shane for seven years it is not easy to suddenly start calling him Roy, but I do it, and I’m proud of myself for not slipping up so far. I don’t get to pick an alias for myself. I think I would like to have been called Grace for a while, but Shane knows he would slip up, so he doesn’t even try. I am still Vanessa, but only a wrung-out, tired version of myself.
There isn’t much talking as we drive north through the middle of the night, the Alaskan summer night that doesn’t grow dark. It just grabs onto the smudgy end of the daylight and holds onto it like a blanket until morning when the sun burns it away and the world is bright again.
The three of us eat cheeseburgers at a picnic table in the 80° Fairbanks sunshine sometime the next day. When you don’t have a clock or wear a watch and it doesn’t get dark, it’s impossible to know what time it is. There is no routine to help keep you grounded. No time clock to punch. No dinner to cook. No alarm clock to ring. There is just a nagging feeling of impending doom as the hours come and go unnoticed. Continue reading →