From Pru’s Journal:
How can you know if you’re normal when you’re always alone? You have no one to compare yourself to. I mean, I have my mom and dad, and I’m pretty normal compared to them. But then… a lot of people are normal compared to them.
As the rich CaraMellow ice cream slipped along my tongue, I popped a few potato chips in my mouth for contrast. Ah, the soothing combination of sweet, salt, cream, and crunch.
No good. Its magic wasn’t working.
Shifting my size 16 tush around on the sofa, I focused on the TV. It played an old episode from Model Cop, my favorite show ever on the Wholesome Family Channel.
Today, the show’s awesome heroine, Pepper Hathaway, was tracking down a serial killer in between fittings for a runway show at Fashion Week. It was hard to juggle her two jobs as a police detective and supermodel, but she excelled at both. Pepper ended every episode with a wink to the camera and her life motto: Remember, folks. Do Good, Look Good!
She was amazing.
I sighed. I bet Pepper didn’t get job rejections like the one I’d had today. Dear Loser, the letter said. We are relieved to say we cannot offer you the position of Low-Level Proofreading Gnome at our crummy little start-up online encyclopedia. No matter how unknown and undesirable our company is, you are more so.
Okay, so they didn’t use those exact words, but it’s what they meant. As I lifted my spoon, caramel dribbled down the front of my flannel nightgown. I scraped it off with a potato chip and ate it.
Mmraow. My cat emerged from one of his many hiding places. I suspected he hid on purpose, just to annoy me. “Hey, Chuck-Chuck.” I scratched his orange-and-white striped back. It lasted only a few seconds. Done with human contact, Chuck strolled away, tail in the air.
On the TV, Pepper was returning home to her elegant apartment in the Big City. Hey, girlfriend, she called out to her funny, devoted homosexual roommate Tad. They sat down and sipped Chardonnay. She was so cool.
I bet Pepper could pay her rent. I bet she didn’t run out of money just two months after moving into her place. I could justify having bought a used car, but perhaps the fifty-inch flat-screen TV had been excessive. Then there were those unfortunate yard sale purchases, but I had needed furniture, after all. I needed that Victorian-style vanity and the faux-leather recliner.
I could still hear my father’s voice, cool and cutting. You won’t last a month in Los Angeles. Mark my words, you’ll be back in Oregon before you know it.
Well, ha ha on him, I’d lasted two months now.
And ha ha on me, because I didn’t know if I could last a third.
Tears prickled the backs of my eyes. I wished I could talk to Dr. Abbot, my wonderful therapist back in my hometown of Clayton. He had died unexpectedly last week. I’d hardly left my apartment since I’d gotten the news.
On the TV, Pepper was modeling her latest fashion purchases for Tad. I scraped the bowl with my spoon while contemplating her minuscule waistline. Was that real or digitally enhanced? Could a person’s body organs really fit into such a tiny space?
Not mine—I was sure about that. My body organs undoubtedly filled giant caverns, which was why I’d been blessed with my five foot ten inch, big-boned body.
A ringing began—yet another fire alarm. Great. We’d had two go off already this month, I thought grumpily, and they’d turned out to be cases of burned toast—a total waste of time.
I struggled up from horizontal, made my way to the living room window, and peered out. It was 8:00 on a June evening. It had just turned dark. Below loomed the building’s quiet, empty courtyard.
Just as I thought—no flames, no people fleeing for their lives.
The sofa called to me, yet the alarm blared on.
I should probably investigate, even though it meant I might have to talk to someone. And for what was probably a false alarm. I stumbled to my bedroom dresser and wrestled a pair of plain white panties up under my nightie. Where had I thrown my bra? When you’re a size 36D, you do not venture forth into public without one.
My eyes swept my twin-sized bed, the flowered rug, the vanity whose drawers I used to store cat toys. No bra to be seen.
Feet thudded down my hallway.
WHOMP! A fist hit my front door. “Vacate the building now! Everyone out!” The man’s voice resounded through my door, then grew fainter as he moved away from me.
In an instant, sweat beaded my forehead. Vacate the building?
A siren, then others, wailed from the street. A megaphone-amplified voice blared from outside. “Immediate evacuation is required.”
“Chuck!” I shrieked. That ingrate. He’d probably hidden from me again. I dropped to my belly and crawled commando-style around the bedroom, checking under the bed and dresser. No sign of his malevolent green-eyed gaze. I checked the open laundry hamper. He wasn’t there either.
Outside, shouts and cries came to me from a distance, sirens grew louder, and banging noises intensified. I rushed again to the open living room window. Spotlights now lit the courtyard below, which had transformed into a disaster scene. Groups of people milled behind barricades. Firefighters twice the size of ordinary humans unfurled hoses and set ladders up against walls, while smoke drifted from some windows on the fourth floor, where I was.
Holy moley! Were we really on fire?