90 or Life

When I was born, my dad was one hundred and twenty-one years old.

No, that’s not how I should start this story.

Everyone knew I hated you.

Sugar, Virginia was not a very big town, so word got around fast. It wasn’t really that people talked. It was that they looked and somehow that looking — or in some cases looking away — somehow made the news leak from engines idling in the parking lot of the Dollar Store and blow off the tines of hay balers, ooze up through the cracked asphalt of the post office parking lot and creep out of the honeysuckle vines that grew on the chain link around the high school.

Your daddy was sheriff of the whole county. My daddy was owner of all of Lawson Landscaping, LLC.

People reckoned we were good for each other. You were a man with a future, they said, and I was a nice looking girl and how do you like riding in Bastard’s sweet F-250, Jen?

Your name is not really Bastard.

Really, it’s Bastard, Jr.

There wasn’t much to be done in Sugar, but what there was, we did it.

You were a fine kisser, and I know I’m not the only one to say it, so I don’t mind admitting it. When you kissed me, it was like those nights when I got enough sleep and enough dreams and enough silence in the double-wide to wake up the next day feeling like morning wasn’t a dirty word. Kissing you was like that moment of waking up: not an explosion, just a realization that everything was all right.

I was a light but grateful sleeper, back then. Which is kind of funny, considering how it is with the Lawsons and sleep. Take my dad, for instance. He was nineteen when he got tired of my grand-daddy waking up only to hit him. Dad wasn’t much for hitting, so he decided to beat him at sleeping instead. He fell asleep in 1882, woke up in 1992, taught himself how to drive a stick shift, married my mother, and started mowing lawns. I’ve asked Dad to tell me about his childhood sometimes, what it was like all those generations ago, but he got side-tracked and even when he could stay on track, everything he told me sounded like the black and white photographs of him. I guess I get my storytelling from him.

The thing about sleeping for one hundred years is that it ruins your taste for it. My dad never slept that I knew of, which was too bad, because he was bad at being quiet. Sometimes I’d go outside and sleep in the back of the Toyota. One night I left the window cracked and woke up with constellations of mosquito bites all over me.

It should tell you something that I can sleep through a mosquito attack and not my dad’s puttering.

About six months after we were going out, you asked me if I wanted to come bowling with you. Do you know where this story is going now? You asked me to get myself down there to the alley because your grand old F-250 with the pin-striping was in the shop. Someone had keyed it — you said people didn’t like cops and wasn’t it a shame? They were the backbone of the society. You were going to be a cop, just like your daddy. Future Backbones of Sugar, Virginia.

This is what your Facebook profile said under “likes”: “Dirty” “And if Not Dirty” “Wet”

Turns out you’d gotten the whole alley to yourself. No middle schoolers shrieking in the next lane over. No bored employees. It would’ve been a real romantic gesture if you hadn’t invited your friends to bowl with us. I knew them from school, because everybody knows each other in Sugar. I mean, not really knows. Not like you know what they wanted out of life or what it was that made them frown at their reflections or what they would’ve bought if they made more than it took to cover the rent. I knew them like I knew who their moms had cheated with, how many times they’d had to leave the grocery store at the register because their cards were declined, and their football stats.    

“Jen,” said one of your friends, “You look real hot in that skirt.”

He pulled me down into his lap, playful. I don’t remember being offended. Maybe I should’ve been offended. Instead, I laughed. I figured if you were a little jealous, that wasn’t a bad thing. Maybe that makes all this my fault.

You didn’t seem jealous, though. Not even with his hand on my thigh. Instead you bent and gave me one of your kisses right there where I sat on his lap. I felt the hand on my thigh squeeze.

“What do you think, baby?” you asked.

This is what I think: girls aren’t for sharing.

But there wasn’t anyone at the alley to agree with me. I don’t know if anyone could hear me in the parking lot.

I was hoarse for days afterward. From between the half-grown corn I heard slut. When you came round, I told you I was turning you in. You said “I already told Dad what happened, Baby. He says I should forgive you.”

I asked my dad, once, how it worked. How did he make himself sleep for one hundred years instead of eight hours? He told me it was like pedaling backwards on a bicycle. That instead of pedaling forward, that was normal sleep, you pedaled backward.

It was broad daylight when I killed your friends. I wasn’t mean about it, but I won’t say it didn’t hurt. They hollered plenty, specially the second one, but that was only because I’d shot his knees so he’d stay put while I was finishing the first. Then I came for you. I had thought I’d say something clever and call you baby when I did it, but in the end, it seemed like a waste, to say something catchy when you’d be too dead to recall it. In the end, you had the last line, anyway. I’m sure they whisper it to you in hell.

“You won’t do it.”

Everybody knew I hated you. I didn’t bother to hide my prints. The lawyer tried for self defense, but the jury looked at my face and decided it wasn’t. I got thirty years for each of you.

They said she’s going to spend the rest of her life in prison.

The guards are shutting the cell door behind me now. They tell me it’s the first day of the rest of my life.

“I reckon,” I tell them, “I’m going to go take a nap.”

Author’s Note: I was operating under the erroneous assumption that Rip Van Winkle slept for 100 years, only to discover I was totally wrong. Too late now . . .

image courtesy: macwagen

52 thoughts on “90 or Life

  1. I love it! πŸ˜€

    Also, I thought Rip Van Winkle slept for 100 years, too. In fact, I know I’ve heard that version before. Hrmm.

  2. Wowza. That was chilling, but my favorite moment is this funny but angry one:

    “Your name is not really Bastard.

    Really, it’s Bastard, Jr.”

  3. The voice is great. After she wakes, I’d like to see her in another story. See you one day soon πŸ™‚

  4. The voice is great. After she wakes, I’d like to see her in another story. See you one day soon πŸ™‚

  5. Okay, I’m glad I’m not insane. Because the original story is actually a real short story by Washington Irving (Sleepy Hollow guy. For some reason, this came as a shock to me too) and in it, he only sleeps for 20 years, to escape a hen-pecking wife.

  6. Rainbows and unicorns it is not, but you can see that your readers like (or at least can appreciate) things with a side of gloom and vengeance.

  7. Wow.
    I was so shocked, because it’s you, not Brenna, and it’s supposed to be funny and charming and just a little romantic.

    I really like her.
    And I like that she’s going to wake up in 90 years, and go on with her life while those bastards rot.
    Can you tell I felt this one?

  8. Wow.
    That was sort of unexpected.
    Like, the way she narrated all of it so matter-of-factly, that was actually quite spooky.

  9. HAHAHAH! This is so funny because I wrote this to be a “Brenna” story. πŸ™‚

    So thank you.

  10. i like the second person i this story. i recently had to rewrite the novel Flowers for Algernon in second person for an english class , so i am happy your expirementing with it.
    second person wuwho

  11. Second-person narrative is difficult to find at the moment 😦 Oh, or rather it’s “first person directly addressing second person” if you want to be disgustingly correct.
    But it’s very nice. Very, very, VERY nice. Actually, “nice” is a bit of an understatement, no matter how many verys are put at the beginning. This isn’t very nice. This is soul-crushingly amazing.


  12. Thank you, very much!

    I always learned that there actually is no such thing as second-person, period. That it’s always technically first person, because no matter how you write it, the voice is that of the first person narrator.

  13. Maybe the confusion comes from the great variety of folk tales out there. There are tons of tales, where people go under the fairy hill and come up many years later, and presumable there are others in which people sleep for those years.

    I can’t find a specific example at the moment though.

  14. Your imagery as always was spot on! I instantly felt a connection and my darker nature liked the fact revenge was taken. Life isn’t always pretty but what you do with it can be. I would love to read what happens after her sleep and see how you would weave beautiful into the dark. That’s what I enjoyed about Brenna’s work, we grew to love the ugliness of her world. Well done, Maggie!

  15. Wow. As many of the above have mentioned, very strong voice in this piece. Although, I was wondering, was this story inspired in part by the things that have happened at USC or some of the other big sports schools?

  16. Partially. Things percolate soupily in my head and so the first thought was the jail sentence — and then I worked backwards from there.

    Also, thanks!

  17. I knew where this was going, and I followed it anyway. Sure enough, it went there, then came out the other side. I’m going to have that hole for a little bit, but I’ll count the scar among the better ones I have. I’m glad she killed them unapologetically. Taking a nap after that seems exactly right.

  18. I too, thought it was 100 years, and I pride myself on knowing folktales. Hmm.

    I LOVE that she killed them. So perfect. =)

  19. I’ve read the 20 years thing, too, and I have to admit, it takes some of the coolness of the story away. Regardless, this was great. I think that “‘I reckon,’ I tell them, ‘I’m going to take a nap'” is probably the best line ever for such a situation.

  20. This was super-creepy and dark and amazing! Her boyfriend really lived up to his name. I love that she got justice on him in the end. I was like, “Booyah!” haha

  21. I love this. πŸ™‚ So chilling! I like the start: “Everyone knew I hated you.” Perfect. Perfect. Perfect! I always enjoy your short stories, Maggie! πŸ˜€

  22. Ah-hah! Lovely. It makes sense if you think about it, actually. The English Literature teachers must be informed!!!


  23. Thanks!

    Yeah, 20 years? That’s NOTHING. I mean, so he would’ve slept through the 80s and 90s. psh!

  24. Wow, this was so great. I love her mentality through it all. It’s so realistic in the fact that she see’s no problem with it. She was getting justice for what’d been done to her. At the end, it almost makes me think of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience piece and how he says that you should always follow your conscience in regards to the law and that being locked up doesn’t necessarily make you a prisoner. Although when he said it, it was more in reference to the fact that he could still think and such while in this case it’s because she’ll sleep for her time and come out like nothing happened. XD

  25. Ahh, good point! I think that’s true of most situations in life. You could see them as freedom or as a jail.

  26. wow. call me dumb but i didnt expect that. AND it also took me a second to see what tense it was in, which you cant really blame me for, because how many books are written in 2nd? but i loved it! i mean, im not a psycho, but some lines just clicked. my favourite has to be- this is what i think: girls arent for sharing. so perfect! it conveys so much without saying alot…

  27. I’ve never really tried it before, so I’m glad that it worked! Than kyou so much! I mean, thank you so much!

  28. When i read the first part i was like “Whaaaaa????” Then i understood. You know it took me a while to get the story… i couldnt tell who was telling the story…but i got it later on….
    Its a really good story my favorite part was: “your name is not really Bastard…Really, its Bastard Jr. That part made me laugh.
    Oh and i think the story had a great ending as far as endings go it let you know the story was finished….I hate stories that have endings that leave you like “Annndddd….what happend after that???” *grin*

  29. Pingback: Maggie Stiefvater Starts Your Story | Figment Blog

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