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