Happy New Year!!!
I wrote this flash fiction story a couple of years ago. It’s never been published anywhere, but it did earn honorable mention in an online contest, and my prize was a t-shirt. I haven’t submitted any witty musings lately, so I’m posting this story for your potential enjoyment. Feel free to send me a t-shirt.
Crazy-assed Marnie Norman didn’t always walk along the sidewalk downtown during lunchtime chewing on aluminum foil. She used to be normal. Better than normal, she was a cheerleader. Believe me, when we were in high school, she was nearly perfect. That’s when she was still Marnie Smithson. Nothing like the wild-haired woman she is now, carrying salami in the pockets of the raincoat she wears on hot summer days.
It only takes one bad decision made in one second to change your path from privilege to widow with thirty-seven cats crazy.
Marnie was the girlfriend of Brandon Norman, high school basketball star. Tall, smart and handsome, Brandon was a once-in-a-lifetime catch. At least, it felt that way to young Marnie. Adolescence is like that, everything seems permanent and more important than it really is.
Brandon wanted nothing more than to escape his father’s legacy of farming. Marnie wanted nothing more than Brandon. A teenage girl with an obsession is more dangerous than a rabid possum.
The basketball scholarship to State ensured Brandon’s escape. By graduation night, Marnie’s desperation had becoming a living entity. She still had another year left in high school and couldn’t imagine her future without him by her side.
She scored a six pack of beer from her older cousin and presented it to Brandon as a graduation gift. They drove the outskirts town after graduation, drinking beer and talking about college.
“Let’s stop here,” she said to Brandon, “I need to call my mom.” Except she didn’t call her mom. She made an anonymous call to change his future. One hour later, Brandon called his father from jail.
Because of the DWI, he lost his scholarship and settled into the apathy of his farming destiny. He married Marnie the next summer, years before she started tying her hair with cat-fur covered tube socks.
She ached for Brandon’s baby back then, before she started using old newspapers for bed sheets because she found comfort in the crinkling noise throughout the night. For some reason, a baby wasn’t meant to be. Marnie had all the tests run, but Brandon wouldn’t comply.
Though he didn’t know about Marnie’s betrayal, he resented her as though he did. The years rolled by and Brandon drank more and more. He eventually got into accidents on purpose so he could score pain pills and take solace in numbness.
Marnie worked as a bank teller and pretended everything was fine. She held out hope that their relationship would return to the high school glory days, long before she started drawing maps to the grocery store on her forearm with mustard. She tried everything to make him happy, but she would never be his escape from the farm. She was his tether.
When the paramedics arrived on the scene, Brandon was slumped over at the dining room table, his face in a pool of vomit. Marnie was crouched in the corner, smoking a cigarette and staring at him in a drug-induced stupor. She had taken the leftover pills she found on the floor. After she sobered up, she slipped easily into the role of grieving widow.
The day of Brandon’s funeral, Marnie confided her manipulation to me. I only told one person, but this is a very small town. Marnie’s life-long popularity soon disappeared. She endured glares and grumbling everywhere she went. She started acting like a lunatic and the stares lost their hateful edge.
One year later, Marnie sent her family Christmas cards stuffed with coupons for toilet paper and tampons. Her mother dismissed the gesture as thoughtful. The cards were mailed in May.
Everyone initially believed that her behavior was an act. Folks said she stole trash bags of hair from a local salon for attention and pity. After a few months, the cries for attention became more convincing. The Marnie we all knew would never stop wearing make-up in favor of smearing her eyelids with cigarette ash.
Truth is Marnie didn’t lose her mind from guilt or grief. She never really saw the fault of her actions. A pitiful and resented widow was a fate worse than she had imagined. She lost her mind because she didn’t have the right to feel sorry for herself.