Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Nick Ali Naficy, Part 2

"Come on honey bunches," Grandmamma said.

"Let's go."

"Okay," I said and got up off of the white wicker couch in the dining room of her condo and headed into the living room to collect my shoes. It was summertime so there was no need for a coat.

Once the shoes were securely on my feet and tied tightly, we headed out the door. Grandmamma put her key in the door once it was shut and locked it. It was then that I noticed that she didn't have her purse with her, which was something she always carried around with her when we were going to go on an outing that involved taking her car. Something fishy was going on here, of that I was certain.

"Where's your purse?" I asked her as she yanked her house key from the lock.

"It's inside the house," she replied.

"Why? Where are we going?"

Grandmamma took a moment to decide what to tell me. Finally, realizing that she had been caught red-handed and was cornered by my intuition and questions, she broke down and said, "We're going to Nick's house."

"WHAT?!!!!! You said that I didn't have to see him this time. You told me that this visit was only going to be between you and me, that we would have a private Grandma/granddaughter date!"

"Well, it pretty much HAS been a private grandma/granddaughter visit, hasn't it?" she countered.

"I mean, your visit's almost over. Your mom is going to pick you up in just a couple of hours to bring you home."

"I don't want to go to Nick's house," I said and planted my feet firmly on the ground. Grandmamma took hold of my hand and attempted to haul me away from the door but I didn't budge. I flexed all my muscles and fought back. Eventually, her grip slackened and she dropped her hands to her sides in exasperation.

"Why are you being like this Ashlee? What has Nick ever done to deserve this kind of dislike from you?"

"He hasn't done anything," I admitted.

"But he's very cold and detached and I don't like him. Why do I have to see him anyway? It's not like you guys are going to stay together for life."

"Well, you never know, maybe we will. And we're not breaking up anytime soon. Nick is my partner for now and if you want to continue to come over and visit me you're just going to have to accept him and push back all those negative thoughts and feelings towards him."

So, basically what she was saying to me was that it was Nick or nothing. If I didn't accept Nick, I wouldn't get to see her anymore. Back then, I still really loved her and felt close to her, much closer than I felt towards my mom. So I decided right then and there to try and accept him and push aside the negative feelings I had towards Nick. After all, she was right, I thought to myself as we climbed the stairs leading up to the sidewalk.

Nick really hadn't done anything to deserve the harsh feelings I had towards him.

"Where does he live?" I asked as I waited at the top of the steps for Grandmamma to catch up.

"He lives on the third floor, just two floors above my condo," Grandmamma said as she clippity clopped up the stairs in her obnoxiously loud heels. I always wondered how anyone could walk in those things. I still wonder to this day about it sometimes whenever I hear someone clippity clopping around in them. I tried wearing them once and I felt like I was drunk. It was a total disaster and I had to take them off to prevent a major fall from occurring.

When we reached the third floor I began to feel shy. Now, I'm not a very shy person. I never was and I never will be. But, standing there next to Nick's door, I felt like I didn't belong there, like I really didn't know what I would say once Nick opened the door. It wasn't like Nick would be warm and welcoming when he opened the door. He just wasn't a hearts and flowers sort of guy.

"Knock on the door," Grandmamma said her voice sweet like honey.

"You knock," I told her, backing away back to the stairs where I had come.

So Grandmamma went up to the door and knocked much louder than necessary, loudly announcing our arrival. I kept my distance from Nick's door, hoping that, by some miracle, Nick wouldn't be home to answer the door.

But luck wasn't on my side, for, no sooner had Grandmamma knocked on the door I could hear footsteps approaching.

The door opened and Nick's head came peeking out of it.

"Hi there," Grandmamma said, pushing her way into Nick's house and throwing her arms around him. A second later I could hear the sound of them making out. Right there in front of me.

When they were done, Grandmamma said, "Come on Ash, come in. Nick made a delicious lunch for us."

"We're eating at his house?" I asked, baffled. I thought this was just a quick visit, just a quick hello to get me slowly warmed up to the guy. This was way more than I had bargained for.

Slowly and reluctantly, I came towards the entrance and then stopped.

"Come on," Grandmamma said, her voice heavy with irritation now.

"He won't bite."

So in I went. What choice did I have? I didn't want to annoy Grandma more than I already had and the thought of not being able to see her anymore if I didn't behave myself around Nick really concerned me and stuck in my mind. So I plastered a big, fat, fake smile on my face and said, "Hi Nick, how are you?"

"Fine, thank you," he said tersely.

Now, this is going to sound strange to you folks, but I've always liked to imagine everything in the world as food. Ever since I was little I've always found great enjoyment in doing this. I still do it today. I'll write more about it later in another story.

Anyway, when I finally entered Nick's condo, I immediately looked around the place with the limited vision that I do have just to get a feel for the place in case I really wanted to leave by myself if Grandmamma wouldn't leave with me. The carpet in Nick's housed really grabbed my attention. It was very, very dark carpeting. It reminded me of very rich, dark thunder cake. Thunder cake is a very rich chocolate cake with extremely rich chocolate frosting. There is a recipe available online for all to read if you are curious about what thunder cake is. Thunder cake is a very rare cake that I've only had the honor of eating twice, once when I was in the first or second grade and after I graduated from high school. The first thunder cake I ate, which was when I was in elementary school was the best one because it didn't have berries all over it, tainting it and taking away the very important flavor of chocolate like the one someone made for me for my high school graduation present.

This thunder cake carpeting had NO berries in it at all. It was pure chocolate. I wanted to bend down and touch it because I was curious about what the texture felt like and I wanted to pretend like I was eating the thunder cake carpet to relieve some of the anxiety I was feeling then but everyone was looking at me so I decided not to. I was always being scolded for doing strange, out of the ordinary things in front of strangers, and I wasn't in the mood for being scolded. Well, I never was in the mood for it but, on that particular summer day, it was even MORE crucial that I didn't do anything out of the norm. If I did, I might not get to see Grandmamma anymore until she broke up with Nick, which, judging by the way they made out and hugged might not be for a long time.

The other thing that caught my attention was the way the house smelled. As soon as I had walked inside, I smelled a hint of cigarette smoke accompanied by the scent of rich wine. I remember standing there, smelling the fragrance of the house and imagining that I was at my dad's house instead of being at Nick's house. I would have much rather been at Dad's house than where I was then. Cigarette smoke smell often offends people. It often makes people wrinkle up their noses and make snotty comments about the smell. I, however, basked in the smell of second hand smoke, so long as it wasn't very strong. A light perfume of cigarette smoke always makes me feel happy, safe, relaxed. It reminds me of being close to my dad.

So, after smelling the faint odor of cigarette smoke, I started to relax a little bit. Maybe Nick wasn't such a bad guy. Maybe, just maybe, I had enough room in my heart to accept this strange, cold, dry, boring man. Just MAYBE!

"Come on Ashlee, let's go out on Nick's deck," Grandmamma said, grabbing my hand and steering me through his thunder cake carpeted living room, through the sliding glass door, and onto the sunny, warm deck. Once outside, I squinted in the sunlight until my eyes adjusted a little better, then I started to look about me. There was a small table and a set of chairs on the deck. To the right of me I could hear a SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS hissing noise and I could smell the rich, tender flavor of meat on the grill.

"What is Nick grilling?" I asked, turning to where the hissing sound was coming from. Next to the sliding glass door, which was open to let some fresh, non-cigarette tainted air into the house I spotted a small grill, working diligently to provide us with a delicious lunch of some meaty sort.

"Why don't you ask Nick," Grandmamma told me. It was her way of telling me I needed to have a decent conversation with Nick instead of ignoring him. Taking the hint, I sighed and then called, "Hey Nick, what are you grilling? It smells delicious."

It didn't exactly smell DELICIOUS but I thought that I could ham up the compliments a bit to get on Grandmamma's good side. Perhaps if I earned enough brownie points with her she would reward me with a Derry Queen treat after this visit was over.

"I'm grilling chicken. We're also going to have some prawns."

Prawns! Gross! I hated seafood! I kept those thoughts to myself and said, less enthusiastically this time, "Sounds good."

Nick had a certain name for the barbecued chicken but it isn't coming to mind right now. I think he might have called it Casian chicken or something. It wasn't any ordinary chicken. I think it might have been a sort of Swedish dish, but who knows.

It wasn't long before the food was ready and set on dishes for all of us.

"Where are we going to eat?" I asked, standing there on the deck, not sure where to go and feeling very out of my element in this strange, somewhat comforting but not quite all the way comforting house.

"Let's eat outside," suggested Grandmamma animatedly.

"It's beautiful out."

So we ate outside. Nick asked Grandmamma if she wanted to have some wine with her meal. She said sure and so Nick poured two glasses of wine. One for her, one for him. Nick, I had learned by now, was a pretty major booze lover. He always had a drink in his hand it seemed, the one exception being the time Grandmamma introduced him to me. I guess Grandmamma had told him that he needed to be sober for our first introduction and, not wanting to get on her bad side, he obeyed her orders and came down to her condo empty-handed and as cold as ice.

"What would you like to drink?" Nick asked me.

"I'd like some water please," I told him, staring at the huge plate of food that Grandmamma had set in front of me. It smelled strange, not bad but not quite good either. I sat there, wondering if I should wait for them to sit down and eat or if I could start eating. I decided to wait for them, not wanting to be rude and scolded for it. Grandmamma never seemed to mind if I started eating before everyone else at the table normally, but it was a HUGE no-no in my mom's house. And, this was no ordinary occasion. I had no idea what was expected of me then.

"Why aren't you eating?" Nick asked in his deep, nasally voice as he came back with a tall glass of water and set it on the table next to my almost overflowing plate.

"Aren't you going to try it?"

"Yes I am. Um… Um… Er, I'm just waiting for you two to start eating, too," I finally managed to stammer out.

"Okay," Nick said, the tone of his voice lightening up just a teensy bit.

"That's good because I was starting to think that you were going to be rude and not try the meal that I worked so hard to make all morning long."

"Never," I said and quickly picked up my fork.

I was surprised when, after I had taken my first tentative bite of chicken, that I decided right away that I liked it. The chicken wasn't spicy nor was it bland. It was tender and easy to chew. There was no fat or gristle on it at all to be found.

"Mmmmmmmm Nick, this is good," I found myself saying before I even knew I was about to compliment him.

"Good work!"

"Try the prawns," ordered Grandmamma as she sat across from me and right next to Nick.

The tentativeness returned as I surveyed the prawns. I really didn't like seafood at all, yet I had never tried prawns.

"Just TRY them," Grandmamma insisted. The irritation was starting to come back. I could hear it at the very edges of her words, could feel it in the air. Behave, behave, And BEHAVE!!! I had to keep reminding myself of that for almost the entire visit.

I caught a prawn between the tongs of my fork and slowly brought it to my mouth. After a tiny pause, I took a tiny bite out of it. And again, I found myself very surprised. The prawns were absolutely SCRUMPTIOUS!

"Wow Nick, where did you go to chef school?" I asked him, totally serious with the question.

Nick just laughed and said, "No chef school for Big Daddy. I'm just a natural born excellent cook. Do I get an A on lunch for today?"

"No," I told him as I took another bite of the prawn, this time a more confident, bigger bite.

"You get an A PLUS!"

Grandmamma laughed and all the tension vanished. FINALLY!

"The prawns are fried, breaded prawns," Grandma explained to me as I ate hungrily. I hadn't even realized just how hungry I was until now.

"Well, they're outstanding," I said and this time, the smile that spread across my face was sincere.

I ate until my plate was clean. After the meal, we all just sat there on the deck, enjoying the beautiful summer weather and the refreshing, fragrant breezes that kept coming over to say hi to us and shower us with coolness and wonderful natural smells from the woods, and overall, a feeling of contentment. It was in this visit that I began to feel differently towards Nick. Just a little. I didn't trust him all the way yet, nor was I about to give him a hug, but I did give him a handshake and thanked him earnestly for our yummy lunch.

"A person who knows how to meet my high standards of eating often becomes a true friend for life," I told Nick as we got up to clear off the table and wash up.

"I'm glad you liked it," Nick said. At first, I thought I was just imagining it, but no. I wasn't imagining it at all. His voice had changed. It was lighter, more jovial. It was the kind of voice that one hears when someone who isn't quite sure about you either finally decides to accept you into their own hearts and become your friend, too.

So, it was in that moment, standing there on his deck, that both Nick and I decided silently that we would accept one another. He showed me by being friendlier and regarding me with more respect and dignity. I showed him I would accept him by thanking him and talking to him more freely and with less tension.

As the story unfolds, you'll see that we got even closer still. And that's when things all went CRAZY!!!! My life, indeed, would never be as I knew it before Nick came waltzing, unexpected and unwelcome, into my once innocent, once pure, once untainted life.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!

Nick Ali Naficy, Part 1

It's time to finally address the elephant in the room. It's time to buck the monkey off my back. It's time to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what really happened in the summer of 2008, starting on June thirteenth and ending on either Friday, August first or Saturday, August the second. Yes, it is time now, to tell the world about a man named Nick Ali Naficy, starting right now.

I don't really want to write about him because it hurts, but I have to or the monkey will never get off my back. If I don't, the elephant will take up too much space in my mind that could otherwise be used for further creativity. All five of my imaginary demons say that it's time now.

"Why today?" I ask them.

"Because, if not today, it will be never," they all say. I have no other choice but to plod along and tell the story. Not unless I want to continue to have the monkey and elephant close to me, forever holding me back from experiencing true joy, happiness, love, and, hardest of all, trust. Since it's been so muggy and hot for the last couple of days, it's been causing me to be triggered and to think about Nick and the things that happened during that summer. No matter how much I try to distract myself or to think about something else, IT keeps rearing its ugly head in the most inopportune of times, causing me to experience a host of negative feelings, like sadness, hurt, and anger especially, ranking the top of the stack. Sometimes, sadness makes its way to the top of the stack, other times its panic attacks. Today, it's both anger and sadness. Anger and sadness are fighting and scrambling, each one wanting to top the list. Right now anger's winning but the night's still young. You never know what can happen in any given minute when it comes to the feelings of someone who suffers from PTSD.

I don't normally use a person's entire name when I share my true stories, real life experiences with you readers, but this is no ordinary story. I know that, by sharing his full name, I am putting myself out there and setting myself up for a risk of being sued for slander and deformation of character. Try as I might to convince my friends and myself that I should come up with a different name for him, my friends insisted that his real identity needs to be revealed once and for all. The silence must be fully, completely, and totally broken. There must not be any chunks of information left out of the story. Everything must be told so that the silence has no way of putting its broken self back together once this story is completely written and available for all who wish to read it. And, I couldn't really think of another name to give to Nick, so I decided that my friends were right.

The Naficy family, if they find out about this story, can sue me all they want. I really have nothing to give them. I am flat broke and I own nothing. I am far below the poverty line and I am okay with that. Actually, I am more than okay with it. I am quite satisfied with it. Being below the poverty line is what helps give me the courage it takes to do things like this. I really have nothing to lose and, once the Naficy's do some research on me if they so desire, they will soon learn that I have nothing they can take from me that will make me shut up. Once they see that, they might turn around and offer me a settlement, begging me to erase Nick's name from my story, even begging me not to tell the story at all, but I will deny all their offers because the truth and only the truth, is the only thing that will set me free. No amount of money or material goods or anything else they might offer me is enough to keep me silent. I have been silent for way too long and now I'm ready to break it, chop it up into tiny, microscopic fragments as I slowly write this story bit by bit. If I am taken to court over this, all I have to say is that I hope Satan will work in my favor as he has so far and that he doesn't disappoint, which I'm sure he won't. I can only hope that the judge will understand why I am doing this and that I am not defaming anyone. As sad as I am to say this, the story is completely true and correct to the best of my knowledge, so may Satan strike me dead right now if this is a lie.

Nope, I'm not dead. I'm still here, writing this story, so look! He's already on my side. That's good because I need him right now more than ever. AAAAAAHHHHHH, deep breath. Inhale. Exhale!

Okay, here goes!

Nick Ali Naficy came barreling into my life no different than all the other boyfriends my mother and grandma introduced to me. Grandmamma had recently divorced grandpa Ed and had sold the big, open, enchanted house in Keyport. Nobody really had liked the Keyport house that much, but I did. Mom claimed that she never slept well there and that it was too drafty and cold. Giselle often heard strange noises from different rooms in the house but couldn't ever find the sources of the strange sounds so she ended up coming to the conclusion that the house was haunted by ghosts. I must admit, I did have a pretty strange experience there once when I was all alone that made me wonder about the house being haunted, too, but I wasn't as frightened by it as Giselle had been. I didn't run to my mommy when she came back to get me, like Giselle would have done, nor did I cry. It was just yet another strange thing that happened in my life. I was pretty used to odd things happening all around me by then. Grandmamma had too many bad memories there with Ed and didn't feel it was healthy to continue living there. And the courts gave Grandmamma custody of Giselle and ordered Ed to move out so, whether he wanted to stay there or not, the judge didn't allow him to. Or so they told me. I don't really know all the details of what happened then. I was only ten when all that shit went down.

Once the Keyport house was sold, Grandmamma decided to downsize a lot and so she moved to a one-bedroom condo that she bought.

"Everybody hates me," I remember her telling my mother during a rough patch in her life after her divorce when her and Giselle weren't getting along at all. No, they were fighting like lions and tigers.

"So I might as well get a one-bedroom condo instead of a three-bedroom. It's not like anybody's going to spend the night or anything."

"Nobody hates you," Mom tried to comfort her.

"I'll spend the night with you sometimes," I added.

"Well then you can sleep with me in the bedroom," Grandma said and that was that.

I was living in Naples, Florida when she sold and moved out of the Keyport house so I didn't even know that she lived in a small condo until I came to Washington for a visit and then, Once Tim finally realized that Mom was never going to come to Florida to live like she said she would or that she would come back for me in Florida and bring me back to Washington herself, Tim decided to send me back to Washington to live permanently again and that's when I got to know Grand mama's condo a little better. That's also when I was introduced to Nick.

Grandma had been living at the condo a while before I moved back to Washington and she had been dating Nick for some time, too. I can't really remember everything that happened or all of what was said when Grandmamma introduced him to me. I only remember that I was at the condo, sitting in the dining room, I think, or maybe the living room, sitting on her wicker couch just hanging out or sitting on her old, worn-out regular couch and it was summertime. If I had been sitting in the dining room I would have been sitting in the white wicker couch. At least I think it was a white couch. The wicker was a light color that really did look white, but I tend to get my colors mixed up a lot, so who knows. If I was sitting in the living room, I would have been sitting on the old, worn-out, faded couch.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. It was a very strange knock, a knock that I had never heard before. Usually when someone knocks on someone's door, it sounds like:




This knock was very different. I didn't know the significance of it right then, but I would learn about it later.

Nick's knock sounded like this:



Huh, I thought as Grandma went over to the door to see who it was.

That was an unusual knock. I couldn't decide whether I liked it or not, but before I had a chance to figure out whether I liked or disliked it, Grandmamma had opened the door and said, "Oh hi Nick, come in. I'd like you to meet Ashlee."

This is where things go fuzzy. I can't remember what Nick said to me or whether we shook hands. I can't remember whether I thought he was worth actually getting off my ass for and standing so that I could be more at his level or whether I addressed him sitting down. I think I was sitting down. I kind of remember thinking to myself:

Oh, here we go again. Just another boyfriend to add to the list of ex's. I wonder how long HE'LL last before Grandmamma gets tired of him and leaves him in the dust and then comes home with another one to introduce to us, claiming that THIS one is "the one" for her.

What I do remember from that introduction was feeling a very strong dislike for Nick. For one thing, he didn't seem very happy. Nick reminded me very much like Tim, humorless and dry as a piece of unbuttered, burnt toast. His voice was very nasally and he didn't laugh or speak softly. I remember shying away from him a little because he spoke very loudly and it irritated my sensitive ears.

Nick didn't really seem like he thought much about me. He just seemed very, well, how would I say it? I guess the right word would be neutral but also kind of cold. So, Nick regarded me with a sense of cold neutralness that, I don't know, just didn't sit well with me. To be honest, I couldn't really put a finger on why I didn't like him. He just gave me a weird feeling and not in a warm, fuzzy, gentle, kind sort of way.

Nick didn't stay very long. Once he left, Grandmamma came to me and said, "So, what did you think of him?"

"He's all right," I said, not wanting to cause a stir. I was okay with being rude when the time was right for it but, once Grandmamma got her feathers ruffled I knew she would give me the third degree for HOURS! That's what she always did when she was met with an answer that she wasn't satisfied with. That's how Mom was, too. That was THE VERY LAST thing I wanted to deal with then, getting the third degree for the rest of the morning.

"Why is he just "all right,"?"

Damn! She wasn't satisfied with even THAT answer and, really, that was the nicest one I could have given her. Oh well, I tried! I guess MY rest of the morning is going to be filled with invasive and demanding questions about my feelings and lectures about how I "really need an attitude adjustment here." Oh goodie, sounds like fun!

"Just what I said. He's all right. What more do you want me to say?"

"Why don't you like him?"

Damn, was I really being THAT obvious? I mean, I knew I didn't have a good poker face whenever I needed to have one but I had thought I was keeping my thoughts and expressions under control. Guess I was wrong.

"Well, he just seems cold and humorless," I finally said. If she really wanted to hear the truth, I'd give it to her. After all, she was asking for it.

"What else don't you like about him?" she continued to grill me.

"You know, I really don't know," I said honestly.

"He just gives me a weird feeling, that's all. He doesn't seem very friendly I guess."

"Well, what it sounds like to me is that you are just jealous that I am dating someone. You are feeling jealous and afraid because you don't want me to give anyone else any attention but you."

That was the furthest thing from the truth, but whatever. I wasn't going to argue.

"Okay, that's it I guess," I said, wanting very much to change the subject.

"I have to pee. Excuse me."

I got up to head to the bathroom and she followed right on my heel, something that Mom always did, too, when all I really wanted was to have some time alone to think and process stuff.

"Ashlee, you and I will still get to do things together. Nick is a really nice man. He is just a little shy around strangers but he'll warm up to you. Just give him some time, okay?"

"Okay," I said, trying to pee but finding it impossible because she was standing right in front of my face.

"Now can I please have a little privacy here?"

"Yes," Grandmamma said and, finally, made her exit. Finally, finally, I was alone.

Time went on and my feelings about Nick didn't change. He still regarded me coldly and he talked to me like I was a baby rather than a teenager. Grandmamma told me that I should think of him as aloof or standoffish but I just thought of him as a humorless, boring jerk who I really didn't want to hang out with at all.

Shortly after Grandmamma introduced Nick to me, she introduced him to my mother and Tim. Somehow Mom hadn't met him yet, which I remember thinking to myself that I really didn't know how that was possible, being that Mom and Grandmamma were close and saw each other often. I was very surprised to find out that neither Mom nor Tim thought much of Nick either.

"Ashlee, you were right about Nick," Mom told me as we drove home in Tim's Dodge pickup one evening after a visit with Grandmamma.

"I don't like him. You didn't like him at ALL, did you Tim?"

"No I sure didn't," replied Tim, keeping his eyes steadily on the road.

"What didn't you like about him?" I asked, glad that I wasn't the only one who didn't like him anymore. Maybe Grandmamma would finally get off my back once she saw that none of her immediate family members liked him.

"He gave me the creeps! He didn't give me any eye contact and… I just don't know, he is creepy, that's all I can say about him. I hope Grandma dumps him. She's too good for him."

"Yeah, the no eye contact thing WAS really weird," commented Tim. Then, just like that, the subject was changed and no more was spoken about Nick.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Disgusting: Wearing Ear Plugs in Public

Dear Dad,

I am officially on a roll again. It really helped to write to you yesterday about what was going on inside my head. Today my motivation and drive are back. Today is sunny and warm and just perfect for writing another story for Disgusting.

So Dad, do you remember making fun of me for being sensitive to loud noises when I was young and even as a teen? Well, I sure do. It's not something a child can easily forget when one or both of their parents make fun of them for something, especially when they are already self-conscious about it to begin with. Yes, Dad, I'm talking about me wearing earplugs when there was too much noise going on around me and it was making me feel overwhelmed and very anxious, the desire to flee to somewhere quiet and safe strong in my mind.

You weren't the only one who picked on me about this and made me feel bad about it, though. Jennifer did it, too, though her way of doing it was way more humiliating and hurtful than what you did. Not only that but she also supplied me with the ammunition that she needed in order to pick on me about it. Yes, she was the earplug supplier.

Ever since I was little I have always been very sensitive to loud sounds. I've always preferred being somewhere quiet and peaceful over some place loud and crowded. As a result, I have never been to a major concert like Pink Floyd or System of A down because I knew I wouldn't enjoy it at all. Well, my mother knew this about me and, one day, she decided to give me something to help relieve my anxiety over loud sounds. Or, at least I THOUGHT she was trying to help me. Little did I know then that she was using it as another one of her evil mind fuckery tools to add to my already warped and weak self esteem.

It was pretty soon after you bought me my new drum set. I was about eight or nine years old. The funny thing about the whole drum set thing is that I still to this day have no idea who actually bought it for me, you or Jennifer. You told me that you bought it and she adamantly insisted that SHE was the one who bought it.

"Your father would never buy something as nice as this drum set for you," she had hissed at me when I had told her that I really liked the drum set that you had bought me.

"Well Dad said that he bought it," I told her, wondering why such little comments that I made, such little, tiny, innocent comments could lead to such a huge ordeal and even violence if Mom got angry enough.

"Well he didn't. I bought it with MY money. So you should be thanking ME for the drum set, not him. I'm tired of you always giving him credit for stuff when it's really ME who deserves it and the one who does it all. Your father does squat to help out with you."

Bla, bla, bla. Automatically I began to tune her out, something I had self taught myself how to do probably since I was a toddler.

I tend to believe that you actually bought it, though, Dad, because, right after you died, she slipped up and actually said that you bought it. I guess with so many lies floating around in her head it's hard to keep up with them all and remember what she said.

"The drum set that your dad bought you is very special," she told me, as if I didn't already know that.

"Make sure you take good care of it. I want to keep it in the family to remember him by and so your children can have something that their grandfather got you when you were little."

"I thought that you bought the drum set," I countered. I was grieving at the time but I just had to catch her in the act. I couldn't resist hearing her floundering for the right thing to say as her brain frantically backtracked, trying to remember the first lie she had told me about the drum set.

"Well," she said her voice tight and clipped, a sure sign of nerves kicking in.

"We both bought it, okay? Does it really matter who bought it?"

"No, not really," I said, trying to hide my satisfied smile.

"It's just that you told me that you bought it, not him. You were very adamant about that."

"Well, it doesn't matter who bought it anyway!" she huffed and then stormed out of my bedroom, slamming the door behind her. If she had a tail, I swear it would have been tucked tightly and stiffly between her ugly legs as she ran away, cowering like a little girl who is about to get a spanking.

Back to what I was saying about the earplugs, though, my mother decided that it would be a good idea to give me some hearing protection for me to have when I played the drums. So, when she went to work at the airport, she went to the crew lounge and stole a large handful of earplugs from the box of earplugs that were meant for the employees that go on the tar mack to wear and brought them home to me.

I was delighted when she handed me the earplugs. I had been having a hard time enjoying my drums because I was focusing more on playing them quietly, or trying to play them quietly, than I was on learning new songs and rhythms.

"Don't stick them in too deep," Mom instructed as I tore open one of the plastic packages that held the two earplugs. I noticed that they were a bright color. They looked orange or yellow. I liked how they looked.

At first I didn't like how they felt in my ears. As they expanded, my ears felt more and more like something was pushing against the eardrums in an uncomfortable way. I worried that the earplugs would burst my eardrum so I took them out.

"There's too much pressure," I complained as I sat in my drum chair, fiddling with the earplugs in my hands.

"They're supposed to feel like that. Come on, put them in again," she encouraged me.

So I did and gradually I began to get used to the feeling of having earplugs in my ears. I began to play my drums and I noticed just how much sound they blocked out and how much more comfortable I was. The anxiety that had always accompanied me whenever there was too much noise had totally vanished.

"Thank you for the plugs," I told my mother. For once she had actually given me a gift that I could appreciate and actually make some good use of. It wasn't her typical useless gift of uncomfortable clothes or fancy jewelry that we both knew I would never wear or a Braille watch that really should have been worn by an elderly person who just sat there all day long because the watch was so fragile. Way too fragile for a child to be wearing.

A few years later, I started band at elementary school and brought the earplugs with me. Almost everybody in the band sucked, especially the people who tried to play bad on purpose and blared their instruments to annoy people around them.

For some demented reason, Jennifer changed her mind about wanting me to wear earplugs. One day, right before my band concert, she told me, "Give me your earplugs."

"Why? I need to wear them for my concert."

"No you don't. Give them to me."

I could feel the anxiety already beginning to build in my gut. Just anticipating being in an echoey room with a bunch of horrible band mates with no earplugs to take the edge off of all that loud noise was almost too much to bear.

"Please let me wear them," I begged my mother.

"I'm not going to play very well for my concert if I don't have them. I'll be too nervous."

"Do you have any solos?"

"No, Peter does but I just have to play along with him."

"Well, since you don't have a very important role in the concert you really don't need them. Nobody will notice if you are nervous because you are just a background person. Give them to me now Ashlee. I'm not going to say it again."

Reluctantly I handed her my precious stash of hearing tranquilizers. For a minute, I considered sneakily leaving a pair out of the stash and wearing them anyway for the concert but having my long brown hair hide them by having it cover up my ears. But then I remembered that, on special occasions, my mother always enjoyed putting my hair in French braids or in a ponytail or some other ridiculous getup and, whatever hairstyle she would be forcing upon me for that day would surely mean that my hair would be pulled back away from my face and, most importantly, away from my ears. So out the window THAT plan went.

Heaving a huge, defeated sigh, I walked over to her and dumped them into her hands.

"Thank you," she said, her voice laced with sarcasm.

"Was that really so hard?"

"Yes, actually it was," I told her, knowing very well that it wouldn't really make a difference, though. Jennifer was the most insensitive woman I knew. The only feelings that mattered were her own.

"Why did you even give me earplugs in the first place if you don't want me to wear them? Why can't I wear them anyway? Do you want me to be blind AND deaf?"

"No Ashlee, I don't want you to be blind and deaf, but you won't go deaf from one concert. I'm not going to have you sitting onstage wearing ridiculous earplugs while everybody else aren't wearing any. You'll look very out of place and chances are you'll get picked on by your fellow band mates. Is that what you want?"

"I'd rather be picked on than be deaf. I don't care what any of those losers think anyway. It's not like I have a boatload of friends."

"Well, the only one to blame for that is yourself. Maybe if you would listen to me and behave like the rest of your peers it would be different for you."

She walked off with my earplugs and hid them somewhere. I contemplated trying to find them later but I knew I'd just get caught in the end and I didn't want to risk a beating before my show. The last thing I needed was to have red, swollen eyes from crying and a red cheek with a palm print where Mom often liked to slap me.

As I knew it would, the concert went horribly. I kept getting off course with everybody else and hit the snare drum at the wrong times. After the concert, Jennifer jumped down my throat as usual.

"What was with you up there? Why couldn't you keep up a simple beat? It's not like you didn't have other drummers to follow their lead?"

Another time Jennifer forbid me to wear earplugs was during a fair where people kept revving up their motorcycles in a most obnoxious way. Even before we got to the fairgrounds, I could hear the commotion. The closer we got, the tighter my stomach got. To this day, I still don't understand WHY people actually find watching a bunch of loud, obnoxious motorcycles doing whatever SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO entertaining! I mean, what are they doing anyway? Nobody ever took the time to tell me. For all I know, their drivers just sit on them and rev their engines, irking my nerves every time. But they have to be doing more than that, don't they? I mean, huge groups of people wouldn't just stand there and watch a bunch of stupid motorcyclists sitting there revving up their engines over and over again, would they? Not to mention cheering after every engine rev.

"You don't need earplugs for this event," Jennifer said as she took the earplugs out of my hands right as I started squishing them so that they could fit comfortably in my ears.

"Hey, yes I do," I yelled, trying to grab her arm so I could retrieve them.

"No you don't. Hey, for once, why not try to be a normal kid and have fun at the fair. This is a place for people to have FUN, not freak out about every little noise they hear."

Of course, it wasn't fun for me. It would have been, could have been, if I could have just worn my earplugs to take the edge off a little. I have discovered that, when I wore earplugs to crowded, busy places, I could actually enjoy myself just like everybody else. They gave me a confidence and an ease that I otherwise couldn't have without them.

That day, I ended up having a panic attack from too much sound stimulation and threw up. Back then I wasn't aware of what panic attacks were and what I was experiencing was severe anxiety. All I knew was that I had an overwhelming urge to flee only I couldn't because people were surrounding me on all sides, front and back, blocking any chance of escape I could have had if they weren't there. Jennifer finally ended up taking me away from all that horrid commotion, hissing in my ear, "When we get home, you'd better brush your teeth and change your shirt. You smell like barf! Why can't you be normal Ashlee? It's not normal to puke and freak out at a fair. A fair for pete's sakes. Go figure you'd have a meltdown at a fair."

She mused about this out loud all the bloody, miserable way home. We were living in Port Ludlow then and the fair was in Poulsbo so, if you are familiar with the Kitsap County and Jefferson County area, you probably have a pretty good idea of just how long and awful the drive home was.

Oh yes, mixed messages galore. One second Mom's all kind and like, "Here are some earplugs to protect your hearing so you can enjoy your new drum set."

The next second she's all like, "Earplugs make you look like a freak. People all around will wonder what's wrong with you. You don't need to wear them all the time. You are only blind Ashlee so, for the love of God, stop making it appear like you have multiple disabilities, especially mental ones. Those are the worst and you certainly are NOT mentally disabled, though you sure act it sometimes."

s if she would know if I had a mental disability or not. Had she graduated with some sort of psychology degree from a secret, underground college in the deep woods of Port Ludlow that only SHE knew existed? I think not.

You weren't as accepting as you could have been about my sensitivity to sounds either Dad. I remember this one time when I was about seven or so. It was before you or Mom or who the heck ever really did buy my drum set for me. We were sitting in Mom's cramped Mitsubishi Eclipse who she called Mitsy. Mom had run in to do some sort of errand but you and I stayed in the car. I was sitting in the back seat and you were in the front passenger side. I was on the right side of the back seat, closest to you. The right side was my favorite side to sit in. It still is today. Some things just never change.

Anyway, whenever Mom would turn the radio on, I'd always make it a point to say, "Not on my side," meaning that I didn't want the speakers to playing music right next to my right ear. It was bad enough sitting in the back with the radio on because the back seat is the closest to the speakers. It was unbearable to sit there and have music playing directly into my ear.

Well, you decided to turn up the radio. I guess you heard a song that you liked or maybe you were bored. Or maybe you just felt like being a jack ass and taking pleasure in my DIS-pleasure.

In any event, you turned up the radio and put the speakers on my side of the car.

"Not on my side," I said angrily. You knew that I didn't like it on my side and yet you put it there anyway, thus pissing me off.

"Not on my side, not on my side," you said mockingly, bringing your voice to a high pitch to match mine and then started to laugh. Then you turned up the radio some more.

"Not on my side," I said louder, feeling edgy by now.

"Not on my side!" you continued to mock me.

Still you turned it up louder.

"HEY!!!!" I shouted, trying not to show a sign of weakness but feeling an intense desire to flee by busting the window out and running far, far away where nobody could hurt my delicate ears ever again. I would have jumped out of the car I'm sure, but I couldn't because Mitsy was the kind of car where there were only two doors instead of four so I would have had to somehow climb over you and get your door open to get out. I don't know if I would have been able to manage that with you in the way. You would have probably prevented me from getting out of the car.

"NOT ON MY SIDE!!!!!!"

I was beside myself. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I wanted to punch and kick and bite and claw and do whatever other violent action I could manage to escape. When sounds are too loud for too long, it often leads to outrage along with anxiety and extreme discomfort. I felt like I could cry, only I knew if I did that Mom would get mad and chances were it would just make you laugh harder. I wanted to swear! I wanted to throw something at you. At that moment, I wanted to hurt you back. I wanted the whole world to know just how much I utterly hated you for doing this to me. I wanted to punch you again and again and again right in the face. I wanted to bust all your teeth out. I wanted to gouge out your eyeballs and bust out your eardrums so that you would be completely deaf. I wanted to curl up in a fetal position and just totally shut down. I wanted to die. Yes, at seven years old and even younger, I knew what it was like to wish that I would die. I never shared it with anyone until I got older but the feelings weren't something new to me when I hit puberty and got into the teen years like everybody else thought they were.

"NOT ON MY SIDE!" you shouted back and then roared with laughter.

Then you really blared it. I think the volume was almost full blast by now. Instinctively I clapped my hands over my ears and began rocking very rapidly back and forth to try and steady my nerves. You just sat there, all smiles and mocking and you let the laughter take over, making it impossible for you to speak and mock me anymore.

I might have been relieved about you not being able to make fun of me anymore if the music wasn't still blasting. I still kept my hands over my ears and rocked faster still.

Suddenly, the driver side door opened and Jennifer got in. I never thought in a million billion years that I would actually write this but Jennifer actually came to my rescue.

"Hey," she yelled, turning the radio down to almost silence.

"What's going on? What are you doing to our child?"

"He put it on my side," I whined to her.

"He blasted it Mommy."

"That's not funny," Jennifer scolded you.

"That was way too loud. That can really damage her ears."

"Will you take it off my side?" I asked. Well, it was more a plea than a question.

"Yes honey," Mom said her voice unusually soft and kind. She switched the speakers away from my side and had the music playing very softly while I sat there, glumly looking out the window.

I remember feeling very confused as to why you would suddenly turn on me like that, how you could be so loving and kind and wonderful and then suddenly turn so evil and wicked, and taking pleasure in your own daughter's pain. As Mitsy drove along the road, I wondered what made you want to hurt me, what I had done wrong to deserve such harsh treatment. I wondered if you were punishing me for something naughty that I might have done. But what did I do? Nothing that I was aware of. If I had done something, you certainly hadn't given me any awareness about it to correct the behavior and try to refocus my naughty intentions on something more positive.

There was another time when you did a similar thing to me. I was older then, maybe eight or nine or ten. Who knows. I'm terrible of keeping track of dates and times and years. All I remember is that we were at your mother's new house on a summer day. At least I think it was a summer day. The sun was out and it was warm outside. We were in the downstairs living room lying on the couch together, wrestling I think. Suddenly, you grabbed my head, drew it close to your mouth, turned my ear to your mouth, and then began yelling, "BWAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

"OOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW!" I shouted, taken aback by such sudden, intense, horrible sound.

"BWAAAAAAAAAAA HOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOO HOOOOOO!" you yelled again. My eardrums buzzed and not in a good way. It felt like my entire head was vibrating. No, like my entire BODY was vibrating and in pain. Too much loud sounds, especially that one, literally hurts me all over. It's not a feeling that I can easily explain.

I struggled but the more I did, the stronger your hold on me became.


Your voice had raised several octaves then and that's when I snapped.

Before I knew what I was doing I concentrated all my strength and fury and will power and fear and hate and every other feeling into one big YANK!!!! You were taken by surprise by it and that worked to my advantage. You started to stand up from the couch and I turned and kneed you in the balls as hard as I could. You went down like a bag of sand.

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!!!!!" you howled in pain.

"JESUS CHRIST!!!!!!!!!"

You sat there, trying to breathe slowly and you were probably also trying to maintain self control so that you wouldn't punch me or something for causing you such pain.

I don't remember what happened after that. I don't think I apologized to you. I remember being pretty upset. I'm also positive that you never apologized to me for either one of those awful times when you, for no apparent reason, turned on me in the most awful way possible that you actually KNEW would physically hurt me and make me very anxious.

You didn't make so much fun of me about the earplugs. Once in a while, you would find a pack of them in my pocket and you would say something sarcastic like, "Oh, there they are again. You can't go anywhere without those plugs. God forbid you forget them one day. I wonder what would happen if that ever happened?"

Today I still wear them very regularly. And, to this day, I am still self-conscious about it, thanks to you and Mom not being accepting of your child. I was no ordinary child and you both knew that. Today, I am no ordinary adult. I am unique and I am sensitive. When I put the earplugs in my ears, I can still sometimes hear my mother's voice in my head saying, "You look like a freak with those earplugs sticking out of your ears. People are going to think you are a freak."

try not to listen to her voice or let it upset me but it's hard to do sometimes. But the earplugs really do help me and so I will continue to wear them. I will not give Jennifer the satisfaction by ceasing to wear them just because she doesn't like how her daughter looks with them in her ears, despite the fact that people don't generally notice me wearing them because my long hair hides them. I have grown out my hair very long, not only because I like it long but also because I know it is a good way to conceal that I am wearing them. All I have to do is make sure that I have a few layers of hair covering both of my ears and nobody can tell I have them.

I know that for a fact because, one time when I was at the casino listening to live music, my aunt Tammy came up to me and hugged me.

"Do you like the music?" she asked me.

"Yeah, it's really good," I answered and I really meant it.

"I'm surprised it isn't too loud for you. I thought you would have surely fled somewhere quiet by now."

"There's no need," I told her, smiling proudly. I felt proud that I could participate in an event that most people think is fun without feeling anxious about the noise. It was amazing to me that I was actually having a good time at an almost concert. It was outdoor so that helped quite a bit but still, I had come a long way from before when I didn't have earplugs to wear.

"Why is there no need?"

"Because I'm wearing earplugs," I told her, pushing back the hair from my ears.

"Oh, you are," she said, taking a closer look at me.

"I didn't even see them in there. Good thinking."

The funny thing about my mother hating the fact that I wear earplugs to stay sane in this noisy world is the fact that she has actually made my need for them more profound. Several years ago, when I was still actively talking to her and visiting home, she had me convinced that I was bipolar and needed to see a doctor and get on medication for it and my anxiety. So I took her advice and went to see the doctor. I didn't tell the doctor that my mother thought that I was bipolar but I did speak about my anxiety and the negative impact it was having on my life and overall well-being.

"I'm going to prescribe you a medication called buspirone," the doctor said to me after listening intently about my symptoms.

"It's not a pill that you should take when you are about to have a panic attack, it's a pill that should be taken twice a day to help prevent the panic attacks from even happening at all."

"Oh," I said, starting to feel very excited.

"I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a pill that can prevent panic attacks. I'll take it."

"Great. I'll also prescribe you ativan. Ativan should be used when you are actually having an attack. It is a fast acting drug that will calm you down within minutes after you take it."

My mom was ecstatic about me being on buspirone. My grandma Giovanna even commented about it by saying, "Buspirone is wonders for you. You're home with us and are actually happy here. This is what's normal. You wanting to be with your family is what's normal. What you were doing before, staying away from us and not coming home on weekends, that was NOT normal. Keep on taking that buspirone so we can have our normal happy Ashlee Rosebud with us, okay?"

As always, I quickly realized that their advice sucked and quit taking the buspirone. It was making me feel super depressed and I was tired of being stoned all the time. Plus, the main side effect of it was nausea, which really wasn't good for me because, when I have a panic attack, guess what the main side effect of it is? Yep, it's a no brainer, it's nausea! I was rapidly losing weight and I had absolutely no appetite. I could honestly get full off of two breadsticks and be full for hours. It was crazy!

Come to find out, another side effect of buspirone was panic attacks! Really? How in the world could a doctor prescribe an anti anxiety drug to someone with panic disorder and one of the main side effects of buspirone is panic attacks? It just blows my mind!

Fed up with all the negative effects of the pill that I was experiencing, I went off of it. Right away, I noticed something was wrong. Every sound, even normal sounds, was excruciating to my ears. When my roommates washed dishes and they clinked around in the sink, I had to seek refuge in my bedroom where it was relatively quiet. The bus engines seemed like helicopter engines with my ears pressed right up against the engines. People's voices seemed unnaturally loud, like they were almost shouting at me.

In order not to be house bound, I had to start wearing earplugs everywhere I went. I wore them to class because the teacher's voice was too loud and so were all the other voices around me. I had to wear them when I was on the bus going to downtown or anywhere else. Pretty much I had to wear them just about everywhere except for in my bedroom.

It's gotten a lot better now but I still struggle with sound sensitivity even worse than before I had listened to my mother and gotten on some horrid pill like buspirone. Slowly, ever so slowly, I have gradually exposed myself to different sounds at different frequencies and, slowly I've been able to wear earplugs to less and less places. I found that I don't have to wear them in familiar places where I am pretty sure there won't be a loud boom or something that will really startle me. I don't have to wear them in grocery stores or at Derry Queen anymore. I don't have to wear them at Evergreen anymore. I do still wear them when I'm walking downtown because the traffic is really noisy and I wear them at our favorite coffee shop in Olympia because they play the music way too loud there. Even Chris thinks the music is too loud there. It's getting better, though, so that's encouraging but it's still a work in progress.

I don't know if I'll ever make a full recovery or how the hell the drug managed to make me even more sensitive than I already was in the first place. All I know is that I am very grateful that Chris doesn't make fun of me for having to wear them and that I know where I can purchase them online now when I start running low on them. I never let myself run out of them, can't let myself run out of them. If I did, I'd be a nervous wreck until I got the package with new ones in the mail. I can go out without wearing them if I forget them at home but it is usually a very long, nerve-wracking outing if I forget them, especially if I am in a city or even in Olympia. Which is why I haven't forgotten to bring them and even a few extra pairs just in case when I go out. All this because of Jennifer's terrible advice and the drug administration's terrible drugs out there that make situations worse rather than help, which is what they are supposed to do and even advertised that they will do.

Before I stopped talking to Jennifer completely, I didn't know that I could buy my own earplugs online. I thought that I could only get them from her work. A very large part of why I kept speaking to her for so long was because I didn't know what I would do if I ever ran out of earplugs. She told me before that she was the only one who could get me earplugs.

"If you run low on them, all you have to do is call me. I'm only a phone call away. Then I'll send you some more."

Stupidly, don't ask me why, I believed her. I honestly do believe that if I had realized I could buy earplugs for cheap on Amazon I would have quit speaking to her even longer ago than it has been now.

Since I hated talking to her so much, I used to start conserving earplugs when I noticed my supply was getting low. I also used to count them to see how many I had and then I would try and figure out how long I could wear the same pair of foam earplugs without risking an ear infection. I also had to take special measures to insure that I wouldn't lose them because if I did, it would mean I would have to call Jennifer sooner than I would if I didn't lose them. It was awful! I would generally wear the same foam earplugs for several days, sometimes even an entire week. Finally, they would grow hard and it would be painful to my ears when I would take them out so I would have to throw them away and open up a new package, fretting all the while about having one less pair of earplugs on hand and that the time that I would be forced to call Jennifer and ask for new ones was getting closer and closer and closer.

Luckily I finally fessed up to Chris and told him some of the reasons that I had for still talking to Jennifer and the earplug reason came up. When I told him, he said, "You don't need to get earplugs from her. They aren't even her earplugs to give you. She's stealing them from work. Here, I'll show you where you can get them online."

Chris took out his computer and went online to find the exact kind of earplugs that Mom gave me. Sure enough, he found a huge box to buy on Amazon for 23 dollars. The box contained 300 earplugs.

"Should we order them?" Chris asked me.

"Yes, let's order them. Then I can stop conserving the ones I have now."

"You were conserving them?" Chris asked, completely astonished.

"Yes I was. I didn't want to talk to Jennifer but I was starting to run out of them. So, to prolong my time of no contact, I conserved them."

"Well, there's no need for that anymore. I'm ordering them right now for you."

"Thank you Smm Smm!" I said, feeling true joy and excitement at the prospect of not having to depend on Jennifer for earplugs and the fact that I would have my very own box of them very soon. It was yet another thing less that Jennifer could hold over my head to control me with. I didn't need her for earplugs anymore and I never would again.

I'm still using the first box of earplugs that I bought with my very own credit card from Amazon and there's still tons of them left. And that's without conserving them. I get to use a new, fresh pair every day. Both my ears and I are very happy about this and so is Chris. Never again will I have to be made to feel guilty about wearing them or about anything else, for that matter. No more Jennifer and Giovanna and everybody else associated to them equals happy, healthy, stress free, wonderful life.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Dear Dad,

I am beginning to get super excited! The show featuring Disgusting is less than a month away! I have all the details about the show now. It's going to be held at Last Word Books in downtown Olympia and, yes, oh yes, it's going to be right on Mother's Day, which is May tenth. The show starts at six o'clock and everybody is welcome. The only thing is, the front row seat has already been reserved for a very special person should she find the nerve to come to my show. Yes, you guessed it; it has been reserved for Jennifer, the evil bitch you somehow fell in love with long enough to create me, ultimately leaving me totally stuck with her for over eighteen years.

I still feel anger towards you about that sometimes. I don't always feel it, but, once in a while, it just sneaks up on me and strikes like a cobra. I guess what pisses me off the most is that there were trillions of girls to pine over and have sex with and yet you just HAD to have Jennifer. You just HAD to have unprotected sex with her, which lead to "hello Ashlee."

The other thing that pisses me off somewhat but not as much as the latter is that Mom told me that sometimes you used to say to her, "The one thing we did do right together is make Ashlee, our beautiful, precious angel daughter."

Now, I usually take what my mother says with a grain of salt because she is indeed known for her pathological habit of lying so that might not have been true about what you said to her. If it is, though, I want to tell you Dad that you are very wrong about that. It wasn't the right thing to make me. Not with Jennifer anyway. It would have been right, could have easily been right if you had chosen another woman to strand me with for a lifetime, but you fucked up big time when you decided that Jennifer was "the one" to mate with. So, if you did in fact say that to her, here's what I have to say.

You two did absolutely nothing right. You started off on the wrong foot by hooking up with her and everything else you did with her was totally not right at all. Even when it came down to the creation of me. I have no idea why you would think or say that you did the right thing by making a daughter with Jennifer. Maybe it was to make yourself feel better. In any event, it was wrong on all accounts so there. I just thought I should set the matter straight once and for all. It's been something I've wanted to tell you for quite some time now. It hasn't been necessarily eating at me but it is something that has bothered me that needed to be addressed. I do feel lucky that Jennifer decided to mate with you; too, because you were the best dad anyone could ever ask for, issues and all.

I know I haven't written for a while. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Towards the end, almost every time I started writing about Jennifer I would get a panic attack. It wasn't quite full-blown but it didn't feel good. So I decided to take a break from Disgusting for a while and do self care. I hadn't dreamed that the break from the project would be so long. I kept meaning to write a story weeks ago, but every time I would think about turning on my computer I'd always think of something else I could be doing instead.

Throughout the break from Disgusting, I kept being invaded by a nagging question. The question was this:


I mean, I know that Jennifer needs to be exposed and that I need to break the silence but, when I started feeling anxious after I would write a story about her and think about her, I started second guessing whether this project was really helping me come to terms with the shattered pieces of my childhood. I wondered a lot about whether I would really accomplish anything by doing this project and who it was really helping to do it.

All my friends and Chris feel that the bunny is up to something but nobody knows what it is. For the last twenty-four hours, all five of my friends have been paying close attention to Minnie May, the bunny, to see if they can find any clues that lead up to me getting discouraged and uncreative, always second guessing my actions every step of the way.

Chris had a really good thought last night about what scared me about writing these stories. This is what he said.

"I think what is scaring you is that you are afraid to find out how much like your mom you truly are. The stories make you think about your mom and you and you don't want to understand why your mom became the person that she is today and how you might be like her."

When he said that, it totally clicked into place in my mind. I know that I have inherited some unfortunate traits from my mom that are highly undesirable. The thing is, unlike her, I am willing to change and be a different person so that I don't treat Amira the way my mom treated me when I was a child. Chris is also right about me not really wanting to understand what made my mom so mean and abusive. Honestly, I don't think that she is worth taking up space in my thoughts. I really don't care about her enough to want to waste energy thinking about her.

But maybe it is important to start thinking about her in a different light. Maybe it is important to try and understand what made Jennifer this awful, abusive, thoughtless, heartless woman that she is today. Maybe if I try and understand it more, it will help me not be like her and hurt Amira in the ways that she hurt me. I know in my heart that I love Amira and that I would die if she stopped speaking to me when she grew up like I did with Jennifer. I'm sure Jennifer is heart-broken about me not speaking to her, too. But there is nothing that she can do to undo all the hurt and pain she caused me. There is nothing that she can do and nothing she can say to take back all the hurtful words she threw at me during her many temper tantrums when things didn't go her way. For Jennifer, it is too late. No amount of "I love you's" and "I'm sorry's" can fix the irrevocable damage that she has done. She has lost her baby forever. For me, though, it's not too late. I'm starting to realize that it isn't too late at all. If I start now, I can be the gentle, kind, thoughtful, considerate, loving mother to Amira that I often wished and still wish to this day that Jennifer had been for me.

The project must go on. As difficult as it is, I need to think about her and try to understand her. If I don't, I'll just wind up being exactly like her and I can't let that happen. I love my daughter and Chris way too much to even give that a slight chance of happening. Yes, the project must go on and, bit by bit, things will fall into place. I just need to be willing to work on it.

Some days I am, other days I'm not. Some days I'm filled with a gripping fear accompanied by a strong urge to flee from the thoughts of Jennifer and the rest of the family on her side. Other days, like today, though, I feel strong, determined, and unbreakable.

Last night, I didn't really know who I was really writing these stories for. As nice is it is to know that people all over the world are reading the stories and that there is a huger than huge chance that my mother is reading them, too, and getting really mad about them, I'm not writing them for the audience or for her. I am partly writing them for myself, I realized, but who else? Chris certainly encourages my creative side and lifts me up when I reach a trench and get stuck, but, as deeply as I love him, I am not writing them for him either. As much as I love you Dad, I'm not writing them for you. I mean, it's not like you can read them, right? Or can you? What really happens when someone dies? How conscious are you really Dad? Are you conscious at all? Have you been reincarnated and are now a giant walking stick bug or a giant cockroach living in Florida? Or are you just nothing and the reason for addressing you in these letters completely stupid and pointless? Why am I even writing to you anyway? STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!!!! So, who am I writing these stories for then? The questions and frustrated thoughts hammered me over and over again. Perhaps I wasn't writing them for anyone, I thought. Perhaps there isn't really a reason to write them at all. Which is why I stopped writing them for a while.

I began to notice that my imaginary friends started talking less and less and they seemed very dejected and unhappy. Chris noticed it, too, and said that he noticed that Mary Meyers seemed the unhappiest of them all.

"She's not saying Mary Meyers anymore," he told me yesterday as we rode on the bus on a hot sunny day.

"Oh, I guess she hasn't been," I said. I hadn't really thought of it much. Actually, I was trying not to think about much or to feel much at all. The depression and lack of creativity had backed me firmly against a brick wall and, no matter how hard I tried to push against it, to free myself, it stood strong and tall, towering over me, impossible to budge it.

Throughout the day yesterday, I thought about the project and the question came back. Who am I writing the stories for? The answer didn't come until late last night. Amira had been put to sleep for the night in her car seat. As usual, she had thrown a gigantic fit about going to bed. She HATES bedtime. That's pretty typical for an almost toddler. That's what everyone's told me anyway. I don't know jack about babies so I guess I'll take their word for it.

Anyway, it took several minutes before we finally got her to stop screaming her lungs out. Chris laid down on his bed and rocked her to sleep and, gradually, she began to calm down. I reached in her car seat to touch her nose, which is my way of showing her that I love her, but she grabbed my hand and firmly pushed it away. She has been doing that lately, taking my hand and pushing it away from her nose. I don't really give her kisses. Kisses are disgusting. Kisses are what my mom and grandma gave me way too much of and I hate them. Their kisses were given to me when they wanted something or when I'd done something to please them. They weren't kisses of love and affection, they were kisses that stood for power and control and manipulation to get what they wanted. Well, Chris's kisses are different. They are special. They mean love and devotion. They are real, genuine kisses. Everyone else's kisses suck!

I've touched Amira's nose to show her love since she was a newborn. It started off as simply touching her nose in the hospital to make sure she was still breathing. I would know that she was when the warm air would ooze all over my fingers, making me smile and relax. My baby was fine. But then I started touching her nose as my way of showing her affection and now, ten months later, I'm still touching her nose to wish her a good night and to let her know that Mommy loves her and that she is there for her in a non disgusting, slobbery, slimy, intrusive way.

Well, Amira is growing up and, lately, she hasn't wanted to have her nose touched or to be held. When she was very young, I used to wish that she would hurry up and grow up so that she would be more independent and not so needy of our attention all the time. Lately, though, as she pushed my hand away from her nose over and over again, I found myself longing for the days when she was a tiny infant who would let me touch her nose and look inside of her nose any time I wanted. Yes, I also love to look inside her nose. Her tiny nostril holes are adorable! Lately when I've tried to look inside her nose, she's yanked on my hair and tried to scratch my eyeballs out! Probably not on purpose but it still makes nose peeking very difficult, pretty much impossible actually.

For some stupid reason, Amira pushing me away added to my feelings of being discouraged, which obviously didn't help keep my inspiration going for the project. I just didn't feel like writing or doing much of anything at all. I would still go out with Amira and Chris and we would do family things together but my inspiration and drive had gone down the tubes.

Eventually, Amira stopped crying altogether and just lay there in her car seat, spent from all the screaming and finally ready to sleep. Chris was in his bed, asking me if I would write a story tonight.

"I don't know," I told him.

"I haven't been feeling very good after writing them. Writing them and thinking about Jennifer has been giving me panic attacks."

"It will get easier the more you write," he said encouragingly.

"Why don't you see if Amira will let you touch her nose now. She's calm now."

"Can I touch her nose?" I asked Nevaeh.

"Yeah, I think she'll let you now," Nevaeh answered quietly, not wanting to disturb the baby with her high-pitched voice.

So tentatively I sat up and reached into the car seat and gingerly felt around, trying to locate her nose. When she is about to fall asleep she often tilts her head to the side. Sure enough, that's where I found her nose.

At first, she tossed her head around and I was about to give up and leave her alone, but then, all of a sudden, she just lay still. She didn't bring her hand quickly up to push my hand away, nor did she start yowling like a dying cat. She just lay there very still and let me stroke her nose affectionately with my right hand.

"She's letting me touch her nose Smm Smm!" I said excitedly.

I touched her nose for a little while longer and then I started massaging her head and rubbing her little ears. I touched the little dimple on her chin, something that both Chris and I have, and I thought of you and your little dimple. It made me miss you but it wasn't an overpowering, crippling feeling like it used to be. It felt bitter sweet. Bitter because I really wish you were here with me and could meet your granddaughter and my life partner but also sweet because Amira was, at last, letting me touch her nose and her dimple made me realize that she would have some of your traits and looks, too.

I thought that at any moment now she'd take my hand away from her nose or turn away from me, but she didn't.

"Why is she letting me touch her nose still Smm Smm?" I asked Chris, wondering what he would say.

"She knows that you need her," Chris told me.

"She loves you."

And then it came to me. The answer that I'd been trying to uncover for weeks. As odd as it sounds, even to me as I write this, I am writing the stories for her, doing this project for her, my beautiful Amira princess darling. I am writing these stories and trying to understand how my mother became so hateful and angry and evil so that I do not make the same mistakes that Jennifer made. I am doing all this to protect Amira and to insure that her life isn't broken and pitted and hollow and lonely and confused and unstable and scary and unpredictable like mine was. I am doing this because my love for her is unbreakable. My love is forever. I am doing this project so that Amira and I will hopefully always have an open, close relationship, even when she is fully grown and lives a life of her own. And, last but not least, I am doing this so that, when the time comes when Amira starts becoming curious about her grandmother and everybody else in Jennifer's family that she will be able to read my stories about the kind of person Jennifer truly is and will know what to look for and how to prepare her for my mother's surprise physical and personal attacks and can deflect them before they can cause real, permanent damage. That is, if she ever wants to meet Jennifer. I really hope that she will choose not to meet her, but, if she decides to meet her, I want her to know what she can expect during her visit with her grandmother and how to protect herself when Jennifer tries to break her down and crush her spirit, something Jennifer enjoys doing to everybody who is dumb enough to choose to join her and walk down her path, a path that leads to nothing but misery, emptiness, frustration, and inevitable, eternal pain and destruction.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Peggy Sue

"Mommy, Mommy, Rocky's in trouble! Rocky's in trouble!"

Little bean-filled hands tugged at my pajama sleeve.

"What? Who?"

I had been lazily lounging in bed with Chris. It was late at night and the baby had already been put to bed.

"Rocky the dog!" yelled Chrissie.

"Your evil grandma Giovanna's imaginary friend! The husky dog, remember? Remember, remember, REMEMBER?!!!!!"

"Oh yeah, Rocky," I said, rolling over to look at Chrissie, who was standing at my bed, staring intently at me. I could feel her intense dark eyes penetrating me.

"What's wrong with Rocky? What happened?"

"Giovanna has completely starved him almost to death!" wailed Chrissie.

"And there's a muzzle on his nose, preventing him from even being able to bark for help! We must DO SOMETHING!!!!!"

"Let's just call him. He'll come to us. Calm down Chrissie, you're hurting my ears and you're going to wake up the baby."

"He can't come Mommy," Nevaeh said.

"He's all tied up on Giovanna's deck at her condo. He can't come because he can't move."

"How awful! Well, untie him then."

"We can't!" Chrissie shouted.

"She didn't tie him up with a simple rope. He's literally tied to the deck with a chain and he's bolted to the ground! We can't get the chain off without choking him and cutting off his circulation. What should we do, what should we do, WHAT SHOULD WE DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO?!!!!!!!"

Chrissie was in the depths of despair, I could feel it.

"Chrissie, calm down. I think Smm Smm can help. Maybe if he blows enough fire on the chain and bolt they will melt."

"Oh yeah, that's a grand idea," said Smm Smm as he walked up to my bed.

"Let's go Smm Smm!" Chrissie hollered and then began to tug on his arm.

"We can't waste another second! He's really in serious trouble!"

"I'm coming, I'm coming," Smm Smm hissed, roughly disentangling Chrissie's fingers from his arm. Like me, Smm Smm really hated being pulled on or rushed. He was in a pretty mellow, lazy mood like I had been before Chrissie had sounded the alarm.

"Smm Smm, be careful not to burn the dog," I cautioned as they headed for the door.

"Dog fur can easily catch fire."

"I'll be careful," Smm Smm reassured me, and then they were gone.

"I can't believe Grandmamma is being so cruel to her imaginary friend," I said to Chris as we waited for my friends to return with Rocky!

"I know, it is pretty awful."

"Why do you think she's doing this?" I asked, picking at my fingernails to try and steady my nerves by giving my hands something to do.

"I think she's forgotten about Rocky. She hasn't had a use for him so she tied him up and put the muzzle on his nose so that he wouldn't bother her. Time went by and then she just forgot about him. She is pretty self-absorbed."

"Yeah, I know. But forgetting about your own imaginary friend? I can't imagine it. I could never forget about Chrissie and Nevaeh and Bryan and Mary Meyers and Smm Smm! They are a part of me, so strongly connected that if I forgot about them or they left me, a part of me would die, leaving behind an empty, dark hole in my soul. I thought that's how it feels for everyone who has an imaginary friend, but I guess it isn't that way for everyone."

I fell silent then, thinking about Rocky and when my grandma had created him. Rocky came into existence when I told Grandmamma about my imaginary friends and all the wonderful things that they do for me. When I had finished telling her about them, she said, "Mmmmmmm, that sounds pretty cool! I am going to make my own imaginary friend. I want an imaginary friend to protect me and to do exactly what I tell it to do. But I'm not as creative as you. I don't know if I can actually make one. It must have taken you a long time to create them."

"Imaginary friends aren't robots," I said, feeling my blood pressure start to rise as anger began taking over.

"They are made to think for themselves. They aren't just for being bossed around and to protect you. They must be treated with respect and they must be free to do what they want to do, whenever they want. They must also be loved unconditionally and accepted for who they are and what they are supposed to be used for. Every imaginary friend is unique and each one has its own special uses. They must be treated like they are special and unique. It did take some time to make all my friends and it took a lot of thought. Anyone can make an imaginary friend or even a whole bunch of them so long as they really put time and thought and, most importantly, love, into it."

"I'm going to make a husky dog," Giovanna informed me, completely ignoring what I had told her about how imaginary friends needed to be respected and loved, not just used and unloved.

"I'm going to name him Rocky and he's going to do exactly what I tell him to do. He will make sure that all good things happen to me and that people who do bad things to me will receive the karma that they deserve."

It was then that I had begun to wish that I had never told her about my friends and all the wonders they can do for me. It was clear from the way she was talking that she had no plans for showing her imaginary friend any sort of love and respect. But what did I expect really? It wasn't like she had shown ME any of those things, unless, of course, she wanted something or had some other ulterior motive. I had already learned long ago that Grandmamma wasn't capable of showing anybody or anything love and respect. She didn't have a heart. Nobody in the family did.

Just then, Chrissie came bounding through the door, followed by Mary Meyers, Smm Smm, Nevaeh, and Bryan.

"Where's Rocky?" I asked, sitting up in bed. I didn't hear any tapping of nails on the floor like I usually did when Rocky came to visit us.

"He's too weak to walk," Nevaeh answered.

"Bryan is carrying him in his branches. He needs something to eat and drink immediately. Rocky is severely dehydrated and starved."

Slowly, Bryan bent down and gently, oh so very gently, laid Rocky down on my soft, warm bed.

"Hi Rocky," I said, running my hands along his body. Immediately I could tell Rocky wasn't right. He didn't lift his head or lick my hand like he always did when he first saw me and was excited. His tail did not wag. As I moved my hands up and down and over his body, I could feel all of his ribs. He was nothing but skin and bones.

Mary Meyers brought him a piece of venison that she had bought at the market and offered it to him. Rocky perked up immediately and snatched the meat out of her hands and all but swallowed it whole. Mary Meyers fed him until it was all gone. Twenty pounds of venison went down the hatch, some of it chewed but a lot of it pretty much swallowed whole because it had been so long since he had had anything to eat.

Slowly, the venison brought Rocky's strength back. After he ate, Smm Smm offered him water. Rocky drank and drank and drank until two entire gallons of water had disappeared.

"It's going to take a little while before Rocky's full strength returns," Mary Meyers told me.

"He is going to need some serious TLC for a while. But, with a lot of love and patience and attention, Rocky will make a full recovery."

"That's good," I told her.

"Bryan, why don't you bring a blanket over here so I can cover Rocky up. He's shivering right now. His body is so weak that it can't regulate heat now so, even though we are nice and warm, he is cold."

Bryan brought the blanket to me and all of us began covering him up, petting him and giving him lots of kisses all the while.

Once Rocky had stopped shivering and had fallen into a contented, relaxed slumber, I lay back down and put my arm around Chris. As I lay there, a flashback hit me smack in the face. I shook my head furiously, trying to rid myself of the ugly images and memories that began swimming around and resurfacing in my mind, but it was too late.

"What's wrong?" Chris asked, alarm in his voice.

"I just had an unpleasant memory creep up," I said, trying to sound cool.

"I'm fine."

I squeezed Chris tighter against me, relishing in his warmth and presence.

"What was the memory about?" Chris wanted to know.

"Well, since it's not going away, I might as well tell you. Who knows, maybe it will actually go away once I talk about it. That sometimes happens, you know."

Chris continued to let me hold him as I began to tell him my story of Peggy Sue.

Peggy Sue was a bullmastiff that Grandmamma and Grandpa Ed bought for my aunt Giselle. I was around eight years old and Giselle was around twelve. They were living in a huge house with five acres of woods and fields in Keyport. Giselle had been asking, begging really, for a dog for a long time but hadn't gotten one. There had been dogs at the Keyport house in the past, but one died and one ran away. Lupo, a huge wolf type of dog, swallowed his tongue somehow and died and Sunshine, a small lapdog type of dog, ran away. Supposedly she ran away because Ed had mistreated her, but I never really know what to believe when Mom and Grandmamma tell me stories. For all I know, Grandmamma had been the one who mistreated her, or maybe, Sunshine, the small dog, had run away because nobody really payed much attention to her and she was lonely and sad. I do know I can believe that because I actually remember nobody paying attention to her. She was tied up a lot and, when she was let loose to roam the property, nobody played with her or petted her or took her on bye-byes. She was mostly alone and unloved as far as I could tell. If I had been Sunshine, I would have ran away, too.

Anyway, Giselle begged and begged and begged for a puppy and, finally, Grandmamma and grandpa Ed finally gave in and bought her a bullmastiff puppy and brought it home.

She was a beautiful dog. She was bright red and very friendly, though I always tried to get away from her when she got bigger because she was way too slobbery and drooly for my style. And, whenever she sniffed my legs, she would almost always leave a huge, wet snotty booger on my jeans. Totally gross! She meant well, though, so I never yelled at her for it. I just always tried to keep my distance from her because, in my mind, she was the grossest dog on the planet. She was sure the grossest dog I had ever seen before.

When she first came into the family, she was showered with love and affection just as new pets generally are when they are first adopted. There was also much debate about what her name should be. Jennifer, my mother, suggested that she should be named Peggy Sue, Burning Hunk of Love, but everyone else thought that was way too long of a name for a dog to remember.

"I do like the name Peggy," Giselle said after a while.

"Okay then, why don't we just name her Peggy Sue?" Ed suggested.

And so it was decided. Her name would be Peggy Sue.

At first Giselle kept her inside with her. She let Peggy sleep in her bedroom and follow her around the house. Grandmamma and Grandpa signed Peggy up for some classes at Petsmart for basic obedience because Peggy sure needed it. She was a hyper spastic dog that always knocked me over when we played because she had a habit of jumping on people. She also had a habit of chewing up everything that she could get her mouth on, especially when nobody was paying attention to her and she got bored and lonely.

She did learn some basic obedience skills, but nobody ever could break her of her destructive chewing habit. So, because of this, she became primarily an outside dog. Ed built a big fence for her in the backyard as well as a dog house with a dog door that she could use if she wanted to come inside of the house. There was a closet downstairs in the house that wasn't being used, so that became Peggy's room inside the house. It didn't take long before the entire downstairs portion of the house began to smell like dirty, wet dog.

Gradually, people began paying less and less attention to her. As disgusting as she was to me, I felt bad for her and would go outside and play with her and would pet her and talk to her. Sometimes I would even bring Jethro along to play with her. The only thing was, Jethro was a major snob dog. He didn't like to play with very many dogs. He only liked to interact and visit with people. So he wasn't really much of a pen pal for poor Peggy Sue.

At some point during her stay at the Keyport house, Bria, a Boston terrier, was adopted into the family and became Peggy's playmate. They had a love/hate relationship. Sometimes they got along great and other times they fought like lions.

Grandmamma and Grandpa divorced, though, when I was around ten, and, when Grandma sold the Keyport house, she also sold Bria to a loving family. Bria was too hyper to keep and she didn't listen very well. Grandma and her never did form a bond, though that's why my mom bought her for Grandma, so they could form a bond. Grandma didn't like Peggy very much and wished that she had a dog that she could bond with and take everywhere with her. But Bria was an escape artist and Grandma quickly grew tired of Bria's unruly behavior and put her up for sale. Just like that, Bria was out of our lives forever.

As sad as I am to report this, Peggy's sad, lonely life did not improve. It got worse. Eventually, Giselle married a guy and decided that she wanted to move to New York with him. I was around fifteen by that time and she was around nineteen. She was supposedly really attached to Peggy, yet she refused to take her to New York with her to live. She insisted that someone in the family should take care of her and that she shouldn't be sold like Bria was.

"I'll take her," Jennifer volunteered when nobody else stood up to the plate and offered to take Peggy. Peggy had been staying with Giselle's ex boyfriend Lukas after the Keyport house sold, but the living conditions there weren't good. The yard was filled with dog poop so much that Peggy couldn't even find a comfortable spot to lie down and rest in.

"She can stay at our house. Jethro probably won't mind and we'll take her on lots of walks."

So Peggy came to live with us. Mom bought a very large kennel that was big enough for her to walk around in and that could fit her food and water bowl and put the kennel in the garage.

For the first week or so, Mom took good care of Peggy. She took her on lots of walks, fed her, watered her, and gave her attention. Peggy was even allowed to come inside the house so long as someone was watching her to make sure she wouldn't chew anything up. But Mom's kindness, as usual, only lasted so long. Eventually she grew tired of Peggy and, as I expected would happen, she locked Peggy in the kennel in the garage and spent less and less time with her. Eventually, the daily walks ceased altogether and, eventually, Peggy wasn't even taken outside at all to relieve herself. Since she wasn't able to hold her bowels and urine, she ended up going in her kennel because she had no other choice.

Dogs don't naturally go potty in their kennels. They don't like to do that. For many dogs, their kennel is their safe haven, their den, to relax and unwind and get away from it all when they need space to just chill. I'm sure that Peggy held it as long as she could, not wanting to dirty up her haven, but a dog can only hold it for so long before they break down and let it go.

Peggy's discomfort began to show. Bullmastiffs, by nature, aren't barkers. They bark when there is a reason to bark but they don't yap for no reason like a lot of small dogs do. Peggy seldom barked. I had only heard her bark a handful of times before she had moved to Jennifer's house. By this time, Peggy was around seven years old. That's how little she barked. When she moved to Jennifer's house, though, and as time went by with no attention or stimulation, Peggy changed. She began barking a lot and pawing at her kennel, pleading to be let out. I wanted to let her out but I had a hard time walking her because she was a very strong, powerful dog. I knew I would get beat if she ran away while I was walking her, so I was too afraid to even try to walk her. I often took Jethro, my dog, for walks because he listened well and he was more manageable. But Peggy was just too much for me to handle, especially if I was walking Jethro, too, which, no doubt I would be because Jethro would certainly get jealous if I took Peggy on a walk but didn't invite him. He would end up following us without a leash and I would be forced to either try to walk both of them or lock him up in the house and then feel guilty that he would be stuck inside, sulking because he didn't get to go on the walk, too.

One day, while Tim and I were at home watching TV, Peggy started barking nonstop. Mom was at work and I was stuck in Tim's care.

"I am REALLY starting to dislike that dog," Tim said angrily as he turned up the volume on the television set way too loud to try and drown out the barking. I immediately got up to flee the room because the noise of the TV was unbearable.

"She's just lonely," I half-shouted so I could be heard over the TV as I started to head upstairs for my room.

"Maybe we should take her for a walk. She'd probably stop barking if she got to go out more. Jethro gets to roam the yard freely and Peggy doesn't. She's probably just telling us how unfair it is that Jethro's free and Peggy's in prison, which is what her kennel is pretty much like for her."

Tim said nothing. He just kept his eyes glued to the TV screen, completely ignoring me like he often did when I said something he didn't want to hear. My heart went out to the dog but there was nothing I could do for her, so I retreated steadily up the stairs to my bedroom, eager to get away from all the racket the TV was making.

Still, time went on and Peggy's life hadn't improved at all. One day, Mom suggested that we should all go for a walk.

"Can we take the dogs?" I asked, hoping that Mom would say yes so that Peggy would be able to get some fresh air.

"Sure," Mom said.

We headed outside and I put the leash on Jethro, holding him still with my knees so that I could get it on him. Jethro wiggled excitedly, knowing very well that his leash meant walkie time.

"Will you hold still already?" I asked, squeezing my knees against his sides harder. Too late. He had gotten loose and began running up the hill towards the top of our driveway.

"Jethro, come!" I commanded.

Lifting his head high, he raced back down the hill towards me, eventually plowing into my legs. It was jarring, feeling such a large dog plow into me like that, but I quickly recovered and said very firmly, "Sit!"

Jethro knew I meant business and he sat.

"Stay!" I commanded.

Miraculously, he listened and, finally, I was able to get the leash on him.

By this time, Tim had brought Peggy outside and was walking up the driveway with her. Jethro and I followed. We were about halfway up the driveway when Peggy stopped walking and began to sniff about.

"Come on!" Tim snarled, yanking on the leash. Peggy made an awful choking sound.

"You get to sniff Jethro's scent all day long."

He yanked again and Peggy began to walk again.

I didn't say my thoughts aloud because I didn't want to raise havoc but, in my mind, I was thinking:

Peggy doesn't get to sniff Jethro's scent all day long! She's stuck in a kennel in the garage where the door is shut and cold and loveless. Can't you give the dog a damn break?

My blood boiled and I knew the anger would take over if I didn't find something to distract myself with. . So I said, "Come on Jethro!", and urged him into a run. We took off, leaving Mom and Tim and Peggy in the dust. As we ran, I smiled to myself in satisfaction because I knew that Tim would have a very difficult time keeping control of Peggy now that Jethro and I were running. Peggy was surely trying to chase after us. I hoped that Tim would have the most unenjoyable walk as possible. I didn't think that Peggy would mind too much that she wasn't running with us. If I did, I would have stopped running and would have let them catch up. I was sure that Peggy was just happy to actually be outside, breathing in the fresh scent of woodsy air rather than the scent of rotting feces, festering, dried-out urine, and old smelly dog, which was the air she was mainly breathing within the walls of her prison cell in the garage.

One sunny day, Mom decided that she was feeling nice that day and decided to leave Peggy tied up on the deck in the front yard as opposed to being stuck in prison. It wasn't much better than being in her kennel because she was still not free, but at least she got to breathe in the fresh air and see new things.

We ended up going on an errand and, somehow while we were gone, Peggy managed to break free and she took flight, rejoicing in her newfound freedom.

I really have no idea why but, when we got home and Mom and Tim discovered that Peggy was gone, they went out looking for her. I stayed home to play ball with Jethro. Back then I was still praying to God, though not very often. He never seemed to answer my prayers and he never seemed to be there for me when I needed him the most. I was beginning to question whether he even existed at all and I was also beginning to question whether he really loved me. Christians kept telling me that God loves everybody and that everyone on Earth are his people, his sheep, but I wasn't feeling very loved or like I was a part of his flock. I was feeling very alone and deserted. Christians always told me that we are never alone because God is always watching. I was starting to disagree with what they said about that more and more. I felt more alone than I had ever felt. My dad had died not that long ago then and I felt forsaken and very, very sad. I kept asking God to give me a sign that he was there with me and that he cared but all I got in return was crushing, immobilizing sadness and grief.

That day, though, Peggy was heavy in my mind. I wasn't really sure if my prayer would work or if God was even listening, but I had nothing left to lose now that the only person who had really showed me love and kindness, the only person who I really loved back and cared about, my Dad, was gone and I didn't think Peggy really had anything to lose either, so I prayed to God that Mom and Tim wouldn't have any luck finding Peggy. I prayed that someone loving and kind would find her and would give her a good home and a good life for the rest of her years. I prayed that she would never again have to be locked away in a kennel, forgotten, deserted, and unloved by Giselle and everybody else in the family who had wanted her in the first place and who were supposed to love and care for her until the end of her time here on Earth.

Just as I feared, my prayer wasn't answered. I wasn't too surprised about that. I couldn't remember the last time God had even remotely answered even part of a prayer that I offered up to him. Mom and Tim came back home and I could hear the even panting of Peggy as she walked slowly and reluctantly down the driveway and then to the garage. Back to prison she went. I knew it as soon as I heard the SLAM of her kennel door.

"Where did you find her?" I asked, giving Jethro a pat on the head for bringing the ball right back to me yet again. He was such a good fetcher, the best one I had ever had the pleasure of playing fetch with.

"Some woman found her," Mom told me.

"She gave her a bath and some food. I'm glad she gave her a bath! That dog was FILTHY! Now it's just one less thing I have to do."

"The lady really wanted to keep her," Tim said to my mom.

"I know," Mom said.

"Why didn't you let the woman keep her?" I asked, astonished that they didn't let the woman keep her.

"Because she's Giselle's dog and she asked us to take care of her," Mom said.

"But you aren't taking care of her! Locking her away in prison all day, every day, isn't taking care of her. That's animal abuse!"

That's what I wanted to scream at her at the top of my lungs. I didn't do it, though. I was too much of a coward. I just let the matter drop and threw the ball for Jethro again. He was beginning to tire but I needed something for my arms to do to keep from hitting something or some-ONE!

Time dragged on and on. One day, while I was home alone, Peggy began howling in her kennel. It wasn't a happy howl. It was very low and mournful. It reminded me of losing my dad. Right then I realized that, like me, Peggy was grieving. We were grieving for different reasons but we were both still grieving. I was grieving over the loss of my father. Peggy was grieving over the loss of her freedom and probably of her loss of Giselle, her irresponsible owner who abandoned her instead of finding her a loving home when she realized she couldn't take her to New York with her. Or maybe she could have taken her to New York but just didn't want to. Maybe it was just too INCONVENIENT for her. Maybe she didn't want to make the extra effort for the dog she supposedly loved with all her heart, mind, body, and soul.

Hearing her howl and realizing that we were both on the same boat in our grief made my heart go out to her in a very powerful, moving way. Suddenly, all the fear of my mother melted. I was going to let the dog loose, give her a chance to run away and never look back. If I let her go now, she would have a good start in getting far enough away where Mom and Tim couldn't find her anymore. They were both gone and wouldn't be home for a long time. Tim wasn't due to come home until well into the evening. And Mom wasn't due to come home for four days because she was working and in a whole different state. Who knows, maybe she was even in Canada! Even better! Then she wouldn't be able to call me until she got back into the states again.

So I walked to the garage door and opened it up slowly.

"Hi Peggy," I said in a soothing voice.

"I'm here to set you free."

I didn't know how to unlock the door to her kennel but I did know that, if I let her in through the garage, I could open up the front door and set her free. I just hoped she wouldn't go crazy in the house before I could lure her outside in the front yard.

A low, warning growl rumbled in Peggy's throat. I froze and then backed away. Sometimes when Peggy yawned it sounded like a ferocious growl. I couldn't tell if she was mad or happy to see me.

"Come on Peggy, I'm not going to hurt you!"

I kept my voice soothing and as non-threatening as possible. I spoke in a high-pitched voice because that's what I was taught to do if I was ever met by a questionable dog.


Another growl, this time more menacing and frightening. Immediately I closed the door, afraid that if I didn't, Peggy would attack me. I didn't know what was wrong with Peggy, why she was growling at me like that. She had never acted aggressively to me, or anyone for that matter, before.

I stood there, not knowing what to do. Finally, I just gave up on the whole idea of freeing her and went upstairs to take all my frustration out on my drum set.

Shortly after the growling incident happened, things got too much for Peggy. I guess grief and loneliness finally killed her spirit, her will to live.

Tim was watching golf on TV. Mom was at work but was due to come home later that day. I decided to go check on Peggy because I hadn't heard any barking from the garage and, by now, this was starting to get unusual. If she were still a happy dog, I wouldn't have thought anything funny about her not barking because she was such a quiet, peaceful dog. But now, in these set of unfortunate circumstances, it was unusual that she wasn't barking so I decided to investigate.

"I'm going to go check on Peggy," I announced as I headed for the garage.

Tim didn't answer. I didn't stop to wait for one because I knew it would never come.

When I got to the garage door, I opened it just a crack. I was still scared of Peggy and unsure if it was really safe for me to be near her.

"Peggy," I called softly.

No movement. No rustling sounds. The garage was dark and cold.


I inched the door open a little more.


A chill ran up and down my spine and my stomach started to tighten. A very bad feeling started coming over me, the same sort of feeling I had felt the day that my dad died before anyone else had even known he was dead. Somehow I could feel that he was gone before anyone else found out that he was gone forever.

Trying to swallow back the bile that was beginning to rise up in my throat, I heaved the door open and stepped into the garage. I had my shoes on because I was sure there would be poop and pee on the floor. I hadn't seen Tim clean it for a while or feed or water the dog.

"Peggy, where are you?"

I stepped all the way into the garage and slowly let the door close part way but not all the way so as to not lock myself out of the house.

Nothing. The nausea intensified as I stood there, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness.

The light! Oh duh, I can just turn the light on. Fumbling for the switch, I finally found it and flicked it on. Over in the corner, I saw a dark heap. It was unmoving but I was sure it was Peggy. Or was it one of her colossal poops? Well, whatever it was, I was bound and determined to find out.

Slowly and shakily, I descended the few steps to the garage floor. I walked slowly, shuffling my feet as I walked so that I could try and avoid any poop that might be lying on the floor.

I came closer and closer to the heap on the floor. Eventually, when I was just inches away, I could tell that it was Peggy after all.


I knelt down beside her. My knees cracked from all the tension but I ignored them. Slowly and tentatively, I reached out to her so she could sniff my hand and hopefully realize that I wasn't going to hurt her.


The figure was perfectly still.

Sucking in as much air as I could, I reached out and gingerly touched the dog's tummy. She was lying on her back.

Ice cold fur met my fingers. Instinctively my hand shot back and an involuntary gasp came out of me.

"Peggy! PEGGY!! Come on Peggy, DO SOMETHING!!!!!!!! Bite me, growl, bark, ANYTHING!!!!! I don't care, just DO SOMETHING!!!!!!!!"

Still nothing. After regaining some of my composure, I reached out to her again and lifted one of her paws. It was limp, cold, and stiff. I knew that the dog was dead. Even when I told her to do something, I already knew but when I lifted her paws and felt how lifeless she was, that was when I really knew and I broke down.

"Oh Peggy!" I bawled. The tears showered down my face and onto the lifeless dog.

"Oh Peggy Sue sweet girl, why didn't I save you?"

I knelt by her side for a while and cried as the guilt ate furiously at me, its teeth razor sharp and merciless. Finally, I got up and headed back to the house.

"Tim!" I shouted.


"What, what? Why are you yelling?"

Despite my frantic voice, he just sat there still watching TV.

"It's Peggy! She's dead!"

"No way."

He got up and headed to the garage. He walked so slowly and that made me mad. How could he walk with such ease and calmness while a dead dog lay there, stiff and cold on the hard, cold cement of her kennel?

"Won't you hurry up?" I yelled.

"Peggy's dead!"

When Tim got to the garage, he walked right up to her and prodded her roughly with his clogged foot.

"Come on Peggy, get up!"

The dog did not move.

He bent down and took a closer look at her. He must have known that she was dead right when he saw her but maybe he just couldn't believe his own eyes.

Finally, after about thirty seconds, he straightened and then stood up.

"Yep, she's dead all right."

His voice was cold and emotionless and not one tear was shed. I stood there in amazement, wondering how he could be sounding so cold.

"I guess we'd better bury her then."

I don't remember everything about her burial or what happened right when Mom came home. I guess I was in a mental fog, trying to shut myself off from the sadness that haunted me whenever I did allow myself to feel. I do remember very clearly, though, that Tim told Mom that HE found Peggy's body. Not wanting to attract Mom's attention, I didn't tell her the real story. I was always trying to avoid my mom, not invite her into my heart. That's the way it had always been between us. I didn't know any different when it came to having a relationship with a mother. Tim, most likely, didn't want to be chewed out by Mom for letting me discover the body, for not checking up on her more. Or maybe he just wanted to get all the sympathy from her. As if she would really give him any. Jennifer didn't know how to give sympathy. She didn't even know what empathy felt like. Did she even have a conscience? Doubtful. I also remember Mom coming home and her and Tim digging a very big hole in the yard. I also clearly remember Mom and Tim laughing and joking while they worked and wondering if they would act the same way if it had been me who had just died. I wondered if they would care if I died and if they would miss me at all. I wondered if they would even cry at my funeral or if there even WOULD be a funeral for me.

"I hope the neighbors don't think we're burying a person," Tim joked as he slammed the shovel back into the dirt.

"She is a pretty damn huge dog."

"I know it. I hope they don't think we're burying a person," Mom laughed.

Eventually Peggy was laid to rest. Nobody said any good-byes or words of praise or anything. As much as I hadn't really liked the dog, I stood there by her grave and told her what a good dog she had been. I told her that I would always remember her, slobber, drool, snots, and all.

"Make sure you give Dad a good, slobbery lick in the face for me when you cross over."

That was the last thing I said to her before that huge, annoying lump came in my throat, making me incapable of speech and my eyes welled up with tears. Hurriedly I walked away from the grave and went to seek out Jethro, who seemed to know that something very sad had happened.

I found him resting on the front porch. Sinking down to the ground, I lay my head in his fur and hugged him tightly as the tears fell.

Suddenly, the front door opened and Mom stepped out for a cigarette. She didn't smoke all the time, just when she was stressed or tired.

"Ashlee, for pete's sake, why are you crying?"

"I'm sad about Peggy," I told her.

"Oh please, tell me another story," she jeered at me.

"You didn't even like that dog. Now quit crying before I give you something to cry about and go wash up for dinner. Also, go feed your dog while you're at it."

I wasn't at all hungry but I didn't dare argue with the bitch. Instead, I got up and went to go find Jethro's water bowl and food bowl, which were also in the garage but outside of the now empty kennel that had held Peggy captive for so long.

As I poured Jethro some food and filled up his water dish, something occurred to me. Had Peggy been hungry when she died? Had she been thirsty?

I went inside of her kennel, which was open now, and walked to her water bowl. I bent down and touched it. It was bone dry. It felt like there hadn't been any water in it for days.

Next I went over to the food bowl. Like the water bowl, it was empty. There weren't even crumbs or scraps of food in it. It was as though Peggy had actually licked the bowl clean, desperately trying to get every last drop of food that she could get because she was so hungry. Being such a huge dog as she was, Peggy needed four cups of food a day at least. A shiver ran through me as I thought of hungry, thirsty Peggy, lying alone on cold, bare cement, taking her last gurgling breaths before her soul finally left her body and entered another realm.

Tim and Mom speculated a bit as to what may have caused Peggy's death. Tim thought it was a heart attack. Mom agreed and said that Peggy was a very old dog who was ready to die. I, on the other hand, think that Peggy died from grief. Her spirit had been crushed and she completely lost the will to keep living if all her life meant to everybody around her was to keep her held prisoner with no hope of release anytime soon.

Mom broke the news of Peggy's passing to Grandmamma, who then broke the news to Giselle.

"Giselle is heartbroken," Grandmamma said when she came over to visit us some time later.

"She cried when I told her the news. Sobbed really."

"Yeah, it's sad," Mom said but there was no sincerity in her voice when she spoke those words.

I didn't feel any pity for Giselle. She was a crybaby, crying over the stupidest little things, like when Grandmamma washed her favorite shirt and accidentally shrunk it. As much as she really might have been saddened by the news, I felt anger and resentment towards her. She had always been a horrid aunt to me and she was clearly a very irresponsible pet owner. Peggy's death was her fault. It could have been prevented from happening under such sad circumstances if she had just found her a loving home in the first place. The worst mistake she made was letting her evil sister Jennifer take care of the dog. And not once had she come up to Washington to visit her dog or even ask for pictures or updates on Peggy.

"I think that Tim and your mother starved the dog to death," Chris told me after I had finished the sad story.

"I think that Tim got tired of hearing her bark and he also got tired of taking care of her when your mom was at work. He was probably mad at your mom, too, for cheating on him, among other things, and he took out his rage on the poor doggie."

"Makes sense," I said.

"Tim sure did have a bad temper. I'm so glad I don't speak to him anymore. He's an ass hole."

I lay quietly for a moment and then asked Chris, "Why do you think Peggy growled at me when I was going to try and rescue her? Was she mad at me? Was being locked up in a kennel for so long enough to turn a once friendly, loving dog into a vicious Cujo?"

"I think she was scared," Chris told me.

"She probably didn't know if she could trust anybody. Everybody who was supposed to love and care for her abandoned her. She probably thought you were just another person out to hurt her."

"I wish I would have thought to call animal control and report my mother and Tim for animal cruelty. I wonder why the woman who found her wandering alone when she ran away didn't do anything. I mean, it must have been pretty obvious that the dog wasn't being cared for, don't you think?"

"Yeah, it probably was obvious. Maybe the woman didn't want to cause a stir because, if she didn't, maybe your mom would let her keep the dog eventually. Who knows. Don't feel guilty about not calling animal control. You didn't know about it back then. You were young still. It wasn't your fault. It was your mom's fault and your aunt's fault, not yours. If your mom didn't really want to care for the dog she should have given it to someone who really did want to give her love and devotion and a loving, stable home. It is a pretty sad story, though. You should write about it. Poor doggie!"

"Yeah, I should. I want the world to know that my mother starved her sister's dog to death. I want Giselle to know what really happened to her dog, too, that she didn't just die of old age. I mean, Peggy was getting up there in years but she probably would have lived longer if she had been cared for properly and shown some affection. For sure she wouldn't have died so sad and alone if they really did love her. And, I want everyone to know once and for all that I was the one who found Peggy's cold, lifeless body, not Tim. He was watching a stupid golf game and completely oblivious to what was happening. If Tim finds out about this story, he can deny it all he wants, but him and I both know what really happened that day. Unlike him, though, I'm not telling the story for sympathy. I just want everyone to know the truth. Someone in the family should show some honesty. Since nobody's stepped up to the plate and wanted to stop living a lie, I guess I'll be the one to end the vicious cycle and tell the truth once and for all, the good, the bad, and the ugly."

"It's going to be a hard story to write," Chris warned me.

"But it's a good story."

"I will write it," I said determinedly and all five of my friends clapped and came over to lie down with us.

I lapsed into silence then as Chris embraced me in his arms and held me tightly for a very long time.

"I love you," he said, kissing me tenderly on the forehead.

"I love you, too," I said, feeling myself relax as I inhaled his sweet, soft scent, the scent of devotion and unconditional love strong in my nostrils.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!