Megan And The Great Fish, Chapter One


February 22, 2010
Jenn sat on the sofa, wrapped in a quilt. A cup of organic peppermint tea was sitting beside her on the bookshelf; it is no longer hot. Its one redeeming quality, since it lacks caffeine, is the wet tingly sensation that it leaves in her mouth. It is not as tingly as the carbonation of a Diet Pepsi, which she has just given up for the ninth time, but it is something. Ostensibly it serves the purpose of an adult pacifier.
Engrossed in her book, Jenn has stopped noticing for an hour or so, that the floor needs to be swept again. She also forgot to feed the fire in the fireplace, so it has burned down to the coals.
The kitchen counter holds an assortment of books to be read, unfinished projects, chronically ignored monthly bank statements, half-full glasses and crumby plates on an old scratched up Coke tray. A list of thank you notes that ought to have already been written two months ago is posted on the fridge with a Big Bird magnet. A stack of Christmas cards that she means to reply to eventually are on the fireplace mantle.
None of this clutter and unresolvableness contained in her living area seems to bring any stress to her at all, because she is not really living here at the moment anyway, she is in her own world: reading, thinking, underlining, highlighting and making notes on The Preface to Paradise Lost by C.S. Lewis.

Chapter One

Streeter, North Dakota – February 23, 2010

As Megan walked into the Main Street Cafe, she hung her hunting jacket on the hook beside her booth and sat down.

“Looks like more snow is coming our way this afternoon,” Evelyn volunteered as she filled a water glass for Megan.  Megan laid her mittens and  purse beside her on the read vinyl seat  She checked her phone for messages.  “The sky is awfully dark for just one in the afternoon.  Whatever kind of storm it is, it’s moving in fast,” Evelyn added.

Before Evelyn finished pouring Megan’s coffee, the front door opened again.  The door caught in the ferocious wind, and an Arctic blast blew into the room.

“Shut the door, Ed.  Were you born in a barn?” boomed out Evelyn.

“That’s no way to talk to one of your regulars, Evelyn.  I can take my business somewhere else, so I don’t have to take this.”

“That’s right, Ed, but exactly where are you going to go?  Especially on a day like today.  I’ve got some Dutch apple pie that you want, you know.”

“Alright, Evelyn, serve me up a piece of that pie and stop cranking at me.  I’ve got no place to go, but this place is not exactly busting at the seams with customers.”

Ed chose this moment to claim his stool at the bar, but he spun around to throw a glance at Megan who was still trying to check her messages while seated in the booth.  “Only one phone service worth having in this town, Megan, and that’s Sprint.  Have you got Sprint?”

Megan was irritated that this obnoxious man, Ed, wanted to interfere in her personal business.  She felt confined in Streeter, not by the geographical nothingness of farms dissected by interstates and county roads, but by individuals like Ed who acted more like a relative than the random, lonely, small town  inhabitant who hung out at the local cafe.  Exasperated, Megan wanted an entirely different homeland; one without self-app0inted uncles, and one where she did not know the name and gender of the cat on the corner.  She longed to be so anonymous that if she needed last rites in the next ten minutes that they would be administered by a priest who had no idea who she was.

Ignoring Ed was the most socially acceptable thing that Megan could do for now without swearing.  “I’ll have a piece of cherry pie to go with this coffee, if you don’t mind, Evelyn.”

Megan continued ignoring Ed by engrossing herself in the local daily paper, The Jamestown Star.  She was trying to decide if she was more interested in the free tickets for the Neil Diamond impersonator coming to Bismarck or in the annual high school choir pops concert and taco feed on Monday night when suddenly someone poked her paper.  Irritated, she looked up, but then she smiled.  “Rachel, what are you doing here?” she nearly shouted.

“Joel sent me out on a sanity run.  I just wanted to see you on your birthday, and I needed to get away from the kids for a while.  I was hoping to find you here.   How’s the pie?”

“All the pie is great.  Sit down and talk to me.  Evelyn, can we get another piece of cherry pie and a coffee?”  Turning to Rachel, “Is cherry alright?”

“Cherry is great.  This is all I want to do, just sit and eat pie with you.  It has been a day with the kids sick.  I am exhausted.  I never really knew what the word meant until I had kids.  As an added bonus, you are an adult.  I get to talk to an adult.  I love it.”

Megan whispered, “You are rescuing me from Ed.  I am so sick of Ed.  I hate Ed.  You have never in your life hated anyone as much as I hate Ed at this moment.  I want to rip Ed’s face off of his body.”  Aloud, she continued, “Thanks, Rachel.  I enjoy being an adult as well.  You know, picking out my own socks and everything.”

“Megan, I am really sorry about ruining your birthday.  I mean, after being up all night with Ian barfing his guts out from the flu, I did not get your cake made, and we can’t have you over.  I mean, we could have you over, but…”

“No thanks, Rachel.  In our family, birthdays were never date-specific anyway.  We’ll get together when Ian isn’t sick.”

“We will,” Rachel assured her.  “And we’ll have my chocolate cake.”

“I love your cake.”

“Everyone loves my cake.”  Rachel glanced at the paper Megan laid on the table.



70’s    80’s    MODERN ERA

“Hey, maybe my band can do this.’

“Go for it, Rachel.  You’ve got months to get ready.”

“Rachel kept reading, silently rehearsing the details in her mind as Megan observed her, feeling sad, but stuffing it.  Eating pie in a small town cafe with her sister-in-law was a sanity break for Rachel, a break from the constant demands of a family life.

Megan wished for a family life, and she felt like she was breaking under the constant demands of sanity.

Rachel looked up, embarrassed at allowing herself to be distracted.  “You’ll have to wait for your other gifts, but Ian wanted you  to have this today.  Don’t expect much.  He got it at a garage sale in August.  Waiting all this time to give it to you was almost too much for him.  Oh man!  Look at the time.  I’ve got to go.  Hug me, birthday girl.”

And with that she was gone.

Megan looked at the boot sized box wrapped in blue jet plane birthday paper and tied with yellow ribbons.  Ed chose this moment to spin around her way again on his stool.  She ditched the package on the seat, out of his view.  She put on her coat, hat, scarf and mittens, and slung her purse over her shoulder before walking out the door of the cafe.  The hollow sound of the bells on the door and the intense chill of the wind from the approaching storm combined to make her feel hollow deep inside.  Hidden in the recesses of her mind there lodged a series of thoughts which she recognized as her own and yet not her own.  She could hear the voice as if it were her own, but the logic of the thoughts, if she had taken the time to analyze them were like the voice of a jungle predator, enticing her to wander into dangerous places, not physically dangerous places, like the Good Times Bar and Grill next door to the cafe, but to places of worthlessness, aimlessness and depression in her soul.

Actually the bar would have been a much safer place for Megan because she would have had more friends there than she possessed in her own mind.  Even a random stranger would have stood up for her if an unruly patron had tried to pummel her with the same speed and intensity of her own thoughts.  At times, it felt like getting run over by a train.  The strange part was that she was always the one who was paralyzed, frozen to the tracks and yet, she seemed to be driving the self-destructive train as well.  It always happened so quickly that she never noticed what brought on the inescapable depression that would stay for days, weeks or months.

Actually, if she were honest with herself, she would acknowledge that she was always at least a little depressed, “Melancholy,” her mom used to say about her.  Grandma had called her,  “A sober child.”  Her father’s assessment, which she told herself no longer mattered because he was dead, was that she was “Born to be blue.”

Secretly, she wished she had been “Born to be wild,” or “Born to be a circus performer,” or just about anything else.  It was her own fault really because she fell into the trap of believing her father’s opinion or her life, and he was a miserable man who had lived to make others miserable.  “Well,” thought Megan, “at least he succeeded at something.  He made me miserable.”

(To read the next chapter, advance to the next day on the blog.)


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