MONDAY: Story

BY JENNIFER SMITH GRAY

Copyright is held by the author.

WE LOOKED for her that night, Mom and I. We weren’t much help though. Mom drove and I offered up a few ideas of where to look. Maybe at Logan park, on the swings. Maybe on the steps at the school. But I didn’t know. We were friends, but I never got her. I didn’t know why she ran off, and really didn’t know where to look for her. But we looked, because that’s what made sense to do that night. We weren’t the only ones who looked. Laura and her mom walked around the neighbourhood. Ken N drove around too; I don’t know who he was with.

I’m sure there were others looking as well. Other concerned parents down the pyramid of phone calls, annoyed with the interruption to their Sunday night routine, but obligated to help. Others in the gossip chain, wanting to be in the know. There might be a story out of all this, and people in this town wanted to be part of the story.

I didn’t want to be a part of it, but I was. We’d been friends for a long time. The last time she’d run off, she’d run off to my house. That’s why her dad called us that night. “No Hank, we haven’t seen her,” I heard Mom saying. “Yes, yes, of course we’ll call if we hear from her. When did she leave? OK. Yes, it is dark outside. And cold. Yes. I’m sure she’s fine.”

We waited around in the kitchen for a bit, expecting that she might knock on our door. But she didn’t, and so we drove, looking for her, wondering if perhaps she was already back home, cooled down and regretful like last time.

And she did go home, we were told. Dad gave us the message when we returned from our search. Hank McGillivray called, she went back home. Would we mind calling the Browns, the Notts, and the Pezzutos to let them know too?

So mom called the Browns, the Notts, and the Pezzutos, and also the Warrens and the Nolans, because we’d run into them when we stopped to look at the East End Variety store. I called Laura, and she said she’d call Ken N. I was hoping to call him, a natural excuse finally having presented itself, but I said OK.

Mom finished up the bologna sandwiches for Monday’s lunches and I did my last two calculus questions. People would talk about this story briefly at school tomorrow, and she’d be embarrassed, again, for a day or two. But it was just another battle at the McGillivary house.

And people did talk. And after two days, when she hadn’t yet made an appearance at school, and when she wasn’t on the bench for the big volleyball game on Wednesday night, they talked even more. She was pregnant. She slit her wrists. She got in to her mom’s rum and had alcohol poisoning. She ran off with that 30-year-old guy from Michigan who kept calling her.

People asked me if any of the stories were true and I said I didn’t know, but that I doubted it. And I didn’t know. And I did doubt it, mostly. I called her house on day four and Mr. McGillivary told me she had the flu. I asked him to have her call me back later if she felt up to it. I didn’t hear from her that night, but Friday morning before class I assured people she was just sick. Raised eyebrows and sarcastic comments told me they didn’t buy that story.

I guess I didn’t either, but still, I was pretty thrown later that morning sitting in Principal Capelli’s office. I answered the two detectives’ questions — about her, and her brother, and her mom, and lots about her dad.

I didn’t ask the police any of the questions in my head, but they answered them anyway. They’d found her bruised body floating in the river by the locks. She’d been there for a couple of hours already when her dad had me and Mom and the others out looking for her Sunday night.

Now her dad was in jail. And people had their story.

9 comments

  1. Suzanne Burchell

    The ending is smack on. The content of the story is appropriately undadorned and delivered with the straight goods — no soap opera drama. The stark style is befitting the stark reality of the story. This is every day every community “living.” Gossip and voyeurism trumps empathy, tragedy of of children living in abuse in our ‘back yards”. Thank you for the raising of awareness for those who suffer. Lest we stop trying to be vigilant and not let love thy neighbour go by the wayside.

  2. JAZZ

    Jennifer, first off I would like to commend you for contributing a new story after your previous one had been very harshly critiqued.
    As gentle as I can, I would suggest that you bring something original and fresh to this very familiar scene that plays out frequently on T.V. Cop shows. You have a good voice ….. Play with it more.

  3. Michael joll

    Jennifer,

    After I eviscerated your last story here, I should like to offer congratulations on this one. Your handling of terse sentences and dark, evocative words makes “Story” stand out. A few bold, yet deft brush strokes were enough to depict the scene without over elaborating.

    Keep writing.

  4. (Gloria Jean Hansen

    No embellishing, you told it as it was, brought out the day-to-day ways of most small-town residents, a little almost-story about Ken N, left the reader wanting more, and the end drawing back the reins for an abrupt ‘whoa’! Well done, Jennifer.

  5. Charles Pinch

    Jennifer,
    This is a good story. The steady clip, elimination of all but the essentials and the pathos beneath the bone-hard lack of sentimentality make for a tale well told. What was left unsaid, made it even better. We all get knocked once in a while, don’t let it get to you. You have something to say.

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