THURSDAY: Jason and Tanya

BY SHELBY LONDYN-HEATH

Copyright is held by the author.

TANYA BANGED on her parents’ door throughout the night, demanding long talks, after she robbed their jewelry and computer accessories during the week. When they let her into their room, she targeted them with her tortuous volley of words.

“I mean it mom and dad, you have to believe me. I am going to medical school but I need your help.”

“You didn’t finish high school dear,” her mother said.

“I don’t need to finish high school to go to medical school.”

“Listen Tanya,” her father said sternly, “it’s three am. We can continue this conversation tomorrow at breakfast.”

“No dad, I need to talk now, and now is now.” Tanya darted her tongue in and out of her mouth. “You don’t believe me, you never have.” Her voice rose as she paced the room like a cat out of chow, her long, dark-hair, matted in clumps from sleepless wandering nights.

Tanya’s mother jumped up and closed the windows.

“Why did you do that?” Tanya shrieked. She stopped pacing.

“Because of the neighbours, dear.”

Tanya stood by the side of the window, twisting the hem of her jacket. “I think there is someone out there, Dad. I think someone is rummaging through your car.”

“My car is locked in the garage.”

“There’s someone crawling around out there. Why don’t you believe me? You never believe me.”

“I believe you.”

“No, you don’t. You don’t believe that I’m going to medical school, do you? I told you, all I need is help. I need $4000 to get a running start on school.”

“I just paid for your rehab. That was $10,000.”

“Don’t try to make me feel guilty. You are so good at that, Dad. Giving me everything, then you tear me down afterwards.”

Tanya’s mother trembled under the blankets.

“Honey, calm down,” he whispered to his wife.

“What did you say?” Tanya yelled.

“Nothing much,” her father said.

“Nothing much, nothing much.” Tanya walked in circles, spitting her words out like bullets.

Tanya’s father turned off the bedside lamp.

“Why did you do that, Dad? Now it’s pitch-dark. Oh my God,” Tanya yelled as she raced to the window, “I tell you, someone is out there. I hear them. What do they want from us? What if they want to rob us?”

Tanya’s father turned the light back on and sat up. His hands shook as he patted down his covers. Tanya paced the room and continued shouting. Her father mumbled brief responses, as she slammed against the floorboards and railed against her “pathetic” life in their house.

When the sun came up, she ran out of the house, still screaming, heading east, towards Main and Lakewood. Her father watched her scurry down the street before he went downstairs and locked the doors. He bolted six locks, but they did not keep her out.

When Tanya got to Main Street, the sky was lit up like a cathedral. Tanya, now emptied from her night’s tirades, needed to get high. That is when she saw Jason. He sat in front of the greyhound station with his duffel bag beside him. His shoulder-length brown hair jutted out in knots, revealing his travel weariness, weariness from sleeping on bus benches for six days, weariness from following the call of his restless spirit, heading west with his guitar and his dream.

Tanya walked over and stood in front of him. She put one booted-foot on the bench beside him and thrust her hands on her hips. Her waist-long dark hair touched the top of her hands.

“Whoa, what is this?” Jason asked with a surprised smile.

“What do you have for me?” Tanya asked.

“What is this, a hold up?”

“It’s a where-the-hell-are-you-going question?”

“I’m headed to Denver.”

“What for?”

“Got some friends out there.”

“Friends, who needs them? Why don’t you party with me?” Tanya gave him a bold smile as she put her hand on his leg.

Jason looked at her. The bright red streaks of morning lit up her face. Her dark eyes dazzled in the morning light.

“Well, I have to be in Denver by the end of the month,” Jason said.

“Do you want a shower and breakfast? Hang out for a while and cut loose from your travel gig? You look tired.”

“Yeah, a hot shower and breakfast sounds great.”

“Okay then. Stay on the bench and I’ll be back.”

Tanya took her booted-foot off the bench and walked away. She turned and reminded him, “Stay put, I’ll be back.”

He gave her a-thumbs-up sign.

Jason looked towards the edge of town. The buildings, all tucked together on Main, reflected etches of morning sun from bright windows and metal casings. In the distance, hovering over town, as if they were guards at attention, were mountains. Not mountains like Denver, reaching to the heavens, but mountains high enough to lure hikers and wanderers into their crags and cliff-rising heights. Jason gazed at them as he waited. The sun continued to rise. He fell asleep.

Something kicked at his foot and he opened his eyes. Tanya stood in front of him, her tongue straddled against the roof of her mouth, and her eyes bright and large.

“Whoa, dude, you’re covered in sweat.”

Jason sat up, wiping at his mouth, trying to orient himself. He mumbled, then stood up and brushed himself off.

“Are you ready?” she asked in an energetic voice.

“Ready?”

“I told you, breakfast and a hot shower. Let’s head out. We’re going to my folk’s house. You’ll like them. They are a real pair of Cleavers. Still got their heads in the old days. By that, I mean old-fashioned, you know what I mean, don’t you? Sometimes they get on my nerves, but for the most part, they are good guys. Sometimes they get frustrated because they can’t keep up with me, but they try. They try very hard. They —”

“Hey, is it all right with your folks if you bring home a stranger?”

“Sure, why not?”

“I’m just making sure.”

When Tanya got to the split-level house with an overgrown lawn, she knocked gently at the front door. No one answered. Tanya reached into her backpack where she kept the spare keys. It took eight keys to unlock the bolts, but within minutes, she set the locks free. Jason followed her into the house. Everything was quiet. Drawn curtains kept the house dark.

“Follow me,” Tanya whispered. She led him upstairs to a bathroom and pointed to a shower. Jason smiled and placed his pack and guitar in the hallway. He entered the bathroom, his first shower in a week. Tanya stood inert, like a bathroom fixture, as she smiled at him. Jason undressed and turned on the shower. After he climbed under the hot, misty, rush of water, Tanya took off her clothes and followed him.

When Tanya went downtown over the next few days, Jason stayed behind, reading and playing his guitar. She returned, excited and full of energy, bringing him hot food, which she never touched.

“Well, it looks like a good morning to catch the bus,” Jason said when he woke up and blinked the bright sun out of his eyes. He stretched and looked at his watch. “I’ve been here eight days and I got to hit the road.”

Tanya looked at him in surprise. “Catch the bus?”

“Yeah, you know, I told you, I’m going to Denver.”

“Let me go with you.”

“I can’t. I have to go to a special music session with my friends. We planned this for a long time.”

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“It’s nothing personal, Tanya. It’s our music recording.”

“Like hell.”

“Hey, what’s this? You’re pouting. C’mon, I can come back this way and see you again real soon.”

“You are full of it.” Tanya stood up. Her eyes were red, and her pupils dilated, like steaming saucers.

“Tanya, let’s talk about this.”

Tanya stormed around the room. She looked like a bull in a pen with its testicles tightened, pacing in agony, pent up, ready to charge. She rubbed her arms and screamed, “You are full of it. You are full of it.” Her voice grew louder. Her parents downstairs heard her and they froze in anticipation.

Jason gathered his belongings. He opened a tiny pouch hidden in the inside flap of his duffel bag. His 15 $100 bills were gone, his bus money, his food money, his recording money vanished, vaporized. He emptied out his duffel bag, carefully going through each item, while Tanya rubbed her arms and hollered.

“What have you done with my money?”

“What money?”

“You know what money. It was here when I came to your house, now it’s gone.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Jason lunged at Tanya. He shook her fiercely, as if he could shake the money out of her pores, out of her eyes, her ears, and her nose. Her head flew back-and-forth like a rag doll as he pierced the morning with his high-pitched wails.

Tanya’s parents stood at the door, their mouths hanging open at the shock of the violent thing before them. Tanya’s mother slipped downstairs and called the police. Tanya’s father stayed by the door — a muted man, a car-wrecked, weary father, quivering at the entry of his daughter’s bedroom. Tanya trembled and screamed until the police arrived.

Two grim-faced police officers entered Tanya’s room and handcuffed Jason. They hauled him away without his belongings. Tanya screamed after him, “You worthless bum, how dare you come into my home and beat me up, how dare you take everything from me, and then beat me?”

That night Tanya sat down with her parents at dinner, their first dinner together in months. Her mother and father struggled to eat, both clearing their throats and coughing, as they stared at their plates of uneaten food.

“Tanya, there’s something we have to tell you,” her mother stuttered, as she touched her greying flyaway hair.

“What?”

“We are, we are . . .” Tanya’s mother burst into tears.

“We are leaving. The realtor has a spare set of keys. She will be coming tomorrow,” Tanya’s father said in his run-over voice.

“What? Where are you going? You said you’d always be here for me, no matter what. You lied to me.”

“We need to live our own lives. You are almost 30. You are a grown-up now.”

“Your own lives? What about my life? What am I to you? Just a nothing? Is that going to be your answer to every problem in the world, for you just to disappear? You can’t live life that way. It won’t work for you, just wait and see.”

Tanya cried into her plate of food. Her parents quietly went upstairs and packed their belongings. They tiptoed past her as they headed towards the garage.

“What are you doing? You’re really leaving me, aren’t you? How can you do this to me? Who will feed me? I’ll have to sell everything in this house. You are leaving me with nothing. They call this abandonment, they call this . . .” Tanya got up and followed them, her voice rising in nerve-shattering screams.

“That’s fine. Better get things sold before the realtor arrives. She is going to put everything here into the listing. Then she is starting the eviction proceedings,” her father said.

“Oh great, great. I suppose you call this love.”

“Yes, we call this love.”

“What if I kill myself?”

“That is your choice, Tanya. In fact everything you’ve done up to this point has been your choice. Now we are making a few choices of our own.” Her father turned and grabbed his wife’s hand.

“Tanya heard her mother’s sobs outside the door. She waited for her mother and father to start their car and pull away. After her parents left, Tanya drew in an excited breath, and hurriedly gathered up Jason’s guitar and her grandmother’s china, to take downtown and sell.

3 comments

  1. Shelby Londyn-Heath

    Hi Walter,
    Indeed, I appreciated your first sentence. It was encouraging, and I believe writers should offer each support. They are already up against so much in the world.
    However, I understand the need also, for constructive criticism. So here goes.
    I looked at your writing, and I believe you should read Nancy Kay’s “tips on dialogue.” Your dialogue is too descriptive. Better to keep it simple. For instance, he said, and she said, are good ways to start or end your dialogue.
    Also, here’s another tip: You should not go into a flashback too early in a story. You lose the reader. For that reason, your Lucille story threw me off, although the emotion in it was sweet.
    I love your spirit, Walter. I know you mean well.
    Shelby.

  2. Peggy Jayne

    The dialogue in this story is excellent. Tanya is just like many drug addicts I have known and NOT loved. That sounds cold, I know, but consider the wreckage they leave in their wake. Jason is in jail with no one to help him. No one he knows is even aware of his location, and of what peril he is in. Jason is a dream come true for an over-zealous prosecutor. He is a friendless hippie musician with no money…thanks to Tanya…rootless, with no friends in town. He will probably go to prison for a long, long time, his life ruined.
    Her parents have to sell their house, and start their lives over just when they should be able to enjoy their golden years. And don’t think Tanya won’t be able to find them again. It may be that their only escape is to either kill Tanya or to kill themselves.
    Tanya is a real life picture of a drug addict. Shelby has nailed their self-involvement, their self-pity, their sense of being entitled to grab anything anyone else has, just to feed their habit.
    Well, I can’t say I enjoyed (!) this story. I was too wrung out when I finished reading it. It cut too close to the bone. But I guess that’s what a good piece of writing is supposed to do; namely, arouse emotions. It did that for me, in spades.
    Good job, Shelby, but next time please write a funny one…

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