Thursday, June 23, 2016

Chapters 5 and 6

Leeda Morrison’s Dream:
The Joy of Pain

     As we are waiting for Mr. Draper to start first period, Pearl Nolet says, “Hi, Leeda,” and I say hi back.
      She asks me how I’m doing; I shrug a little and say, “Good.  I’m good.”  
     “How’s it going with your mom?”  Pearl asks and I say good again.  She smiles at me.  I smile back.  
     Then Pearl leans over and whispers to Crystal, “She’s not good.  How can she be?  Did you hear about her mother?”  
      “What about her?” Crystal whispers back.
    Pearl says, “Her mother is, like, completely mental. She won’t even let Leeda get her driver’s permit yet.”
     “Is she 15?”
     She turned 15 over two months ago.  Two months!”
     “What?  What is her mom’s problem?”
     “Get this.  Her mother says she hasn’t studied for it enough.”
     “Oh my God.  That is so lame.  I studied for my permit test for, like, ten minutes tops!”
     “I know, right?  I don’t even know how Leeda can stand it.”
    Mr. Draper has started to call attendance, but my classmates can’t stop talking about my predicament.  Others join in.
     Christina asks, “Who doesn’t have her permit yet?”
     Pearl says, “Leeda--her mother won’t let her, even though she’s fifteen and like, three months.”
    “That is totally not right,” chimes in Bobby.  “We should do something, seriously.”
    Mr. Draper clears his throat and says, with his usual sarcasm, “Oh, excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, but I wonder if we might interrupt your conversation with something we call history class.  Would that be all right?”   He turns to look for the remote control for his overhead projector.  “Now where did I put that thing?” he mumbles.  The conversation about me starts to buzz again--how it’s not fair, how my mother should be brought up on charges of child abuse, how no one should have to endure the hardships I do.  “Aha,”  Mr. Draper says when he spies his remote behind his coffee cup.  
    “Guys,” I say, and Pearl shushes everyone.  I look around at the concerned faces of my classmates.  “It’s okay,” I tell them; Bobby starts to object, but I hold up my hand.  I smile at him and say, “No, Bobby, really. I’m good.”
    Everyone settles back into their seats, shaking their heads and sighing.  “Wow, I don’t know how she does it,” says Christina quietly, and Mr. Draper starts his lecture. Though I can’t hear my classmates talking about me anymore, not out loud, I can feel the energy of their concern surrounding me, and I can see from the way they’re looking at me, then looking down to send their texts, that my predicament is still the topic of their conversations.  I try to face straight ahead, though, and hold my head high.  This, the way I deal with my life, makes their thumbs work even faster.
     As the day goes along, my story spreads throughout the school.  People learn that my mother not allowing me to try for my driver’s permit is just one chapter in the Book of My Ordeals.  Word spreads about how Josh Sanderson asked me out once, then canceled the date, then never called me again; about me having to return my computer to the company rather than to the store where I bought it, and it’s been almost two weeks I’ve been without it; about my cat possibly having leukemia; about my little brother’s inability to recognize that I have to have some privacy, and my room is totally off-limits, no matter what; about my father’s insistence that I have to maintain at least a C average or I won’t be able to continue my dance classes.  I don’t spread the stories.  They are simply incidents I’ve mentioned in the past, but now everyone at the school is catching on to the simple fact that my life is a living hell.
    “How do you do it, Leeda?”  “Don’t you just want to run away?”  “We never hear you complain; how can you be so strong?”  “If I were you, I’d just die.”  All day long, both friends and strangers approach me, asking these questions. I reply by smiling.  I reply by squaring my shoulders a little, putting my hand on their arm and saying, “We all have our trials, right?”  They shake their heads.  Some let sympathetic tears stream down their cheeks.  
     Near the end of the day, the cruelest fact of my life comes out (maybe I mentioned it on Twitter or in a text, I’m not sure):  My parents are claiming they don’t have enough money to send me to drama camp this summer, the one I’ve attended for the past four years straight.  The school is in an uproar.  Classes can’t function, the students are so distracted by my plight.  They refuse to be quieted or to focus on anything but what I have to go through.  My phone won’t be silent for more than a second.  Eventually, my inbox can’t hold any more messages of dismay and anger directed at my parents, messages of support directed at me.  Signs appear on lockers:  “Free Leeda!”   
    Finally, the last period of the day, Mr. Connelly pulls me from class and asks me if I would be willing to make an announcement to the school.  “Frankly, Leeda,” he says, “we all understand the incredible injustice that’s been perpetrated against you, but…”  I hold up my hand and smile at him.
    “But you have a school to run.  I completely understand, Mr. Connelly.  People should stop worrying about me.  I’ll be fine.”
   “So you wouldn’t mind speaking to them?”
   “I’d be happy to, if you think it will help.”  Mr. Connelly doesn’t reply.  He wants to, but he ducks his head, embarrassed to let me see the sudden strong emotion overwhelming him. I pat his arm and hear his almost inaudible “thank-you.”  In the office, the secretary kindly shows me how to work the microphone.  I reach to press down on the button to begin speaking, but the secretary takes hold of my hand.  
      “I just wanted you to know that...that...I can’t believe what you’ve had to endure.  I just wish…”  She can say no more.  I nod and thank her and tell her I’m okay. “Bless you, Leeda,” says the secretary and slides the microphone toward me.
    “Everyone,” I say to the school, “this is Leeda Morrison.”  A deep silence settles over the building.  “I just want to say I appreciate your concern and your sympathy, but there’s nothing that can be done to help.  I’m not going to fight, and I don’t want you to fight for me.  I don’t yet know how things will work out, but…” and here my voice breaks a bit, hard as I try to keep it even… “but I know I’ll be all right.  I know I’ll be all right.”  I take my finger off the button.  The secretary gives me a long hug.  
  When I walk out the door of the office, an enormous crowd of students engulfs me.  Many of them hold up “Free Leeda!” signs, yet the gathering is silent.  As I walk through the throng, some of them reach out to touch me.  I smile and face forward. Shannon Baker steps out from the crowd.  She’s holding what looks like a bare, jagged wreath, something she must have made in art class.  “May I, Leeda?”  She lifts up the object, and I understand.  I bow my head to receive the crown of thorns.  Shannon kisses me on the cheek and whispers, “You’re a saint, Leeda.  We all know you’re a saint.”
   I walk out the door, feeling their quiet awe behind me.  I walk toward my bus, toward my unknown, unfair, cruel and waiting future.

Reality Check:  Dream 5
ü  E-mail from Carol Morrison to her husband Donald:  “If we can’t send her away to drama camp this summer, how about prison? Anything for a break, Don!” 

Pearl Nolet’s Dream:
Ghost Watch
Floating through the school,
I am my ghost.
They mourn me.
I died,
just last night.
Car crash,

Not my fault.
I swerved to miss
a small child who had bolted
from its mother.
The child had seen
a squirrel crossing the road
(Why did the squirrel cross the road?
To lure the child, of course.)
and had followed the mystery
of that bobbing tail,
that gray flag.

I swerved, saved
the child,
and his mother will
be forever
grateful for my training
and my instincts
not to mention
my reflexes,
but the swerve
was too sharp.
Physics prevailed.
The car rolled and rolled.
The seatbelt held for a while,
then failed.
(My parents will sue and win and be set
for the rest of their lives.)

Thrown from the car,
I took a brief flight
and landed
and laid,
neck snapped,
otherwise beautiful.

The child whose life I saved
saw me and said,
“Why is the pretty girl
sleeping in the grass?”
And his mommy, tears in her eyes,
led him away.
Later that night, unable
to sleep, she sketched out
the monument she will erect
to me
in the park
where she
and her son
so often play.  

The news spreads.
(And some love
to have the information,
love to be the ones
to tell those who
do not yet know--I can see
their veiled glee;
they almost smile when they say
“Did you hear about Pearl?”
They’re supposed to be
up and all
but they really didn’t know
me that well
and their pleasure over having
new news overcomes
their grief over
losing me.
I understand.  Being
a ghost makes me


The flag is at half-mast.
I flutter beside it
for a while, then
fly to the post
office. The flag there
is up where
it is supposed to be.

I am not famous.
No Mandela,
No President,
King, Martin Luther or other-

I rise
until the town below
becomes a set of toys
with trees and ponds and roads
and little moving cars.
Still, for the most part.
Apart, for the most part,
from its loss
of me.

I was nothing when I was alive,
or nearly that.
I will be nothing soon after this death,
completely that.

But now!  But now I hear a scream!
Third gray block over,
behind that blot of green,
a scream comes from the school.
Down I drop to see…
pass through
the door, the bricks,
the steel and plaster,
the wires and plates,
through metal and wood and glass
I pass until I am
inside a room
I recognize
to see a face
I recognize

and love.  Elizabeth

who did not know
I longed for her
at least I
do not think she knew.

And now she knows
I’m dead.
In the corner
of the band room,
surrounded by her friends,
(she has so many I felt
I never could get close)
she will not be

Over by the timpani
Tawny says,  “I didn’t know
she’d take it
so hard.  I thought
she already knew.
I never would have told her.”
Poor Tawny, upset her message of the dead
was more than just some
juicy news.  I float and pass my feet

right through her head.

Elizabeth?  Elizabeth?  I say her name.
I am unheard.
I go to her, cut through the crowd,
though they don’t feel me
Inside this cave of caring
friends who cannot
reach Elizabeth,
I crawl inside the ball
she has made of herself
to listen to the whisper
spilling from her lips.
Elizabeth, my love? I say.
She cannot hear.

After all,
I am a ghost.
Ghosts may sit
in laps all day long.
One may be in yours right now.
And you don’t know.

She cannot hear me say her name,

she says mine.
Over and over.
She says mine.
Like a lover.

In a while
I shall rise
and now I’ll go

to Heaven.

Reality Check:  Dream 6
ü  On-line comment posted on Pearl Nolet’s poetry website—  “Generally, I like to be supportive and tell people they should pursue their passions, etc., etc., but, girl, you need to find a whole other passion ‘cause your poetry sucks.”  Posted by wrmwud2dmax.   

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