Anna Peefer–a short story

This story has been in my “drafts” for over two years now. I’ve not got the energy to edit it over, but I’ll publish it here.

 

Anna Peefer went to Funland Extremepark every Saturday in June and July. She brought her nieces twice, but the other weeks she went alone, riding the nine roller coasters two or three times each and nothing else. She never got sick, or sick of riding. She’d buy a bag of kettle corn worth its weight in gold, munching on and off all day. She often jumped half the line, when attendants searched around for a single rider. No one at the park knew who she was. It was amazing. She was free.

Anna Peefer always went with her wild curls tied back as well as she could. She liked her hair in box braids but on the roller coasters they thrashed about and she was afraid of them getting caught in something, so in the summer she kept her hair loose and frizzy, tied back and out of her face. She liked to see the sky take up her whole vision as the cart tilted backward, all the blood rushing to the back of her head, her heels sliding against the metallic floors, her fingers tighter on the shoulder restraints than the restraints themselves were on her.

Then a swishing in her stomach, and the trees and Ferris wheel would come into view, bit by bit. Anna Peefer, on top of the world.

And then the fall.

She screamed at each fall, louder than is ever necessary, stretching her voice past its limits. She kept her eyes open, her hands tight, her feet clamped around her purse and the bag of popcorn, both threatening to fall out. After the fall, after the g-forces at the bottom of the dip make her feel heavy with relief and she took the first inhale in about ten seconds, the car erupting with laughs and quick shouts, giggling girls and boys pretending to almost fall out of the cart.

Anna Peefer’s mind, at this point in the ride, was already on which coaster she’ll get in line for next. After the big drop, the rest of the coaster was never really worth it.

The thrill of the climb, the fear of the fall. This is why her favorite coaster, the park’s most famous, was the Pink Panther. 150 feet tall and bubblegum pink, the coaster was a torturously slow climb, a steep drop, and a small loop around the area to slow down momentum. She waited in line, munching the popcorn, and was set for the second-next coaster (she was terrific at cart-math by now) when she almost bailed the ride completely.

The attendees at Funland Extremepark have a simple yellow polo as a uniform, meant to be worn with blue jeans and peppered throughout with pins, stickers, and Sharpie drawings to add character. The attendee checking everyone’s shoulder restraints had an elaborate Crusade Warrior design ironed on across his back, and there, right by Markallia Erqus and her warfairy was Anna Peefer’s signature.

She couldn’t for the life of her remember signing a bright yellow Funland Extremepark shirt—she signed about a thousand every convention she went to—but regardless of how little she remembered the shirt, the guy wearing it would remember her.

She fiddled with the twist tie on her popcorn. She’d been in line for quite awhile, and this was her favorite coaster. He probably wouldn’t make a scene. Besides, she thought, the wind making her loose hair tickle her back, he probably won’t recognize me. She couldn’t believe this had happened. She practically knew all of the attendants by sight, and now the first new employee all summer is a fan of Crusade Wars.

She got in the coaster about five minutes later. The guy checked each restraint, down the line. He seemed to falter on Anna Peefer’s, but she didn’t dare look up at him until the cart was beginning to move.

When she met his eye, his furrowed brow shot upward, disappearing behind his bangs. He grabbed a coworker by the elbow and whispered in his ear, making subdued hand motions down at his side, trying to keep from making a fuss. The coworker began scanning the coaster. Anna Peefer stared at the back of the seat in front of her.

“The game designer,” one of them whispered loud enough, and Anna Peefer closed her eyes.

“Please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times,” said the girl at the podium. She was also watching the two attendants.

Please, Anna Peefer thought as loudly as she could, glancing at the slits of sky through the ceiling boards. Don’t let the girl know Crusader Wars. Don’t let her be a gamer. Let her think the attendants are crazy. Please don’t let her say—”

“Enjoy the ride,” the podium girl said into the microphone. “And may heaven’s light illuminate your way.”

Anna Peefer snapped her eyes shut again. People in line were laughing, clearly getting the reference. Someone mispronounced her name as Anna Pfeiffer. The cart lurched.

“You can’t go here anymore,” said a tinny voice Anna Peefer thought she left at the entrance gate. She kept her eyes tight shut. “It’s too much, it’s too much. This stupid game follows you everywhere.”

The roller coaster lurched, and the warfairy, six inches tall with the wings of a dragonfly sprouting from her back, dove into the ponytail gathered at the nape of Anna Peefer’s neck. She dug her tiny claws into Anna Peefer’s skin.

“We gotta get off, the restraints are too tight,” the warfairy whined.

Anna Peefer cracked her knuckles one at a time. The coaster ticked its way up the first incline. The fairy screamed all the way up, her feet latched around Anna Peefer’s throat and holding tight. At the top of the peak, the fairy’s grip loosened, and Anna was free to scream. Anna screamed alone, everyone else holding their breath for the fall. She screamed so loud, and so high, for so long it hurt her. She could feel the rawness in her throat as the coaster sped down the hill. She sucked in the cold, biting air, riding the rest of the track in silence.

Advertisements

self portrait

I feel like the sort of person who would have gotten much help out of this blog, in the old days. It was so cheery and positive. So helpful. Conversation Starters and Short-Fic Fridays. I’ll let them stay published. I can’t say the same for this 2018 drivel.

I wonder how long I’ll be in this rut. I feel as if I am watching my life from behind stained glass. I can sense things, but vaguely, distant. I hear things as if from a dream. I see things as if through a cloud. I feel things as if under a heavy winter coat. Pressure, no sensation.

I’m exaggerating. I’ve said before, I think, that this blog has become nothing but the glorified diary of a depressed person trying to accept the fact that 22 is a harder year than was promised. I’m exaggerating. I have bad moments and good moments. Both come on like nausea, sudden and unavoidable.

Sometimes I feel bright and rosy. I like watching the teenage lovebirds in class, drawing on each other’s arms in permanent marker, making each other laugh with silly noises and light bops on the nose. I love how they look at each other. At least I still have love.

That’s the thing. My love life is in order, it has been for years. It’s my everything else that’s gone awry. My career and my future, my emotions, my novel, my living situation. Living at home again is like willfully locking myself back in a prison. And then leaving, and then locking myself back up at night. I have freedom, but it’s a privilege, it’s temporary, and the prison hangs over my head, the way Monday taints Sunday night.

I really got to erase all of my name off this blog. It becomes more and more of a diary every day.

drivel

Is anyone I know reading this drivel? I sort of am afraid someone is. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone I know finds it, calls the suicide hotline for me. I’m not going to kill myself. I just know I’m not, however easy it would be, however nice it would be to have a doorway past which there is zero chance of suffering.

I’m here, as long as I can be, thinking too much and writing too little. I should write a bit a day. I really should. I don’t. Sometimes I do. Not really, though.

What do you think of it? I used to get lots of stars, lots of comments. I have 800 followers. I did so much work just to abandon this blog, then return years later to spit out unreadable drivel. Drivel! Can you even make sense of it? I can’t. I probably sound insane. Maybe I am, whatever.

Sometimes I talk myself in circles. Sometimes I talk so much I get confused and my own thoughts don’t make any sense, and I have to retreat and go to my plants and candles and sit in silence and meditate and chill and try to be happy alone.

I’ve been swirling around a sink drain, clawing out not because I’m afraid of the U bend but because I want to be okay. I want to get out of the sink and onto the counter, bury myself in the bowl of fruit and breathe in sugar.

Is this poetry? Is this anything?

I just need to go home. I’ve been in this chair for hours. I would never survive in an office, I’d go incredibly mad, even worse than I am now.

I wish I had curly hair, wavy hair. My hair is bland and flat.

I’m fine, but that’s hard to gauge. What is it like to be fine? Am I fine? How depressed am I? I know I should go back to my therapist, but compared to my old self—the only thing I have to compare to, truly—I am much better. My bad days aren’t as bad, my good days are far better.

I keep saying “I.”

This blog probably comes off as a bit scary.

What would an “Introvert Playground” even look like? A library, probably. A quiet room with a big fireplace. Playground, hell. I used to love playgrounds. They always became pirate ships. I would hold onto one of those poles, up top by that big castle roof, let the wind blow around my hair and the sweatshirt I wrapped around my waist, look off to the forest and see nothing but a wall of seawater. I would smell in the woodchips brine and wet wood. I would see the new world in the cracked pavement of the parking lot.

writing, during all this

Writing my actual novel tends to take a backseat during times of great stress. I suppose that’s why adults have fewer hobbies than children. I remember a time when every second of my day was eaten up. Dance classes took up most of my free time after school, but I also had Brownies on Mondays, church choir on Thursdays, soccer practice on Tuesdays, cello lessons on Thursdays before choir….

Why do I feel infinitely more burned out now?

I think it’s because little girl me knew how to take a break. I never practiced cello or soccer or my dance routines–of course, I should have practiced all of them, and maybe if I had more time I would have. No, after I left that building, I was done with it for a whole week.

All my activities now are things I should be doing when I want to be relaxing. Writing a novel is something that  feel like should take up every free breath. Learning Spanish, they emphasize, needs to take place every day. Even my job as a summer school teacher is taking up my free moments, if not in work than in anxiety and nerves.

Even “relaxing,” when I manage to do it, is productive. Maybe that’s a good thing, or maybe it points to a deeper issue inside myself. I can’t just chill and watch something on television, I have to be working through a series, or reading a book, or meditating, or drawing…I have to be completing a task or creating something new at all times.

It’s exhausting. I want to be able to put it all aside and play with dolls for an hour, then move onto Playdough.

But still I write, and it is good, because I do enjoy it. It is hard, and it takes time. But I love it, I do. And I am so close to being done with this novel, and then I can send it out places and get it published and start a new one, and let the whole thing start over again.

 

Substitute Teaching in my Old High School

It’s the end of the year for the kids in high school. I’m a substitute teacher now, living the high life, nearly exactly where I was when I sat in these very rooms.

My old high school is preparing itself for destruction, its replacement soaring lines of brick and mortar right over the old soccer field. This poor old building must feel like it’s being cheated on, abused by those who once loved it, those who use it without care, those who slam the doors and scratch the walls because, hey, we’re getting a new school after next year.

The kids are and always have been rather free in this school. A public school that trusts its children? Who could imagine.

This teacher has two teal staplers and one roll of transparent tape. Her desktop is otherwise blank, as well as her classroom, besides the elephant in the room in the form of a judge’s bench. It’s the legal systems classroom, where kids come to learn about laws that don’t yet apply to them. They learn about the ramifications of drinking and driving before they are legally able to do either. There’s not a single poster on the cinder blocks, only tears in the paint. An ancient chalkboard, black and empty, hangs beside a whiteboard, streaked in blue, and a Smartboard, the dirty placid feel of printed paper.

The girls’ hair falls in pin-straight strands over their shoulders, or pinned up in a bun on the top of their head, or frizzing out of a ponytail. The lone boy stares at his phone. The door might as well be revolving, but I don’t bother to close it. It is, after all, the last day of classes.

They figure their next year schedule on their cell phones. A friend comes in, smiles at me, and sits on the top of a desk. A girl juggles a slinky, drops it against the legs of her desk with the sound of cymbals.

New Novel

I’ve been almost done with this novel for months now.

Maybe that’s actually fast in the literary world. I once read that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid took the author like, nine years to finish. Of course, he probably had a job and kids and a wife or whatever. Me? It’s just me.

I get discouraged. I open it up, all of its 88,000 words and like, 250 pages or whatever, and I see all of my 145 comments of things to change, and I just get sad. There’s so much more to do, and I’ve already written it over three full times.

Going into a bookstore is like getting reprimanded. LOOK at all these books. Surely, by odds alone, mine has to be better than some of them. At least one. It would be statistically impossible, otherwise. Someone would publish my book as is, right? It’s interesting. It’s well written. It’s certainly long enough, for the first time.

So why can’t I just finish it and send it somewhere?

Because I’m scared. Not of a publisher rejecting it, but of a publisher accepting it, and giving me a sign-on bonus or whatever, and going through cover design and marketing, and holding my first hardcover copy and crying and flipping through it, and going to Barnes and Nobel and not finding it but a week later finally seeing it…and then only selling 400 copies.

Not terrible, but nothing good, either. And no awards, no nothing. And then years later seeing it in a bargain bin at Big Lots.

All those books, even the worst ones, went through a similarly heart-breaking process of writing, rewriting, rejection, waiting and waiting…I am fragile, I am sad, I am overwhelmingly pessimistic to the point where it’s annoying even to myself. I don’t know if I have the strength to do this, despite my finger-trembling desire.

I’m going to, obviously. I just keep putting it off. Which is horrible.

But you, metaphorical you who knows me better than I know myself, who can bear to read back in this blog and see the “ME” I pretended to be for you, the ME who viewed my wordpress stats and had high hopes for advertisers and supporting myself off this silly blog, YOU say it’s worth it. YOU say being an author is all I’ve ever wanted, what I’ve been working for every day of my life since I was in second grade.

You’re always so right.

Hobbies begun

I know, I know. Another post after months and months just to talk about how I’m posting?

Nah.

I’m gonna talk about other hobbies I’ve left to die. Like sewing, with which I mend all the pants and pockets in the world. Which is good. I’ve made a handful of dolls and one skirt, and cut out all the pieces for a dress. And haven’t touched a needle this year.

Cooking. Of course, I cook almost every day. It’s the cook book I’ve left unopened on my desktop, wherein we were meant to cook the national dish of every country we could find. That, unfortunately, has come to a halt.

I can’t even begin to list the amount of novels I’ve started to write but gave up on, three or two or half a draft in. The amount of books I’ve read a chapter of and stopped, the television series I saw a pilot or a season or even three then grew bored of.

I’m acting like this is something special, and of course it isn’t. And I’m neglecting the fact that every hobby I grew out of has given me something in return. I can sew, now, and could get back into it if I wished. I have the rudimentary beginnings of knitting, and embroidery. I could start up those novels or cookbooks or whatever.

I don’t really know what else to say, other than it makes me sad to see my bedroom as a sort of graveyard, to see these totems of lost hobbies–my pottery, my paintings, my old awards and costumes and my Wicca books and American Sign Language worksheets and yoga mat and ukulele and cello and German Rosetta Stone and stacks of paper I’ll probably never read.

And you, reader, if you have read any of my years-old posts, will remember my excitement at some of these things, and tell me that it wasn’t a waste, and these projects aren’t graves but memory figurines fit for a china cabinet. And I’ll say that’s probably a more optimistic way of looking at it, and so I will try.