Friday, July 2, 2010
The Dead Raiser--Part I
Vacation Bible School changed my life, but not the way you think. See, it was the last week of school and me and Tabby, she’s my best friend, got in big, fat trouble. Tabby guarded the girls’ bathroom door while I scratched, “Ms. Collins’ butt is bigger than Greenland,” on the stall wall. Little did we know, Amy Riggs was standing on the toilet closest to the door, and she heard everything. And squealed. Hence, our VBS experience.
Tabby drummed her fingernails on the arm of her chair. I kept clearing my throat ‘cause it felt so dry. It seemed like it took forever for Mr. Gore, the principal, to join us. We were pretty freaked out. Ms. Collins was his second cousin. No telling what he’d do to us. He came in and sat down. Put his elbows on his desk and clasped his hands. His pointer fingers looked like a steeple.
“Girls, I’m disappointed. Very disappointed.”
He looked over at me. “Especially with you, Kat. I don’t know what got into you.”
I stared at the floor. Pointed and flexed my feet.
“Poor Ms. Collins,” he said. “She was doing so good on that Weigh Down plan she was on. She’d lost seven pounds already.”
I peeked over at Tabby. She was looking up at the ceiling.
“Did you hear what happened?” Mr. Gore said. “When she heard what you two did?”
I winced. Tabby coughed. We hadn’t heard. I stuck my bottom lip out in anticipation.
Mr. Gore started tapping his desk with a pencil.
“She went out and bought a half sheet bakery cake and ate it in her car. With a spork. Then she stopped at Pizza Hut and got a Meat Lovers pizza. Large. Ate the whole thing, right there in the front seat. Then she went through the KFC drive-thru. Got one of those new Double Down sandwiches. She hit a fire hydrant pulling out of KFC’s lot because her fingers were so greasy she couldn’t grip the steering wheel.”
Tabby whimpered. I bit my lip. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Ms. Collins was the only teacher ever to punish me in my eight years of schooling. I had to pay her back. I just had to. Gosh! All I did was put super glue on Jimmy Nelson’s desk seat while he was up at the pencil sharpener. It just made the tiniest hole in his jeans when he stood up. First, Ms. Collins made me stand in the corner with my nose against the wall for 45 minutes. Then, when we went to lunch, she taped two red construction paper G’s on my chest.
“You’re Glue Girl, Katherine Martin,” she said. And everybody at Cabin Creek Middle School is going to know it now.”
Me! The only girl with straight A’s all the way through seventh grade with not one, but two red letters on my chest. I tried killing Ms. Collins with my glare stare in the cafeteria, but it didn’t work. Hence, the writing on the stall.
Mr. Gore pushed two pieces of paper across the desk. We didn’t budge.
“Go on,” he said. “Pick them up.”
I looked at mine. “Community Service Project--Craft Helper, Vacation Bible School, First Baptist Church of Cabin Creek, June 14-18, 2010.”
VBS? Are you kidding me? I’d never even been to church.
Miss Sandy stopped wiping the last table with a damp paper towel.. She stared at Tabby and me from her bent over position.
Tabby huffed. “What?”
“Anyone ever tell you two you look like sisters? With your dark hair and eyes?”
I shook my head. “My hair’s way long, and hers is super short. I don’t think we look alike at all.”
Miss Sandy straightened up, grabbed her lower back, and started rubbing it.
“You girls were a big help tonight,” she said. “You need a ride home?”
“Yes, please,” I said. “By now, my dad’s on his third or fourth Miller Lite. He probably shouldn’t drive.”
Tabby sighed. “My mom can’t leave the twins. A ride would be swell.”
Miss Sandy stopped in front of my house first. I unbuckled my seat belt.
“Hold on a second, Kat,” Miss Sandy said.
I had one hand on the door. “Yes’m?”
She looked at me in the rearview mirror. “I was just wondering,” she said. “At the closing ceremony tonight, did you ask Jesus to be your forever friend?”
I shook my head. “No, ma’am.”
I saw her shoulders sag a bit.
“I asked him something else,” I said.
Her forehead wrinkled. “You did?”
I nodded. “I said, ‘Sir, if you’re for real, prove it.’”
“You said that?”
The ditches in her forehead disappeared.
“Well, then,” she said. “Now we wait.”
Tabby leaned over the front seat. “For what?” she said.
Miss Sandy turned to face us. “For Jesus to show Kat. That he’s real.”
I heard Tabby gasp.
“He can do that?” she said.
A funny look came over Miss Sandy’s face. Like she was thinking about her husband, ‘cept she’d told us she didn’t have one.
“Oh, he can do that,” Miss Sandy said. “And he will. Just wait. And watch.”
I opened the door and put one foot on the sidewalk.
“Night, Tabs. Thanks for the ride, Miss Sandy. See you tomorrow night.”
The phone rang four times before Dad yelled.
“Answer the gosh darned phone, Kat!”
“Got it, Dad!” I said. “Hello?”
“It’s me,” Tabby said. “Let’s ride bikes. Before it gets hot.”
“I’m thirsty,” Tabby said, when we slowed down at the stop sign across from the Kwik Mart.
“Got any money?” I said.
Tabby snorted. “Do I ever have money?”
“Follow me,” I said.
I headed towards my dad’s office. Well, the place where he works. We parked our bikes in the bushes. Walked along the side of the building. I reached up and felt each window sill.
“What’re you doing?” Tabby said.
“Dad told me they keep a spare key on one of the window sills,” I said. “Just can’t remember which one.”
Found it. We kept walking ‘til we came out behind the building.
“Does it creep out your dad to work in a funeral home?” Tabby said, as we walked towards the back door.
I shrugged. “I dunno. He hasn’t been here long. I think he’s just glad to have a job again.”
“Why do they let him drive? Don’t they care about his D.U.I.’s?”
“Guess not,” I said. “I mean, dead people can’t sue him if he drives drunk, can they?”
I put the key in the lock and turned it. Before I opened the door, I faced Tabby and held up two fingers.
“Two rules,” I said. “Don’t touch anything. And don’t go in any rooms with occupied coffins. Got it?”
Tabby nodded. I saw her clench her teeth and shiver.
It was cool when we stepped inside. I wrinkled my nose. I smell dead people.
I grabbed my crotch. “I have to go to the bathroom,” I said. “Don’t move.”
I looked both ways when I came out of the bathroom. “Gosh darn it.! Where is she?”
I don’t know why I tiptoed. No one was there but us. Tatham’s Almost Final Resting Home didn’t open ‘til noon. I crept down the hall, looking into one viewing room after another, before I found her.
I spoke through my teeth. “What’re you doing? I told you not to—“
Tabby didn’t turn around when she spoke, but I still heard what she said.
“Come here. This is the tiniest coffin ever. I think it’s a little boy. The lining is swimming pool blue.”
I hate dead people. Ever since Mom . . .
I about fainted when Dad told me he’d be working here. I’d been inside the building once before. Two months ago. On Take Your Daughter to Work Day. It wasn’t quite so freaky when I was with him.
“I’ve never seen a dead person,” Tabby said. “He’s not much older than the twins.”
I stood behind her. Willing myself to be brave. Like Tabby.
I stood on my tippy toes and looked over her shoulder. My knees buckled, and I grabbed her waist. Pressed my face into her back. Then I got on my toes again. Made my eyes stay open. A breath escaped me as I looked at the little guy. I stuck my lower lip out.
“Aw, man. He’s so tiny.” I could barely hear my own voice. It sounded like a sigh. I had a thought. I looked at the ceiling.
He’s so little. So young. Why don’t you give him another chance?
I didn’t even know my eyes were shut until I heard Tabby gasp. I opened them at the same time that she reached back and slapped at the air, trying to find me. Her Precious Pink fingernails made contact. Dug into my wrist.
“Kat! Look! Holy cow! The kid’s turning pink.”
I pushed Tabby out of the way. Put my hands on the edge of the little white box. Looked down. The little guy’s eyes fluttered open. They were the color of Tootsie Rolls. He looked at me, then at Tabby. His bottom lip came out and started quivering. Then he began to cry. No. Wail.
Tabby sounded hoarse when she spoke. “Do something, Kat! Pick him up!”
I shook my head and backed away from the coffin. “I’m not touching him,” I said. “You stay here. I’ll call 911.”
I sprinted down the hall and into the secretary’s office. I spun around in a circle. What do I do? What do I do? I yanked two tissues out of the box on the desk. Used one to pick up the phone, the other to punch the numbers.
When the dispatch officer answered, I pinched my nostrils.
“Emergency at Tatham’s Almost Final Resting Place,” I said. I tried to sound like a grownup. From another country.
“A toddler has been found.” I hung up. Before she could ask questions.
I ran back down the hall. Stopped in front of the baby boy’s room.
“Tabby, quick! We gotta get outta here.”
She looked at me over her shoulder. “What if he falls off the table?”
I hissed at her as I ran towards the door. “He won’t, and if he does, the carpet’s soft. Come on!”