CORRODED: Mary’s New Years Eve

Hope everyone has a safe and happy night! Here’s a peek at how Mary Weber spends New Year’s Eve:

Mom was finishing paperwork in her truck when I reached the house. I went through the back gate. The old pine boards scraped the concrete path as it opened and shut. I took off my clogs, setting them on the gravel under the faucet and then put my socks, black with dirt, next to them before stepping through the sliding glass door.

My sweaty feet left damp footprints on the newly waxed black-and-white tile floor. The turquoise vinyl chairs at the dining room table were extra shiny, and the straw and napkin dispensers were even full. Dad knew what to do on a day like this: feed Mom’s yearly meltdown with homemade hamburgers, French fries and malts, all spread out on their fifties style dinner table.

Dad was hand-shaping meat patties in the kitchen. I grabbed a crisp piece of lettuce off the platter on the serving counter. “She’s just about done with paperwork,” I warned.

“Then cue the dearly departed teen idol, Mary.” Dad slapped a burger into the hot frying pan, causing it to sizzle and pop.

I laughed at him when he turned around. He was wearing the hideous floral print apron my mom had found at a thrift store. There was nothing like seeing your retired Navy Dad wearing something a housewife would’ve worn in the old days.

“Orange and green are definitely your colors.”

“Just don’t forget the music before you head upstairs.” He shook the spatula at me.

I saluted him with another piece of lettuce and went around the corner to the living room. Dad made Mom’s yearly mourning of the loss of “the original teen idol,” Rick Nelson, bearable. My mom had just been a kid when the singer was killed in a New Year’s Eve plane crash in 1985, but if there was anything she loved more than tacky aprons, it was Rick Nelson. Dad pretended that he did the classic American meal to feed Mom comfort food on her evening of sadness, but I knew it was his way of cooking me a special Birthday Eve dinner because Mom spent most of New Year’s Day in bed.Rick Nelson

As long as I could remember, New Year’s Eve was all about Ricky Nelson. His music and movies ruled the night. I knew all his lines in the Here Come the Nelsons movie before I was six. I used to try to make Mom smile by choreographing dance numbers to his greatest hits as we watched the clock tick closer to midnight.

I plugged Mom’s iPod into the sound system and put her Ricky Nelson playlist on shuffle. I bumped the volume up two thirds of the way and mounted the stairs to the cowbell opening beats of “Hello Mary Lou” in hopes of getting out of earshot before the singing began.

“Great choice, Mary Lou!” Dad hollered.

“Not funny!” I yelled back.

CORRODED: Meet Ben

          I tentatively reached over and pulled Ben’s right hand toward my face. With my index finger, I flipped over his medical bracelet and leaned in to read the inscription.

            “It’s titanium. I got it for Christmas because my old one broke.” A look of defeat fell over his face. “How long have you known?”

            “My parents told me this weekend, but they said you have Asperger’s. This says ‘Autism.’”

            We resumed walking to disperse our nervous energy, Ben re-pocketing his hands.

            “Not everyone knows what Asperger’s Syndrome is. It’s easier just to put ‘Autism’ on something like that. Besides, in a real emergency, I’m liable to completely freak out like anyone else on the spectrum.”     Autism superpower

            “You’re not going to have a meltdown or something right now, are you? I mean because you’re off schedule and all. My little cousin Zak has autism. I remember him screaming one time because I ate the last Popsicle. I think he hates me for that.”

            “Doubtful. It’s all the same spectrum, but hate isn’t something we usually deal with. Pain, fear, discomfort…. I didn’t start talking until I was five, but I could read before I turned three. Once I started talking, my mom couldn’t shut me up. I had so much information racing around my head. I’d recite the dates of the battles from the Revolutionary War until I fell asleep at night. Actually, I still do.”

            I laughed at his admission. “So, you’ve been Mr. History since you were a preschooler?”

            “Yeah, that’s me. A billion and one things about America and you’ll hear them all if you get me going.”

            “Then remind me not to. And try not to freak out.”

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CORRODED: The First Page

Leave it to me to spend New Year’s Eve—the day before my fifteenth birthday—pulling weeds. I was helping my mom with her landscaping business in a yard just a block away from home. At least my mind could wander, and roam it did. Josh Copperfield, my crush at school, made repeat performances. His crooked grin and blue eyes kept me company as I zoned out with my iPod while weeding between the Japanese yews.

After winning a battle with the final dandelion, I removed my muddied gloves and stood to check my reflection in the kitchen window. Beyond my dirt-streaked forehead was the outline of a person standing inside the Thomases’ house. I jumped back, stumbled over the rake and landed in a pile of maple leaves.

The kitchen door opened. It was difficult to tell if the guy was naturally pale or if the color had drained from his face—it was a shocking contrast against his wavy brown hair. My heart tightened and the winter air was clammy in my lungs.

“You aren’t hurt, are you?” His brown eyes held concern.

“I’m fine.” I removed my earbuds, letting them dangle over my shoulders, and brushed the leaves off my butt.

“I was worried you might have sprained an ankle or something.” As he spoke, he looked up at the striped awning over the stoop.

“No, you just startled me. I didn’t think anyone was home.” I remembered the smudge of dirt on my forehead and wiped the long sleeve of my shirt across it. There I was, in front of the cutest guy I’d seen during the two weeks of winter break, and I looked like an uncultured slob.

“Would you like to come in and wash up at the sink?” he asked.

I’d never been inside a house with a guy—alone—and I was more worried about going in with him than if he thought I was a mess. He looked a little older than me. Not like a college student or anything, but he probably had a few years on me.

“Uh…” I’m sure the uneasiness displayed on my face. It was racing through my veins. Fortunately, my mother’s pick-up truck parked on the street at that moment. My legs started toward safety. “Gotta go.”

 

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CORRODED Excerpt

Since I plan to post my 100th blog entry on New Year’s Day, I decided to share a few snipets from CORRODED, the novel I’m currently querying to publishing companies. This scene has freshman Mary Weber reporting to the office for the first time in her high school career.

The school secretary looked at me without recognition and read my note. “Your guidance counselor, Mr. Lopez, needs to see you. He’s down the hall, next to the last door on your right.”

            A couple of students sitting in chairs along the wall narrowed their eyes at me when I walked past. I quickly looked away.

            Mr. Lopez’s blue office door was open. The walls in the small room were covered by posters with motivational quotes. He waved me in and introduced himself.

            “I suppose you’re wondering why you’re here, Mary.” He leaned back in his swivel chair but kept his brown eyes focused on me. My school file was open on the computer screen behind him, listing my current schedule.

            My mind scanned through the possible offenses in my life and settled on the big one: my night out with Ben. I sucked in a deep breath. “Did my parents call you because I snuck out of the house Friday night?”

            He grabbed a pen from behind his ear and scribbled down something on the notepad on his lap. “Not at all, but that does fit in with the other issue.”

            “I’m grounded, but that’s not going to affect my school work.”

            Mr. Lopez replaced the pen behind his ear—it was camouflaged against his black hair—and leaned closer. “One of your classmates came to me last week out of concern. She wanted me to help you seek support for some issues you might be dealing with.” There must have been a look of utter bewilderment on my face because Mr. Lopez continued talking. “Whatever we talk about here will remain confidential. You don’t need to worry about the school calling your parents. I’m here to help you. Whatever is troubling you is valid, and there’s a support system to help you cope.”

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