Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"A Portrait of Genevieve Poole" by Sara Ishaq

Chapter the First: Albert Farrell
            As in, the morning started off with one. Normally, I just shrugged it off, ‘cuz I got headaches all the time, so what’s one more, right? Wrong. This, this was the mother of all headaches, and Lord almighty, I really thought it would be the end of me. But I couldn’t let it take me down, not today. So I got dressed as quick as I could, a flurry of arms and legs as I tried to fight down the waves of nausea lapping at my consciousness.
When I finally finished, I reached over to my desk to grab my glasses, putting them on to clear the final wisps of blurriness only to reveal a whirlwind of mismatched socks, wrinkled slacks, and as the cherry on top, I’d even messed up the buttons on my shirt. Dear God, when did you stop loving me? I sighed and moved to my nightstand to check the time, glimpsing the wind though my window as I passed, tearing at the trees fast enough to give me whiplash. It was almost enough to send me back under my covers and I nearly caved…but I couldn’t miss school today- not with so much to look forward to.
My seat in class was right next to Genevieve Poole’s, and she was just the most charming girl that the sun ever laid eyes on. On my first day of school I was late, and she’d shown me a shortcut through a little garden with these pretty white flowers. I haven’t been late since then, not only because of the new route, but also because I didn’t want to miss sitting next to her, especially since today Genevieve was going to sing the lead in…

Chapter the Second: Kaya Sharman
            Practice was going to be for two hours today. The thought came to mind as I made my way down Main towards the school, bracing myself against the wind as it blew sharp little pinpricks of dust against my face. I pulled my sweater closer to myself and I caught a glimpse of that kid, the Farrell one running out his apartment looking odder than usual with his wrinkled pants pulled up too high and his blurry, thick-framed glasses that he hadn’t even bothered to clean this morning. His arms were red and had little scars down to his hands, because he always went to school through a back alley that passed through an abandoned garden that was overgrown with nettles.
I’d noticed him heading down that way for years and had initially called out some warning, but he never listened so I eventually quit. He became kind of a pain after that, saying I was lying about the nettles because I was jealous of Genevieve and him. To this day I still don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for him as he headed off down the back alley again, his mother racing out shortly afterwards, yelling at him to come back inside before he died of pneumonia. God, that kid’s a mess. I do wish that my mother had kept me home from school today though, even if I did have to be sick for it to happen. Anything was better than having to go to school and see Genevieve Poole shine bright at the top of everyone’s world, grinning down at me as I was left to crawl at the…

Chapter the Third: Robert Douglass
            I tried not to stare, really I did. But it was so hard when she constantly had her back turned to me, as she frequently did these days. I can’t say it wasn’t entirely my fault she was mad either. But I worry. All the time I worried, about everyone and everything, especially if it involved her.
She’d been so nice to me when I first moved here, always coming over to tell me about Church or Choir practice with her students. But recently she’d become less and less friendly as I started to tell her about my own beliefs. About the new age of science, and how much it could do to protect people, protect her. From security alarms to natural disaster kits, I tried to convince her with the same vigor she’d used to try and convince me about God. I even mentioned two scientists who had lived here. They were renowned and I had actually moved here just to meet them, not knowing that they had dies years earlier.
I guess I came off too strongly though, because next thing I know she was all tight-lipped smiles and frigid politeness. But it’s not like I didn’t believe in God. All I had really wanted was for her to consider getting a storm shelter, was that so bad of me? Granted, we didn’t get too much in the way of storms out here, in fact we’ve never had one since I arrived, but better safe than sorry, right? She didn’t seem to think so though, saying that nothing would happen because she was a woman of faith and God had smiled upon her soul, which surely meant that she would be protected. So once again I was faced with the dilemma of pressing the issue for my ease of mind that she would be safe all alone and single in her little house, or placate her as she left my store so she would be more inclined to return and grace me with her…

Chapter the Fourth: Maemi Marshall
            Was the name of the game these days. Money, economy, industry, it’s all everyone ever thought of, and while I had thought that our little Paradise Falls would be safe from it, it seemed to be trickling in with the morning dew, blown in by the wind from the mouths of strangers who lived far away from here. And my God if it wasn’t spreading like a parasite.
Take that Mr. Douglass for example, now it’s one thing if he decides to start up his own store on Main Street-that’s his business and I’m not one to interfere- but when he starts spouting his science talk on everyone who happens by? And claiming to believe in God while singing the praise of those two pagans no less! Well, I can’t call myself a woman of God and let that slide right under my nose! I had to think of the children! And so I decided that I would go and visit him on my way to school in the mornings, teach him a little about the true path and help him pull the shades from his eyes, just like I do with my students. And do you know what he says to me? That man tells me to buy a storm shelter. The very nerve!
Needless to say I was fuming as I left his little electronics store that day, and I almost didn’t come back again, but I had too, as it was my duty as a woman of faith. And so I kept going and he kept at it, every day telling me about how I couldn’t rely on something as “abstract” as God all the time and would I please even just accept one if he bought it for me? I was rather inclined to show him “abstract” that day, but I held it in, just held it in until I could get to school and see that sweet child Genevieve, an angel if there ever was one. She was an orphan, a child of two parents with questionable beliefs, but God had saved her from them and brought her to me. Why, if Douglass was my own personal devil, than that child was surely a…

Chapter the Fifth: Genevieve Poole
            It’s a word used often around here. Miss Maemi calls all her students that. Each one of you is a godsend, she says, and they all listen, wholly oblivious to the change in her tone and the coolness that gathers in her eyes as she talks to some of them in particular. She teaches at the only school in town, and all the kids attend the only school in town, so everyone gets the quality education Miss Maemi has become known for. They can recite every lesson on God by heart but just don’t ask them their multiplication tables and they might just be able to maintain their farce of educated glory, clad all crisp and pristine in uniforms.
Nobody here cared though, because nobody knew any better. All the parents were the descendants of the uneducated farmers who’d plowed this land all those years ago, and the fools thought that Miss Maemi herself was a godsend, teaching their children how to get by in life when she’d first showed up here. They hung on to her every word as though she was God and not just a devout follower. Almost all of them, anyway. My parents had been smart enough to see through the ruse she was pulling, but there were only two of them against the whole town. No matter though, that was neither here nor there.
Seeing my window of opportunity open, I run up to Miss Maemi. I can see Mr. Douglass staring longingly at her as she walks by his store this morning, ignoring the wail of televisions blaring the weather in the background. The merging of cold fronts and warm fronts mean nothing to him as she strolls by. But he’s got no shot. She cares for nothing but God and has placed herself on the highest pedestal of devotion to him. So much devotion, in fact, that she even goes so far as to prophesize to her kids that if even a single one of them refused to believe in Him, calamity would surely befall the town.
That amused me greatly, and I wondered what she would say if she found out that even Mr. Douglass had more faith than me, her prized pupil. What kind of calamity would strike us down then? But as for Mr. Douglass, until he stops with his scientific explanations on the pros of storm shelters, he’ll be nothing more than a pesky insect plowed over by the faulty windshield wipers of her…

Chapter the Sixth: Little D
            Is my favorite word. Mama told me it’s something everyone has, so it must be nice. ‘specially cuz we don’t even have to pay for it. And I don’t even have to carry it around That’s good cuz I already have to hold my hat that Genevieve made me in school. It’s like an ice cream cone hat, a paper ice cream cone. There’s even letters on the front. She said it spelled my school name, and that’s why everyone called my Little D at school. That’s my school name. I can’t read the hat yet, but I’m practicing my letters. Genevieve said we have to be secret though. It’s me and her’s secret hat and I can’t tell any one she gave it to me.  It’s a secret…

Chapter the Seventh: Albert Farrell
            That’s what this is. I had to clarify it to Kaya in art class today. I’m painting a gift, I announced to her suddenly. She just slowly nodded, not even bothering to look. Miss Maemi overhears and smiles at me though, from where she is, standing next to Little D, wearing his cone shaped paper hat like always. It has DUNCE written in huge letters on the front, but he can’t read them and wouldn’t understand them even if he could. Nobody really knew where he got the hat from, though. Oh well, not my problem.
I turned my head back to my own painting, ignoring my ongoing headache and bent on completing it by choir practice today, so I could give it to her. I’d been working on it for weeks and the scars on my hands were starting to ache from holding the paintbrush for so long. It was worth it, though, she was worth it.
 Miss Maemi comes and stands behind me and pats my shoulder, smiling. That’s lovely, she says, what a beautiful portrait of Genevieve Poole. I smile too, and ask her when Genevieve will be here. She got the day off to save her voice for choir. Kaya’s paintbrush snapped when Miss Maemi told us that. I don’t get an answer, though, because Miss Maemi has gone back to Little D again. But I know Genevieve will be here soon so it’s ok. She’s probably up on the…

Chapter the Eighth: Kaya Sharman
            It’s the only thing good about this place. It looks over the whole town and even has a little house with a basement at the top, shaded by a huge oak tree that’s been growing forever, it even has two ropes tied to the branches with little loops on the ends that you can hold on to and swing from. As for the house, nobody knows whose it is, but it’s really big and there are tons of places to explore inside. But you have to be careful of all the stuff that’s fallen to the ground, there’s shattered glass everywhere and some reddish-black paint splattered on the walls.
Miss Maemi tells us to stay away from it though. She says heretics used to live there, blasphemers who dared to counter God, but I went up there as often as I could anyway. The thought of her being up there while I’m stuck here makes me break my paintbrush again and Miss Maemi yells at me for wasting the resources of God. I have to go help Little D now, so she can check up on the rest of the class, she says. I know the real reason though. She just hates Little D, he’s a blemish in her perfect world of the Lord. I don’t mind though, I’m probably the only one who’s nice and actually likes Little D, and anything’s better than Albert and seeing his hands twitch in pain as he works on that stupid gift.
I walk up to Little D’s canvas and ask him what he’s painting. He just grins, straightening his hat, and points at the mercury gray mass that is his paper. I can’t stop staring at the hat though. When he showed up with it one day, no one knew where it came from, and everyone laughed at him. I tried to get rid of it, or even to know who gave it to him so I can punch their face in, but he just won’t tell me. Ice cream cone cloud, he tells me smiling sweetly. He says he saw it on the way to school this morning. A cloud that looked like the bottom of an ice cream cone. I didn’t pay attention though, still working on his secret “friend’s” identity. To think he would protect someone who was so cruel to him, it was almost…

Chapter the Ninth: Genevieve Poole
            When something so stupid happens that you can’t help but laugh. I conned the gullible Miss Maemi into letting me skip school today, claiming that I wanted to save my voice for God’s praise, and went to the hill. I went right when she was leaving Mr. Douglass and his store. I’d been waiting there and had seen the daily quarrel, choosing to do it then because that’s when she’s happiest to see me. And so I made my way past Little Dunce and Stephen the infatuated and Kaya who wanted to punch my face in but didn’t know it, ignoring Mr. Douglass who was the only one who had a storm shelter in town but probably wouldn’t even use it because he couldn’t imagine a world without Miss Maemi. Everyone here is so stupid.
The house on the hill was nice, and the from the top by the tree, past the ropes whipping through the air, desperate to be free of their wooden shackle, I could see the whole horizon; all the way to the clouds making a slow descent to the edge of town, wind yanking them to the earth and demolishing all in their path. An ice cream cone cloud indeed. Smiling, I made my way down to the basement of the house, my parents’ house, knowing when I came back up, there’d be nothing left but me and a dingy little sign, stupidly saying Welcome to Paradise Falls.

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