Crank, p.2
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       Crank, p.2

         Part #1 of Crank series by Ellen Hopkins
 
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  Three hours is a long time, astraddle

  a 747’s wing, banshee engines

  screaming, earachy babies fussing,

  elderly seatmate complaining.

  Can’t stand flying.

  Makes me nauseous.

  I get nauseous when vid screens

  play movies I’ve seen three times,

  seat belt signs deny pee breaks

  and first class smells like real food.

  Pretzels?

  For this ticket price?

  For the price, I’d expect Albert to

  tone down the gripe machine. I closed

  my eyes, tried to shut him out, but second

  run movies can’t equal conversation.

  My wife died last year.

  Been alone since.

  I’ve been alone since my mom met Scott.

  He sucked the nectar from her heart

  like a famished butterfly. No nurture,

  no nourishment left for Kristina.

  A vacation is a poor substitute

  for love.

  Two Hours into the Flight

  Albert snored, soft

  as a hummingbird’s

  hover. His moody

  smile suggested he’d

  found his Genevieve,

  just beyond time

  just beyond space

  just beyond this continuum.

  I watched his face,

  gentled by dreams,

  until sun winks off

  the polished fuselage

  hypnotized me,

  not quite asleep

  not quite conscious

  not quite in this dimension.

  I coasted along a

  byway, memory,

  glimpses of truth

  speed bumps

  within childish

  belief,

  almost ultimate

  almost reliable

  almost total insanity.

  Daddy waited

  in the dead-end

  circle, reaching

  out for me.

  I couldn’t

  find his embrace

  find his answers

  find his excuse for tears.

  Faster. Faster.

  He’d waited too

  many years for

  me to come looking.

  Hadn’t he? I

  needed to see

  needed to know

  needed a lot more.

  Hot Landing

  Hot runway.

  Hot brakes.

  Hot desert sand

  outside the window,

  wind-sculpted crystalline

  slivers, reflecting a new

  summer’s sun.

  Good-bye, young lady.

  Good-bye, Albert.

  Good-bye, toupee.

  Good-bye, dentures.

  Good-bye, in-flight

  glimpses of a soul,

  aching, and dreams,

  fractured, injuries only

  death could cure.

  Have a nice vacation.

  You too.

  You relax.

  You pretend to have fun.

  You share a toast with me:

  here’s to seasonal

  madness, part-time

  relatives and

  substitutes for love.

  The Prince of Albuquerque

  June is pleasant in Reno,

  kind of breezy and all.

  I boarded the plane in

  clingy jeans and a

  long-sleeved T. Black.

  It’s a whole lot hotter in Albuquerque.

  I wobbled up the skywalk,

  balancing heavy twin carry-ons.

  Fingers of sweat grabbed

  my hair and pressed it

  against my face.

  No one seemed to notice.

  I scanned the crowd at the gate.

  Too tall. Not tall enough.

  Too old. Way too old.

  There, with the sable hair,

  much like my own.

  How was it possible?

  I thought he was much better

  looking, the impression

  of a seven-year-old whose

  daddy was the Prince

  of Albuquerque.

  I melted, sleet on New Mexico asphalt.

  Mutual Assessment

  Daddy watched the gate, listing

  a bit as he hummed a bedtime

  tune, withdrawn from who knows

  which memory bank.

  “Daddy?” Roses are red, my love.

  He overlooked me like sky

  above a patch of dirt,

  and I realized he, too, searched

  for a face suspended in yesterday.

  “It’s me.” Violets are blu-oo-oo.

  Peculiar eyes, blue-speckled

  green like extravagant eggs,

  met my own pale aquamarine.

  Assessing. Doubt gnawing.

  “Hey.” Sugar is … Kristina?

  He hugged me, too tightly. Nasty

  odors gulped. Marlboros. Jack

  Daniels. Straightforward B.O.

  Not like Scott’s ever-clean smell.

  I can’t believe how

  much you’ve grown!

  “It’s been eight

  years, Dad.”

  From daddy to dad

  in thirty seconds. We were

  strangers, after all.

  I Got in a Car with a Stranger

  A ’92 Geo, pink under

  primer, not quite a

  princely coach. Dad and

  I attempted small talk.

  How’s your sister?

  “Gay.”

  Sequestered on a California

  campus. When she outed,

  I cringed. Mom cried.

  You called her queer.

  How’s your mother?

  “Older.”

  Prettier, gift-wrapped

  in 40ish self-esteem, a

  wannabe writer and workout

  fanatic, sweating ice.

  How’s what’s-his-name?

  “Indifferent.”

  Either that or flat in my

  face, yet oddly always

  there exactly when I

  need him. Unlike you.

  And how are you?

  “Okay.”

  Near-sighted. Hormonal.

  Three zits monthly.

  Often confused.

  Lusting for love.

  “You?”

  Same.

  Small Talk Shrank to Minuscule

  Hot? Not! Wait till August!

  The carriage burped. Screeched.

  Hiccupped. I tightened my seat-belt,

  like that could save me.

  Straight A’s, huh? Got your brains

  from your old man.

  I was starting to doubt it.

  No air-con, windows down,

  oil flavored the air.

  Conversation took an ugly turn.

  Never been laid? Tell the truth

  little girl.

  Like it was his business. He

  reached for his Marlboros, took

  one, offered the pack. My lip

  curled. He lit up anyway.

  Quit once. Your mother bitched

  me out of the habit.

  I watched him inhale, blow

  smoke signals. Exhale. Beyond

  the ochre haze, city turned to

  suburbs. Not pretty suburbs.

  She was the bitch queen. I started

  again soon as I moved out.

  The Geo limped into

  a weather-chewed parking

  lot. I escaped the front

  seat. Aired out in blistering heat.

  Here we are. Home sweet home.

  What’s mine is yours.

  I’d made an awful mistake.

  Daddy wasn’t the Prince of

  Albuquerque. He was the King of Cliché.

  You Call This a Castle?<
br />
  Not My Type

  No shirt

  hot bod.

  His, that is.

  So why did

  /break out in

  a sweat?

  No shoes

  barefoot,

  bare chest, with

  a bare, baby face

  to make the

  angels sing.

  Nothing

  but ragged

  cut-offs,

  hugging a

  tawny six pack,

  and a smile.

  No pin-up

  pretty boy

  could touch,

  a smile that

  zapped every cell.

  He was definitely

  not my type.

  At Least I Had Something

  to think about

  besides my dad’s

  less than palatial

  apartment.

  If he qualified

  as royalty in this true

  blue collar

  kingdom,

  I had zero desire

  to see how the

  working class

  lived.

  Dad Had to Go to Work

  Work?

  You’ve heard a work.

  You couldn’t take

  one day off?

  You don’t know my boss.

  Does he know

  about me?

  She knows you’re here.

  Your daughter

  comes to visit …

  She does’nt know.

  Know what?

  That you’re my daughter.

  Who am I, then?

  A long lost relative.

  He Worked in a Bowling Alley

  Under the table,

  so I don’t screw

  up my disability.

  Unsticking stuck

  balls, fitting stinky

  shoes, collecting

  cash from the crop

  du jour of the

  great unwashed.

  No one there’s

  gonna tell. They

  got their own secrets,

  No worries about

  bubblegum, athlete’s

  foot, or the current

  flu, passed bill to

  bill, ball to ball,

  shoe to shoe.

  Like who’s making

  out in the back room,

  who’s striking out.

  Geo unlocked

  in a parking lot

  where the color of

  your jacket might

  mean your life, wrong

  night, wrong time.

  It’s not the best

  neighborhood, but

  hey, come along.

  I Opted Out

  Long trip,

  long day,

  no thanks,

  I’ll stay.

  Okay.

  Not Quite Silent

  The empty boxes

  Dad imagined

  rooms.

  Glurp … glurp … glurp

  Hot drops into

  deep kitchen

  stainless.

  Plunk.....plunk

  Cool drips on

  chipped bathroom

  porcelain.

  Chh-ka-chh

  Sleepy branches

  scratching bedroom

  glass.

  You crazy sonofabitch!

  Neighbors through

  thin plaster

  walls.

  The Screaming

  Of Course, When I Was Little

  I didn’t understand the

  terminology of words like

  infidelity.

  Nor the implications

  of my father’s sundry

  addictions.

  I only knew my wicked

  mother took us far away,

  kept us far apart.

  Time passed, with little

  word from Dad.

  But, having experienced

  Mom’s growing

  frustration

  at a stalled career and

  family life’s daily

  limitations

  I put the blame squarely

  on her. As for Dad,

  I could have forgiven

  him pretty much anything,

  even his silence.

  As long as I could forever

  stay his little princess.

  Okay, Over the Last Few Years

  I may have gained a little perspective.

  Mom struggled to raise two kids

  on her own, at least until Scott

  blundered into her life.

  Jake was a late addition,

  one the workout queen accepted

  and loved despite killer stretch marks

  and sure-to-sag-even-more boobs.

  As for Dad, well, truth be told, his love

  of drugs surpassed his love of family.

  And when we were small, he just

  happened to install cable TV,

  giving him every opportunity

  to experience the wild side of

  bored, stay-at-home housewives,

  eager for entertainment.

  So it was, perhaps, ironic

  that I discovered …

  Dad Hadn’t Paid His Cable Bill

  Three fuzzy channels

  hissed and spit

  a rerun of Friends,

  extra-inning baseball, and

  soap opera, en español.

  I should have gone

  straight to bed,

  counted cracks

  in the ceiling.

  Instead, I went outside.

  Cigarette smoke,

  toxic curls in the

  stairwell at my feet,

  soft voices rising,

  pheromone fog.

  He was still there,

  my silver knight,

  flirting with some

  fallen Guinivere in

  short shorts and a cropped T.

  I kept to the shadows,

  observing the game

  I hadn’t dared play,

  absorbing the rules

  with adhesive eyes.

  The Rules

  Uncomplicated, this

  child’s game.

  He says, Please?

  She says, “Can’t.”

  He, Why not?

  She, “I’m not that kind of a girl.”

  Then she spends twenty

  minutes disproving

  the theory, until

  Mother calls, Hija?

  She answers, “Mama?”

  Mother, Come inside now.

  She, “Be right there.”

  It’s a lie. He pulls her

  into his lap, silencing

  meager protests with

  full-lipped kisses.

  He insists, Now.

  She resists, “Later.”

  He, Promise?

  She, “Cross my heart.”

  She Went Inside

  I wasn’t sure if I felt more

  disappointed or relieved.

  Guinivere really had him.

  So I shouldn’t want him. Should I?

  I didn’t really want his perfect

  pout, reaching hungrily

  for my own timid lips.

  I didn’t have a clue how to kiss.

  Didn’t really want his hands,

  investigating the hills

  and valleys of my landscape.

  I’d never been touched by a boy.

  Didn’t want his face,

  burrowing into my hair,

  finding my neck. Tasting.

  I’d never even said hello to such a complete stranger.

  Didn’t want his smoke,

  making me gag, making me

  want to taste something so gross.

  It was all so confusing, I mean,

  I didn’t want a boyfriend,

  no summer fling to make

  me want to stay in this alien place.

  Anyway,
I’d be speechless if he asked.

  I Must Have Moaned

  Hey.

  He popped above the

  stairs suddenly, a

  wild-eyed Jack-in-the-box,

  anticipating the

  pay-off crank.

  Oh, it’s you.

  Like he knew me,

  knew I had no life,

  suspected I’d come

  spying, set up the game

  just for me.

  I waited for you.

  I coughed a hello,

  stamping sweaty

  palm prints into not-so

  wrinkle-free jeans.

  Could he read minds?

  I know what you’re thinking.

  Smile. Nod. Say

  something witty

  before he finds

  out what an incredible

  geek you are.

  That you’re too good for me.

  He topped the staircase,

  slinked closer, golden

  eyes narrowing, reached

  out and touched the flush

  of my cheek.

  But you’re wrong.

  The Wind Blew Up

  My mind raced.

  My heart joined in.

  I shook my head,

  mute as snowfall.

  What, then? Why do you look

  at me that way?

  What could I say?

  That some stranger

  inside me couldn’t

  keep her eyes off him?

  I know you can talk. I heard

  you before.

  I felt her stir, like a

  breeze blowing up off

  the evening sea. My

  wind had awakened.

  You know, you’re kind of cute,

  in a stuck-up sort of way.

  She pumped through

  my veins in hot, red

  bursts. Blood pressure

  rose in my face, blush.

  You here for the summer? What’s

  your name?

  Her tongue curled

  easily behind my teeth,

  and her words melted

  between my lips.

  “My friends call me Bree.”

  Bree? Who Was She?

  And where did that name

  come from? I’d probably

  heard it once in my life!

 
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