My Beautiful Wickedness

Check Engine Light
February 5, 2009, 7:52 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man, it’s been one of those 24-hour spans that you wish happened to someone else, although it wouldn’t be nice to wish it on someone else. Major unexpected car repair bill (on something that if I had a damn garage or even a place to discard fluids, I could have braved the right around zero temps and fixed part of it myself) emerging from the check engine light. We needed a transmission fluid flush, an O2 detector, and a bunch of other intake- and combustion- related things. We only have one car and that car is only four years old, so it’s got to keep running for a good long while yet. I swallowed hard and signed the check and silently postponed for the hundredth time any thought of discretionary spending. I guess I’ll call it the most expensive car wash I ever bought, since they took the time to hose the salt and ice off of it.

I spoke for a while to my mother about her boyfriend problems. I like the man, but he’s got more baggage than an airport carousel and I don’t think that they want the same things from the relationship. Of course, Mom has known this for a couple of years and likes to dither more than she likes to solve. My point of view is that time is brief and if this isn’t right, well…go on and find something else. But then again, I’m not in my mid-70s and worried about what the next decade is going to hold. If it were me, I’d be making up my bucket list and getting on with it. That would require her to actually want something, though — not have someone else tell her what she should want and then resist people “bossing her around.” I love her and I want her to be happy. I’m not convinced this is it. I’m very “here, do this!” in my approach to problems; I’m impatient with endless processing of grievance. However I was just asked to listen and not to solve, so that’s a little draining.

Then it was to the store for a flash drive for my kid. She now has more storage hanging around her neck to transport her docs to and from school than I could have dreamed about even ten years ago. And it cost a pittance, comparatively speaking.

Then I went and got some groceries. Maybe it was the circumstances of the day, but it seemed to me that every item that I normally buy had jumped in cost by at least a buck. It makes you want to give up eating. I note that the stuff I eat a lot of now (like greek yogurt, which is crazy high in protein and low in fat) is up about fifty cents a tub since a month ago. Even oatmeal is getting more expensive, wtf?

I am stubbornly clinging to my “Year without StuffMart” project…it’s silly, really, and all it means is that I’m giving my money to Target and the more expensive grocery store instead and all the crap is pretty much the same crap and I am rarely doing without. However, I am being forced to buy less and live on less. Considering where we are at the moment economically speaking, that’s probably a good thing. I am just infuriated that within days of putting money into savings, we’ve been forced to take it back out to pay for overpriced produce and car repairs that in a different season I’m sure I could have done.

To top it all off, Lying Child dropped by. LC is a neighborhood fixture. She is the middle child of a single mother who is willing her family to be upwardly mobile. Mom clawed her way from Jamaica to Queens to Albany to a college degree and works two jobs so that her kids can go to private schools (with a combo of scholarship aid and her effort). They’re all musically talented and the second-oldest son is a science whiz; my money is on him to actually fulfill his mother’s dream of getting into the middle class. Oldest brother dropped out of college and has now moved back in; we suspect, from the comings and goings, that he’s probably dealing some drugs on the side when his mom isn’t home to raise some extra cash. Mom would kill him if she knew; that’s not part of her strict plan for social advancement. Younger brother is a hustler in the making — he’s already skipping school and starting fights, on the edge of a long slide into being just another one of our friendly neighborhood losers with a harem of knocked-up girlfriends and no job. Sadly, Mom isn’t home to bust his head.

But all of this is a long introduction to LC. We met LC when she was 11 and she’s now 14. LC is a great storyteller. She has a vivid imagination, but she’s also dyslexic and has trouble with reading and other academic work; she is dreamy and goofy and increasingly falling behind her brothers in school achievement. She makes very vivid stories about the happenings in her family — “Did I tell you my mother was getting married? I’m helping her plan her wedding…” — that always pull you in with the wishful yearnings of a kid who wants desperately to have that middle-class stable house. But then, a month later when you see her again and ask her about the wedding, she looks mildly confused and then a little embarrassed and then spins another tale about how the wedding was fabulous and beautiful and the dresses were gorgeous and she was lovely as a bridesmaid, but her mom couldn’t put up with that man and kicked him out within a week. So, there’s no dad now and yes her mom still goes by her original last name. No, ma’am, they were divorced within a week. And the cat that I said we adopted, well it died and now I’ve got an African grey parrot. Yes, ma’am, they do live a long time, but we got it from one of my real father’s friends as a birthday present. No, we don’t keep it in a cage, it just flies around and eats french fries off my plate….

You get the drift. The truth just isn’t in her.

My daughter loves LC. Loves Her. Kis is so excited when LC shows up that she can barely contain herself. She begs to go over to LC’s house so she can see the wedding pictures and the parrot and all the other wonderful things that LC describes. She used to go over to wait in LC’s yard and beg LC to bring out her vast collection (reported) of American Girl dolls. LC got evasive and busy — something about her mom not allowing her to take the dolls anywhere and she had to go. Kid would patiently sit on the fence between our yards waiting for LC to come out again and she’s sit and sit until dusk fell and LC never came out. It’s painful, because Kid is so trusting and faithful and believes every single word that comes out of LC’s mouth. Sadly, at night, she’d say “Mommy, was that just another story? Do you think she really is going to Jamaica to see her Granny? Is her Granny really the Queen of Jamaica?” And I’ll have to break it to her that while most little girls think their grandmas are queens and while LC’s grandma is an important person to LC, that there are no queens in Jamaica. “But why does she lie, Mommy? And why can’t I play with her?”
It breaks me up.

LC is an opportunist of the first order, always trying to expand her advantages. We’ll go for months without seeing LC, until she wants something. Sometimes, she wants to borrow a rake. Sometimes, she wants me to give her art supplies. Sometimes she needs a meal and a warm place to be. I try to give her what she asks for. It’s just how I do. Today, LC came to “raise money for a charity.” Her younger brother has run a similar grift in the past, asking me to buy school fundraiser car wash coupons for five bucks and presenting me with a sad handful of dirty expired car wash coupons he found on the street somewhere. I gave her a handful of coins, knowing that I was being ripped off, knowing that she’ll use the money to buy Dollar Store jewelry or something like that. She’s not a criminal kid, she’s just dishonest and what used to be the whimsy of a child is now the way of life of an adolescent. She says she doesn’t like school much; she hates that her mom is so on top of her. She has no freedom and there’s a ton of homework. She’s going to go out for track, she’s a basketball star, she’s a cello virtuoso, she’s the most popular girl in the school. She has a job now too, she says, helping out at a vet where she can pet all the animals. The vet is going to give her an African Parrot soon because she’s the only one who can understand its secret language. Besides, it’s a behavior problem in his house — it eats all his french fries.

Damn, what a day.


5 Comments so far
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Oh, and to top it all off, my husband and kid are monopolizing the TV to watch the Sarah Jane Adventures set on LOUD. I just wanted a quiet cup of tea.

And I forgot to say that I fell hard on the grocery store floor and people in the store just kept wheeling their carts around me like a bunch of zombies. There are days that I hate living in the north, and today, when it was really freaking cold and there were mountains of dirty snow and ice pushed in the middle of every pot-hole dimpled parking lot, when every eye was hard and step was hurried and goose-honking voice was muffled in wool…I am far from woods and hills and the people I love.

Comment by bridgett


I know you’re a writer, but you should be a WRITER. That vignette about the LC was so vivid I could see the child. I’ve known a number of people like that in this life. They are, ultimately, so sad. There comes a point when even they don’t know anymore what’s real.

Having grown up in Omaha and having lived in the Northeast for the last 36 years or so, I am used to winter–I STILL FUCKING HATE FEBRUARY. There, now I feel bette{;>.

Comment by democommie

Awwww what a day…. LC…that kind of fabricating is not going to serve her well later in life

Comment by imfunny2

It is odd how often good kids seem to wind up with that one more-or-less toxic friend. Of course, maybe this will get it out of her system and she won’t feel the need to date one later.

Comment by Gerald

I keep thinking. how will a judge respond to LC?

Comment by Nick Dupree

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