Straw People ~ The traffic light blinked to yellow. Lisa applied the brake, glanced at the rearview mirror, cut the wheel hard to the left and jolted to a stop in the left-turn lane. The light flipped to red long before the car sped across the intersection past Lisa. She smiled, a police car sitting at the adjacent traffic light.
He didn’t pull out, his lights blazing and siren screaming. He turned right and parked on the shoulder fifty feet up the road.
The traffic light cycled, Lisa continued on her way soon to be pulled over. She received a ticket for changing lanes without signaling and a ticket for an illegal turn, coming straight from the left-turn lane.
Her comment: “I bet a blonde pissed him off in high school.”
Straw People illustrates the relationship between the past and the present, straw people populating the shadowy mindscape like puppet masters manipulating the marionette’s disjointed, disturbing dance.
Kasey’s fists are bloodied against the story, pounding away until spent and breathless on a snowy winter day meant to represent hope, forgiveness and rebirth. The style is sharp, not a word wasted. Yet, the telling leaves nothing to happenstance or guess, creating wonderfully detailed images through the eyes of the protagonist, fifteen-year-old Debra.
The clines and colors are not soothed under this artist’s loving hand.
Writing will come alive when we tell the truth as we see it, without excuses or pretext.
I wrestled with whether to publish this book or not. I floated a dozen electronic copies, not for reviews, but for the reader to answer the simple question: Should I publish this book? Four people said no. Four people gave me the wide eyes, taking a deep breath, saying it was my choice. Four people, two with tears in their eyes, told me the book must be published. Of the twelve people, the first group did not finish the book, one person making it halfway through the second chapter.
She said: "The only thing more disturbing to me than this story, is that there's a mind out there that can dream up such a story."
I considered putting that on the dust cover. I nodded, accepting the criticism I asked for. I'd not be fair to ask for an opinion, and then argue when I got it.
I did not dream up this story, which is likely more disturbing.
Due to miscues, bad assumptions and wrong choices, fourteen-year-old Debra has sex with her adult uncle, in the first chapter. Debra takes us through the incident in sober, unblinking detail. This sets off a cascade of events, which the story is about.
Straw People is about our dark side. If you ever look at a child raging, out of control, and wonder: How did this happen? maybe Straw People will offer an eyedropper of understanding, a touch of compassion.
Straw People Chapter 1
Uncle Mike is eight years older. Dad calls him little brother. I’ve always seen him as an adult. He’d come up from Baltimore each summer and stay a few days. Mom felt Uncle Mike drank too much. Dad’d match him beer for beer sometimes, the only time I’d see Dad drink.
Uncle Mike’s eyes are dark and rich like winter evergreen in the shadows with a hint of moist soil. His hair’s black, almost blue with a curl flipping in the front like Superman. I had to look up, standing under him.
He liked to laugh. I liked that about him.
He rarely looked at or addressed me. When I managed to get his attention by doing handstands or something, his response was short, polite.
Then, I turned fourteen.
I’d put on fifteen pounds and four inches, the puberty goddess blessing me. I wasn’t recognized. He wanted to know things.
“What grade you in now?”
I shrugged. “Don’t know. History maybe. I love mythology.”
“I like tennis, but we don’t have a team at school.”
I got the up-down.
“I’d like to see you in your tennis outfit.”
I blushed. “Sweat pants, sometimes shorts.”
“That’s too bad.”
His eyes didn’t leave my face.
“You’re how old?”
“I should know that. I should send you a card. Family does, you know.” He winked. “Christmas is only months away.”
Lisa’s annual shindig came Friday. Mom and Dad had theater tickets to see Porgy and Bess in the city, yet another annual tradition. I planned on staying over Lisa’s. They hadn’t planned on Uncle Mike visiting that month.
“They’re sold out,” Dad said.
Uncle Mike shrugged. “No problem. I can hang, watch TV.”
“You can come to Lisa’s with me! Lisa’s my best friend and she’s got this party she does every summer for all the kids and her parent’s friends come and it’s really, really cool and –”
“Okay Debra, okay!” Uncle Mike laughed, which I liked. “I’m sold.”
Lisa had an earthy beauty manifesting in subtle natural tones. She smelled of musk, like delicate decaying leaves in the fall and the salt-rich air of early morning at the beach. Her hair bounced on her shoulders the soft brown of tanned wicker with smiling eyes to match. Like Uncle Mike, she liked to laugh. I liked that about her.
“He’s hot. Is that why you wore the skirt?”
I blushed. “Lisa! I’ve always worn a skirt to your cookouts!”
“Now you have a good reason, huh?”
“Stop it. He’s my uncle.”
“I’d do him.”
“Lisa!” We’d never done anyone. “I’m going to tell him that. I told Mom and Dad I’d see he has a good time.”
“He’s hot. If he wasn’t your uncle?”
“Huh, what if he wasn’t my uncle?”
“Would you do him?”
“Sure, why not?”
We talk, you know?
I found an old black and white movie on TV, Casablanca. Uncle Mike joined me with a pitcher and two tumblers. “You’ll like this. My favorite summertime drink.”
I sipped. “Fruity, yummy.” I drained half the glass and held it forward. He topped it off.
Before Sam sung As Time Goes By the pitcher was almost empty and my head spun like I’d taken one too many rides on the carny Teacups. I closed my eyes.
“I like your panties.”
“I couldn’t help noticing at the cookout.”
I tugged my skirt back. “Oh, yeah. Who doesn’t like dancing teddy bears?”
His hand came between my legs, his thumb just below my stomach and the side of his forefinger against my underwear. “Cute.” He worked the teddy bears.
His other arm came across the back of the sofa as he turned to me. I looked up, his face close to mine.
“I’d like to kiss you. Is that okay?”
I put my left hand to the back of his neck by way of an answer. His lips touched mine. His tongue slid easily in my mouth, working around. I’d never been French-kissed. I didn’t kiss back.
I was drunk, not actually realizing at the time. Really, really drunk. I’m a big girl. I don’t mean that as an excuse for bad choices, just an explanation.
His tongue in my mouth felt odd. I’d never had my vagina rubbed but maybe by a misadjusted bicycle seat. I’m sure that doesn’t count. His hand felt good, him rubbing, me humping.
His free hand came to the back of my head. He half-stood pushing me back, literally lifting me by my crotch, swinging my left leg against the back of the sofa, my right foot still flat on the floor.
I worked back at his mouth, guessing how, his right hand busy. Mount Everest lost nearly a foot and a half of its official height.
He pulled away, smiling down watching my face, his hands working up my waist. I thought I should tell him I’d never done it before. I thought I should tell him I was his niece. I thought I should tell him I was a minor, he an adult.
I thought of many right things to say and do as the teddy bears danced away over my sneakers.
I watched those dark, rich like winter evergreen in the shadows with a hint of moist soil eyes, my reflection looking back. As he undid his belt and pushed his pants down, Uncle Mike knelt to me –
He was kneeling to me.
I’d never felt so loved or wanted or important.
So many things I should have said or done.
He returned to my mouth. With his half thrust, I gnashed my teeth and balled fistfuls of his shirt. The next half thrust I screamed, the pain surging up my middle as if I were being ripped in half.
He laughed, which I didn’t like about him. “First time, huh?” he said in my ear, found a rhythm for less than fifteen seconds, withdrew, sliding away. He let out a moan, snuggled into my tank top and then took his feet, wrestling with his pants as he left the room.
I thanked God for Scotchguard, swabbing up my blood and his offering with the teddy bears.
The Christmas card from Uncle Mike was nice, $20.00 enclosed.