Friday, December 9, 2011

Chapter 40: In Which We See Things From Anneʼs Point f View, (Such As It Is)

Because of my crazy-time-consuming project with Fiction Express, I haven't been able to write much about Katie. Luckily, a number of you have volunteered to be pinch-hitters!

First up is Annabelle from Shopping Detox. As Annabelle is no longer filling her days with ill-advised shopping sprees in her effort to live a Frugal Life, she is now able to fill her days with writing. Hooray!

Annabelle has tackled chapter 40 -- she is writing in Katie's sister's voice and I love it I love it I love it! It was such a cool concept and Annabelle did such a great job on it.


My son is Jonah. My husband is Jason. My name is Anne.

You carry a picture around with you, folded so many times that you couldnʼt recognize the faces if you didnʼt know them, if you hadnʼt memorized them. But you have. My husband, Jason. My son, Jonah. You run your thumb over their faces, your hand on the picture in your pocket as you wait in line for breakfast. A ladle full of oatmeal, served unenthusiastically by some bored-looking guy paying off his parking ticket. You donʼt care, itʼs warm and filling. Sticks to your ribs.

You wish for coffee, but there hasnʼt been coffee here in a decade. (Not that you was here a decade ago, but thatʼs what OId Joe told you, back when he was still around.) But there are carafes of tea, strong and hot, warm in your hands in a styrofoam cup.

You get here early, just when they open at 6 a.m. because you have to get to work at 7 and you like to watch the morning show on the wide-screen TV.

Nobody talks to you here. You catch the eye of someone you know - smile and nod. No time for small talk at 6 a.m., not here, where everybody comes but everybody pretends theyʼre not here.

* * *

Chunks of time have been slipping away for so long that youʼre used to it. Keeps things interesting, Dianna said. It does - a few times a day, you forget where you are, why youʼre there, why everyone is yelling at you, why youʼre throwing up.

Throwing up. You threw up every day of your pregnancy with Jonah. They said it was just the first trimester, then the second. By the third, you were still losing weight - Katie rolled her eyes, jealous, like she thought you wanted to be putting your baby at risk, as though you were that vain.

Katie. She looks so different now, grown-up, responsible. She used to be different. You used to be fairies, little girls hiding from the Blitz, building a Barbie city in the basement you wouldnʼt let your parents tidy up.

You were going to be fantastic.

The message - the fairy - is showing up everywhere. A message? Or a mirage?

People are yelling at you again. You run.

* * *

Why am I walking dogs? Itʼs your job. But I hate dogs. You donʼt have to like them to pick up their excrement and let them exercise their legs.

Youʼve always hated dogs. So has your sister, and your mother. Genetic? Nature or nurture? When Otis offered you the job, you laughed at him. Me? Most dogs weigh more than me, theyʼd drag me down the street.

Otis was a friend of Diannaʼs. Dianna had a lot of friends. The house you shared was transient, roommates coming and going so often nobody bothered to claim a room - xcept for you. You craved cleanliness. One of your favourite writers had said every woman should have a room of her own, and you did yours up as nicely as you could. You couldnʼt decorate (what would you use?) but you kept your space tidy, and the others respected it. They should have.

You came home one day to find a stranger lying on your bed - sleeping? Passed out? It was a young man, dark hair, and you thought, Jason? Did you bring Jonah? Whereʼs Jonah?

Of course it wasnʼt him. It was a stranger, reeking of cigarette smoke and body odour, passed out with a can of Pine-Sol next to him. In my bed?

Dianna tried to calm you down, but you were livid. My room! My bed! My things! You havenʼt been back there since. There was a shelter across town where you stay now. They have a curfew, which you despise, but at least you get to sleep in the same bed every night.

Thinking later, youʼre grateful it wasnʼt Jason. You donʼt want to see him here. Why not? Youʼre more yourself than you ever were with him, playing happy wife and mother. Itʼs not because youʼre embarrassed of yourself. You just prefer to keep the two parts of your life separate - before and after. And itʼs hard to keep that division firm when people from before show up in after.

* * *

7 bridesmaids in yellow dresses you know is unflattering but itʼs your day, so they can suck it up. 175 guests at the wedding, mostly work friends, nobody you really know. A make-your-own sundae bar, but youʼre too anxious to eat, later you find out youʼre already pregnant. Honeymoon in Spain, swimming in the ocean, food poisoning, Jason hates spicy food, why did you go there?

* * *

Drinking too much coffee, uncomfortable shoes, painting on lipstick between meetings, skipping meals, Jason mad you went back to work too soon after the baby, not knowing what to do with the baby.
* * *

Otis is your boss now, and your friend. At first, when you met him in the house, he seemed like another one of those do-gooders, missionary types who want to get a taste of “life on the streets,” spend a day or a week there, and never come back again.

“I run a business,” he told you, and your guard is up immediately. Is he a pimp? Youʼve seen enough to know that people would pay money for a body as long as itʼs breathing, no matter if itʼs a middle-aged, grey-haired body with cigarette-stained teeth.

“Dog walking,” he says, and this is when you laugh at him. But heʼs being sincere. He needs more people in the downtown area, “Guaranteed youʼll make more walking dogs in a day than you would panhandling for a week.” You say youʼll try it - show him how wrong he is to put his faith in you.

Every day, you think you wonʼt show up for your assignment, but the force of habit is too strong, drummed into you from a lifetime of never cutting class, being the first to arrive and last to leave at work, and you realize you need this, youʼve missed having a schedule, a routine. On weekends, you canʼt wait for Monday again, for walking, for a reason to get out of bed.

You were going to be fantastic.

There it is again.

You trace your fingers on the words. A coincidence? Or a sign?

* * *

Of course thereʼs the drinking. Things have gotten a lot easier once you stopped struggling, accepted that you needed this, drove into the skid. Most things are easy to put on one side or the other of Before and After - Jason and Jonah are before; Old Joe and Dianna are after. But the drinking has always been there. You partied like everyone else in high school and university and still managed to graduate at the top of your law school class. You got a job with a prestigious firm - Faber-Collinge on Bay Street. You only took three months mat leave when Jonah was born - nothing against babies, but you were still working your way up to partner.

* * *

Jonah, with his chubby cheeks and curly hair.

Jason, the look on his face when you decided to hire a nanny. “If itʼs so important to you, why donʼt  ou leave your job?” you asked him. He didnʼt have an answer even though he was the one who wanted to keep the baby in the first place.

You barely breastfed - you werenʼt producing enough milk. Definitive proof that you werenʼt meant to be a mother. Anyway, it let you get back to drinking sooner - the only way to sleep through the night with a screaming baby in the next room.

* * *

Hereʼs how it works: Otis has given you a territory (like the drug dealers on “The Wire” you thought at the time) - a certain part of downtown Toronto, and the twelve dogs who live there. You smile to yourself as you make your way down King Street West - you used to live here, in a loft. Perfect life, perfect family. Did you ever notice a dogwalker riding the elevator? Probably not. You never noticed anything. And nobody noticed you - at least nothing you didnʼt want them to notice.

* * *

You have apartment keys, like when you were 12 and had a paper route. You know the dogs youʼre supposed to pick up well, you recognize the housekeepers and nannies who let you in and give you the dogs.

Why do people this busy own dogs in the first place? Do they ever see them?

The dogs are often frantic when you come by in the morning, eager for a pee and a run in the park. Today, there is a new dog to pick up at a downtown address. You already have three dogs running along, their leashes braiding together as you make your way down the street. This isnʼt a residential area, must be one of those new developments - where they build apartments in old warehouses or churches.

Art Gallery.

You look at the piece of paper in your right hand (the leashes are in your left), double-checking the address. This is it - does the dog belong to the art gallery owner? You imagine a paint-splattered dog, sleeping in a room filled with art installations. It makes you think of Katie. You were going to be fantastic.

At first you think itʼs your imagination, the woman stepping out of the art gallery with a golden retriever looks like Katie. Of course itʼs not Katie. Sheʼs always hated dogs as much as you do and, even if she had a dog, sheʼd never pay someone else to walk it.

“Hi,” the woman says, smiling. Your heart pounds in your chest. It is Katie. The dogs wrap themselves around your feet like dancers at a maypole. The dog your sister is holding barks happily at the others, like long-lost friends. You sister looks at you, her face smiling, nervous, frightened, and something else.

“I have to go,” you say, stumbling over the dog leashes as you try to leave. “Iʼm late for work.”

“Anne,” your sister calls after you. “Wait! I have to tell you something important!”

You decide!

1) Katie tells Anne that sheʼs the one who has been painting You were going to be
all over the city.

2) Katie tells Anne that she has a new boyfriend who is super-cute.


  1. I like #1. Yay for Annabelle as Anne!

  2. wow, good sh.t Annabelle. i also want 1.

  3. Awesome. Love the point of view. And I vote for 1 as well.

  4. As much as I'd love to spice things up I am going to have to go with #1 as well!

  5. #1 all the way. Different author, different voice -- cool idea. Yeah Anne!