Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Not That Kind of Girl: Dyed

At the beginning of 5th grade, Zena bleaches her hair platinum blonde. By 6th grade no one, least of all Zena herself, remembers the real color of her hair. Not even her hairdresser knows for sure because Zena’s gone solo on her tour of the hair color aisles. By 9th grade, she goes full circle and becomes a platinum blonde once again.

The summer after her sophomore year, Zena’s boyfriend, Richard, graduates, is drafted, and gets shipped off to Viet Nam. On the day the rabbit dies, Richard is creeping through the jungle, trying not to get himself killed. The day the telegram arrives to summon him home for the wedding is one of the best days of his life. He catches a chopper to Da Nang and a plane back to the world, where his blushing bride waits.

Their honeymoon is short—a week in a nearby hotel, where Zena enjoys hot and cold running room service and Richard enjoys hot and cold running water. At the end of the week, a plane ferries Richard back to Da Nang and Zena's parents drive her back to school. Her dark roots get longer and her belly gets wider and time drags on.

In Zena’s 6th month, her water breaks and her baby struggles to be born. Richard does not make it out of the jungle in time for his daughter’s birth. He barely arrives in time for her funeral. On this trip he doesn’t notice the hot food or the hot showers. When his 10 days of emergency leave are up, he drags himself up the metal stairs to the military transport plane. When he turns to wave, Richard hardly recognizes the zebra-headed ghost of a girl sobbing on the tarmac.

Before the end of basketball season, Zena zips herself into her cheerleader uniform and shakes her pompoms. Her new red hair looks great with the blue and gold uniform, but she never does the splits anymore.

16 comments:

Mystic Wing said...

When a piece is this perfect, there's not much to say. Wonderfully arresting vignette.

I sure do want to hear about the master plan for this work; it needs to reach a larger audience at some point in the very near future.

Kim said...

Oh no, that sharp pierce of sadness took me by surprise. But what a wonderful ending: Zena is a great name for that young warrior woman who finds the strength to make it through.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Wow Jerri. This is so good.

Your writing beautifully expresses the sorrow and strength and perseverence of all the young girls you write about.

I think the voice you are writing with is really great too. Someone watching, taking it all down, observing it all. Not missing a thing, forming her own sense of self at the same time.

Love it!

Deb said...

It's amazing to me how you can know so deeply these girls that you are not, and that you can bring their heartbreak so vividly to life.

Stacy said...

I am left breathless, again, by your writing. Mystic is right, I am ready for the collection of essays and a much larger audience is too; I can feel it.

Prema said...

Ditto everyone. I'd really love to read on...and on. Keep it coming. It's somehow wonderful, and perfectly together with the other posts about making aprons and life at your house growing up. Love it all.

kario said...

What a wellspring of stories has opened up in you, Jerri! I'm betting you're having as much fun writing all of these as we are reading them...

Carrie Wilson Link said...

To me, you've found your real "voice" when you write of these other girls. I am GLUED as you weave their story. Can't shake them all day!

Amber said...

Wow. Such a short little story, and you tell us so much. i want to know more.

:)

Jenny Rough said...

I just love these Not That Kind of Girl Pieces.

Go Mama said...

Jerri,
You're on quite a roll with these women. Survivor's all of them....

holly said...

it's so boring to say ditto .. and ..

love the voice in these pieces. This is so succint and SO beuatiful ... i saw sadness coming, but not at all the way it came.

Nancy said...

Six little paragraphs and I know Zena... I know Richard... I know carefree and pain and survival. Wow!

Jess said...

What an intense story, heartbreaking. Not much left to say about it that hasn't been said already...

You are so full of these evocative stories about people, lives...

Terry Whitaker said...

Just want to add my praise along with the others. These stories are beautifully told

Suzy said...

Love the quick but incredible descriptions of these women- right on target. Feels like I know them.