I'm doing an experiment in changing the point of view and the verb tenses of a book I'm working on. My hope is the post a chapter here each week. If anyone cares to follow along, I'd appreciate it. If you came in the middle of the process, all you have to do is look at previous blogs to catch up.
This story "Far from Magnolia Drive" is based in part on personal memories, though it has been fictionalized in order to give it more readability, I hope.
You can find me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
in the Dark – 1994
The moon was barely peeping through the East Texas piney
woods as Mary Anna Evans walked on her dark country road. Stalking along the grassy shoulder, she rubbed
at the tears streaming from her eyes.
My first big mistake was asking God for
patience, she thought. He sent
our son Jay fourteen years ago, and I’m still trying to
learn to be patient.
Today Jay stormed into the house after
school screaming, “I hate the school bus!”
happened?” she asked as calmly as she could.
“They kicked me off the school bus for standing while it was moving.”
“But why? Doesn’t your driver know where you get off?”
“She was a sub,” he moaned. “I was only
trying to tell her where my stop was,
and she gave me a ticket.”
can’t ride the bus for a week, and you have to talk to the school principal.”
the first time Jay had trouble at school.
He had Tourette’s and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. If things got out of his view of what the
world should be, he exploded like this.
She stared at
him, lost for words. What am I
supposed to do, God? she thought. When
Jay gets like this, there’s no stopping the outburst.
wait for any reply, storming into his bedroom and slamming the door. She had learned the hard way over the years
not to open that door. He always needed
time to calm before he could focus on anything.
God, why are you doing this to me? she cried to the empty night as she
Can’t you ever give me a break? And what about Jay? Why does he
have so many difficulties in school? Rick and I try so hard to help him, but
nothing seems to work.
the silence of the night replied.
she dashed away more tears, she wondered if he inherited this from
her. She, too, was
overly emotional sometimes. Her husband
Rick often said, “You’re just as bad as he is, Mary Anna.” He was probably right.
cold wind rushed into her face as she turned the corner onto their
rural road. She’d already
walked a mile in this unseasonable chill for a Texas November. Taking a walk was the only thing to do when
tempers were boiling over in their house.
If only there was somewhere she could run. She didn’t really want to go home right now.
knew Rick tried, but sometimes he felt as caring as a porcupine. Get
too close and the quills would get you. They’d tried many times over the years to
come to grips with how to raise Jay, but seldom agreed. He wanted to use tough love, but she feared
this would fuel their son’s frustrations and lack of self-confidence.
tried counseling with their minister, but he was one of those
conservatives who equated self-confidence with pride. In her mind they weren’t
the same at all.
Maybe he and Rick are right though.
Perhaps I am too
lenient with Jay. I
just don’t know she
sighed into the chill dark sky.
Life with Jay
was like a constant walk on T-Rex eggs. One
wrong step, and a ferocious creature rose up and raged. His jerking tics often caused painful muscle
spasms, and his involuntary noises made people wonder if he was crazy.
Who wouldn’t have a short temper, if
they had to live with this all the time?
Jay tries to cope as best he can, and he wants so much to be ‘normal’
like his peers. Again, her heart was asking, God why?
The tics and facial grimaces began when
he was small. They tried neurologists,
counselors, and medications. Moving
around for Rick’s job hadn’t helped, either.
There hadn’t been enough consistency, for either Jay or her.
since they married, Rick had worked for an oil company, so they’d been
following the oil fields of the Overthrust Belt. Jay was born in Wyoming, a brown-eyed boy
with her dark coloring. Daughter Amy was
born in Montana. She was her blond,
blue-eyed baby, taking after Rick. Like
him, though, her hair darkened to golden brown with the years.
Leaving Montana was hard for Rick. He loved the mountains close-by and the
wide-open spaces. She’d grown up in East
Texas, though, so was hoping they could get more settled there, especially now
that the kids are getting into their turbulent teens.
moon was now above the treetops. Nearly
full. If only something or
someone would shed more light into my life.
the past couple of years, they’d moved among many small
Texas towns like gypsies, following the oil explorers. So often she wished they were closer to a
city like San Antonio or Dallas, where there would be resources to help with
Jay. But driving two hours, plus
traffic, was too great a cost to join a Tourette’s support group. And the good counselors were just as far away. There had been days when she thought about
packing herself and Jay off to Dallas so she could take him to a good
neurologist or counselor, maybe even trying to live there on their own. But I’m too much of a coward to do
something as bold as that, she thought.
Talking to Rick helped a little. Like most men, he tried to fix
everything. But she didn’t need that as
much as someone to listen. Someone to
share her burdens.
year, it was as though her life had drained into a hot desert.
Where is the living water you promised, God?
diagnosis for Jay’s problems was a relief at first, but Jay hated
going to the neurologist almost as much as he hated taking
his medication. Sometimes the meds seemed
to help, but he still had a lot of tics and jerky movements. His short-fused temper was the worst part.
Soon she was
approaching their driveway. The wind was
picking up and there was nowhere else to go, so she walked slowly toward the
front door. An owl hooted in the
distance. Off in the neighbor’s woods a
couple of coyotes began howling and yipping.
Were they talking to the moon, too?
She glanced up at the silvery orb
suspended above their front yard. “If
only you would answer me,” she said aloud.
reply was the owl.
concrete steps to their little front porch, she took hold of the door
handle. The hinges creaked as she pushed
it open. Then she could hear the loud,
throbbing music coming through Jay’s bedroom door.
finally came back, Mary Anna,” said her husband’s voice from the family
room. He was watching TV as usual. Since
he used her full name, she could tell he was mad.
could I go?” she grumbled.
new thoughts?” he asked.
She made no
reply to his sarcasm. Instead, she walked
carpeted hallway to her daughter’s bedroom.
As expected, eleven-year-old
Amy was sprawled on her bed doing homework.
Every night was the same. Three
hours or more. I know she’s trying
her best, but she isn’t a fast reader, she sighed to herself. This year, her teachers are really piling on
the work. Probably because she has a
different one for each subject, instead of one general classroom teacher. None of them seem to pay attention to how
much homework the others are giving.
But she didn’t tell Amy this, fearing
it would only increase her frustration.
She seated herself
on a desk chair next to the bed.
“Anything I can help with?”
Amy looked up
and shrugged. “No, Mom. Thanks, but I’m almost finished. Maybe tomorrow we can take turns reading my English
smiled. “I like reading with you.”
eyes shone into hers. Some days she was
so tired and drained from dealing with Jay that she had nothing left for Amy. This bothered me, but she was trying to do
Later, lying sleepless in bed, she
listened to Rick snoring softly. The
sound didn’t really bother her. She was just
envious that he was asleep. Her mind was
whirling around, trying to pray, but her thoughts kept wandering.
Turning onto her right side, produced an
“Sorry, Tiglet,” she whispered. “Didn’t know you were there.”
The tiger-striped cat they’d been given
last year curled up between her knees and arms, in the hollow made by lying on her
side. They had always been cat people,
so after Rick’s first cat Tiger died, all of them longed to have another
brown-striped cat. Since this one was a
kitten, the name Tiglet came naturally. He
felt warm and cuddly, and the sound of his purring began to relax her. Still the thoughts kept flowing:
when they first noticed Jay squinting his eyes and blinking a lot in
kindergarten. Sometimes his mouth
twitched, too. When they took him to the
eye doctor, they learned he did need glasses, but glasses didn’t stop the blinking. When they asked the pediatrician about it, she
said he’d outgrow it.
next thing that came along was the constant throat clearing, with clicking
sounds interrupting his speech. About
this time, she saw a feature on Tourette’s on one of those news shows, probably
Sixty Minutes. That’s when she began to wonder, but no one else noticed. Maybe I’m being paranoid, she told herself
at the time.
Next they took Jay to an Ear, Nose, and
Throat doctor, who said his noises weren’t caused by allergies, and maybe he
was becoming a stutterer. This turned
out to be another dead end. She decided
God was making her work too hard at learning patience.
How she wished she could go to sleep, to
keep these thoughts from carrying her away.
They just wouldn’t stop tonight--like a dam had burst in her mind, with
all kinds of old suppressed feelings flooding out. She kept petting the cat, and he purred. But her mind reeled on:
grade, Jay’s vocal noises were a disruption in class. The teacher sent him to the school counselor,
who suggested getting a full psychological evaluation. The nearest child psychologist was over sixty
miles away. Though their health
insurance didn’t pay for any of this, they went through with it, wanting to
help Jay as much as they could.
psychologist’s long session with Jay, he sent them to a neurologist. When were they going to get any answers? The neurologist did a battery of tests, too,
including an EEG. They had to drive over
an hour to the doctor’s office for each test. Jay was deathly afraid of needles, and by the
end, he didn’t like doctors either.
After all that, the neurologist said Jay probably had Tourette’s
If only they’d explained beforehand
that there’s no definitive test for Tourette’s, but all they can do is rule out
every other possibility. What an
ordeal! she sighed. I’m not sure who it was harder on, Jay, or Rick and
me. I still hadn’t learned enough
patience apparently, for this was only the beginning. The neurologist said we had to wait a year
before trying any medication. I guess
they were waiting to see if anything else showed up.
She knew she’d been hoping for some
miracle drug that would make things all better.
But there never was one for Jay.
Denial set in,
especially on Jay’s part. He wouldn’t
even let them use the word Tourette’s around him. She and Rick had to meet with
his teachers every year to explain Jay’s condition, to let them know that Jay
wasn’t being intentionally bad.
There are so many misconceptions about
Tourette’s. It was barely even mentioned
in the psychology courses I took for my teaching certificate. She mouthed these words to the cat.
Still stroking Tiglet’s head behind the
ears, where he liked it best, she mumbled aloud, “I wish I was a cat. My life would be so much simpler—just eat and
Almost as though he heard her, Tiglet
put a paw on her hand.
At this point in her life, she felt a
desperate need to get all these scattered memories collected into some kind of
order. Maybe it was a symptom of aging,
this need to look back, to try to convince herself that life had been
Right now, the memories bounced around
in her mind like popcorn flying out of a pan with the lid off. Somehow, she must corral them, maybe try to
put them on a string, like the popcorn garlands they used to make for the
Christmas tree, when Amy and Jay were young.