Way back in 2010, I tried National Novel Writing Month for the first time, and it was great. I wrote 2/3 of what would become Misfit Academy. This year, when a colleague decided to do NanoWriMo , I decided to try again, thinking I would finish The Lizard King Club. I didn’t count on the research I would need to do on certain prominent members of the 27 club. Well, seeing as how it’s November 17, and I only have 4,200 of the 50,000 words written, I don’t think I will “win” this year, unless of course I develop severe insomnia or get fired.
The good news is that I have written one chapter for each main character in The Lizard King Club, a novel about reincarnating 27 club members. So, without further adieu, I will share “Janis” with you. I hope you enjoy it and want to read more.
“Jason, get me some panties from her drawer,” Whitney’s mom yelled to her step-dad from the bathroom while Whitney sat on the toilet crying with her bloody underwear around her ankles.
“What are you crying for, Whit? You’re becoming a woman!” Delia rolled her eyes and chuckled.
Jason paused the football game on the TV. Whitney could feel the floor move as her step-dad got up from his chair in the living room and walked past the bathroom door to the other side of their mobile home to Whitney’s room.
Delia reached up and rubbed the tears from Whitney’s face with her hand. Whitney turned her face toward the wall and pushed her mom’s hand away. Her mom always reeked of cigarettes, as their whole trailer did. Both Delia and Jason were heavy smokers, and Whitney hated that. Once she moved out, she would live in a real house and she would never be around people who smoked ever again. She was going to be a librarian and have a nice house with a garden. She wasn’t going to marry some dirt bag loser like Jason. He didn’t even have a job most of the time. She had it all planned out.
“Don’t be sassy with me girl! I’m tryin’ to help you! You’re not too old to get a whoopin’!” Whitney’s mom yelled at her and stepped back from her to open the window in the bathroom.
Whitney could not believe that her mom actually worked with small children all day. She was a “teacher” in the 3 year-old room at Little Miss Muffet’s day care. Whitney was pretty sure that her mom only took the job because it was right outside their trailer park. She could walk there and smoke the whole way. Delia usually left the rusted out Mercury Mariner for Jason, hoping he would use it to go on job interviews. He was an electrician, but never wanted to work after he was layed off when they stopped building so many houses in South Florida.
Jason knocked on the door, and Whitney could smell the beer and cigarettes through the crack by the door knob, since the door was right next to the toilet. “OK. They’re on the knob. Can I finish watching the game now?” He didn’t wait for an answer. He stomped back to the living room and pressed play on the remote. The trailer seemed to bounce with every step.
Whitney was starting to sweat, partly from the stress of starting her period in church, and partly because in the South Florida sun, their small metal home was difficult to keep cool in the summer. It was still hot even though it was 8:00 at night.
Delia opened the door enough to grab the underwear from the knob. She handed them to Whitney along with an Always pad. “Let me know if you need help,” She said and then opened the door again and walked out quickly.
Whitney put up her middle finger to the door. She hated how her mom treated her like a baby, and also how she always threatened to beat her. When she had kids some day, if she had kids, she would never hit them, and she wouldn’t treat them like they were stupid either. It had been so humiliating to have her mom in the bathroom with her. She texted her from the toilet when she saw the blood because she was upset, and she needed a pad and new underwear. Whitney had not expected the woman to come into the bathroom with her. Gross! That is like child abuse or something.
Whitney got dressed and washed her hands. She splashed some cold water on her face and on the back of her neck. She felt sick, probably because the cramps were starting now. Whitney had heard about menstrual cramps from the girls at school, but this was her first time actually feeling them. Now, she understood why her friend Stephanie smoked pot. Supposedly that worked for cramps.
After Whitney dried her hands, leaving her face and neck to air dry, she opened the small, mirrored medicine cabinet above the sink. She was looking for Advil, Motrin, or Tylenol. That is what the girls at school always took in the bathroom for cramps. Since you need a special note to take pills at school, and you have to visit the nurse’s office, most girls just took pills in the bathroom, cupping their hands and using the water out of the sinks. No one wanted to raise their hands and ask the teacher if they could go to the office and take medicine for cramps. That was super humiliating.
“Shit!” Whitney said, realizing there was no Motrin, Advil, Tylenol, or even Aleve. “Are these people never in pain?” Her mom and step-dad spent all of their money on cigarettes and Budweiser. They couldn’t be troubled to buy some Advil. There was Robitussin, Nyquil, Sudafed, and something called Hydrocodone that had her grandmother’s name on the bottle, which had been behind the Nyquil. She didn’t want to go to sleep, so she pushed the Nyquil aside, even though there was Tylenol in it. Whitney knew that Sudafed and Robitussin wouldn’t do diddly for cramps. She only took them when she had a cold or needed to study for a big test. So, she picked up the Hydrocodone bottle and read the label. “Take 1 or 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours for pain,” it said. Well, Whitney’s cramps were pretty bad, and the girls in school usually took 2 pills, so she put 2 Hyrdrodones in her mouth, turned on the water, and cupped her hands under the faucet. The pills had a bitter taste to them, which made Whitney swallow them dry. They felt like they were stuck in her throat. She swallowed the water in her hand, and then bent down and drank directly from the faucet. After until she felt like she would puke, the pills finally went down.
Delia knocked on the door, and Whitney jumped. “You OK in there, baby?” Delia asked. “I hear a lot of water running.”
Whitney turned off the water, and yelled at the door, “I’m fine! Just washing my face.” She rolled her eyes. Didn’t this woman have anything better to do other than listen for water running? It’s not like they even had a water bill here. That was included in their rent. Whitney knew this because Jason had told her to use all the water she wants since it’s free, but he bitched about lights being left on and keeping the fridge door open for more than like 10 seconds.
“Don’t be sassy with me, girl! I thought you were trying to wash those panties. Just throw them away. I’m goin’ to Walmart later. I can get you more.” Delia walked away from the door, toward her and Jason’s room, closing the door behind her.
Whitney dried her hands again, and rolled her eyes. Her mom bought everything from Walmart, which was also within walking distance. One time, a few months ago, when Jason had the car, Delia had walked home with a Walmart cart. It was still parked in back of their trailer, full of garbage bags. Jason used it to take their trash to the dumpster in the middle of the trailer park.
Whitney put her ruined panties in the bathroom garbage, and opened the door. She walked quickly to her room, and closed the door. She put her old toy box with the chalkboard lid, which now served as her closet, in front of the door. None of the doors in the trailer had locks, except for the front door. Jason walked in on her while she was changing once, and that really creeped Whitney out. He didn’t even apologize. Jason had just stood there and said, “Don’t worry. You ain’t got nothin’ I ain’t seen before.” That’s when she started blocking the door.
Whitney turned on the clock radio in her room and flipped through the stations. She wasn’t in the mood for rap. She heard that in school all of the time. Whitney also didn’t feel like listening to metal. She kind of had a headache, and felt nauseous from the taste of those pills. She stopped flipping through the stations when she heard Janis Joplin’s voice singing “Cry Baby.” Whitney had never heard the song, but recognized Janis’s rough voice because her grandma Jane used to listen to her records when Whitney visited her. They never saw Whitney’s favorite grandma anymore since Whitney’s mom and dad were divorced. Delia called grandma Jane “that old bitch who spat out your father.” Whitney started singing along with Janis, even though she had never heard the song. She felt at peace with the world, and she was still humming the tune when she curled up on her bed and fell asleep.