My story continues…
Note: Right now I am digging through all of my mother’s photos of this period of time. She was an avid photographer and I’m looking for the best possible photos that will better accompany my story. Interestingly, she is rarely IN a photo – most of her art was capturing other’s life events. I posted a photo of her on my About Me page if you are curious.
Request: If you are reading this on my Word Press site http://www.SaritaShoemaker.com (look at the URL) I would really appreciate comments. Especially questions.
Chapter 1, Part 2
Better The Devil You Know: I’m Starving
The Cult staffers came and went from the attic once in a while. The ancient door’s knob was replaced by a giant screwdriver and duct tape. It was never open and I assumed it was a large closet. I jostled the screwdriver quietly and pushed.
I crouched to adjust my eyes to the dim slice of light that fell across the floor. It was a small room stacked from the floor to ceiling with legal size manilla folders packed with white tattered paper between 1 and 2 inches fat.
There seemed to be a organized system to the folders with names and numbers progressing upward. I had never seen so many of these folders in one place. This was where I discovered a narrow door that lead to a darkened unused staircase.
Every wooden step creaked as I tip toed downward. This was a servants route and not well kept. The only light came from two windows the size of dinner plates high above my head. The dark green paint was peeling and two landings were missing floorboards. I stayed on the inside edge hugging the banister tightly.
Making it down to the second story I heard voices through the walls. I was now passing the sacred private session rooms and a strict Code of Absolute Silence was enforced. You could hear a pin drop and I held my breath as a step creaked loudly. I waited and counted to 60 all the while expecting a door to swing open. I could hear my stomach growl loudly prodding me onward.
I heard a conversation and stopped again.
A man with a deep voice I recognized was talking. I squeezed my eyes shut to hear better. It was a Session. Completely secret interviews between a Cult Auditor and a Public person. Everything said would be written down verbatim and placed in those legal size folders that were stacked in the attic. You were not allowed to touch your own folder and absolutely forbidden from looking inside of it.
“Go to that incident and tell me what you see”, commanded the deep voice.
“I can’t see much. Just a river and a my gun. It’s hot and I’m not feeling very good” a new voice replied. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman.
“OK. Go to that incident and tell me what you see” Deep Voice repeated.
“I told you, I don’t feel very good.”
“I understand. Go to that incident and tell me what you see” Deep Voice calmly repeated.
“I’m serious, I don’t feel good. I want to stop. I need to go.” This time I could tell it was a woman and she was anxious.
“OK, I got that. We can stop soon enough. Now, about that incident near a river, go to that incident and tell me what you see.”
I decided I didn’t care what happened at the river, so I continued down to the first floor and into the giant kitchen which was only half of my escape plan.
This was a Member’s Only space, off limits if you were not a full fledged employee of The Cult. There was the refrigerator that always had food in it, unlike ours.
The floor was checkered black and white linoleum tiles. There were missing portions that exposed the weathered floorboards and nail holes. The west side had two giant double-pane windows. One was painted shut with a green clay colored sheet nailed at the top as a make-shift curtain and the other required Herculean strength to open and a broken off broom handle keep it that way.
Again, my stomach growled reminding me of my plan to grab a bite to eat.
The refrigerator knocked, pinged then hummed as I approached it. I pulled the Vegas slot machine handle down very slowly to be as quiet as possible waiting for the click. The pressure changed and the light popped on. I peered in the crack and my heart sank when I saw it was empty except for a giant lightbulb in the back. Dang it. I’m so hungry!
I carefully closed the door and it clicked shut.
Next to the refrigerator was the porcelain sink and a long counter with shelves above it, all of them missing the doors. A few plates and bowls sat on the bottom shelf directly above the coffee maker and half filled pot. I noticed the red Foldger’s can and sign taped on it that someone scrawled “Coffee 25 cents per cup, NO IOUs”.
I formulated my new plan and headed to the coffee tin. The plastic top had an opening cut in it that a quarter would easily pass through. I tugged on it slightly to see if it would give. It did and I peeled it back. I didn’t want to move the can for fear of making a sound so I lifted myself up on the counter edge with both arms and peered in. I could see the bottom of the can past the nickels and pennies. Not one quarter. I bit my lip and reached in carefully for the change.
Onward, to find food elsewhere.
It was dusk and I could see and hear lights and cars passing in the distance out the open window. I stuck my head and right leg over the waist high sill bumping the stick and immediately the window began to drop onto my shoulders. I was awkwardly straddling. It was heavier than I thought. I could change my mind and turn around or I could push with all of my might and wedge the handle back in. I chose the latter then jumped the four feet into the bushes and spider webs, crouched down and scoped out my next route. The window stayed open and I planned to return on my same path.
The grounds around the mansion could be a set for a horror movie. A massive dry fountain surrounded by dirt, fallen leaves and dead grass, enormous overgrown trees, 12 foot high hedges, bougainvillea growing out of control across windows and entryways. Thorny bushes creeped all along the ground floor seeping into the four sunken basement entries.
This was a problem because I was barefoot.
With thorns between my toes and in my right heel I dashed across the 100 yards of lawn to the road where I could hear traffic. Straight ahead I could see a corner store just beyond an abandoned parking lot. It was getting dark fast. The lights of the corner store were on. I committed to my cult-law breaking escape and squeezed through the towering hedges on my stomach.
I was very hungry and I had 5 nickels and 2 pennies in my fist. I felt rich.
Dodging cars I raced across the road to the smokey dirty entryway. I pulled with all my might to open the beat up cracked glass door. The overhead bell jingled in a broken melody.
I made it. My first visit to 21st Street Market. Despite the small size of the building there were aisles crammed with food. I had to make some big decisions. Ten Tootsie Rolls and one Zero Bar. I considered stealing some watermelon Pop Rocks but changed my mind feeling remorseful of the criminal that I’d become. That left me 2 cents, which I decided I’d put back in the coffee kitty.
This was my life now. I was a squirrel trying to get a nut, by any means. Five finger discounts became my way to survive.
The bell jingled again as I exited. I used it as a Starting Gun and began counting seconds in my mind to see how long it would take me to make it back to the attic. This time I hung a left at the tall hedge surrounding the perimeter where I’d squeezed through heading to the northwest corner of the property near a dark ally that led to the Carriage House. It was darker and no one could possibly see me. I maneuvered back to the open window and heard talking. I crouched down and hid. My heart raced and I stopped counting seconds. Now I had to focus on getting back into that window sill a foot above my reach. I looked around for something to stand on but could not see, it was too dark.
Time to make a new plan, quick.
I’d passed mom’s car when returning through the staff lot. It was parked in the closest of four spaces and the windows were down. I dashed over to it and opened the passenger door quickly taking a seat putting my feet up on the dash. I would wait for someone to come out and then let them see me exiting the car. Then they would assume I’d been there the whole time.
I sat staring intently toward the front of the mansion where a porch with missing balusters wrapped the entire southwest side. It was pitch black except for the bit of light that spilled from the overhead porch casting shadows onto the narrow walkway leading to the parking lot.
After ten long minutes had passed I saw a figure dash down the stairs quickly moving toward me. It was Marlin, a staff member with a giant fuzzy fro and mustache. He was a Course Supervisor and had a big ego.
He held a large folder under his arm and an unlit smoke in his mouth. His pace slowed as I saw the flicker of light each time he attempted to light up. Finally he was forced to stop and he saw me. I felt a pang and then swallowed deeply sitting up and opening the door.
“What the fuck are you doing out here?” He asked still holding his smoke between his lips. I lied without hesitation, “I was waiting in the car till now.” Walking past him breathing in and secretly enjoying the second hand smoke and catching the scent you get when its first lit.
“You are a fucking trouble maker aren’t you?” It wasn’t a question.
I ignored him and walked slowly to the porch steps staying on the darker edge as I ascended into the brightly lit foyer. The old glass door had been propped open so I slipped in pretending to look at the pamphlets left on display.
There were staff and public milling around talking gaily. No one looked my way and I figured I was safe.
I hadn’t even considered I would be accused of stealing from the coffee tin later that night. At 10:05pm, after Indoctrination was over, I was pulled from to be dealt with and pay for my unproven and unethical behavior.
What do you think so far?