Tag Archives: novel excerpt

Excerpt: AH HERE WE GO — This Is Your Life Now, Rosalie Des Pres

I didn’t go on the trip.

It wasn’t my week.

It wasn’t my time.

Bad news comes in sixes. I could easily expound upon this massively unhappy reality, the giving tree of crappy luck which shed a ton of toxic leaves in my front yard.

Lousy events. Skin cancer, Crohn’s, a lawsuit or two.

A divorce about as acidic and excoriating as anyone else’s. Yale rejected me and I chose no safety school. My mother left me for an ashram in Coal Pit, Missouri.

This, in no order of chronological import.

​Not the nicest things. But manageable. Some testing of my tolerance and gumption, sure, but nothing so jagged or lethal.

​The what-doesn’t-kill-us bullshit.

​The makes-us-stronger claptrap.

​My husband, or I should say my former husband, Lars Drukker, was not a conventional mensch. Eye contact with other eyes was not his métier. Lars preferred lenses and viewfinders and big sexy Hasselblad cameras and generally chose objects over humans. Lars taught darkroom technique at two community colleges and curated for our dopey town’s shockingly world-class photography museum.

They held a Lars retrospective a year after the crash. Beautiful silver gelatin prints of chicken skin, large scale, the best things Lars ever did. Another series, less successful, of nipped cuticles and callus filings. He went trolling for skin at Vietnamese nail parlors. Carried a small dustpan and brush, baggies for his harvests. Lars never procured enough dead epidermis.

The work of Lars: everything beautifully lit, glowing, luxurious. And this obsession of his, nubbins of flesh, frequently waterlogged and juicy with ridges and pores, or dry as ash, this boundless topography of skin — a mountain range here, a slot canyon there, dunes of dead cells — made for a posthumous show of profound bad taste. In my opinion, and for obvious reasons. But no one asked me. One ex-wife does not next-of-kin make.

He did take wonderful portraits of Araminta, the child otherwise known as Minty, and of Max, whose given name, never used, was Maxine. Those, I gave permission for. What was I going to say, No? They’re mine and you’re not taking them? They took up a different wall, cattycorner from the skin. In a group with shots of their stepmother and their half sister, a baby, who was found intact.

​Lars dumped me three years ago for Helen Smith. Helen Smith, Dentist Chick, that was my name for her and to this day, when I think of her, which is less and less often but still regular as forks in the silverware drawer, in the candle I light for her every anniversary with all the others, 78 candles blazing on my dining room table, she is still Helen Smith, Dentist Chick.

They met at the annual F-Stop Fundraiser. I’d been there, mopping up spilled Negroni, and when I knelt to dry the floor I smelled the Febreeze on my unwashed Spanx. Two little kids, a job, a house, a husband — I didn’t have time for my personal laundry.

Helen herself had been dumped previously. Despite this common ground of marital loss and humiliation, she and I never bonded. The second Mrs. Drukker.

Lars always called me the Reluctant Mrs. Drukker. I deferred our wedding for years. I don’t recall his proposal, actually. I just remember saying Not Yet. It was good for a while. Then it wasn’t. I knew he wasn’t happy with me, repelled and ensconced in what my therapist called Ick Factor, just as I did everything possible to avoid intimate contact with him. Anything to keep real conversation out of the room. As for body to body, eye to eye, palm to palm in the marital bed at 2AM, such touch was nonexistent.

​I got my kindness elsewhere.

And of course, my kids. They kept me very, very busy. I playgrouped, crafted, volunteered, baked. Wholesome, organic, devoid of bad was every crumb of goodness. I was farm friendly before it was popular. Whipped up toddler-friendly Shepherd’s Pies in the muffin pan, bowlfuls of fresh Oobleck weekly for the eager plump hands of Max and Minty. I even made my own calendula soap. Tincture of goldenseal. A diaper rash unguent I’d beat to a froth at night in my kitchen alone, Lars asleep or clicking through jpgs of coeds in leotards. I didn’t really care what he did. That’s what I said. I kept things going. I had it no other way.

Excerpt: AH HERE WE GO — Tehachapi Loop

Timothy Bowles. Age 47, Tehachapi CA.

When you see the name of an almost lover on the manifest of an airplane crash on CNN.com, you suck in air.

In Joan’s case, it was a hexagon of Krab in a supermarket salad which smacked her epiglottis when she gasped, hard, during a late lunch break. She’d heard about the Snowqualmie Air crash on NPR en route to work. And then, this afternoon, the map of the route ending near Point Mugu, eyewitnesses, passenger list.

Joan always scanned such lists.  She read obits. She read legal notices and the Pennysaver and cereal boxes.  Joan was never not reading. This was her method of anxiety management.

So, Timmy Bowles, there you are.  47, Tehachapi.  Hello. Why were you flying to Portland? And alone. How did you afford a vacation in what, Cabo? I thought that for you it was Paris or nothing.  And look at this.

An ending that is royally not good. That is what happened to you.

Damn.  Tim Freaking Bowles. She tossed the food, sat still, put her head in her hands for a moment because she thought it appropriate, then called her college roommate, to whom she told everything, even though said college roommate was presently drenched day and night with Courvoisier.

Remember that schmuck in Tehachapi? That lying sack of shit with the photographic memory of Pound and Lowell? The guy who reeled off The Waste Land on my voicemail, while no doubt shopping solo for marital groceries, when it was safe to communicate with the women he told he was single?  Oh, let’s not forget the long aerobic walks in the dead of night in the foothills of Tehachapi. That’s when he’d call me. Huffing and panting on his trusty Walmart throw-and-go phone.

Yeah, said her roommate, slurring per usual.  I remember.  Wow.  He is really, like, dead?

© Anne Isaaks, 2012. All rights reserved.

Tehachapi Loop, a railroad marvel, Tehachapi CA

Excerpt: AH HERE WE GO

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays.

‘Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust—

Ruin is formal—Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow—
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping—is Crash’s law.

Emily Dickinson


The last time they sat still on the earth.

Ground crew jumpsuited, swathed in ear protection–muffs that I now know are called Mouse Ears, and why did they choose Cabo and not Disney why oh why oh why — and a glaze of forehead sweat. The last level ground they trod on. They shared the tarmac with jumpsuits orange blue and white, name tags sewn on (Pablo, Javier) and the alpine logo of Snowqualmie Air.  The jumpsuits dragged away the staircase they shuffled up step by step, a long line of boarding. Seventy-two pairs of feet, a total of 148 individual metatarsals. A slow conga up the stairs. Sunburned, in some heads of hair a slight crunch of sand. The carry-ons, the magazines, the breakable souvenirs, the children hoisted or held by the hand. The jumpsuits felt hunger, their meal break delayed. These men were not union, which is how this happened, the loss of lunch. They, on the other hand, boarded well fed, bloated with the salt of a fajita-and-margarita diet. Camarones, sweet rolls from the hotel panaderia.  Vacation, vacances, vacaciones. Waistbands biting into bellies, gym time anticipated. Courtesy and patience as their shoes touched each riser. More a ladder than a stairway.

Don’t you dare say, To Heaven.

The hatch on the cabin door locked with suction.

The pilots’ sunglasses, polarized, buffed with lens cleaner and a square chamois with pinked edges.

Settling, arranging, clicking.

We have all boarded planes.  We leave on jet planes and always think we know precisely when we’ll be back again.  We worry about turbulence, wind shear, box cutters, pulmonary emboli, delays, jihad.  We strap in and buckle up.  We know the bustle, the sounds, hint of coffee, metal rumbles in the galley.

They were mine; how did this happen, the loss of children?

© Anne Isaaks, 2011. All rights reserved.