Seeing Sparks, Fin


Want to binge read the whole series? No problem. For Part 1, click here. For Part Deux, click here. For Part Trois, click here.

“Where are you going?” Eve yelled as I ran. She was brave. She was also left alone by bullies, probably due to the fact that they’d have to get within smelling range to appropriately intimidate her.

“I, uh, I forgot I told my mom I’d be home right after school today!” I lied as I sprinted toward the crosswalk.

Once I reached the street corner, I pressed the crosswalk button about 400 times in a matter of five seconds. Unfortunately, my fixed attention on said crosswalk button distracted me so I completely failed to notice who was on the other side of the street and about to head my way. Yep. Not one, not two, but all three of my new bullies. And they had not only already spotted me in their territory, but they were already laughing at me.

“Hey Egghead! Did you get lost? Are you running home to Mommy?” They intermittently barked at me between peals of laughter.

Then in perfect fashion, the glowing white walking man suddenly and almost mockingly appeared in the crosswalk box. This was markedly the first of many times that the man I’d longed for so desperately finally showed up – at the entirely wrong time. I didn’t know what to do. I was frozen. Just then, Eve caught up with me and grabbed my arm.

“Just walk. Don’t look at them.” She coached me under her breath.

“Oh look at the lesbian lovers! Eve and Courtney sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G…” They continued taunting us as we met in the middle of the crosswalk. At least I knew we couldn’t be there forever. Eventually the light would turn green, right? Or maybe a semi would magically run the red light and tragically (and hopefully quickly) squash me like a bug? Should I be so lucky.

Because of all of the excitement of the day, my guard was down, so much so that the fancy dodging-bullies footwork I’d honed over the past few hellish months was thrown out the window. Tammy pulled her signature move and stuck one hefty freckled leg out in my direct line of travel, sending me crashing to the ground. One knee, then both, met with the black asphalt, tearing my corduroys and leaving small black granules in my bloodied skin. Next to hit was my chin, which caused a domino reaction, slamming my jaw shut which in turn clamped right down onto my tongue.

I don’t know why and I wish it wasn’t so, but these moments are always in slow motion. It’s like the moments that suck so bad you wish they’d go by super fast tend to go at the pace of molasses. A minute becomes like 800 years. That’s just an estimate, but I think I’m pretty close.

At a slug’s speed, not one, but both packs of cigarettes flew out of my little purse onto the street. This was the defining moment. It would all be worthwhile – the blood, the bruises, the years of therapy to come – if these smokes would’ve incited a fear in my bullies like no other. A trembling. An understanding of how truly psycho the little girl they tormented every day was and the lengths she would go to prove as much.

Tammy, Lisa, and Gina, who were already laughing hysterically, started howling at a decibel which only rivaled Def Leppard.

“Oh my name’s Egghead, I’m a smoker now. I’m so retarded!” The choir of doom sang through their laughter.

“You think you’re tough now? We’ll show you tough tomorrow when we kick your ass!” They bellowed. Perfect, now I had something to look forward to at least.

The light turned green as we piled the intestines of my purse back in its little body. When it couldn’t get any more humiliating, the honking began. Sparks was a cruel city. No pausing for downed weirdos. I prayed they would just put me out of my misery and run me over. Just make it fast. Knowing my luck that would be in slow fucking motion too.

Eve picked up the pieces and got me safely across the street. My knees, chin, and tongue were bleeding, snot was dripping out of my nose and I was sobbing. A car of teenage boys slowed down to stare as they drove by. Through my tears a blurry bumper sticker came into focus which read, “Reno is so close to hell you can see Sparks.”

Seeing Sparks, Part Trois

Not caught up? No problem. For Part 1, click here. For Part Deux, click here. To understand why I switched from French to English in between part 1 and deux, click here to ask my psychiatrist.


New Dad smoked More brand cigarettes. They were long and brown, which I immediately knew was not cool, but it’s hard to score smokes when you’re nine so you work with what you’ve got. By the time I hit middle school, I had the 7-11 note-from-Mom-trick down, but for now, I had to improvise. Starting a new drug certainly has its challenges. On tippy-toes, I lifted a pack from the carton New Dad kept on top of the fridge and headed outside.

One of the best things about this house was the river in the backyard. Well, I called it a river. It was actually an irrigation ditch, but it was chock-full of hiding spots and was alarmingly calming. I positioned myself in a small bank, struck a match, and lit that long, brown cigarette. I held the smoke in my cheeks and blew it out. I did it again. And again. I had no clue what inhaling was or how the whole thing worked, so it seemed like no big deal. Game on.

I put the pack in my little checkered tan and brown purse; due to poverty and youth, it was actually my first purse. I had not only a purse, but smokes in said purse. I walked to school like a badass. Just having them on my person gave me the confidence of Madonna. I wished the stogies were white, but they would do.

The first person I saw was greasy Eve. I pulled her over to the monkey bars and showed her the contents of my purse. She was not surprised.

“Those are gross. Let me get you some Kools after school. They’re minty.” She said, rolling her crusty eyes.

Who knew Eve was so cool? Ends up her parents and sister all smoked Kools. I realized right then and there that Kool cigarette smoke was a large portion of her unique mélange of stink. I now felt like even more of a badass. After all, I hadn’t even smoked an entire cigarette yet and I was already changing brands.

And did Eve ever deliver. She snuck a pack from her mom’s boyfriend’s carton and we found an excellent hiding spot behind a dumpster in her Section 8 apartment complex. I’m sure most kids smoked by nine who lived there so I’m not really sure why we hid at all.

After one hit off that sweet ass Kool I knew I’d found my brand. It was approximately 80,000 times better tasting than New Dad’s nasty ass More. There was just one big hitch in my giddy up, I couldn’t smoke at school! I was an exceptional student. I wasn’t about to get in trouble.

Therein lies the rub. It was time for plan C. Yeah C, as in cancer.

I devised a master plan. Eve and I would go to Sierra Stix after school for fries. I couldn’t take Marie because she’d never understand the smoking and would try to talk me out of it. She was very pragmatic for a 9-year-old.

Sierra Stix was the afterschool hangout for the cool kids, AKA, kids with parents who could give two shits of the whereabouts of their children. Or the luckiest of the lucky, kids with parents that worked swing shift.

They would eat dripping-of-grease brown paper bags of French fries and play video games while rocking out to exceptionally loud music on the juke box. This was a dangerous proposition. I was not only putting myself in the firing line, but was doing so an entire two blocks from school and from the false sense of protection I felt with teachers being within screaming-bloody-murder distance.

Eve and I stood in front of the heavy wooden doors of Sierra Stix. I unzipped my purse and made sure my Kools were showing. My little hand shook as I heaved open the humungous door. The sound of Def Leppard’s “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” poured out into the parking lot and ricocheted off my bones it was so loud. I immediately felt this was a place my cool big sisters would hang out in their tight-ass camel-toe jeans with roach clips holding back their feathered manes, not where plaid cowgirl shirt and blue cords lameass me would be. My Kool induced cool was sucked into a vortex somewhere very far away from me.

I bolted.

Seeing Sparks, Part Deux

One month later, we moved to Sparks. The subtitle of this blog should be “Sparks Is a Gateway Drug” but no one would even know what the fuck Sparks was so it wouldn’t be funny. Sparks sucks so much that it would fuck up my entire blog subtitle. Yeah, that’s how much Sparks sucks.

I really needed a cigarette.

The only thing that didn’t totally suck was the house. I actually liked it. New Dad ripped out the Astroturf immediately and built us a beautiful wooden deck. It felt like a rich person’s house to me because it was so big. I’d only lived in rentals and motels my whole life, so a house was kind of a foreign concept. And Mom had her own studio for her artwork so there were no longer paint cans on the dining room table. Now that I lived in a real house that we owned, I thought I was rich.

The true suckiness began when I was tossed into Agnes Risley right in the middle of the school year. Oh, and I was now the rich kid after I’d always been the poor kid. Talk about confusing. Ends up that hill we lived on was the only middle class area for which the Risley Bears were zoned and the poor asshole kids were none too pleased with the few kids who lived on the hill. Especially new kids who lived on that hill.

No sooner than Mrs. Barnes introduced me to the class did I have the pleasure of meeting three of my future bullies. Tammy was an ugly fat red head with a skin problem. The skin on her nose would slough off in chunks. Probably didn’t help that in between bullying me and babysitting her Ritalin infused younger brother, she obsessively picked at her ugly fat face.

Lisa and Gina were the same age as me, but somehow managed to develop full-on boobs and had BOTH started their periods already. Oh, and they wore make-up. I was still playing with Smurfs and collecting animal figurines. Boobs, periods, and make-up were only things I’d seen on TV.

It’s shocking that I even managed to make two friends. Marie was an equally awkward girl who shared with me her passion for Duran Duran and TV, and Eve was a girl who lived in the Section 8 apartments across the street from the school who had a strong aversion to bathing.

Most days were hell. Due to the overall lack of appropriate supervision, recesses were spent dodging Tammy, Lisa, and Gina. It was exhausting. I still have a negative Pavlovian reaction to recess bells. But this is when I noticed THEM. At the furthest most point from the elementary and middle schools were two sun cracked tennis courts with a large graffiti-covered back wall. This is where the smokers hung out.

They wore denim jackets with Iron Maiden or Pantera album covers painted on the back. They sported mullets back when they were cool. Some of them had dyed hair or tails. For those of you sad enough not to be alive during the 1980’s, a tail was one thin piece of hair that was much longer than the rest of your hair that was frequently braided or dyed.

One plus one was start smoking NOW. I envisioned Tammy approaching me from behind. I would turn around, in slow motion of course, cigarette blazing between my awesome lips.

“Oh hey Courtney,” she’d say as she picked at her ugly face.

“Hey,” I’d say, all gruff and rad.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” she’d say, kind of cowering.

“Been smokin’ my whole life,” I’d say, like Johnny Cash, only cooler.

“Can I try one?” she’d beg.

“Nah. You don’t want to start this nasty habit. It’ll kill you.”

She’d walk away, totally in awe of my coolness. Then, she’d warn Lisa and Gina never to mess with me again lest I go crazy on them with my sheer unpredictable badassedness.

The only thing left to do was actually figure out how to smoke and then be seen doing it. That, and remember my dialogue.


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