Week Three Wrap Up

We only had one class in week three because of holiday. We learned about the different types of narrators–limited, limited omniscient, and omniscient.

Stan talked about how the narration changes in a story. For example, Catcher in the Rye starts with the young Holden Caulfield speaking directly to the reader. Then it changes. The author steps back and narrates a story. Then it changes again and Holden speaks directly to the reader. It was very interesting. I hadn’t noticed that before or if I did, I didn’t know it was a “narrational contrstruct.”

One thing that struck me was the idea that the narrator and the narrational character are not the same people. The narrator is separate from the character by time.

We talked about several books in class that I’d like to read…if I can find the time: House of Leaves, The Domino Men, and Finnegan’s Wake.

I updated my first draft of the Katie story over the weekend. I changed the title. The story remains much the same except that I changed it from third to first person, which fits with what I’m doing with my other stories I stripped out some cheesy lines and hopefully, didn’t add any new ones. I’ll know when I read it again a week or a month from now.

– – –

Katie

By Greg Halpin

She showed up at the café shortly before closing time. It had been a while since I saw her.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” I said.

“I have to talk to you, Hank.” I hated when conversations started like that. It usually meant trouble. This one probably wasn’t going to be any different.

“I’m pregnant,” she said.

How I worried about hearing the words “I’m pregnant.” When Laura went off the pill without telling me for a few weeks, I was convinced she was trying to trap me. I would be screwed, my life ruined, over if my girlfriend Laura said those words to me. But this wasn’t Laura. It was Katie, a girl who used to work for me at the café.

“You’re a lesbian, Katie,” I said and laughed. “I don’t think your girlfriend Megan has what it takes.” I laughed some more. She didn’t.

“I’m serious.”

“Seriously high is what you are if you think I’m giving you money to buy a forty up the street.” I fired Katie six months earlier because she showed up for work drunk and stoned too many times.

“I’m not high,” Katie said. “I’m not here for a buck for beer.”

“Come on, don’t waste my time or yours. I’m not giving you anymore money. Last time you needed bus fare. Before that you needed gas money–this was after you already wrecked your car–and before that it was to hitch a ride on the Hale-Bopp comet or some shit like that. You need to get cleaned up, Katie. Go back to AA.”

“Hank, I’m pregnant. I’m really fucking pregnant,” she screamed.

Thank God there were no customers, I thought. I would have had to escort Katie out of the café. I would have done it, too, even though I didn’t like the idea. A few times before she made a small scene at the café. I let it slide. I wasn’t going to do that again. Otherwise, she’d never continue doing it.

“Katie, you’re a lesbian. Explain to me how that’s possible.”

“Yeah, I’m a lesbian. A lesbian with a drug problem. I’ve been doing coke and heroin, having sex with anyone who would give me drugs.”

The news shocked me. I knew Katie drank too much and smoked weed. I had no idea she used hard drugs.

“Oh, my God, Katie,” I said. I put my left hand through my hair and turned away from her. I walked a few feet toward the back wall and turned around again, returning to my original spot, shaking my head. “How could you do that to yourself?”

“I know. I feel so fucking disgusting but I couldn’t stop. I was strung out so bad sometimes. I had to to get my fix, no matter what it took.”

I could see Katie’s eyes welling up with tears. A single drop fell from her right eye.

I hated to see women cry. That’s how any women I ever dated got me to do what they wanted without even knowing it. Maybe they did know.

“What are you going to do?” I said.

“That’s why I’m here. I need your help. I really really really need your help. I haven’t told anyone yet, just you. I have to get an abortion. But I don’t have the money.”

I didn’t say anything for a few moments. My mind raced, trying to process it all. It was so far out of my personal experience—drugs, a pregnant lesbian, abortion. I didn’t know what to think. It was too much.

Laura entered my mind. Was Katie a harbinger of things to come? They say bad news comes in threes. My friend Ed knocked up his girlfriend Sarah. Now Katie’s pregnant. I hope Laura isn’t next. Maybe she already is pregnant and hasn’t told me yet. That was my fear of dating Laura–her trapping me by getting pregnant. Was she trying to trap me? Maybe not consciously; unconsciously, very possibly.

“What do you want me to do?” I finally said.

“Give me the money for the abortion.”

“I’m not giving you any money, Katie. You’ll blow it on drugs.”

“You drive me there. I need a ride. You pay when we get there. You won’t have to give me any money.”

“You want me to drive you to . . . to an abortion clinic,” I said, lowering my voice to a whisper on the last two words even though there was no one else around. “Sorry. You came to the wrong guy.”

“You said you were pro-choice. I remember when we talked about politics. You said it a couple times.”

“Well . . yeah, theoretically, I’m pro-choice,” I said. “I’m all for women making whatever choices they want. But I don’t want anything to do with it.”

“You have to drive me. I’ve got no other way to get to Allentown.”

“Allentown! That’s over an hour away. Ask Megan or your family.”

“Megan kicked me out months ago. She’s not talking to me anymore. I can’t ask anyone in my family. Even if I could, they’d say no. You know how they are.”

“What do you have to go to Allentown for? Can’t you get the day after pill at Planned Parenthood?

“No, I can’t take it. I waited too long. Allentown’s the closet place they do abortions. I have to go this week or it will be too late to get one. I have an appointment on Friday. Can you please take me? Please please please, Hank. I’ll go back to AA, clean up, get a job, I’ll do anything you say. But you have to do this for me. I can’t have a baby. I just can’t. I’ve put so much coke up my nose and heroin into my veins. The baby would be all fucked up. I was going to kill myself the other night by overdosing but I worried I’d fuck that up too and end up in the hospital and mother would find out. You’re the only one who can help me.”

“Get the money from the fucking father, Katie.”

“I don’t know who it is. It could be one of twenty guys.”

“Oh, Jesus. Ask them all for money.”

“They’re junkies. They don’t have any. They’re more fucked up than I am.”

“You’re the only normal person I know whose normal.”

“Katie, you can have the baby and give it up for adoption. You could go to rehab and . . .”

“I told you the baby would be all fucked up from the drugs. I don’t have money for an abortion. How could I pay the hospital to have a kid?”

“There are services available, families who will pay for the hospital and other expenses.”

“I’m not doing that. I know those religious freaks. My mom’s one of them.”

“I don’t know about this, Katie. You sure you thought it  through?”

“Yeah, I did. I knew for a while I’m pregnant. I went to Planned Parenthood a week ago and got a pregnancy test. I wanted to get an abortion there but they don’t do them. I don’t want to think about this anymore, Hank. I want to get it over with.”

I looked at Katie for a moment. Two years ago when she first started working for me, Katie was an idealistic, hippie wannabe. She carried her guitar around with her wherever she went. She could pass for a young Joni Mitchell. Katie talked about going to college for music and art. She was young and attractive. Now her hair was tangled up and matted. Her eyes were red. Her hands and nails were filthy. Her scratched up face was sunken in. This girl, who was six years younger than me, looked older than me now.

I didn’t want to get involved with Katie’s problems. I was tired of other people’s problems. I had my own. I wished she’d go away.  I was furious with her. I wanted to tell her she was a fuckup and shake some sense into her. That wouldn’t do any good. It was far too late for that. Katie was right. She couldn’t have a kid. She’d probably kill it with drugs. If I didn’t help Katie, where else would she go? Probably to her dealer to get one last fix and overdoese for real. I had to help her whether I liked it or not. Everyone needs help from time to time. Maybe someday Katie would repay me if I needed help. But that was doubtful.

“I’ll drive you to Allentown and pay for it,” I finally said. “But after that you have to get yourself cleaned up and you are paying me back. Got it?”

“I will. I promise.”

I smiled. I didn’t believe her for a second but I was willing to take a chance.

“One more thing,” I said. “You stink and look terrible. Take a shower and wear some clean clothes Friday morning.”

“I’ve been living in an abandoned house. There’s no water.”

“You can shower at my place. I’ll get you some clothes.”

“Thanks. I swear I’ll pay you back.”

“When was the last time you ate, Katie. You look like an anorexic.”

“Yesterday. Make the day before. I’m not sure.”

“Sit down. I’ll make you a sandwich.

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