I tell Brandy about my stepmom saying nothing good happens after midnight, which was the stupidest,
most Mom Phrase thing I’d ever heard, and it’s insulting since she’s not my mom and saying stupid shit
like that just makes it obvious she doesn’t know what she’s even doing and I’m not sure why dad thinks
she can be trusted to raise a hamster, let alone a 16-year-old human. Then Brandy says her actual mom
tells her exactly the same thing and I’m like, “Whatever. Of course she does.”

We’re sitting in Brandy’s car in the south parking lot where we can watch the junior varsity football
squad run drills because Brandy has the hots for the guy who just moved here from Brinkley, so this is
how we spend our afternoons now. It’s kind of lame but also whatever, because if I wasn’t here I’d be
home unloading the dishwasher or cleaning the cat box or some shit that’s supposed to make me
appreciate the value of hard work.

“So do you think there is an actual handbook?” Brandy laughed. “What if there really is a person at the
hospital who spends their day handing out books full of bullshit advice to every woman who pushes a
kid out to make sure they all say the same stupid shit to their kids?”

I snort laugh and curse when I spill cherry cola on my sweater. “No, that’s not it,” I disagree. “Because
Ellen isn’t my mom and hasn’t had kids so where would she get the book?” But for a second I wonder if
it’s possible dad just never cleaned out mom’s side of the dresser and maybe there is a book or a
pamphlet or something stashed in her underwear drawer with that copy of The Joy of Sex they don’t
know I know about?

“They’re done, let’s go!”

Brandy rolls another layer of gloss across her thin lips before she jumps out of the car because
Seventeen says boys like full lips but not everyone is lucky enough to have them. Accentuate the positive
and disguise your flaws Brandy tells me but I don’t bother because I don’t show up on boys’ radar
anyway so it’s more of a she has a great personality situation for me and that’s why I hate Rom-Coms.

The Brinkley boy lopes over to say hello the way boys do because Brandy is the only girl in town who
drives a muscle car. Her mom and dad wanted to buy her a car that had good gas mileage and a high
safety rating like a Nissan Sentra or some shit that grandmas drive to the bingo hall. But the Firebird cost
less than the spring break trip to Durango that Brandy’s sister got for graduation, so they finally caved.
They had her name painted in gold under the driver’s side window so while she rolls down the window
to talk to football team at Sonic after the game you can almost hear her name bouncing around inside
their freshly-showered, concussed heads before they say “Hey.”

My actual mom used to say if you hang around with a barber long enough you’ll end up with a haircut
and I always rolled my eyes and acted like I knew what she meant and thought it was lame but really I
didn’t know what the hell she was talking about and anyway girls don’t go to barbers so whatever, I
guess.

6 Comments

  1. sara lippmann

    OH oh Laurie, This is fantastic! Wow! I am in love with this voice. (The voice is so so good that I think you could even pare back on a “lame” or “whatever” as it’s already there, we hear her, not all of them, but once we hear it we hear it.) Such a great example of reclaiming cliche/idiom — my favorite is the last one (which I’ll get to in a minute) but it’s the voice so alive and funny that’s got me like — i love the details throughout are so spot on, and filtered through this narrator’s sensibility, the fantasy book of bullshit (damn i wish i had one)

    I laughed out loud : it’s more of a she has a great personality situation for me and that’s why I hate Rom-Coms.

    Brandy’s name bouncing around their concussed heads!

    And of course the title! In the car with Brandy — structurally, I love a flash that exist inside a space like this — it’s both claustrophobic and full of verve, and so the framework, the voice, almost all the beats are here. It’s all already working phenomenally. Now, I would just encourage you to think WHY this moment as opposed to all the other moments sitting in the car with Brandy, what shifts or is about to shift, what kind of conflict/tension might you push forth in this moment — is there more subtext/is she telling Brandy the whole story, what else is going on — the internal/external play is excellent, and I like all her deflections and denials as we know she doth protest too much. There’s a lot more at stake.

    I think it has a lot to do with mom’s warning if you hang around with a barber long enough you’ll end up with a haircut — and I love your use of dramatic irony — the narrator can’t access it, she misses the meaning, but we can — and yet, I’d love to have it attach a bit more to an action at hand, if that makes sense. Who’s the barber? (Right now I feel like it’s bad influence Brandy, but I do wonder if it is something else….)

    I cannot wait to see what you do with it, and where it lands! Let me know. And thanks for all your great work!

  2. Patricia Bidar

    This kid! I love hearing from the girl in the observer role. Always worthwhile to see what she sees. I especuially loved:

    “They had her name painted in gold under the driver’s side window so while she rolls down the window
    to talk to football team at Sonic after the game you can almost hear her name bouncing around inside
    their freshly-showered, concussed heads before they say ‘Hey.'”
    and
    “My actual mom used to say if you hang around with a barber long enough you’ll end up with a haircut…” In fact, I love this line so much I think you should end with it. And to have it reverberate back strongly, so the reader sees — as the MC does not — that this indeed is what will come to pass.

  3. Trent

    Laurie,
    this has some great pacing and even though it might not have been intended with the short micro lines and white space,
    they add some pop.

    I like the speculation about a “handbook” – and the level of detail is so excellent!
    Love the name drops – south parking lot, muscle cars.
    Cool!

  4. Suzanne van de Velde

    Oh Laurie – this is sharp and jagged and I really feel for this girl, her fury has nowhere to go, but it could end up somewhere scary fast, especially with the company she’s keeping. What kind of parents paint their daughter’s name in gold on her car door? It’s like a hooker’s door backstage. Same ones who will be stunned when she tells them she’s pregnant.

    But not all parents are the same. I love how well you use these clichés to show us just how she’s hurting from the physical loss of her mother and the seeming new indifference of her father. This line — it’s possible dad just never cleaned out mom’s side of the dresser – really laid me out flat.

    As to Sara’s question about why right here, in this parking lot, I was wondering if it could be that she’s allowed Brandy to finally talk her into a double date Brinkley’s teammate, something we can see can hardly fail to be a disaster.

    Thanks for this!

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