The Diary by Devon Pitlor

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A leather bound diary, written by a strange shrinking girl, grows veins and has a pulse like a beating heart

Submitted: April 21, 2009

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Submitted: April 21, 2009

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THE DIARYby Devon Pitlor
 
I. My Little Pony and my little voice recorder
 
The same year that My Little Pony became a shelf item in my bedroom, my little voice recorder took its place in my little disco purse alongside of my little tampon and my little eye shadow and my little bra, that is, when I decided at school to no longer to wear the latter and stuff it my purse and went high beam down the halls in hopes of lighting up the guys. That was when I took a sudden liking to recording everyone’s voice, often looking for something to use against them in some mean girlish way later. I even decided that the Queer Girl, Emily Brogat, might come of out her shell long enough to say something worth keeping on the memory device. Emily was known for saying off the wall things like "A falling star can crush a cow” and “Dirt makes us cleaner because we need to wash it off.” With a little prompting, Emily could be made to utter the damnest things, things which could be played either in the study hall or on the school bus for a general guffaw.
 
So there she was sitting in her corner of the library during the second half of lunch hour doing what she did best: writing in her massive leather-bound diary, which she routinely snapped shut as soon as someone came within a yard of her table, which few did. Emily was small and stunted and still had an Yggie troll tied to her bookbag. She had squinty, vacant eyes and a faraway look and never seemed to care that we made occasional sport of her. Nor that she was generally ignored.
 
I asked Emily what was new, and she patted the top of her diary. “It all here,” she said, “and someday someone may read it. Rain only falls for so long, then things get dry.”
 
I smiled politely at Emily and glanced at her huge diary. “Must be full of a lot of stuff,” I offered. 
 
“Oh yes,” she said musingly. “Lots of things. Someday you may be surprised. A dead leaf shows its true colors.”
 
“I doubt that,” I said flatly. “I mean about reading it. We'll graduate in a few years, and I’m going to college. Who knows where you are going?” 
 
Emily smiled politely at me and said “I sure don’t, but I know this….” She paused in the mousy way she had always done for years up through the grades. I knew her zinger was coming. I asked her to wait while I took out my memory recording device and stuck it under her chin. She seemed pleased but pensive. Emily had taken a liking to being recorded.
 
“Bubble gum,” she began, “dries harder than cement when you stick it under a desk or even harder when you stick it into a hole in a brick wall. It can cover the hole for a lifetime. Remember that.”
 
They invented some new hand-held game that year and my recorder stick went into the drawer of lost youth.
 
II. My locker mate disappears
 
Emily Brogat became my locker mate at the start of the 10th grade. She brought very little to school. On the shelf above mine, which she could hardly reach, was a crinkled brown lunch bag--the same one she had put her food in since god knows how long. It still had a bad crayon sketch of Hello Kitty on one side and was stained with oil from years of sardine sandwiches or whatever strange food it was that Emily brought. Beside it was the same pencil bag Emily had had since the 5th grade, some horrid zipper thing with Shaun Cassidy's pretty-boy face on the side of it cracked by usage into a sardonic grin. Emily left no books in the locker. She carried all her books around from class to class, and, of course, spent the entire lunch hour writing in her grotesque diary at a corner table of the library, where, against rules, she managed to eat as well.
 
As time passed, and boys came and went, along with dances, games and school events, Emily disappeared totally from my sight. She had no friends, or at least not friends of my stripe and made no presence at school whatsoever. Occasionally, I would pass by her table at the library and ask her something like "How is it going?"
 
Once I remember she said "Like a nail through a brick." I thought briefly of my memory stick, but I had forgotten where I put it.
 
Then one day her table was empty. It took a while after that for other kids from the various grades to start using it because it was widely rumored that Emily had had "cooties" and the table was infected, but one day a group of other kids were sitting around Emily's table and kicking one another’s legs under it. They laughed and screwed around, as we all did, and Emily was forgotten. I noticed maybe two weeks later that the soiled brown lunch bag and the pencil case were missing too. Emily had totally vanished, and I found myself not caring. But I did remember it. I had a selfish reason for that.
 
I wanted to keep it a secret that year because I did not want another locker mate. I had started to smoke pot, and I wanted to keep my stash in a corner of the locker on Emily's old upper shelf out of sight. In my school, they could search our book bags but not our lockers for some legal reason dealing with drug dogs. So now I had the locker to myself. I thought that if I inquired about Emily to any adult, they may assign me a new locker mate, and that would not be cool.
 
At the end of the tenth grade, a rumor circulated that Emily Brogat had suffered from a fatal disease that not only stunted her growth but had made her get smaller and smaller each passing day. By the middle of the eleventh grade the following year, it was well-known by all that Emily had shrunk down to the size of a peanut and had just been discarded by some janitor. It was just one of the many stories that circulated. Another one was that Emily had gone to the "pregnancy school" because she had been raped by a chimpanzee. Everyone knew about the pregnancy school, even though, in retrospect, I doubt there was one. In the pregnancy school, there were no boys, and the teachers gauged the growth of your stomach with a tape measure each day. And you had to pee each morning in a plastic jar without splashing.
 
I still had the same locker, sans locker mate, in the twelfth grade when Jason Cornbloom would not leave my side. Jason tried to rub against me in front of the locker once. It seemed cool and erotic at the time. As the kids passed from class to class, Jason pushed me back into my locker and pressed his body against mine. I could feel his manhood as he told me in a coarse whisper that he was not Jewish and that whatever we were doing was natural. We had done that before in his cousin's car and once behind a hedge near the football field. His approach was always prefaced by an assurance that he was not Jewish. Words of love, soft and tender...etc.
 
But Jason, who was over 6 feet tall, suddenly stopped humping on me when his head entered the top shelf of the locker. He said "What the fuck?" and stopped suddenly. Up there where I could not see it was a book pushed to the shadows at the back of the shelf. I had never noticed it.
 
Jason reached up and took it down. It was dark and leathery. "Queer Emily's old diary," Jason said quizzically. "She must have left it for you when she shrank up and disappeared."
 
I took the diary and threw it into my book pile at the bottom of the locker and pushed Jason away. The 6th period bell had already rung. We were both late for class. No locker sex that day.
 
III. Emily's diary
 
There was a fire drill the next day followed by a snow storm followed by a student suicide of a 9th grader followed by a big drug bust in the tenth grade hall followed by the news that twenty guys had gang-banged Elizabeth Cainlone behind the gym bleachers followed by the unexpected announcement of an unscheduled dance that night. Getting swept up in events, I tossed my books and other odd paraphernalia into the bottom of my locker, and Emily's diary must have crawled to the very bottom of the pile and out of my sight, where it remained until the tearful day that we seniors had to clean out our lockers for the last time. With a permanent marker on the locker door I composed a stupid little message for the next student who would take my place there. I drew a teardrop beside the message. It was something about how much fun I had had at DHS and how I would miss the place. With real tears in my eyes, I pushed the garbage in my locker into a huge plastic bag and threw it in the trunk of Mom's car. All the parents came to get their graduating seniors that day. Tears flowed like rivers in the parking lot. Our ceremony was finished, and we would never see one another again, even though we faithfully vowed that we would. Jason Cornbloom kissed me deep in the mouth and held me to his body. He put his tongue on my neck and in my ear and whispered that he was not Jewish and that we should do it one last time that night. By that time, we had been doing it quite often, and I had been treated many times to his melodious come-on of "I'm not Jewish." Fact is, we did do it that night, and for some reason I forget or just don't want to write about, it was the last time. Jason went off somewhere and no doubt found some other girl to tell he was not Jewish. The romance of high school was over. 
 
Suddenly like that.
 
IV. My mother's verdict
 
Spring break brought both me and my senior year roommate, Kyle, back to town. Kyle had a family close to here, so he went to stay with them. I, in turn, went to see my family. It was the cold sort of a spring that made one long for white sand beaches, but Kyle and I had decided on a more sensible vaction with our respective families.
 
My mother was still packing. She had been packing since Christmas. Boxes were everywhere. She sorted languidly through piles of garments that everyone knew no longer would fit her. My father's possessions were at the other side of the room, and they looked---characteristically---neater. The divorce had been messy, but the outcome was that since they both worked, the house had to be sold and the money divided.
 
My mother lit a bent cigarette in the corner of her mouth and asked me to sit down. "Angela, you need to take all your stuff back to your apartment," she said matter-of-factly. "The buyer is taking possession next week." She gestured unflatteringly at my father's things. "Ed's crap has to go too, and mine as well. Suppose his bimbo will come by sometime in her hot-ass truck and get it all. The lazy bastard always gets some broad to do his work for him. But your stuff..."
 
"I know, Mom. I'll put it in the car this afternoon. Kyle won't mind. Our apartment is bare anyway."
 
Kyle was a business major and would graduate at the same time as I. His uncle had already offered him a huge position in the family business with a starting six-figure salary. His family made cookies. Not as famous as Amos cookies, but famous nonetheless. I would not have to try to barter my useless art degree for a job. The avenue of housewifery yawned before me. Kyle said he wanted children right away after graduation. I too began to like the idea of children. Kyle was "pretty" everyone said, pretty in a manly way. I was pretty too. We would make pretty children, or at least that is what I told myself. I went up to my old room with a few boxes. First, I would get stoned. Then I would sleep. Then I would pack. My mother continued her slow routine below. In a week the house would be home to new people. I didn't much care. Pleasantly buzzed, I stretched across my old bed for the last time and listened to the irregular beat of an early spring hailstorm. Pellets of ice were driving out the old to make room for the new. It was time for the new.
 
V. Kyle
 
Once back in Graniteville at the University, Kyle put a huge calendar on the wall of our tiny apartment, which was now choked by boxes of my belongings brought from home. The calendar displayed a picture of small snug cabin surrounded by snow. The cabin had smoke coming from its chimney and was, paradoxically, tied all around with a red ribbon. Who, I wondered, would tie a big ribbon around a cabin? There were also friendly-looking rabbits and squirrels running around outside with huge, glowing eyes, wide with happiness about something hidden within the cabin. Animals aren't that way, I thought. They really don't give a fuck.
 
The purpose of the calendar was to cross off the days between the last weeks of school and graduation. Kyle crossed off today. We had already lived most of today, so he could cross it off. At the end of tomorrow, he would cross off tomorrow, and so on. Then our life would begin--up in Sagetown near the cookie factory or cookie farm or whatever it was. Life was going to be sweet. Kyle was pretty; I was pretty...etcetera and etcetera. Pretty was joining pretty. The axis of the earth was intact.
 
Sitting on the side of our bed, Kyle showed me a start up check from his parents, who were also partners in the cookie farm. He waved it like a scented charm under my nose as if the $75,000 had a certain aphrodisiac odor to it that I was supposed to smell. "Down payment for a house," he grinned. "More will be coming soon. We need to get our finances in order. Finances are very important." Again he wafted the aphrodisiac check under my nose. It was brocaded in a lacy design and had a picture of another tidy house on it. That was the design his parents had chosen for their checks. They liked tidy houses. 
 
Then with greater passion than most times before, Kyle bedded me, the check lying at my side. During the process, I wondered briefly whether we might get it stained with whatever and make it non-negotiable. We did not. It had floated under the bed by the time we were finished.
 
VI. The tidy house
 
It was empty because it was new. There were no old memories here. Just the scent of fresh wood and tile. In some places there were little piles of sawdust that needed to be swept up, markers, Kyle remarked, that the house was new. "Leave them for a while. They give the place a new feeling,"he said.
 
My boxes hardly took up any space at all in the private study which would also serve as my studio. "For your...uh...artwork" said Kyle carelessly. When the furniture trucks arrived, the first room furnished was the nursery. Now it was my job to furnish it completely. I was dutifully working on that. Rather than my artwork.
 
At the wedding, Kyle's uncle had placed a money tree near the cake. Part of the ritual was for us to pluck $100 bills from it. Then we did a money dance. The protocol here involved people stuffing money into our clothes as we danced by. I did not know the dance steps, but I faked them. Each of Kyle's numerous relatives stuffed money somewhere into my gown. Kyle's uncle was so emboldened as to stuff a wad into my cleavage and get a quick feel of my breast as he did it. Kyle's tuxedo was also bulging with banknotes. After it all quieted down following our honeymoon in Bermuda, Kyle reminisced and called the wedding "sensual." Money was always sensual to Kyle. He liked it very much. Money, I mean.
 
Little by little over the next weeks, the tidy house---which was actually cavernous and still bare in places despite the multiple deliveries of furniture and furnishings---began to fill up with "stuff," our stuff. Our future had begun. It was like a big door opening onto an immense and daunting vista of some promised candyland where I began to feel lost and left out but said nothing. The little mounds of sawdust disappeared thanks to the maid service, and one day I felt compelled to unpack my boxes and put things on shelves and in cabinets. We had lots of those.
 
VII. I unpack finally
 
Kyle was off doing cookie business.
 
I opened the boxes. Things exploded forth like bound elements from a past life separating and exuding the stored energy of memories. My Little Pony dropped out and fell to the floor. So did a pastel lunch box, a carton full of plastic bead necklaces, some Barbie coloring books, an algebra textbook, stolen from school, inscribed with a message from Jason Cornbloom. "I'm not Jewish..." the message began. It ended with "I love you. I want you." signed Jason Cornbloom. Poor Jason, I thought. Too bad everyone had always thought he was Jewish. It must have been his name. I thought of my own name Angela...Angela Cornbloom....no, he was right. That would have never done. I would have had to proclaim my non-Jewishness for the rest of my life. It was better to be Mrs. Cookie King or whoever I was now. Angela Cornbloom would have spoiled the recipe of happiness. Angela Cornbloom would have gone to bed every night with a husband who came on to her with "I'm not Jewish." 
 
More molecules of the past separated as things emerged from the boxes, more spent energy. I was only 23, but a lifetime was in those boxes, a lifetime that I was meant to forget.
 
Then I dug deeper and felt it before I saw it. It was cold and lizard-like. It felt gnarled, hardened, unforgiving and leathery. I knew suddenly what it was before I even dislodged it from its hiding place in the clutter of my pre-Kyle past, a past which, according to Kyle, should not have even existed because, as he so often said, our life was beginning now.  
 
Emily Brogat's diary. She had written in it faithfully each day from about the fifth grade until her disappearance. The odd girl who shrank into nothingness, I thought. Discarded like a tiny peanut left over from a lunchtime snack. Her diary, left behind, while Emily, whom everyone ignored, had been taken elsewhere. "Leaves show off their true colors when they are dead." She had so many weird quotes and was so outlandishly strange herself. What on earth was I doing with her huge, leather-bound diary? I held it in my hands for a few minutes gazing blankly at it trying to recall Emily. It was hard. She was just someone's idea of a joke. A joke of a person, I mused. But then two funny things happened. First, I noted that the massive volume had a very sturdy-looking lock on it. It was not a cheap book with a strap that could be broken. It was bound in metal fittings, and the band which held it together was of some tough metallic fabric. I tugged at the strap to see if I could break it open and...
 
Well, here comes the unbelievable part. The part that I would not tell Kyle because Kyle liked only believable things. The diary pulsated. Each time I tried to tear it open, the leather would cringe and move, and the diary would emit a beat like a living heart, as if within it was the life that Emily never had. Again and again, I tried to rip the horrid thing open, and each time the leather would shift like the skin of a live animal and the whole book would pulsate wildly. I dropped it in terror to the floor, and right before my eyes, the brown leather covering grew veins. Big bulging veins which coursed across the sides of the book as if they were on the muscular arms of an overworked stevedore. I watched in horror as the gnarly veins spread. I picked up the book and set it on a dresser. The pulsating had stopped. 
 
If Emily had left me the diary, she must have left me the key. I searched through the remainder of my boxes in vain, examining each and every trivial item from my past. There was no key, but I was wildly tossing my mementos hither and thither until my study was a mess. That would never please Kyle. Ignoring the leathery volume, I mechanically set about placing my possessions into proper places on shelves and hangers. I tried to forget the diary. I concentrated on the goal of neatness, things in their proper station in a house so worthy of order as mine.
 
Certainly the lifelike movements of the book were simply chimeras of my imagination. So much had happened so fast. Parent's divorce. College. Marriage. New House. I was having a breakdown. Yes, that was it. Too much excitement all at once. A logical explanation. I convinced myself that a breakdown had to be the only answer, but my conviction only stuck for a few minutes until the reality of the pulsating diary again rose to forefront of my awareness. I needed to forget, to concentrate hard on being a good wife and eventual mother. Screw the diary and its wicked veins.
 
I had the magical book of the Girl Who Shrank to Nothingness, but so what? It wasn't mine to read anyway. Why should I pry into it? I opened an "after-dinner" beer, as Kyle termed them, and sat down in the late afternoon sunshine of my art study and stared at the diary. It did not move. The desire to read what Emily had been writing all those years surfaced and re-surfaced in my head. I began swimming in the dark waters of memory. What was it she had said about me one day reading the diary? God, that was too long ago to remember. What did all her quirky statements add up to? A code? A message? Why had I even bothered with a girl who had disappeared? And how could someone disappear like that? I was a college graduate now, and I had no need to believe such nonsense. People do not shrivel up and vanish. That was just crackpot teen talk.
 
Then I noticed it. The old memory stick. The recording device my father had bought me once on a whim. Did it run on a battery? Was the battery still good? I grabbed it off the top of my desk, forgetting even how it operated. Fumbling with the tiny buttons, I heard a crackling sound from deep within. Another tiny dial made the crackle louder. Emily's voice from over ten years in the past. Metallic and streaked with static, the voice spoke to me there alone in my study in the bold sunlight with Kyle away in Cookie Land. 
 
“Bubble gum dries harder than cement when you stick it under a desk or even harder when you stick it into a hole in a brick wall. It can cover the hole for a lifetime. Remember that.”
 
The memory stick then fell silent, giving up the last molecule of its bound energy. No amount of button poking would ever revive it again.
 
But the message rang in my ear. “Bubble gum dries harder than cement when you stick it under a desk or even harder when you stick it into a hole in a brick wall. It can cover the hole for a lifetime. Remember that.”
 
 
VIII. The bubble gum wall
 
At Thoreston Middle School, where I had attended the eighth grade, there was an abandoned stone wall in the back of the playground where everyone stuck their gum. The gum dried there and for some reason was overlooked by the custodians and never removed.  All the kids did it. Had Emily? Was that was the shriveling girl was talking about? I needed to see. In my mind I foresaw exactly what happened the next day. I saw everything like a vision before it ever occurred. I approached the wall, a full grown adult on a playing field intended for children, and walked straight to the place where we deposited our wads of gum. Amidst the hundreds of calcified wads sticking against the wall, there was one which called my name. No, rather it was leathery brown. No, it had an E scratched into it. No, it had a smiley face etched across it. Who knows how I knew which one it was? I was in a daze, a cloud, a mist from the past. With a screwdriver, I pried the gum loose. Behind it was a hole and in the hole was a yellow, shiny key. I knew at once it would happen that way, and it did. I saw it all alone in my study. Kyle was off doing cookie things. I parked the car on the side street. I avoided the glance of suspicious-looking adults and went straight to wall.
 
And I brought back the key.
 
The next day it all happened precisely that way. I knew it would.
 
IX. Kyle's two questions
 
Sitting down to dinner that night, Kyle asked me the same two questions he had asked every night since we had moved into the new house. "How was your day today?" and "Do you feel pregnant?"
 
And, as usual, Kyle did not wait for an answer to the first one. As far as Kyle was concerned, my day was just as lovely in its privileged idleness as had been all the days before. For the second, he cocked an eye briefly to learn that I did not "feel" pregnant nor was I. When I felt pregnant, I would tell him. It was, as usual, clear that he was not satisfied. Too many days had passed, and I had yet to become anything close to feeling pregnant because, in effect, I wasn't, and Kyle knew it and was starting to resent it. I should have been feeling pregnant months ago. That was Kyle's answer to parenthood. You make love and the woman feels pregnant and suddenly there is a baby in the house. Unlike the cookie business and its enormous successes of late, this part of the golden pathway was not leading in the right direction.
 
But today was different. I finally had something of my own. A key and a living book, within which was concealed the still beating heart of a girl that had shrunk into atoms and vanished. That was my secret, my past, something that Kyle didn't know and wouldn't know. I felt liberated suddenly because of my secret and my key. I felt like a new breeze was blowing through the huge house, one that Kyle could not feel but one which gave me a solid frame around the fuzzy portrait of my life. Kyle would rifle through some papers tonight, make some satisfied mention of his growing accounts, make some satisfied and snorting passion over the top of me, go to sleep satisfied, wake up satisfied and drive off to Cookie Land in total contentment, and I...
 
I would open Emily's diary. Tomorrow. Alone. I would discover its secrets. And I would never tell Kyle.
 
And knowing that, I too became less fearful, less strangled by my life and more satisfied.
 
Bedtime came, a bridge until tomorrow.
 
X. Emily's diary
 
The stark morning sun broke through the lace curtains of my study. It was the worst kind of illumination for the painting I was supposed to be doing there, but its brightness was perfect for looking at a gnarled leather volume with veins and a pulse. The key burned in my hand. It fit perfectly into the oversized lock, and the diary did not make a stir. The key clicked almost melodically as the lock sprang open. First page, graying and brown, dated January 1, 1997. "Here begins the Diary of Emily Cheswick Brogat, student at Thoreston Middle School" Her scratchy signature followed. Emily would have been twelve, as I was, when the diary was launched. The next pages were written in the neat handwriting of a young girl. Some were decorated with hearts and flowers. Other had bad drawings of Hello Kitty and even a few of My Little Pony. But the words were pure Emily. They said nothing, or at least nothing I could understand.
 
"Green is growth. Brown is death. But dark green is the passage."
 
"A mouse can lift an anvil if it has the heart and faith to do it."
 
"We are thin balloons filled with dirty water, and someday we all burst."
 
Page after page of pithy platitudes like these and not a word about Emily herself, her "disease," her life, her observations of real things and real people. I scanned twenty or so pages for meaning. Then I came to one entry. "Angela P. of the Cindy G. team talked to me today."
 
I had been Angela P. And Cindy G., Cindy Gresham, had once been the leader of the clique I belonged to for a fleeting part of the eighth grade. Emily had noticed that I had spoken with her. I read beyond my name only to find more meaningless observations like "Even an oiled hinge creaks when you open the the wrong door." Then again my name. "Angela P. spoke to me again today." Apparently I was the only one Emily ever had anything to say something about. Perhaps I was the only one who had ever spoken to her in an anything close to a normal way.
 
Expecting more indecipherable remarks about things in general, I turned to the next page only to find it written in a slightly different hand. Emily never dated any of the pages of her diary, so it was impossible to tell how old she was when her penmanship suddenly became more mature or at least different. But her style was now different too.
 
On the next page she began "Dear Diary: " That was a start back toward normalcy. I read on not fully understanding the entry until it shocked me so much that once again my eyes bleached over and I dropped the book to the floor whereupon it snapped shut and locked automatically, making an almost sentient groan.
 
XI. An exact transcription of Emily's first comprehensible entry
 
A fat, jolly insurance man visited our house today. Kyle was there when he arrived. It was Kyle who called him. We sat around the kitchen table, and the agent pulled out a ream of papers. He laughed at me and said "At your age, Missy, you are quite insurable, and the premium for $700,000 worth of term life is next to negligible." Kyle interjected that we had enough money, so let's bump it up to one million. The man smiled and said that would take two policies, but because of our incomes we could well afford the premiums. He had made a note of our earnings, or rather Kyle's earnings from his uncle's business. A million dollar life insurance policy on me was not out of the question. In fact, he said, we could go much higher, and Kyle wanted to. Kyle told me the rest would be "boring" and said I could "go paint" while he finalized the details. I signed a permission slip or something and left the room. Kyle continued to transact with the agent. I went to my study and thought about unpacking the boxes but decided to smoke a joint and sleep a little. The day was getting late.
 
Although I had never written those words in that handwriting on that moldy page, the incident was recorded exactly as it had happened about two weeks previously. The agent had come, and Kyle had taken out a huge life insurance policy on me and one on himself because he knew I was going to be pregnant soon, and, if anything ever happened to me, he wanted sufficient funds as a precaution to take care of the promised baby. It seemed reasonable and prudent like everything Kyle did, so I paid little attention.
 
Boldly and with resolve, I picked up the diary, unlocked it again, and paged forward. My name and Kyle's were interspersed throughout the daily entries which followed. I read about how the diary pulsated and grew ugly veins when I tried to rip it open. I scanned the part concerning the bubblegum wall and the key. I read about myself today reading the diary. Then I pushed many pages forward, always scanning with the intention of carefully reading later. A woman named Sophia from Bulgaria started popping up everywhere. She was beautiful "more beautiful than I am,""I" wrote. "I" hated her. She was always with Kyle, helping with cookie matters of some sort. Sophia suddenly became pregnant. I did not. More pages forward. More scanning. I was sick every day and the doctors (plural) could find no reason. Kyle felt it came from my pot smoking habit, and he wanted me to go to rehab. My pot smoking was no more extreme that his had been, and I was not a daily user. Kyle was making more of this "habit" than it merited. He was doing it on purpose. Sophia was visibly pregnant now. I felt it was Kyle's child. Kyle had cheated on me with Sophia. They had taken a company retreat vacation together. They had been seeing each other after work. Sophia was a chemist. A Bulgarian chemist. That started to bother me. But the writing was growing faint and hard to read. I was sure that I was dying, and some doctor confirmed it. I had a rare disease without a name. I wrote that it must have been a "Bulgarian disease." At last, I was too weak to leave my bed. Kyle was gone all day and night. Sophia had the baby. It was beautiful. Standing before my eyes, dim in my diminished vision, Kyle admitted to me that it was indeed his baby. The baby's gender was never specified. Thus, it remained an it.His and Sophia's it. I was dying. I was too weak to protest. I was too weak to ask whether Kyle's baby was a boy or a girl. I was too frail to do anything but lie in bed and moan. 
 
Then another passage that gripped my heart with a steel fist:
 
I know now that Kyle and Sophia have been poisoning me. I can't prove a thing. She must be a gypsy of some sort. The doctors say I am just withering away, disappearing like Emily Brogat did. One said outright that I do not have long to live. I am attached to a machine in my bedroom. They didn't tell me what kind of machine it is, but only that it keeps me alive. Kyle comes and goes. Sophia is often at his side. All of Kyle's family is sad for Kyle. They accept that Sophia is a comfort to him. They accept that he has acknowledged his child. I don't have long to go they say. We are going to plan a funeral. My parents have been here, each one of them separately, and they have cried. That is all I can remember. I drift in and out of consciousness. This will be my last entry, Dear Diary, I have no more strength to write.
 
This was followed on the mildewed page by a final comment in Emily's old handwriting, something I had heard before.
 
"A falling star can crush a cow."
 
The pages which followed were blank.
 
Written so long ago, Emily had foretold my own future in "my" own words. "Perhaps someday you will be surprised to read it," she had said. I remembered that in a gray burst of forgotten memory.
 
XII. Conclusion
 
That night at dinner, I felt strangely recovered from the shock and anguish of reading the diary of Emily Brogat. The thought of the little stunted classmate from so long ago and the idea that somehow she had sent me a message from the past had been assimilated into my character now and made me stronger. It seemed all at once to me that this would have been a natural thing for her to do. It was mid-summer, and the late afternoon sun was taking a long bow.
 
Uncharacteristically, I asked Kyle how his day had gone before he got to ask me the same question. Then I said, “We need to go at it again, dude. I’m still not pregnant.” Kyle hated it when I called him dude now. He was Mr. Cookie, and he usually wore both his tie and jacket to the dinner table to prove it. His jaw dropped slightly. He seemed at a loss for words. My abruptly jocular approach shook him, just as I had intended it to. A bar of sudden sunlight breaking through the tropical room window made his eyes turn green and somewhat reptilian.
 
I pressed on, saying again with a certain boldness, “Your job…how is it going? What’s new? I mean in the cookie world.” 
 
“Well,” he began slightly taken aback, “we’ve hired a new chemist to revise the recipes….a European…a Miss Prodanov. She seems very talented.”
 
“Miss Prodanov. How interesting. What is her first name?”
 
Kyle eyes widened, and he cocked his head sideways as if to ascertain that it was still me. “Her first name? I believe it is Sophia. Yes, in fact, that is it. Sophia Prodanov. She is a graduate of the University of Plovdiv…”
 
“In Bulgaria,” I asserted.
 
“I think so. Yes, Bulgaria. Bulgaria...yes, Bulgaria.” Kyle was starting to stammer. 
 
I stood up and took a pan off the stove and set it down on the counter. Then, still standing, I eyed Kyle sitting before his empty plates and beside his stack of to-be examined accounts.
 
“Did you know,” I began, “that I went to school in Darbymore, just a little south of here, about eight miles away?”
 
“You’ve mentioned it,” Kyle said distracted. We both grew up in the same county and never knew one another.”
 
“When I went to school there was a girl that was stunted from birth, and all the kids avoided her. She spent the whole day at school writing in her diary. She had a disease that made her bones get smaller, and it was said she shrank a little each day. We used to share the same locker. She was tiny by that time, but still I made her use the top shelf which she couldn’t reach easily. I was mean back then. I didn't care. One day she disappeared. All the kids said she shrank into a tiny shell of a thing, like a peanut, and was thrown out with the trash.”
 
“You were mean to her?” asked Kyle barely interested. “Well, all kids are mean. Don’t worry about it. You have a good life now. Think about the family we are going to have. Maybe you’re not getting pregnant because you’re not thinking enough about it. The mind triggers the other organs to do their thing, they say.”
 
“Yes, I was mean once,” I agreed solemnly. “I regret it now. I owe that girl a lot.”
 
“Where’s dinner?” interrupted Kyle.
 
“I said I owed that girl a lot.”
 
“And I said where’s dinner?”
 
“Kyle", I continued, "we have two cars. The Saab and the Hummer. Which do you like best?”
 
“The Saab said Kyle. The Hummer is too big. Where’s dinner?”
 
“Around somewhere,” I continued. “You can look for it in a minute.”
 
I walked into the alcove and took the Saab keys from the rack where they hung. I already had a packed suitcase in the front hall, something Kyle had not noticed coming in through the patio. I threw the suitcase in the Saab. By this time Kyle was staring at me on the front landing. Incredulity vaguely clouded his eyes. His mouth was hanging open at a strange angle as I drove off.
 
I hit the interstate with no idea of whether I was going east or west or north or south, and it didn’t matter. In the suitcase next to me on the seat, was Emily’s diary. In my jeans pocket was the yellow key. There were blank pages yet to be filled, and I knew that I would one day see them. Emily had scribbled away right up until the day she vanished. There would be a lot more to read. In the fading sunlight, my last ever image of Kyle was right where I wanted it: in the rearview mirror of the car he liked best. And I was driving. Away.
 
___________________________
 
Devon Pitlor, March 2009
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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