"An American In Heaven" is a fun little novel about a college age woman in the afterlife. Specifically in college town set up for young dead people like her who were really looking forward to leaving home for college when they died. The afterlife is like that: they cater to your needs and frustrated desires.
Quite different in style from my Eternal Life non-fiction series, I was looking for a vehicle that would accomodate a more chatty, and maybe even frivolous, style. Kind of chick-lit goes to the afterlife. Plus Melanie just started talking in my head one day. I'd like to see it on tv sometime, maybe even a theatrically released movie. Richard Linklater, what are you up to?
Here's the first two chapters. Let me know what you think.
On With The Show
know that denial thing, that everyone accuses everyone else
of being in, sometimes to their face and sometimes behind
their back, well Ive just finished with mine. Finished
for good. Lets face it, Im dead, as dead any ghost
or gothgirl with a slash job. As dead as any way youve
got of defining it. Oh, you can hide in the endless fun all
you want, burrow in like some kitten under blankets, and be
as comfy and cozy as youd ever want to be, but eventually
you gotta fess up and see it: you and everyone around you
is dead, and this place, whatever it actually is, is happydeadland.
Happydeadland on heavy rotation.
this point, Id been in town for ages, drifting from
party to party whenever, you know, and sleeping it off wherever
I saw a couch that looked soft and empty. Even empty was negotiable.
Just like the old days really, just minus the parents and
the job. No limiting yourself to weekends here. Whats
a weekend? Sixty hours of life between two stretches in the
slammer. No slammers here, natch, except maybe the ones you
make for yourself.
something about fun that makes me wanna slap on a suit and
tie and shout from the rooftops. Shout about freedom and fun
and be listened to. Suits and ties are always listened to.
Teen girls in tank tops and tight jeans never are. Its
like we got nothing to say. Well we got lots to say. Least
I did. Im nineteen not nine, you know?
Motor mouth Melinda: that was grade nine. Major Mel: that was grade twelve. Even dad called me that. When he called me anything. But enough of this character establishing crap. Youll get that as we go along, if thats what you want. On with the show.
hadnt been hanging with anyone special. You dont
really have to do that here, though you get plenty of offers.
Boys missing their mothers if you ask me. But what do I know
Im just a teen girl in tight jeans, right? I dont
know any of that Freudian shit, never did get to college.
But I did have an English teacher who told me my work was
very Freudian. My psycho stories I called em. Very goth
and gloomymoody. Edgar Allen Pop-Goes-The-Weasel. Heroines
in black cape and diapers. Plots of dastardly contrivance.
Boring as shit.
I say, I hadnt been hanging with anyone special, just
a couple of guys off the tit long enough to know they really
missed it. Quite manageable as long as they know a little
sucks comin up soon. Always been one for offering
the boob: found out early on its pacification potential. And
here you can manufacture your own milk in a flash. Amazing
parties, dance clubs, concerts, hangin out, getting
it on, getting it off and getting it together.
The cool rehearsal for the even cooler performance. And Im
perfecting that one, I can tell you. All those girlnerves
are gone. Well just about. I can do Marlene Dietrich at the
Blue Angel, or Audrey Hepburn at Tiffanys, Ingrid Bergman
in Casablanca, not to mention that whole Annie Hall schtick.
Used to be the costumes were a pain, but here, well, you just
plan it out in your mind and bingo, its there. And you
can do the cigarette thing without the cancer problem.
actress that girl, my mother used to say. Kinda envious I
always thought. Bit too strait laced for her own good: got
her a husband with a career and shit, but what else? Such
a boring life. But the trouble with basket cases, Ive
decided, is you cant tell them anything. Theyve
lined that basket with their kind of goodies, so to them it
feels like a picnic, the whole shebang. They cant see
theyre stuck in that basket. Least my mother cant.
Never could. Still cant. I come to her, in the bedroom
at night, and shes like so happy to see me, all huggy
and weepy, and we go through the whole dead daughter routine,
and I say Mom we went through this the last time, the
last ten times, I gotta new life, its fine, its
really fine. And she just smiles and weeps some more.
I tell her its her that shes gotta get a life,
not me, Im doing great. And she looks at me, like you
know, my little girl all grown up and I just wanna puke. Whos
the girl here? Really.
the day, when Im not too busy myself, which isnt
often, I come by and watch her messing about the house, making
work after all the work is done, throwing shit on the floor
so shell have to pick it up again, washing the phones
for gods sake, all until my brothers get home from school.
I stand with my hands on my hips and shout at her, just like
she usta do to me, but she doesnt hear. They never can,
no matter how loud you go. I even slapped her a coupla times,
that was kinda cool, but she just rubbed her cheek like she
was itchy, and went on with the dusting.
times, Ill catch her with the newspaper clipping, staring
and then sobbing. Shit ma, that was years ago. Who cares anymore.
But she does. She wants me back. Back in my locked bedroom
with the piles of clothes and books and papers that she could
never stand. Or understand. That article too, it makes me
puke. All that shit about honors student and most promising
this and that. Nothing about gothgirl with the black lipstick
and the raven fixation. Or the blonde bimbo with the mouth
full of cock. Or scholar girl with the flaxen hair and the
satchel squished tight with books. Nothing about the real
me. Or the real mes, all of them prickly with pride.
Back At The Dorm
at the dorm, I take a dip. The pools just right, always.
I wash the earth off me. The earth with all its anger and
anxieties, pissed off people playing with guns, all that crap
that passes for life. It always feels wonderful, better than
wonderful. What is it about the water here? Its like
warm olive oil smoothly flowing over your skin, and without
any kind of greasy shit youd get at home if you spilled
it. Remind me to ask Brad about that will you? Brad or maybe
showed up at the crash site. Not that I paid the slightest
attention. She told me later. I was wandering about the riverside,
admiring stuff. It looked so lovely and I guess I thought
I was still buzzed. Well, it was more fun than staring at
Eric moaning and bleeding. Side of his head all smashed. Yuck.
I had to walk away. Out in the middle of nearly nowhere, not
a house in sight and my cell at home, hiding under something
That was the first thing that shoulda made me think. Hint #1. Im walkin away, saying to myself, where the fuck is that cell, and suddenly Im at home gazing at the pile of extremely valuable crap I wouldnt let my mother touch. Sweaters, jeans, cloaks and socks and shit. God, it was in there somewhere.
I worried about poor Eric and Im back there at the wreck.
Another car comes by, squeals to a stop and backs up. Just enough action to occupy my frazzled brain. A guy jumps out: hes about fifty, kinda chubby, looked like my math teacher Mr. Frisell, balding at the front, and runs over, right past me, like I wasnt there. Hint # 2. He looks real close at Eric and then at someone next to him slumped over. He shakes his head and takes out his own cell.
watch him make a call. Like the dumb chick that only takes
notes, I stand there as he takes a hanky to Erics head,
dabbing away carefully. I feel my own head: seems okay. Nonplussed
the say the very least, I stumbled off again. A kind of light
footed stumble at that. Floaty almost, as if I wasnt
quite connecting with the ground. Bit like E. The rapids wed
come to look at seemed as lovely as ever, and I crouched there
trying to be so absorbed I wouldnt have to figure out
the exact whereabouts of what I used to call my intelligence.
It didnt work.
in that car bleeding, and Im out here watching the rapids:
what does that tell you girl? That Im the luckiest chick
alive? That Im a selfish bitch who doesnt give
a damn for her best high school buddy? That got me going back
to the car. The Mr. Frisell look alike was still cradling
Eric and holding what looked like an old towel to his temple,
only this time he was seated on a fold out canvas thing, like
as not retrieved form the trunk of his car. Eric sure didnt
have one. I stood real close and apologized. Then I thanked
him for all his kindness. He didnt seem to notice me.
At first that seemed to mean I wasnt worth paying attention
to. Since that was my dads attitude half the time I
wasnt surprised. Then I wondered if he was deaf. There
was deaf girl at school who could only talk if she was close
enough to read your lips. I moved around to stand in front
of him. He stared right through me. Then I got mad told him
to fuck off then, and stomped off.
The ambulance peeled by seconds later, screeched to a stop and backed up, exactly like the Frisell look alike. A guy and a chick flew out and began to do their thing. As they were loading Eric into the back a cop car pulled up. Im not crazy about cops, even if theyre cute, which some of them are, so I hopped into sit with Eric. The ambulance crew disappeared and we were alone. I said Eric, youre pretty fucked up dude, but youre gonna pull through, I know it. I held his hand real tight as I was saying it. We were friends not lovers so this was a stretch. And he like totally disapproved of my love life, so touching was like verboten. He was not gonna be one of those guys I got it on with.