what should have happened

by lizzie & isaiah on September 6, 2011 · 13 comments

This shared story is the result of a personal, creative nonfiction project because you can’t be a writer without writing. 

Mini-keish dotted the table in a gradient from left to right. The bacon and gorgonzola flavors were close together on the far left side. It was clear they were the favorites. My stomach churned just looking at them and I tasted the keish and stomach acid mixture that still lined the inside of my mouth. I stopped counting after 15. My 9-year-old system just couldn’t take that much egg.

My favorite dress had a splash of throw up on the maroon lace trim. I could hardly see it anymore, but I couldn’t stop looking for it.

My dad was hobnobbing with his clients and I had a small stack of embroidered or handmade gifts from the older ones who thought I considered them another set of grandparents.

Mom was grabbing platters of more keish and crab-stuffed mushrooms to fill the hors d’oeuvre table. Dad’s holiday parties were always a hit.

Christmas lights reflected off the window and added more light in the main room, but my favorite room was the screened patio where the floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments for the clients to take home with them.

The night dimmed down and mom took the CD binder by its handle and walked us to the car. The three of us rode home together while I watched the unidentifiable shapes on the side of the road and tried to guess what was underneath the mounds of snow:  mailbox, tree, playground. The living room was filled with presents I would open in two days – some the next morning when my mom would cave and say, just pick one and not the big one. The candle-shaped window lights in my bedroom would distract me from sleep while I read a Nancy Drew novel under my comforter with a flashlight.

That’s what would have happened if we all left together.

Instead, my dad stayed behind to mingle over a glass of wine (or half-a-bottle of vodka) with clients that wanted to have a good time. Instead, I got carried, asleep, to my mom’s passenger seat and awoke when we were miles from home in my flannel nightgown – the one with the ruffled collar. My mom was crying and squeezing my hand while steering through the slushy snow that wasn’t so magical anymore.

Red and blue reflected on the white snow that was left and my dad’s SUV was parked on the center median where three police cars surrounded it.

The only officer I saw held my dad’s head and guided it gently into the back of his police car. I didn’t hear anything. Everything I saw was silently acted out with a haunting soundtrack of an instrumental version of “Carol of the Bells.” My mom always loved instrumental Christmas music.

I sat in the car, confused. I never cry until I have a reason.


run-ins with the police: part one

by lizzie & isaiah on May 26, 2011 · 9 comments

Remember when I told you I was rebellious? Maybe you wouldn’t guess by the way I geek out hard over aggressively cute stuffed animals or maybe I’m more transparent than I think, but I’ve had a couple of brief run-ins with the po-po. In really…the most innocent of ways, but run-ins nonetheless. While it’s not the highlight of my becoming, I believe in nothing more than I believe in sharing human experience honestly. Plus I got three tickets in the last 24 hours for the same sticker being out…so I’m feeling like throwing a watermelon at the next bike cop I see.

Part One:

What could you possibly have worth protecting in a McDonald’s that needs a 12ft-high chain-link fence to guard? The streets were getting a little darker the further we drove. It reminded me of the scenes from horror films – I was running down a hospital hallway and the lights were shutting off, chasing me, only I was chasing them. I was always a glutton for adventure and danger.

I parked on the street a half-block away from the bungalow and re-read the house number to be sure – although I didn’t have to, thumping techno led my way.

Something about the way I saw things that night felt very cinematic, like a camera panning fluidly down the block, up the small stairway to the porch and into a house filled with kids my age and younger. I might have been the oldest at 17, save Kate, who knew the host.

We put our Smirnoff Ices in the fridge and started off on a couple of warm ones and scanned the room. Kate rushed toward a guy about our age and jumped into a hug, where he caught her and kept a straight face.

People got younger and younger from room to room. I saw a glimpse through a cracked door of a couple of 15-16 year olds using a guest bedroom; I saw cocaine for the first time in my life. I might have been a rebel, but only relatively. I went to a small, uptight Christian school from preschool through senior year – I had just graduated. I was about as rebellious as they get there:  I was suspended from school double-digit number of times, I smoked, I drank.

This party wasn’t the place for me. I didn’t belong. The youngest of the partygoers might have been 12. That was my cue:  Back to the car. Kate was concerned that I left, but she had already been drinking so I offered to be designated driver and take a nap in my car until she was ready to leave. I don’t know how long I was asleep.

Tap-tap-tap. Someone was knocking in my dreams. Tap-tap-tap. “Turn off that light,” I mumbled, then sat straight up, fully awake. A flashlight so bright it felt like daytime was shining through my driver’s side window. “Oh, my God.”

I tried to roll down my window, but the car was off. I only had 1/2 of one mixed drink at the party and left about an hour and a half earlier, maybe he wouldn’t know? Am I guilty by association for being this close to the party? Would he believe me if I told him I hardly drank anything and I learned my lesson?

“Ma’am, step out of the vehicle and put your hands on top of the car.” No, he wouldn’t believe me. His voice was harsh and he had had enough of teenagers for a while. He wasn’t in a forgiving mood. The deep-set and visible wrinkle above his brow told me so.

“Shit.” I got out of the car and turned my back to him. I could see other sirens now and there were police standing at ease around the house’s perimeter. They didn’t have their guns drawn – these are just drunk teenagers we’re talking about here, but they were there and ready.

“Don’t open the door,” I could hear someone screaming from inside. “We’re fine, officers, thank you. We’ll turn down our music.” I never checked the house party laws in Chicago, but I’m pretty sure they can’t just enter your residence because they think there are underage kids drinking in there. None of that mattered in a moment though. While the officer patted my sides, the air got very still. I could hear my mom’s voice, distorted in my head. I was done for.

“What’s your name, young lady?” The officers on the lawn took another step toward the house in a way that left me half-expecting a cymbal rhythm to begin in the background while they snapped their fingers and took coordinating steps forward.

Young lady.



“Yep.” I was shaking. I didn’t have an exit strategy. The police took another step forward. But I made a good decision tonight, I pleaded with God, yeah, I had one drink, should I really get caught for walking away? How is that fair?

God had nothing to do with the way I got out of it. I’m positive it wasn’t the way out He provided.

“Lisa what?”


“Lisa what? What is your last name?”




I was trying to keep the details similar to the truth so I could claim he misheard me if I couldn’t think on my feet fast enough. My heart was beating near my esophagus.

“Well, Lisa..”

Everything happened in one fluid motion. The officer was standing in front of me, then he was on the lawn. The door opened to the house. Someone tried to make a run for it through the side door. An officer tripped him with his foot and his chin must have broken against the ground. Another officer held the door open and all of the blue suits piled into the house like ants running toward a few drops of sugar water.

I was alone. The officer didn’t know my name. I could hear the raucous from inside. I slipped into my driver’s seat and drove away. A siren followed me for a moment, but he wasn’t too determined. I made a few opportune left turns and pulled behind that 12-foot chain-link fence that kept McDonald’s safe. I waited for Kate’s call. I waited and waited. At around two in the morning, I panicked at a couple of shadows and metal against metal sounds and called my mom. I know, I was a badass.

She didn’t pick up. I don’t think I ever did tell her what happened. When my phone rang, it was almost 4 a.m. and Kate was ready to be picked up. She wasn’t mad at me. I was a little mad at me.

They were charged a $50 fine and given a ticket and everything was over when we pulled into her driveway and crashed together on her twin bed. “I’m sorry I left.”

“Don’t be, you weren’t at the party, technically. I should have left when you did, earlier.”


“J.D. got arrested.”

“Yeah…with all of you, right?”

“No. He was arrested arrested.”

“For what?”

“He had a bunch of coke.”

“Kate…you don’t like him, right?”

“I don’t know, we’ll see. He’s cute, right?”

“I don’t know…he seems dumb, Kate.”

“You just don’t know him.”

In the morning, when my mom called back, frantic at 7:30 on a Saturday, I answered through a cough.

“Are you okay? Tell me you’re okay. I didn’t hear my phone.”

“I’m fine mom, I must have pocket dialed you.”

“Okay…Are you sure? When are you gonna be home?”

Sometimes when you’re too busy being a rebel, being risky and accepting the general risks of mischief, you don’t realize that the person you put at risk isn’t always yourself. You can see down the fork of telling your friend her coke-dealer crush is really cute and offering to stay another night and go back to party 2.0. You’d be foolish to piss on your luck like that. You hear your mom’s voice, frantic just at the thought of you being hurt or lost, and you mean more than the words when you say, “I’m leaving now.”

I choose you. I’ll be good. I’m sorry.

Image: Australian police photography from early last century from the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia found on Pushed Buttons Burning-In


lucy: world’s bitchiest bunny

by lizzie & isaiah on April 23, 2011 · 18 comments

I have always wanted a dog to think I’m the coolest human in the world. We had a cat named Howard since my earliest memories and he wasn’t cutting it. I would dress him up in American Girl Doll clothes and bother him but he mostly avoided me. He was declawed in the front and used to sit on the fridge and swipe my dad’s forehead with his back claws. He once brought home a live mouse for my mom in his mouth. Those are my only memories of Howard, the indoor/outdoor cat I grew up with.

I started a toad farm in the back yard in a number of various storage bins with grass and little bowls of water and moss. I’m sure they thought they were in hell. I couldn’t figure out why they kept running away or dying…but I would just move on and catch more in the window-wells of our basement. When I was over it, I released all of the toads back into the wild.

We had a total of three dogs in my childhood for various periods of time and Wishbone won the family-dog award and is still with us. Even though I begged for him and adored him when he came home with us, I didn’t take care of him at age nine and he became my mom’s dog. He’s still her baby and doesn’t really love anyone like her. He didn’t pick me.

I’m sure this story is droning on in a way that’s making you consider whether or not I’m just a whiny, damaged and pathetic girl, but this is the story.

College was my chance to get a pet that would be all about me. Isaiah and I got inebriated one night and left a friend’s house with a box containing two rats. The impact of our decision didn’t really hit us until we were at Ace Hardware the next day picking up an aquarium and shavings. The rats were great. I adored them. I was also terribly allergic to them. Simon passed away and I gave Amos to a woman with a pet monkey and guinea pigs and rats…it seemed like a perfect fit.

Oh yes, during this time, I also acquired Lucy the Bunny. That’s why you’re here folks, to hear about this bitch of a bunny. Her cage was gigantic. Her whole area smelled terrible even after the cage was freshly scrubbed and new shavings were put down. She was beautiful. She was all white with grey spots and long, floppy ears. She had beautifully expressive eyes that always said, “I effing hate you.” She liked me and hated Isaiah. He would reach his hand into her cage to change it…which, apparently, is an offense worthy of being charged at and bitten until blood is tasted.

All night, she would charge back and forth in her cage until it fell from the lateral filing cabinet it sat on. I could barely sleep through the constant scratching. As soon as she was let outside she would stay perfectly still and wouldn’t move, but when we got inside, she would act like Ozzy on stage all night.

There was no training for me to learn how to “play” with a bunny. I couldn’t cheer her up. I couldn’t get her to stop her incessant scratching. My family was plotting her death during the day when all of our eyes were bloodshot and dry from lack of sleep. She was not a fun pet. I’m certain bunnies are not fun pets in general. So we found her a delightful new home on Craigslist two years later after repeatedly denying that she made any noise at night or lost her mind in a suicidal fit of rage around 3:30 every morning. They loved her anyway, even when the truth came out. I’m positive 19-year-old me deserved a bitchy bunny for my future bitchy dishonesty…but at the time, I just wanted one full night of sleep.

So if you’re thinking of getting any weird pets…just don’t. Just get a dog first. That way, you don’t have to go through 10 weird pets before landing on a dog who thinks the sun rises and falls upon your shoulders. Rats don’t think that way. Toads don’t either. Bunnies definitely don’t. At least, Lucy didn’t. Cats can. Our cats do, at least.

Anyway, I only told you that because I don’t want to talk about Easter. So instead I talked about a bunny I hate. You know who talked about Easter and Good Friday in a pretty awesome way? Oh, Hello Friend. So check that out. Eat some ham. Make some pea soup with the bones. Check out church, even if you’re not that into it. Enjoy Easter in your own way. Just don’t get a bunny. Or, if you do, make sure she doesn’t hail from Texas and sound like the bunny I described. Maybe we should bring a sketch artist in.

Image: Illustration by the jealousy-inducing artist Ruben Ireland found via Design You Trust through Pinterest.