This is an excerpt from a novella, "Save Yourself," I had written and worked on many years ago. Holly, a twenty something, can't seem to get out of her own way in her path to try and find herself. She had entered AA only to find out she wasn't a dipsomaniac, joined a demonic self-help group, and lost her job as a volunteer for Alzheimer patients. Here, she has gone back home for a family weekend.
After lunch, Father took the kids back to the house. Mother, Erin, and I loaded into the minivan for more shopping. A familiar "hunt and gather" warrior feeling surged through me as I slid the van door shut and took my place on the bench seat in back. I looked to our animistic tribe leader as she called to Erin's minivan, "Fashion Shop at St. Mathews." With those words I felt my mental state alter, my senses heightened as our leader smeared bright red war stripes on her lips. I followed suit with my chap stick. The transformation was infecting us all.
"Your father's an asshole." She pronounced as she surveyed her stripes. It was her war cry and shopping was an act of denouncing him.
I only nodded my agreement and looked to my sister who was hunched over the steering wheel focused on the traffic ahead. I secured my seatbelt as we halted and surged foreword but then lay down on the bench seat to avoid the inevitable nausea and possible whiplash. I could not bring myself to fuel Mother's flame. I was more aware of this overwhelming need for this hunt that lay ahead of us. Like I had not eaten for days I focused ahead and plotted my attack on these newly wanted items to be possessed, all of the unwitting items, just sitting there; a blue shirt, a scarf, panties, and belts. I must hunt down these 'brand named items at clearance prices', and matching socks; kill them and drag them to the register for proof of the hunt. I felt like sitting up in the seat and howling. I think I may have been drooling.
We entered the store without uttering a grunt and separately prowled to our favorite killing fields. Mother to her 'women's' section, Erin to 'career', and me - stuck between the 'junior' fashions and 'casual wear'. Later we met up at the accessories and smiled to one another as the blood from our kills dripped off our chins.
"Looook. I found this for you sisssster." I reveal to Erin a jacket. She snatched it from my paw and I recoiled.
"Yesss. Yesssss. That is good sisssster. Look Mother, it matches this purssse." She whipped out a purse from the purse bush in an attempt to challenge the leaders sense of style.
"Mmm, hmmm." Unconcerned with this challenge from her eldest, Mother dove into the purse bush and effortlessly pulled out another. "But this pursssse matches better. See the piping?" And with a dull twinkle from her eyes the challenge ended.
I watched this exchange with fascination. Sister's challenge had no flair, it had not been thought out, and there had been no flanking. It had been a simple and straightforward challenge. Amateur, she should know better, I thought.
The shopping sovereign still reigns but her endurance is faltering and her bloodshot eyes told us she was growing weary. In the unspoken kindred language, my sister and I acknowledged Mothers fatigue.
Sister hunted down a perch for the sovereign outside the dressing rooms. But I had a different plan of attack. That is a benefit of being the youngest, the eldest always make the initial mistakes and you learn from them. A head on challenge will never work.
I was still trying on my newly hunted pelts as Mother and Erin waited outside the dressing rooms. Sister surveyed an outfit I had gathered around me and grimaced, pulling at the waistline.
"You're barely a size 9 in this," she tugged harder on the waistline, "but a 6 in this?" She waved a dress at me. "Take them off, their sizes are messed up."
Mother snarled at the pants, "I don't like them. They look like you dropped a load in back."
"Hurry," my sister said outside the dressing room. "Hand me those two shirts and the pants."
"But that will mess up my number." I looked at my dressing room number hanger that was clearly marked "8".
"So. I don't want them to think I stol-" I pleaded.
"Hand them over, it doesn't matter."
"Erin, it does matter-"
"Give me the shirts." She was reaching below the door swiping at the clothing nests I had constructed. She grew agitated and desperate. "Mother's wearing out and we still have to go to the shoe store."
I threw open the door, disheveled but dressed. "Fine, here." I handed her the requested clothes and tossed the number hanger to the attendant. I kept the unwanted and uncounted items in hand, so as not to be counted by the attendant but then placed them down on Mother's vacated chair. My killer instinct was now in full radiance and Mother was looking like the weaker prey.
Clerks scattered off the showroom floor of shoe store when the warning chime rang upon our entry. I slunk through the aisles slowly, picking out six separate pairs. I tried on each of them in equal measured disapproving fits and gesticulating pleasure that narrowed the choice to three.
I bounced around in each of the three until I thought the sovereign would drop from her perch.
"Get the brown ones." She kept repeating as if asking for oxygen.
After a while Erin narrowed her almond shaped eyes and threw daggers at me. She knew what I was doing and did not approve, it was not a fair challenge. It was not a full frontal style challenge as they had repeated through the years. It was disrespectful to use my youth and endurance.
I smiled at Erin, "I could go on for dayssssss in these shoes." I plopped down next to Mother. "But you're right, these brown ones I think." I had no intention of challenging Mother. I just wanted to make sure she knew how well she'd trained me. I may not hunt and gather in the same killing fields as she and Erin. I may not employ the same tracking technique nor challenge in the same style. But I can still pursue and harvest right next to the reigning sovereign. "They're more expensive, but I think they're better quality and I like the Adidas as well." I said to her. I knew she'd be proud of that.