This is the true story of the summer of the summer I turned 15, when my world ended.
Apocalypse: The Memoir
Chapter 1: Winnie the Pooh Part 2
Tara, Ontario, Canada, July 1988
Ring ring ring.
Indy, fifteen, choked down one more raw wiener. She was rehearsing for the Phil Donahue Show and staring at the army-green wall phone on the kitchen wall.
Chew chew chew. Ring ring ring.
The phone hadn’t stopped ringing all morning.
Until today, it had been improbable for Indy to let the phone finish even one ring. The possibility of letting it get to even a second ring had been petrifying just days ago. Her stepfather, Dana (certainly a girl’s name), promised to rip the phone out of the wall whenever he heard it ring. His constant threat carried such force Indy grew a superhuman instinct for answering the phone.
Indy could not live without that phone safely on the wall. It was her lifeline to Tammy. She’d wait until 8 o’clock (7:30 was Dana’s bed time) to call Tammy. They would conspire in dulcet undetectable undertones about escaping their Tara prisons and plot futures of world travel. First stop: America!
Phone answering had been Indy’s only religion.
It was no longer.
Today it was not impossible to let the phone ring twice or even, as it was now, to let it ring repeatedly for hours.
But this had been a week of impossibilities.
She massaged another hot dog out of the Schneider’s shrink-wrap. She was sitting at the burgundy dining table inherited from her grandmother, and this compounded all the oddness because she had not sat and eaten at it, or any dining table, in three years. She always ate on a TV tray. Chew chew chew. Mr. Donahue, how do I explain the sheer horror?
Ring ring ring.
At least the ringing filled the empty space left by the silenced fridge. Dana had rescued it from the dump. The fridge had once produced more whining and neediness than a toddler. Indy and her mother had to defrost it every three weeks or they’d be chipping ketchup and mustard bottles from the back of the fridge with bread knives wielded like ice picks.
Indy’s bare toes played in the remains of a puddle from the now fully defrosted fridge. She spoke loudly to the kitchen.
Are hot dogs miracles?
Since the power went off a week ago, she had been eating her way through everything in order of preciousness. Milk first. She had drained the last jug this morning and had to pick the last mouthful out from between her teeth like pizza cheese, a gross and perhaps bad sign. She had cooked all the chicken and hamburger on the propane BBQ the day the power went off. For a bone rack, she was proud how quickly she had downed three roast chickens and eleven burgers. Method? She pretended to be in an eating contest since she was, in a way. Only, instead of a stupid gilded plastic trophy, her prize was not starving to death. And no waste.
She did eventually get to the hateful rusty lettuce by artfully crafting it into a palatable soup with the last bottle of Kraft Blue Cheese salad dressing.
She was finally down to the best food ever, preserved meats: hot dogs, salami, mock chicken and the ham bejeweled with macaroni and cheese. The silent fridge was empty save for one spoonful of relish and the Kraft Singles cheese slices she had saved for last, thinking them immutable. Wrong. She had eaten one yesterday. It looked normal but tasted like sand, reminding her of a Dairy Queen Skor Blizzard she had ruined by eating down on Sauble Beach on a windy day. She had gone there to dig holes in the sand and look for salamanders and had ended up pouring her inedible Blizzard into Lake Huron. She nervously tried a second Kraft Single and instead of the familiar waxy cheesiness all she got was another bright orange mouthful of sand.
Indy didn’t waste. She was aspirationally MacGyver. It buoyed her heart when she discovered a new way to make best with what she had. And that, coupled with how much she loathed her own bone thinness, made food waste an anathema to her. Fifteen years old, just two inches shy of six feet and under one hundred pounds. No tits or ass, puberty had simply passed her by. So stick-thin her nickname was Chicken Legs on the school bus, Titless in typing class and, Dana’s favorite, Dumbo the Clown for no clear reason. The newest attack in the cafeteria rotunda was to ask if she had AIDS. For no good reason at all, it made her think of her real dad. Foodless in Tara didn’t mean she’d stop battling her body’s inclination towards scrawny weakness. She’d beaten all odds by surviving; she could do anything now, and that included gaining weight.