"THE DAUGHTER'S VISIT"
Saturday, December 11, 1993, 11:33 AM
The wind blew through the graveyard. Except for the sound of that, there was silence. Six feet below the ground, dead human beings lay rotting in boxes, slowly decomposing. None of them were aware of anything any longer, so none of them heard the footsteps of the two living girls that walked into the cemetery. Kristen Shallowayne and Lana Deschain walked slowly, silently, along the cement path. Both were wearing long pants and sweaters, because it was rather chilly. Kristen was holding a bouquet in her hands, and Lana was holding a candle. "Thank you for coming with me, Lana." Kristen said, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "I didn't want to come here alone." Lana gave her a small smile. "No problem." They fell silent again as they walked towards their destination. "So," Lana asked, "you, uh, come here often?" "As often as I can bear it." Kristen said. "Over here." They arrived at the grave. Kristen stared blankly at the inscription on the headstone:
CAROL SHALLOWAYNE DECEMBER 4, 1950 - JUNE 5, 1993 BELOVED MOTHER AND WIFE
Kristen knelt down and placed the bouquet on the left edge of the headstone. Lana knelt to her right and handed her the candle. Kristen took it in her left hand and dug in her blue jeans pocket with her right. She took out a Bic lighter. Lana frowned. "You smoke?" "No." Kristen replied. "I'm not stupid. I bought this lighter on the day of the funeral, so I could...light candles." She lit the candle in her left hand, then placed it in front of the headstone. She stared at it for a moment. "Not quite true." Lana looked at her. "What?" "The inscription." Kristen said. "It's not quite true. She wasn't beloved." Kristen stood up and walked over to a nearby bench. She sat down and looked at the grave. Lana stood up, walked over, and sat to her right. "Do you wanna talk about it?" Lana asked. Kristen looked at her. "All right." She thought for a moment on how to begin. "I was born in the small town of Los Alamos, New Mexico. I was a pretty average kid growing up. Nothing really exciting happened." Kristen smiled. "I was quite the tomboy. I watched cartoons that were geared toward both boys and girls, but I played only with boys' toys, like Transformers, GI Joes, and He-Man action figures. I didn't wear any make-up, lipstick, nail polish, perfume, pads, dresses, skirts, heeled shoes, or jewelry. I mean what the hell is the point of all that? Their usefulness is beyond me, and they're a waste of money!" "Your ears are pierced." Lana noted. Kristen rolled her eyes. "My mother was incredibly stupid and pierced my ears when I was a baby. I've always held that against her. I never wore earrings." "Oh." "Anyway," Kristen continued, "I wasn't really into sports. I didn't have enough time, what with school, TV, and video games. I attended Los Alamos High School, and...I was a pretty good student. I often made the Honor Roll." Lana smiled. "Good for you!" "So, I was pretty busy growing up." Kristen said. "School, fun, and church. Oh, yeah, my mom was a rector at Trinity-on-the-Hill Episcopal Church, and she made it a law that I, my dad, and my older sister, Heather, had to attend church every Sunday morning. I hated it. My mother was a horrible preacher. Her sermons were very repetitive, to the point that she was repeating the same word in nearly every sentence. One week it was 'circumcision'. Anyway, I was so fed up with it that I soon learned to tune it out." She smiled. "So did my father and sister. A year before we moved to Northridge, the three of us converted to Catholicism. Mom wasn't too happy about that." "Did you all get along okay?" Lana asked. Kristen nodded. "For the most part. My mom and dad were married on September 1st, 1971. She was born Carol Martin, but she became Carol Shallowayne once she got married." "She gave up her last name." Lana said in disgust. "I don't understand why women do this. They seem to have some sort of need to take the name of their husbands." "I know." Kristen said. "I'll never understand it." "Does their last name, which they have had their entire lives and which are half of their identity, mean so little to them that they discard it like a piece of trash when they get married?" Kristen shook her head. "I don't know." She was silent for a moment. "But some women turn their last name into their middle name and add their husband's last name to the end of their own." "But it's still altering." Lana said. She looked down at the ground. "I don't feel that's right. I just don't." "Me neither." Kristen agreed. "Lana? Are you ever planning on getting married?" Lana looked up at her. "No!" She was silent for a moment, then stood up. "Let's take a walk." Kristen stood up and walked with Lana, on her right. "There are a few reasons." Lana said. "Even though I can - and would - keep my name the way it is, there's still the deal where I would have to give up some of my freedom. I cherish individual freedom, and I couldn't bear being legally bound to another person and consulting with them before making decisions. And, of course, I would have to share my possessions and be responsible if my partner got in debt. And if my partner died, I would be known as a 'widow'. I hate that term! Then there's spousal abuse. It doesn't just go on on Earth. It happens very often in Videoland, too. No way. I couldn't go through all that crap. Not even with Kevin, who I love dearly. It would be better if each of us remained unmarried. What's the point of marriage anyway? Kevin and I love each other enough that we don't need a legal binding. We'll be together for as long as we can get along with each other. Better not get married then get married and get divorced later, when we find out we're not right for each other. Almost fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. I can get along just fine without marriage. So should every other woman." "Does Kevin share your beliefs?" Kristen asked. "I really don't care." Lana said. "I wouldn't marry him even if he threatened to leave me." Kristen nodded. "Very admirable." "Thanks. Besides, I could never choose between Kevin and Zelda." "And me?" Kristen asked hopefully. "And you. So, what did your dad do in New Mexico?" Lana asked, trying to lighten the mood. "You know what? I really don't know." Kristen admitted.
Saturday, September 23, 1989, 5:00 PM
Kenneth Shallowayne walked in the front door. Carol, Heather, and Kristen were standing in the living room, eagerly awaiting the news. "Guess who's got a job!" Ken said with a grin. Kristen, Heather, and Carol, excited, ran up and hugged him. "That's great, Daddy!" Kristen said. "You can tell us all about it during dinner." Carol said. The four of them sat down at the kitchen table and helped themselves to beef with barbecue sauce and mashed potatoes with gravy. "So, where are you working?" Carol asked. "The Los Alamos National Scientific Research Laboratory." Ken said. "I start Monday." "Cool!" Kristen said. "Congratulations, dad!" Heather said. "What will you do?" "Uh, they didn't say exactly." Ken said. "I'll get my first job assignment when I arrive on Monday."
"While I thought that was a bit odd, I really didn't think much of it." Kristen said. "Every day, he would tell us about some test he was running, or how he was assisting someone, or whatever. But Heather made me doubt my father." "Heather?" Lana asked. "How?" "She was attending the University of California," Kristen said, "which runs the National Scientific Research Laboratory. She called me up one night..."
Friday, October 12, 1990, 9:00 PM
Kristen picked up the telephone in her bedroom. "Hello?" "Hey, Kris." Kristen smiled and sat down on her bed. "Hey, Heather. What's up?" "Well,...you know how dad works at the NSRL?" Heather asked. "Yeah." "Well, the oddest thing happened today. You know I work part-time at the university to earn some spending money. Well, I was sorting some stuff, and I found a list of employees at the Research Lab. Dad's name wasn't on it." "Well, maybe they forgot to type his name or something." Kristen suggested. "That's what I thought." Heather said. "So, I called up the lab. A guy answered the phone, and I told him about the employee list. I asked about Dad. He checked the records, then told me there wasn't enough information and hung up on me." "What?" Kristen asked, standing up. "That doesn't make any damn sense." "That's what I thought." Heather said again. "I've reached a dead-end." Kristen thought for a moment. "Dad went out to dinner with Mom. I'm gonna go check out his room." "You're gonna snoop around in his room?" Heather asked in surprise. "Check out, not snoop." Kristen corrected. "There is a difference. If I check out a cute girl, it's not like I'm snooping around her." "Okaaayyy." Heather said. "Whatever ya say, Kris." "I'll call you back soon." "Okay, bye." "Bye." Both girls hung up. Kristen left her room.
Kristen opened the door to her parents' bedroom and walked inside. "Okay, if I were keeping a secret from my family, where would I hide stuff?" Kristen wondered out loud. She went over to her father's dresser and opened a drawer. She discovered he had a collection of Playboy magazines. It was quite impressive. She took out an issue and began to flip through it. Pausing to admire a girl in a picture, a smile formed on her lips. She then remembered why she was in the room and began flipping the pages again. Suddenly, she came across two items that were between two pages. She picked them up one at a time and examined them. Then she closed the magazine and put the collection back in the drawer. She closed the drawer, then left the room, closing the door behind her.
Heather picked up the telephone. "Hello?" "Hey, it's me." Kristen said. "Hey. So, what did you find out?" "Well, I went through Dad's Playboy collection. I found an id card hidden between two of the pages of one issue. It had a holographic picture of Dad and a bar code. Also, I found a small pin. It looked like a neon blue star." "What do you think this means?" Heather asked. Kristen shrugged. "Well,...maybe Dad has access to something at the Research Lab that's under tight security." "Wow." Heather said. "Do you think you should ask him about it?" "Heather, all I've proven is that Dad's got a collection of happy books that Mom doesn't know about. So do I. I don't wanna jump to any conclusions. If Dad's working on something that he can't tell us about, I have to respect that." "Okay. Well, I'll talk to ya later." "Bye, Heather." "Bye, Kris." Both girls hung up.
"So, you never found out what your Dad did?" Lana asked. Kristen shook her head. "Nope." A distance away, a man was listening in on the girls' conversation. He was tall, muscular, and had a crew cut. He frowned and took out a small communications device. He contacted someone. Light cast upon his face as the small video screen came alive. "Yes?" the man on the other end asked. "I've got something." the man said. "Of course you do. Why else would you be calling?" "Shallowayne's daughter is talking with a friend about his work. Tall girl; greenish-gray eyes, short brunette hair." "I want you to find out who she is and how much both of them know." his superior ordered. "Yes, sir." They ended the communication. "So, what's next?" Lana asked. "Well, sometimes I would drive south of Los Alamos to admire the beautiful scenery." Kristen said with a smile. "There are Pueblo Indian reservations marked by spectacular red rock mesas." "Neat." Lana said with a smile. "Growing up in New Mexico, I met a lot of Pueblos. Spending time with them, they kinda influenced my beliefs." She laughed. "Again, my Mom wasn't very happy."
Saturday, February 9, 1991, 3:00 PM
"Honestly, Kristen, I don't understand what you see in those ridiculous beliefs." Carol said, pacing around the living room. "They're not ridiculous, Mom." Kristen said in anger. "First you converted to Catholicism, taken your father and sister with you. Then you bought a copy of the Koran. Then the Kojiki and Nihongi. After that it was the Tao Te Ching. And during all that you've been visiting Pueblo reservations. What's wrong, Kris? Is Christianity not good enough for you anymore?" "I'm studying other religions to expand my knowledge." Kristen said, trying to control herself. "That's what's bothering you, isn't it? That I'm questioning what I've been taught as a child. You just can't stand it that I think the Bible is inaccurate." "It's not inaccurate!" Carol yelled. "It's the Word of God!" "It contradicts itself." Kristen said. "Take, for example, the ancestor lists for Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. You notice any differences?" "Matthew's list is Joseph's genealogy." Carol replied. "Luke's is Mary's." "Bullcrap." Kristen said. "Matthew 1:12-16: 'From the time after the exile in Babylon to the birth of Jesus, the following ancestors are listed: Jehoiachin, Shealtiel, Zerubbabel, Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, and Joseph, who married Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was called the Messiah.' Now Luke 3:23-25: 'When Jesus began his work, he was about thirty years old. He was the son, so people thought, of Joseph, who was the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,...' See what I mean? Both are clearly Joseph's genealogy, and both are very different lists of names." "What's your point?" Carol asked. "My point is it's wrong." Kristen said. "Look, I'm not totally tossing Christianity out of my life. I still attend Mass every Sunday. I'm just looking at everything and trying to decide for myself what I believe, instead of just mindlessly believing what you taught me. We can't say for certain which religion, if any, is true. Maybe Joshua really lived, and maybe he didn't. Your guess is as good as mine." "Who?" Carol asked. "Joshua, the son of Mary." Kristen said. "Surprised? Well, Joshua is the translation of his name from the Hebrew 'Yeshua'. 'Jesus' is the translation of his name from Greek, which is what the New Testament was written in. 'Christ' isn't even a name. It's a Hebrew word meaning 'King'." "Enough!" Carol said. "Fine! Believe whatever you want!"
Kristen and Lana returned to Carol's grave. "So, what happened next?" Lana asked. "Well, my Dad came home from work one afternoon..."
Friday, May 10, 1991, 5:00 PM
Ken walked in through the front door. "Hey, Dad." Kristen greeted. "Hi, Ken." Carol greeted. "Hi." Ken greeted. "Dinner's almost ready." Carol said. "Uh, before we eat, I need to ask you two something." Ken said. "What?" Carol asked. "Well, today I was offered a teaching job. I would be a physics professor." "That's great, Dad!" Kristen said. "It pays more than my current job, but there's one catch." "What's that?" Carol asked. "The job is at the University of California at Northridge." Ken said. "If I take it, we'll have to move." Kristen's face beamed with excitement. "Hey, we'll be with Heather!" Ken grinned. "That's right!" Kristen faced Carol. "Oh, please, Mom!" Carol grinned. "Sure, why not?" Kristen screamed in excitement and jumped up and down.
"So, my Dad called up his work and quit, then called up the University and accepted the job." Kristen said. "We moved to Northridge on June 5th." "And here you are." Lana said with a smile. "Yep, here I am." Kristen's smile faded. "Now comes the hard part. Telling my Dad about my Mom's death." Kristen went and knelt in front of the headstone, and Lana knelt to her right. "I was dreading it as I walked up the path to the front door of my house." Kristen continued.
Saturday, June 5, 1993, 4:37 PM
Kristen opened the front door, walked into her living room, and closed the door behind her. Her father was sitting on his chair, watching TV. "Dad?" Kristen asked. Judging by the sound of her voice, and the look on her face, Kenneth knew something was greatly troubling his daughter. He put the TV on mute and stood up. He walked over to her. "Kristen, what's wrong?" Before Kristen could speak, someone else walked into the living room. "Kristen?" Kristen looked up. "Heather?" "Kristen?" Ken asked in concern. Kristen began wringing her fingers. "Dad," she croaked, "...Heather,...Mom-mom-mom's...dead." "What?!" Heather yelled. Kenneth echoed her. "She...f-fell out of her office w-window and hit-it the pavement." Kristen began to cry. "Oh, God!" Heather yelled, beginning to cry. Ken starting crying as well. "And I - I - I was the one that pushed her." Kristen said. "What?!!!" Ken screamed. "You killed Mom?!!!" Heather screamed. "She fell and...she was going to pull me off with h-her. I kicked her off so I w-wouldn't fall." Heather and Ken's anger slowly went away, and they swept Kristen up in a big hug.
"That was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life." Kristen said. "The funeral was the next day. I put on a black suit, bought the lighter, and we went." She shook her head. "I never wanna go through a funeral again." "Creepy?" Lana asked. Kristen nodded. She was silent as she stared at the headstone. "'I am sick of you.'" "What?" Lana asked. "My last words to my mother." Kristen said. "'I am sick of you.'" "Did you mean it?" Kristen shrugged. "I don't know." She continued staring and began to break down and cry. "Oh, my God!!! My mother's dead!!! What have I done?!!!" Lana threw her arms around Kristen and hugged her tightly - partly to comfort her, party because she didn't want to see her face. Lana helped Kristen to her feet. As Kristen regained her composure, the two girls looked at the headstone once more. "Are you okay?" Lana asked. Kristen nodded. "I'll be okay." She looked at Lana and smiled. "Thank you for coming with me, Lana. I never would've confronted all of this without you. I love you." Lana smiled at her. "I'm glad I could help a friend in need. Ready to go?" "I gotta say a prayer before we leave." Kristen and Lana faced the grave again. "Oh, our mother, the earth; oh, our father, the sky; your children are we, and, with tired backs, we bring you gifts that you love. Then weave for us a garment of brightness; may the warp be the white light of morning; may the weft be the red light of evening; may the fringes be the falling rain; may the border be the standing rainbow. Thus weave for us a garment of brightness that we may walk fittingly where the grass is green; oh, our mother, the earth; oh, our father, the sky!" Lana looked at her and smiled. "That's beautiful. Pueblo?" Kristen nodded, smiling. "I dunno, maybe it's a final insult to her." Lana just looked at her. Kristen then knelt on the grave with her right knee and did the Sign of the Cross. "In nomine Patri et Filii et Spiritu Sancti. Amen." She stood up. "Kristen?" Lana asked. "What do you believe happens when people die?" "I believe...that, if there is a god, it's good, it's gender-neuter, and it loves me. And, if I'm good, I'll be rewarded with another life in a paradise after I die." Kristen shrugged. "'Course, I could be wrong, and God could've preselected a few to be saved and damned the rest before the creation of the world, in which case I'm probably screwed and doomed to spend eternity burning in a lake of sulfur in the fiery pits of Hell!" Lana stood still for a moment, thinking. Kristen watched in amazement as Lana knelt down and did the Sign of the Cross. Lana stood up, looked at her, and smiled. "If your belief's basically on target, what I did might help." She shrugged. "Or maybe not. Anyway, how'd I do?" Kristen smiled. "Right hand and knee, not left." Lana shrugged. "Oh, well." She looked around, then put her left around around Kristen's shoulders. "Let's get out of here. I'll take you out to dinner." "Sounds great." And so, the two girls left the land of the dead and re-entered the land of the living. Not that the dead cared.