It was a terrible plan, I thought to myself as I thunked ketchup out of the glass bottle and onto my mother's old wig. This ketchup wouldn't fool anyone and the only people who might actually stop would be the police, and what would I do with a stolen police car anyway? They probably had some secret cop trick to keep their cars from getting stolen and I'd just get caught again. That wouldn't suit me anymore than it would suit the court, which would be of the adult variety the next time I saw one, me having just turned eighteen a few weeks ago.
I was pretty sure I had some more trips to court in my future, but right now I had bigger problems, mainly getting out of town before one of Dobbie's thugs found me. About the only way I could afford to travel would be the bus and Dobbie knew that; someone would be watching the bus station, so that was out. Hitchhiking always makes me feel vulnerable and I hate feeling vulnerable, so I decided that stealing a car for my getaway would be a lot safer and easier than relying on the roadside kindness of strangers.
Like most of my plans, it didn't start off being terrible, it just wound up that way. I mean, stealing a car is a pretty sensible thing to do if you don't have one and you need one, but a lot of how sensible it is depends on how you steal it. Mostly it's easier if you steal a car that doesn't have anyone else in it, but I wanted a car that was already on the highway and that is where the canvas rucksack came in. In it , I had the wig, a bottle of ketchup, a couple packs of matches, a large Mason jar full of kerosene and about twenty pounds of bloody pork bones that I stole from the renderer's barrel in the alley behind the butcher's shop. The mannequin wouldn't fit in the bag, so I had to un-peg the legs and arms from the fake plastic torso and put them in a cardboard box that wasn't so much heavy as it was awkward and difficult to walk through the woods with. So you can see how my plan was heading towards terrible by this point.
Usually I did OK without a plan. Like how I got the mannequin.
I was killing time, feeling old and lost after my birthday, walking around town for the first time in years when I stumbled across one of those new 'shopping malls' , which is like a fenceless prison compound with a cluster of large single-story flat-topped buildings that are surrounded by parking lots and divided into lots of cells, only they aren't really cells, they are stores and shops, with a big two-story Montgomery Ward department store looming over them all like a lopsided guard tower, except instead of guards it was full of girls my age who were there voluntarily.
I imagined those loser girls in their matching frocks, getting paid a fifty cents an hour to sell lipstick and skin balms to saggy old ladies who couldn't look young again even if they had a time machine. It made me want to shoplift but I wasn't wearing shoplifting clothes, just jeans and light blue t-shirt. I had no large pockets and no purse.
I hate purses. If you ever see me with a purse, it's probably full of stolen clothes or stolen drugs. Or both. And I probably stole the purse too, which, if you think about it, is a hell of a lot better than buying one because the ones you buy don't come with all the neat stuff that the 'used' ones have inside- one time I found a loaded .22 in a bag I snatched from an old lady in downtown Cincinnati. I guess she thought the gun would make her safer from people like me. But I hate guns so I traded it for mescaline. I hate mescaline too, but I didn't know that then.
So I walked around behind the Montgomery Wards store where a large loading dock faced a patch of woods. There weren't any people on the dock, but I saw a green-painted metal door standing open on the far end of the platform , so I hopped up and peeked in. There was a large stockroom area on one side and on the other side a small hallway led to what looked like a set of offices. I heard voices coming from the office area but saw no one. Right inside the door was a folding metal chair where some counter-girl had dropped her blue sales smock across the back. I took it and put it on. The red plastic name tag said 'Norma' in white stenciled letters, which I thought was funny since my name is Jean and people always told me I looked like Marilyn Monroe, which is nice thing if a woman tells you but not always so nice when a boy does. Mostly, boys say that to me because they want to make me sticky. And I hate that, so I wear my hair plain and never touch makeup except when I'm stealing it or trying to look like someone that isn't me.
I was tying the little string on the back of the ugly blue apron when two men in white shirts and thin black ties came out of one of the offices and walked right past me without seeming to notice I was there. After they passed, one of them- a flabby, pear-shaped man who was sweating just from walking- turned around and looked at me.
"Break time is only five minutes, sweetheart. We don't pay you to stand around. Now get your pretty little behind out there and finish clearing section five. We need the old dolls off the floor. And no more wearing dungarees to work", he finished.
Old dolls? I was curious so I followed the rude fat man through the stockroom doors as he gestured towards a cluster of stripped-down female mannequins in the nearby corner. Old dolls.
They weren't nearly as heavy as a real person, so I picked one up and carried it back into the stockroom, out through the open door, across the loading dock and into the woods behind the store, where I hid it until it got dark outside and we came to pick it up in Dobbie's car. That was back when Dobbie and I were still friends, like maybe two weeks ago. So that's how I got the store dummy.
The ketchup was an unnaturally bright red against the blond wig and the whole mess didn't look very convincing on the mannequin. Fake blood on fake hair on fake body. I guessed maybe that it would work for my purposes, although I chickened out when it came to dumping the red sauce on my own blonde hair, which I had tried to grow long but was now hacked off , messily and unevenly just above my shoulders. I had done it myself earlier that morning and I'd been in a hurry at the time so it looked pretty bad, even compared to what we got at Watertown Home for Girls.
I wish I'd thought to bring the scissors with me. I wasn't really in the mood for cutting myself but what I was planning on doing was pretty crazy and cutting someone else would make things even more exciting. A lot better than this ketchup could ever hope to be, that's for sure.
When I was in the Watertown Home I had to spend some of my afternoons talking to adults who asked a lot of questions, most of which weren't really about what I had done and why I was there. Except they were about that, it was just that the questions were in disguise, sorta.
Like, sometimes the questions would really be pictures instead of questions and at first it seemed like all the answers I gave were the wrong ones. I don't think it was fair, it isn't my fault that they kept showing me ink-blobs that looked like my parents burning and screaming in a pool of bloody fire. I don't know where they found those pictures but it kinda shows that even though I was the inmate, the so-called doctors were really the sick ones. After what I'd done and been through, you'd think they'd show me pictures of flowers and butterflies, not horrible blobs like the ones they had put on the table in front of me. No wonder I have nightmares.
I don't really remember deciding to do it, or even doing it really, but one day the docs came to my ward and they asked me how long I planned on staying quiet. It seemed like a familiar question, I think maybe they asked me the same thing every day but I wasn't really paying attention so I'm not sure.
"Long enough", I answered. I don't know why I said that, but they seemed pleased and told me it was a breakthrough because I hadn't spoken for six months. I hadn't? That surprised me.
Like I said, I don't really recall being quiet for so long but after my breakthrough I decided to tell the doctors that their pictures looked like butterflies and flowers and they called that a breakthrough too.
Before long, one of them confided to me that I'd been recommended for EST- which is like being electrocuted to make you stop being crazy- but since I was having so many breakthroughs, they'd decided to postpone that indefinitely. There were a lot of people on the outside, she told me, who thought EST was a bad idea and that it messed up people's brains and if I was lucky, it would be banned before my turn came and the postponement wouldn't matter anyway. The way she said it made me feel like she was one of those people on the outside, and that I should be relieved that she thought EST was a bad idea. It turned out that she was right and by the time I turned 18, the docs had pretty much stopped using it, although the table they used was still there, waiting threateningly in the scary basement room that no one I knew could ever quite remember being in, no matter how many times they were taken there.