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Coasting-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
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HIJAX-Fiction by Liz McAdams
Marriage-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Secrets-Fiction by Carole Sojka
The Ten Ten-Fiction by A. F. Knott
Losing Eileen-Fiction by Marci McKim
Snake Dog-Fiction by Catfish McDaris
My Heart Will Always Be Yours-Fiction by Jon Park
Unicorn-Fiction by Rob Dominelli
Call Girls-Flash Fiction by Gay Degani
Hollywood Harry's bar and Grill-Flash Fiction by Fred Zackel
Grandmother Nightmare-Flash Fiction by Rick McQuiston
Death Row-Flash Fiction by Luann Lewis
The Jarvis and Mae Team-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Flying Away-Flash Fiction by Jerry Vilhotti
A Note for Alex Gildzen-Poem by Mark Young
Spoiled-Poem by Chad Haskins
Recognized-Poem by Michael Keshigian
the only goodbye he deserved-Poem by J. J. Campbell
Dropping the Ball-Poem by Ian Mullins
A Song of Vengeance-Poem by Christopher Hivner
A Slip of the Tongue-Poem by Robert Halleck
Again the 11th Hour-Poem by Robert Halleck
Jack-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
singles ad Westwood Magazine-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Love is all-Poem by Meg Baird
Travelling-Poem by Meg Baird
Roxyanna-Poem by David Spicer
Wanted-Poem by David Spicer
Whataya Say?-Poem by David Spicer
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
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Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

losingeileen.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2018

 Losing Eileen


by


Marci McKim

 

The summer after I graduated high school, my family exploded.

I thought we had a perfect family. Mom and Dad were college graduates with good office jobs. When Eileen was born, Mom quit her job and stayed home. I came along 3 years later.

The first place I remember living was a 4-room apartment on the second floor of a pre-war building. Eileen and I shared a sunny bedroom overlooking the park where Mom took us to play. Our room had a wall of shelves for our toys and books. I had a lot of stuffed animals, Eileen had tons of dolls. We’d make up adventures for the dolls and animals being knights and princesses fighting against “bad guys.”

On weekends, it seemed we were always going to one relative’s house or another for a party. Most of those parties were about adults watching sports on TV, so Eileen and I were hung out with our cousins. Our cousin Grace liked to pick on me for being the smallest, and Eileen always stood up for me. She told Grace I was small but smarter than her.

She stood up for me in school, too. I might have been nerdy and scrawny, but I had a Big Sister who handled the schoolyard bullies for me. She taught me to defend myself so I could fight my own battles with kids my own size.

One time some girls tried to steal my lunch in the cafeteria. I kicked one of them in the shins, and Eileen pulled another off me and knocked her down. Mom had to come to school to get both of us from the principal’s office.

When I was in sixth grade, and Eileen went to St. Anselm’s Prep, it felt odd going to school alone. I missed having my companion and defender. But I made my first real friends then. It was the first time I had a life separate from my sister.

Mom wanted some new furniture, so Dad turned the garage into a Girl Cave! He cleared out all his car stuff into a shed, painted the walls pink and silver, and put the old living room furniture downstairs for us. He also bought us an electronic keyboard. Eileen fooled around with it a little, but I loved it. I found out I am good at music. Mom and Dad hoped we’d hang out down there with our friends, but my sister’s friends weren’t from the neighborhood anymore, so it was more my space.

To be honest, I liked it that way. Eileen and I shared a bedroom until we moved to the house near the beach, and privacy was a big deal for me. I like to be alone when I’m doing something creative, and the more private space I have, the better. So when my friends went home, I’d spend extra time writing, playing music, or just thinking.

I was a junior at St. Anselm’s and my sister was commuting to public college, and as far as I could see, things were going pretty well.  Eileen was spending most of her time out of the house. She had a boyfriend who he said he loved her, and treated her well. One night he called the house to talk to Dad. They had lunch together the next day, and Dad was upset when he came home that night.

Next day, while Eileen was at school, Mom came down to the Girl Cave to talk. At first I was a little annoyed to be interrupted, but she said it was important, so I took off my headphones and joined her on the couch.

“Have you noticed any changes in your sister?” She asked.

“Well, yeah!” I answered, “She’s too good to hang out with me anymore, and she treats me like I’m some kind of bug. She’s a grown-up college girl. And she doesn’t come home for supper anymore!”

Mom smiled sadly. “Todd is worried about her. He thinks she might be depressed, or something.”

I shrugged, “Unless being depressed means being a bitch, I don’t see it.”

“Sometimes depression hides behind bitchiness,” Mom explained, “Maybe she needs some extra attention.”

That pissed me off, “Attention? She’s never here to get attention!”

So Mom made an appointment with a therapist, and took Eileen there a few times. But then Eileen refused to go.

“He’s an idiot,” she told me, “Just wants to give me pills that make me feel strange and tired.”

“Can you ask him to change the pills?” I asked, but she wasn’t interested in taking pills. She ran away from home right after the 4th of July barbecue.

Mom and Dad were frantic, and spent all that summer being anxious and unhappy. The cops were looking for her.

 

I was scared, too, imagining all kinds of awful things for my sister. After years of being best friends, she hardly spoke to me for weeks before she ran away. Was there anything I could have said or done to make her stay?

I spent most of that summer in the Girl Cave writing songs, when I wasn’t at the beach. Dad made sure we went swimming as a family. We built sand castles and ate cheese steaks on the boardwalk. We didn’t take our usual vacation to see our relatives out of state. Mom and Dad didn’t want to go far from home in case Eileen called.

My friends didn’t know what to say to me - their sisters were still at home. I couldn’t deal with having a boyfriend, my emotions were all messed up. I wrote a lot of sad songs that summer.

Just before Labor Day, my parents got a call from the state troopers. Eileen had been found in a town I’d never heard of, about 100 miles from home. She was in a hospital there.  Dad wanted to go get her immediately, but the doctors didn’t think that was a good idea. Instead, when they released her from the hospital two weeks later, they put her on a bus. Dad met her at the station and brought her home.

They sent me to the Girl Cave while they were talking with Eileen. I put my headphones on so I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I was still pissed about her ruining our summer by her selfishness. We had great parents, why did she hate us? I wondered if it was something I did to drive her away, but couldn’t think of anything I did that was so horrible.

I was in the Girl Cave the next day when Eileen came looking for me.

“Hey, Kathy,” she said, “I guess I owe you an explanation, too.” She took a deep breath and went on, “I got crazy last Spring. I thought nobody loved me. I thought I was going to fail all my classes. I thought I should kill myself because I was worthless. When I waited for the bus every morning, all I could think about was throwing myself in front of it.

“I met some of the people who live in the park. I thought they seemed cool. They didn’t care about school, or the bullshit rules we have to follow.

“They told me they were going upstate to a campground for the summer, and said I could go with them.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I demanded, “Suppose I wanted to go with you?”

 

“It was a secret!” she explained, “And they only wanted me, they didn’t know you.”

Eileen continued, “I had about $200 saved up, so I took that, and went with them. We took a bus to a state park and camped out in a lean-to there. The second night, the guys hiked into town and came back with whiskey and beer. We all got pretty drunk.

“Then it got ugly. They demanded my money, my high school ring, my necklace, even my boots!” She fought back tears. “I gave them what they wanted, and they started hitting me. Then two of the guys ripped off my clothes and raped me.” She was really crying now. I put my arm around her until she got herself together.

“Next day I woke up all alone in the woods. I hurt all over. I was hungry, but it hurt too much to move. I must have cried for hours before a dog came sniffing along. He started barking and whining until his owners came looking for him. They were a homeless couple who lived in the woods, but they were okay.

“They took me to their camper and fed me. I stayed with them for weeks, I don’t remember how long. I don’t remember a lot about that time. But apparently I ended up walking on the highway screaming, and the cops picked me up. Now I’m on meds, but my brain is still messed-up”

At that point, she stood up and hugged me, then went to her room. I had so many questions, so I asked Mom what was going on.

Mom explained, “In the hospital, she started acting violently. She’d wake up at night growling and screaming, and she’d attack the nurses and orderlies who were trying to help her. They had to tie her to the bed for several nights until they got her meds right.”

By this time I was crying, and Dad was holding me tight. They couldn’t tell me everything was going to be okay like they did when I was a kid, this was grown-up stuff I was not prepared to deal with.

The bottom line was that we’d all have to be aware of what was going on with her, all the time. She’d have to take her pills and go to therapy. If everything went well, she’d go back to college for the January semester.

Thanks to Dad’s great health insurance, they found Eileen a place in an outpatient mental health treatment center where she went every day during school hours. I don’t know much about what happened there, she didn’t talk to me much.

“I’m sorry I ruined your summer,” She said once, “but mine was so much worse.”

And that was that. We lived in separate worlds, except at night, when I would listen to her sleep and dream. Sometimes she’d yell out loud, and I’d have to run down the hall to Mom and Dad’s room to tell them. They’d go together into her room and get her to calm down.

After the first couple of times, they got a kind of intercom, but Eileen didn’t want it in her room. She called it a baby monitor. So it ended up in my room, and I didn’t have to leave my room to alert Mom and Dad. I could just stay in bed and cry.

Therapy was working, though, and weeks would go by without nightmares. Eileen was going to the gym, working out, saying she felt great even with her meds. Meanwhile, I was spending more time away from home. I had a nice boyfriend whose mom liked having me around. So I’d go to his place after school and do homework, and stayed for supper a lot.

So my senior year of high school was pretty much devoted to being on edge. I tried writing hopeful songs, and once or twice they worked, but there were times I could only try to improve on the sad ones.

After Spring break, Eileen’s night terrors got worse. She stopped taking her meds, and her therapists got worried. I heard Mom and Dad talking about it, although they didn’t share it with me directly, which made me get worried.

My graduation went off without a hitch. Instead of having a party, we went to a restaurant and had a nice dinner. My boyfriend came along, and Eileen was quiet. I had been accepted to a few colleges, and I was looking forward to possibly living on-campus.

A few weeks later, 4th of July came around again, with all the fireworks and noise that goes with it. Funny, but I never connected Eileen’s running away with the fireworks, but I guess they must have had something to do with it, because that night was awful.

I was just falling asleep when I heard her start growling. I pushed the intercom button, and Mom and Dad came running. Eileen was out of bed and screaming in the seconds it took for Mom to reach her.

I’ll never forget what I saw and heard that night, standing in the door of my room, crying hysterically. Eileen had been working out, Mom weighed 95 lbs. The sound of the fists on skin, Mom screaming, Dad yelling - I’m sure it was less than a minute, but in that time, Mom took a horrible beating. Eileen was throwing her around like a rag doll until Dad grabbed her in a bear hug.

Dad held Eileen as long as he could, to let Mom get away to their bedroom, then Eileen turned on him. Finally he shouted, “Enough!” and ran into my room, locking the door behind him. He used my phone to call the cops, and we listened as my sister raged around in her room.

Soon we heard her door open and her feet running down the stairs. She got out of the house about 2 minutes before the cops arrived. They took a report, looked things over, and said Dad should come to the station the next day to make a full report so he could file for a restraining order against Eileen. I never saw my Dad cry before.

      We took Mom to the ER to get her checked out, and saw the sun rise as we started for home. Life as we knew it was over. Mom and Dad didn’t even object when I said I decided not to go to college, they just hugged me tight.


Marci McKim has been writing all her life. When she was in 6th grade, she started a monthly newsletter for her class, the first in Woodrow Wilson School.

 Her writing has been published in The Legal Letter of the National Association of Theatre Owners, Publishers Weekly, PD News, Computer Graphic Magazine, New York Magazine, and the poetry anthologies of the Networking Cafe.

 She was editor-in-chief for the Exhibit Reporter, an R.R. Bowker publication.

 Marci has been a technical writer since the mid-1980s, and currently writes business documents and proposals as a Software Development Project Manager.

 She is also lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the band Red, White and Blues. Some of her music is available on YouTube.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017