And now...I present...the first ten pages of my novel-in-progress called "Pepper Wellington: The Case of The Missing Sausage". I actually finished a very rough draft of it and will now commence tweaking. Tweak tweak! Let me know if you like this. And if you hate it, well, keep that to yourself. I am a tender flower people and very emotional.
Happy Holidays. Happy reading!
and the Case of the Missing Sausage
by Tanya Eby
No people were actually murdered in the writing of this book, although there were plenty of times when the author would have killed for a good piece of chocolate.
At first she looked like a mountainous mound of meringue, and perhaps someone might have taken a spoon to her if it weren’t for two things: 1) Why would a mountain of meringue lay in the middle of the lodge’s ballroom and 2) What, exactly, was the pool of red next to it? The pool (in the shape of a Jurassic-size squashed bug) certainly didn’t look like raspberry sauce. It looked more like (and was) blood.
Pepper Wellington pointed her purple shoe and fluffed the meringue. “There’s a woman in there somewhere, I’m sure of it,” she said to her daughter.
Her daughter, though 29 and counting, immediately began to cry.
“Oh, she’s dead all right,” continued Pepper. “Really, really dead. That’s a sad thing, isn’t it?”
“And not only that,” her daughter sniffled. “She’s wearing my dress.”
“That’s your wedding dress?” Pepper questioned. “Really, sweetie, that’s a bit over the top. You should have gone with something a little more understated. I mean all this toile is really too much. But it does look smashing on a corpse.”
They studied the corpse for a moment. She was, underneath the fluff, indeed smashing. Thin, tall, blonde. Pepper grabbed her daughter’s elbow. It was awkward but necessary. “Well, it looks as if we should go.”
“Shouldn’t we call the police?”
“No. I’m thinking we should probably make a run for it first.”
“But, Mummy, shouldn’t we do something? I mean she’s dead. And she’s wearing my wedding dress and I don’t understand any of this. Peter is going to be so upset. The timing of everything will be way off!”
“No, I think maybe we ought to make a run for it now.”
“Because, my love, of the blood on your hands.”
Pepper turned her daughter’s hands over to reveal that they were slick and red. The blood just beginning to dry.
“Oh, no,” her daughter said. “Oh, no! This is all your fault, Mummy! All your fault!”
Pepper nodded. Somehow, it probably was.
The Major Players
Pepper Wellington, according to her daughter, was cursed with being interesting. It was infuriating, really, because her mother seemed to be completely incapable of doing anything boring or normal—which resulted in Pepper naming her one and only daughter something truly horrendous and unforgivable. She named her daughter Sausage. Not only was Sausage donned with a horrible name, but she was also cursed with hair as bright as brushed copper. Both these things became a curse to her, although her mother seemed to only notice the issue with her name.
“Oh, have a sense of humor,” Pepper said time and again to her daughter as she grew up. “Sausage is a terrific name. You’ll never meet another Sausage, I guarantee you that.”
Pepper had been right, which was why, at the tender age of 9, Sausage (in bright red pigtails and a homemade tie-dyed t-shirt dress) had marched in to the local police station and demanded that her name forever be changed to Amy. There were Amy’s everywhere, and very few of them as far as she could tell, were interesting.
Now, at the tender age of twenty-nine, Amy had completely transformed herself. Gone were the Goodwill clothes and handmade sweaters. Gone were the hippy communes and artist retreats her mother had dragged her to. Gone was the red hair cascading down her back. It had grown into a nice dulled auburn, and she wore it up in a clip, securing most of its color and sheen from sight.
In the last decade since her escape from her mother’s abundant bosom, Amy had gone to a respectable college and took all the suggested classes. She majored in Business Administration and wore clothes purchased from Talbots in an array of colors ranging from khaki to grey to black, of which she accented with pink. She didn’t really care for pink, but it seemed to her to be so wholly different from her childhood that it was now a color she found inexorably drawn to, the way diabetics were sometimes drawn to sweets. Sausage—or rather, Amy—now worked for a local hotel at the front desk where she managed not to be impressive or promoted…and she had just met the man of her dreams: the very boring, very white, Peter.
Peter did not know Amy’s true origins. He could not even guess at her genesis and relation to a woman who read auras and believed (even at the age of 63) that sex should be enjoyed frequently, loudly, and with many different partners. Nor could Peter guess that his wife-to-be’s true name was Sausage, so that together, married they would be Peter and Sausage Johnson…the association with penises here so painful to Amy that she dared not think about it. And she dare not tell her beloved that she was not plain, dull Amy, but had a past much darker, much more interesting than he could ever dream.
Amy’s greatest fear was that he would find her out and decide he could not marry her. And if he could not marry her, then she would not be able to stick to her timeline of married by 29, pregnant by 30, and first born by 31. The earth would tilt off its axis. Had the choice been left to her, Amy wouldn’t have invited her mother to their wedding at all. She’d even contemplated hiring someone to impersonate her mother so that her secret could be kept safe, but it was not to be.
Peter had seen the pictures kept at the bottom of her dresser drawer when he’d calmly been searching for the box of condoms she kept hidden there also.
“Hey, there, Amy,” he said (he often addressed her with her name no matter the situation) “Who’s this lady with the crazy hair?”
She’d had to explain that the woman with the red Afro was her mother, and then quickly disguised the reason for the t-shirt that read “Cunt Is My Favorite Four-Letter Word” as a t-shirt protesting that very word and using irony as a tool.
“My mom,” she’d explained “is a radical Christian.” He’d nodded once, pushed the photos back under her white cotton panties, and then slowly unrolled the condom over his penis that he then inserted into her with medical precision. Precisely four minutes later, they’d both used the facilities, pulled on their clothes, and gone to Red Lobster for their Friday night fish fry.
Amy thought he’d forgotten her mother entirely until they’d been drawing up the guest list. “Amy, dear,” Peter’s mother Melody said softly, “Why, we haven’t invited any of your family. Please don’t tell me that you’re separated from your family.” Peter’s mother said the word ‘separated’ the way one would say ‘cancer’, with a horrified whisper.
“Separated! Goodness, no!” Amy laughed shrilly. “Why, my mom is so excited to come to the wedding. And my father, rest his soul, died when I was two.” Peter’s mother smiled a soft understanding smile, and clasped Amy’s hand, never realizing that Amy had told two lies: 1) her mother had no idea there was a wedding as Amy hadn’t spoken to her in nearly a decade and 2) her father was not dead, but was alive and only reliable in his heroin addiction. He was currently living in Prospect Park in New York City. And by saying living in Prospect Park, it doesn’t mean he had an apartment there. No. He pretty much lived in the park. That was a sad tale and best left in the dark.
Peter rubbed Amy’s shoulders. He always rubbed them a bit too hard and always in the same place, one hand placed on each shoulder squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. “Two months, Amy! Just two more months and I will finally meet your mother and we will be Peter and Amy Johnson.” Squeeze-squeeze. Amy flinched not only at the squeezing, but the repetition of her name, which still, somehow, all these years later, felt as if it belonged to someone else.
Amy had hoped that in those intervening two months, Peter would forget about the existence of her mother. Sadly, he did not. In fact, he seemed to insert mention of her mother’s existence into every banal conversation they had. So much so that Amy began to look over her shoulder fearful that Pepper had somehow materialized in her living room. For the time, Amy was safe. And then, “Say, weren’t you going to invite your mother?” Peter asked. And, “where’s the invitation to your mother,” and “Of course, with your mother coming and all we can have a fine family picture.” So after much hemming and hawing (internally only; externally she didn’t make a sound), Amy picked up the phone.
Amy held the phone in her hand, considered dialing the number, and then placed it gently in the receiver. She picked it up again, studied the earpiece and then noticed there was a bit of grey film over it. Peter had greasy hair. Or perhaps a greasy face. At any rate, grease was involved and it was disturbing. Deeply so. She rummaged in her purse until she found one of the prepackaged wipes she used to clean everything from her glasses to the computer screen to the mirror to, now, a phone receiver. She scrubbed. Then put the phone back in the cradle. She picked it up again.
“You call your mother, yet, Amy?” Peter called from the living room. He was watching News Hour on PBS and eating popcorn. He always watched News Hour on PBS and ate popcorn; on the weekends, he was at a loss as to what to do until he’d started recording News Hour and then he’d simply watch his favorite segments. Amy found this two-hour fixation unbearable and would try to make herself busy; after fifteen or so minutes, though, Peter would call for her and she’d have to sit next to him and not listen to him crunching away and not forget to keep smiling and not, god help her, fall asleep. Tonight, she’d said she was calling her mother. And she was. Any moment now.
“Just left a message!” she called back. “It must be Bingo night!” She laughed and it was tinny and false-sounding. Peter’s silence in response made her breathe easier: he’d seen nothing amiss. Amy was lying all the time now, it seemed, thanks in no small part to her mother. Still, in her mind, she reverted she called her “Mummy” a joke they’d had from when they pretended to be English. Amy hadn’t spoken to her mom since she was seventeen and still her mother was fucking up her life. Even that, the word ‘fucking’, a word Amy would never, ever employ, she now thought of freely. It was her mother’s fault. And now, tonight, the lies came effortlessly. I’ve left a message! It’s Bingo night! My mummy will be so happy to finally meet you! She’d called these things to Peter as if they were true.
Mummy. Why she’d suddenly chosen to give her mom a British-sounding moniker instead of her flat Midwestern m-aaah-m was beyond her. Lies humped like rabbits it seemed.
There was another word: humped. She hadn’t even thought of humping in ages. She never thought of humping period! And now her mind was a flurry of humping. Peter did not hump her. What they did was far more clinical. Peter and she performed intercourse with each other…though to be honest, sometimes Amy followed it up with a little solitary manipulation of her own in the bathroom. But all of this was just a digression. She needed to focus. She blamed her mother again. When she thought of her mother, her mind wandered. She worried it was genetic.
Internally Amy said: “Just pick up the phone, Sausage, and call your mother!” And then externally, she’d gasped. She’d referred to herself as that ‘other person’ and if she thought of herself as ‘Sausage’ how long would it be before she slipped and Peter found out the truth? She was not Sausage anymore! She would never, ever be a sausage. She didn’t even touch the stuff anymore. Not even chorizo. And she liked chorizo.
She sighed. She picked up the phone. Her fingers punched in the number. She never even paused to consider that all these years later her mother might have a new phone number…but she was not so lucky.
“Sausage, love, you still breathe like a sick horse.”
That was her mother’s greeting. No, hello, how are you, I’m sorry….no. In fact, Amy hadn’t even said a word so how did her mother know?
And in answer to the question Amy did not voice, her mother responded ,“Caller ID, honey, though it says Amy Wellington. I never did figure out why of all the names in the universe you chose one as plain as Amy. Everyone and their brother is named Amy.”
Amy inhaled sharply. Her mom continued. “So, are you pregnant? Or just getting married?”
She felt the word forming in her throat before she was able to croak it out “Married”.
A pause. She heard something familiar, the striking of a match. Her mother, yoga connoisseur and sometime vegetarian, was probably getting high. She said that it realigned her chakras. “Okay, then, pet. My only request is that I want to wear my stilettos and a red dress. If you’re okay with that then I will be there with bells on.”
“No bells,” Amy said. “And only if the stilettos are short.”
Another pause, an exhale, and then her mother said the words that started it all: “It’s a deal.”