The following is an excerpt from the story Fight Songs by Jim Ruland, appearing in Annalemma Issue Six: Sacrifice. Image by Todd Jordan.
Last week deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department escorted Staci Carson from the agency for violating a restraining order by stalking a lifeguard at the beach, but I’m the only one in the building who knows this. Staci had a secret blog. It isn’t up anymore–her hosting service deleted the file at the request of the authorities–but she archived the content and parked it on her hard drive, which became my hard drive after Staci left and I moved into her office. She documented her infatuation with the lifeguard in a file called “StatusReports2010” and I’ve been reading it nonstop. I’m pretty much in love with Staci Carson now.
I didn’t know Staci Carson very well. She traveled all the time and worked from home a lot. She was reasonably fit, reasonably personable, reasonably attractive. In short, the least likely person to get all fatal attraction over a nineteen-year-old lifeguard barely out of high school. Not that I’m judging her. I believe love is a weed that can spring up anywhere. You can rip it out of the ground, but its root structure, its essence, remains. You can’t make love go away just because you want it to.
The telephone rings and I nearly jump out of my chair. It’s my first call in my new office and the ring tone is super loud.
It’s the receptionist, a woman named Gilda who wears wild wigs and headscarves, and may very well be the only person in the agency with a sense of humor, which is a problem since our biggest client is a comedy network.
“You got a call from Jessica.”
“Jessica?” Jessie is the daughter of my on-and-off girlfriend, Rocio. I have no idea why Jessie would be calling me at work.
“I’ll put her through.”
“Wait,” I say, but it’s too late. Gilda’s gone. I use my best I’m-super-busy-this-better-be-good voice: “Tom Lanier.”
“Jessie. Is everything all right?”
“Yeah. Well. Sorta.”
“What does ‘sorta’ mean?”
“I got suspended.”
“What did you do?”
“You got suspended for doing nothing?” I wince as the words tumble out of my mouth. To a fourteen-year-old, sarcasm is pretty much the same thing as being a dick.
“Hold on,” she says and another voice comes over the line. Someone from the school.
“Um, no. This is Jessie’s mother’s significant other.” It’s the first time I’ve ever used this phrase to describe myself and it feels completely asinine, but Jessie’s mother’s boyfriend sounds sleazy. It could be that I’m slightly intimidated: this woman’s got the I’m-super-busy-this-better-be-good voice down cold.
“I see. And your name is?”
“Lanier. Tom Lanier.”
“Mr. Lanier, this is Ms. Ortega, the school disciplinarian at Our Lady of Guadalupe. Your significant other’s daughter has been suspended for a dress code violation. Will you be coming to pick her up or shall I phone her mother?”
“I’ll be right there,” I say. “What’s your address?”
“You can obtain the school’s address and driving directions on our website.”
“You can’t just give it me?”
“No, I can’t just give it to you. Good day, Mr. Lanier.”
I put down the phone and grab my car keys. Love without sacrifice is but a declaration of intentions. That’s from Staci’s blog, posted a week before she was arrested. I don’t what this means, but I can feel the truth of it down to my bones.
To read the rest of this story click here to pre-order Annalemma Issue Six: Sacrifice, which ships April 12th.
Jim Ruland is the author of the short story collection Big Lonesome and the organizer of the L.A.-based reading series Vermin on the Mount. He lives in San Diego with his wife the visual artist Nuvia Crisol Guerra.
Todd Jordan is a photographer based in New York City. He has had various solo exhibitions of his work and been included in several group shows. He has self published two books of his work and most recently released “Sleep Talking” with Decathlon Books. Todd is represented in New York by Peter Hay Halpert Fine Art.