Read My Beautiful Failure Online

Authors: Janet Ruth Young

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Family, #Parents, #Love & Romance, #Social Issues, #Suicide, #Social Themes, #Dating & Sex, #Dating & Relationships, #Depression & Mental Illness

My Beautiful Failure

Contents

Acknowledgments

Epigraph

Part 1

Chapter 1. She Was

Chapter 2. New Directions

Chapter 3. Last Winter: A Memory

Chapter 4. Last Winter: What Happened

Chapter 5. What Mom Did

Chapter 6. Blanks

Chapter 7. Private Beach

Chapter 8. Research

Chapter 9. Headquarters

Chapter 10. Rule Number 4

Chapter 11. In My Corner

Chapter 12. Wrong With You

Chapter 13. They are Your Friends

Chapter 14. The Art World

Chapter 15. Breakfast with Champions

Chapter 16. Shift 1, November 4

Chapter 17. Call 1

Chapter 18. Splashdown

Chapter 19. Call 2

Chapter 20. Lowered Expectations

Chapter 21. Call 12

Chapter 22. A Dark Side

Chapter 23. Picturing

Chapter 24. Beacon

Chapter 25. Changing Course

Chapter 26. Last Winter: Red All Over

Chapter 27. Shift 2, November 8

Chapter 28. Call 1

Chapter 29. Calls 2–4

Chapter 30. Call 12

Chapter 31. Burgers and Fries

Chapter 32. Self-Evaluation

Chapter 33. Plan to Fail

Part 2

Chapter 34. Crock or Van Gogh?

Chapter 35. Last Winter: Night Terrors

Chapter 36. Apprentice

Chapter 37. Team Dumb

Chapter 38. Shift 3, November 11. Call 18

Chapter 39. Self-Evaluation

Chapter 40. And I Found Myself Thinking about Her

Chapter 41. L is for Laughter

Chapter 42. Think Small

Chapter 43. Shift 4, November 15. Call 24

Chapter 44. Outside

Chapter 45. Director

Chapter 46. Soaring

Chapter 47. Shift 5, November 18. Call 29

Chapter 48. On Hold

Chapter 49. Life Saver

Chapter 50. Fractured

Chapter 51. Muses

Chapter 52. Meter

Chapter 53. The G Word

Chapter 54. Dislocation

Chapter 55. Shift 6, November 22. Call 31

Chapter 56. Score

Chapter 57. Foothold

Chapter 58. Mom

Chapter 59. In Other Words

Chapter 60. Last Winter: Useless

Chapter 61. Shift 7, November 25. Call 19

Chapter 62. Call 43

Chapter 63. Refreshing

Chapter 64. Call 61

Chapter 65. Running

Chapter 66. All-State

Chapter 67. Last Winter: The Sharp Objects

Chapter 68. Catalogue

Part 3

Chapter 69. Freckled

Chapter 70. Lost Horizon

Chapter 71. Last Winter: Treatment

Chapter 72. Last Winter: Puzzle

Chapter 73. Shift 8, November 29. Call 57

Chapter 74. Original

Chapter 75. Top Ten Reasons I Love Jenney

Chapter 76. Shift 9, December 2. Call 42

Chapter 77. Racing

Part 4

Chapter 78. Whether

Chapter 79. Suspended

Chapter 80. Watchful

Chapter 81. Dawn

Chapter 82. The Inevitable

Chapter 83. Separate

Chapter 84. One-Man Show

Chapter 85. Watching Dad

Chapter 86. She?

Chapter 87. Shrinkette

Chapter 88. Together and Apart

Part 5

Chapter 89. Shift 10, December 6. Call 45

Chapter 90. Outside

Chapter 91. Flying

Chapter 92. Compass

Chapter 93. The Ledge

Chapter 94. Thirty

Chapter 95. The Door Opens

Chapter 96. News

Chapter 97. Hawthorne Woman Found Dead

Chapter 98. How Did You Help This Incoming?

Chapter 99. What Could You Have Done Better?

Chapter 100. What Questions Do You Have Before You Hear Our Decision?

Chapter 101. Listener of the Year: Not

Chapter 102. Blackout

Chapter 103. In the Cemetery (My Painting)

Chapter 104. Coda

Chapter 105. Deadline

Chapter 106. The Story of Emma P. Braumann

Chapter 107. Macaroni Yet Again

Chapter 108. Bearings

Chapter 109. Improvements

Chapter 110. And I Found Myself Thinking About Her

Chapter 111. Below Sea Level

About Janet Ruth Young

To volunteers everywhere

Acknowledgments

Thanks to the people who agreed to be interviewed for this book: Lieutenant Kathy Auld and Officer Larry Ingersoll of the Gloucester Police Department, Captain Barry Aptt of the Gloucester Fire Department, Dan Quirk of Beauport Ambulance, Jen Shairs and David Allen, and the painters Ed Touchette and Elynn Kroger. Painter and teacher Susan Guest-McPhail shared her insights with me and reviewed the book for accuracy. Thanks also to my loyal reader/critiquers—Cassandra Oxley, Bridget Rawding, Jan Voogd, and Diane Young. Finally, my appreciation to the people at Atheneum, especially my editor, Ruta Rimas, for their help in shaping and presenting this story.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

—Winston Churchill

PART 1
1.
she was

S
he was a girl talking to me in the dark.

Everybody knows what happened with my parents. Everybody I talk to when I call.

“You can turn your life around,” I had told her. “Starting today, you can be free. You can do anything you want. Don’t you see that?”

I’m down, but I’m not out. I’m a fighter. On my good days, few can defeat me.

“I admire that about you,” I had told her.

I remember every compliment you ever gave me. Especially when you said I was strong.

“I have to go. Will you be okay?”

I’ll handle it. I always do. Good night, sweet Hallmark prince.

2.
new directions

W
here is everyone?” Dad asked when he got home. It was October 25, and he had just come from his therapy appointment. Dad looked good these days, like someone who had a purpose. He shaved in the morning and dressed for work in a jacket and tie and Rockport loafers. He stood straighter and was no longer bony. His felty red hair was cut short, so that it verged on stylish, and he wore a sharp, arrowlike goatee. He worked as a draftsman at Liberty Fixtures, a company that made shelving for department stores. He looked a lot like me, if I were fifty and had accepted that I would always hate the job I needed.

I was just in from a bike ride. Mom and Linda were making pizza and salad for supper. Dad dropped a bag marked
ART SUPPLIES
on the dining room table. You could hear the rush-hour traffic going by out back; the highway ran right behind our house.

Drive past our house: the bright orange door, the brass
knocker in the shape of a salamander (unnecessary because we have a functioning doorbell), our name and house number (Morrison 32) painted in black Gothic lettering on a white rock at the end of the driveway—that’s all Linda’s work. And Mom directed a museum. We might as well have a sign outside saying Artistic People Live Here. Right now Linda and Mom were laying the pepperoni slices in overlapping circles to look like a chrysanthemum. The art supplies could have been for almost anyone—anyone but me.

“I’m going to paint again,” Dad said. He looked quietly fierce, like a gladiator before the lion is let out.

“Yippee!” Linda danced around, wriggling and elfish. She switched from teenager mode to little girl mode when she wanted to feel closer to my parents.

Mom dried her hands and wrapped her arms around Dad’s middle.

“That’s exciting, honey. But you’ve always painted.”

“I mean get
serious
about painting. I want to be in the art world again. I put my art aside. Because of the needs of making a living and raising a family.”

Excuse me for being born
, I thought.

“That’s a sad story,” Linda said. Linda’s style reworked droopy clothes that had belonged to an elderly person, which made her look younger than thirteen. She came up to Dad’s armpit, and she had a wormy way of sharing his space. Now she slipped her hand into Dad’s, and he held it in the air like it was a prize. I was as tall as he was, so he never looked at me, or my hand, that way.

“I never stopped you,” Mom said. “I never told you you couldn’t paint.” Like Linda, Mom worked to separate
herself from the run of humanity. She wore her black hair perfectly straight, wore dark lipstick, and owned only necklaces that were one of a kind. Usually they were made for her by someone noteworthy, such as a blind sculptor, a poetry-writing shepherd, or a male nun.

“Of course not, sweetie,” Dad said. He crinkled his eyes at Mom, like he was winking to make her admit a lie.

“Don’t forget, Bill, I fell in love with you over
Inverted Horizon
.”

“I’m not forgetting.”

Inverted Horizon
was the ocean-on-top sunset painting of Dad’s that was shown by a Fifty-Seventh Street gallery in New York City when Mom was in graduate school and Dad was working at a paint store. He ended up selling that to a collector, as well as his vertical sunset painting
Perpendicular Horizon
. He once told me that they were the best things he had ever done—part technical exercise, part making fun of the sunset cliché, and part, he said, “Just something great to look at.”

At the opening reception, Mom stood in front of
Inverted Horizon
for a long time. A tall guy in an army fatigue jacket and tuxedo pants came along and stood beside her, and without his saying anything, she knew he was the painter. Although I don’t like to view either of my parents as a love object, I always felt that was a good way to meet someone: nothing flashy or obvious, just a meeting of the minds and a sense of being immediately understood.

“Well, for the record,” Mom continued, “I completely support your painting. As of today, as of right now, and for the future. Completely.”

“I completely do too, Dad.” Linda scurried away from Dad and emptied the bag: tubes of paint, brushes, brush cleaner.

“Why all of a sudden?” I asked, leaning on one end of the table. I didn’t touch Dad or his art supplies. I knew enough to see that he had about three hundred dollars’ worth.

“Dr. Fritz and I talked about it. Art is my missing piece.” Dad pointed to the paints, then tapped a spot somewhere between his heart and his gut. “The missing piece of my emotional puzzle.”

Other books

Summer at Tiffany's by Karen Swan
Definitely Maybe by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
Desired Affliction by C.A. Harms
Coming Home by David Lewis
Trust Me by Bj Wane
Night of Fear by Peg Kehret
Choke Point by Ridley Pearson