So, here is the first part of the first chapter of Faerie Godfather:
Going to the mall is like a trip into the eighth circle of Hell. We had to read a selection from Dante’s Inferno in Advanced English freshman year and I spent the entire month imagining everyone else in the class was suffering on a level of their own. Instead of the first circle being Limbo, I renamed it Bimbo, imagining that everyone who was smart but played stupid to be popular went there. Brittany Stevens was first in line for Bimbo, living down to her name. She can’t help it. She was smart in middle school but when guys started noticing her chest she discovered they liked her more when she giggled and acted like the queen of Derpistan. Her parents are doctors and she’s as smart as she’s pretty, but her parents are on drugs if they think she’s getting into college. Her highest aspiration is a stripper pole.
The second circle of Hell is for those who are overcome by lust, people who would otherwise be okay except as soon as sex gets mentioned they turn into pools of sweaty Jello. All the jocks and most of the cheerleaders go here, the people who get so stupid at the thought of another person touching their junk that they can’t remember the shit they learned in sex ed. Losers.
The third circle is for gluttons. Not just the ones cramming their mouths full of crap in the food court. Dante makes them blind, deaf and unable to notice they aren’t alone in their places in Hell, because they’ve spent their whole lives ignoring everybody else and being all about themselves. Although my mom means well, that’s where Dante would put her. She’s all about appearances. Even this stupid trip to the mall isn’t really to get me shit for school, it’s so she can see what everyone else is wearing and try to stuff me into it. Do I want those stupid clothes? No. I want to pick out my own clothes. Will I get that opportunity? Of course not.
The fourth circle is for greed. You see, even though my mom wants me to look like a thirteen-year old fashion model, she’s not greedy about it. She’ll get me fifty dresses in some sick shade of pink that might’ve been okay when I was in middle school but are completely wrong for high school. I’ll be sixteen next week and she still tries to dress me like I’m a reject from Disney Store Island. The real greedy people come in two kinds. There are the people who have a lot of stuff and want way more than they have, even though they can only drive one car at a time and live in one house at a time they need like 50 and keep getting more even when they don’t need it, like hoarders only instead of filling one house with stuff they fill 50 houses with stuff. A lot of the kids in my class didn’t see anything wrong with that…like I said, losers.
The other greedy ones on the fourth circle of Hell were people who had a lot of money and goods and just squandered it because they could, like lighting a cigar with a hundred dollar bill, because the money means nothing to them. Most of the kids in my class didn’t see anything wrong with that either. Doesn’t matter that that hundred bucks could feed a family in some starving country for a year, they think that if you’ve got the money, it’s yours to burn. I actually got in it with Amber Jacobs over that in class. Of course the biggest snob in the class didn’t think there was anything wrong with squandering money, but that’s because she’s never not had mommy and daddy to foot the bill for her. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been poor either, but my mom always sent me to summer camps where about two-thirds of the kids there were having the fees paid for by charity groups. I once saw a girl crying because she tore the side of her sneaker coming off of a horse and she wasn’t going to be able to have another pair until at least the end of summer. She was freaking out because she couldn’t even replace a shoe she tore and Amber probably throws her shoes out if they get scuffed. I had an extra pair of sneakers in my cabin and gave them to her, saying that my mom bought them too small, because if mom heard I was in a situation like that and didn’t help she’d probably kill my allowance for a week. Plus they were really bright bubblegum pink. Ick.
The fifth circle is for anger, and one of the essay choices on our final was to say what circle of Hell you’d end up in and why and I said that one. I don’t know why I’m so angry. Mom made me go to a shrink about it and he told her it was just a side effect of being smart. Smart people, he said, see what’s wrong with the world and get pissed off that people don’t do the right things to make it better. I still see him once a month to make mom happy, but he told me right to my face that I didn’t need to see him and could stop if I wanted. Most importantly, if I see him I don’t need to worry that I’m not on the right drugs. Half my class is out of their skulls on drugs because their parents send them to people who tell them that not wanting to be cooped up for six hours makes them unnatural and they need to be drugged out of it. Dr. Alfriend isn’t like that, and he’ll write me a note if I want to get out of gym or get permission to leave school early.
The other thing he started me doing is writing my journal. I’m really good with codes and letters so he taught me the script I’m writing it in. It’s based on how the word sounds, which is why a word like word only takes one symbol and a word like letters takes three. He says the code is almost unbreakable, and I’ve been practicing it all summer, which is why I can now write in it as well as in English, and no one can break it unless they have some obscure training like Dr. Alfriend, who is a weird little German guy with honey colored hair and skin so white I bet he glows in the dark. I can actually write this faster than English, so I think I might switch into it for notes in class. Then I won’t have to share my notebooks ever and could even write about how stupid the class is without getting caught. The little book with the code in it he gave me is old, probably at least from the sixties, but he said I could keep it. It doesn’t have any codes or copyright information in it, and it says the code is called atheling, which Google says means a prince in Anglo-Saxon, but this code is so obscure even Google has never heard of it.
Dr. Alfriend says it’s important to write shit down so that I can make sense of it, and he’s strictly against using a computer for it. He uses a computer for nothing, always going about how if the electrical grid stopped working we’d be screwed if all our data was digital. He’s one of those “what would you do in a Zombie Apocalypse,” people, always making me role play through situations that aren’t ever going to happen, like if I was in a woods all alone and hiding from the Inquisition or if I had to get out of a building on fire. Ms. Walker said my writing got better after I started to see him, so that’s the other reason I keep going.
I was talking about circles of Hell, though. The anger one is the one I’d end up in, and they get progressively worse as you go along. The sixth is for heresy, which is like belonging to a religious cult the church (for Dante it was Catholics) disagrees with. Since I don’t really believe in any of that stuff I guess I’m safe from belonging to the wrong one. It makes me think of this group of guys from Middle school, though. They are the world’s biggest gamer nerds, and they would have talks about video games, and table top games and if one of them said something the leader of their group disagreed with he’d get banished from their table for a while, like heretics disagreeing with the pope. What’s weird, and I said this to Ms. Walker, is that Dante’s view of Hell was probably considered heresy by at least some people, so here he was judging other groups and probably half the people in my class belonged to churches that would label it heresy. Ms. Walker said she didn’t feel comfortable talking about it, because if we talked about one religion we’d have to cover them all and that doesn’t usually go well, but I think she was thinking of Hannah and Emily Monroe, the Christ-twins, whose parents make them wear long skirts and sit out of classes like sex-ed and biology.
The ring of Hell people usually talk about is the seventh circle, which is filled with people who are violent against property, themselves or God. The Christ-twins made a big deal about the gays belonging there, and I thought Amber was going to rip their arms off. Everyone knows her brother is gay, and no one cares except freaks like the Monroes. Ms. Walker let it go, though, saying that the 14th century Catholics would probably consider the churches anyone in the class belonged to to be blasphemous, and would not even recognize today’s Catholics, but I was sure she really wanted to rip on Hannah and Emily’s church. Good she didn’t, I think the Monroes make more money from suing people than they do from selling their cheap Chinese crap at the flea market. I thought freaks like that got homeschooled these days, anyways. I will never understand why they are at Learmont, anyways. It’s a private and secular high school, and there is a creepy Christian school across town. Maybe they think twins are sinful or something there.
The eighth level of Hell, the one malls are based on, is the level of fraud. It’s where all the fakers and posers and people who treat you nicely to get something out of you are supposed to go. It’s also where the thieves and people who use their positions to exploit people by tricking them go. Everyone who ever hawked a thing that didn’t work as seen on television or a quack cure for an illness is supposed to go there, and if that’s not a mall, I don’t know what is.
The last level of Hell, the ninth, is for the people who engage in treachery. I think it’s for bitchy math teachers, myself, but that’s just me.
Mom forced me into three or four dresses (I mean, dresses?) and put them on The Card, but I managed to get three pairs of jeans (two black, one dark blue) and a stack of plain teeshirts. She’s always trying to put words on my chest, logos and bands and crap on me, but one of the only things I remember about my dad is that he said that if you promoted a product, it had to be something you stood behind all the way, so I don’t advertise a thing for anyone. There’s no way to put it, if a guy meets me, the first thing he sees is my chest, so anything written there is getting ogled by creeps in school and creepy old guys at the mall.
The Card is weird. Before Dad died, he gave it to my mom and said that if anything happened to him she could use it for anything and his company would pay it. I’ve seen her buy a car, plane tickets, groceries and everything else with it. It is platinum, real honest to goodness metal, with her name and a number and no logo. Once in a while a cashier thinks that the card is a fake or something they can’t take, but they slide it through the machine and it pops up paid and they send us on our way. In the five years since Dad disappeared no one’s ever been not paid with it, and as far as I know mom’s never gotten a bill. The only places it doesn’t seem to work is online, but mom pays the card she uses online with The Card just the same, and no one complains.
I swear that creepy old guy at the mall was staring at me the whole time mom pulled out stuff and demanded that I wear it. I felt like he was following us all over the mall, but every time I turned around I didn’t see him. It’s lucky for me there isn’t a circle of hell for paranoia.
She only dragged me around the mall for about a million years, leaving half a million bags at the customer service desk and tipping the kid at it to help us haul them out to the car. I don’t know if she’s just tired of fighting or what, but she eventually let me buy the stuff I liked. Most of those one piece dress things don’t fit me well. Only the pencil-stomached cheerleaders would call me fat, but I’ve got a big enough chest and scrawny enough legs that if it fits over my top my legs swim in it, and if it’s proportional to my legs I can’t even close it at the top. I really like to wear things that are flowy on the top and tight on the bottom, not really hiding my figure but at least making me imagine that people are noticing my personality first when they meet me. If I can’t find a top that’s loose but not open to the navel I’ll just wear a teeshirt that’s a few sizes too large.
My mom says that it’s not that I’m weirdly shaped but that fashions aren’t made for people like me anymore; they are either made for people who are too fat or too thin. When she was a girl, she says, they called women like me athletic. That’s a lie and a half, of course, she was only twenty when she had me and the anorexia-chic crap was as big then as now, but it makes her feel better to say it. It doesn’t make me feel better, because it’s always like that for me. I’m too short to be picked out for basketball but tall enough to look most of the guys my age right in the face, so no one is going to be turning me around a dance floor and dipping me anytime soon. My eyes are that brown that’s not so dark to be mysterious or so light to look unusual and my hair’s a color mom calls “dishwater blonde,” somewhere between mom’s brown and dad’s almost white platinum.
I always feel trapped in the middle, like I’m so average and boring that if I don’t pay attention I’ll just vanish out of existence in a poof of mediocrity. It won’t even be a loud poof, just sort of a soft paper shuffling noise that no one would notice except my mom.