Lauren Granger has lived all of her twenty years in a stilted, boarded-up, derelict old single-family house in the hot and anarchic but generally zombie-free town of Prospect, Texas with her mothers.
Three of them. Imogene. Elaine. And Sara-Marjorie. All of them use the surname Granger, and Lauren isn’t sure which one, if any, is her biological mother, or where the other half of her DNA came from.
Imogene is the sharp-shooter, the hard-and-fast talker, the butch of the lesbian ménage-a-trois. She sees a man and shoots. Sometimes from the window, sometimes from the roof. She nudges Lauren from a solo game of checkers and says, “Loot that bag of dirt, would you?”
Elaine is reasonable. Elaine sits Lauren back down and says, “No, you stay put here where it’s safe. I’ll take care of that.” She’s in and out in minutes with the contents of the man’s pockets and allocates any cash, provisions, and pills she finds, accordingly. She does the chores. She cooks the food. Sometimes she cooks the dead guys, if there’s nothing else available. Sometimes she plays checkers with Lauren.
Sara-Marjorie is the menage’s link to a simpler time, a beautiful time. She’s always saying about how, way back when, there was order and structure and class. She sits Lauren in front of a mirror and sprays her straight, lank brown hair into stiff curls and dabs her face with old, stale makeup until little Lauren can’t tell what shade of pale her skin is underneath. Sara-Marjorie says how Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “beauty will save the world.” She insists that Lauren be beautiful and sweet and well-mannered and lovely even as the rest of society rots around the self-enclosed Eden.
Sara-Marjorie is the Fuhrer of the neofeminist motherland behind the boarded-up doors of the old stilted house.
Lauren, she’s grown up emotionally disconnected. The lack of a father figure has left her confused and curious about men. The lack of danger has made her think of danger as a joke. She makes up for her man-deficiency by taking up certain male habits herself, namely, hunting.
It’s not really stealing when nobody owns the broken-down stores anymore, though. It’s more of a compulsion. A kleptomania.
“Men, those barbaric creatures,” says Sara-Marjorie, “felt displaced after women invented farming and made hunting obsolete. That’s why they felt the need to dominate us. Jealously. Hunting, that barbaric pastime, is a pure reflection of male barbarism.”
Technically, Lauren’s never supposed to leave Feminazi Paradise, but when Id, Ego, and Superego are asleep, she likes to sneak out and peruse the old ghosts of the small town wasteland. She always starts with the vitamin store, the rundown square of shelves where Elaine says kids used to run in, shout profanities, and run away before the cashier could catch them.
Two acetaminophen + two ibuprofen = analgesic effect of codeine, but too much of either pill will squeeze the function out of your liver or kidneys until you’re dead.
After she’s done getting high, Lauren chews some expired vitamin C. She knows from ancient medical journals that an overdose of vitamin C can terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and she knows from old literature that people used to be afraid of dictatorship, not anarchy, and she doesn’t blame them.
Between the lawlessness of her own century or the tyranny of 1984, she’d rather live in a world where Big Brother isn’t watching.
If she still has time before sunrise, she sneaks off to the graveyard and stumbles over the kicked-over Lego city of graves until she finds a bouquet, laid by a rare somebody who still had a heart. She plucks out a single flower and tucks it into her bra, close to her heart, before scuttling home.
What she loves are the things, like flowers, that people admired for a day and then discarded. If you discard it, it means you had to have loved it enough to acquire it at some point. You had to have at least noticed it from across the junkyard, spindly legs shaking in its boots with too much makeup on and the curl falling out of its brown hair. You had to have wanted it if you took it, and from Lauren’s vantage point, that’s the closest to love her generation is still capable of.
Lauren Granger has been raped three times.
© Solstice Stevens
Solstice Stevens studies psychology at Rice University with ambitions in criminal psychology. She writes on the side to fund her many vices. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in SNM Horror Magazine, The Montucky Review, and Dew on the Kudzu, among others. She maintains a blog at solsticestevens.blogspot.com.