Relics from your past to consider when you're cleaning out your godforsaken storage unit in Berkeley, CA
Fastest way to regret every single one of your life choices
Greetings from Berkeley, where I’m cleaning out a storage unit I rented eleven years ago. I don’t recommend it! (I don’t recommend Berkeley; I don’t recommend renting a storage unit; I don’t recommend leaving that storage unit untouched for eleven years.)
I did find all of the little books and stories I wrote in elementary school, and I wanted to share one with you: my 1992 story “Him!” It is best described as—well, let’s let 1992 Jacqui tell you:
As you can see, the artist (me) has adorned the cover with (from top center, clockwise: a folder labeled RECOVERY ASYLUM—Confidential; a knife (sword? knife.); a folder labored RENO POLICE RECORD—Confidential1; a Wanted poster for one Mark Fisher, a devious-looking brunette with scraggly facial hair; a tape recorder; the front page of the Reno Times, headlined ATTEMPTED MURDER; and a shopping bag from the Gap.
Well! This is all quite mysterious, no??? Who is this Mark Fisher? Ahh, I see:
Let’s crack the cover on this “entierly fictional” semi-mystery, shall we?
A bold in media res opening scene: our main character, Aimee, is speaking with a mystery figure who is calling from a pay phone (either he said so, or there is some omniscient third person mixed in here). The mystery man would like to help her buy a birthday gift for her mother, a task she had apparently struggled with! “So he wasn’t like all the others, giving ‘helpful’ suggestions” without offering real help.
His manner was “brisque.” He suggested a rendezvous at the Burger King the following evening, then hung up. “Weird!” our heroine says. “I don’t think he ever knew my mom, like he said.” Is this foreshadowing???
“Tomorrow” actually meant “today,” apparently. One quick lie to her mother, and she’s off to the Burger King at the mall, where we find her … hiding in a plant. “I had, as I entered the mall, just then, considered the consequences,” she tells us, so she is scoping out the mysterious stranger.
SIXTEEN! Flirts with girls at Burger King! Though he seems to be a scrub, she doesn’t “waste a second,” but sidles out from behind the plant. Totally normal.
She interrupts his “flirting” to introduce herself, but “Mark’s face had a befuddled look on his face.”2 He doesn’t seem to know who she is. When he remembers, however, the look of befuddlement turns into a “sinister smile.” HMMMMMMM.
As soon as they get to her mom’s “favorite store” (the Gap, I guess), he kisses her! Like any good womyn living under patriarchy, she doesn’t protest. “Oh, well!” Perhaps she should have, however:
Mark has grabbed her and is holding a knife to her neck. “Stop kidding around!” she cries. Mark, we learn, is not kidding around, but wants to put her into “real danger.” I think this means that he wants to RAPE her!!!!!! Wait, no, I didn’t know anything about the concept of sexual assault or even the word “rape,” so this is probably an attempted murder.
Luckily, a good Samaritan intercedes, and the day is saved!
Aimee has accidentally married Mark!!!!!!! “I didn’t know who he really was, but I had my suspicions,” as “he talked to alot of detectives and cops.” There are no plants in the marital home, so she hides behind a door and eavesdrops.
“Mr. Fisher, have you ever shoplifted?”
“No, sir. I haven’t.”
“Been imprisoned? Killed anyone? Attempted murder?”3
“Yes, no, no.” I knew he was lying.
She knew he was lying. Did she know he’d done a stint in the bing bing? Also a question the narrative leaves unanswered. Satisfied, the detective leaves.
LUCKILY, she has the cold, hard evidence the detective had been seeking. She "had “taped Mark talking to someone about his murdering”! Mark, perhaps understandably, “wouldn’t answer any questions for me,” so she does “the next best thing”: call her mother-in-law. The dear woman tells the truth. Mark is “an escaped mental case” with “a filthy dirty record.” Aimee “obtained copies of all of this.” (This is very Line of Duty, right? Just collecting the evidence and putting it in carefully labeled folders.)
The next part is a bit confusing. There is enough evidence for a “case against Mark” but it’s Steve who’s being charged. Or Steve was charged? Who is Steve? Well, he’s Aimee’s client: “I was gladly a lawyer (my real profession) for Steve, my rescuer.” Ah! These charges stem from the Mall Incident. When was Steve charged? Why was Steve charged? Was it that he had tried to kill Mark, or was it just that a CRIME had been done and someone had to be held ACCOUNTABLE? (How could Aimee not have known that she had married her attacker?)
In a dramatic courtroom scene, Aimee confronts her husband. “When a baliff asked me which of the two did the dirty deeds, I undauntedly lifted a finger and pointed at Mark. ‘Him!’ I cried, loudly.”
Whew! Now for the denouement. “Now I’m married to Steve,” Aimee says. (Did she know who Steve was when she met him?) She’s also a private eye who knows self-defense. Now that she’s “pretty well off” and doing the work she loves with the man she loves beside her, Aimee has taken time to write this “editorial.” It’s a reminder:
That was a doozy, huh? I was, and I cannot stress this enough, nine years old when I wrote this. Where did I get all of this information from?? Maybe Unsolved Mysteries? Anyway, I got an A+: “Wow, what a story! A great lesson at the end too! Your illustrations are super! Very well done!”
I found a lot of other amazing and questionable material in the storage unit, which I’ll save for another occasion. In the meantime, please forward this email to a friend if you’d like, and if you want to upgrade to a paid subscription, go ahead and smash that button.
I left comments open if you would like to leave one. Please tell me about your own youthful literary efforts.
Love you, mean it!
I have never, ever been to Reno.
Editors are very important!!!!
Wow, that escalated quickly!