Harry Lang, “My Name Is Angela”
in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future, vol. 28
Proceed to the Writers of the Future announcement|
and the author’s award acceptance.
My Name Is Angela
Publisher: Galaxy Press, June 2012
Vendors: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Where I’m FromIf I sit still for a long time and think in just the right way I can see the numbers and colored letters hiding behind my name. The grandfathers are sure we can’t do this but we can. Sometimes late at night, when I might really be asleep, I think of a ride in a truck. It’s sunny and there are rows of us, all wearing the same white gown and I hear the little whirly noise of a gate sliding into place behind us...
I don’t think of the truck when I’m in school teaching their fourth graders. Or the numbers. I follow the well worn groove of times tables and spelling, now and then reading stories or listening to oral reports. Last week there were two knife fights but that too is a well worn groove. I stopped them both and got yelled at by some of the mothers and their boyfriends. They saw the blood soaking through the bandage on my arm but it made no difference. They are just like their children; if they weren’t different sizes I could never tell them apart.
Bruno says he can tell them apart but he lies about so many things I never know what to believe. His lying makes me tired so I don’t talk to him much; I have my radio and he has his TV. His shows are stupid and so is he; when I’m in the living room with him he pretends to know who the people are and what they’re doing but late at night, before he comes to bed I peek and see him shaking his head, mumbling as he clicks from channel to channel.
A good thing about Bruno is that I never have to look up to him and he never has to look down at me. People look down at us all the time, without exception. It’s what we’re for. Of course I hear pieces of discussions on the radio, usually when the music is boring and I turn the dial. Some are “for” us and some “against” but I can’t tell their ideas apart any more than I can tell them apart. They’re like empty spaces, white silhouettes moving through the dimly colored background of the world, or fiery beings stretching blazing hands to conduct us like a lackluster symphony written by a mediocre composer. It’s because of the numbers behind my name; I think they control me and the ones for recognizing people are missing.
The grandfathers are sure we don’t understand about the numbers, but we do. When I go to the regional office for routine check-ups they always test to see if I know about the numbers but they’re so sure I don’t they never pay attention. The grandfathers are different from other people, more defined and identifiable; I trust them but I don’t know why. Maybe some of the numbers make me trust them.
One Saturday morning it was raining when I woke up. Bruno was snoring as usual and the side of his face was covered with a big bandage. I was confused but then I remembered. Last night he wanted sex. I told him no. This was odd because I really did feel like that but I didn’t like him deciding all the time. I thought it should be my turn to decide and I decided no.
He didn’t like that. He followed me around, getting in the way while I did the dishes and the ironing. Sometimes he was loud and scary; mostly he was whiny and pitiful. He was really on my nerves!
Finally I made another decision. I told him, “No!” one last time and hit him with the hot iron as hard as I could. He crashed to the floor and didn’t move.
I got ready for bed as he lay there moaning. When I got out of the shower he was sitting up, whimpering and trying not to touch his swollen face. His left eye had disappeared.
A few minutes later he staggered to his feet. He went to the clinic and I went to sleep.
I remembered all that as I sat listening to the rain and smelling the fresh air seeping into the drafty old apartment. It was such a peaceful feeling, like the rain was making its own clean, cool world just for me. In a way it was like the quiet truck ride in my dream, with no numbers, no knife fights, nobody “for” and “against.”
It was like music that had to come from some place greater than the messy, tangled world. Could there be such a place?
I think that’s when I decided to go to the Soul Man.
Copyright © 2012 by Harry Lang