Iowa Writes

MADELEINE BAER
Katie (Part 2)


        Back to the present. As I end my first year of college I want to have an adventure during the summer, something to do other than living at home with my parents for three months and trying to find a job at a fast food restaurant or the movie theatre. I sat up late into the night on the first day of summer, searching the internet for possibilities of things to do and places to go. I lay on my bed, my body tired but my mind whirring awake by the artificial light from my laptop seeping into my eye sockets. There was an arts festival in Ayuxba. Workshops in drawing, painting, sculpting, design, and photography. A weekend workshop cost only a hundred dollars. Perfect. Not bothering to wait until morning, I text my best friend from my hometown, Taylor. It would be good to have a partner to take a long road trip with. The next morning, Taylor responds, enthusiastically agreeing to accompany me to Ayuxba. Of course, we would stay at the Mulns-Jones's. They would be only too happy to host us (my father and Carrie Mulns used to be best friends and co-workers after all) and who in their right mind would turn down a free place to stay?
        I was looking forward to seeing Amy again. I heard that she was an artist as well and figured that we would have lots to talk about. But of course, the real reason I was there was for my drawing workshop. My skills would be honed to a new degree, and I would get to study from some of the most well known visual artists in America. Taylor and I camped in state parks on the way to Ayuxba, and while we were driving Carrie Mulns texted me and told me the whole family would actually be out of town on the three days of our stay, but to make ourselves at home in the house. This was good. A huge house all to ourselves, and not having to be cordial or deal with anyone. Mark was at a conference for work, Jessica had moved out of the house a few years ago, Amy was vacationing with a friend, and Carrie Mulns and Katie were at a soccer tournament.

        Back to the present. As I end my first year of college I want to have an adventure during the summer, something to do other than living at home with my parents for three months and trying to find a job at a fast food restaurant or the movie theatre. I sat up late into the night on the first day of summer, searching the internet for possibilities of things to do and places to go. I lay on my bed, my body tired but my mind whirring awake by the artificial light from my laptop seeping into my eye sockets. There was an arts festival in Ayuxba. Workshops in drawing, painting, sculpting, design, and photography. A weekend workshop cost only a hundred dollars. Perfect. Not bothering to wait until morning, I text my best friend from my hometown, Taylor. It would be good to have a partner to take a long road trip with. The next morning, Taylor responds, enthusiastically agreeing to accompany me to Ayuxba. Of course, we would stay at the Mulns-Jones's. They would be only too happy to host us (my father and Carrie Mulns used to be best friends and co-workers after all) and who in their right mind would turn down a free place to stay?
        I was looking forward to seeing Amy again. I heard that she was an artist as well and figured that we would have lots to talk about. But of course, the real reason I was there was for my drawing workshop. My skills would be honed to a new degree, and I would get to study from some of the most well known visual artists in America. Taylor and I camped in state parks on the way to Ayuxba, and while we were driving Carrie Mulns texted me and told me the whole family would actually be out of town on the three days of our stay, but to make ourselves at home in the house. This was good. A huge house all to ourselves, and not having to be cordial or deal with anyone. Mark was at a conference for work, Jessica had moved out of the house a few years ago, Amy was vacationing with a friend, and Carrie Mulns and Katie were at a soccer tournament.

        The house was old and intellectual, paneled chocolate brown and set against a garden of pine and fir trees. Every step creaked and every door stuck, and one got the feeling that the family, being so wrapped up in art and books and music and work, seldom remembered to clean the crevices. A note from Carrie Mulns lay on the kitchen table, telling us where the key was and when to feed the cat, to eat anything we liked, and that one of us could stay in the tiny sewing room on the second floor and the other one could stay in the spacious attic bedroom that used to be Jessica's. Taylor called the attic bedroom, and I could hardly object. My room was no more than a closet crammed with shelves of cloth and yarn, buckets of fabric scraps, sewing machines, and irons. It was, however, right next to the three bedrooms, presumably Amy's, the parent's, and Katie's. It didn't really matter, I told myself. I was here for the drawing workshop, and nothing else. I took a walk around the neighborhood. Greenery overhung me from above and all around. I could smell and almost taste things growing, rapidly, up and out, taller and bigger and greener without a concern for the houses, sidewalk, or view of the sky. Different than Kansas, yes, but better?
        Back at the house, it was only nine, still not time to get ready for bed. I decided to do some snooping. Some old pictures of Jessica and a series of school pictures of the other two kids were pasted on the refrigerator. They were stickers, all different colors, each with the girl's names and dates printed below and on the side border. 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, which was just last fall. I saw Amy grown up into a young woman in a neat orderly row of her face and shoulders on each colored sticker. She was pretty, prettier than Katie, for she had that smooth, straight light brown hair that framed a pleasing color palette of ivory skin, freckles, and brown eyes. The size and shape of her features were the exact proportion to each other to represent simple, idyllic beauty. But she looked so much like other girls. She had shadows in her of many girls I knew, girls who were quiet and artsy and braided their hair and wore soft v-neck t-shirts and skinny jeans. She smiled at me in exactly the same way from each photo, serenely, like she was very well satisfied with life.
        On the row below Amy, duplicates of Katie at school cropped up among scattered black and white soccer portraits pasted all over the bottom half of the fridge. With the soccer ball, she was smiling so big it looked as if her skull might crack. She looked crazed. The early school pictures showed that same skinny little demon-child with the stringy hair, the one who screamed in my ear, told me my hair was ugly, and babbled gibberish for hours without stopping. She still strained her neck when she smiled back then, and she repeated it in every photo. After she turned eleven, which was the last year I saw her, when we took that walk in the dark, she chopped off her unruly hair into a shorn, brown crop that looked fuzzy in one picture and molded into a mohawk with gel in the next.
        I stopped myself. Where was I going with this? Taylor called me from upstairs telling me to come look at the books in the attic and I ran out of the kitchen.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


MADELEINE BAER

Madeleine Baer is a sophomore at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where she majors in writing.  She enjoys writing historical fiction and fantasy.

Madeleine was inspired to write Katie while in Iowa City during the summer of 2015.



Katie will appear on the Daily Palette in three parts.  If you missed Part 1, be sure to check out yesterday's page.

This page was first displayed
on February 17, 2016

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