Peer Pressure
Bev Vines-Haines

I think about this all the time now.  I told the judge, “You can have a trial.  You can always have a trial.  But I know this, everyone in town decided twenty years ago, about the time I went into the Kindergarten at Peevy Elementary, who I was, where I came from and where it was I had to go.  At first you know, I didn’t listen.  I had this crazy idea I could grow up and be somebody.  When I was really little I thought I could be Madonna.  I loved those pointy tips on her costume, how she looked like an alien mother and maybe had babies with odd little mouths to fit around those things.  I also wanted to be Brittney before the world turned on her.   

“I could sing, Judge; no one will dispute that.  Soft and plaintive and curling around people’s feelings like a snake.  When you’re little you think everyone can do that.  When you find out they can’t, there is a chance you might get a big head and start to like yourself and smile sincerely into mirrors and windows when you’re all alone.  But not me.  I had seven brothers and sisters who went ahead of me at Peevy and there were no illusions about Sacket children and their place in society. 

  “Grace came hard to me no matter how well I could sing.  So when Mr. Ballinger hired me to sing out at the Ten Easy Pieces, it felt like I slipped into overdrive.  See, singing for me is magic.  It’s a place I go on the inside and things are still possible in there.   But he made me sing these torchy, bluesy songs, stuff about love and pain.  And men get crazy when a woman sings like that.  Some of them acted like they wanted to save me.  But not all.   

“Old man Westcott got angry, like I’d turned on lights inside his head.  Still, he came back every night of that long hot summer.  He would wait near my car door after I got off work, just stand there with his hand on his privates and his eyes and soul burning bright.  Always carried this dagger thing with him, even in the Ten Easy Pieces.  I knew he planned to use it when things finally got too hot.  I had to kill him.  But he was a banker, Judge.  And a deacon.  

“So you can have a trial.  But we both know what’s going to happen.  So if it’s all the same with you, I’ll just say ‘guilty’ and take my songs on down the road.”    

First published: Aug, 2008
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