Bringing the Writing to You: Susan Hope Lanier

Susan Hope Lanier, photo by machine.

Susan Hope Lanier, photo by machine.

So you can get an idea of the writing that the Fiction Writing Department is producing, I am publishing excerpts from work by my fellow Fiction Writing grads. Sooz is also a talented photographer, and you can see her work in Annalemma. We started the program at the same time, and it has been cool to watch this story develop in Proseforms class. It’s now a part of her thesis, a short story collection, set in D.C.

Here’s what she has to say about this piece:

    “It’s based on a dear friend of mine that was shot dining and dashing at an I-hop. I was too close to the material to really do it justice in a nonfiction setting. I was lucky enough to be in a seminar with Aleksander Hemon, and that class really helped me find the arc of the story and develop the characters. Now, almost three years later, this story finally feels done, and I feel pretty good about sending it out.”

Abebe raised a chapped hand to her lips and the end of her cigarette lit up the side of her face as she inhaled a long puff. “Just a minute,” she said, rolling stringy tobacco into a paper sleeve. When she was done she pressed the new cigarette to the butt of the old.

Chain smoking rollies wasn’t the kind of move you expected from a girly girl like Abebe. She looked breakable–she was a twig. That this small thing with knobby joints had the guts to sell drugs came as a surprise, but her skin flaked bark and she could snarl an easy scare. Aside from her inability to read clocks–something I never complained about to her face–Abebe had her shit on lock. She was always in control and never ever double-booked a deal.

So, it came as a surprise when some girl in a marshmallow coat, plopped into the front passenger seat and said, “Mind if we make this quick? I got to pee like Roberta.”
“Berta who?” AJ asked.
The girl turned around, placed her silly chin on the head rest and said, “My Gran. She has to wear diapers.”
A hard penciled line on the bridge of her nose made her look like she had something riding up her ass cheeks too.
I leaned towards her.
“You’re wearing a diaper?”
“Uh. No.” She rolled her sunken eyes, and turned back into her seat.
“You pee in my car, you get new dealer,” Abebe said.
“So, uh, what do we think about all this rain?” AJ asked, taunting.
“Fuck you,” the girl said.
Abebe laughed, then drew a bag of weed from the glove compartment.
More than an eighth, but less than a quarter.
“Sixty dollars,” she said, putting a hand out towards the girl.
“You said forty on the phone.”
“I say sixty.”
“I only have forty.”
“Too bad,” Abebe pulled the bag away.
“But you said–”.
Abebe grabbed the girl by the wrist, and bending it back to her shoulder said, “You don’t have green you don’t get green.”
She whined.
AJ’s elbow pressed into mine when he shoved a hand in his jean pocket and then, leaning over me he waved the wet twenty Charlotte had given him in the direction of the passenger seat.
Abebe let the marshmallow go, “Selfish girl. Always taking.”
“She’s going to get me back.” AJ said it like a fact–without question.  “You’re going to get me back.”
AJ moved the bill closer to the girl’s face. The twenty hung from his fingers like a stale green light about to turn yellow.
Maybe it was all the cigarette smoke, but I couldn’t breathe. I wanted my quarter ounce and out of the car as quick as possible.
“Hey, it’s really coming down out there huh?” I said.
The girl snatched the bill, quick.
Sixty dollars and the bag of weed passed between the two front seats, then the girl was out in the rain; running for the IHOP restroom without so much as a thank you.
“You never see that money again,” Abebe said.
“Who the fuck was that?”
“Don’t know,” AJ said.
“You just gave twenty bucks to some random chick?”
“It’s just twenty bucks.”
“Yeah, twenty bucks Charlotte loaned you,” I said.
AJ just shrugged. That’s it.
Later, when I try to brush Charlotte off after she pays my bail, that’s the kind of shrug I use–a little shoulder raise.