Today we have a fantastic Guest Post from the hilarious author Samantha Mackintosh...Over to you Sam!
Freaking Out About Dead Bodies and Summer Lovin’
Oooo, it’s good to be on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory – thank you for having me. I feel completely at home here – mainly because every bit of my average day is a bit of heaven, a bit of hell and a bit of purgatory (see listed points below).
I grew up in Grahamstown, South Africa, where absolutely nothing ever seemed to happen. It’s a town filled with schools, a sprawling university and two – yes, two – sets of traffic lights. During term time the streets throng in the afternoons with students from the uni in weird clothing with weird hairstyles from cities far away, and also with school kids let out on a prized shopping day, in their smart blazers and hats and shiny shoes. They don’t ever seem to mind being in Grahamstown, because it’s a place they come to, and then leave.
But back when I went to school and uni, I didn’t get a chance to leave. Oh no. I went to a local state school with smart blazers but no hats and shiny shoes were a rarity. Boys, also, were a rarity. If you were lucky you were friends with someone who had a brother who was older than them, but, you know, that was a rarity too. And then in the summer EVERYONE LEFT. And I stayed behind working for bad pay in the uni library that would give me pocket money for the term ahead.
It was a terrible feeling, being left, feeling like nothing in life was progressing – no summer lovin’, no anything . . . . Plenty of space for tumbleweed to blow down our wide potholed streets.
It was enough to turn a girl stir crazy.
And that’s how Tallulah Bird sprang to life. A bit of that craziness went into warp speed and all of a sudden here was a character stuck in a small town with zero love-life, afflicted with small-town superstitions, convinced her life is headed for hell . . . and freaking out. Just a little.
Oh yes. I know exactly how she felt. Not just because I’ve read my share of romance – from paranormal to pretty normal, from fluffy to fevered – but because I’ve actually been there. The pain, the agony, the total humiliation. And not in a fun way. In an awful way, that still haunts me now. Despite the library job (and the hot-dog-making job, and the waitressing, and the assisting in the computer centre) I didn’t have much money, and my sisters and I got a clothing allowance that was a total joke. I’m not complaining (okay, okay, I am) because it taught me lots about how to never buy high-fashion items – like stonewashed denim, and dog-tooth clown trousers, and mustard-yellow court shoes (I’m kidding about the shoes – they were white, not yellow. Cough.).
It meant I had to wear stonewashed denim, like it or not, two years after everyone else had hurled theirs into the bin with cries of ‘What were we thinking?!’. I will never forget how I overheard a guy I really liked, maybe even loved a little, laughing at how I only had one pair of jeans, and how unfashionable I was. I bet he would never even have noticed the jeans if they hadn’t been stonewashed . . . though maybe I would never have noticed what a pretentious prat he was without them.
Life lesson. Tick.
So, like Tallulah, my summer lovin’ never went to plan. Like Lula, there was no boy left to love, frankly, but, if you were lucky, some friends stuck around . . .
And we got up to stuff. Which is where the notion of dead bodies comes in.
(Okay, Mom, click the cross in the red circle to CLOSE TAB for this is not for your aged and trusting ears . . .)
· We skinny-dipped.
· We knocked on people’s doors and ran away. (You think I don’t know how pathetic that sounds? I do know. I know very well.)
· We learned to roller skate on steep tarmacked downhills that removed all skin from knees, elbows and hands. (Welts still visible twenty years later.)
· We messed around on train tracks. (Don’t do it. You could die.)
· We cut each other’s hair with the kitchen scissors. (Don’t do it. You could die of shame.)
· We went round to each other’s houses, ate bright-orange crisps, drank fat Coke and lit Kerry Price’s farts. (Oh God. This why I never had boyfriends, isn’t it.)
· We bunked out of our houses at the dead of night to meet up at Grey’s Dam round campfires, telling tall tales and laughing till the sun was about to come up, then scarpered home smelling of wood smoke and sleeping all day long.
Why am I telling you this . . .? Uhh . . . Oh yes! The point of this whole rant. In Grahamstown, on my way home every day from school, I had to go past a crematorium. It freaked me out – especially when we knocked on the door and ran away (see point two, above). I had visions of a tall ancient man peering out through a secret spyhole at all of us, plotting our demise.
And the dam . . . One of those campfire stories was about how a student lost control of their car, drove straight into the bottomless waters and was never seen again . . .
And this is how we have the dead body in the pond. Overactive imagination + memories that won’t go away.
My past has come back to haunt me. Well, not me. Tallulah Bird.
Lula Does the Hula sees Tallulah Bird fast realising that a happy ending (see Kisses for Lula) does not a happy-ever-after make. Hooooh no. Nuh-uh.
Life for Lula is not girl meets boy, girl gets boy, boy + girl forever. It’s more: girl meets boy, girl meets corpse mouldy eyeball to eyeball, girl freaks out, boy messes up – repeatedly, girl gets sad, girl’s problems nothing compared to another missing girl, who could be alive or dead.
I like it, this life of Lula’s. When is summer lovin’ ever going to be just about the lovin’ and the summer? Exactly! Never! Not for anybody. Life just isn’t that simple. There’s always going to be something else going on. For Lula, it’s suspense and terror and running/rowing for your life. And laughing hysterically.
I don’t know, but my word of advice is stay away from stonewashed denim, white court shoes and home-cut hair. They’re never gonna give you a happy ending.
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