The Law of Entropy says that order will eventually descend into chaos, and that the opposite can never happen. Oh God…I hope that’s not true.
I was born into chaos, the child of Lillian and Carl Arliss. Mom was 15 and dad was 17. They were a toxic combination of violence and resentment, all wrapped up in dysfunction so palpable that it left a scar on everything they touched —especially me. They never should’ve been in a relationship, let alone parents; Lil and Carl had no idea how to love something as helpless as a baby.
They probably wouldn’t have even gotten married if my grandfather hadn’t insisted; and by insisted, I mean he beat the shit out of Carl until he complied. This was after he gave Lillian a few of his patented backhanded smacks that knocked a few of her teeth out. Grandma stepped in to help, but she only got the remainder of the beating he had in mind for his only daughter.
Mom and Dad married the day after he graduated high school; six months later I was born. Not long after that Dad found solace in a bottle, while mom found her peace in the madness that often took her away for weeks at a time.
When mom, as my Dad said, “Went to get her head right,” he’d drop me off at my Grandma’s house until Mom was back home. Granddad hated when I was there, he’d say, “We did our raisin’ of kids Marta, I ain’t raisin’ theirs too!” Gramps was all heart.
On those rare occasions when Mom was around, she always looked at me like I confounded her. She’d smile and say, “How’s my girl?” Then pick up a Virginia Slims and smoke until she fell asleep in front of Jay Leno. Dad was worse, he rarely talked to me, and when he did, it was usually just to yell, “Hey you ugly fool girl, get me something to eat.”
I was to honor my parents —that’s what Pastor Bickell said. So I kept the house clean, cooked their meals, otherwise we all would’ve starved to death in a pile of filth. I know they used to get a check from the state, meant for the minor child in the house. I never saw a penny of it though, they frittered it away on booze, smokes and lottery tickets.
The one thing that damn Law of Entropy didn’t account for was the propensity of humans to start over. The gift God gave us to create order where there was none —by any means, if necessary.
Dad was the one who taught me I could change the direction of my life, but he didn’t realize that’s what he was doing when he beat me for staying out too late with Jimmy Cole. Mom didn’t realize the lesson I learned when she just sat there staring at the TV while it all happened. Fuck Entropy, I wasn’t going to live like this anymore.
It was a cloudless night like tonight when it happened —my metamorphosis. The stars shined brighter then I had ever seen them, before or since. I took it as a sign; God telling me it was okay —at least that’s how I justified it.
I was living with Grandma at the time. Mom just got out of one of her hospital stays, and she along with Dad, drank themselves into oblivion. When I showed up, they were passed out drunk in the living room of that filthy shack we called home. It didn’t take much really, Mom always fell asleep with a cigarette —everyone knew it, they would just think that her luck had finally run out. She was snoring lightly when I left the house. I didn’t look back as it went up in flames.
By the time the fire department arrived they were long dead, not one of them ever woke up. Investigators said cause of death was smoke inhalation, and the fire was started by a cigarette left unattended. Grandma took me in after my folks died, but she never quite trusted me again.
I think life itself violates the Law of Entropy, at least that’s my hope. Because I’ve made my choice —a terrible one indeed. But until then, I knew nothing better.