Fiction: Covington

The following sample is from a gig I did a couple of years ago, and it introduces the teenage heroine of a sci-fi thriller.


The only difference between the cities and towns in America is the degree of contempt they have for their teenage residents. Julie based this opinion on the three cities she’d already lived in as a teen; and, having just passed the sign welcoming her to Pleasantville or Stepford or wherever the hell her salesman father was dragging them now, she’d already decided that city number four was no different.

She realized her sample size was small, but she defied anyone to show her a town with signs posted saying Please, Ride Your Skateboards Here or Loitering Encouraged; she dared someone to find a place where restaurants welcomed groups of young people who could sit for hours nursing soft drinks and neighbors smiled and said, “Have a great party! And please play your music at a volume you enjoy!” and she challenged a person to name a city that bragged we have parks and Chuck E. Cheese for little kids and bars for adults, so we’ve built this place for teens to hang out that’s actually cool and not just some broken down rec center with a 2nd hand pool table that closes at 6pm.

Maybe places like that existed, she allowed; but, if they did, they weren’t on the list of cities her father’s lame company kept transferring him to.

They were driving through a neighborhood that looked like every other neighborhood they’d lived in — beige stucco houses, red tile roofs, neat little front yards and winding streets with theme names. In the past four years, she’d lived in a bird-themed neighborhood on Jaybird Lane, on Marigold Way in the flower power neighborhood, on River Glen in an area that was water themed. As her father slowly drove through their new neighborhood looking for their street, she saw that this year’s theme was trees. When he finally made the turn, Julie glanced up at the street sign saw ELM ST.

“How fucking cliché,” she said under her breath.

“What was that, hon?” her mother asked.


“Here we are! Temporary home sweet home!” said her father, Hap, as he pulled into the driveway of one of the cookie-cutter homes. Hap was short for Happy, a nickname that was ironic in every sense of the word and probably went a long way in toward explaining why he kept getting transferred. Her mother, Lara, was the complete opposite, with a bright, sunny disposition, as was her younger brother, Seth. Julie inherited none of her mother’s perkiness and all of her father’s moodiness and cynicism. And as is common when people, especially parents and children, share certain traits, they have a hard time getting along. You’re like two peas in a pod who want to kill each other, was how Lara described their relationship after one particularly loud and long argument.

“I get first choice of bedrooms!” Seth declared, jumping out of the car.

“Whatever dork,” Julie said. “I’m oldest. You get my leftovers. It’s the law.”

“Mo-om,” Seth whined. “I called it first.”

“Your sister is the oldest …” Lara said. “And besides, the bedrooms are the same size. So no problems, okay?”

“It’s not fair,” Seth continued to complain. “I’ll never be the oldest. Julie gets everything.”

“Oh for God sake,” Julie said. “If I let you choose first will you quit bitching?”

“Julie, language,” Lara said.

“Yes,” Seth agreed.

“Fine then,” Julie said. “Go pick your room.”

“Woo hoo!” Seth whooped, and tore past Hap who’d just opened the front door.

“That was very kind, Julie,” Lara said. “Thank you.”

“Kind my ass,” Julie replied. “I just wanted to shut him up.”

“Julie,” Lara implored. “Please!

Julie winked at her mother. “Love you, mom,” she said sarcastically and headed inside to see which room she’d been left with.


Julie opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. Her alarm was going to go off in twenty minutes. She didn’t have to look at the clock to know. She always woke up twenty minutes before the alarm went off. Well, not always. She used to sleep like a normal person — groggily groping for the snooze button when the alarm woke her, doing sleepy seven-minute math in her head to figure how many times she could hit the button and still make it to school on time.

But when her dad had taken this new job and they’d started moving and she’d begun changing schools all the time, she started waking up before the alarm. She didn’t mind. It was her little bit of peace and quiet before the day started, before she had to go be the new kid again, before she had to go wander unfamiliar halls and sit in new classrooms and try to catch up with whatever assignments they were doing. It was her twenty minutes of sanity before the daily shit storm and she not only didn’t mind it, she had come to depend on it.

Today she was starting high school. For the third time. If people thought starting as a freshman was hard, she thought, they should try starting as a senior when the year has already begun. All the cliques and friendships will have formed long ago. Her chances of getting in, even with the kids she typically hung with –– the sullen, gloomy group who refused to be labeled but were still often referred to as Goth because of their penchant for black clothes and dramatic make-up, were severely limited.

Julie usually fell in with this crowd because they accepted her, not because she necessarily agreed with their blanket disgust with everything but themselves and their own interests. She didn’t hate everything, she just didn’t see the point in a lot of things; and there was a difference between contempt and not understanding.

For example, Julie didn’t understand the point of being a cheerleader. She didn’t see how jumping around in a little skirt prepared someone for life after high school. She didn’t hate the cheerleaders or what they did. She just didn’t understand why they wanted to do it or why so many people thought being one was such a big deal.

She sat up in bed and looked around, it wasn’t a bad room, just rather small and generic and in need of some decorating. On the plus side, it had its own bathroom — something Seth hadn’t noticed or didn’t care about. Julie considered it a major score, as she considered sharing a bathroom with her younger brother beyond disgusting.

Julie never went to the trouble of painting her room since in all likelihood she’d just have to re-paint it some generic color in a year or so anyway. Instead, she opted for full poster and picture coverage, and that’s what she planned to get started on after school. She’d tried to convince her parents to let her start school a few days later so she could get unpacked and settled in first, but they refused. Because God forbid they cut her a little slack after dragging her all over Hell’s half-acre every year, that’s just too much to ask …