Doll was first in our class, and I was second. Neither of us went to college. I don’t think anybody went, from our year. My grandmother died when I was eighteen, with all these bills. I tried to blow up the trailer but got sent to what my grandmother always called “the sylum” and who do I run into in the smoking atrium but Doll. She was everyone’s favorite, enchanting, lively, hilarious, and then a stillness would come into her eyes. I don’t know if the doctors paid as much attention as the rest of us did, so they were always late to that show, running in with needles loaded with what looked like honey. I got out first, got a job at the new airport information kiosk. I had a little room over by the wharf right near the Crow’s Nest Pub. That’s where I saw her again, fighting with her mother out by the dumpsters where the waitresses went to smoke. From inside my basement unit I listened to them, I heard her get slapped hard across the face after the said in a loathing tone, “Fuck the mill.” You don’t say things like that here. She wanted to be famous and she may well have had it in her to make herself famous, but there’s a difference between wanting another kind of life and saying “fuck the mill”, like she was already a million miles away from the cheap town talk. She was swearing at her mama with a mouth full of blood, and I was proud of her mother for walking off and leaving her yelling and bloody like that. Maybe she would learn something about being realistic and then we could become best friends.

Story by Hallie Rundle


Marlene grew up in Ridgetop, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee.  Ridgetop was a small town where the air was laced with booze and the men even more so. Marlene proudly called this shabby town her home but, then again, she didn’t really have much to compare it to. 

In her early 20s, Marlene felt the life in Ridgetop was becoming too claustrophobic. The locals became strangers and the blazing Tennessee sun became suffocating. If she weren’t prone to patience, she would’ve run. Instead, Marlene vowed that when she made $4000 she would leave Ridgetop. She had a bad case of California Dreamin’ and longed for the excitement in L.A and the red-tile roofs in Santa Barbara. 

She got a job as a waitress at Bob and Duke’s, a shabby bar that made her clothes reek of cigarettes and bad decisions. At first, she stumbled with pouring shots of Jack and opening sticky bottles of Bud, but as she took more shifts, the nights became less intimidating and became more mundane. She began learning the names and orders of the regulars. Johnny liked a double whiskey sour with two lemons and Carter liked a warm beer with a shot of bourbon on the side. Carter was a strapping, young country boy with a charming smile and a crude sense of humour. Marlene had too many dreams of her own to pay Carter much attention but she didn’t mind calling him her boyfriend. 

On May 1, 1985, 3 years after her first day and long after earning $4000, Bob and Duke’s awarded her with employee of the month. Marlene wasn’t too surprised with this as she was the only one who showed up to her shifts on time. With her prestigious award came a bottle of SoCo and a photo on the wall behind the bar. The bottle of SoCo was done within the week, but the photo stayed up on the wall. 

Twenty years later, Marlene still lives in Ridgetop. You can sometimes find her at Bob and Duke’s staring at that same photo of her behind the bar, still dreaming of California. 

Story by Izzy Ahrbeck

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