A Severe Lack of Grace

em connell mccarty By em connell mccarty, 25th Jul 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

Grace has lost her direction in life and is willing to look anywhere for inspiration--including her ice cream.

Finding Religion...in your Ben & Jerry's

Grace experimented with veganism the same way other people might experiment with drugs. She knew it was wrong and not a long-term lifestyle choice, but she felt she needed to know what the fuss was about and figured she may as well experiment with her diet while she was young. She was faithful to her veganism for almost six months. Her fall from veganism happened one night when she found herself doing some pre-menstrual late night shopping. Browsing at the corner shop she found herself attracted to a sultry carton of ice cream while trying to decide between two different brands of tofu dogs. With guilty pleasure, Grace coveted and then took for her own that alluring pint of sweetness.

Soon after, Grace was sitting on her kitchen counter, alone. “There is an air bubble in my Ben & Jerry’s!” she exclaimed. Her spoon was poised to take another bite, but she paused.

It was one in the morning.

Grace wasn’t angry. She was more curious than anything. A tunnel in one’s Dublin Mudslide doesn’t have to be a bad thing. She felt like Alice in Wonderland teetering at the edge of a rabbit hole as she said out loud, adopting a Monty Python style British accent for the occasion, “There must be more to this than meets the eye, me thinks!”

Grace had not had anything to drink or smoke that evening.

“Hello?” Grace called into her half-eaten carton of ice cream, tilting it up to peer into the cold, quiet tunnel.

Strangely, she heard her own voice echo back out of the carton. A tinny, muted, “Hello?” called back to her.

“Huh,” said Grace setting the ice cream on the counter next to her and staring at it. She glanced at the clock and wondered if maybe she had already gone to bed and was in fact dreaming. She decided she should just go with it, and she picked the carton back up. “Dublin Mudsliiiiiiiide,” she called into the carton.

“Mudsliiiiide,” her ice cream called back to her.

“To be or not to beeeeee!” Grace was extremely tired and not very imaginative at one in the morning.

“That is the questionnnnnnn!” answered her Ben & Jerry’s.

“Okay. I really must be asleep. Not only am I quoting Hamlet to my ice cream, but it is doing lines back to me. And I’m too tired to remember the next line.” Grace closed up her carton of ice cream and tucked it safely into the freezer behind a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts so that her roommate would neither discover it nor eat it…or converse with it for that matter. Grace went directly to bed and was asleep as her head hit the pillow.


The alarm clock sang Mazzy Star so softly that Grace overslept and woke up fifteen minutes late to her job as an office intern for a non-profit firm. She quickly threw on a conservative plaid skirt and pulled a basic black tee over her head. She pulled her dark curls back and forcibly restrained them with a hair tie, grabbed a pair of flip flops, and scooted out the door with a hasty, “Good morning!” shouted to Gretchen, her roommate who was passed out on the couch in her underwear clutching a bag of Doritos.

Grace studied sociology first in college. She switched to philosophy and then to theology before deciding to become a lawyer. She imagined herself fighting the big fight for the little guy, but Grace dropped out of law school shortly after she started. Citing that life as a law student had a “severe lack of beatitude” Grace decided it was time for a hiatus. Directly after quitting law school she started her non-profit phase of life. She worked briefly at the humane society, but she could not deal with all the fluffy cuteness and the horrors that awaited said fluffy cuteness. She moved on to her current job as an office intern for an equal housing firm. She enjoyed the often mindless work of the office intern as well as the occasional calls for originality. She classified herself as being “between aspirations and awaiting divine intervention.”

However, this day Grace struggled more than usual. While doing data entry, Grace kept having the nagging feeling that she was forgetting a really good dream or had misplaced something important. By the time she got home she had mauled the feeling over the way she would play with a weird bump on her tongue. Her brain hurt the same way her tongue would.

Gretchen was still on the couch in her underwear.

“Long night at the strip club?” Grace asked her roommate.

“Ha ha,” replied Gretchen.

Grace sat down next to Gretchen on the couch. She was quiet for a moment and then she said, “I have the strangest feeling—I’ve had it all day…. I can’t figure out what it is though.”

“That’s so interesting,” Gretchen replied drily. “No, really, I want to hear more.”

“You suck. I’m going to have a beer. Do you want one?” Grace got back up off the couch.

Gretchen shrugged. “Okay…but it might be the third one I’ve had. Don’t be mad.”

“Seriously, Gretch? Did you leave me any at all?”

“Maybe?”

“Do I have to go out and get more beer?”

“Maybe? Oh, don’t be mad, Gray-gray. You know I love you.”

“You owe me, you lush,” Grace said as she picked up her car keys and left the apartment in search of beverages.


Three days later while Grace was digging through the freezer on a quest for a snack she realized that she still had ice cream. She rediscovered that nagging feeling in her brain at exactly the same time. Grace did her best to shake it off. As she uncapped her ice cream and sat it to the side to soften, she grabbed Gretchen’s New York Times crossword puzzle and began to fill in the wrong answers with a pen.
It was just after sunset.

“What is a nasty word that will fit into five across?”

“Dildo,” came the answer. It sounded to Grace as if the voice was just around a corner, nearby—but somehow a ways away.

“Gretchen,” Grace called out without looking up from her scribbling in the newspaper, “I didn’t know you were home. I thought you left already. Should I make coffee? Are you staying?”

“I’m staying,” came the answer.

“Hey, have you seen my purple dress? Did you borrow that? I need it for a date—oh! Did I tell you I asked out that guy? Khaki Pants Guy? The brunette one, I mean. We’re supposed to go to the movies or something tomorrow night. I found out that his name is Chad. I’m not sure how I feel about that.” Grace looked up from her crossword and realized she was alone in the kitchen. “Gretch?” She got up and looked into the living room and the bathroom and both of the bedrooms. The apartment was empty and still. “That’s weird,” said Grace. “I thought you said you were staying.”

Walking back to the kitchen, noticing the now black windows of a post sunset evening and hearing no noise, Grace got a profound case of the creeps. Having an overwhelming feeling of being watched, she couldn’t help looking over her shoulder and down the empty hallway. As she got back into the kitchen, she opened her laptop and clicked on Pandora—choosing her “funky” station of upbeat ska bands.

“Oh, I forgot all about you!” she lamented as she noticed her Ben & Jerry’s. It was just beginning to melt. A puddle from the ice melting off of the carton was seeping onto the pages of Gretchen’s New York Times. Being far too particular about the texture of her ice cream, Grace was quick to pop the lid on and toss her ice cream back into the freezer. “We will meet again! This is far from over,” she said in a Harry Potter affected British accent as she pushed the freezer door shut.


At one-thirty in the morning, when Grace realized she could not sleep, she trudged back to the kitchen to grab her ice cream once more.


At two-thirty in the morning, Gretchen came home to find Grace lying on the kitchen table staring at the ‘70s inspired rectangular light fixture.

“Gray?” Gretchen tentatively called to her. “Have you been free basing your hair gel again? Gray? What’s going on?” With no answer, Gretchen moved a little closer and said, “You’re kinda freaking me out right now…. I’m going to shut off that light because maybe this is an epileptic seizure or something. Do you smell toast burning?”

After the light was dimmed, Grace spoke in a calm voice, “They say the prophets would hear God’s voice from random objects or images because if God appeared to them in his true form it would cause their brains to short circuit.”

“Who does? Who says that?”

“In the Bible. Like the whole burning bush thing. God doesn’t appear in regular ways to the prophets.”

Gretchen put a hand tentatively to Grace’s forehead. She spoke softly. “Sweetie, there aren’t prophets anymore. What are you talking about?”

“But that’s just it. What if there are still prophets? What if God is still talking to people and telling them what to do and just no one believes it anymore? What if those people preaching on the fountain downtown aren’t just bat-shit crazy fucks?” Grace sat up on the table, facing Gretchen.

“What is this about? Are you hearing voices?”

Grace flinched and nodded.

“Holy Grace mother of delusion! Do you really think God is talking to you?”

“I don’t know what to believe, Gretch. But whoever it was was very specific and very insistent. It was all so real…so…hypnotic.”

“So you were hypnotized? That could explain what’s going on.”

Grace shook her head. “No, hypnotic isn’t the right word. I felt…comforted.”

Gretchen pulled a chair up to the table and sat so she was resting a hand on Grace’s knee. “Let’s back up. When did this start?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve been having this weird feeling….”

“What weird feeling?”

“Well, the other night my Ben & Jerry’s started talking to me—“

Gretchen removed her hand from Grace’s knee and scooted her chair back. “Are you fucking with me? This is all about ice cream? Because I didn’t—”

“I’m serious, Gretch! Stop freaking out on me! I’m feeling pretty mixed up right now. Everything made sense when it talked to me…and now I’m feeling like I might be crazy.”
“Okay…so what did your ice cream tell you?”

Grace shrugged and looked away. “Basic stuff, I guess. Like to go back to school and to finish studying law—except it seemed to think I should switch to criminal law…it was pretty specific about that. It told me to stop wasting my life because I’m meant for bigger things.” Grace shifted her weight and sighed. Her gaze returned to Gretchen. “Do you think I’m crazy?”

“No…but I think you must be over-tired or something. Stressed out.”

“You don’t think it’s possible that God is talking to me through my Dublin Mudslide?”

“Fuck no, Gray. I’m pretty sure God is a Chubby Hubby kinda guy.”

“Ha ha.”

Gretchen stood up and wrapped her arms around Grace who was now sitting with her own arms wrapped around her knees. Gretchen kissed Grace on the forehead. “It’s gonna be okay, sweetie.”

“It felt so real…so intoxicating,” whispered Grace.

“Let’s get you to bed.”

A Slow Descent into Ice Cream



Grace felt like she was in a trance two hours later when she woke from a restless sleep and had no choice but to return to the freezer to seek council from her Ben & Jerry’s. She whispered in guilty tones to it and waited for its answer as if the earth would turn on whatever her ice cream told her.

Her ice cream instructed her not to trust Gretchen. Her ice cream told her that Gretchen was not ready for the truth…that Gretchen would keep her from the truth. Her ice cream hinted darkly that Gretchen might be in the way.


In the morning, Gretchen found Grace sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee trying to look normal despite the fact that she had taken a pair of scissors and brutally cut off her long dark curls until she had a very Joan of Arc appeal about her.

“That’s a new look for you,” Gretchen commented as she poured herself a cup of coffee.

“I want to be taken seriously—not just lusted after.”

“Listen to you! Lusted after…heehee…a regular whore of Babylon.”

Grace gave Gretchen a dirty look.

“Well, sweetie,” Gretchen said to Grace’s stink eye, “you might want to consider stopping by the salon to get that cleaned up a bit. Styled, you know? Not that it doesn’t look good—it does! But guys—Khaki Pants Guy for instance—might be a little taken aback by the Edward Scissorhands thing you got going on there.”

“I’m done with men,” Grace answered.

“I was guessing that by the hairdo and the very unflattering slacks you’re wearing.”

“I’m serious, Gretchen. I want to go back to law school and be taken seriously and to make something of myself! This is really important to me!”

“Beautiful women—feminine women are just as powerful as masculine ones, Gray. And do you remember what you were like in law school? You hated law school. You threw up every day. Remember? You—“

“I should have known you wouldn’t understand. I’m wasting my time,” Grace said with disgust and abruptly left the room.

“Have you been talking to your ice cream again?” Gretchen called after her, but she was only answered by the slamming of the front door.

Gretchen waited a few minutes, making sure Grace was gone, before she went to the freezer. She dug around for a minute and was about to give up when she finally found the ice cream hidden inside a canister claiming to be “decaffeinated coffee.” Gretchen opened the ice cream and tentatively sniffed it. “Why am I sniffing ice cream?” she wondered to herself. “It’s not like ice cream goes bad and causes hallucinations…is it?” Gretchen also found herself jiggling the carton of ice cream as if to reset a bad circuit in it. “Maybe I’m out of my flippin’ mind as well. Maybe there’s a small gas leak in our apartment.” Gretchen put the lid back on, but then she took it off again. Throwing caution to the wind, Gretchen spoke to the ice cream. “Hello? Grace’s ice cream? Listen…I’m worried about Grace. She’s been through a hard year. Did you know her dad died? He did—a car crash last Christmas. And now her super manipulative beast of a mother is telling her that she’s a big loser for dropping out of school, and that no man is ever going to want a girl who can’t commit. Her mom is trying to make her move back home to Indiana…Indiana! As if! Grace may as well hang herself as move back there! But her mom is in her head, telling her that she may as well move back home where no one cares if she’s a failure and an embarrassment. Jesus! So Grace is super stressed and a little bit lost…and she’s flakey to begin with—I’m sure you gathered that from your conversations with her…. Look, ice cream, here’s the deal. You need to lay off of Grace. Or else. I’m not kidding. Grace is a good kid. She doesn’t need any more shit from anyone. Especially a pint of fucking ice cream. So stop fucking with her head.” And with the final word, Gretchen smacked the lid back down on the ice cream and tossed it back in the freezer.


The next morning Grace snuck away before Gretchen could talk to her, but Gretchen checked on the ice cream. It was back in its hiding spot. Gretchen stood with the freezer door open, pondering the situation, only to slam the freezer door shut once more.

She wanted to take care of Grace, but she wasn’t sure how much she should interfere. Grace was the sister she never had, the sister she had always wanted. Grace was Gretchen’s special pet bunny. Gretchen thought that if she was ever reckless enough to have children, she would feel about them the way she feels about Grace. She loved Grace in a way she had never loved another human.

Gretchen spent the day thinking about what to do. She went to work and somehow managed to teach all of her classes—Gretchen worked at a private middle school tutoring rich kids and teaching twelve year olds how to fence—but she couldn’t keep her mind off of Grace. What does one do in this sort of situation? Gretchen decided to give it some time. Maybe Grace would snap out of it. This wasn’t the first time Grace had looked to obscure paths to find her way. Granted, usually Grace’s little journeys were a bit more conventional than listening to so-called divine voices from dessert products, but Gretchen had faith that Grace would right herself.

Gretchen skipped her yoga class to be at home that evening. She knocked on Grace’s bedroom door, but there was no answer. She listened and swore she heard voices, but the door was locked and Grace would not answer Gretchen’s pleas.
Gretchen sat outside Grace’s room braiding her lank blonde hair. Gretchen sat outside of Grace’s door painting her toenails beetle-green. Gretchen sat outside of Grace’s room completing her sadly immaculate crossword puzzle.

Occasionally, she spoke softly to the door. “Hey Gray, remember how in college you were every religion of the rainbow? One semester you were Buddhist, next you were a Christian Scientist, then you decided to be Mormon, and then you fell in love with Noam and decided to convert to Judaism…then you saw Top Gun….

“Hey Gray, remember that summer you decided to do the whole gothic vampire thing and almost got heatstroke? There’s a reason vampires don’t go to the beach, sweetie. But you know what? You are wacky and wonderful and perfect just the way you are. Who cares if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. You have time…and you have me.

“Hey Gray, remember that time you maxed out your credit card to buy an acoustic bass guitar because you wanted to start an all-girl folk-rock band? And what about the crystals? Our bathroom still looks like Superman’s sanctuary because you thought crystals would solve your problems. And do you remember when your cousin Tommy convinced you to buy into his pyramid scheme? You don’t always make the best decisions, Gray, but that stuff makes you you. So what if you talk to your ice cream. I don’t care…but can’t you talk to me, too? Gray baby?”

Gretchen sighed and leaned her head against the door, scratching softly on the wood paneling.


Although Gretchen tried repeatedly to recover Grace, two days passed before Grace and Gretchen saw each other. By this time Grace’s transformation was more severe. She had thrown out her entire wardrobe and wore just a dark, formless sweatshirt with wool pants and tennis shoes. She looked as if she hadn’t slept in days. She shied away from the sunlight through the open window as she passed through the living room on her way to the kitchen.

“You look awful,” Gretchen said, looking up from her crossword puzzle.

“I feel liberated,” Grace answered unconvincingly.

“I miss you, Gray. I’m worried about you.”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Grace answered and scuttled back to her bedroom much like a raccoon with a Rice Crispy bar.

“This has gone far enough,” Gretchen announced to the empty living room.


Some hours later Grace asked Gretchen if she’d seen a half-eaten carton of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream anywhere. Grace’s eyes were still troubled but had lost the vacant, bewildered look that they had portrayed earlier that day. She still seemed incredibly disoriented however, as if she had just recovered from being drugged.

“Was that yours?” Gretchen replied. “I’m sorry! I ate it.”

“Really?”

“Oh—but hey—you know what? I have a pint of that Coconut Bliss you like so much. If you want some, you are welcome to have some.” One of Gretchen’s theories was that Grace’s abrupt return to dairy had somehow caused a psychosis and that maybe a quality vegan iced dessert could remedy the situation.

“The ice cream is gone gone? Like totally gone?”

Gretchen wondered if Grace was getting ready to go Old Testament on her and was relieved to see Grace shrug and say, “Okay, but I think it might have been demonic,” the same way someone would warn a person that the milk might be sour.

“Why’s that?”

“Last time I talked to it, it suggested I should kill the neighbor and bury him in the backyard for parking in my spot.” Grace sighed. She shifted from foot to foot. She seemed not to know what to do next. Slowly she lowered herself to the ground, holding her head in her hands. “I really need to start trusting myself instead of random voices from the abyss. This is just like that time I let my mom talk me into joining the Girl Scouts.”

Gretchen squatted next to Grace and hugged her. Gretchen tried not to laugh as she comforted Grace. “No it’s not, silly goose. It’s not at all like that.”

“Sure it is. Remember? I cut my hair and had to wear that unflattering outfit?"

“Wait a minute. Are you insinuating your mom is the devil?”

“If the shoe fits,” Grace said with a slow grin that helped Gretchen to believe that the ice cream demon had truly been exorcised.

“It’s good to see you again, Gray-gray,” Gretchen said as she plopped down next to Grace and threw her arm around her, leaning her head on Grace’s shoulder.

“Are you sure it was safe to eat it? The ice cream? What if you’re possessed now?” Grace whispered to Gretchen.

“Relax. I didn’t actually eat it—I drank it. I microwaved it and added a big shot of vodka. If it was demonic, I’m sure that would have neutralized it.”

Tags

Demonic, Exorcism, Friendship, Humor, Ice Cream, Religious Cults, Supernatural, Veganism

Meet the author

author avatar em connell mccarty
I have been writing for as long as I could hold a pen. I have written novels, short stories, essays, creative non-fiction, comics, and numerous freelance articles.

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