(I wrote this for a proposed anthology of stories about the movie Night of the Living Dead. The book never came to fruition, but I figured I would share.)
October 1st, 1968
I am writing to you. I don’t know if this will be my last time or not. I guess that every time might be the last time. I am just trying to calm my nerves a little bit. I want to put my thoughts down on paper. Well, I always put my thoughts down on paper. It might seem silly, but there is also a chance that it might be important. I don’t know if anyone thinks that anything a 12 year old girl writes is important, but …well… I’m scared and I write to you when I am scared as well. In case this is the only page they find, my name is Karen Cooper. I am 12 years old. I live in Pennsylvania. I am in the sixth grade.
I like to drink Pepsi out of bottles. I do not like cans. My favorite television show is That Girl starring Marlo Thomas. The last movie that I saw in the theaters was Funny Girl. It starred Barbara Streisand and I love the sound track. It was on in the local theater last month. Funny Girl cost two dollars to go to because it was a matinee. I went with my friend Crissy. Mom dropped us off because she didn’t want to see it. Crissy has golden hair with pig tails in it. She wore a green gingham dress to the movie. I wore a t-shirt and dungarees. I also wore bobby socks. My shoes were a little too tight and they hurt really bad. They are ald but they are so pretty and went well with my outfit. It did not seem to matter that they hurt, but they did. I don’t know where Crissy is right now. I hope that she is ok. Mom and Dad are really scared. I am really scared.
There are all these people in my house. I wet myself. I don’t have time to change. It still feels really icky. You know what song I like? I really like Happy Together. It is sung by the Turtles. It always makes me happy when I hear it. We listen to it in the car when my Mom drives me to school if I oversleep. Happy Together came out last year. I really wish that it was playing right now. I wish any music was playing right now. I’m so scared. I don’t want to think about being scared right now. Just anything other than being scared.
Mommy and Daddy says that there are dead people walking outside. If you read this, did you go to Sunday School. Mommy and Daddy and me… We’re Presbyterians. That means that we are Christians. I never really understood how that is different than being a Baptist or Methodist or any of the others. I go to Sunday School every Sunday. We also go to church every Sunday night. We go on Wednesday nights too. Momma says that we should go more often. I think now that I should have paid a bit more attention when I went. I think that the Bible says something about the dead walking in the end. I never read it. I was supposed too. It was a Sunday School assignment. But, I didn’t read it. It was Emily’s turn to read. Emily gave me the answers that Sunday. It was not like it was a real test. They give you something to read over the week and then ask you questions about the verse the next Sunday. If you get the answers right, then you get cookies. The cookies are baked by Miss Kitty. Miss Kitty is a very nice old woman. She bakes the best cookies in all the world.
Miss Kitty’s daddy fought in Gettysburg. She once told me that her daddy fought for Virginia but he didn’t really understand what he was doing. She said that she was proud of him for fighting. She didn’t care what side. Her daddy fought in the Civil War and she was proud. That’s the end of it. Its right to be proud of your Daddy. I’m proud of my Daddy right now. My Daddy is taking in all of these people that he doesn’t know. He wants them to live. Just up and took them into our house. I am so proud. I love Daddy. I love Mommy. I loved my dog Spots. Spots was a golden retriever. She was old when I was born. Spots died three or four years back. I really should pay more attention. I just don’t think I could take it if Spots was out there. You know, with the dead people walking. I wish that I had paid more attention in Church. When we did Sunday School about the end of the world, Miss Kitty made sugar cookies. I wasn’t supposed to really ear one. The Doctor says that I have borderline diabetes. That means I have to really watch what I eat. I don’t really like eating meat. I don’t think that its wrong to eat meat like some people. I just don’t like the taste of it. Well, that is not entirely true. I don’t like how pork tastes.
When I was nine, I had lamb. Lamb was really good. That sugar cookie was really good. Miss Kitty makes the best cookies and that was an extra special good one. I want a cookie. I don’t know if we have any or not. It just feels wrong to ask. You know what else I like?
There is a boy at school named Johnny Williams. He’s a quarterback. Well, he’s a back-up quarterback but that is only because Kyle Thurston’s Daddy has lost more money than the Williams family. Johnny can throw the ball way farther than Kyle. Kyle’s Daddy was frat brothers with Coach Hairston at Penn State and that makes Kyle a starting quarterback. Its not right, but that’s how things are sometimes. Last summer, Johnny threw a ball at least thirty yards away right through a tire swing. I was so excited when I saw him throw like that. I jumped up and down and clapped. I kissed Johnny on the cheek. I know that I shouldn’t or ought not to. It was just a little peck and I don’t think that anyone told. I was wearing a yellow dress at the time. I wore my hair in a pony tail that day. I had this bright blue bow that Momma tied into a ribbon for me. Well, it was more of an azure type blue and not really a sky blue or a dark blue. Colors are some of my favorite things in the world. Every Christmas, Momma always gets me Crayolas and lots of coloring books. I know it might seems like a little girlish and I am growing, but I love coloring.
Anyway, after I pecked Johnny on the cheek, he held my hand as we walked home. My hand was all sweaty. I was scared that he would not keep holding it because my hand was sweaty. Johnny held my hand all the way home. That made my hand more sweaty. I wrote all about it in this Diary. When I am done here, I am going to go back and re-read that one. I really like to read that one. Sometimes, I will read that entry and then not right. I don’t know if I love Johnny or not. I think I do. I also think that I might be too young. I might not know what love feels like. I hope that it feels like you are walking home holding hands with a cute boy all the time. I hope that being in love means that you have sweaty palms all the time and no one ever cares that you have sweaty palms. Maybe, that is just what love means to me. Maybe that is all I will ever understand of love.
Its kind of like your chest only growing at night and feeling itchy. You can never really be sure if being itchy means that your chest is growing. It might just mean that you are itchy. Maybe, it is only at night when it happens or maybe it is just only itchy at night. Anyway, my chest gets itchy at night and my chest has grown. I don’t know if the two things are related or if it is just a coincidence. What I am saying is that when my chest is itchy, I think that its growing. When I think of love, I think of walking home with a boy and having sweaty palms when I did it.
Johnny is a tall boy with sandy blonde hair. His hair is like the sands on a beach in the fall. I saw the sand on a beach once. My Mom and Dad took me to Rehoboth Beach when I was 9. it’s a beach in Delaware. Johnny’s hair is like the sands on that beach. He has really strong hands. I don’t know if his hands are strong cause he is a quarterback or that they made him a quarterback because he is strong. Johnny has a letter jacket. The letter jacket is crimson and maize. Those are our school colors. I wanted to be a cheerleader, but I didn’t make the team. I didn’t really want to be a cheerleader, but I wanted to root for Johnny on the sidelines at games. Also, they get to go on trips with the team. I could have ridden on the busy with Johnny. I don’t really like the girls that made the team. I don’t think that they really like each other either. I think that all of their parents had money and their parents kind of always forced them to hang out and be friends. They talk bad about each other all the time, but they never admit that they talk bad about each other.
Lou Anne thinks that she is Johnny’s girlfriend. It kind of hurts cause I see her walking around holding Johnny’s hand. I wonder if her palm got as sweaty as mine did. I wonder if Johnny’s jacket fits her as well as it fits me. Its not Christian, but I would not really mind if the dead people got into Lou Anne’s house. I just want Johnny to be safe. I want Momma to be safe. I want Daddy to be safe. There are teenagers in this house. I wonder if they are really in love. I wonder if they hold hands lots. I wonder is they kiss. I am sure they do. They look like older teenagers. I have seen how older teenagers kiss. I kind of want to kiss like that one day. I really kind of want to kiss Johnny like that one day. I hope that he wants to kiss me. Maybe, he is only with Lou Anne because his parents and her parents are friends. I hope that one day that won’t all matter as much. I think it might matter more when you get older. It didn’t matter much last summer. I hope Johnny is OK. Maybe after all of this is over, they might need another cheerleader or two. I didn’t miss by much. I don’t know if anyone is going to make it through this. I am pretty sure that not everyone is going to make it through this.
I can hear them out there. I wonder if Grandpa is out there. I miss Grandpa. I don’t think I would want to see him like this though. I don’t know if they are really the people or just the bodies walking around. As a Presbyterian, I believe that Grandpa’s soul went to Heaven. I think that once you are in Heaven, then they can’t take you out. I don’t think your body can get your soul back. I think that they are like you diary, you know if all of the pages had been ripped clean out. It would still look like the book but there wouldn’t be anything in it. You could hold you Diary, but no one could read you. I feel like that’s how I am some days even when I am here. I can’t read me. I want to but there is so much going on that I don’t really know where to start. It might be because I am a girl. Guys just seem to be simple. Well, I don’t think guys are simple because they are hard to figure out. I think guys think that they are simple. No, that doesn’t sound quite right either. I think that guys are simple to themselves but difficult to everyone else. Momma says that we think that there is more to guys than there actually is. It is like we want them to have feelings that aren’t actually there or want there to be more to them than is actually there.
I wonder what Johnny is thinking about right now. I wonder if he is thinking about me. I wonder if he is thinking about Lou Anne. When you’re scared, they say that you can only think about what is really important. I’m thinking about Johnny right now. I hope that means that Johnny is thinking about me. Maybe, one day when all of this is over, we can talk about what we thought about when all of this is going on. Maybe, we can one day say that we thought about each other. Maybe, that will lead to another kiss. Maybe that one will be on the lips. I would like that. I would like that very much. I have practiced kissing. Its kind of weird but I have.
One night, I was about ten years old and I was staying over at Crissy’s house. We got into her Momma’s make up and ended up looking like clowns in the morning. Actually, we ended up looking like those women that stand around on the corner at West Main and Allegheny Street. Of course, our night gowns were way long than those girls dresses. I think they must get kind of cold standing out there in short skirts. They always have running or torn hose as well. Anyway, it was like two in the morning and Crissy’s Momma thought that we were asleep. We got to talking about kissing. Neither of us had done it with a boy before. Well, Crissy said that she had kissed Jake Turlington, but I never really believed that one. At the very least, I don’t think that Crissy kissed Jake on the lips. We were like ‘Well, maybe we should practice.’ So, it was just us and we practiced.
I don’t like to think about it or talk about it because kissing another girl, even in practice, might make you kind of weird. Momma says that girls that kiss other girls and boys that kiss other boys are not in line with God’s teachings. Its almost like Momma doesn’t believe that they are Christian. I don’t know what I believe about that. I mean, as long as they are in love, and God makes love, then… well I don’t really understand it all. Anyway, I kissed Crissy. I am not in love with Crissy. We were just practicing so we would not seem so stupid when we kissed boys. I don’t mean that I don’t love Crissy. I do love Crissy. She is my bestest friend in all of the world. Of course, I love Crissy. I just don’t love Crissy in what you would call a kissing kind of way to love Crissy. I have kissed Crissy but that was only practicing and not a loving real kissing kind of way. It was kind of like a homework assignment. Its not like Crissy was a science experiment. She is my friend and I kissed her.
I don’t think kissing Crissy is like kissing a boy though. I think that the lips are different. Most boys have thin lips. Crissy’s lips were more full and tasted like cherries. Of course, that might have just been all of the makeup that we were wearing. We maybe kissed three times. We were scared that Crissy’s momma would find us and find out. Then, Crissy’s momma might tell my momma and that might not be Christian. Momma is very concerned that I always remain a good Christian. Its hard to know some days what a Christian does. Let me tell you though, there is a whole list of things that good Christians don’t do. Maybe one day, when this is all over, Momma can tell me what a good Christian does do. I just want to know what is OK. I want to know if holding hands are ok. I want to know when kissing a boy would be ok. Momma always says that I am too young whenever I ask her what is ok. I need to know what Christian girls can do, and I need to know what age they can starting doing it at. I have to remind myself to ask Momma that when all of this is over.
Diary, I gotta go now. Momma says that I will be safe in the basement. I don’t know what is going to happen. If you find this and read it, please don’t tell Johnny what I said. Johnny might still be with Lou Anne and even if I am not here I would still be really embarrassed. I really don’t feel like eating meat. I hope there is something else in the pantry to eat.
I have to go. I have to go to the basement like Momma says. Wish me luck. I am going to say my prayers now, before I go to the basement.
Good Bye Diary