Cassie likes the word fuck. It’s her favorite and there are a lot of them in Dear Cassie, like a lot, a lot, but HOW MANY????
That’s where you come in. In the comments below give me your guesstimate, or estimate of how many times the word fuck appears in Dear Cassie (you also need to follow my blog if you aren’t already).
So no one gets confused I mean ALL the times fuck is used. So fucking, mother fucker, fucked, etc.
You will be entered to win a paperback copy of DEAR CASSIE signed by HER & a $25 Amazon GC! Contest ends 3/17!
No one else has a copy of the book signed by Cassie. No one else will. It will be rare, rare, rare. My guess is she’ll use some profanity when she signs it.
Here’s all the places you can find the book.
To give you an idea of how much Cassie likes the word fuck, here’s the first chapter of the book. Good luck guys!
Are you there, Smokey Bear? It’s me, Cassie.
I’m in a shitty shack in the woods with nothing to start the fires you are so desperate to keep people from igniting. I also have no cigarettes to light the stuff that starts fires. I’m seriously pretending to smoke this pencil. If I find some matches I may actually end up smoking it.
I’m at a sleep-away camp for criminals—a mosquito pit that’s supposed to pass as court-ordered rehab. I have no cell phone, none of my own clothes, and no jewelry. They took the dog-tags my brother gave me. They took the six silver hoops that I have worn in my ears since, like, forever. My holes will probably close up, but jewelry can be used as a weapon. The people forced to be here with me would actually consider using jewelry as a weapon.
I have been given a flashlight. Why that’s not considered a weapon I don’t know, but maybe it’s because it’s essential in a place where lights-out comes at lame-ass nine o’clock p.m. You wouldn’t want to hit someone on the head with it—even though you sort of want to—because then you would have to write this mandatory “Assessment Diary” in the dark.
If you didn’t see the skywriters, I was arrested with my best friends Lila and Amy on prom night with the shitload of pot we stole from the dickheads who stood us up for the dance. I was driving, Lila was being Mirror-addict Lila, and Amy was in the backseat shitting bricks. That’s the short story.
I guess this will be the long one.
I’m supposed to write about why I’m here. I’m glad I have a legal reason to blame, because there is no way in hell I am going to write about why I really think I’m here.
No matter what, I can never write about that.
Like I said, it started on prom night.
I was wearing a tight red dress that Lila had picked out. Something I would never usually wear. It made me feel sexy—and normally I don’t do sexy—but hell, I was already going to the prom, and honestly, that wasn’t something I would normally do, either. Lila was all into it because she had a boyfriend and Amy was all into it because Lila’s boyfriend was getting her a date, and, well, I guess I was all into it because it was either that or stay home with my parents. Which I didn’t want to do for all sorts of reasons, reasons that will probably be another entry I will be forced to write, so I’ll save it.
The night actually started out kind of fun. The three of us dressed up: Lila in light purple, Amy in light blue, and me in red—fucking Lila. We were laughing and getting along, but then we got to Lila’s boyfriend Brian’s house and it all went to shit. He wasn’t there. None of our dates was.
I had to give Lila some credit. She was so pissed off about us being stood up by our dates that she actually broke into his house and swiped his marijuana stash.
That’s about all I’ll give Lila credit for that night.
I’m supposed to leave the arrest behind me, but that doesn’t mean I can stop thinking about that red dress hanging in my closet, like a dead body in a freezer, and wondering if my mother has hocked it yet for beer money. Oh, crap, see? Now I’m writing about my family. Moving on . . .
When I landed at the Arcata, California, airport this afternoon, after the four-hour flight from New York, the arrest wasn’t even on my mind. It was occupied instead by an asshole in a tight white T-shirt and dark jeans, sitting on a metal bench in baggage claim, who kept staring at me like my hair was made of boobs.
I didn’t know what else to do when I got there except sit on that bench—so cold from the air-conditioning that I could feel it through my cargo pants and on the backs of my arms. I held the strap of my duffel bag tight. It made an angry red mark on my hand.
“Waiting for someone?” he asked. He didn’t turn to look at me, just talked like we were two old men sitting next to each other in the park. He had wavy brown hair, desperately in need of a cut.
“Not for you,” I said. We were both sitting there looking around—both obviously waiting for someone. Why did he care who I was waiting for?
“Who, then?” he asked, not at all understanding that I didn’t want to talk to him. Maybe he was that stupid, or maybe he was that much of an asshole.
“Get lost,” I said. Even without the cigarette I was dying to smoke, I needed to play it cool, at least until I saw the people in uniforms. Would they be dressed in, like, medical whites, or would it be more like policemen?
I put another stick of cinnamon gum in my mouth, but I didn’t offer him any. My brother, Tim, had bought me one of those Plen-T-packs. He gave it to me that morning when he dropped me off at the airport in my Civic, which he was going to take care of while I was gone. At least my car wasn’t being punished like I was for being there on prom night.
Tim had never been to rehab, but he’d been to war just like my dad, and he knew gum could be my new addiction, could be one small thing that might keep me sane. He was right. I needed all the gum I could get.
I swallowed a mouthful of cinnamon spit.
“Your mom,” the asshole sitting next to me said.
“What?” I turned to him. He had that perfect skin some guys have that looks like it belongs on a girl—dewy and glowy and rosy and not all that masculine.
“You waiting for your mom?” he asked.
Did I look that young? That lame? Sure, I was still seventeen. My lawyer had said that was what saved me—made it so I could be sent to rehab. I guess it was good my parents didn’t hold me back in kindergarten like my teacher had suggested. Of course, if they had, I wouldn’t have been going to the prom that night anyway.
I wouldn’t have even known Amy and Lila.
“No,” I growled. “Screw my mom,” I added, though I’m not sure why. I didn’t mean that, not really. I didn’t give two shits about my mom. I had enough to deal with without thinking about her. Screw him for bringing her up.
“Poor you,” he said.
Right, poor me; maybe it was true. I was here. Amy wasn’t—she got probation for ratting me out. And Lila wasn’t—she took off to God knows where. So that left me, Cassie, to deal with this bullshit all alone. Fuck them all anyway.
“What do you want?” I asked.
He shrugged, one of those infuriating shrugs that said he knew exactly what he wanted but wasn’t about to tell me. He started smacking the tops of his thighs in that way guys who play drums do.
Guys who want you to know they play drums.
I watched his hands, slapping like his legs were bongos. He was wearing a thumb ring. Um, yeah.
“Had to leave my set at home,” he said.
I rolled my eyes and sighed heavily, something I usually reserved for people I knew much better and had more time to hate. “I’m not interested,” I said. I looked at the automatic doors. How much longer could I sit here without pulverizing this guy into soup?
“In what?” he asked, still slapping his knees like there was a crowd watching, cheering him on.
I continued to stare at the automatic doors and tried to ignore him. Would the people in uniforms be holding a sign with my name, or would I hear it over the loudspeaker? Would there be more handcuffs? I touched my wrists.
“I’m Ben,” he said, stopping his concert to turn to me. His eyes were wide, like sunny-side-up eggs with brown yolks.
“Good for you,” I said, stuffing another piece of gum in my mouth.
He laughed and touched the back of his neck. “Not really.”
“Am I supposed to tell you my name now? Is that how it works? You tell me your name and I tell you mine and then we slobber all over each other?” I spoke fast, faster than I meant to. Mostly because he made me think about Aaron, because I was always thinking about Aaron, how I wished I had told him to fuck off the first day I met him, instead of slobbering all over him and having everything lead where it led.
Wishing I could take it all back. Hit rewind and erase.
“What are you talking about?” Ben asked, starting to laugh, a laugh I think was supposed to let me know he would never consider slobbering all over me.
I felt my face tighten, felt my hands go into fists. I squeezed them hard, so hard that I could feel my nails stabbing into my palms, forming red, angry crescent-moon welts.
“Calm down, Hulk,” Ben said, laughing harder, his mouth like a back-up singer going o-o-o. My breath went heavy, hot. I was going to destroy him.
I had lied to Amy. I had lied to everyone. I guess I could have told her that I had actually shared that Pepsi with Aaron when he came to see me at work at Pudgie’s Pizzeria instead of throwing it in his face for being one of the guys to stand us up on prom night. That I had shared other things, too. That he bit my neck with his crooked front tooth and licked the inside of my ear and made me whimper; that I had actually fallen for him.
That he had fooled me.
I looked at Ben; he was still laughing. I was ready to hit him, but instead I touched my stomach just below my belly button and put another piece of gum in my mouth.
“Too much cinnamon can kill you,” Ben said.
“Good,” I gurgled, practically choking on the wad. It was getting too big to chew, but there was no way I was spitting my gum out because of this guy. I pictured it growing over my tongue, my teeth, red, globular like a reptile heart.
The automatic doors swished open and a guy walked in wearing a uniform the color of a paper bag. He had one of those square heads and a brown buzz-cut so short it looked like pieces of tobacco on his scalp. I recognized the cut, army issue.
Damn, I need a cigarette.
He was holding a sign—two signs. One read Cassie Wick; the other read Ben Claire.
“Looks like we were waiting for the same person.” Ben snickered, heaving his duffel bag over his shoulder and walking toward the door.
The white van we rode in smelled like puke, which didn’t help what was already happening in my stomach. I’d never been carsick before, but I was blaming my shaken-snow-globe insides on that.
Ben and I didn’t talk as the city roads turned to country roads, turned to woods on either side of us. Trees taller than electrical poles and bark the color of brick flew past. I opened the pop-out window next to me; the air smelled like cedar and recently dug-up graveyard soil. We were very far away from anyone and anything and only going farther.
I hated the woods. The bugs, the openness, the fact that anything can come at you from anywhere, that you can be lost and never find your way back. Hello? Blair Witch Project?
I felt anxious needles pinch the tips of my fingers—not a feeling I was used to and not a feeling I wanted to get used to. I gripped the seat in front of me and tried to breathe, but it was like someone was jumping up and down on my chest.
Where the hell are we going? What rehab joint is in the middle of nowhere?
The driver wasn’t talking, just clearing his throat every twenty seconds, like he needed to remind us he was there; like at this point either of us was going to do anything, anyway.
Finally, the van moved off the country road to a gravel one. Little rocks popped like popcorn under the tires as we pulled in at a sign that read: Turning Pines Wilderness Camp—Helping Teenagers, One Life at a Time.
Camp? Fucking camp? My parents shipped me all the way to California to sleep in dirt? I hadn’t gotten any details about where I was going before I left. Sure, I didn’t ask, but I just figured it would be rehab in a building, in a hospitalish building. Could they have known that this was where they were sending me? Would they have cared?
I watched the back of the square-headed guy’s square head. No explanation, no words, only his throat clearing. We passed one boarded-up shed, another, and another.
I pictured demonic kids singing, Turning pines no turning back. They were standing in a circle holding hands, repeating the words ring-around-the-Rosie-like, wearing dirty doll dresses and patched-up overalls.
Camp meant woods, meant bugs, everywhere, all around me, for the next twenty-nine days. I could already feel the disgusting tickle of spiders crawling on my arms—the gross daddy-long-leg ones that looked like the reflection of a regular spider in a fun-house mirror. Ticks would suction to my toes, mosquitoes would buzz as loud as helicopters in my ears.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Ben looked at me and cocked his head. I’m pretty sure my face was white and I was sweating like I was getting paid for it.
“First day is always the hardest,” he said, so quietly he almost didn’t say it. He thought I was having withdrawals, and I guess I was, but not from drugs—from civilization, from lack of bug spray. If I saw anything that had more legs than a dog I was going to lose it, and I couldn’t lose it. Not in front of Ben, or Square Head, or anyone else I was about to meet.
I didn’t do losing it.
The van stopped. “Wick, out,” Square Head commanded.
“Seriously, here?” I asked, but I knew I was stalling. I could live in this van for twenty-nine days. At least it had doors that locked, windows that closed, a radio.
“Now,” Square Head yelled, not even answering my question. And I realized whatever tactics I’d used to survive in the world outside this place were probably not going to cut it here. Ben turned to me and smiled, like he’d realized the same thing.
I climbed over him and reached for the door. “See you, Cassie,” he whispered. Then he winked at me. I was too freaked out to care, which was good because if I hadn’t been I might have kicked him in the groin.
A woman wearing the same brown uniform as Square Head was waiting for me in the middle of an open field. The uniform hung on her skeletal frame. She looked like a Brownie—like a very tall Brownie. The girl not the food. Her graying-black hair was in a braid and the skin on her face was so tight it was like she was in a wind tunnel.
“Welcome, Wick,” she said. I was noticing a pattern: last names were first names here. I also noticed she was wearing shiny black combat boots. Her nametag read: Rawe. With a name like that she must have had a horrible experience in high school. No wonder she was here trying to make other teenagers’ lives miserable.
I dropped my duffel bag on the ground and waited. It was dusk and I could already feel the mosquitoes starting to swarm, starting to jump on my arms like they were trampolines.
“You know why you’re here and you know what you’ve done. It’s my job to make sure you never do it again.” She was standing so straight I thought she might tip over.
I nodded. I had learned how to nod in court. Nodding was easier because I could be sure I wouldn’t say something I might regret.
I slapped at a bite on one arm then the other. A buzz got close, filling my ear, and I smacked the side of my head. This wasn’t rehab. Rehab was supposed to be like a spa where you woke up in your nurse-made bed each morning and pretended to give a shit. This was my nightmare.
“I’d pick up your duffel if you don’t want fleas,” Rawe said, looking down at it.
Fleas. I pictured them crawling like ants on a giant hot dog. I picked my bag up and smacked at it like it was on fire.
“This won’t be easy,” Rawe said, making the words heavy with meaning. “This program is part wilderness survival skills, part personal rehabilitation.”
“We are the first group to be housed at this particular camp, so we get the unique privilege of rehabilitating it as well.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“It means you’ll be fixing up the grounds and structures for future participants.”
“It will be hard work. A lot of times you’ll want to quit, but you know what will happen if you do, right?”
I nodded. It didn’t matter what they were going to put us through—I couldn’t quit. Quitting would send me right to the jail time I’d avoided. She didn’t need to remind me about that—it wasn’t so much that I was afraid of going to jail; I dreaded the way my brother would look at me the morning I went in.
“We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow and another long day after that and so on,” she said. “Any questions?” Her diamond-hard eyes looked me up and down, seemingly wondering whether I had what it took to make it through.
I was pretty sure the answer was no.
“Is it just the two of us?” I flashed forward, this straight-laced woman with boot-eyeholes up to her chin and me for twenty-nine more days. It would be enough to turn anyone back into an addict—not that I was an addict. I knew I’d been sent here for a very different reason.
They say Karma is a bitch. I guess mine was turning out to be a bitch with fleas and a bony slave driver.
“Nez and Troyer are in the cabin,” she said, walking toward what I thought was a storage shed.
I followed her. From behind, her hair kind of looked like a skunk tail.
The “cabin” looked like a shack built by a homicidal maniac—you know, the place he keeps his blood-splattered murder tools and rotting corpses. The door creaked as Rawe opened it—that a room you enter and may never leave creak. It was small, had three cots and an open door that led into a room at the back of the cabin, which I hoped was the bathroom. I hadn’t peed since I’d left Collinsville.
“Nez,” Rawe said, pointing to one cot. A dark-skinned girl, either Indian or Native American, was smacking out a sleeping bag. Her uniform fit her way better than Rawe’s did; it was clear she was the kind of girl that everything fit better. She had dark eyes that seemed to have no pupils and hair that fell down her back like spilled black paint.
“Troyer,” Rawe said, pointing to a girl sitting up on her cot with her eyes closed. She was all Barbie-doll blond bangs. Her skin was covered in goose-bump-sized acne. At least, I hoped it was acne.
Troyer was also wearing the same uniform that Rawe wore. I looked at the empty cot, where a folded brown uniform lay—probably already crawling with fleas.
“Wick,” Rawe said, pointing at me.
I guess those were our introductions. Rawe turned off the one dirty, naked light bulb that stuck out of the ceiling like a nose. Both Nez and Troyer clicked on their flashlights.
“I’d like you to diary for thirty minutes about why you are here,” Rawe said, “an introduction to your leaving that part of your life behind.” She handed me this notebook and a pencil, then walked to the small room at the back of the cabin and closed the door behind her. I guess it wasn’t the bathroom.
“Diary?” I said. I wanted to ask where the bathroom was, but considering what the place looked like, I was also afraid to.
“Assessment Diary,” Nez said. “Write whatever, they don’t read it. It’s for you.” She mooed the word, then lay on her stomach and started to write.
I looked at Troyer. She was still sitting upright in the middle of her cot with her eyes closed.
“She doesn’t talk,” Nez said, chewing on her pencil. “Do you?”
“Usually,” I said, sizing up Nez. If she was worse than me, I wanted to know it.
“Thank cheese and crackers,” she said, her legs scissoring behind her. “I was going crazy. Not that we’re allowed to talk, but it’s nice to know you’re not mute.”
“She’s mute?” I said, looking back at Troyer, still motionless on her cot. The way we were talking about her, I wondered if she was deaf, too.
“Hasn’t said a word in the last six hours, not even to Rawe,” Nez said.
“Diary and lights out in thirty,” Rawe bellowed from behind her closed door.
Nez stuck out her tongue and went back to writing. I guess she wasn’t worse than me, because that definitely wasn’t what I would have done.
This is going to be a very fucking long twenty-nine days.