Home > Red Spiral Notebook > [March, 1995] Happiness in Slavery

[March, 1995] Happiness in Slavery


My story “Happiness in Slavery” got a Golden Key in the contest I entered. That means I’m being considered for an award or something and am going on to a national competition. Wow, I thought I would have been notified already and that I didn’t win anything.

A little while ago Anita and I had this in-depth conversation about the meaning of “Past the Mission” (we talked a little about “Cornflake Girl” too but that’s besides the point). We couldn’t decide which one of the girls killed the guy or if he committed suicide. Anyway not less than 2 minutes after I hang up I turn on WSOU and what song is playing? Of course! I just wish you could hear more of Trent on it.


When you’re a teenage girl on the phone with your best friend for at least an hour every day (but usually longer), you need a lot of conversational material. Seeing as we were both consumed with music and had a number of overlapping tastes, we did a lot of speculating about different musical artists lives, the meaning of their songs, and other things I hesitate to mention for fear of embarrassment, but which will probably get covered in later entries anyway.

As for the writing award, while I stole the title from a Nine Inch Nails song, the story itself was my own. It was written from the first person perspective of Mary, an awkward 9-year-old who gets taken under the wing of Aislinn, who exerts an unhealthy and eventually violent dominance over her. Here’s an excerpt:

Aislinn and I were in a jump rope marathon for charity. It took place in the high school gymnasium.

When it was Aislinn’s turn, she got tangled up in her jump rope and fell on her butt.

She saw me laughing and later brought me into the girl’s bathroom.

She took her jump rope with her.

I shouldn’t have laughed.

Basically, I took elements of a happy childhood friendship I had and twisted it around to make it as dark as I could. In retrospect, the title was probably too heavy-handed (in the hard copy I still have, it has “With thanks to Trent Reznor” in parentheses at the top). I should have called it “The Gypsy and the Spy,” a game my elementary school best friend and I created and would often play, often referenced in the story. In the game, the spy (Mary) crash lands on the gypsy’s (Aislinn’s) island with a suitcase full of secret items (a re-appropriated backgammon set). The gypsy nurses the spy back to health, while being suspicious that the spy will steal her diamond (actually a giant crystal) while the spy is suspicious that the gypsy is poisoning her. Various snooping and surveillance on both parts ensues. In real life, the game took on numerous permutations, but often had a happy ending in which the gypsy and the spy become friends and remain on the island together. In the story, I used it more as a device to show Mary’s increasing isolation. The last two lines of the story are:

The rescue ship was speeding away. The spy would not be leaving the island.

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