Sunday Stories: “Parts of Laura Palmer”


Parts of Laura Palmer
by Ursula Villarreal-Moura

Part 1: 1990- 1997

At age eleven, Tatum is too impressionable to watch Twin Peaks. Impressionable is the word her Tia Veronica uses to chastise her. Tatum collects fears that year: 1990. It is the year her period arrives, of Twin Peak’s television premiere, of the driving-by shooting epidemic in San Antonio. All these events connect like links in a chainmail necklace around her neck. Tatum classifies her fears. Horror, homicidal, hormonal–these adjectives she organizes alphabetically on the back of a postcard. Later she will incorporate them into a mediocre poem about herself.

Between studying for science and switching maxi pads, she doesn’t have the fortitude for television. An undeniable aura is being transmitted on Twin Peaks. In supermarkets she examines the sultry cover of Rolling Stone magazine featuring teenage kittens: Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, and Mädchen Amick. Their unified appeal, lipsticked pouts and tangled hair, intimidate her.

“You’re missing out, Tatum,” her Tia Veronica taunts her over a Saturday evening game of Trivial Pursuit. “It’s already a classic.”

The only work Tatum considers classic are the novels of Jack London. It is possible, and likely, she doesn’t understand every connotation of the word. Coca-Cola is also referred to as a classic yet it burns the cavern of her throat.

“I can’t,” she replies.

Her scaredy-cat nature becomes family gossip. Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes featuring storylines with Q overwhelm her. Certain Edgar Allen Poe tales terrorize her sleep.

“When I’m older, I’ll watch it,” she promises her aunt, herself.

“VHS doesn’t age well,” Tia Veronica states, wagging a finger.

Fear becomes Tatum’s constant. Ghost stories, mirrors, research paper deadlines, headaches, car accidents, meat cleavers, pregnant women, prank calls, cluttered rooms, dental drills, and oversized dogs trigger anxiety attacks in her, cause her to flinch and gasp.

As a teenager she details facts about these distressing objects, people, and situations in her silver journal. She attempts to write poems explaining their power over her. Her classmates boldly watch Twin Peaks and The Shining at slumber parties. They read Stephen King novels at night while Tatum prays and listens to vintage Paul Simon CDs instead.


Part II: 2005

In her twenties, Twin Peaks becomes the rumor she can’t avoid. Tatum vows to attempt the show. As if agreeing to participate in a clinical trial for an unpredictable drug, her decision requires faith.


Part III: 2013

Twenty-three years after its premiere Tatum decides to conquer Twin Peaks. She prepares herself for something avant-garde and eerie. The melodrama of the first episode suits her sensibilities. She quasi-delights in Sarah Palmer’s terrible perm, the jagged way her lips part as she sobs over her dead daughter Laura. The series, Tatum decides, is titillating.

One Sunday night she calls her Tia Veronica to let her know she’s watching the show on Netflix. She doesn’t mention the fact that she sweats like a rodent during the intensely scary parts, that she covers both eyes with her hands, and stops watching episodes around seven p.m. then listens to mindless pop music afterwards to lift her out of her fright.

“Finally,” her aunt says. “It isn’t that scary, right?”

Tatum admits she still considers it for the brave of heart. Her aunt calls her “so impressionable” for the thousandth time.

The Twin Peaks storyline transcribes itself inside her. During suspenseful scenes Tatum’s limbs tingle with numbness. While watching the last episode, she screams at Windom Earle’s blackened mouth, bounces off the bed in hysterics, runs into a wall, and convulses. Dozens of scenarios, familiar and strange, scramble in her veins. She is eleven and beginning to menstruate; ninety and choking on dry vegetable crackers, sixty-three and slamming down a prank call; twenty and having her wisdom teeth extracted; fifty-eight and eulogizing her Tia Veronica. She wrestles the wall, trapped in the threshold between foresight and hindsight.

In her sleep, ring-shaped bruises form on her forearms and knees, lingering like previous decades. Somehow she suspected it would end this way, her vulnerability on display and Laura Palmer mummifying inside of her.

Ursula Villarreal-Moura is a writer, editor, and book reviewer. Her fiction and nonfiction appear or are forthcoming in CutBank, Emerson Review, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, The Fiddleback, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. She tweets about books at @Ursulaofthebook.

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