Something Unpredictable

Something Unpredictable

by Barbara Chepaitis


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How do we become the people we dream — and dare — to be?
Delilah is thirty-one years old and needs a plan. Still living with her parents in Key West with no career to speak of, and in a dull relationship with a self-involved artist, Delilah fears that the good life is passing her by. Her sister lives behind a perfect picket fence, her father makes mountains of money off the market, and her mother spends it on the latest social cause. Delilah would love to save the world as well...if only she knew how. She longs for inspiration. Little does she know that it will soon come in the shape of Carla: a former tiger tamer and Delilah's biological grandmother who's been long lost — until now.
When Delilah's mother unwittingly discovers the identity of the woman who put her up for adoption years ago, Delilah is enlisted to visit Carla at her dilapidated farmhouse in rural New York. What begins as an obligatory and thorny relationship between Delilah and Carla blossoms into something that can only be described as love — a mutual desire for family connection, a shared appreciation for the beauty of the land, and a commitment to embracing life by accepting its uncertainty. Because love [is] always unpredictable. And slightly out of control.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743437530
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 07/26/2005
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Barbara Chepaitis is the author of the acclaimed novels Feeding Christine and These Dreams. She earned her doctorate in composition and teaches at a university in upstate New York, where she makes her home.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Water

Delilah stared at the bathtub, which was three-quarters filled with blue Jell-O cubes.

"So get in," Thomas said.

"Get in?" she asked.

When she didn't move, he briefly stopped fiddling with his camera equipment and blinked at her.

"You'll want to take your clothes off first," he noted. "Otherwise they'll get stained."

"And I won't?"

"You'll wash," he said, and went back to his camera.

She sighed, and started to undress. She'd helped Thomas with other art projects, such as his ten-foot-tall pasta tower, and it was fun enough, but this was different. She wasn't sure it would be fun to model for a series of photos on the human body immersed in Jell-O, which Thomas wanted for an upcoming photo show.

Still, she knew Thomas. When he was into one of his projects, he occupied a world composed entirely of his own visions, and no discomfort mattered. Especially not her own. She didn't take it personally. Besides, he made her life a lot less dull than it would be otherwise. At thirty-one, still living with her parents, with no career to speak of, she didn't have much to brag about beyond her willingness to slip into a tub full of Jell-O for the sake of art.

Not that she was complaining. After all, living with her parents meant occupying a room in a sweet little three-thousand-square-foot Spanish contemporary on two acres of prime land in Key West. The house itself was, as her mother frequently pointed out, big enough to house two families of Guatemalans, which it had done occasionally, so they didn't really get in each other's way.

If she were the beach bunny type, her life would have been a blast, but she didn't think she was built for that. She was too normal looking, with brown eyes, medium-length brown hair, medium height, and medium build, though she'd be the first to admit that it would be accurate to say she had hips.

And while Key West was known as a party town, she was not much of a party girl. She could hold her liquor too well and it took an inordinate amount of money to get her drunk. The party life being out, and in the absence of anything she could generously call a career, she still wanted something to get her up in the morning. Some anticipation of surprise, or adventure. Something that said she mattered on the planet — aside from her mother's periodic demands that she participate in an activist event like a Vegan Supper to Save the World.

"This isn't going to feel good," she said when her clothes were off and she had one foot poised over the tub.

"Sure it will," Thomas said. "Kind of like a very cool lotion, or — or like sex."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "How do you know?" she asked.

"I did a trial run. It seemed only fair."

She contemplated the thought of Thomas naked, in a tub of Jell-O. It did not make her think of sex. But to Thomas, art definitely took precedence over sex. In fact, that was her only complaint about him, besides the fact that he couldn't cook, didn't have a job to speak of, and was living in the caretaker's house on her parents' land for free, without any indication that he ever intended to move out. Still, he had one distinct advantage over a lot of men she knew. He was there.

She closed her eyes and plunged a foot into the Jell-O. It made a squishing sound.

"God," she ejaculated.

"All the way in," Thomas encouraged her. "Unless you want naked bits to show."

She put her other foot in and stood there, shin deep. "They'll show anyway," she said. "This stuff isn't opaque."

"It'll all be decently blurred. Slide down."

She shuddered and lowered herself slowly. "Ewww," she said. "This doesn't feel like sex. It feels like — like goo. Gooey worms and — and goo."

"Beautiful," Thomas purred when she was fully immersed. "Now, let one hand dangle over the side and close your eyes. Good. Let your head kind of loll, like you're dead."

"Am I?" she asked.

"Metaphorically," he said. "The series is about how popular culture sucks us in and kills us all in the end. Turn left a little. Good." She heard his camera clicking away.

After a while, he had her roll over on her stomach, splayed out, eyes open and staring blankly. "Wow," he said. "I wish you could see yourself. That cellulite is perfect."

"Cellulite?" she squeaked. "What cellulite? I don't have cellulite."

"Don't move," he said.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw him approaching her with a yellow rubber duckie, which he put on her back, but she was beginning to lose sensation by then. It was a defense mechanism, she was sure, to avoid feeling like a piece of canned fruit cocktail. To avoid feeling slimy, and riddled with cellulite.

It was about that time that she heard the insistent chirping coming from the region of her pants pocket. Her cell phone. She'd resisted getting one, but her father thought it would be a good idea, and it had proved handy — to bail her mother out of jail after a civil disobedience moment, or rescue her when she treated a diner full of homeless people to lunch and then realized she didn't have her credit card with her.

"Delilah," Thomas said reprovingly, "I told you, no cell phone when we're working."

She rolled over, slid under the Jell-O and came up sputtering, pulled herself upright and choked out, "Get it."

"In a minute," Thomas murmured, snapping away with his camera.

"Get it," she insisted, splattering Jell-O around as she tried to pull herself out of the tub. She slipped back under and was briefly terrified that she'd drown. Death by Jell-O. Thomas would never be able to explain, and her parents would be terribly embarrassed at his subsequent murder trial.

She made an effort and pulled herself up.

"Mm," Thomas said. "Keep doing that. That's good."

"Get it," she demanded, "or I'll smear Jell-O on your camera. It'll be ruined and my parents won't necessarily buy you another one."

Thomas made a face at her, but put his camera down and got the phone out, opened it, and held it to her ear.

"Delilah?" a voice said. Then, with more urgency, "Delilah?" Her mother.

"Yes, Mom. It's me."

"I'm so glad. Are you busy? Because if you're not I really, really need to see you for just a few moments. Well, actually, for more than a few moments."

"What is it? Is Dad okay?" She was accustomed to the sound of her mother's voice in incipient hysteria, and it didn't really worry her, but she did worry about her father. Someday his patience would just give, and he'd self-combust.

"Your father's fine," she said, sounding a little miffed. "This isn't about him."

"Then what's wrong?" Delilah asked.

"Nothing's wrong. Just — disturbing in a way. I mean, not in a bad way, but in a way."

"In what way?"

She drew in breath and released it in little sputters. "I found my mother," she said.

"Lemme clean up," Delilah said. "I'll meet you in the kitchen."

Copyright © 2003 by Barbara Chepaitis

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Something Unpredictable 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
nhr3bookcrazyNR More than 1 year ago
I just happened upon this book - total serendipity. I loved it!!! The writing was absolutely beautiful, even poetic at times. Although Delilah was a bit annoying in her being so adrift, she was also very smart and feisty. I loved Jack. And I loved Carla, too. But the writing is what totally captured my attention. And now I have to go and discover other books by this author. This book was definitely Something Unpredictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A lovely book that perfectly captures the essence of people and place. Settles Hill and the Heldeberg Escarpment are as real as the turtle butts and crazy old ladies and odd neighbors who inhabit them, but it takes a talented writer with a tender heart and painterly pen to make them come alive and make us care so deeply for them. This is a delightful read for adults and young adults alike.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This books is a great read for anyone. It has all the twists and turns that you could imagine, but also has a moral standard and life lessons added in throughout it's pages. It's a true page turner, and a relaxing story that everyone can somehow relate to.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Thirty-one years old Delilah still lives with her parents in their mini-mansion in Key West and works as a waitress even though she has a bachelor¿s degree. She sees the man living in her parents¿ guesthouse but she knows they have no commitment to one another. When her mother locates her biological mother, she is afraid to meet her so she sends Delilah to Brentville, New York to see what Carla is like.

Delilah¿s first impression of her grandmother is that of a crusty, independent woman while octogenarian Carla thinks her granddaughter wastes her potential and sets out to do something about it. Delilah meets Jack Brown who fixes things on her grandmother¿s property. She realizes that he is a deep soul who won¿t be content with a minor fling. While caring for her grandmother, Delilah starts sleeping with her ex-fiancé, who lives in the area, but they can¿t recapture what they once had. When a tragedy occurs, Delilah finally opens her heart that has been closed since her twin brother died over two decades ago.

SOMETHING UNPREDICTABLE is a moving relationship drama starring a protagonist afraid to commit to a relationship. Her visit to her grandmother makes her take stock of what she is not doing with her life. Carla sees herself in her granddaughter, which is why she feels compelled to meddle and despite herself, Delilah comes to see that her grandmother is right. Though some unnecessary coincidence enables additional insight, Barbara Chepaitis has written a poignant family drama.

Harriet Klausner