Hillari’s Head by Tim Stutler
ISBN: 9781626521544 (paperback)
ASIN: B00E1Y1N9I (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 1, 2013
Publisher: Mill City Press
Paralegal Kristina Orris has moved to San Diego seeking a new life – a normal life. She is burdened by the memory of Hillari, a sister with an oversized head and disfigured face. Home-schooled by a protective single father, Kristina herself had a vexing speech impediment and rarely left the house while growing up. But after her dad died, she knew she couldn’t stay. Kristina dreamed of being a lawyer. Pursuing such a goal might prove painful for any cloistered, mumbling orphan; but it would be impossible yoked to Hillari. At 18, Kristina abandoned her home, her past – and Hillari.
Now, eight years later, Kristina meets attorney Gideon “Duck” Ducker, “the single homeliest man she had ever laid eyes on.” But she instantly bonds with the warm, self-effacing lawyer. Kristina takes a paralegal job at Duck’s law firm, where the two are thrown into the most tumultuous and fascinating case of their lives. Everything is coming together nicely for Kristina. Only one thing prevents her from becoming the confident, fulfilled woman she longs to be: the swelling burden of guilt and shame over her past. But is it too late to redeem herself?
Alternately touching, humorous and heart wrenching, Hillari’s Head is about family, intimacy, resilience and, ultimately, acceptance. With its intriguing characters and elements of comedy and tragedy, Hillari’s Head will appeal to fans of Nora Ephron (Heartburn) and John Irving (A Prayer For Owen Meany).
Read an excerpt:
Hillari’s head was huge. I’m not talking Elephant-Man huge or anything like that. But it was unnaturally large—bigger than any other girl’s head I’ve ever seen. Bigger than most guys’, too. And it caused her lots of problems. She had to wear pullover blouses with big neck holes or shirts that buttoned, because her head stretched out everything else. And she always said those “one size fits all” hats were a cruel hoax. Hill did not like hats.
Kristina Orris cradled her chin in her hand and read what she had typed. She had never blogged before, and wanted to avoid the subjects that girls her age usually wrote about: careers, personal growth, fashion, and men. Kristina didn’t feel she knew enough about those topics to say anything insightful or even particularly interesting. But she knew Hillari, and wanted to get her story right.
She began tapping on the keyboard again. The strokes were slow, deliberate, as she sounded out each word.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a big head. It can actually be a good thing. How do you think Vanna White got her job turning over letters on Wheel of Fortune? It wasn’t because she had some special intimacy with the alphabet; though maybe she did, for all I know. No, some offstage employee would light up the right letters; so they could’ve hired anyone to flip them over. But the show’s producer, Merv Griffin, saw that Vanna had something special—an enormous cranium. Merv said all the biggest stars in Hollywood had huge heads, like Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe. And they were beautiful. Vanna, too. Big heads are photogenic.
Kristina had never actually seen Vanna White, or any other celebrity, in person. But Hillari had been around since she could first remember, and Kristina thought she was pretty enough—at least initially.
Hill had thick Indian-red hair, smooth skin, and naturally coral lips so vivid that she didn’t need lipstick. She was my sister, and I didn’t know her head was too big for years. She rarely dealt with anyone outside our family, so I didn’t see their reactions to her until I was maybe four or five.
Not that strangers ever noticed her massive head, anyway. It wasn’t her defining feature—at least not to the outside world. Hill had oligodontia. That meant she didn’t have any permanent teeth except a couple deformed nubs in the front and the first molar on each side (at the back of her mouth). She was a normal girl in most other respects—except for her oversized head, of course.
Kristina stopped typing and listened. Stepping to the back of her ground-floor condominium, she peeked out. A heavy fog enveloped the grounds around the complex. She couldn’t see anything. Kristina checked the lock, and then walked back to the kitchen for one of the scones she bought earlier that week. She stood behind her chair and bit into the hard biscuit. Crumbs and bits of dry blueberries cascaded onto her bleach-spotted sweatshirt. She brushed them into a napkin and sipped her coffee. It was cold. Setting the cup on a chipped saucer, Kristina gazed at the screen.
She was the only one left who knew about Hillari. Kristina had decided that she should write about her while she was able; she had plenty of time now. Kristina had finished paralegal school three weeks earlier and was looking for a position with a local firm. That took up maybe an hour a day. The school’s web site promised a “robust and fast-expanding” job market for its graduates. Neither term described Kristina’s bank account. But the prospect of intrusive, probing job interviews was so daunting that she had applied with only a few firms. She’d managed to get in the door at one, a small estate-planning practice that seemed like a nice, low-key environment for a paralegal, heavy on document reviews, drafting and filing.
What a disaster that interview was. She knew all the right answers, but they’d come out so tense and terse that anything other than a rejection would have shocked her. Picking up her cell phone, Kristina replayed the message from the school’s career counselor.
“Hi, it’s Rosalyn. I called Dunphy and Moore after we spoke. They sent me the résumé you gave them. It wasn’t the one we worked on together, Kristina. I see you deleted your LSAT score. Kristina, I told you it doesn’t matter that you didn’t go to law school; just finishing in the ninety-first percentile on the admission test will tell a firm that you can do the work. If you won’t talk about yourself in the interview, your résumé has to speak for you. Well, at least it was a good learning experience. Call me, girl.”
Kristina erased the message. Good learning experience? She didn’t know how many more such learning experiences she could survive. But she knew she was too embarrassed to tell real lawyers about her taking the Law School Admission Test—when Kristina knew damned well that she’d never follow through on actually becoming a lawyer. Taking a written test was one thing, but speaking in public . . . No thanks.
She focused again on the computer screen. The blog was Rosalyn’s idea; she’d told Kristina that posting about herself might help her open up. Kristina had agreed to try, but found she just couldn’t expose herself like that—even to faceless strangers she’d never meet. Besides, Hill would be more interesting to them. She moved her fingers back to the keyboard. Kristina thought she was a good writer and a decent typist. Maybe she could try being a legal secretary, or a regular secretary. She sighed. She’d still need to interview.
This blog is about my sister Hill. Maybe nobody else will find her interesting, or even read this. But if you do, and you like it, please post a comment letting me know. If not, just keep your opinions to yourself. Kidding ;}
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