Cathy Eats Her Words

November 9, 2007

Day Six

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Novel — jeanne @ 4:52 pm

The next day, Cathy learned that the cops had released Star, and she’d made her way home around two in the morning. She learned this from Greane, who showed up at her house, apparently on foot, and asked for a ride back home. And since Greane lived close to where Star and her dad were living, Cathy decided she could drop in on them and see what was going on.

On the way down, Greane kept her feet propped up on the dashboard of Cathy’s pickup. She was trying to relieve the pressure in her feet. Her ankles, in late pregnancy, were swollen to the size of a roll of toilet paper. Cathy laid a hand on them. The flesh was hard.

“Yeah,” Greane said, lighting a cigarette. “They’re going to drain them tomorrow, in the hospital. I have to go there and they’ll probably fuss at me for a bunch of things. I wish I could have my baby at home, and just not bother with the hospital.”

Cathy had trained as a midwife, in her youth, and had the impulse to offer to deliver Greane at home, but it didn’t feel right, and so she stifled the impulse. “They’ll fuss at you for smoking?” she wondered instead. “You’ve been smoking the whole eight months?” Greane nodded guiltily and kept puffing away. Cathy had to ask her to roll her window down to let the smoke escape.

Greane kept her more than entertained with another installment of the Star-is-going-to-hell saga. “Yeah, your daughter is playing a very dangerous game. She’s taking all the pills she can get her hands on.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, whatever anyone has. Antidepressants, downers, meth, coke. Whatever. The other day she asked me to make her a pipe, and showed me the bag of ice she wanted to smoke.”


“You know, meth. And I think I told you she’s been snorting oxycontin, and mixing it with anything she can find.” She shook her head sadly, glancing at Cathy out of the corner of her eyes. “I’m afraid she’s going to overdose one of these days.”

Cathy looked straight ahead, thinking about overdoses. There’d been a few back in the day, when she was hanging out with the wrong crowd, and at the funerals everyone always said how young they were and what great lives they would have had if they’d lived. But, thinking about it from the perspective of someone in her mid-50s, Cathy couldn’t see where they would have made any real use of their lives. The ones that didn’t die went on to be adult losers. Some were in jail, some worked at Wal-Mart. None of her friends from the old days did anything with their lives. It was sad. It made Cathy wonder if she’d done anything with her life. Did her quiet later years, spent in pursuit of her own private goals, mean she was a loser?

When she got down to her ex’s house, all was quiet. Star was asleep. Richard was asleep. She knocked on his door and got no answer. So she walked in. She was surprised to see how much he’d changed physically. He’d been rail-thin when she’d married him. But now his belly stuck out over his shorts even when he was on his back, snoring. And he had a whole lot more hair all over him than when they were living together. He was sleeping heavily, right thru the noise of the TV and the beeping of three alarm clocks spaced around the room.

When she’d been married to him, she couldn’t stand the sound of an alarm, and had woken up automatically in time to shut if off before it sounded. She’d always waked him up. Now that he was by himself, he’d apparently reverted to his old habit of sleeping like the dead. Years ago she would have rushed around shutting off the alarms for him, so he could wake gently. But now she just stood there at the foot of his bed, and called his name and shook his feet until he came awake, startled.

He acted drugged. He sat up slowly and stared off into the middle distance, then his eyes closed and he started to fall back onto the bed. “Richard,” she repeated. He started and came back upright, but his head immediately started to nod forward, and his eyes shut again.

“What’s wrong with you?” Cathy asked, concerned.

“Tired,” he mumbled. He steadied himself on the edge of the bed and rose, lurching toward the bathroom. He reached the closet and stopped to fiddle with a padlock. Reaching inside, he got a bottle of pills off the middle shelf that used to hold towels, and popped a pill into his palm and straight into his mouth, swallowing without water.

Cathy was surprised, not only at his oral dexterity, but that he kept his medications locked up. “What’s that for?” she asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed. He disappeared off into the bathroom and partially shut the door. She heard him taking a leak. When he came back out he looked bleary eyed, wasted. She noticed with distaste that his back was covered with thick black fur, and that his jockey shorts were too tight.

She asked again about the pill. “Instant coffee,” he said, crossing back to the bed to sit and light a cigarette. Cathy got up and went to the door to switch on the ceiling fan. He looked annoyed. He looked victorious. I can smoke in my own goddamned house. Hah.

She sat back down on the opposite side of the bed. She was wondering more about why he had the door locked than what he’d just taken. “So, tell me about Star. Did you have to go get her?”

“I told you I was in no shape to go get her. And they let her go, anyway. She’s got to go back to court next week, or something. Driving on a suspended license.” He took a deep drag from his cigarette and lapsed into a coughing fit.

“How did she seem?” Cathy thought she might feel sorry, or feel guilty, or have some idea that speeding without a license wasn’t smart. But he answered a different question.

“I slapped her with a home drug test the minute she came thru the door,” he said, lighting a second cigarette off the first.

“Oh, really. And?”

“Positive for weed. Negative for opiates, and probable for benzodiazepines”

Cathy thought about all the drugs Greane was accusing her of using. “Well, I guess that’s good. I’ve heard a lot of rumors from her friends.”

“Miserable bitches,” he snarled. “Star told me they have a hidden agenda, but of course she wouldn’t say what it might be. But I know they’re up to something.”

Cathy was unsure. “Well, they’re my only source on what’s going on here. You don’t tell me much, Star tells me nothing. And what the girls tell me scares me to death.”

“At least she’s not doing coke or meth.”

“Right.” The test showed positive for xanax and valium-type tranquilizers, and they were legal.

But she was doing weed, and her probation officer didn’t like that. Cathy didn’t find out for almost a month, because Star didn’t find out, but her last two times spitting into a tube at probation had revealed that she was smoking dope consistently, against the wishes of the court.

“This means a revocation hearing, of course,” Richard told her over the phone when he called to announce the probation violation. He sounded almost happy. Star was continuing to be a confirmation of all his worst fears.

“What’s her lawyer say?”

“Oh, she’s going to do some jail time. The judge who has her case is a hanging judge, a real stickler for people doing what he tells them to. The lawyer just isn’t sure if she’ll go in for a week or for the rest of her six months of probation.”

“Oh, shit.” Jail. Her baby in day-glo orange. The thought was depressing.

But before that, Star moved out, again. Richard kept complaining that she wasn’t paying any attention to any of his entirely reasonable rules, like a ten o’clock curfew, and one day Cathy got a call from her, asking her to go collect some of her clothes and bring them to her. Feeling like she was being crushed between a rock and a tree, she drove down to Richard’s house.

She went up to the front door. It was unlocked. Richard didn’t lock his doors, feeling safe in the suburbs. But his bedroom door was locked. How strange. Cathy knocked, and eventually he opened the door, looking at her with bloodshot eyes, drool escaping from the corner of his mouth. She wondered if he was working on a stroke. Probably just his tranquilizers again, she decided. Poor baby couldn’t sleep. “Can I come in?” she asked, standing at the door. He shrugged and staggered back to his bed, grabbing the pack of cigarettes. She switched on the fan and followed him into the room.

“Where’s Star?”

He looked blankly at the TV set, watching an ad. She repeated the question, and he reached for his phone and examined it. “She left. I got seventeen text messages from your daughter last night,” he observed. “I’ll let you see some of them later.”

Stumbles ran into the room and barked ferociously at Cathy, who leaned down and scooped up the dog. “Remember me?” she said, stroking the matted fur. The dog smelled her and then began licking her neck. She looked neglected. “What’s going on with Star’s dog?” she asked.

Richard looked at the dog, still seeming to hardly recognize his surroundings. It was as if he were in a dream, Cathy thought. “My dog,” he said, and took another drag of his cigarette, scratching his chest with the other hand. He got up and went to his closet for one of those pills he needed in order to wake up.

He came back to the bed and grabbed his phone again, and banged out a text message to his daughter. “She chose to stay out all night long, so she can just be homeless now. She’s not welcome in my house any longer. I don’t recommend that you take her in.” The words seemed to cost him energy, because he lapsed into silence, continuing to punch buttons on his phone.

Soon there was a beep on the phone, and he read the message and passed it to Cathy. “She says she’s coming over here to pick up some things. I’m going to tell her I’ll call the cops and tell them she’s trespassing on my property, and she’ll go right to jail for that.” Cathy handed the phone back to him and he typed away furiously. Then he got up and padded off to the bathroom. “I’ve got to shower and get going,” he said. “There’s a meeting at work and I need to put in an appearance. I told her you were here. Call her in awhile and take her some stuff, would you?”

Cathy didn’t mention that this was the reason she was there in the first place. She went around Star’s room with a garbage bag, pulling clothes off the floor and stuffing them in, adding Star’s pillows and blankets. She found her legal papers in a folder and put them into the bag, and went into the hall bathroom and got her toothbrush and shampoo.

Richard was out of the shower and dressed, and ready to head out the door when Greane called. She was acting as negotiator for Star, who wouldn’t talk to her dad. Cathy listened to his end of the conversation, which was mostly a variation on a theme. Not a chance. No dog. No money. No. Then he stared at Cathy as if unsure whose side she was on, and repeated what he’d told Greane. “She’s not welcome in this house. I’ll change the locks when I get back from work. She can’t have the dog, and she can’t have any of the computer things or the television or the Nintendo. And she needs to give me back my cellphone that I got her.”

Star called Cathy’s phone five minutes later. Cathy was just finishing loading her car with Star’s things and finding some food for Stumbles to eat. “Mom, you’ve got to bring me my dog,” Star begged.

This was more of a conflict than Cathy could handle. “Your dad said no,” she sidestepped.

“But Mom, you don’t have to do what he says. You’re not married to him anymore. Please.”

“No. I’m not going to do it.”

And then Star started abusing her. “You’re such a bitch. You never take my side. You’ll do whatever that bastard tells you to do, and you don’t care a thing about me. I’m never going to trust you again.”

Cathy held her breath. It felt horrible to have her daughter attacking her. “Do you want me to bring you your stuff, or not?”

Star mumbled something. Cathy asked again, and Star told her where to meet her, tried once more to get her to bring the dog, and then declared she would break in later and steal the dog back herself.” Fine, Cathy thought, and then you really will get the cops called on you.

She met Star a few minutes later at a nearby gas station. Cathy was pumping gas into her tank when Star came up and gave her an absent, cold hug, then started taking her stuff out of the back of the truck. Cathy tried to talk to Star, to find out where she was going to go, what her plans were, when her court date was.

Star didn’t answer any of the questions, just assured her mother that she would get the money to pay her find at the end of the month. She spoke fast, with assurance. She sounded like she had it all figured out.

“What, you have a job, that you’re going to pay off your fine? What about the speeding ticket?”

“Yeah, that too. Don’t worry. I have lots of money, I’ll be alright.” Star acted hard, and sounded brusque and uncaring. She was clearly working some plan, maybe criminal, and she was as secretive as every, stopping short of telling her mother to mind her own business.

Star got into her car. Cathy noticed Greane behind the wheel, who waved a kiss at her and said something cute that she couldn’t hear. And then they squealed out of the parking lot and vanished around the corner.

Cathy drove home, feeling tired. Star took so much energy to be around. She was very glad not to have to put up with her on a daily basis. When she arrived home, Gray took one look at her and put her to bed. But this time, he didn’t let her sleep until he had caressed her and snuggled her and done lewd and lascivious things to her body. She slept well.

But Star called and interrupted her nap. “I just thought I’d let you know where I am,” she said. Cathy thought this very strange. Like Star would keep in touch. She was suspicious. “I’m staying with this guy,” she said, declining to name the dude. “He’s got no trouble letting me stay there if he can use my car, so I’m going to let him.”

Cathy said, “What about Spike? Why aren’t you staying with him?”

“I don’t want to talk about that,” she said.

“Won’t he be jealous?”

“Mom! I’m not sleeping with him. That’s why I had you bring my pillows and blankets. I’m sleeping on the couch.”

“Oh.” What did Cathy know?

“I need you to do me a favor.”

“Ah.” Let’s hear it. Cathy wished she was still asleep.

“I need you to put my car on your insurance.”

“What? Aren’t you on your dad’s insurance?”

“He said he’s dropping coverage tonight.” She laughed bitterly, a bark of a laugh. “And he wants his phone back. Fat fucking chance on that.”

Cathy supposed that insuring Star’s car would cost them several thousand dollars a year, now that she had a driving record and a speeding ticket and a suspended license and a DUI. She stalled. “I think it’s time you got your own insurance,” she said, certain that Star hadn’t bothered finding out about it. “I’ll talk to your father about keeping you on for awhile. He’ll want you to get another job.”

“I’ve got a job now, working for a towing company. I need to have a car someone can drive me back and forth to work in.” She sounded panicky.

It sounded fishy. Cathy wondered if she really had a job. “Then you can afford insurance yourself,” she said, trying to sound satisfied, trying to hide the doubt in her voice and make it sound like she approved of Star’s getting a job.

Star briefly got abusive again, calling her mother a whore, and hung up. Wow. Cathy went back to sleep.

The next week was her revocation hearing. Cathy had contacted the lawyer to find out when, and showed up in court in a conservative blue suit, determined to show the judge that at least Star came from a decent family. Star had tried to keep her from coming into the courtroom, but Cathy didn’t believe that only the plaintiffs and their lawyers were allowed in. She sat on one side of Star, the lawyer sat on the other. Star sat half-turned toward the lawyer, ignoring her mother. Every time Cathy said something, Star hushed her. Every time she touched her, Star wiggled away. Cathy swallowed her annoyance.

The judge called her name. It sounded strange to hear it spoken thru a microphone. She popped up with her lawyer, a small woman, and they walked to the podium. Cathy sat there where they’d left her, looking responsible and concerned. The judge looked over his glasses at Cathy, then at Star and her lawyer. He frowned at Star.

Cathy was nervous. The case just finished with involved an orange jump-suited kid in handcuffs, his lawyer, and his father, who insisted that his son was a good kid, and was needed to help out in the dad’s business. The fact that he kept checking himself out of rehab was just because he missed his family, the kid insisted, and he was only caught being drunk in public because of a drug interaction with the sedatives his rehab counselor had put him on. The judge gave him 249 days in jail.

She was relieved, almost giddy, when the judge only gave her baby two days in jail. She was even more relieved when Star’s lawyer explained that because of overcrowding, it was a two-for-one deal, and that Star would only spend twenty-four hours locked up. She felt so happy she wanted to run home and bake the lawyer a batch of cookies, with some for the judge, too.

Star wasn’t as delighted. She scowled. She complained that it was cold in jail. She bitched about the jumpsuit she’d have to wear. She worried about what the other girls would do to her when she opened her mouth and got herself in trouble. But she didn’t look contrite, not once she got out of sight of the judge. She looked put-upon. She looked unjustly treated. She looked daggers at her mom when Cathy said something about how much worse it could have been. She also decided she was going to wait until the last moment to present herself at the jailhouse door. She wanted to spend time with her dad, she said, which shocked Cathy. It was his birthday, and she wanted to make him dinner before going to jail.

Cathy knew that she was really worried about going to jail, and she needed understanding and companionship. It hurt a lot that Star was willing to turn to her dad, with whom she was fighting bitterly, and ignore her mom, who came all the way down here to be with her in her dark hours. But at least she would get some comfort from a family member, and so she supposed it didn’t really matter that it wasn’t her.

But it still hurt. Her baby going to jail, and nothing Cathy could do to make it the least little bit better.

go to tomorrow’s writing


1 Comment »

  1. […] go to tomorrow’s writing Leave a Comment […]

    Pingback by Day Five « Cathy Eats Her Words — October 12, 2009 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

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