Cathy Eats Her Words

November 26, 2007

Day Thirteen

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Novel — jeanne @ 8:16 pm

Cathy and Star stayed in the women’s center waiting room for an hour. They were the only ones there, and they’d arrived fifteen minutes before Star’s appointment. But still they were made to wait. Star acted as if it were natural, but Cathy chafed under the implied insult – their time wasn’t valuable, even if there was nothing going on back there except gossip and socialization. When they were finally escorted to a room by a woman with a clipboard, Cathy noticed with annoyance that all the examination rooms were empty. But she kept telling herself that this was Star’s show, and swallowed her bitterness.

They’d come for a sonogram, in order to find out how far along Star’s pregnancy was. But the first thing the woman told them was that there were no sonograms done on Tuesdays. She laughed as she told them – you sillies, of course there’re no sonograms.

“First we have to get all the paperwork filled out,” she said. The room they were in wasn’t an examination room, but an office with an empty desk and a computer. The woman sat them down and proceeded to ask for ID and Star’s insurance card, and began the long, boring process of assignment of benefits, whereby Star committed to having her baby at that center, upon delivery of which they would bill the insurance for the procedure. It meant that she could come in for however many appointments they might schedule for her during the course of her pregnancy, and she wouldn’t have to shell out a co-pay every time. Cathy thought this was very sensible. She had been worrying how she could get money out of Richard every few weeks for Star’s medical bills. He seemed less and less likely to want to help her, and she could see trouble down the road. But now they didn’t have to worry about it. Insurance has its uses, she thought.

Instead of a sonogram, a nurse did a manual examination of Star after the paperwork was finished and they’d waited another twenty minutes, forced to watch a soap opera. “Six weeks,” she said when she’d finished poking Star’s abdomen. “Come back in two weeks and we’ll get that sonogram and some blood work.”

Cathy drove star back to rehab mostly in silence. It was early rush hour, and there was traffic the whole way. Star was thinking about how big her baby was, the size of a peanut, and Cathy was thinking about having to stand the medical people’s unthinking rudeness for another seven and a half months.

Richard certainly was having trouble with financing Star’s pregnancy. “I’m really sorry I didn’t cut off her insurance the last time she moved up to stay with you. Then she’d be faced with a little taste of the true cost of having a baby, and maybe then she’d see that an abortion is the only thing that can help her now.”

“Richard, I’m not going to talk to you about this. You’re just making me mad. I don’t want her getting an abortion. And I really resent it that you seem to have wanted me to have had one when I was pregnant with Star.”

“We wouldn’t be having these troubles now if you had.”

Cathy remained silent.

“Do you really think she’s emotionally ready to handle the responsibilities of child-rearing?” he continued. “The reality is that over half of American marriages end in divorce, with financial stress and the stress of raising children the two main reasons given. Whose problem is it if it all fails? Yours? Mine? Hers? She couldn’t even feed or house herself without either crime or charity.”

“Oh, for God’s sake.”

“Why can’t I get sick of singing my warnings into the breeze only to watch every one of them come sickeningly true? I’ve been pissing into the wind trying to warn Star, and I’m tired of having a face full of piss.”

“Yeah, like you listened to your parents’ warnings at that age.”

He ignored it. “One thing is for certain. By my reckoning, she’s costing me close to ten thousand dollars – money that was supposed to lasts until my retirement. I’m going to want that money back, because I can see now that she was just playing me like a fiddle to keep her skinny ass out of jail. I have no confidence that she’s not just playing the people in rehab the same way she was doing me, and she’ll turn her back on sobriety the moment her probation’s over with. I’m sure of it.”

“I don’t know. I don’t get the feeling that she’s bamboozling anyone. I think she’s trying. I think she understands how she got herself to this place.” Cathy was getting into the idea of persuading Richard to go easy on their child. “I see her taking her situation seriously and working out the implications for herself. I think being pregnant is being very good for her. She’s growing up really fast now that she’s got responsibility.”

Richard didn’t agree. “In my opinion, anyone who thinks that the child having a baby with and marrying her former coke dealer is good thing has an imagination that’s far too elastic for me.”

“Well, good thing you won’t have to do anything about it when she gets out. Gray and I are planning to go get her from rehab and deliver her straight down to where Spike’s living. Then they can arrange with his parents and grandparents to get married just as soon as they can, and learn to live with their decisions.”

But it didn’t turn out that way.

After Star had been in rehab for a total of six weeks, the staff decided she’d had enough treatment, and prescribed weekly 12-step meetings and a once-a-week therapy session back at the rehab center. Then they discharged her. Everyone warned her away from going back to her father’s house, because he was a current drug user, and it would be dangerous for her recovery to be around anyone who was on drugs.

But she was unwilling to go back to Cathy and Gray. “Spike says she doesn’t want me to live in the city. It’s too dangerous.” She was on the phone to Cathy from rehab the night before she was due to get out.

“So, are you going to move straight in with Spike, then?”

Star paused. “Well, that’s kind off hard to say right now,” she said finally. Cathy could tell she was trying to decide how much to tell her. “See, Spike’s grandma kind of thinks it was me who got Spike into drugs in the first place, and they kind of don’t want me around.”

“But that’s preposterous!” Cathy fumed. “It was his stuff, wasn’t it? He was selling it, not you, right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t think they believe that. He might have told them the drugs were someone else’s.”

Cathy could see it now. Their innocent baby boy, led astray by that scheming whore, Star. She felt like calling up Grandma and having a talk with her.

“You don’t have to call them up and straighten them out, Mom,” Star continued. “I’m working on fixing everything, and it would really fuck things up if you stuck your nose in.”

She knew her mother too well. “Well, how long do you think it will take before you’re ready to move in with him? And what are you going to do in the meantime?” Cathy noticed that there was no mention of marriage.

“Well, I’ve got some friends I can stay with.”

“That’s not an option, Star. The people in rehab want you in a stable environment, and staying with friends is just asking for trouble. These would be drug friends, wouldn’t they?”

“Yeah, well, they’re not using at the moment. What happened to me and Spike kind of scared them.”

Sure. “Why don’t you come up here, live in the same room you were in before, get a job, and start getting ready to have your baby?”

Star sighed. “I told you already, Mom. I just don’t like Gray, and you make me really uncomfortable with all your questions. Beside, you make too much noise when you get up in the morning, and I can never get enough sleep. And there’s the fact that you keep it way too cold in the winter, and too hot in the summer. I’m never comfortable there.”

“Fine.” Arguing with a child. She felt like asking how comfortable she would be back in jail. But what’s the point? “You haven’t made a decision about where you’re going to go tomorrow. I’ll be coming to get you, and you need a proper place to stay.”

“I guess I’ll stay with Dad,” she said at last.

Cathy held her breath. “With your dad,” she repeated. “But everyone has said how bad an idea that is, and I agree. He’s not a good influence. I worry about him, I don’t think you should have anything to do with him. And he doesn’t approve of what you’re going thru right now, and wouldn’t be positive about it. I’m not even sure he’d take you at this point.”

“Yes he would. I talked to him just a few minutes ago. He says I can have my old room back, and he’ll fix my computer, and d he’ll even pay for my probation.”

“You mean he wants you back?” Evidently he wanted her back badly enough to bribe her.

“Yes. He says I’ve suffered enough, being in rehab, and besides, he needs me to make dinner and keep house for him.”

“Well, I won’t argue that he needs someone around to take care of him, but, Sweetie, he’s using, and you’re not supposed to be anywhere around anyone who’s using. What does Spike think of you moving back in with him?”

“He’d prefer it over my staying with you. Mom, I can take care of myself. I’ve figured it all out, and he’s no threat to my sobriety. Really. Trust me.”

So Cathy called up Richard, looking for answers. And came away as confused as ever.

“I can provide her with the stable home life she needs,” he insisted.

“Jesus, Richard, you sound schizophrenic. What were you just telling me the other day about never wanting to see her again?”

“I have decided that I can influence her better to do the right thing by providing the things she needs. That is, of courses, until she crosses me again, and then she’s out in the street.”

“Yeah, that’s stable, all right. And you’re going to continue your surveillance of her?”

Damn straight I am. Don’t think I trust her ass far as I can throw her. But I really think that being in a familiar environment, after jail and rehab, is the best thing that I can do for her.”

“Are you going to make her get a job?”

“Of course. There’s a supermarket not a mile from here. I can drop her off and she can walk home after her shift.”

“And she’ll be coming home to an empty house, won’t she?”

“Well, yes, but she’ll have to call me every hour and check in.”

“That worked so well last time you tried it.”

Star moved back in with her father, and Cathy didn’t hear from either of them for weeks, except when it was time to go to the doctor for the sonogram. Star wouldn’t let Cathy come into the examination room with her, and she had to sit out in the waiting room and watch soap operas again, unable to turn the TV off because other waiting patients were wrapped up in it. The only satisfaction Cathy got out of the visit was hearing Star say that she heard her baby’s heartbeat and almost started to cry. It was something. But even that was ruined by all the slick commercial come-ons they handed out at the end of the visit. Infant formula, life insurance, free subscriptions to magazines filled with ads for crap nobody needed. Cathy dumped them when Star wasn’t looking.

“I hate it that she’s taken the easy path over the challenging one, yet again,” she complained to Gray on their evening dog walk. “I just know it’s the wrong thing to do. She should be facing her situation and working hard to get thru it, and I can see her slipping back into the same patterns of being lazy and sleeping all day and hanging out with her drug friends.” She felt like crying.

Gray struggled to hold Tabasco back. The weather had turned cold, and he was frisky, and frisky meant that he lunged at every bush and wall he passed. “Most people who’ve been thru rehab relapse, remember they told us that in the orientation.”

Scootie didn’t like the cold, and was hanging back. Cathy kept having to turn around and coax her to follow. “Yeah, and I remember the parents of that kid who got drunk after he got out of rehab. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. To my Star.”

“Well, she hasn’t gone out and done it yet. And she’s still got probation over her head. That should keep her straight.”

“And there’s the baby. She surely knows better than to start using again.”

Tabasco, impatient to go faster, started jumping around at the end of his leash, tugging Gray thru piles of wet leaves. Cathy feared he would slip and break his old bones. She started agitating to take his leash herself, but Gray stubbornly kept it, jerking the dog’s head when he pulled too hard. A couple of months more of this, Cathy thought, and it’s going to be dangerous for him to be handling the dog. Especially when it froze. “Please let me take the leash,” she begged. “You can take Scootie. Look, I can control her with just a finger on her lead.”

Gray laughed. “Now, don’t be silly. What kind of challenge is that? Do you want me to take the easy way? What kind of precedent would that set for Star?”

“Oh, hush. Star isn’t going to be living with us. What does it matter? I just don’t want to see you with a broken hip. It would slow you down in bed.”

“What, don’t I go slow enough for you now? Maybe I should break something. Then we could take all night.” He slipped an arm around her.

“Hon, we already take all night when we make love.”

“Yeah, but just think, we could take days if I broke my leg.”

“Oh, I can just see you trying to get up on your knees with a cast on. Or what about traction?”

“You always said you wanted to tie me up.”

“Yeah. Now I could even spank you and there wouldn’t be anything you could do about it.”

The dogs got as far away as they could get on their leashes, and pretended not to hear.

Things stayed copasetic with Richard and Star for about a week and a half. Richard called her to complain that he was too busy to take Star to probation this time, and besides he’d like Cathy to talk some sense into her. “She’s going out with her friends, against my explicit orders,” he said.

So Cathy drove the 25 miles to her ex house to take her daughter a mile and a half to her probation meeting. She walked into the house, which was open as usual, and found Star still in bed, the TV on loud, clothes all over the floor, food dishes piled up on the desks and tables.

Richard was still in bed, too. He was hard to wake, and when he did wake, it was with a start. He looked at Cathy as if he didn’t recognize her. Then he nodded off sitting at the edge of the bed, until she shook him awake once again. “Mmrmmbmwielbvnvd,” he said.

“Right. I’ll just let you get a little more awake before you try to repeat that,” she said, watching him get up and unsteadily wander to the bathroom closet, where he fumbled with the lock and found himself a handful of pills to jump-start the process. Great influence, she thought sourly.

“Hon, I’m worried about you,” she said when he emerged from his shower. She’d spent the time going from Star’s room, where she was now getting dressed, and looking around Richard’s room, which except for clothes on the floor was in just as bad a state. Maybe more plates with crusty ex food on them. His ashtray was certainly more full, and didn’t look like it had been emptied out in months. There were burn marks in his desk, and a few alarming burns on his rug.

“Why so?” whatever he’d taken had begun to kick in. He was more animated, tho still unsteady. And there was a dead look in his eyes.

“That rug is sure to be flammable. How come you keep missing the ashtray?”

He looked sheepish. “Oh, that. It seems I’ve been programming in my sleep.”


Richard was getting dressed. He struggled with his pants. Standing on one leg was very difficult, and first he held on to the back of his chair, and then sat on the bed in order to put them on. “Well, it’s kind of like sleepwalking.”

Sleepwalking?” That sounded ominous. “What are you taking?”

“Well, I’m on Ambien, and usually I take a few valiums thru the day. I guess sometimes they interact, or something. I’ll wake up at my desk sometimes, and I’ll have a bruise in my side from where I was sitting against the arm rest, you know, twisted around in my chair. That’s when I put the cigarettes out on the desk instead of the ashtray. I think I’m dreaming that it’s somewhere else.” He laughed, not noticing Cathy’s stricken face. “Once I was dreaming that I was walking across the room to open the door and go out, and in my dream there wasn’t a chair in the middle of the room. So I woke up to find myself all tangled up in the legs of the chair. I could have broken my leg.”

“You could have broken your neck.”

He grinned to himself. “Yeah, maybe that would be the best alternative.”

“This is insane. You’re doing too many drugs, and you’re experiencing interactions that you can’t control. You’re sleepwalking, for God’s sake. What if you start dreaming that you’ve got to go somewhere and actually try to drive while you’re asleep?”

“I’m under a doctor’s supervision.”

“Yeah, but this isn’t real supervision. He writes prescriptions for whatever you want. Star told me about this guy. He’s not a real doctor.”

“Yes he is. He happens to specialize in addiction, and he’s helping me with my social anxiety disorder.”

“Your what? When did your wanting to be left alone turn into a disorder?”

“When there became pills for it.”

“I see.” Cathy looked around. His life was messy. She wanted to get away before it upset her to the point of tears. “How about the probation check, and I’ll take her over there and drop her back off.”

He searched around for his checkbook, didn’t find it in three or four places, and then remembered it was locked up with his drugs. She looked at it when he handed it to her. His handwriting was palsied, as if he had very little motor control at all. She was really worried now.

go to tomorrow’s writing


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