Cathy Eats Her Words

December 5, 2007

Day Fifteen

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Novel — jeanne @ 5:38 pm

And of course he didn’t kick her out. Cathy would have done well to remember that he spoke out of his feelings of the moment, and disregard everything he said. But that was the nature of their relationship. He panicked, and she calmed him down. Over and over. “I’m going to lose my job with the next layoff cycle,” he would insist three or four times a year. And she would encourage him to remember what he went thru the last time they had a layoff and skipped over him. Richard lived on the edge of despair over things that would likely never come to pass. And Cathy lived to pour oil on the waters. At least, when she was married to him. Now that she had another, more sane, husband, she found herself the one in need of reassurance more often than not.

She lay in bed with Gray one night, bemoaning her ex husband. “He says such horrible things about Star and Spike. I just can’t stand to talk to him anymore.”

“Then don’t,” he said, reaching over to take her hand. “Let me talk to him the next time he calls.”

Her hands were always so cold. His hand felt so warm. She got lost in that for a moment. “What would you say when he started in about how she’s dead to him, and how Spike’s a pig-fucking drug dealer?”

“I’d remind him how he must have seemed to his parents when he was their age. From what you told me, he was a real handful. They ought to be painful reflections that might make him back off a little.” He gently pulled her still-icy hand underneath the covers.

She laughed. “He won’t accept that he was anything at all like Star and Spike. He’ll have forgotten entirely how bad a kid he was.” She released his hand and started feeling around.

“Yes, but you’ve told me how he stole money from his dad and tried to burn his mom’s house down, and how he peed on her prize rosebushes every day until they died, and sawed thru the brake line in his mom’s car.” Cathy’s hand was ice cold, but stroking part of him that was already putting out heat. He lost his thought. “Things like that. He should remember.” Damn, that hand was cold.

She stroked him gently, and rolled his balls in her palm. But it didn’t seem to be having the desired effect. “Yes, well, he might remember the things he did – I think he’s still proud of them – but he’ll have justifications for them that’ll make them alright. He won’t in a million years equate them with things Star has done to him, because he won’t in a million years think he deserves it. So it’ll be like apples and oranges, and he won’t get your point at all.”

“Well, my point is that you don’t have to talk to him if you don’t want to.” He put his arm around her shoulder as she bent over and snuggled under the covers. “Ah, that’s better,” he said, sighing as he felt the warmth of her mouth replacing her ice cube fingers.

About a week later, Cathy and Gray learned that Star had abandoned her father’s house after another blowup, and was now back living with Spike. When Cathy managed to reach her on the phone, she assured her mother that she was still off the drugs, and was full of plans for the future, mainly what to name her baby boy. She’d been to the doctor and had a sonogram to sex the baby. It seems everyone did that early in their pregnancy now. Cathy and Richard hadn’t wanted to know whether they were having a boy or a girl when they were pregnant with Star. Strangely enough, tho, they hadn’t thought of any boy’s names at the time, just a lists of girl’s names – Miranda, Alicia, Samantha. Star wasn’t on the list. The reason she ended up naming her baby Star was that Cathy’s early labor was spent walking past a picture window in the hospital, where she could see a rare conjunction of the moon, Venus, and Jupiter, and was inspired, but didn’t feel like naming her baby Planet.

Star going back to the boyfriend who got her into trouble didn’t affect Cathy the way it must have affected Richard. She was avoiding Richard at the moment. He was far too hostile and negative, and said things that only made Cathy mad, so she let him stew in it. Gray was always there, and she realized that she’d been neglecting him. She tried not to talk about her family when they were on their dog walks, and they had more sex in the mornings and evenings, sometimes even going to bed after lunch, for a nap (after someone’s orgasm).

Cathy went back to writing her food blog, zeroing in on food industry fronts and lobbyists. She wrote an article on corn-fed beef, a hideous practice, and one on foodborne illnesses in meat, all profit driven. E-coli, brought to you by Big Food. And coming soon, mad cow in a burger near you.

Working on her blog helped Cathy to channel the frustration she felt dealing with her daughter. She’d think about Star living so close to drugs and not going to meetings, and she’d get angry. This anger helped fuel her research into the food supply, and she’d get angry whenever she discovered what the food industry was doing simply for profit, and she would write impassioned and eloquent rants that got more and more hits. She was naming names and to hell with the consequences. A little voice told her that someone in the powerful food industry was going to notice and try to stop her, but she was angry, and didn’t care.

She and Gray talked about his work when they were out on dog walks. Cathy didn’t want to spout off about the food industry, because he’d heard it all before, so they discussed his work on a home-made cellphone jammer you could mount on your car. It wasn’t yet ready for testing, but Cathy wondered if maybe cutting off people’s cellphone conversations while they were driving wouldn’t make them more distracted in the short run. “I mean, I can just see them fiddling with the phone, looking at it instead of traffic, dropping it and then reaching to pick it up. You could causes accidents like that.”

“I hardly think I would be causing the accidents. They’re the ones using their cellphones instead of paying attention to the road.” Tabasco was nosing into a pile of leaves before peeing on it. “I thought of developing a device that would cut their engines off as well as their cellphones, but I figured that really might cause accidents, and so I didn’t bother.” He yanked on Tabasco’s leash, and the dog reluctantly moved on. But that was an absolutely delectable aroma, he protested. Scootie dodged a stream of pee. She’d been smelling the same part of the pile.

“What’s the range?” Scootie ran out into the road after a blowing leaf. A car narrowly missed her, and Cathy reeled in her leash. The dog was upset, and dragged along behind Cathy, her head down and twisted to the side as if she thought she could wriggle out of it. If I could just get clear of this shackle, I could get that leaf, she thought as one flew by her. Or that one. Or that one. There goes another one, why won’t you let me go get it? I have to. Please, she begged, but Cathy wasn’t paying attention to her at the moment.

“Somewhere around 500 yards. I thought about making it a thousand yards, but I didn’t want to interfere with people inside buildings. Just cars.” He yanked Tabasco away from a phone pole.

Tabasco walked directly in front of Cathy, angling to get over to a car parked at the curb. Cathy knocked at his feet to move him on. “That seems reasonable. If it works, do you think you’ll want to market it?” She thought about all the hassle of marketing, but it might be worth it. Everyone would want one.

Scootie had been running ahead and dragging behind, and managed to tangle her lead with Tabasco’s. Cathy and Gray stopped to unwind them. Both dogs looked up at them with suspicion, wondering if they were trying to shorten their leashes. Then Tabasco took off at a dead run, coming up short six feet later. “You’re still attached, idiot,” Gray observed. The dog stopped to cough, then lunged ahead again, and spent the rest of the walk pulling as hard as he could while Gray struggled to keep him under control. The last time Tabasco had pulled the leash out of Gray’s hand, he’d gone on a grand tour of the neighborhood, wandering up to the front porch filthy and smelling of unspeakably rotten substances. They’d had to hose him off. Gray now carried the leash hooked onto his wrists, but when he was like this, Tabasco pulled him off his feet with every step, and Gray achieved a controlled fall all the way down t he street.

When they got back to the house, Star’s car was there. They wondered who was driving, because Star still had a suspended license, and were running thru which of several undesirable friends might be waiting for them in the house, no doubt finding something to eat in the fridge. But it was only Star, and she was in the spare room, examining Cathy’s computer and sewing equipment that had taken the place of her stuffed animals and dirty clothes.

“Hello, baby,” Cathy said, pleased to see her. She came up to give her a big hug, which Star only barely returned. She seemed distracted.

“I’m moving back in,” she announced.

“Oh?” Cathy was surprised to hear it. “You said you wouldn’t live with me again,” she reminded her. “You can’t stand my rules and you hate Gray?”

Star waved it aside, then she started to cry. Cathy went up and hugged her, and this time Star accepted the comfort. It felt good to wrap her arms around her daughter, like it had when she was small and liked to cuddle. She felt so small in her arms. So thin. All that weight she’d lost when she was doing coke. “What’s the matter, baby?”

“I violated my probation, Mom,” she wailed. “I can’t go back. They’ll put me back in jail, and now that I’m pregnant, they’ll take my baby.”

“What? What happened?” But Cathy had to wait for some time for an answer, because Star started sobbing and wouldn’t say anything else.

It wasn’t Spike’s fault; he was clean and hadn’t done any drugs since they got arrested. But she was out with a friend of a friend, who was smoking a joint, and even tho she didn’t have any, the smoke got into her system, and the next time she went to probation she tested positive for marijuana. There was going to be a revocation hearing next week, and she’d been told by her lawyer that she was most likely going to be going back to jail for the remainder of her probationary period, which would be after the baby was born. And since the baby would be born in jail, Family Services would take it, and she’d never see her baby again.

“I just can’t face that, Mom. The only thing I can do is to run away until I’ve had my baby.” She sat on the bed wiping her tears. “I can’t let them take him. I don’t care what happens to me.”

Cathy felt sick. She believed Star’s tale of accidental exposure to drugs, and didn’t question the judgment of the lawyer, and the thought of her grandchild being placed in a foster home or adopted into a strange family made her stomach twist up. She had no doubt that the judge could give her baby away if he felt like it. She’d heard Family Services horror stories before, and was always appalled by the harsh judgments and abuses of power. She knew what she had to do.

“Of course you can stay here,” she said. “We’ll hide you.” She had no idea what this would entail, but she felt sure she could hide her daughter until after she’d had her baby in…seven months. It felt a little unrealistic, but she was determined. She left Star resting on the bed, hoping she would fall asleep and get a good nap, and went downstairs to talk to Gray about it.

He was at his woodworking table, building a complicated looking model with arms and extensions Cathy couldn’t figure out. He wasn’t as clouded with concern as Cathy was, and saw all sorts of difficulties. “Do you mean to hide her from the world until after she’s had her baby?”

She did, but coming from Gray’s mouth it sounded unrealistic. “Well, I thought she could just stay in her room and not go out and not answer the phone. She does that anyway.”

“Yes, but we have people coming in and out. They’ll see her. And if the wrong people see her, it’ll be all over.”

“She can hide when someone comes. We can block off the bedroom door and put up drapes on all the windows. We can say we’re renovating the house and not let anyone in.”

“She’s going to forget why she’s hiding, and will end up feeling trapped and punished, and start behaving irrationally.” It seemed clear enough to Gray that Star would revert to the spoiled daughter the moment she felt she was safe.

“She won’t forget. It’s all she thinks about. She is trying t o protect her baby, and a woman will do anything when she’s protecting her baby.”

“Until she forgets. What happens when she gets bored? What happens when she wants to go shopping? How is she supposed to see the doctor?” He didn’t try to argue her out of her plan, but he could warn her of the dangers. “If they find her, they can charge you with harboring a fugitive, you know.”

But Cathy wasn’t swayed. “We’ll find a way,” she insisted. She felt irrationally strong, as if her faith would be enough to move mountains, or at least keep the law at bay. “Maybe, instead of putting her in the spare room, we can make a room in the attic for her, or move some of your stuff and put her down here.” She looked around at his workshop. “Maybe not. But the attic will work. We’ll have to get an air conditioner when it gets to be spring. We can use the portable oil-filled radiator up there now.”

Gray rolled his eyes. They’d been talking about cleaning and organizing the attic for several years, and had never gotten around to it because the attic was jammed with fifty years and more of junk, all of which needed to be sorted thru, put into piles, and either put in some corner to go to one of the children, or carted off to be donated, or tossed into the trash. It would take them all winter to clean out the attic, whenever they did get around to it. Cathy was apparently thinking about accomplishing it in a couple of days.

“How are you going to keep her from contacting her friends or going out wandering the streets, like she did last time, remember when she used to stay out all night?”

“It’s different now. She’s pregnant, and there’s jail hanging over her head. She’ll behave herself. And we’ll just keep the phone away from her so she won’t be tempted. If it’s not next to her bed, she won’t answer it. They’re all drug friends, anyway, and she’s sworn them off since she got out of rehab.”

“Is that why she tested positive?”

Cathy was doubtful. “I’m not sure about that. She said it was an accident, and that she was with strangers. Maybe everywhere she goes they’re smoking pot.”

Gray turned back to his work. “I’ll see what I can do to help out,” he said, and Cathy went back upstairs, satisfied, tho she wasn’t exactly sure what he meant.

go to tomorrow’s writing

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1 Comment »

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

    Pingback by Day Fourteen « Cathy Eats Her Words — October 12, 2009 @ 2:59 pm | Reply


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