Cathy Eats Her Words

December 8, 2007

Day Sixteen

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Novel — jeanne @ 4:35 pm

As a matter of fact, Gray was very much against the idea. Star wasn’t mature enough to carry thru on a plan to clean her room, never mind conducting a conspiracy to hide from the law. They would undoubtedly issue a bench warrant for her, and someone would figure out that she’d gone to her mother’s house. It was the first place they’d look. Cathy and Gray would face criminal charges for hiding her, as well. Someone could get shot while resisting arrest. All sorts of things could go wrong with Cathy’s simple impulse to help her child.

Tho he was opposed, he went along with it. They were married, and what one contracted for, the other was obliged to finish, so he thought about how he could make things more secure around the house, so at least when the cops came looking, they would be watched themselves, and Gray and Cathy would have advanced notice of anything they might be up to.

He thought he might have a few devices in the workshop that might do for a rudimentary security system. So he unpiled a bunch of stuff in the corner until he came across some old TVs and a few hundred yards of cables, and rummaged thru his shelves until he found some electronic bits and pieces, and started cobbling things together. And – this was just like Gray – he didn’t bother telling anyone what he was doing, he just went about doing it.

But he wasn’t happy about the idea of Star moving back in. She always took much more of Cathy’s attention and time than he was happy with. He sat back and watched his wife slave for her daughter, and the little ingrate never said thanks, never lifted a finger to do anything herself, and berated her mom for her efforts. And she was purposely mean to Gray, and went out of her way to insult him and make life harder.

Not that he minded her rudeness to him. He thought it was funny, a child thinking she was ruler of the house, that she was so much smarter and more powerful than either he or Cathy was. It was funny because he knew that one day she would learn better. Simply because she would get her comeuppance one of these days, he could sit back and laugh at her attempts to make his life miserable.

But he couldn’t stand when she did it to Cathy. Another man would have pretended not to notice, because no sane person gets between a mother and a daughter, especially when they’re fighting. But he was a husband of the old school, and tried to protect his wife from all upsets, even when they came from her own flesh and blood. All he could do, however, was to be the strong shoulder for her to lean on, and cry on, and fall asleep on. So he stewed whenever Star was mean to her mom, and looked for ways to make her life easier.

But now Cathy was putting them in danger by trying to protect her daughter. Star was putting them in danger by trying to protect her unborn baby. And all he could do was try to protect them both. But they didn’t seem to notice how powerful the long arm of the law was, and how weak their attempts to hide would seem once they were finally caught.

He was committed to supporting her decision, no matter how foolhardy it might be. But he didn’t have to like it, and the danger they were in nagged at him. He was normally a happy person, but he was becoming something very close to irritable.

On the dog walk, he was distracted, a faint sense of doom hanging over him. Cathy didn’t notice, because she was thinking about what she had to do to get Star settled in. They walked around the block in silence, Gray spending all his effort snatching Tabasco from various smelly places, Cathy dragging Scootie without noticing.

“Whoa,” Gray said when Scootie stopped to take a dump. Scootie looked up at Cathy as she turned to see what the delay was. Please let me finish, she demanded. Cathy’s first instinct had been to pull harder when she felt the tug on Scootie’s leash. She didn’t have time to lollygag along, she had to get back and start moving furniture. And how was she supposed to get all of Star’s stuff without anybody figuring out what she was up to?

She and Gray made a trip down to Richard’s for some essential things Star needed. They waited until he was at work, and swooped down on his house, prying up a window that Cathy remembered never locked. They took Star’s bedding and her clothes, and snagged Stumbles from the crate where Richard had her locked up during the day. He hadn’t let Star take her dog with her when she moved to Spike’s, arguing that she was just going to sell the dog for crack, and he’d paid far too much to have that happen.

Cathy wondered how Richard would view the apparent theft of all of Star’s stuff, and waited nervously for a phone call demanding to know what was going on. She figured he’d come home, discover at least the dog missing, check the video cameras he had placed about the house, and discover that Cathy and Gray had done the deed.

But it was a full week before she heard from him. “That evil little bitch, or her scumbag boyfriend, or both, came and cleared out the house, including my dog. They even broke into my locked closest and ransacked that.” Cathy was shocked to hear this. She and Gray hadn’t even gone into his bedroom. How much of what he’d been reporting the last few months was true, if he was making up things to add to the stuff they’d actually taken?

“Was anything missing from your closet?” she asked, waiting to see how far he would go. She was up in the attic reorganizing, just in case.

“All my valium, a bottle of oxycontin, my ambien, my zanax, half a carton of cigarettes, and a quarter ounce of pot.”

Cathy shook her head. She’d had no idea. “What, no crack?” she asked. She was in the crawlspace along the edge of the roof, shifting boxes full of ancient papers, trying to avoid roofing nails, spider webs and old rat shit.

“Very funny. I haven’t done that since I checked myself into rehab when Star was a baby.”

She piled a bunch of old iron bed rails in front of the boxes and eyed a rolled up carpet that she just might be able to shift on top of the rails by herself. “Yeah, it always amused me that you consider yourself cured of your drug habit when you just traded illegal for prescription drugs.”

“I need every one of them,” he insisted. “I came home to find the house turned upside down and there wasn’t a single pill to help me calm down. You can’t imagine the stress.”

Cathy was out of sympathy. They’d left the house neater than when they’d entered. She stacked boxes of books in front of the carpet, making an aisle in the middle. “Didn’t you catch whoever did this on your videos?”

He hesitated. “I disabled them when she left to go live with her coke dealer. You can rest assured I’ll have them hooked up again by this evening.”

“Sure.” She doubted he’d ever installed them. “I’ve got to go now. I’m cleaning and I need both hands.”

He laughed. “You. Cleaning. You probably need a whole crew to help you. That house has so much dust in it I’m surprised you’re not sneezing.”

“In fact, I just finished a sneezing fit.” She straightened up and headed for a stack of milk crates full of kitchen things that would now fit next to the books. “Got to go.”

Cathy was slowly clearing a space in the center of the attic, where the roof was tall enough to stand under. Maybe if she could stack everything up around the corners it would be possible to rig some sort of wall out of old blankets, make a little room Star might be willing to stay in. It was dirty work; her clothes and hair were full of dust.

Star was lying in bed watching TV, and was a little put out by the noise Cathy was making over her head. She didn’t seem inclined to move up into the attic. She didn’t see that it would be necessary. “I’ll just stay in my room,” she insisted. “I won’t come out. Nobody will see me.” She balked at having the phone taken away, too, and was incensed at the idea that she wasn’t allowed to call anyone or even answer the phone. Gray could already see trouble over the phone, but Cathy was still trying to talk reason into Star.

“You can’t call your friends,” she explained. “Any one of them could turn you in.”

“They won’t turn me in,” she insisted.

“The cops will be listening in on our phone calls. They’ll catch you that way.”

“Nobody will be listening. They won’t even be looking for me.”

“Yes they will.” Cathy felt like screaming. “You can’t just go on like normal. You’re an outlaw now.”

Star laughed at her. “Mom, quit being so dramatic. All I’m doing is not showing up for court. Nothing will happen.”

“What did your lawyer say when you told her you were going to do this?”

Star looked away. “I didn’t tell her that part.”

“Oh.” Cathy was going on the supposition that Star’s lawyer had at least known what she was planning. Thinking about it, Cathy realized that Star’s lawyer would not only disapprove, but would be legally bound to turn her in herself if she knew. Things began to feel sticky.

She called her friend Miranda. She’d know what to do. But as she was beginning to tell her the story, it occurred to her that the cops might well be listening in, and so she arranged to see Miranda somewhere else. “Let’s meet in the park, and I’ll bring Scootie, and you can see how well she’s doing.”

Away from any possibility of hidden microphones, for Cathy was just beginning to be paranoid, and thought it best that she develop the full set of symptoms sooner than later, she told Miranda the full story.

“So she’s going to live with you, and you’re going to hide her from the police?” Miranda asked incredulously as they walked along the brow of the hill overlooking the duck pond.

Cathy felt a little foolish. “Yes,” she replied. “I just can’t let her have her baby in jail. They’ll take him and I don’t know, sell him.” Scootie was eating grass at their feet.

Miranda frowned. “Well, I don’t know,” she said. “I haven’t heard of it happening. I do know of instances where the State has given custody to a non-relative on a permanent basis, and the child would be a newborn and much easier to place permanently. You’d have to go thru the same process as any prospective adoptive parent if you wanted to get custody.” She reached down and picked up her ex dog. “What a cutie.” The dog looked at her. You look somewhat familiar. Did you bring me any food?

Cathy was worried about getting custody. “We’re old, and have no income. They’d never give him to us. And they’d never give him to Spike’s parents, either.”

She nodded and scratched Scootie behind the ears. “You may be right, there. But you’re putting yourselves at such risk by hiding her. How are you going to keep anyone from seeing her?”

Cathy sat down on the hillside. Miranda sat beside her and let Scootie down on the ground. She started smelling, and immediately found something delightful. “She won’t go out, and she won’t use the phone, and we’ve already put heavy drapes up on all the windows.”

Miranda was dubious. “Don’t tell me you expect her to never leave her room for, how many? Six, seven months?” She pulled a blade of grass and made a whistle with her fist.

The idea of Star being quiet for months at a time did sound a little impractical. “But with everything at stake, and she really wants this.” The whistling noise irritated Cathy.

They sat there and looked at the pond, warming their backs against the sun. Scootie ate more grass. “Honey, she’s just a child. She’ll change her mind on the first sunny day. You can’t keep her a prisoner, and you know she’s not going to want to just sit there day after day for months.”

“Why not? It’s all she does now. What’ so different?” The dog found a bug in the grass, and followed it out to the full extent of her leash.

“There’s something at stake is what’s different. From what I know of Star, she’ll sabotage herself sooner or later.” Miranda checked her watch. She was due in court in two hours.

Cathy noticed, and got up. Scootie paused to throw up in the grass. “Well, I’ll just have to be vigilant. It’s her idea, and if I have to forcibly remind her, I can do that.”

Miranda patted her ex dog, suddenly grateful that someone else had to watch her now. “Well, call me from jail when you get arrested for harboring a fugitive, okay?”

Cathy spent the rest of the afternoon snoop-proofing the house. Heavy drapes were already in place but she didn’t think it was enough and spent time frosting them as well. It was winter, so they didn’t look suspicious. She’d read up on microphones that could hear conversations right thru the glass, and figured if she somehow padded the windows then there wouldn’t be enough vibration to transmit sound. Her other option would be to play loud music all the time, but her nerves wouldn’t stand that. She thought to mention the problem to Gray during their evening dog walk.

They were out with three dogs now. Gray had Tabasco as always, and Cathy had Scootie on her lead, and an old tattered leash on Stumbles, who apparently had never been walked on a leash before. Stumbles kept rebelling, like her owner.

Gray had several ideas about how to soundproof the windows. He didn’t try to argue that nobody would ever try listening to find Star, tho it was his opinion that the easy way to find her would be to come to the front door and ask for her. Given the likelihood of Star’s successfully keeping from being seen or caught on the phone, the next obvious way to find her would be a listening device.

Tabasco found a dead squirrel, and all three dogs stopped to sniff. “You can tape up squares of felt in all the window panes.”

“But that would likely come down after a few weeks.” Cathy pulled the two dogs away from the mess. Their leashes were already tangled. They sat staring at her while she untangled them.

“Well, there’s always hanging a couple of blankets and stuffing them with some of the batting you use for your quilts.”

“But that’s impractical. And I’m not sure it would baffle the sound well enough.” Scootie walked as far behind Cathy as her leash reached. Stumbles walked as far ahead as possible. Cathy’s arms stretched.

“How about putting up bubble wrap? You could use packing tape.”

She stopped to untangle their leashes again. “I don’t know. It seems awfully makeshift. I guess what I want is a website to tell me what to do. But I couldn’t find anything except what kind of devices they’d use on us. It’s scary.”

She found something wrong with everything he suggested. Finally he said, “Well, why don’t you figure it out yourself, then? I’m tired of coming up with ideas that you can’t stand.” In truth, Cathy was beginning to remind him of Star.

She bristled. “You don’t have to get snippy about it. I’m trying to figure out something that’s way beyond me technically, and I’m still trying to make it practical and normal looking so it doesn’t raise questions.” Stumbles stopped dead in the middle of the road as Cathy approached the sidewalk. Cathy stopped to coax her forward. “Come on, Stumbles. Come on, puppy.” The dog just sat there. No way. I’m not moving. You can’t get me up there. I want to walk in the middle of the road. I want everyone to be able to see me.

“It wouldn’t raise questions if Star wasn’t trying to hide in plain sight. She’s doing nothing to help you hide her.” Tabasco found a chicken bone. Gray stopped and fished it out of his mouth with his fingers, frowned at it, and threw it into someone’s front yard.

“Come on, she’s not used to hiding like this. Give her some time to get used to the idea.” Cathy was still trying to coax the Maltese forward. Finally, irritated with Gray as much as the dog, she pulled on the leash and started walking. Highly incensed, Stumbles trotted behind her, her head raised, haughty.

He snorted. “She doesn’t have any time. Her court date has already passed. They’ve already issued a bench warrant for her. They’ll be coming by here any day looking for her.” Tabasco stopped to pee on a bag of leaves waiting to be picked up by the trash collectors. “And you haven’t even convinced her to stay out of sight yet. I caught her hanging out on the front porch just this morning. Smoking a cigarette.”

“She was?” Cathy was flabbergasted. She stopped in the middle of the road and turned to Gray. “Did you chase her back in?” Stumbles came up behind Tabasco and started humping him, her little white body thrusting crazily. He looked around, surprised, at the little mop of fur on his butt, and sat down suddenly.

Gray shook his head. Tabasco got up and ran around the back of his legs. He switched the leash to his other hand. He wasn’t using it to hold Cathy’s hand, so what was the difference? “Nope. She wants to risk getting seen, that’s her problem.”

Cathy was angry. She wouldn’t have wanted to be holding his hand, even if she didn’t have two dogs to mind. “Look. We’re the adults. We have to keep her doing what’s best for her. Watch out for her best interests.”

Gray felt irritated. This was supposed to be their together time, and here they were arguing. Stumbles tried to hump Tabasco again, and he moved out of the way, right into Gray’s path. He had to jump to avoid tripping on the dog. “No, we don’t. She’s grown up enough to get herself into trouble, she can do what she needs to do by herself without dragging us into it and risking our asses.” Tabasco jumped up onto a stone wall. Gray gave his leash a yank and pulled him back down.

“I don’t believe it. You care more for our safety than hers.” Scootie stopped to pee for the tenth time. “Well, I guess that’s about right. You’re not her flesh and blood, after all.”

Tabasco paused to sniff the ground where Scootie had peed. “It’s very unfair of you to accuse me of not caring. I’ve gone out of my way to look after her, and support her, and watch out for her as if she were one of my own.”

Cathy wasn’t in the mood to acknowledge this. “Well, now I need you to do more.” She untangled the two leashes again. The dogs were braiding them together as they walked. Scootie would get in front, then lag behind, while Stumbles crossed her path and cruised ahead.

“Why?” Tabasco started pulling the moment they turned the corner and started for home. Gray staggered along behind him. “She’s not lifting a finger to contribute to her own safety. She’s being just as reckless and careless as she’s always been. And I’m tired of the risk she’s putting us in. We could lose the house.”

Stumbles sat down in the middle of the road and glared at Cathy. “All you care about is the house.” She stalked ahead, dragging the dogs. “Oh, I’m tired of this. It’s going in circles.”

It was only later, as they were getting ready for bed, that Cathy realized they hadn’t said another word to each other all evening. She looked at Gray, taking his denim shirt off over his head and folding it neatly over a chair, his bandy legs sticking out under his t-shirt, his penis shriveled up with the cold, gray hair covering his lower belly.

“Are we mad at each other?” She pulled her shirt off over her head and let it drop to the floor.

He took off his shirt, revealing a sagging belly and soft, crepey skin on his chest and arms. “I thought you would have noticed.”

“I don’t want to be mad at you.” She pulled off her pants and stepped out of them, then stepped on her socks and pulled her feet out of them.

He pulled on a nightshirt. Cathy was disappointed to see his body disappear from view. “We shouldn’t have to be. I love you.”

“Despite my wayward daughter?” She kicked all her clothes together and sent them toward her dresser, and hopped into bed

He got into bed beside her. “I love you anyway.” They leaned in to give each other a kiss. Cathy could smell their naked bodies beneath the covers, and thought sexy thoughts.

Then Star appeared at the door, crossing over to the bed. “Oh, hi, honey, what’s up?”

Star sat on the bed next to Cathy, ignoring Gray. “I want you to put cream on my belly, so I don’t get stretch marks.”

Cathy took the jar of cream, wondering if it would be good used on Gray. “What about your breasts? You get stretch marks there, too. You’re going to take care of that, aren’t you?”

Star patted her belly and leaned back on the bed. She was hardly showing. “I don’t care about that so much. I want to look good where people can see me.”

Cathy laughed and unscrewed the top of the jar. “Oh yeah, girls walk around with their bellies exposed all year round, these days. I forgot.”

Star looked at her like, duh, and sat down on the bed next to Cathy and handed her a jar of vitamin E cream. Gray settled down and got ready for sleep. This was obviously going to be a nightly event. Say so long to any chance of nookie, he thought bitterly.

go to tomorrow’s writing


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