Cathy Eats Her Words

December 13, 2007

Day Twenty

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Novel — jeanne @ 5:40 pm

On the dog walk the next morning, Cathy peered into every car on the block. She scoped out every bush and tree, and eyed the branches and power lines for cameras. They circled the block several times and looked at their house from every suspicious angle. There was nobody loitering on the corner, no obvious devices in the trees, no lenses pointed at their front door. Nevertheless, when she snuck Star out of the house, it was out the back door. Star was dressed in a dress that only a middle aged woman would wear, and had on sunglasses and a scarf wrapped around her head. Cathy was dressed the same. Sisters in crime, they were. Cathy reached the car in a cold sweat. Star was fuming about how unnecessary all this skullduggery was, but Cathy ignored her, and jammed her into the back seat, where she was made to lie on the floor.

“Mom, this is ridiculous. I can’t lie down here. There’s a hump between the seats.”

Cathy looked. It was a formidable hump. “Well, lie face down, and try not to smoosh your belly up against it.” She threw a rug over Star’s form and started the car.

It was hard to tell if anyone was following, because it was rush hour. Traffic was hell, and it took her a few moments to get out of the alley behind the house. Cathy took a very roundabout way, and it took half an hour of twists and turns and reversals and dead ends before they got to the clinic, two miles away. Star complained the whole time. Every bump, every turn. “Ow. Damn it, Mom. Can’t you drive any smoother? My stomach!”

When Cathy was sure nobody was following them, she pulled into the parking lot and stopped the car. They had to go in the front door, Cathy having ascertained on yesterday’s dry run that there was no back door they could use. She was trembling as she escorted Star thru the door. All was quiet inside, and she began to feel rather foolish. Then a sudden thought hit her, and she went out into the parking lot and knelt down on the pavement to look underneath the car. She felt even more foolish when she didn’t find a GPS device attached anywhere.

They had to wait. Cathy made sure Star was facing away from the door, and kept her sunglasses and scarf on. Star complained of the heat. She complained of the inconvenience. She complained that she was so embarrassed. She complained that Cathy was so stupid.

Cathy ignored her, getting up every thirty seconds to peer out the door incase anyone was watching or approaching.

A man came in, looking suspicious. Cathy hissed to Star not to look around. The man sauntered up to the counter and signed in, then took a seat and became absorbed in the TV. Cathy was sure he was scrutinizing them.

There was more waiting, and Cathy got more nervous every minute. She was now sure the guy in the waiting room was there to keep an eye on them. Star kept glancing at her with scorn, but said nothing. Cathy would have gotten violent if she had.

Eventually the nurse called them from a side door, and they followed her into relative safety. Even so, Cathy stood by the door and watched to see if the suspicious man would come thru it. But he didn’t, and the nurse took Star’s blood. Cathy left her sitting there while she went to pay the bill, and then made her wrap up to run the gauntlet to the car.

The man wasn’t there when they came out. He hadn’t gone into the back for any bloodwork; he’d just disappeared. Cathy was sure he’d gone away and made his report, and was waiting on the corner to follow them. So they went to the department store and bought Star some maternity clothes. Then they took the roundabout way home, and this time it took over an hour of aimlessly wandering thru the streets until Cathy was satisfied they were unwatched. Still, she pulled into a gas station and got down on hands and knees once again, peering under the car for tracking devices that weren’t there.

She called Gray on the way home, wanting him to check the neighborhood for suspicious people, cars, or shadows. So he took a short dog walk and investigated the neighborhood. After the all-clear, Cathy pulled into the alley and hustled Star into the house.

“I just want you to know,” Star said as she took off her uncomfortable old-lady clothes, “that this is the last time you’re going to get me to do that.” She dropped the dress on the floor and kicked it. “That was so humiliating. What if one of my friends had seen me in this stuff?”

Cathy cringed. “Thank God,” she said. “You’re right. It could too easily have turned out badly. We won’t do that again, never fear”

“Good.” Star slammed the attic door on her mother. Then, several minutes later, she yelled down to Cathy to make her some lunch and bring it upstairs.

Richard called, looking for Star. It was unusual that he hadn’t heard from her. She normally called him once a week, asking for money. And he was worried about Stumbles, too.

“Why, I haven’t seen her for awhile,” she lied, hoping he couldn’t tell.

“I’m very concerned,” he said. “The little bitch has probably sold her dog for crack, and I’m mad enough that I’m seriously considering calling the police and reporting it stolen.”

Cathy was glad he wasn’t in on the secret. “As a matter of fact,” she said, “Star came by for a few minutes last week, and dropped her dog off with me. She seems to think Stumbles will get more attention from me than she would from you, and I have Scootie and Tabasco to keep her company when I’m too busy or out of the house.”

Richard grumbled, but he sounded relieved that someone had the dog. “You could have called me to tell me you had the dog,” he complained.

“Well, you could have dropped by for dinner,” she said, knowing that an invitation was just the thing he needed to encourage him to stay away. He was so like her mother that way.

He muttered something about how busy he was, and got off the phone. Cathy breathed a sigh of relief.

But he called back the next day. That was unusual. He wanted to complain, and the previous conversation hadn’t been long enough to suit him. So Cathy wandered around the house cleaning while he went on and on and on.

“I don’t see why she couldn’t have gotten an abortion,” he said. Cathy held her tongue, and held the phone away from her ear, but soon she needed both hands, and cradled it between neck and shoulder again while she swept the floor. “She must have inherited bad genes. I’m not saying she necessarily got them from you, maybe she got them from me. God knows my side of the family is screwed up enough. I just can’t understand how she could throw away so much potential to go live with a cretinous mountain man like that Spike.”

Cathy put the phone down to gather the dust and dog fur into the waste pan. She was tempted not to pick it up again. When she did, she heard him saying, “…owes me somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty thousand dollars now, counting the lawyer fees, bail, her car, and all that schooling she’s thrown away.”

“Oh, come on, Richard. Her school wasn’t a waste. She got educated very well on the money we spent sending her to school.”

He argued. He’d called up to argue. Cathy let him. “She wasted it al. My dad agrees. If she had gone to college, she wouldn’t have wasted it. If she’d gotten a decent job she wouldn’t have wasted it. What did we educate her for – to live in a trailer that’s going to get blown away in the first strong wind? To raise a bunch of illiterate children with rotten teeth? To end up in jail because of her no-good drug-dealer boyfriend?”

She put the phone down again while she made the bed, went to the bathroom, and made herself another cup of coffee. “…going to have another round of layoffs. I know I’m next. They look very dimly at employees who rack up huge medical expenses so their layabout family members can waste their time in rehab and then go straight back onto the drugs. I’ve managed to get my name on their shit list because of all that I’ve cost them, and believe me, they’ll take their revenge in a few short weeks. You watch.”

“Oh, Richard,” she soothed, even tho he didn’t deserve it, “they’re not going to lay you off because of Star being in rehab. They’re much more likely to lay you off because your work sucks.”

“And I can lay that directly at her door. In fact, when I lose my job because of that conniving compulsive liar, I can put another hundred thousand dollars on top of the money she already owes me, for lost wages.”

“What about pain and suffering?” Cathy asked, stifling a laugh.

“That, too. I’m sure I never bargained for this when you first told me you were pregnant. If I had known how much trouble she was going to be, I would have tied you down and gone after her with a coat hanger myself.”

“Okay, that’s enough.” Cathy couldn’t stand knowing he hadn’t wanted their child. She got really angry and hung up the phone.

He called right back. “I see I’ve upset you with my frank and honest opinions that my sperm donation turned out so badly. Like I said, it’s bad genes. I should have gotten a vasectomy.”

“I never would have married you.”

“Maybe that would have been for the best, as well.”

She fluttered her hands at the phone. “Listen, I’ve got to go.”

Cathy hated hearing Richard go on like that. All she could do was wonder why she ever married him, and after conversations like that, the only thing she could come up with was that he’d given her Star. The whole reason for their ten year marriage might have been just to have Star. And the more he went on about how sorry he was that his life was full of shit, the more she felt that it might have been the only reason. It wasn’t as if she still loved him. She put up with him because he was Star’s father, and they still shared a certain responsibility for her. But she felt the whole burden on her, and had grown tired of it years before.

Gray was her only consolation. He was everything that Richard wasn’t, including rational, sane, and cheery. So she went down to the workshop in the basement and hung out with him for awhile.

Gray was working on his surveillance project, and proudly showed off his collection of jury-rigged devices for watching whoever showed up to watch them. Homemade security cameras positioned under the eaves showed several views of the front of the house, the back, and out into the street. Hidden microphones made out of old headphones were poised at both doors, and wired into the bushes, so Gray could hear anyone approaching the house. He had made a tap for the phone line and was recording all phone conversations, and had invested in a key-stroke monitor for the computer, so he could catch Star sending emails or instant messangering.

Cathy was thankful she wasn’t trying to put something past her husband.

And it was just in time. As Cathy climbed the steps to go start fixing dinner, she noticed a large truck parked across the street. It looked familiar. So she harnessed Tabasco and Scootie and went back downstairs to get Gray for an impromptu dog walk past the truck. Gray had already noticed it, and had plugged in his homemade cellphone bug so he could record any conversations the occupant might be having while sitting in the truck.

As they walked by, they saw a tall figure with sticky-out ears scrunched down in the driver’s seat. Cathy freaked out, handed Scootie’s leash to Gray, who went on, and ran back to the house. She spent the rest of the afternoon sneaking peaks out of the front door, watching Spike watching the house.

She didn’t sleep very well that night. And every time she went to the window to look, his truck was still there. Once or twice she saw the dull ember of his cigarette glowing in the dark.

go to tomorrow’s writing


1 Comment »

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

    Pingback by Day Nineteen « Cathy Eats Her Words — October 12, 2009 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

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