Cathy Eats Her Words

November 1, 2008

day one

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Novel — jeanne @ 3:36 pm

Mom called.

“Hi, Mom, how’s your health?” Cathy asked, trying to jumpstart the process.

Mom sounded distracted. There was background noise. There was a public address announcement.

“Mom?”

Cathy heard her say, “No, not that one. That one. Sorry, honey, these people are just so…”

Cathy worried. “Mom?”

Mom sighed. The world of stupid people was just too much for her. “Oh, honey, can you come pick me up? I have too many bags to take the train.”

Cathy’s heart sank. Oh no. Her worst nightmare. Well, one of several worst nightmare, more of an unending series of nightmares, starting now. “Mom?”

“I just can’t…”

“Mom, where are you?”

“Oh, honey, I thought you knew. I’m at the airport.”

“Which airport?”

“I was praying, and the Lord told me to come for a visit and see that lovely daughter of yours. How’s she doing?”

“Um.”

“But I brought far too much luggage to carry it thru the streets, so you’ll have to come get me. Unless it’s inconvenient and you’d rather I take a taxi. I’d much rather not, of course, because of the expense…”

Cathy wasn’t listening. Cathy was panicking. Cathy was looking around and trying to figure out how she could make this come out right. She couldn’t not go get  Mom. She couldn’t not let her stay. She couldn’t kick her own mother out in the cold. Well, she could, and she’d like to, but there’d be hell to pay. And Mom was only trying to help. Said the spider to the fly.

She put on a bright voice. “Well, we certainly weren’t expecting you, Mom. I’ll have to go ask Gray if it’s okay…”

Mom bristled. “You have to ask permission for your own mother to come visit you?”

Cathy shook her head in despair. “No. It’s just that you didn’t give us any notice. The house is a mess. We don’t have anywhere to put you. Star’s being hormonal, she needs more notice than that.”

Mom’s voice turned cold. “Well, if you don’t want me, I guess I can get back on the plane and go home.” Self pity started to drip thru the phone. Cathy wiped it off with distaste.

Well go home then, she thought. “Okay, I’ll be right down. I’ll pick you up outside baggage claim in about half an hour.”

“Half an hour? But it only takes fifteen minutes to get to the airport. I have to wait? I’ve been waiting for hours already.”

“Huh?” Cathy got the impression she’d just landed. “Well, you just amuse yourself with the skycaps and I’ll be there as soon as I can.” She hung up the phone and burst into tears.

Gray found her sitting in the bathroom, sniffling.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, rubbing her back gently.

“Mom’s at the airport and I have to go get her.”

“Oh no.”
She started crying again. Gray felt like crying himself. There went any chance of peace in the house. Or sex. “Well, I guess you’d better go get her.”

“But what are we going to do with her?” she wailed. “How are we going to deal with Star and her baby with Mom around?”

“Oh, we’ll think of something. Duct tape, for instance. Or I could rig an electric fence.”

“How about poison?” Cathy wiped her eyes and got up to go.

“Be careful not to drink the coffee when you come back,” he warned.

Cathy cruised around and around, looking for Mom. Mom was nowhere to be found. She called Gray on her cellphone. “Have you heard from Mom while I’ve been touring the airport?” she asked.

“Why, yes. She called to say that she’d run into some trouble getting all her bags, so you’re likely to find her inside.”

“Shit.” Mom was nothing but trouble. Cathy found a spot in hourly parking and walked the five miles to the terminal. It wasn’t easy to find her mother among the vast hordes of travelers, but she finally located her, way off in the lost luggage area. She was abusing an airport employee, threatening the wrath of god if he didn’t find her bag right this minute.

In the mood her mom was obviously in, Cathy didn’t want to get in the way, so she lurked behind a column until a little guy came up, sweating and looking worried, and handed Mom a bag that looked like it had been run over by a truck. As Mom was launching into her “Somebody’s been going thru my luggage” routine, Cathy decided to spare the poor bastard she was beating up on, and walked up as if she’d just arrived.

“Mom,” she said, thinking to put her mother on the defensive, “you said you’d be outside waiting for me. I had to park the car…” She was going to bitch at Mom, but Mom wasn’t in the mood to be defensive.

“What took you so long?” she snapped. “I could have used your help getting these cretins to do their job.”

Cathy flashed an apologetic look at the cretin in question and wondered if she’d brought enough money to tip the poor bastard. Probably not.

“Well, let’s get this stuff to the car,” she said.

Cathy was unprepared for the amount of luggage her mother had brought with her. She was sure that it was way more than the airlines allowed without hefty excess luggage charges. But her mom would never pay extra fees for anything, so she must have bullied them at the other end as well. Maybe they would blacklist her and stop selling her tickets to come visit.

Even with a giant rolly bag handle in each hand, and a bag slung over each shoulder, Cathy had to make two trips to the curb before she had all Mom’s luggage together. Mom struggled along carrying her coat and an oversized tote bag. She seemed angry that Cathy’s truck wasn’t sitting there at the curb. “Where are you parked?” she whined. Cathy pointed vaguely to the far lots. “How unthinking of you. You know I can’t walk that far. You could have taken a little extra time out of your leisurely stroll to get me, and found somewhere closer to park.” She sat down on one of her enormous bags and fanned her face with a newspaper. “I’ll just sit here until you come and get me.” Cathy made to drag one of the suitcases with her, but Mom wasn’t having any of it. “Just go get the car,” she practically screamed. “I don’t know why you’re making this so hard for me.”

Cathy trudged off to find her car, after having made Mom promise to stay right where she was. But when she got back to the curbside, Mom was nowhere to be found, her luggage abandoned at the curb. Cathy heaved and pushed and dragged the luggage into the bed of the truck, thankful that she hadn’t brought the car with her. She’d have had to make two trips, or more, if it was just the car. Mom would complain about that as well. The truck wasn’t comfortable, the cab was too small, the air conditioning didn’t work.

But Mom was nowhere to be found. And Cathy couldn’t leave the truck parked at the curb. So she circled the airport. Mom wasn’t there after one trip around, which took about seven minutes. She wasn’t there after the second trip. She still wasn’t there after a third trip. Cathy was beginning to get annoyed. She was thinking about panicking. She called Gray, but he still hadn’t heard from her. So Cathy circled again, alternately screaming and wailing and talking to the air about how crazy her mother was.

Finally, there was Mom standing at the curb, looking pissed off. Cathy pulled over and started to fuss at her for not staying where she promised she’d be, but Mom was too angry to let her finish.
“Where were you? What were you doing? Did you take a nap or something? I’ve never seen you as inconsiderate as you are today. Did you not want me to come? I could just get my things back out of the truck and go back home.”

Cathy let that pass in silence. Yes, please go back home. She wondered if pissing her mom off would do any good in the long run. Several months of wounded silence from Mom would suit Cathy down to the ground. She had enough to deal with from Star, never mind Mom’s temper tantrums.

But she wasn’t willing to be the doormat her mother thought she was. “Just tell me why you weren’t where I left you.”

Mom snarled. “I had to go to the bathroom, and you took so long that I thought you were never coming to get me.”

Cathy sighed. “You were gone a long time. I circled several times.”

“Well, I met this nice Christian woman in the bathroom, and we had a nice chat about incompetent servants and resentful daughters.” Mom glared at her.

Cathy shut up and drove home. Mom didn’t notice her silence, she was still fuming at how much trouble everybody put her to and didn’t need any help with her monologue.

Things didn’t improve at all when they got home. Gray was out walking the dogs, so Cathy had to struggle with the bags. Mom left her to do that, and went inside to find Star. And couldn’t. Cathy was proud of that, for a moment. But then Mom wanted to know why the spare room was empty, and where Star had gone.

Cathy thought fast. She’d rehearsed what to tell friends when they came over and found everything closed up and all the windows covered. But that wasn’t going to work for Mom, who was as suspicious as they come.

“Um, she’s kind of playing house in the attic. She didn’t want to be so close to me and Gray…” She trailed off as she saw Star appear on the front porch, and looked around the neighborhood in horror.

“Star,” she cried, dropping the bags and rushing up the steps. “You know you’re not supposed to be out of…bed.”

“Not out of bed?” Mom asked, going up to peer closely at Star. “She looks okay to me. Why does she have to stay in bed?”

“Uh, the doctor said she was developing…pre-eclampsia, and ordered complete bed rest.”

“Nonsense.” She pinched and poked at Star, who strangely enough was putting up with it. “She’s fine. In fact, she needs exercise. And sunlight.” She turned on Cathy. “What are you keeping her cooped up for?”

Cathy grabbed Star by the arm and hustled her inside. “Mom, if you’re going to second-guess the doctors, you can just go home right now. I’ve got enough trouble without your interference.”

Mom looked hurt. “I was just offering my opinion,” she complained as she followed them thru the door. You don’t have to take it.” She looked at Star again. “Aren’t you going to say hello Grandma?”

“Hello, Grandma,” Star whispered shyly, looking at Cathy for guidance. Cathy smiled wanly.

“Uh, Mom, let me put you in the guest room, and you can get settled in,” Cathy said. “Star, why don’t you go back to bed, and we’ll come up and see you in a couple of minutes. As soon as Grandma is comfortable.”

“Like that’ll ever happen,” Star and Mom said together.

“It’s so cold here,” Star said.

“It’s so dirty,” Mom said.

Why don’t I put you both on the first plane out of here, Cathy thought. Somewhere really cold and dirty. Thule, Greenland, for instance.

“Mom, I’m hungry,” Star said as she disappeared around the back of the house. “Make me something to eat.”

“That’s a great idea,” Mom enthused, her first smile of the day. “Why don’t you make us something yummy. Grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. And I’d like a cup of coffee.” She snorted. “If that wouldn’t put you to too much trouble.” And she disappeared into the spare room.

Cathy beat her head against the refrigerator and then opened the door and started rummaging.

Gray came back with the dogs to find her sniffling in the bathroom again. She shoved her head onto his chest and wailed softly. “Why did I ever try to interfere in this?” she wondered. Gray said nothing.

go to tomorrow’s writing

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