Chapter 2: Measured Weights and Penny Pounds
The next 2 miles had been a blur of elation heightened by the nicotine. I strolled along, burning the cancer deep into my lungs and enjoying every second of it. It wasn’t just the tobacco either. At one point I had happened across the antithesis of my earlier struggles. As I had rounded the corner in front of the Crown Bank, a wayward little golden retriever puppy had trotted up to me and sat down right in my path.
I had tried to step around it, but this cute little fucker kept hopping in my way, looking up at me with those brilliant black puppy dog eyes. A man with a lesser heart might have just ran past him, stepped over him or something like that and not given him a second though. But something about this pup cried lonliness. Worse than loneliness- a sort of expectation to be heartbroken. The mange on his coat left the conclusion he had never been well taken after, this was obvious. But in his eyes was a limitation on what he expected. This little sucker had probably been abandoned so many times he thought the feeling was normal. But still he persisted in his sweetness. His little tongue lapped in and out of his mouth, the best of a dogs smile.
I had things to do, places to go. But right now, for reasons I still can’t explain, this little fucker was the center of my world. I sat down next to a low wall on the sidewalk and extended my hand to him. Not at all timid, the little guy walked right up to me and registered my scent in his nostrils before licking my hand, then looking up at me asking to be petted. I was all too happy to indulge him, and found myself lost in the several minutes we spent getting to know each other. He quickly jumped to licking my face sweetly, his rough yet gentle tongue typical of a dog. Before long he had completely submitted to my pets and was on his back, belly exposed, tail wagging and leg twitching as I scratched his spot.
“Duke.” I giggled as he nipped at my hand. “Look at you, Duke. You don’t want attention or anything like that, do ya?” My voice had delved into that annoyingly cute puppy dog voice. “You just love the belly rubs don’t you, don’t you!” Duke seemed a fitting name. Well, actually, it was the only one I could think of. Ever since I had seen “The Boondock Saints” I had thought name a dog Il Duce would be awesome. But for right now, he was Duke.
I picked Duke up by his belly and kissed him suddenly on the nose. “You, Mr. Duke, are now my assistant in charge of cuteness. Your duties are to get hot women to talk to me at the park, watch TV with me and in general be awesome. I think you are fully qualified for this job. What do you think?” Duke just looked at me with the look that said ‘I have no idea what you’re saying, but I love you so okay.”
I tucked Duke away in my arms and carried him towards my next destination. It wasn’t half a block later that he had wriggled enough for me to put him down, but he stayed close. As I passed a Denny’s I smelled the sweet scent of bacon and sausage and pancakes and all of those wonderful things I had no money to buy. Poor little Duke needed them more than I did.
“Duke, I promise you- as soon as I get back to my apartment, get my wallet and have a few words with Agatha, I’s gonna get you some bacon. Then some doggy food. I promise.” He just looked up at me with that loving acceptance that only dogs can have. He trotted along next to my side as we reached the next stop light on El Aumento and Main Street. After pressing the crosswalk button, I looked casually at the passing traffic. Once I caught sight of her my heart turned into an anvil that quickly dropped into my stomach.
It was Agatha. No doubt seated next to her was my sweet Roxanne, both in the back seat as he mom and sister occupied the front seats of their red Honda Civic. It was only a brief passing second, but I learned everything I needed. Her beautiful, evil, conniving smile was relaxed and self-perpetuated. That was the rub. Last night she had sworn up and down to the officer that I had been abusing her and Roxanne for months, sometimes sexually. She had played the victim, been crying, acted scared of me. Yet there she was, blazing past in that goddam red bitch-mobile, blaring her stupid fucking Linkin Park, casually browsing Facebook or Tinder or Instagram and completely oblivious to the fact that the man whose life she was ruining was no more than thirty fucking feet away.
My blood boiled and my mouth caught. I wanted to scream at her, run after the car shaking my fist. I wanted to slash her tires and break her windshield, screaming bloody murder at her and …no. No I just wanted to…I don’t even know. But mostly, most of all, I wanted to see my sweet Roxanne. My daughter was probably laughing as gaily as ever, completely unaware of the situation unfolding in her life. Blissfully ignorant of the fact that her mom was tearing our lives apart bit by bit.
Then…the moment passed. I stood there dazed for quite a while. The lights turned from green to yellow to red then back to green. The crosswalk sign cycled through twice before I came to my senses. Duke had taken a seat next to me and was innocently pawing at my pant legs, trying to cheer me up. Try as he may, it wasn’t working.
It just wasn’t fair! I had endured so much from that woman. She had belittled me, subjugated me, beat me, manipulated me- and yet I was the one walking home from jail right now. I wasn’t even supposed to be going home- technically I should be homeless. She was the one who had slapped my Rocko when she started crying, yelled at her to shut up while I held her oh so close. And yet I was the one who was being charged with child abuse! From the moment that angel came into the world her mother had used her as nothing but a fucking pawn to get at me. And yet that bitch still had the car, still had the house, the bank cards, the televisions, the food…our daughter.
The world seemed to spin around me and I nearly lost my footing on even ground. Duke was making cute little whining noises that finally brought me back into reality. I had been crying and I didn’t even know it. I sniffled up my tears and wiped the mucus that was coming out of my nose.
“It’s okay, little buddy. We’re gonna be just fine.” I wiped my face clean and laughed to reassure him. “I just sprung a little leak is all.” I bent down and gave him a few pats on the head, then made my way across the street at the next signal. On the other side was the MUI Plasma Donation Center, a place I would soon be becoming familiar with as I would need whatever extra income I could muster up. It was also destination one on the long journey I had ahead of me as I could make use of the payphone they had outside.
After dodging the traffic to cross the road, I walked up to the phone, picked up the receiver and dialed the collect number. There was only two people in the world I wanted to speak to right now and they both lived in the same house. The rang an uncomfortable amount of times, making me fear the worse before the sweet melody on the other end came through.
“Your call is connected.” The automated voice said.
“Mom?” I said, my voice trembling.
“Hey baby.” She answered, the pain evident even behind the mask of happiness she was using in her voice. “I would ask you how it’s going, but I guess that’s pretty evident.” She managed a chuckle that got the same response from me. “How are you doing?”
The sniffles came back. “Um. I guess…I’m doin’ pretty fuckin’ bad.”
“I know sweetie, I know it sucks.” She said.
“No, it’s even worse. On the walk here from the jail I got attacked by two mean dogs and I’m kinda bleeding more than I would like to be, I’ve been dodging in and out of traffic, I found out Agatha’s probably gonna take out a restraining order on me that’s gonna extend to Rocko as well, I had a weird conversation with a homeless guy and I adopted a dog.” Once the flood gates opened I couldn’t stop the word vomit that ensued.
“Oh, wow. So wait, you got attacked by two dogs? Were they big dogs?” She knew a lot about dogs. Just so happened my mom had made a living as a professional dog trainer when I was little. She didn’t make a lot of money at it.
“Yeah, two big ass fuckin’ mangy mutts. They ripped my clothes up and I got some nasty gashes that I’m gonna need to see to after a while.” I whimpered out.
“Tommy it sounds like you need to go to the hospital, babe.” My mom said back.
“Well I don’t have any insurance and god knows the lawyer’s gonna cost a fuckin’ arm and leg, excuse my French.” I said as I grabbed a cigarette out of the pack with my mouth.
“Yeah, well we’ll worry about that when the time comes. How was last night?” My mom was desperately trying to give me some hope.
“Oh…you know…a terrible fuckin nightmare. And when I got out this morning they didn’t even give me my pictures of Rocko back. I don’t even have any pictures of my own daughter, mom!”My trembling voice finally cracked. If I could just have a photo of her, just to see her smile, everything would be better.
“Oh, shit Tommy. I’m so sorry.” She said, the sadness evident in her voice.
“No, no, no it’s not your fault. It’s not even close to your fault. Anyways how where you guys able to bail me out, aren’t you guys broke?” I asked as I lit up my smoke.
“Yeah, well your dad knows James Young the bondsmen pretty well. He gave us a good deal. We paid $500 cash plus the title to the car and the deed to the land.”
“Jesus fuck, mom, I am so so so sorry.”
“No, don’t be sorry son. This is baloney. I just can’t believe that stupid fuckin bitch” my mom had a way of mumbling out strings of swears under her breath that betrayed the anger she really felt “would charge you with this shit. I mean she knows you’re completely harmless! Why would she even do this?”
“I don’t know mom, I don’t know.” I said as I breathed the poisonous smoke into my body.
“And if she took out a restraining order can you even go back to your apartment?” There came a point in all of my bad conversations with my mom when her trying to give me hope would morph into her growing livid and yelling. That point was quickly approaching.
“Well I haven’t been served yet, so I’m gonna try.” I replied.
“Tommy I don’t think that’s very smart. I mean you don’t want to wind up in jail again. And we certainly can’t afford to bail you out now.” Truth be told, my more emotional nature was definitely inherited from my mom’s side. I kept that in mind as I heard her voice cracking on the other end.
“But mom, they haven’t served the restraining order yet.” I said, trying to calm her down.
“I know, but you just got charged with aggravated assault on a family member last night and your gonna go back tonight and try to make contact with that same family member? Agatha’s a bitch, she’ll call the cops as soon as she see’s you, tell them you just got charged last night and they’ll haul you off again, Tommy.” I wasn’t entirely sure if this made sense, but it was the safe route to go. But it meant I wouldn’t get to see my Rocko today.
The line went silent as I started to realize the truth in her words. “But mom I was just gonna try and talk some sense into her.”
“You’re not gonna try and get back with her are you?” She asked.
“Fuck no! We’re through, I’m tired of this shit.” I shot back as I breathed out a puff of smoke.
“Well anyways, Tommy, I don’t think you should do it. It just wouldn’t be very smart on your part.”
I sighed and bit my lower lip to take my mind off the throbbing headache I had. “I know. You’re right mom.” My cherry had somehow died, so I reached into my pocket, grabbed my lighter and relit it.
“You’re not smoking are you?” She asked, concerned.
“Well, look, mom, I’m fuckin’ stressed out as hell right now, I’m essentially homeless, probably gonna lose my job, I won’t get to see my daughter today and I’m..I’m just FUCKED SO YES MOM I AM FUCKING SMOKING RIGHT NOW!”
“Okay, Tommy, its fine I was just asking, okay.” She said, wounded.
At this point I was crying a river as I gave myself cancer. “I’m sorry mom, I’m just fuckin’ super stressed right now and I don’t know what to do. On top of that I’ve got till the end of the day today to check in with my probation officer and I have no idea how to get there.”
My mom sighed her motherly sigh. “I know, Tommy, I know. It sucks. And it’s not fair. But look, you can’t give up, okay? You can’t let her win. You’re special, Tommy, you know that. You always have been. But you’re scared. You’re scared to show it and right now you need to utilize your talent more than ever! You can’t keep letting yourself get into bad situations like this when you know how to get out of them so well!”
I knew what she meant, but I never felt right using this talent on other people. It just didn’t seem fair. But she was right. I needed to damn my pride and do what I needed to do. And at that moment, I saw clarity. The order in which to do things. Probation officer. Apartment. Transportation. Food. Furniture. College. All things I could easily use my talent for.
“Thank you mom.” I struggled for what to say next for a few moments. “You know I just saw her.”
“Agatha.” I said, the rasp coming back into my voice as Duke began innocently pawing at my leg.
“She was just driving past in her fucking red fucking Honda fucking Civic without a fucking care in the goddam motherfucking world.” The words ripped through me, fueled by absolute rage.
“Well don’t worry about her right now, Tommy. She’ll get hers. Karma’s a bitch, you know that. Just focus on what you need to do.” My mom knew this wouldn’t calm me down, but it did appeal to my philosophical side. The side of me that never fought or got angry. I kept him pretty well hidden, but my mom knew exactly how to reach him. “Do you want us to come up there and bring you back down to Destin tonight? At least to get settled for a while.”
“Probably won’t be able to, mom. I can talk the probation officer out of the ankle bracelet but they’ll still insist that I stay in this county. Plus the hearing is in a week and I want to try and get as squared away as possible.”
“Is there anything we can do for you? Do you need some money? We don’t have much to spare, but we can give you some money for food and things like that. You know, necessities.”
“No, no, no. That won’t be necessary. She still has my bank cards, but I can do one better on her. The accounts are still in my name and the bank is on the way back to the probation offices. I’ve got quite a bit of money assuming she hasn’t withdrawn everything. I’ll just withdraw what I need, cancel the card and set up security alerts. But thank you though.” Saying it matter-of-fact-ly made me feel less scummy about doing it, even though I shouldn’t have felt that way to begin with.
“What are you gonna do tonight?” The concern in her voice was without blame. I mean what mother would want this for their son? What mother with a son in this situation wouldn’t fear the worst?
“Walk up to the first apartment complex I can afford and talk them into letting me pay them tomorrow. I get paid again tomorrow so it won’t be a problem. Before that, obviously I’ve gotta talk to the probation person. Then I think I’m gonna talk to my buddy Clarence from work and see if he can loan me his bike for the time being until I can either A) Get my car back or B) Get another one.” The clarity was almost disconcerting. I mean, sure- people make plans all the time. But things don’t always go as planned, do they? But I was absolutely sure…no…no, no, no that’s the wrong phrase: I could guarantee that my plan would go exactly the way I needed it to.
“Shit you can’t even take your own car?” My mom said, the anger returning.
“Not from what I gather, but I’ll ask the probation person. After I phone him, I’ll run to Walmart and get some food for me and Duke here. Duke’s the dog I adopted, by the way. If I have enough get a cheap ass cell phone. This weekend I’ll go to one of those rent to own places and get some basic furniture. And then as I soon as I can I’m gonna sign up for college classes.”
“Well good, Tommy. That sounds like a plan. That sounds like a real good plan, sweetie. I’ll send you a little money tomorrow, like I said not much. But it should help.” She said.
“Thanks mom. I… I really just needed to hear your voice.” It was the God’s honest truth.
“Well, you know what your dad says, ‘Hope springs eternal.’ Just keep your head up, this will all work out in your favor okay?” This was my mom lathering on the hope and love that she had in her heart.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Moms. Don’t they have the funniest ways of making your feel better. “Okay mom. I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you.”
“Love you too, son.” I should forewarn you that my mother is the worst at saying goodbye on the phone. “Just be careful okay. Love you. Stay warm. Keep your chin up. Bye!”
I placed the phone back on the receiver, looked up at the sky, closed my eyes and took a deep sigh. Well, I took a drag of my smoke then I sighed deeply, but that’s beside the point. Looking up at the sky I didn’t pray. I didn’t wish upon a falling star. I didn’t try to find my “Chi”. Instead I made a promise. One simple promise and one that I would keep. Opening my eyes, I gave that promise a voice.
“I’m gonna make the world my bitch.”
Duke barked his approval.