Chapter Nineteen - Found a Dad, Lost a Dad - In Scott's Eyes
1989 - Mom is 40, I am 15, Julie is 12
Last time we came here, to Ed's, was a year ago. It was a lot of fun, but there was something wierd about it too. He's supposed to be our dad, but where the hell has he been all these years, and why does he want to know us now? He's not even my real dad anyway. He's Julie's dad, and he only adopted me when I was about three years old, when my Mom married him, and Julie was born. Then he left two years later anyway. What a prick. Neither Julie or I can stand him anymore. Since we've been here, all we've done is work, work, work. He told us we were going to go back to the water park again this year, told us we'd go to Atlantic City too. But now all he wants us to do is work, and says he doesn't have enough money to take us back there. Plus, he's been forcing both of us to call our step-mom "Mom", instead of Robyn. Julie and I can't stand this. At all. But we do it because he gets so mad otherwise. And he guilt-trips us like we're the most evil people on earth. And then he starts talking trash about Mom. I just can't take it anymore, and I know Julie is about to explode. I can tell. It's like when we fight, and I egg her on, tease her and push her buttons, until she snaps. And oooooooooh, watch out after that! I actually can't believe she's held it in this long, but it won't be much longer before she goes off. And he's not gonna like it. I wonder if he'll kill us. Bury us somewhere or dump us where we went crab fishing last time we were here. Maybe he'll make bowling balls out of us, so he can throw us around even after we're dead. I hate his bowling shop. He's not even a REAL pro, like he says. Julie bowled better than he did yesterday, and though he said he was proud of her, there was steam coming out of his ears. She almost bowled a perfect game, 288, better than he's ever done I think. I'm sure it was a fluke, but I'm afraid he's gonna sneak in our room one night and cut her arm off or something, just so she can never beat him again. He's crazy and I just want to go home. Both of us just want to go home.
I'm doing the dishes, which I hate, and Julie just finished cleaning the table off, which she hates too. She didn't really say much, just tossed the dish towel on the counter and went upstairs. I feel something coming. I feel it. We don't mind doing chores, we do a lot of those at home all the time. It's not about that. It's the WAY he makes us do them, how he demands it, inspects it, and then expects us to love him for it, forces us to hug him and tell him "thank you" for making us do it. It's not only wierd, it's well,......psycho. He freaks me out. And Julie too, but she's fighting it with all she has. She REALLY wants to love him, and have him love her. She REALLY wants to have a dad. I wanted that too, but now I'm too old for that. I don't NEED a dad like she does, and after being here, I don't even want one anymore. If this is what having a dad means, then screw it. Mom's okay with me. She's never this crazy, even when she does drink a lot. I don't care what he says. He's crazier than a shit-house rat, as Gramps would say.
He comes in the kitchen and walks a few laps around the dining table, inspecting. He asks me if Julie wiped the table down. I tell him she did it twice, because she did. He bends down, inspects the table's surface as if he has a magnifying glass, but he doesn't. He runs his hand over the entire surface of the table, inch by inch. And there, in the middle, toward the edge of the table, he stops abruptly. His back gets all straight, air puffs up his chest, he heaves out a big sigh, and turns to me.
"She cleaned it TWICE, huh?" I'm staring down at the dishes, I don't want to look up. I'm scared, scared for Julie. And for me. What if he thinks I'm lying, which I'm not. What's he gonna do?
"Uh...yeah, twice. I watched her."
"Well, there's a big grease spot here still. WHY do you think that IS?" Jesus Christ, he's scary.
"Uh...I don't know, I guess she missed it. I'll wipe it down again. I'll fix it." I grab the dish towel and walk to the table with it.
"NO! Julie's gonna do this, and do it RIGHT." I can see the steam coming from his head, his face is all red, he's speaking through clenched teeth. But I'm not gonna let him hurt Julie. "Stay HERE." I'm paralyzed by his craziness. He pulls the toothpick from his mouth that he's been chewing on, does something to the table with it, and goes upstairs to our room, where Julie is. I don't know whether to follow him, or stay like he says. I can't move. But I hear Julie's voice heading down the stairs, and start to relax a little. At least I can hear her, and now I can see her. She looks agitated, but she's alive, whew! "Do you see THAT?"
"What?" Julie says, "I don't see anything." He is pointing at the table. He tells her to look closer. She looks closer, She bends down, turns her head to the side, and sees what he's pointing at. The smudgy, greasy spot on the table - about 3 inches wide, has "clean me" written in it.
"Are you serious? You made me come down here for THAT? REALLY?" Uh, oh,....here goes Julie. This is it.
"You need to do your chores, and do them correctly. Do it over."
"No." He picks up a dishrag, grabs her hand, and forces her to take it. I stopped doing the dishes am holding my breath and a dirty butter knife, and ready to kill him. I'm ready for anything. Julie looks at me, then back to her dad. "NO." She throws the rag down on the table, turns and runs toward the stairs. "CLEAN IT YOURSELF", she screams back at him.
"Jesus, Julie, you run fast!" I got into our room just as Julie was slamming the door behind her. She opened the door again, as far as it would go and slammed it shut as loud as she could. I guess she needed to put the exclamation point on the end of her sentence, just a little bit louder.
"I'm not gonna clean it again, Scott, I'm not gonna do ANYTHING for him anymore, I hate him, he's a slave-driver, I hate him, who does he think he is, why does he think he can treat us this way, let's go home, Scott, please, let's just go home." She can't even breathe, She's crying so hard and cussing, and breathing like she's gonna have a heart attack. I didn't even know she KNEW all these cuss words. "He's a fucking asshole, Scott, I can't believe he's my dad, I don't want to be here, what if he won't let us go home, what if we have to stay here and be his slaves forever, Scott, he doesn't love us, he doesn't love anyone, I'm so sorry Scott, you're gonna get in trouble too because of this, I'm so sorry, I hate him, please don't let him near me, I'll rip his fucking head off, he's so mean, who thinks it's okay to be mean like that, what a fucker, I fucking hate him, I can't believe this, how are we gonna call Mom, the phone is downstairs, fuck, fuck, fuck, Scott, I'm sorry I'm saying so many bad words, but fuck, Scott, I can't handle it, I just can't handle it."
"Try to calm down, Julie, you're gonna make yourself sick. I'll take care of it. I won't let him near you. I promise. It'll be okay, I promise." Just then our door flew open, and a very big man with a very red face was standing in our room with a dishrag in his hands. And he was coming for Julie.
"DON'T YOU MOVE ANOTHER INCH! GET OUT OF OUR ROOM! NOW!!!" If there is ever a time in my life I'll stand up for anything, it's now.
"Scott, get out of my way, this is between me and your sister." The calm in his voice was eerie, terrifying.
"I'm not going anywhere, and either is she. Leave." He pushed me out of the way, and against the wall, hard. I was shocked, and I hit my head and shoulder on the wall. It made me lose my balance, and I was trying to get up, but in an instant, he had Julie by the arm, up off the bed, dragging her out of the room. I was failing her! He was gonna kill her! But then my scrappy little sister bent down her head and bit him as hard as she could on the arm, started kicking and flailing and screaming. I've never been so proud of her as right this very moment.
"DON'T YOU EVER FUCKING TOUCH ME AGAIN! I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU, YOU BASTARD! LEAVE. ME. THE. FUCK. ALONE. OR I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!" And now, I have another moment of pride for her, even better than the last.
To both our surprise, he left the room, rubbing his arm and breathing like a dragon, red, bloodshot eyes and defeat at the hands of a twelve-year-old. Two days later we flew home. When Mom was driving us home from the airport, we told her everything. Even the cuss words. She was proud of us both. Julie found two pamphlets and a book on alcoholism that he must've snuck in her bag before we left. She showed them to Mom and told her all the things he said about her, about our family. Mom tried not to, but started to cry. We all started to cry. Mom told us she was sorry for ever asking him to call us at Christmas. I didn't know she asked him to do that. I thought he just called, because he wanted to, because he loved us. But, as it turns out, she had to search him out, find him, and call him. She hoped it wouldn't turn out this way. She was sorry. We rode along in tears for a few miles.
"Here's what I think, Mom." Julie turned to Mom, and I sat up in the back, leaned forward to see what she was doing. She rolled down the window, and page by page, tore up that book, and those pamphlets, and threw them out. "I love my big alcoholic family, so there! And I love you, Mom. Forever. You're all I need."
"I love you too, honey." Mom's tears were still coming down, but she was smiling now, at least. I reached around the seat and rubbed Julie's shoulder a little.
"You're a bad-ass, Julie."