Friday, February 3, 2017

Unconditional Love by Sharon L. Bachman

When Gerald knocks himself cold in a drunken stupor, his deluded wife is left in charge of the dysfunctional household; by Sharon L. Bachman.

I'm proud to say I've always been a good mother, and the proof of it started the night my husband came home late, slipped in a pee puddle in the bathroom and conked his head on the toilet seat. I let him nap right there on the linoleum while I sopped up his blood and stitched the cut with a needle and thread from my sewing kit. After all, like my mom used to say, you should let sleeping dogs lie. You should also let awake dogs lie, cheat and steal, she'd say, especially if they're bigger than you. She was full of cute little sayings like that, right up until she fell down that elevator shaft.

Gerald was still asleep the next morning when everybody had to do their business, so my eldest four helped me shove him sideways so we could get to the toilet. Since I'd spoiled Gerald with all my good cooking over the years, we had to put some muscle into this, but those kids are champs! Not a one of them complained. That's what good parenting does for you. I counted that chore as their physical education credit for the day.

You see, I was home schooling my darlings because nobody knows better than a mother how to raise up her young. With the Good Book for reading and the Home Shopping Channel for math, we got all the learning we needed right there in the house where there's no hoodlums waiting to stab you in the playground or foreigners and perverts teaching crackpot ideas. I'm sure you'll agree with me on that score, dear sir, so we can skip on ahead.

Gerald didn't wake up the next day or the next, and quite frankly I was glad to see him losing weight, and me and the kids got to enjoy some peace and quiet that we hadn't had since the last time he was in rehab. It was about a week before we got a call from his boss at Lay Rug. I can't tell you the language that awful man used when I told him Gerald had a terrible accident, but the gist of the conversation was that he was not welcome back.

Now, Gerald worked as a carpet layer which was a very high-paying profession. Several times a week he'd bring home cash, credit cards, real jewelry - not the fake stuff - and even bottles of prescription drugs to make sure we had a good supply in case anybody got diabetes or kidneyosis or backaches. He got a lot of backaches laying all that carpet. Gerald kept it all in a place he called the stash but never told me where it was, just in case criminals broke in and wanted to torture me to reveal the location. All I had to do was tell them I had no idea, which was the God's honest truth. Gerald was a very considerate man in that regard.

About this time the bathroom started getting real stinky, more than usual, so eleven-year-old Joshua went to the BigMart and liberated a bunch of pine scent air fresheners, the kind you hang on your rearview mirror, and that made all the difference. That counted as his good deed for the day. Jemima's good deed for every day since Gerald's accident was helping little James get to the toilet without tripping over dad. You see, dear little James had been almost totally blind ever since Jason accidentally spilled a bottle of bleach on his head, which also turned his hair white as snow and was just now halfway grown out.

We were starting to get low on groceries so Joshua went to the BigMart again and traded some of his favorite knives for bread and beans and Gummie Bears. But when it came time to pay the light bill and buy diapers for seven-year-old James (you don't want to rush a child, I always say, let him mature in his own sweet time) we needed some cash.

Sixteen-year-old Judith, my oldest and a kindly girl with a lovely purple beauty mark covering most of her nose, was the first to volunteer to get a job. Now, she always was a night owl and she and her dad used to spend quality time in her room during the wee hours when everybody else was asleep, so she set out to find a night job. Wouldn't you know it, the local McOwl's fast food place was hiring, so she signed up for an overnight shift. I wasn't too thrilled about her wearing high-fashion clothes and makeup, but she said it was necessary to make her look eighteen which was the hiring age because of some stupid government law restricting freedom of work. Don't get me started on stupid government laws or you'll never hear the end of it. Anyway, McOwl's went along with paying her after every shift and in cash. You see, we couldn't get into the bank account because it was in Gerald's name and he was still asleep on the bathroom floor.

Judith's sacrifice inspired Jacob, now the man of the house at age fifteen, who found work with an outfit selling herbs and spices door to door. I had no idea there was such a demand for exotic herbs and spices, but that kid had a nose for business and he brought home fistfuls of money right off the bat. As an added bonus he reeked of exotic basil scent which, along with the pine, kept the house smelling like a forest. He forged ahead even though he was allergic to some of the herbs and spices that caused scratches and sores mostly on his arms and he needed antibiotics. That's the first time he asked me the hiding place of the stash so he could take some of the medications dad had saved up just for this purpose, but I had to tell him I had no idea where it was, and that's the God's honest truth.

Joshua and little brother John were the next to pitch in. I was especially glad to see John get involved in something to boost his self-esteem. You see, John was born a fuzzy baby and then that fuzz turned into hair all over his body that was just cute as a little brown monkey. We always kept it trimmed so he could see and eat and everything, but the neighbor kids and even the ones in Sunday school - excuse me for sayin' it sir - teased the living daylights out of him, calling him all sorts of names like Fido and Yogi. Kids can be so mean, and I just didn't raise mine that way, so he was happy at home but didn't get out much, and none of us went to Sunday school any more after that. Joshua told me people like that used to get jobs in the circus where folks paid money to stare at them, if you can believe that! Where he got that crazy idea I'll never know.

Well, when Joshua found work at a laundrymat that catered to foreigners called Scotch and Swizzle he took John along with him to help out, and things seemed to work out fine. Like some of the other kids, they had to work at night and slept mostly in the daytime. A lot of their wages were in coins so they had to take one of Gerald's old wooden ammunition boxes to carry it all home in but, heck, cash is cash. Except the landlord didn't like us paying the rent with nickels and dimes so Judith had to take the box to the bank to turn the coins in for bills.

Jemima, who is Judith's twin but without the birthmark and has a heart as big as a semi, signed up at a call center that raises money for worthy causes. You'd be surprised how many people, especially blessed old folks, donate a chunk of their retirement funds to the Society for Endangered Arnigests once they hear how important it is to save these tiny creatures that eat cancer germs flying around in the air we breathe. And the government's not doing a darn thing about it! With her sweet voice she explains to them - just like she did to me - the danger we are all in if something isn't done to turn this situation around. It's absolutely heartwarming to see my kids earning money by making a real difference in the world, not like those blood-sucking welfare bums.

Now, here comes the bittersweet part of my tale. The flies in the bathroom got to be pretty bad, even some of those big shiny green ones that fly up your nose when you're in the tub, and Gerald was getting to be downright messy. The kids told me we had to face facts: he just wasn't going to wake up again. The angels had taken his spirit, and it was time for us to take care of his earthly remains. Actually, we had gotten used to getting along without him and learned so much about self-reliance that it wasn't too hard to let him go. But how? Those funeral parlors will rip you off good. And besides, we take care of our own.

We had a family meeting, and Jason came up with a plan they all agreed on. Use your noggin and you'll come up with a solution, I always say. And I sure as heck wasn't going to say no to them because saying no to kids hurts their confidence and can even lead to rebellion, like Gerald's brother Lester did and now he's in the hoosegow with fourteen life sentences. Just tell me, what mother wants to travel to the penitentiary to visit her kids through a glass partition for fourteen lifetimes? Besides, it's my motto: the parent who governs least governs best.

So Jason borrowed the neighbor's chainsaw and started by taking off one of Gerald's legs ¬- I forget whether it was the right or the left that came off first. Joshua had to help him because you'd be surprised how heavy a grown man's leg is. They wrapped it in a big black trash bag and carried it down to the river where the hobos hang out and dumped it in the flames of the big oil drum they use to keep warm. The boys said it smelled like pork roast and kept dozens of raggedy old men warm and happy all through that cold night. Once again, my boys used our misfortune to help out the less fortunate. I'd always taught them to turn a lemon into lemonade or oranges into orange juice or whatever. The next night they took the other leg, then an arm and, well, you get the picture. It didn't take but a week before the bathroom had a lot more room and Jemima had wiped up the floor until it was spic and span.

Then we had a prayer service around the kitchen table. We all held hands and Joshua said some sacred words from the Bible, and we sang Amazing Grace. Since it was winter and the dandelions in the yard were all dead, Joshua got some plastic flowers from the BigMart, and we put them in a jelly jar on the bathroom counter so we'd remember Gerald and say a prayer every time we used the toilet.

Just as we lost one member of our household, the good Lord blessed us with another! Our dear Judith was standing at the stove stirring gravy to go with the chipped beef and she gave a little grunt and out dropped a slippery little bundle of joy right there between her feet. Joshua ran to scoop it up and Jemima, who's watched so many reality shows she's practically a doctor, knew how to tie off the cord with twisty ties from the bread packages and cut it with the paring knife. I grabbed a towel off the rack and wrapped it up while Jacob said, Oh great, another mouth to feed.

The kids gathered round and we decided to name it Jesse because we couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl and we figured Jesse would count for either one. Little Jesse was basically a good baby, but it did cry some while my hard workers were trying to sleep. But Jacob found a solution to that problem. He mixed some of his special spices in the baby's formula, and that quieted Jesse down right away. Bless his heart, when Jacob went to work he left some of the spices in a special jar so whoever was babysitting could put it in the formula and keep the baby and everybody else content twenty-four hours every day.

So with things going so well you may wonder, St. Peter, why I'm talking to you. It wasn't long after baby Jesse arrived that Jacob was showing me the shiny new axe he'd brought home from the BigMart and asking me for the umpteenth time where Dad's stash was, and I was telling him for the umpteenth time that I had no idea. Next thing I know I'm here at the Pearly Gates talking to you. Now, it's real pretty here, all white and clean and smells even better than the pine and basil scent, and I'd love to stay forever and ever amen. But I'd like to ask a favor most respectfully if I may. I know you have friends in high places, and if you could pull some strings and get me back home, I'd really appreciate it. You see, my kids are very capable and can mostly look after themselves, thanks to good upbringing, but there's one thing they don't have that only a mother can give them, and that's all my unconditional love.

5 comments:

  1. the 'naivety' of the mother is really the motor here
    a clever and well written story with more than a hint of truth
    Mike McC

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  2. Terrific read - dry and witty! Well done. Thank you.

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  3. Off the wall crazy and all the better for it - thank you,
    Ceinwen

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  4. I wonder why they didn't become a "reality" show. They would fit right in.

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    1. Thanks, everyone. It was great fun to write!
      - Sharon

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