A Life in Photographs-Part 2
(Fun with Dick and Jane-2)
Dick watched the police cruiser drive down the dirt driveway away from the cabin. Jane stared straight ahead, and didn’t turn to look back at Dick. Sitting on the log, Dick sat transfixed until the car moved beyond sight. Since he had already given his statement to the police, Dick was free to leave. He stood and said goodbye to Jane’s parents.
As he moved slowly to his car, his head felt dizzy, prompting him to pause in his steps. After several minutes he arrived at his car. Dick fumbled in his pocket for his keys, confused as to why he couldn’t fish them out. Eventually he did succeed in pulling them out, and then endeavored to shoot the target of the key hole in the door.
He sat in his car. His head continued dizzy. Dick grabbed onto the steering wheel. He glanced back at the cabin door, and found no one there. Everyone had left, and the cabin returned to its normal deserted state. He thought, “What am I doing here…and how did she…I can’t believe that…wow, I can’t even complete a thought.”
Dick looked back at the cabin and wondered, “What if Jane somehow got away from them…is that possible…she did escape once…maybe I’d better…but where?” A frightening thought came charging into his mind. Dick turned his head back towards the dirt road and searched for any signs of a car, or even someone on foot. There was none.
“So what do I do now,” he wondered? Minutes passed before he formed a clear thought, and the thought was merely to leave. Fear surged through his veins. He had to get out of there. It mattered little where he went. He started his car and drove away.
Dick pulled out his cell phone and dialed. He hung up abruptly before his sister answered the phone. “Oh yeah, I left Nell there for the whole weekend, and it’s still only Friday night. I guess there’s no need to call Julie…well, maybe I should let her know…no, probably that’s not a good idea,” he thought.
The car seemed to drive itself, as Dick had no conscious thought about where he was going. He didn’t know where to go. The car parked itself at Sparky’s Sports Bar. Dick stared at the sign as though trying to discern a foreign language. And then his mind cleared, and he laughed and said, “Of course I brought myself here.” Dick walked up to the end of the bar and took a seat. Phil, the usual Friday night bartender was on duty. Phil nodded at Dick and drew him a draft, and set it down in front of Dick.
“Thanks Phil.” Phil smiled and went back to washing glasses.
Dick stared into his glass, as though he tried to figure out a puzzle. His head spun less, but he continued to be disoriented. Tiring of studying his beer, Dick surveyed the bar. On the same wall as the television were dozens of photographs. He felt drawn to the photographs. Picking up his beer, Dick approached the photograph wall. He came across the picture of dad. Dad stood with the whole baseball team, wearing his blue baseball shirt with “Sparky’s” printed across the chest. The caption read, “Metropolitan Area League Champions.” Below the team picture is a smaller one. Dick crouches down to get a closer look. In the second photo Dad smiles from ear to ear, with one arm around Dick and the other arm around Julie. Dad wears his hat backwards. Julie, Dick’s younger sister, smiles impishly.
“Oh my goodness, I must have been about six, and Julie about four in this pic,” says Dick. He smiles as a memory is stirred.
I had my own room. My bunk beds were decorated with athletes in various poses. I sometimes tried to imitate the poses. I would imagine winning football games, or driving in the winning run in a baseball game, or serving an ace to win a tennis match. Mom and dad installed bunk beds in my room because my baby brother would share my room when he was old enough. For now he slept in a little bassinette in my parent’s room. I didn’t want to share my room with the baby. He cried often.
I chose the bottom bed. It seemed more like a fort from the bottom, and especially when I hung blankets from the top bed. From my window I could see the swimming pool in the front yard. At first I wondered why the pool was in the front. I thought they were supposed to be in the back yard. But somebody ripped us off. Our back yard was barely big enough for a Jacuzzi. It couldn’t have been more than ten paces wide. There’s no way we could have fit a pool in the back, so I guess it had to be in the front yard. When we first moved in I told dad that somebody tricked him, and sold him a house with no backyard. Dad laughed.
Julie’s room was next door. I could sometimes hear her talking to her dolls. At least I imagine they were her dolls, unless she had one of those pretend friends. Some of my friends had a pretend friend, but I didn’t. I thought they were acting strange when they talked to someone who wasn’t there. But they told me the pretend friend really was there, I just didn’t have the x-ray eyes to see them. I always smiled when they said this, as if I knew the secret; but I didn’t.
One day we sat on Julie’s bed and played with our troll dolls. I liked the one with blue hair best. Julie liked the one with green hair. We danced our dolls on the bed. We brushed their hair and put them in pony tails. After we fixed up their hair we decided to have a tea party. Tea parties were one of our favorite things to do. We set the table for the four tea partiers, the two troll dolls and the two others. The two others were in case we had any guests come to the party. You never know who might show up, and you want to be prepared.
Mother opened the door and said, “Okay children, it’s time for dinner. Come wash your hands.” Mother turned to leave, and then stepped back into the doorway. She said, “So what are you doing?” We stole a quick glance at one another. Julie’s eyes grew large, and her face became scarlet.
Mother took one look at us and noted the empty chairs at our tea party, and her nose scrunched up into a frown. She said, “Are you pretending to play with your imaginary friends again?” I looked at Julie and covered my mouth with my hands to suppress a laugh. Julie got that funny sideways look on her face like she was trying not to laugh. And then mother said, “Oh children, my silly, silly children. Do you still believe in them?” Mother didn’t wait for an answer, but instead said with a wave of her hand, “It’s time for dinner. Come to the table.” Mother left and Julie and I breathed out deeply.
Julie and I always tried to hide our games from mother. She got angry with us when she saw us playing certain games, although I’m not sure which ones. Sometimes she just seemed angry that we were playing at all. We never knew what would be okay on a given day. We had to watch mother and see. On some days it was okay to play. On some days it was best to not be in the same room as mother. Most days were a mix of both. We watched to see what kind of mood we’d find mother in. I would be relieved whenever she seemed happy. I got afraid when she seemed mad. Other days she just lay in bed all day. I liked those days, because mother left us alone. We could play any game we wanted.
We put our troll dolls back in their beds, which were shoe boxes that we’d decorated like a bedroom. We washed up at the sink in the kitchen. As we dried our hands on the towels hanging on the oven door mother said, “Children, I don’t want you pretending to see imaginary people anymore. It’s crazy, and if any of the neighbors overheard you, what would they think of me? Of course they would conclude that I’m an unfit mother raising children that are crazy. What else could they conclude from your bizarre gibberish and pretend people?”
I began to protest by saying, “But mother, we aren’t…” I stopped myself when I saw the look on her face.
“Dick, you know how I feel about your fanciful friends. We both know they don’t exist, and you don’t want to test me on this. I won’t tolerate my children appearing to be crazy to the neighbors. You know how people talk. I can just imagine the whole town talking about my two mentally ill children.”
I glanced at Julie, who made a zipping of her lip motion towards me. Julie needn’t have zipped her lip, I knew better than to say anything else at this point. I merely said, “Okay mom.” And Julie said, “Okay mommy.” Mother liked being called mommy.
Julie and I set the table with forks, napkins and glasses. Mother served sliced cheese, hot dogs with ketchup and lima beans. I was delighted to see the hot dogs and cheese, but I was not happy to see the lima beans, and we didn’t want to eat them. I hid a groan when I saw the awful beans. Julie put her hand over her mouth to prevent anything objectionable from sneaking out.
When mother wasn’t looking, I hid some of my beans inside my napkin. The few beans that I ate were done in my secret procedure. I put a bit of cherry jello in my mouth, then stuffed a few beans in, and followed it with another bite of jello. The jello almost completely covered the horrible lima bean taste, but not quite. I asked mother for more jello. I stopped eating lima beans when I ran out of jello for the second time. I didn’t risk asking mother for thirds.
Julie hid most of her beans underneath the rim of her plate. When mother picked up the plates, she immediately saw the lima beans on the placemat. Mother stopped in her tracks. “Now Julie, you disappoint me. I thought you were a good girl who ate all of her vegetables. And even more importantly, I’m very disappointed that you’re trying to hide things from mommy, and there’s not a reason to. Simply eat your delicious vegetables and then you can go play.”
“But I don’t like stupid lima beans. They taste yucky. They remind me of that one time I ate some paper, except that the paper tasted a little better,” said Julie.
“Now Julie, you know you’re being silly. These lima beans are so good for you, and they do taste good. Don’t tell lies to mommy. You know we haven’t raised you to tell lies. Only bad girls lie, and I’m sure you don’t want to be a bad girl. And did you know that some children in Mexico eat food out of trash cans. You can’t imagine how much better these beans taste. So simply eat up your lima beans quickly and be done with it.” Julie made a face while mother wasn’t looking. Mother picked up my plate, and I quickly grabbed my napkin, containing most of my lima beans. I stood up and walked swiftly to the sink and threw away my napkin in the trash under the sink. Then I sat back down. I threw a sideways glance at mother, hoping she wouldn’t check the trash. She didn’t. I think she was distracted with Julie. Mother set Julie’s plate back down, scooped up the discarded beans and replaced them on the plate. Mother went back to washing the dishes.
I leaned over towards Julie and whispered for her to hurry up and eat her beans, so we could go play. She whispered back, “But that’s not fair! You didn’t have to eat yours, so I don’t want to eat mine.”
“Now children, there’ll be no telling secrets in this family. Dick, you mind your own business. And Julie, you hurry and eat your beans. And you won’t be leaving this table until you eat all of your beans,” said Mother.
“Do I have to eat all of them? I don’t want to eat all of them. They’re so gross.”
Mother walked back to the table and counted the beans on Julie’s plate. “There are only seventeen of them. That isn’t too many to eat. Now be a good girl and eat them before I lose my patience with you,” said Mother.
“Seventeen! But that’s so many! Can’t I just eat five of them?”
“Now I am beginning to lose my patience with you. You will not leave this table until all seventeen of those beans are gone. Do I make myself clear, young lady?”
“Yes mommy,” said Julie with lowered eyes and voice.
Mother finished putting the last of the dishes into the dishwasher and put her hands on her hips. Mother looked at Julie’s plate, and saw that all the beans were still there. She glared at Julie and said, “Now I don’t care if you have to spend the whole night at that table! You will not leave until every last one of those beans is gone.” Julie turned her head away and rolled her eyes, while saying, “Yes mommy.”
Mother took several steps towards Julie and pointed a finger at her, “Now you listen here young lady. I won’t have any daughter of mine rolling her eyes at me. I won’t tolerate that kind of disrespect. And if your father was any kind of man, he’d back me up on this. And do you realize there are starving children in Africa that would die to have those seventeen lima beans? Now, you will do as I say, and eat every last one of them. Do I make myself clear?”
Julie stared at her lap, and almost inaudibly said, “Yes mommy.”
“What? I didn’t hear you. What did you say?”
Julie spoke louder, “Yes mommy.”
“You know Julie, maybe you’re telling me that there’s something wrong with my food. That maybe my food isn’t good enough for you. Or maybe you’re saying that my cooking isn’t good enough for you. Is that it? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“No mommy, I’m not saying that! Please don’t get mad! I promise I’ll eat my food right away.”
“Now that’s better. And I’m not mad. I don’t get mad,” said Mother.
“Yes mommy,” said Julie.
“Now don’t torture yourself, just eat the beans and be done with it,” said mother as she left the kitchen.
As soon as Mother left Julie began to cry. She began sobbing quietly, yet sobbing so strongly that she couldn’t eat. I got worried and said to her, “Julie, stop crying! Stop crying so you can eat your food. She’ll be back soon, and you don’t want her to get madder. You know what happens when she gets really mad. Please stop crying and eat your food!”
“I can’t stop! I’m trying, but I don’t know if I can stop and eat them all before she gets back,” said Julie between sobs.
“Okay, don’t worry. I’ll help you eat them. Come on hurry, let’s eat them together,” I said as I stole a quick look towards the door to make sure mother wasn’t watching.
“But don’t let her see you helping me eat them. She’ll be so mad if she sees you helping me eat them,” said Julie.
“Don’t worry, I won’t let her see.” So together we stuffed the beans in our mouths. They tasted awful. By this time they were freezing cold and stiff from sitting out so long. I didn’t have any jello left to hide the taste. I could barely gag them down. I had to push down an impulse to gag several times. I drank two full glasses of water in order to wash them down my throat. I found that if I chewed them five times, I could wash the remnant down with enough water.
With beans in my mouth I said to Julie, “I’m sure glad we don’t live in Africa or Mexico…I can barely stand to eat dinner in America.”
“I know,” said Julie with a laugh.
Several minutes later we both shoveled the last of them into our mouths. My back was turned to the door. I glanced at Julie and a look of horror emerged on her face. Julie quickly turned her horror into a beatific smile. I looked into the glass window behind Julie, and saw the reason. Mother stood in the doorway watching us. Panic surged through my veins. I redoubled my efforts to chew as fast as I could. My panic increased as I watched mother’s reflection become closer and closer to us.
Mother stopped behind me and said, “Well, I see that you’ve finally minded me and ate all of your beans, Julie.” And then turning to me she said, “And why is your back to me? Are you hiding something from me?”
I quickly swallowed the last of the lima beans and looked up at mother, doing my best to plaster a convincing smile on my face. “No mommy, I’m not hiding anything.” Mother glared at me for a moment, and then turned to go. As she walked away she said, “You know I don’t tolerate lies in this family. I’ll be extremely disappointed if you’re keeping secrets.”
Julie and I breathed great sighs of relief. We ran back to Julie’s room, and resumed the play that dinner had interrupted. We played happily for another hour.
Dad opened the door and said, “Okay kids, it’s time for bed.” He still wore his uniform from the game that day. Dad’s team won the softball league championship, and he was very pleased with himself. He took a step into the room and then dad’s smile melted away. He paused for a moment and looked down the hallway before saying, “You know, your mother tries her best to raise you with good manners…I don’t like how…well, I don’t want you to get in trouble with your mother. If you’d just eat the food she puts before you, it would avoid…it would avoid lots of unpleasantness. Do you understand?”
In truth, we didn’t understand exactly what he meant. It didn’t make sense why we had to eat vegetables just because the kids in Africa and Mexico were starving. But we did know that he wanted us to mind mother so we wouldn’t get into trouble. I said, “Yes daddy, but sometimes it’s hard to mind mommy.”
Father smiled knowingly and said, “Yes son, I know it can be difficult, but let’s all do our best to not upset your mother. You know how she gets when she’s upset.”
Julie and I responded in unison, “Okay daddy.”
“Oh my, how cute you both look.” Father came into our room from the doorway and laughed. He pulled down the old Polaroid from the hallway shelf and said, “Turn this way and look, kids.” And then mother walked down the hall and father turned to her and said, “Oh dear, would you mind taking a picture of me and the kids?”
“But then I won’t be in it,” said mother.
“Oh, uh, maybe we could…”
“Oh well, I’ll do it this time,” said mother. Just before mother snapped the picture, I reached up and turned daddy’s hat backwards. And then mother took the picture of the three of us.
“And that is this picture,” I said as I touched the picture on the wall of Sparky’s.