Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tammy Part 3

"Be good for Tammy. Don't be a pain in the ass. Give her a chance. She's had a hard life," my mother told me.

"But do you have to leave? Can't you just stay home tonight?"

"No, don't be crazy. We have a big meeting with the Hungarian. Don't you want us to be rich?"

"I guess so, but I don't want you to leave. Can I go with you?"

"It's a school night and we just can't be bringing a kid along. We need to look like professionals. We got you a nanny so we could leave you home. We're trying to make money for you - so you can shop at Esprit and have a big birthday party at the skating rink with a live band, maybe even Madonna. We'll be rich enough to hire Madonna to come play at your birthday party. So please don't be a pain in the ass."

"She's not a nanny."

"Sure she is. Ask her to make you some peanut butter cookies. Watch a movie on HBO or something."

"The cable got turned off again."

"So that's exactly why you have to stop giving me a hard time and stay here with Tammy while we go to this meeting. Don't be scared of her. You're being ridiculous, like people from Millpond who're scared of everyone and everything that's different from them. You don't want to be like people from Millpond do you?"

My mother could always manipulate me that way. She knew it was the one thing that would get me every time because the last thing I wanted to be was an ignorant hick from Millpond. Her other secret weapon to get me to do what she wanted was to tell me I was exactly like my father. She meant my biological father, who I hadn't heard from since the Spring before. His new baby was already a few months old.

"Fine," I said.

I stared out the wide picture window in our bare living room as the Mercedes backed out and disappeared down our street.

"I'll bet you play with yourself a lot," Tammy said, coming up the stairs from her lair on the dark, ground floor.

"When I was your age I played with myself all day long. Just be careful you don't tear it off. Why don't you run in the kitchen and get me a Hi-C," she went on.

"You can get whatever you want. You don't have to ask us to do it."

"I told you to get me a Hi-C."

"I can't open up the cans myself."

"Well it's a good time to learn, ain't it?"

"My mom told me to ask you to make peanut butter cookies."

"I don't feel like it tonight. Maybe I'll make some next week."

"Are you going to cook us any dinner?"

"Nah. Not tonight. Make yourself a box of macaroni and cheese. Make two boxes so I can have one too."

"A whole box?"

"I told you all I was hungry since I had the kid."

"I thought you were supposed to cook."

"Look, I've only been here two days. I gotta get used to everything. I can't just come in and start cooking and cleaning. Jeez. You know what it's like to ride a train for three days straight? I bet you don't."

"I've never been on a train."

"Well see, that's why you don't know. So let me rest and you go ahead and open up that Hi-C and make the macaroni and cheese."

After we ate, Tammy announced that she was getting out of the house.

"It's dark," I said, "and you don't have a car. Where are you going to go?"

"I don't need no car. I just want to see the sights."

"There aren't any sights. Just houses and woods. And it's dark."

"Your dad took me up to the quickie mart and I seen a bar across the street. I'm gonna check it out. I need to meet some friends."

"You're supposed to baby-sit me."

"You're almost twelve. You don't need no babysitter. Go play with yourself while I'm gone. I won't be more than two or three hours. Keep the door locked and don't let nobody in."

I started reading Anne of Green Gables while Tammy was gone, and just as she said, she rang the doorbell two or three hours later.

"See," she said, "I told you, you'd be fine."

I wondered why I had even let her back in.

I didn't tell my mother because I didn't want to be a pain in the ass. She was gone most of the time anyway. She came home from mysterious meetings with the Hungarian and his associates in the city, long after I'd gone to bed. When I got up early for school my parents would be in bed. I'd get home around four in the afternoon to find Tammy on the couch in front of the TV (we did have one old sofa in the den). I'd make myself a snack and hide in my room imagining that I was a spirited orphan on Prince Edward Island wearing dresses with puffed sleeves. Once it got dark, Tammy'd leave again on foot for Mr. Rips, where she'd sit and drink for a couple hours. She told me she was making a lot of friends.

About a week later I missed the bus. I walked down the street and Francine and her younger brother weren't there. I saw the yellow end of the bus turning up the hill and out of our neighborhood, too far away for the driver to see me even if I ran. I'd never make it. I couldn't wake my parents up and make them drive me to school. They'd be furious. They'd gotten in late again and were tired. My mother had specified that I was not to be a pain in the ass and a kid who misses the bus seemed to me like a pain in the ass. We weren't doing anything in school anyway. The teachers barely noticed me in class. The kids at my new school ignored me and at lunch I sat alone with a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips until band practice where I struggled to figure out how to play my clarinet. It seemed like I was the only one who couldn't catch up and my fingers were too small to cover the holes on the stupid thing anyway. It wouldn't matter if I missed a day, so I walked back home.

"What are you doing back?" Tammy asked.

"There's no school today. School's canceled."

"How come?"

"There was a flood."

"Oh, ok. Well I'm going back to bed."

I watched TV until my parents woke up around eleven.

"Why are you home?" my mother inquired.

I told her about the flood.

"I see. Ok."

Tammy shuffled into the kitchen where we were.

"You all working today?" she asked my mother.


"Can you take me shopping? I need to get some new clothes. It's getting cold and I don't have no shoes."

"I don't have a lot of money right now, so I can't get you a lot. Don't be expecting anything fancy. I spent all my money trying to get this one in school clothes."

"I don't need no money from you. I just need you to take me."

My mother took her to Bradlees, which was a discount department store popular in the Northeast back then. It was a lot like a crappy Target, but where we did most of our shopping.

"Ok, just get a couple things," my mom said, "Then once the deal comes through we can go shopping again."

"I told you, I don't need any money. Now be quiet and come on," Tammy said.

She spied a pink sweatshirt.

"You think this would look good on me?" she asked.

"Sure," my mother replied.

Tammy ripped the tag off with her teeth and stuffed the sweatshirt down the front of her leggings. She continued this way through the aisles, stopping, considering sweat pants and acrylic sweaters, even a few pairs of socks. In the shoe section she hid behind the racks, discarded her old flip flops and exchanged them for a pair of black lace ups.

"You want anything?" she asked my mother, who proceeded to point out a pair of stirrup pants and a beige angora pull over. Tammy rolled them up and hid them under her bosom.

That was it, I thought. We were all going to prison. We were going to get arrested and then the police would find out that I had lied about school being closed and they would put me in a juvenile detention center. Everything my biological father had said about me was true. I was a criminal exactly like my mother and when I got arrested right along with her he'd know he made the right decision in disowning me. I started to cry.

"What in the hell is wrong with you?" my mother asked, "Stop crying. You're drawing attention to us. Be quiet."

"This is against the law!" I rasped, "We're going to go to jail. Make her stop. Make her stop this right now."

My mother dragged me out of the store before anyone heard with Tammy complaining that she wasn't done. A clerk stopped and asked if we had found everything ok.

"Yes, we were just looking," my mother said.

In the car I began to sob.

"What ails her?" Tammy asked.

"Stop crying. We don't have any money and Tammy needed clothes. It's getting cold. You want her to freeze?"

"But stealing is wrong! You're going to go to jail again and then I won't have anywhere to live."

"I didn't steal anything, Tammy did and look, everything is fine. No one got arrested."

"But stealing is against the law!!! Stealing is wrong."

"Stealing from people is wrong," my mother replied.

"Stealing from a big store doesn't hurt nobody," Tammy added.

"Look," my mother said, "When the deal comes through nobody'll steal anything, ok? We'll all have money and we'll go shopping and pay for everything. Does that make you happy?"

When we got home my stepfather was waiting.

"The school called," he said, "They wanted to know why she was absent today."

My mother looked at me, puzzled.

He continued.

"I told them she wasn't there because of the flood and they informed me that there was no flood."

"Yes there was," I said.

"Who told you there was a flood?" my mother asked.

"Francine," I lied.

"She did? So if I call Francine's mother right now, she'll tell me that she kept Francine home today because of a flood? Because I'm calling her. Call information and get Francine's mother's number," my mother directed my stepfather.

"What's her last name?" he said.

"Did you lie about school being closed today?" my mother asked.

I looked down at the floor.

"I'm going to ask you one more time. Did you lie to me about school being closed?"

"Yes," I said and then erupted into a hysteria of sobs and snot.

"You're sitting in the car throwing a fit at me and Tammy for shoplifting, when we were just doing what we had to do and all the while you were lying about school being closed? You got some nerve. You. Are. Just. Like. Your. Father. Devious, just like him."

My parents instructed Tammy to pick me up and shut me in my room while they decided on a punishment, but I fought her, twisting and flailing in her arms, making myself a dad weight so that she had to drag me.

"NO! I am NOT going to my room. You don't even know anything, none of you! You don't know what she does every single night and I HATE HER!! Tammy walks to Mr. Rips and leaves me alone every single night!!!!!!"

"What?" my mother asked, "Tammy, you go to Mr. Rips that bar up the street?"

"I do not. Don't listen to her. You already seen she's a liar. She lies all the time. She don't like me and she'd just being a brat. She need an ass whipping."

"I'll show you an ass whipping you pig!!"

And with that I kicked Tammy's shins as hard as I could and stomped on her stolen, new shoes trying to scuff and ruin them. I tore at her new, pink sweatshirt, trying to rip it so she couldn't wear it because stealing was wrong and she didn't deserve to have anything if she shoplifted. It took all three of them to get me to my room and then I locked them out and tried to push the screens out of the window so I could climb down the drainpipe and escape. I'd hitchhike down the New Jersey Turnpike back to Millpond where I'd live with Mommom Jewel. The screens though, wouldn't pop loose from the window frames, so I was stuck. My next option was to call the 700 Club and ask for Jesus to save me from all of this.

To be continued...


BluHipo said...

Oh wow, you poor child.

Wide Lawns said...

Well that was a particularly bad day during a particularly bad time, but we all got through it. Sometimes when I look back it doesn't seem like it was that bad until I start writing it and reliving it and in recreating these events I suddenly realize - Jeez, this is so messed up. I can't believe I'm not crazier.

Modern Philodoxos said...

im convinced my life would be empty without this blog.

i played clarinet too. or tried.

Michelle said...

Oh dear GOD.

Dayna said...

LOL!!! The 700 Club.

Carolyn said...

I expect your Mother tells this as one of your funny childhood stories,,,,sigh
p.s. clarinet was my jr high band choice also

Mary said...

I'm realizing you and your mother are close, so she must have somehow become a better parent. Lord knows how much work on all of your parts that took.

Christi Lee said...

Woe. That Tammy was a piece of work. It's really hard to write about stuff like that. =( I do look forward to reading you everyday, sorry you had to go through so much to give us joy. I can't seem to write anything at the moment. I am having one of those bad times. My fiance dumped me four months before our wedding =O! It will be YEARS before I can type that shit out.

*hugs you*

Thanks again.

Also my WV is poroject. Ha! Like poor reject. Awesomeness.

Joy said...

This confirms my theory. Horribly misunderstood and mistreated Princess WL. I knew I was right.

Albany Jane said...

You, go! Wooo WL!

Missicat said...

Oy. How horrible it must have been if you even considered calling the 700 club!
I played clarinet in Jr High too!

Fancy Schmancy said...

Wow, I thought my childhood was f'd up. I almost peed my pants when I saw shoplifting at Bradlees. I stole a mascara from Bradless when I was 13 and they walked me through the freakin' store in cuffs and shoved me in the back of a police car and brought me down to the station to teach me a lesson. It worked.

JoeinVegas said...

Wow, another cliff hanger. I can see the title of the next installment "Saved by the 700 club"

MtnMama said...

My dear, I feel your pain. And when I read this last bit, and your comment, I thought "I can't believe I'm not crazier, too."

It is remarkable, really, that some of us turn out NOT to be batshit crazy. (of course, maybe I'm giving myself too much credit...)

UmmFarouq said...

Clarinet, right here, grades 6-7. When I was able to play "Ice Castles" I thought I was a pro. Now I can't remember how to read music.

Miss Ally said...

You're a braver (wo)man than I am gungadin!

A promise was extracted out of me not to write more family stories until after a few more funerals.

It's the crazy that keeps us sane!

Best Wishes,

Rich said...

I am more disturbed by your mother's actions re: the shoplifting than I am about Tammy's. You must have had to go through some soul searching at some point in your life to forgive her. Obviously you learned the difference between right and wrong somewhere; I'm just not sure where.

Shannon Culver said...

Unbelievable. I keep checking back and hoping for Part 4. I can't believe you escaped (relatively) unscathed. Having to play the clarinet at all is enough to emotionally scar a prepubescent. That, along with being left alone with Tammy is too much to bear!

Renee in Seattle said...

Hurry up, I want to get to the part where Pat Buchanan arrives to rescue you....

Melanie said...

And I thought I had an interesting childhood.......

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