A glass of crazy, p.20
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.20

           Tina Laningham
 
Mom never responded to my email or the five phone messages I left begging her to let me come home. Obviously Dad didn't want me either and that's why I was shocked to find his SUV in the driveway the next morning. When I went to the kitchen, he was leaning on the counter, watching Berta assemble mango and papaya crepes.

  "There's my girl." Dad opened his arms to give me a hug and even though my heart wasn't in it, I hugged him back. "Sorry 'bout yesterday," he said.

  At first I thought he meant the disastrous day at the spa, but then he said, "We met some friends for a quick drink, then business got in the way-you know how it is."

  I knew exactly how it was. "Dad," I said. "We need to talk."

  "We're headin' out to a ranch for some good ol' fashioned Texas barbeque. We can visit all day long."

  "Is Kat coming?"

  "Well of course she is, baby. Why wouldn't she?"

  "Then we won't have all day long to visit. We won't have any time to talk." I turned around to leave. "I may as well not even go."

  "Y'all are just jealous of each other," Dad said with a sly grin.

  Again, the creepy factor. "Dad, you're not in high school and we're not two girls fighting over you." My face felt hot. "I'm your child!"

  "Now listen here," he said. "If my little girl wants to spend her last vacation day with her Daddy, then that's what we're gonna do."

  "Okay, what does that mean exactly?"

  "Kat's been itchin' to go shoppin' in Mexico City and today's a good day for her to go." He strode out of the room like he meant business. I slowly shook my head. Dad had a lot of guts, but not when it came to the Kat.

  Berta made a sympathetic face, which made me feel more pathetic, if that was even possible. I forced a weak smile because I knew her heart was in the right place and sat down with a plate of crepes. They were way better than the mango and papaya crepes at the restaurant, mostly because the fruit tasted sweeter. Just as I was shoveling another bite in my mouth, Fandango bolted out the kitchen door and I heard the clickity-clack of the Kat's high heels coming toward the kitchen.

  Having my back to her was never a good idea, so I dropped my fork and spun around in the chair. Sure enough, those cat eyes were set on me and she came at me like a leopard closing in on its prey. I turned on the video camera and stood my phone on the table.

  The Kat stuck her finger in my face and said, "You ruin this for me and I'll git you a apple and a roadmap quick as a hiccup."

  She sounded like swap meet Mom, only Mom wasn't mean. I tried not to laugh, but totally failed. "Looks like Dad just gave you one."

  I was glad I waited to turn off the video camera until after Kat slammed the door. It was a fabulous finale for our little morning drama. Dad came in just as I was naming the video welcome to my life to send to Rafa later. Believe it or not, I actually missed the Perfect Family Show produced and directed by Mom, which got cancelled when the lead actor stopped showing up.

  Dad and I drove out of town on a winding road past twenty-foot cacti surrounded by lone mesquite trees. We turned on a dirt road and drove a good while before entering a gate with a sign overhead that read, Rancho de los Tejanos. I was still in shock that Dad had gotten rid of the Kat creature for a whole day.

  "These are good folks," Dad said. "Fine Texans."

  A crowd of people stood around swigging bottles of beer outside a house made of stone that blended in with the hills. Dad introduced me to the Tanners first, who owned the ranch. Mr. and Mrs. Tanner were nice enough and the brisket they served was awesome. I devoured it way too fast, probably because I hadn't had any melt-in-your-mouth brisket since Dad left home.

  "There's plenty here," Mrs. Tanner said, placing her hand on my shoulder. "Hep yourself."

  Dad winked at me and then proceeded to do the outdoor version of what Mom called "working the room." He shook hands with every person there, stopping to talk with each one as if they were the most important person at the barbeque. I wasn't sure if Dad was even a senator anymore, but he was still a politician. I filled another plate with brisket and found a table where no one was sitting. Eventually, Dad showed up with a bottle of beer.

  "You're not eating?" I asked.

  "I ate with some folks over there. You know how it is."

  I was totally getting Mom's side of the story. "Dad," I finally said, "Kat's not very nice to me."

  "Abby."

  "You don't know how she treats me when you're not around."

  Dad scanned the other tables to see if anyone was listening. "Let's go for a walk."

  We didn't have to walk far to get to the edge of a cliff with a panoramic view of the rolling hills. Dad sat on the ground with his legs crossed near the edge of the cliff and stared out into the distance. I sat right next to him.

  "Look Abby, I need you to try and get along with Kat."

  I froze. "Did you hear what I said about the way she treats me when you're not around?"

  "Think about how Kat feels," he said. "When you keep talkin' 'bout your mom or your mom and me like we're still married, it hurts her feelings."

  He was kidding, right?

  "Try to be more sensitive," he added.

  "My sensitivity's been on overload for so long that any minute now, I could implode."

  "Huh?" Dad said, furrowing his brows.

  "Parents should have to go through sensitivity training for their kids the minute they decide to get a divorce." I couldn't stop my voice from getting louder. "That should be the law. You're a lawmaker. Make it a law!"

  "Are you sayin' I've been insensitive?"

  "Dad, please. You're living in a castle with your new princess and servants, while Mom and I can barely buy food. Mom can't afford to take care of me anymore, but your princess can go on a major shopping spree in Mexico City?"

  "Look," he said in a tone I had never heard before, "your Mom got all the furniture and then sold it. I can't help it if she's too lazy to get a job."

  "She's not lazy; she's depressed because you dumped us."

  "Honey, your mother's been takin' anti-depressants and a bunch of other pills for ten years. I didn't cause it."

  Okay, this was news I needed to process. Finally I said, "Dad, I want to come live with you. It's bad at home. Really bad."

  By the long silence that followed, I knew the answer. The old Dad would have been stoked about having me, but the new Dad just sat there and shook his head. "Your Mama wanted custody, so I gave it to her. I can't change the court ruling."

  "Mom doesn't act like she wants me."

  "She's a hard woman to figure out, Abby. I know we kept a lot from you, but it was for your own protection. Your Mama's always been mentally ill."

  "Then why'd you let her have custody? Why didn't you fight for me?"

  "Because Kat likes kids, but she wants her own."

  "Ouch."

  Dad shrugged. "What am I supposed to do?"

  "Nothing. I totally get it. Kids are like sneakers. Out with the old, in with the new."

  "Hey," Dad said. "You're comin' right back here for Christmas."

  The seemingly endless panoramic view fueled my spinning thoughts. Mom wasn't the only mental case in the family-they were both nuts. I stopped to make sure I wasn't speaking in my out-loud voice because I had definitely lost my mind when I asked if I could live with Dad and the Kat creature. Craziness was probably genetic.

  After our lovely heart-to-heart talk, I couldn't stomach socializing, so I stayed at the cliff's edge while Dad went to the house for another beer. He never did come back, which was not surprising. I was fine with that because I needed a beer, too. I kept my distance from Dad and none of the strangers around me said anything when I picked up a beer and took a swig.

  About a six-pack later, Dad called my name and we drove back to his mucho grande casa as if nothing had happened and it was just another sunny day in Mexico.

  That night, I finally got an email from Mom saying she couldn't wait to see me at the airport tomorrow, which was a huge relief because
I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see her again.

  The next morning, I packed my clothes and went to the guest house to say goodbye to Gabby and her normal parents. Fandango sprang into my arms and licked my face while I squeezed him tight. Maybe walking under that ladder had given me a little luck since I never saw the Kat again for the rest of the visit. Dad drove me to the airport and we hardly spoke, which definitely meant I had over-stayed my welcome. I knew how it was.

  "See you at Christmas," was all he had said.

  On the flight home, there was no nun to talk to, just an old Mexican cowboy who didn't speak English, which was fine with me. After the stewardess escorted me off the plane and through customs, Mom stood waiting with a big grin and I wasn't sure what that was about, but it felt good to be back in La-La Land.

  "How was Thanksgiving?" Mom asked.

  I didn't even know where to begin and the thought of reliving it made me totally nauseous, so I just said, "Fine." She seemed okay with my answer, which probably meant she didn't really want to know.

  "What about you?" I asked. "Why didn't you call me back?"

  "I'm sorry, honey." Her hand rested on my shoulder. "I took a little vacation. No phone, no internet service."

  "Where?"

  "No place interesting."

  "Fine," I said. "Don't tell me anything. I'm used to it."

  "Abby."

  I waited for her to say more, but that was it. "Okay, so did anything happen while I was gone?" Like did we get a huge pile of money from someplace unexpected?

  Mom fished in her purse for her keys. "You were only gone a week."

  Ohmygod, it seemed like a year. I just hoped the curandera was for real and something good was about to happen.

  - 21 -

 
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