A glass of crazy, p.4
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.4

           Tina Laningham
 
"Start packing," Mom said as if she commanded an entire nation of fourteen year-olds. For the second morning in a row, the Queen of Control stood in the doorway.

  I jerked the red Chinese comforter aside. "Obviously I'm the only one who has to have perfect manners at all times."

  "We're evacuating," she said with her chin up. "The movers have arrived." Her face looked hard like a statue, even on the third day of knowing Dad had a girlfriend. Another award-winning performance by the family's best actress.

  I scratched my head and tried to wake up enough to think. This wasn't my first evacuation. I knew the drill. First, we pack the car. Then the movers haul the rugs and furniture up to the second floor. Since most of our stuff came from exotic places we had visited around the world, it wasn't easy to replace. The first time we evacuated, Mom had made this perfectly clear. I mean perfectly. That was four years ago, but the hurricane veered off to the east, which put us on the clean side, so nothing actually happened. It's the dirty side of the hurricane you have to worry about. But right now, I needed to worry about packing.

  I grabbed my biggest suitcase, remembering from my last experience I would only get to take one. Mom would have five or six suitcases and boxes full of expensive sculptures and artwork she didn't dare leave behind. "What if the roof gets ripped off the house?" she had said. I thought about the story I had written in Mr. Oliver's English class and how badly we needed a good hurricane. That way, the gossipy island inhabitants would have to focus on their own problems and everyone would forget about mine.

  I threw some T-shirts and shorts in the suitcase, but saved most of the room for things I didn't want to lose just in case the roof actually did get ripped off the house. At first I grabbed the basketball I always played with in the driveway, but it was easily replaceable. I needed to focus on things that couldn't be replaced like my other basketball covered with signatures by Houston Pistols that Dad got for me at some fancy fundraiser. He had come home that night in a tuxedo, spinning the ball on the tip of his finger and said, "Sugar dumpling, I brought you a little souvenir from the party." I vaguely remember Mom rolling her eyes and moping upstairs, but I'll never forget the basketball came with two courtside tickets to a playoff game and it was the single most exciting game I'd ever seen in my life. I grabbed the DVD of that game and threw it in the suitcase too. Not only did the Pistols win, the video showed Dad and me sitting right on the court next to the players.

  Outside the window, reporters chased the men Mom had hired to move everything upstairs and they scattered like a school of fish when danger approaches. I turned on the T.V. to find out what was happening in the front yard, but all the stations had radar maps and meteorologists reporting on Hurricane Ike. Since the last hurricane turned away just before landfall, the mayor of Galveston said he was waiting to call a mandatory evacuation until Ike got closer. Rarely did I ever agree with Mom, but this was one of those times when she was right. We needed to leave early to beat the rush. Honestly though, that wasn't my real reason. I just wanted to leave.

  I flipped through the channels until I found a local station reporting live from my front yard. I guess I could've gone downstairs to find out what was going on, but I might've ended up on the news and that was the last thing I needed today. The reporters had a translator and talked to the men who were now cornered up against the house by a line of TV cameras. Apparently, the movers Mom had hired didn't have any papers to prove they could legally work in the United States. Normally, this wasn't news in Texas since just about every house on the street had undocumented workers, plus Dad always said if all the undocumented workers in Texas were deported, the state's economy would collapse. Still, Mom was in control of Dad's public image and that's why we never hired undocumented workers.

  "Ohmygod," I screamed, running down the hallway. "What are you doing?" When I burst through the door to her bedroom, Mom peered through the drapes at the actual scene as it unfolded in the front yard. But that wasn't the weird part. She was smiling. Not an I'm-so-happy-it's-a-sunny-day kind of smile that would've made sense in La-La Land. More like a cold smirk. My head fumed. "Stop getting Dad in more trouble just because you're mad!"

  Mom closed the drapes slowly. "Abby, dear." She had that don't-you-understand expression on her face. "I'm simply taking the attention away from your father's affair. By the time they finish reporting on this, the affair will be old news and they won't go back to it."

  Queen Doreen was still in control.

  I let out a sigh. "We are going to Dad's apartment, right?"

  "We have no choice," Mom said. "Every hotel in the state was booked the minute they announced the hurricane."

  Finally, I'd get to see Dad and actually talk to him, hug him, maybe even start laughing again. It could be a little weird at first, but since Mom was incapable of feeling anything, she would forgive him and our dysfunctional family could go back to normal.

  After the undocumented movers finished their job and the media had reported the new scandal on Dad, I stuffed the last bag that could possibly fit into the Mercedes. Mom and I slipped out the back alley and got on the highway that led to Austin. Traffic was thick, but nothing compared to the road jams that would come in the next day or two, even after they opened all the contra lanes. Like I said, this wasn't my first evacuation.

  A text bleeped from my phone:

  Rafa: At school now. Where r u???

  Abby: Evacuating to dad's apt in austin

  Rafa: Is he there?

  Abby: Bro, we only have two places

  Rafa: with the kat woman???

  I squinted at Mom. "Dad's at the apartment, right?"

  A chilled silence hung in the air and when Mom finally spoke, her voice was low as if someone could possibly overhear our conversation in the car. "Your father's hiding out in Mexico like a common criminal." Her voice dropped lower. "A criminal on the lam." A tinge of anger had seeped out and I was so distracted by her teensy display of emotion that it took a minute for her words to actually sink in.

  "Dad's been in Mexico all this time and you didn't even bother to tell me?"

  "It was for your own good, dear."

  "Ohmygod, knowing the truth would be easier than decoding silence. Am I the only one who gets that?" Since no other words were spoken all the way to Austin, I decoded her silence. Clearly the answer was "yes."

  The apartment felt different when we stepped inside. Coming to our "other place" was usually fun, but this time, fun was not the feeling in the room. Everything looked the same-the worn brown leather sofa, the English barley twist desk, the floor to ceiling bookshelves. Yes, Mom had chosen Harvard Law Library d?cor, even though Dad had wanted more of a University of Texas Longhorn theme since that was where he actually went to law school. But Queen Doreen had been in charge, at least that's what she thought.

  Something crunched under my foot and I bent down to pick it up. The large, silver hoop earring definitely didn't belong to Mom. I don't know about Mom, but I suddenly felt like an intruder and I wanted to leave because this was probably where Dad and Kat spent most of their time. I stared blankly at Mom. "What if this was their home? Not ours-theirs."

  Mom had no comment.

  Some scribbled words on a page in a book that lay open on the desk caught my eye. It was definitely Dad's handwriting. I picked up the book and read what Dad had written: What other people think of me is none of my business and what I think of them is none of their business. The cover said Alcoholics Anonymous, which was totally weird because Dad didn't even drink. In fact, he was the most health conscious person I knew. The bizarre book probably belonged to the Kat creature.

  "Why does Dad have this?" I held up the book.

  "Because your father's a drunk." She said it as if it needed no further explanation.

  "But he doesn't drink."

  All of a sudden, Mom looked defeated. "I suppose you're old enough to know," she said, collapsing in a chair. "I realized your father was an alcoholic right after you were
born and I made him stop drinking. He struggled with it for a few years until he went to AA and then he finally stopped."

  All I could do was stare. It wasn't what Mom had said, but how she had said it. For the first time, she actually sounded like a real person, but then, as if suddenly remembering she wasn't, Mom sat up straight and tucked her skirt under her legs. "I think you were four."

  I opened the book to another place where Dad had written something and read it aloud. "Be careful what you wish. You just might get it." I looked at Mom. "He says that all the time."

  "I know you think your father's the wisest man in the world, but it's time you learned the truth." Her tone turned bitter. "All the words of wisdom he imparts on you are just things he hears other drunks say in those AA meetings."

  "But it's good he stopped drinking, right?"

  She waved me off like an annoying fly. "Your father traded one addiction for another. When he gave up drinking, he took up chasing women."

  My mind started reeling until something clicked into place. Things were beginning to make sense, like Mom's non-reaction to the news that Dad was cheating on her. She'd been through this before. Maybe she was already over it-way over it.

  I took the AA book to my room and flipped through the pages, stopping at a place where Dad had written: All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players.

  "No joke," I muttered.

  Next to Dad's scribbled Shakespeare quote, he had underlined words that described the typical alcoholic like self-centered and ego-centric. At the bottom of the page, he wrote, delusions of grandeur. I never thought of him that way, but obviously there were a lot of things about Dad I didn't know. Maybe it seemed like he had a big ego when he was trying to be funny, but delusions of grandeur sounded kind of psychotic.

  When I heard The Yellow Rose of Texas chiming on Mom's phone, I cracked the bedroom door to hear what she was saying.

  "I did it for your own good, like I've always done." Mom closed my door, but I could hear her voice rising. "In Texas, illegal workers are a lot less scandalous than infidelity!"

  Ohmygod. Our masks and costumes were off. We weren't acting anymore and underneath those masks, it was ugly.

  "Tell her yourself," Mom shouted. "I'm tired of doing your dirty work."

  Mom opened the door and handed the phone to me. I could hardly breathe.

  "Dad?" I said meekly into the phone.

  "Hey, sweetie pie." Normally it sounded like he meant it, but this time it sounded forced.

  "Where are you?" I already knew, but couldn't think of anything else to say.

  "We're in Mexico, baby cakes." Dad giggled and I couldn't figure out what was so funny until he said, "Stop it, baby. I'm talkin' to my little girl."

  At that moment, the distance between us wasn't geographical; our hearts were millions of miles apart. At least his was. Somehow, I managed to stay calm and asked, "Where in Mexico?" which was not the question I really wanted to ask.

  "A little town called San Miguel. You're gonna love it."

  "Well, when are you coming back?"

  "When things cool off up there." I had to listen to more giggling before Dad finally said, "We love it here."

  My tone turned indignant. "Who is 'we?'"

  "Kat," he said happily. "You're gonna love her."

  I seriously doubted that.

  "Listen, baby." His voice got serious. "Your Mom and I, well, we haven't been happy for a long, long time, but things are gonna get better now." After a dramatic pause, he finally said it. "We're getting a divorce."

  His words hung in the air like the clang of a cathedral bell, but when Dad giggled again, everything stopped. Dads weren't supposed to let their kids hear them giggle with a girlfriend, especially one that looked like Kat. It was totally against the rules. For the first time in my life, I hung up on Dad.

  My mind went all fuzzy but one thing became clear: Mom and I were no longer in Dad's inner circle. His world revolved around Kat now, whoever she was. Maybe the book was right. Maybe Dad was self-centered. Perhaps Mom had seen it all along, but I was too busy hating Mom to notice.

  I never thought I'd say it, but at that point, I wanted to go back to La-La Land. My life had shifted from a well scripted, well rehearsed family movie to the sleaziest reality show ever. Even the multi-colored radar map on TV seemed unimportant because the hurricane about to slam Galveston Island felt less scary than the flood of truth pouring out of my parents.

  - 5 -

 
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