Kinder, Kirche, Kuche (Children, Church, Kitchen)

Part Three - Chapter One Hundred Seventy-Three

When we got back to our rooms, Robert carefully counted our leftover travel funds. Yes, we had the remainder of the Impala's price plus enough for whatever else we might need. There would be no need for Jimmy to exact the temporary "power of attorney" we had assigned him to send us any cash. There was no time for this, anyway. There was just enough time for Robert and I to pick up the car and sign over the rental car for its return to the airport later. Two days left.

I was sticky all over again and longed to take another shower. The resulting weather from the thunderstorm didn't make things any cooler. If anything, they were WORSE. I broiled in my clothes for a half-hour before giving up the ghost and taking a second shower.

"I'll do that tomorrow," Robert told me as I came out again, newly refreshed and rubbing one ear, then the other, with the towel I had used. His eyes softened affectionately, with that loving brilliance I adored. "Hey, babe - that looks good. Mind if I do the same?"

He rose and went into the bathroom, closing the door. I heard the shower go on. A comforting sound, somehow.
Still, it didn't alleviate my homesickness. I longed to go home to Harrisburg and could hardly wait.

We were going to pay a courtesy call in Crown Point in the morning, to introduce ourselves to the man and woman who would become Bobby's in-laws. Robert was against it, but I felt it was only right. I was tired of having my son referred to as a "cradle robber" and I wanted to see if we could decently get along.

I should have listened to my husband. Alice Michaelsen - Mary Jane's mother - was a timid field mouse who seemed to fear her husband. She deferred to him in every way and didn't interfere if he decided one or the other of the girls - or both together - needed the strap.

Eugene Michaelsen was a broad-chested, big-bellied bully who blustered, saying what he thought out of the top of his head, and was a study in fury whenever his ideas or pronouncements were challenged. His hand kept dropping to his belt as he talked, glaring at his two daughters across the room, as if silently daring them to open their mouths or give him a "smartmouth" look.

Mary Jane and her sister, Paula, were present, but they kept their hands in their laps and their eyes on those hands. Paula, especially, two years younger and three inches shorter than her sister, seemed terrified of her
paternal parent and I heard her gulp a few times, as her father described why and how he punished the girls for what he termed "misbehavior".

"I feel a few licks with the belt don't hurt the girls any," he expounded. "How much they get depends on how much resistance I get or what they did. Of course, this one - " A gesture toward Mary Jane, who turned a furious red from her neck to her temples. " - doesn't seem to comprehend the meaning of the word 'no'. I TOLD her not to go out with boys. I TOLD her not to cut school when she was supposed to be there. I TOLD her I wasn't going to accept her poor grades. I TOLD her to not wear that expensive piece of glass on her finger.Most of all, I TOLD her she was too young to go after that cradle-robbing - "

"Excuse me, Mr. Michaelsen," I tried to interrupt. "My son is NOT a 'cradle-robber'. He has been a perfect gentleman
through all this - "

Eugene paid no attention. " - and what does she do? She defies my wishes and does what she pleases. A college boy, and she only a high school sophomore at the time.
I didn't find out until it had been going on for quite awhile and then - "

"WHAT was going on?" Robert asked.

He too was ignored." - she said she hadn't been doing ANYTHING. Who can believe a lying little brat? Well, I gave her 'what for' and warned her not to see him again, ever. What does she do? The exact opposite. " Another look at his daughters. "Paula knows better than to disobey my wishes. Don't you, Paula?"

Paula uttered a strangled sob and her head dropped lower a few centimeters, but she gulped and nodded dumbly. I was reminded of a trick dog in the circus.

Eugene smiled benignly. "Which is why I don't have to use the strap on her so often. If they live under my roof, they have to do as I say as long as they are here - "

And so it went.

As soon as we felt it decently possible, we prepared to take our leave. I said pleasantly enough to Mary Jane, "Well, honey, we'll see you at Bobby's graduation, then."

"I don't know anything about that," Eugene put in.

Mary Jane lifted her head. Her polite expression didn't change, but the angry dislike in her eyes was so evident I could almost feel it. Even Robert could see it.

"Well, whyever not?" I asked the question to avoid Mary Jane getting a beating for protesting. I knew from Bobby that Eugene would take the protest at face value and construe it as "back talk" and "disobedience" - and beat her right in front of company.

"Well - " Another glance at Mary Jane, who got her anger under control and met her father's gaze levelly. " - she's been awfully lazy lately. I don't know if she deserves to go out - "

"Let's see how things go," I said neutrally. "We'll look for you, honey. It's in two days."

We took our leave. I was trembling and angry for that poor young girl we had left behind us.

Again, I felt an overwhelming desire to adopt her.

MaryJanine MaryJanine
61-65, F
Aug 28, 2014