Baby Huey: A Cautionary Tale of Addiction

BOOK: Baby Huey: A Cautionary Tale of Addiction
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Chapter 1

I didn’t hate his guts, I just wished aliens would abduct him. Doreen brought him along when we got married five years ago. I’d hoped she drop him off somewhere, let someone else take care of him. An aunt, uncle, cousin, friend,
somebody
, would’ve taken him in if she’d said, “Hey, I got a new man in my life--watch my brat, would ya?”

Doreen and I would visit him every other leap year; of course, I’d sit in the car, blow the horn after an hour or so. “See ya in eight years. Don’t call us because we don’t have caller ID. Bye-bye!”

A Saturday morning in Little Rock, Lewis stood a few feet away as I waxed my car, a ’89 Cadillac Brougham, gray, not a dent in it, a long scratch on the left side where Lewis had rammed his bike, “an accident,” he told his mother. I wanted to
accident
ally whoop his butt. Chubby, Doreen insisted, but at four-feet, 120 pounds, Lewis was in fact fat. Ate too much. Even now he was eating a homemade ice cream cone. Boys his age were playing touch football down the street.

“Lewis, why don’t you go play with those kids down there?”

He didn’t even look that way. “Naw, Mama said not to go nowhere. We’re going somewhere to look at a house.”

I’d forgotten about that. “You don’t wanna go?”

A long lick of the cone. “Nope.”

“You can stay here.”
Raid the fridge
. “I’ll tell your mother you don’t want to go.”

“Lewis,” Doreen called from inside our second-floor apartment. “Lewis!”

Without hesitation Lewis ran upstairs. Imagine that, he wasn’t hard of hearing. I could be sitting next to him, shout his name, and he’d act like he didn’t hear me.

No audience I went back to waxing my car. I finished, then sprayed Armorall on the tires but didn’t wipe it off. Looked better that way. Under a hot August sun that baby shined, the Cadillac emblem and the grill sparkling like a mirror. Mine, all mine, paid in full.

In a short-sleeve silk salmon-colored jacket, matching skirt and sandals, a silver chain choker around her neck, Doreen stepped out onto the balcony. Oiled, or fresh out of the shower, her earth-colored skin glistened. Slim and trim, a bang of her short light-brown hair covering the right eye, she looked stunning standing there.

“We were going to look at houses, remember?” she said, looking at my clothes, T-shirt, jeans, and old sneakers. “Are you ready?”

“I’m ready.”

Her lips did that little twist, like she was working a lemon, which told me to go change.

Going past her I caught a whiff of her perfume, Obsession. “Give me a second, will ya? I’ma take a shower.”

Another twist of the lips. Lewis was sitting on the couch watching cartoons when I headed for the bathroom, but not there when I came out wearing the same jeans, a clean white shirt and brown loafers.

He and Doreen were sitting in the Caddy, she in front, Lewis in back.

I asked the obvious, “We’re taking my car?”

“If you don’t mind,” Doreen said. “Mine’s filthy.”

Getting behind the wheel I wondered had she forgotten I told her I didn’t want Lewis inside my car ever again, under no circumstances.

Not two blocks away I saw an ice cream cone in the rearview mirror.

“What is he doing back there, Doreen?”

She turned and said, “Nothing, just sitting there.”

“The ice cream, Doreen? That’s his second one already. I just spent two hours cleaning…” If she didn’t get it by now it wasn’t worth explaining.

Doreen sighed, as if I was being unreasonable. “Lewis, would you please be careful and don’t mess up
his
car.”

I didn’t like that, didn’t like that at all, but was trying to cool down. “A better idea, tell him to throw it out.” I looked again and saw large drops of vanilla ice cream streaming down the cone onto Lewis’ hand. “Now, Doreen!”

“Lewis, baby, hurry up and eat it, would you please?”

Lewis, in the rearview, ice cream all over his mouth, was smiling. That did it. I veered to the curb and jammed the brakes. Neither of us wearing seatbelts we lunged forward, Lewis almost coming over the front seat, Doreen stiff-arming the dashboard to avoid hitting the windshield. Though my chest hit the steering wheel hard, and Doreen was screaming at me while Lewis was crying, I noticed one thing: the cone was stuck on the windshield. I grabbed it and threw it out.

“What is your problem?” Doreen shouted, spittle flying. “What is your damn problem?” Blood filled the cracks in her teeth.

“I told you to make him throw the ice cream out. You didn’t, so I did it myself.”

“Are you crazy? You’re a twenty-five-year-old man; he’s an eight-year-old child. Not your child, but he’s a child. I would’ve gotten it…you didn’t have to try to kill us!”

In response I steered the car back into traffic.

Doreen spit a bloody glob out the window. “Let me out! Let me out this piece of shit! I mean it!”

I kept driving, and then Doreen opened the door.

“Stop this car, John, or I’m jumping out!” Opening the door even wider, she said, “Stop, the car, John!”

We were going down Chicot Street, cars parked on the right, just waiting to take that door off. I stopped.

“C’mon, Lewis,” she said, getting out, and Lewis, a mama’s boy, got out too.

“Doreen, get back in the car.”

Lewis in tow trying to keep up, Doreen walked away. At a crawl I drove alongside, begging her to get back in the car. She turned and headed in the opposite direction. A car horn beeped so I sped up and drove around the block.

When I got back there was no sight of Doreen or Lewis.
Damn!
After an hour of driving around looking for them I gave up, figured they’d gone back to the apartment.

They weren’t there.

I made a hundred trips out to the balcony, looking up and down the street. No sign of Doreen or Lewis. Her Camry was still parked in one of the two spaces allotted to us. The sun started to sink a little after seven, and that’s when I got worried. Pissed, not thinking, Doreen got in a car with the wrong person. A psycho. A pervert.

Downstairs, heading to the Caddy, I noticed that Doreen’s car was gone, just that fast. Wasn’t ten minutes ago I looked out. Well, she was safe, still pissed but safe. Back inside the apartment I sat in the dark waiting for the phone to ring. It didn’t, not once in three hours.

* * * * *

Dokes was jet-black, but every piece of furniture in his apartment was white, snow white. On opposing walls in the living room were velvet paintings of a polar bear and a white Siberian tiger. Plastic covered the couch and ottoman, but not the loveseat; Dokes didn’t allow anyone to sit on that.

Lying on a workout bench situated where most people put a dining table, Dokes, wearing only blue Spandex shorts, lifted weights, a white towel on the floor to catch his sweat.

“What have you done now?” Dokes asked, lifting what looked to me two hundred pounds.

“Nothing.”

“You didn’t come over here this late for nothing. You did something.”

His apartment was less than two blocks from mine, but already I was regretting the walk over.

“This time of night you lifting weights? You expecting somebody come over and arm wrestle?”

Dokes said, “Exercise the body, relax the mind,” and did ten reps.

In other words, I’m horny with no options.

Dokes wasn’t a bad catch: short, muscular, not handsome but not ugly; and he made good money working at UPS, drove a new Lincoln Continental, also white. Yet he rarely dated, if ever.

A crack about that was on my tongue, but I figured he’d shoot back something about Doreen. Maybe Dokes was in the closet.

“Doreen didn’t let you out this time of night,” Dokes said, bringing the bar down with a clang and sitting up. “What you do?”

Aw hell, might as well tell him. “That boy of hers, man, Derrick? But for him we wouldn’t have so many problems.” I moved to rest my shoes on the white coffee table, but Dokes gave me a look. I told him about the ice cream cone. “Spoiled, man, spoiled rotten.”

“He’s what, nine, ten? A kid, he shouldn’t be that big a problem.”

“He’s eight, and believe me, he’s a
big
problem.”

“You the man,” Dokes said. “You shouldn’t even have to raise your voice to a kid. Nine of us, me and my brothers and sisters, and not once our stepfather had to raise his voice. You know why?”

“A club foot?”

“Lonnie, my step-father, was a man. He waxed our ass when we needed it, but he also supported us in every way, emotionally and financially. Man worked three jobs, yet he found the time to help us with our homework, attend extracurricular activities.”

“That was then, Dokes, this is now. I even look at Lewis like I was going to hit him, Doreen would be all over me. The one time I started to whoop him--he doodled ink in that old Cutlass I used to have--Doreen went ballistic, told me if I ever laid a hand on him, she’d kill me. Serious too, a look on her face I’d never seen before. ‘I’ll kill you!’”

“I’m guessing here, but his biological daddy…If he’s dropping salt on you while he has the kid, that makes your job that much harder. What kind of dude is he, his true father?”

“Hell if I know. Doreen don’t talk about him. Won’t even reveal his name. Ask her about him, she says, ‘That’s not open for discussion,’ and changes the subject. I’m thinking the guy in a mental ward or something. Probably fat and sweaty, too.”

Dokes shook his head. “I doubt that. Doreen, uh-uh, fine as cat hair, college-educated, I can’t see her with a loser.” He laughed and said, “Correction, I can’t see her with two losers in a row.”

Hearing that made me forget what I was about to say.

“Just joking, dude,” Dokes said. “The look on your face, you bothered she’s college educated, makes more money than you do?”

“That don’t bother me, man. What the hell you talking about?”

What am I doing?
Seeking advice from a guy who probably donned white gloves to jerk off. Dokes didn’t even have a girlfriend--what the hell he know about marriage?

“Respect,” Dokes said. “Try that. Kid sees you respect him, he’ll start doing what you tell him.”

“It ain’t about respect, Dokes. It’s about him being a spoiled brat. You see how fat he’s getting? Doreen rewards him with food. Clean his room, that’s a bag of cookies. Take a bath without being told, that’s a gallon of chocolate milk. If he goes the week without getting into any trouble at school, bring home a few C’s and B’s, Doreen lets him eat whatever he wants and stay up all night.

“Friday night it’s salsa and Doritos, the big hefty bag, the one for a family of sixteen. Wouldn’t be a problem if I held up in the bedroom, but Doreen usually rents a movie, PG mostly, and insists we watch as a family. ‘Crunch, crackle, snort’--that’s Lewis sitting in front of the TV. He’ll take one chip out the bag, drown it in salsa, look at it like he’s never seen one before, and then ‘Crunch, crackle, snort,’ all during the movie. I can’t even hear myself think with all that damn racket going on.

“Then, it never fails, around one in the morning, Doreen jumps out the bed and runs into his room. He’s in there hollering, ‘Mama, Mama, Mama!’ She brings him to our bed. ‘His stomach hurts,’ she says, and he plops his big butt right between us. Might as well forget about sleep now. His belly percolating, cutting wind on both ends, got the room smelling like a tsunami. One time I said, ‘That Jethro bowl of salsa and super-size bag of Doritos, Doreen, you don’t think that might be the problem, do you?’ and she threw a fit, kicked me out the bed. The next day--”

Dokes raised both hands. “Whoa, dude, you’re killing me here. Let me ask you something. If he were yours, your biological son, would his breathing bother you?”

“What?”

“You heard me?”

“You’re not the first to preach that sermon, Dokes. Doreen’s told me a thousand times, ‘You accept me, you gotta accept my kid.’ Kid was three-years-old when I met her, didn’t seem a problem. Who knew in a few years he’d morph into a dyspeptic pig.”

“Simple, then. Tell her. Tell her you can’t deal with her kid. You thought you could at first, now you can’t.”

“The hell you talking about? I tell Doreen that she’s out the door.”

“Then deal with it.”

I realized why I’d never seen Dokes with a woman: masturbation had addled his brain.

“Thanks for the advice, Dokes.” I stood up. “Better get on back.”

Dokes chuckled. “Say something you don’t like, you get to stepping.” He followed me out the door. “Just remembered something. The other day, over at SouthFirst Bank, I saw an opening for a vault teller. You oughta apply for it. Forgot what the pay is, but I’m sure it’s more than what you making at the mill. Plus the opportunity to move up.”

Laughter came from the gated pool several yards in front of Dokes’ apartment.

“Nah,” I said. “I’m comfortable where I’m at.”

“When Lincoln freed the slaves a buncha them stayed put, said they’d rather stay with Massa. I guess they were comfortable, too. You going to work wearing a suit and tie, Doreen wouldn’t know how to act. Bet it’ll take your attention off your step-son, too.”

BOOK: Baby Huey: A Cautionary Tale of Addiction
9.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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