My name is Ben Anderson and I’ve always wanted to be a father. My wife’s name is Lisa, and after a few years of trying we finally got lucky. Our soon-to-be-born baby is due this month. Lisa wants the gender to be a secret and that’s fine by me. Just the thought of being a father makes me the happiest sap on God’s green earth.
I work at Wilson’s Lumber Mill, but it’s not my final resting place. Oh no sir...I have big plans to open my own pet shop down the road. I want to give my wife and child a life that they can be proud of. It won’t be easy but sometimes you have to crawl through a river of muck before you come out clean on the other side. At least that’s what my mom always used to say.
I’m on my lunch break, and instead of eating some processed food, I decide to go to Lisa’s favorite store, Babies R Us. Roaming the aisles, I come across a cute little teddy bear. My eyes dart back and forth between the blue one and the pink one. Ugh...boy or girl? That’s the burning question, and it pierces my internal thoughts like a lightning strike on a stormy night.
Then like a smack in the face I have a Homer Simpson moment. D’oh!! The solution was clear as day. I’ll buy both bears, I can always return the one I don’t need later. Yippie Yay! I’m a genius. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner. D’oh!
With both bears in hand, I rush over to the checkout line and pay a hard earned sixty dollars on them. Jeez, I hope these things are stuffed with gold inside for that price. Not wanting to be late for work, I jump into my 98’ Ford pickup and slam my foot down on the gas pedal. God, I feel so proud, this must be what all soon-to-be father’s feel like.
As I pull into my parking spot at the mill, I hide the gift bag underneath my seat. My coworkers are all hard-working guys but when it comes to being honest, they're like a pack of wild dogs in a thief’s den. I just don’t trust them not to steal this precious gift.
Stacking lumber is not a fun job. If it wasn’t for these leather gloves my hands would be full of splinters and feel like sandpaper. My hands are silky smooth, and I plan to keep them that way. Lisa just loves my soft touch. I look over at Big Jim who has worked here for thirty-five years, he looks miserable. Hell...he is miserable. He’s a constant reminder to get my ass moving or I’ll end up just like him.
The afternoon shift drags on for what feels like forever, but I hear the whistle bell ring and my shift comes to an end. I run to the locker room to get my things and I hear some of the guys talking about going out for a beer. I’ve never been much of a drinker, so I double time it and rush out of there before they have a chance to ask me to go with them.
When I get out to my truck I check under my seat to make sure my gift is still there - and it is. As usual in Pasadena, Maryland, my drive home is bogged down by bumper to bumper traffic. I ferociously flick the air conditioning button on and off, but it’s busted. So, I roll down the window and wipe the beads of sweat from my forehead.
I hammer down on the horn and yell, “Come on already! Let’s go!”
After about forty minutes of baking in my truck, I finally make it home. As I pull into the driveway I’m greeted by a living breathing tornado. I see Lisa throwing my clothes out the front door.
“Lisa!” I say running over to her. “What’s going on?”
Lisa’s eyes are burning with anger. “She took them from me!”
My eyebrows snap together as I ask, “Who took what?”
Lisa holds up my white boxer shorts and throws them down on the grass. Then she starts rubbing them into the ground with her right foot.
She gives me a devilish lopsided grin and says, “Your sister stole my record collection!”
My mouth fell open. “Carol would never steal from you! Why are you throwing my stuff out like this?”
Lisa points her finger at me and shakes it with purpose. “She’s your sister, so it’s your fault. I blame you for this! Those records have been in my family for generations!”
“I’ll get to the bottom of this!” I say.
I walk into the house and call Carol. I listen as she tells me that she doesn’t know what I’m talking about and that she’s been at work all day. Lisa watches me very closely. She observes every twitch in my body and analyzes every spoken word.
I hang up the phone and turn to look at Lisa. I hold my hands up in a calming motion. “She says she didn’t take them. She was at work all day.”
Lisa’s face turns to a crimson red and she starts screaming at me. “She’s a liar! I know she took them. She knows those records are worth a lot of money and she plans to sell them!”
I shake my head no and reply, “Baby...she said she didn’t take them.”
“And you believe her over me? I knew you would, how typical!” she yells.
I feel my face go blank. “What do you want me to do?”
Lisa clenches her jaw and says, “I want you to get those records back to me!”
“Ok, ok, I’ll go over to her house later and look for them,” I say. I suddenly remember my special gift for our baby and my face brightens. “I do have some good news to tell you about. I stopped by that store you like today, and I picked out the cutest bear for our little one.”
Lisa scrunches her face and scowls at me. “I don’t fucking care what you got. I want my records back!” Her voice somehow grows louder. “If you don’t get those back to me, I swear I’ll make you sorry!”
My smile fades as I hang my head low. I say nothing, I’m completely speechless. Lisa is always quick to anger, and she often does things to spite me. I’ve never seen her like this before. I love her with all my heart, and I’ve learned to swallow my pride in moments like this. Lisa storms back into the house and slams the door in my face. The nosey neighbors watch with judgmental eyes as I gather up all my clothes from the front lawn.
I don’t think I’ve ever been this embarrassed. I feel like a tiny ant beneath her sneakers.
When I go back into the house, I find that Lisa has locked herself in the bedroom. I can hear her crying and I knew I had to do something, or she may never talk to me again. I burst out of the house like a superhero ready to save the day. I get back into my truck and drive off into the night to my sister’s house.
When I get there, Carol is gone. Luckily, I know where the spare key is - hidden in a plastic rock by the door. Any crook with half a brain could figure that out. I let myself in, and quickly search the entire house. I can’t find any signs of the missing records. Feeling depressed, I drive back home. I try to check on Lisa, but the bedroom door is still locked.
There’s nothing like sleeping on the couch. That’s what I’ve been reduced to.
The next morning Lisa emerges from the bedroom and starts fixing breakfast. I wake up to the smell of bacon and pancakes. I stare in amazement at the sudden change in Lisa’s behavior. She starts dancing around the kitchen singing her favorite songs.
“Pull up a seat dear! Breakfast is ready,” she says.
I sit down and help myself to a big stack of pancakes. Lisa sits down across from me and nibbles on a piece of bacon. The room is filled with an awkward silence. Feeling uncomfortable, I try to lighten up the mood and decide to talk about the baby.
“The day is coming soon honey. Are you excited?” I ask.
Lisa rolls her eyes. “Sure, there’s nothing like the pain of giving birth.”
“Lisa please don’t talk like that. You know how hard we tried to have this baby. I’m so happy - it’s all I can think about. I’ve always wanted to be a father.”
Lisa takes a deep breath and slowly exhales. “Yes...I know... we’ve tried for two years and suddenly out of the blue, you get lucky,” she says, forcing a smile.
I didn’t know that I was so aggravating.
“Listen Lisa... about those records-”
“Did you find them?” she asks, interrupting me.
I slowly shake my head no. Then a strange thought enters my mind. “Is it possible that someone else stole them? I mean you never lock the doors.”
I notice anger thick like maple syrup creeping down Lisa’s face. She rises and overturns the table in a fit of rage. The food splatters all over the floor in a loud crash. She runs over to the kitchen counter and starts throwing glass plates at me. I do my best to duck and weave out of the way as the plates shatter against the walls. With tears in my eyes, I grab my keys and run out the front door. With trembling hands and a heavy heart, I head off to work. Where else am I going to go? I’ll give her some time to cool off.
There’s always some madness to love, but what is the appropriate response to insanity?
Over the next two weeks, Lisa’s mood swings become worse. Everyday a new argument over her stolen records blasts me in the face. I even offer to buy them all back, but Lisa won’t go for it. We even went down to the police station to fill out an official police report. I’m sure that nothing will ever come from it. I personally go door to door and question each neighbor. To my surprise no one saw anything out of the ordinary that day.
Slowly over time I feel my spirit break from Lisa’s mental abuse. It’s not just what she says, it’s how she says it. The wounds cut deep into my soul making me feel worthless.
I spend all my time working at the mill just to get away from her. I still look at Big Jim, only this time I fear that I’m becoming just like him. At night I’m confined to sleeping on the couch. I succumb to the loneliness of isolation. The arguments are replaced by a morbid silence that would scare the Devil himself.
I have one thing, and one thing alone that keeps me going - my unborn child. Being a father gives me hope for a better future away from this madness.
A week later while working a double shift at the mill, I receive a phone call from Mrs. Jones - one of my neighbors. She tells me that Lisa has been taken to the hospital. Her water broke, and the baby was on the way. I start panicking like an idiot - inhaling and exhaling deep breaths of air. My heartbeat pounds in my chest like booming thunder from the Heavens. I start sweating profusely as I run towards my truck. With tires screeching, I race over to the hospital as fast as I can.
As I pull into the hospital parking lot, I spring from my truck with the gift bag of teddy bears in hand. I head over to the entrance and I’m greeted by a police officer.
“Excuse me sir, are you Ben Anderson?” he asked.
I ruffle my forehead and reply, “Yes I am, my wife is having our baby. Is there a problem?”
The police officer gives me a weary smile and says, “I’m afraid there is a problem sir. It seems that your wife has pressed charges against you for assault and battery.”
My heart falls into an empty void. “What? I never touched her!”
“Yeah, well I’ve heard it all before, and she has the bruises to prove it.” he says.
The next thing I know I’m being handcuffed and placed under arrest. The gift bag of teddy bears falls to the pavement as the cop slams the car door.
Despite my best protests there’s nothing I can do. The reality hits home as I hear the jail door slam shut in front of me. I sit down on the open cot and start to cry. This is a low blow even for her. I can’t believe what’s happening. She lied on purpose to make me miss the birth of my child! How could she do this to me? She knows how badly I wanted to be a father! My consciousness screams in horror as my worst nightmare comes true.
Three days later I’m released from jail. As I step out into the humid air, the bright light stabs my eyes like sharp daggers. My only thought is to get home. I hail a taxi, and the ride home feels surreal. When I arrive home the place looks empty from the outside. I pay the driver and run into the house.
Everything is gone.
Lisa is gone.
My baby is GONE!
I fall to my knees and scream. I just scream. Suddenly I feel a soft hand on my shoulder. It is Mrs. Jones, my next-door neighbor.
“I know what she did to you Ben,” she says.
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything.
“I know how she took advantage of you. I always knew that girl was no good.”
I dig down deep to find the words I need to say. “Wh-where did they go? D-do you know?”
Mrs. Jones reaches down to put her arms around me. “All I know is that I overheard her, and some strange man say they were going to be late crossing the state line if they didn’t hurry.”
“Did they have a baby with them?” I ask, grabbing her arm.
“Yes, they did. I saw a beautiful baby boy wrapped in a blue blanket. They sped away like a bat out hell, and the only thing I could see was a bunch of records piled up in the back window.”
I stood up and ran out the door screaming. She took everything away from me. It only took her one month to change everything in my life.
There’s not much left of me emotionally, but I swear I would give what’s left of me away to see my son.
I’m only hanging by a small thread of hope, but that will have to do for the upcoming fight. I’ll have to hire a good lawyer.
Lisa, I’m coming for you…
Daniel R. Hayes