warning--F bomb, S word
Little did Penny know that within ten seconds after walking into her apartment with her new baby, the man she loved would show his passion for his male best friend; her priest would announce he'd left the priesthood and pined for her; her father would show his true colors; her best friend's band members would witness a huge reveal; her mother would show some balls; her mother would ask her father for a divorce; she'd tell her father off; she would reveal the identity of her baby's father; she'd reveal who was named the father on the birth certificate; and that she was in love with her gay best friend.
It was October, 1970. This is how it happened.
“Thomas,” Father Duncan said. “You can call me that now.”
Penny’s jaw dropped. “Uh…” She looked at Randy, then Andrew, then Una. They all looked at her, gaping.
He wasn’t wearing his priest’s vestment. What was going on here?
“Um. Everyone, this is Father Duncan.”
“Thomas,” he said, shaking their hands.
“Thomas”. How did she never know his first name? She’d just given birth to his baby.
“And my parents, Sharon and Luke Mitchell.” Everyone shook hands. “Where’s Abbie?”
“Oh, she’s at her aunt’s.”
“Why didn’t you bring her?” Penny felt a tear run down her cheek.
Sharon looked at her husband. “Well, he…we thought she was better off not coming here. Uh, the hospital probably wouldn’t allow children to visit.”
“But she could have stayed at the store with my boss ‘til I brought Rocco home. Or in the waiting area with a nurse.” Penny pursed her lips. “Never mind.”
“What kind of a name is ‘Rocco’?” Luke asked.
“Oh, Lucas,” Sharon said. “It’s her choice,” she whispered.
“Yes, it is,” Randy said.
Luke glared at him.
Penny looked at Randy, Andrew, Una, who was cradling Rocco, and her parents, who loomed over her as if they thought she’d drop him. Randy took the baby from Una, making sweet-sounding noises she’d never heard come out of his mouth. And there had been many sounds she’d heard him make.
“Do you guys want to come to see our flat?” Andrew said.
Penny glared at him. “I’m sure they have to get back to the bank and the church,” Penny said.
“No, I left the church, Penny.” Father Duncan pulled himself up straight. He reminded her of someone.
“Jake is supposed to come over later,” Randy said. “To discuss the next tour.”
“Oh, great,” Penny said. “A full house.” No rest for the weary.
“Sorry, darling. We’d scheduled this for a while. We had no idea Rocco would surprise us early.”
“It’s okay,” Penny said.
“Who’s Jake?” Luke asked.
“Our manager,” Andrew said.
“Ah, I see,” Sharon said. “Do you like him?”
“He does his job, Mom. The band’s gotten really far because of him.”
Sharon nodded. “Okay. Are you feeling all right now, dear?”
She was never truly inquisitive. Small talk. That was it. If you pursued a discussion, it would circle back to the weather or last week at church. She didn’t really wonder if her daughter was okay. “Yes, Mom. I’m fine.”
“Your mother went right back to cleaning and cooking in no time after having you girls,” Luke said to Penny.
“That’s great, Dad.”
“There’s something we’d like to discuss, Penny. It will be better someplace besides the hospital.” Luke put his hands on his hips. “Father Duncan, er, Thomas, would like to make you a proposal, Penny.”
She looked at her father, unsure she wanted him to finish his thought. He was nodding and smiling from ear to ear as if he’d just won the lottery jackpot.
Thomas probably had located an adoption agency and a family who’d paid him handsomely. Perhaps the reason for the lack of vestment. “What?”
“Honey, Thomas is a layperson now.”
“Oh, shit,” Randy said, gasping, looking at Andrew.
“I’d gathered as much,” Penny said. She paused. “I miss Abbie. I’ll make plans to have her visit some time. Maybe Aunt Mildred can bring her down.” Why should her mother have a monopoly on changing the subject in avoidance?
“’Visit’? But Penny, you’ll come home with us, won’t you?” Sharon asked.
“No fucking way,” Randy said, still rocking the baby.
“What’s that now?” Luke asked.
“You heard me, man. Look, it’s fine if you want to stop by and see our place. But just remember, it’s our place. Penny
lives there. Rocco will as well.”
“Cool it, man,” Andrew said quietly, grabbing his hand.
“Why is he touching you like that?” Luke asked. “What the hell’s going on here, anyway?”
Why hadn’t Penny inherited her father’s keen sense of people? Maybe she had. He’d picked up on Andrew’s desire immediately, where it took Randy years.
“Please keep your voices down,” said the nurse as she returned to the room to take Penny’s vitals. “Penny needs calm, as do our other mothers. There are too many of you here. Would everyone but the father please wait in our family area? It’s just down…”
“I’m staying put,” said Luke. “She’s not shutting me out anymore!”
“Luke, please,” Sharon said. “Let’s just go wait…” She took his arm and he pulled it away.
They both walked out, Andrew and Una following.
Randy stayed, glaring at Thomas. “Well? She did say only the father can stay.” He paused, staring at Thomas, who appeared as though he was going to speak but did not. “Get out, man. Get out.”
Thomas walked out quietly, slowly, looking as though he wasn’t certain about leaving the room.
Penny was unsure about everything. Perhaps she should wait until she was completely awake and fresh to think. She’d just given birth. The nurse was right; she needed to rest her mind and body. One thing was certain: She was not happy her parents visited, but if she’d thought about it, she would have expected that they would want to meet their grandchild. But she never anticipated Father Duncan’s visit, not at all. What was his agenda? It would be self-serving, for sure, and not necessarily a benefit to her.
There was no way he knew he was the father, was there? She had not told anyone. Had they figured things out since she had not ever dated anyone? It was strange that her parents stopped asking her about the father after a while. At this moment, none of that mattered. She’d have to deal with whatever her parents and Father Duncan wanted.
The nurse took Penny’s temperature and blood pressure. “Penny, everything looks great. You and the baby are free to go home if you’d like,” she said. “As soon as the doctor comes in and clears you.”
Penny nodded. The sooner the better, she thought. All she wanted was to curl up on the sofa listening to Randy tune his Dobro, cursing it, Andrew running behind them picking up the clothing and trash they trailed behind them. She could picture him running in with a cloth to wipe Rocco’s drool.
The doctor came into the room. “You look great, Penny. You did a wonderful job. Would you like to bring Rocco home?”
“Absolutely, doctor, please and thank you.”
Randy opened the door for her. She walked in first, everyone else tailing behind her.
“Let me help you to the sofa. Can I get you anything?” Randy asked her.
Penny shook her head. “No. I just want to get this visit over with,” she told him quietly.
“You sure? Let me get you some cold water.” He walked into the kitchen and returned with a glass.
Everyone was silent for a few minutes as she sat down on the sofa, clutching Rocco, flanked by Andrew and Randy, like they were her bodyguards. Luke and Sharon sat across from them. Penny looked at everyone, feeling like a one-person-band on
stage. All eyes were on her, but she didn’t have a setlist.
Andrew got up suddenly. “I’m famished,” he said. “I’m sure you are as well, Penny.” He walked into the kitchen. Thomas trailed him every step, asking him all sorts of questions that Andrew did not answer. Just like her first night.
“Would tuna fish sandwiches be all right with everyone?” Andrew asked, sticking his head into the living room.
“Sure,” Sharon said. “Thank you, honey.”
Penny began breastfeeding, her father getting up.
“What the hell is wrong with you? You come to Greenwich Village and you start acting like a derelict hippie. Hanging around musicians, doing what you please. Unwed mother…”
Randy got up and walked over to him, placing a hand gently against Luke’s chest. “If you can’t respect our home and be gentile, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” he said calmly.
Luke scoffed and walked away. “Where’s your bathroom?” Andrew walked toward him and pointed.
“I’m so sorry, dear,” Sharon said to Penny. “He doesn’t…”
“You don’t need to apologize for him, Mom. It’s about time you stopped doing that. He’s an asshole and he always has been.”
“Penny!” Sharon said, rising to her feet.
Andrew brought over a tray of sandwiches and glasses of milk and juice. Penny got up and walked away, nearly knocking into him.
Thomas sat in a chair apart from everyone, not sure what to do with his hands, shifting in his seat.
“This is my life now, Mama. I can’t believe you guys still don’t see that.”
“They see it. They just don’t want to believe it,” Randy said, plopping back down on the sofa.
Luke exited the bathroom, and Penny could smell alcohol on his breath. She saw her mother’s eyes widen. Her parents sat back down and started eating the sandwiches.
Penny handed the baby to Randy and took a glass of milk. “Thank you, Andrew. This is very sweet.”
Luke cleared his throat. “Too much mayonnaise. And what the hell’s with this brown bread?”
Penny noticed her mother flinch and pull slightly away from her father.
“So, what was it you wanted to discuss with Penny?” Randy asked. “Hurry up so we can get our meeting with Jake underway.” He glanced at the wall clock. “They’ll be here any minute.”
Just then there was a knock on the door.
Andrew answered it. “Come on in and join the fun,” Andrew said to Jake quietly, taking his coat.
“Who are all these people? Where are the rest of the band?” Jake asked.
“Right here,” said Ozzie, with Norm and Ray right behind him.
“Hello, gents,” Andrew said. “I hope you like the show.”
“What the fuck’s going on?” Ozzie asked as he walked in.
“Hey!” shouted Luke.
“Will you guys up there shut the fuck up, ever?” the downstairs neighbor screamed, pounding her ceiling with what sounded like a broomstick.
“Have a seat, gentlemen. Our meeting will commence soon. Don’t worry.” Randy’s hands were trembling as he got up to help with the men’s coats. He draped them over a chair, but they fell. He walked away. “What’s on tap first, mates? Song list?”
“I brought my latest songs,” Ozzie said, tentatively placing a folder on the coffee table and stepping away quickly, as though he’d just seen a snake in the grass.
“We can have a look.” He glanced at Luke, who flashed a mean expression. “Or not,” he added quietly.
“In front of all these people?”
“Yes. What you’ve got to say to Penny you can say among us. We’re all friends here.” Randy folded his arms.
“And they’re all guys. Have you become some sort of whore?”
“Hey, hey, man, watch your mouth,” Ray said, stepping forward, toward Luke.
Randy placed a hand near Ray. “I’ve got this.”
“Who the hell do you think you are, nig…” Luke stared at Ray.
“Lucas!” Sharon warned.
“Whoa, whoa, man! This is my home. You respect my friends and don’t bring your racist bullshit…”
“Don’t let him get your goat,” Andrew said, squeezing Randy’s shoulder.
“Don’t let him get your goat,” Luke mimicked in a false British accent. “A bit touchy feely. Are you a fruit?”
“Now, wait…” Randy started.
Andrew pulled him back, waving at Luke, laughing. “You’re the adult here.”
Ozzie and Norm looked at one another, and Jake shook his head, lighting a cigarette.
“Excuse me, shouldn’t you be standing guard at Buckingham Palace, or dancing on Broadway?” Luke asked Andrew.
“What?” Andrew looked around the room. “That doesn’t even make sense, man.”
Penny couldn’t believe all this. It was horrible. All she wanted to do was cuddle in bed with her new baby and watch some mindless television. The soap opera in front of her rivaled any on the tube, but it was too real for her and made her sick. Her parents’ visit was eliciting ill feelings in her, not good memories. If they’d only brought Abigail with them. She’s the one she wanted to see, to
hug, to spend time with. Abigail would relax her, make her happy. She wanted nothing more than to relive those moments when they sat together alone, listening to music and chatting. Their vast age difference never mattered. Her sister was her only real friend until she met Randy, Andrew, and Una.
Randy could help her feel better too, but it was business as usual for him these days. Meetings, setlists, practices, tour planning, recordings, interviews. Since she hadn’t toured with him, she’d barely seen him. Not to mention that she was still unsure he’d had the heart-to-heart with Andrew about their feelings. Randy would be busy for a while. She needed friends now, not impulsive, pushy parents and someone whose intentions she could not trust.
“Put that cigarette out, Jake. And Dad, shut the hell up.”
Ozzie handed Jake a plate and he extinguished his cigarette. Everyone else stared at her.
“All right!” shouted Norm, clapping. Then everyone looked at him as well.
“Young lady…” Luke formed fists and started getting up.
“Sit down, Lucas,” Sharon said, pushing him back down. She coiled her arm around his, not in a loving fashion but in an apparent effort to confine him. Penny smiled.
Randy brushed his hair back. “Mister Mitchell, say your piece please, and leave our premises. We’re busy people.”
Thomas stood up. “Maybe this isn’t the right time.”
“Gee, you think?” Ozzie whispered.
“Sit down and shut up!” Randy said to Thomas, who sat down quickly.
“What the hell, man?” Norm asked, grabbing a sandwich.
Jake tapped his watch. “We have a scheduled meeting, folks. Can we get on with whatever this silliness is, please?” He looked at Penny. “Did you make coffee?”
“Make it yourself!” She scoffed, clutching Rocco and walking into the kitchen.
“Get back here, young lady,” Luke shouted, getting up and bumping into the coffee table.
“That’s enough!” Andrew said. “And you’re going to spill the drinks.”
“It’s okay. I’m here,” Penny said, returning to the living room. What a circus, she thought, rivaling the acrobats, bubble people, poets, and musicians in Washington Square Park. “Tell me, Dad. Hurry up. I have to put Rocco down.”
“Why'd you give him a ginzo name?” Luke asked.
Just then, he began to cry.
“Shhhh,” Penny said.
“Here, let me take him,” Randy said, holding Rocco close, rocking him.
“You disgust me,” Luke told him.
Randy smirked at him. “You were saying?”
Luke rose to his feet, adjusting his sweater. He cleared his throat and motioned Thomas over. “Well, here’s the plan. It’s what’s best for you.” He put his arm around Thomas and looked at Sharon, who was nodding, smiling. “I think you know this man here has always cared for you. He’s always been there…”
Randy snickered. “Oh, yeah.”
“Excuse me, hippie musician. I have the floor now,” Luke said with a screech. “As I was saying, this man has a great deal of respect for you.”
Randy giggled; Luke gave him a mean stare.
“Thomas left the priesthood for you. He really cares about you, Penny, and your well-being.” Luke cleared his throat, beginning to stumble, falling to the sofa and pushing himself back up. “He would like to help you raise the child,” her father said.
“And he wants to marry you.”
“Oh, really?" Randy looked incredulous. "Is it time for honesty,
then?" He slid his arm into Andrew's and reached up to give the tall gent a huge kiss.”
“Oh, my goodness,” Sharon shrieked. She sighed. “Lucas, I want a divorce.”
“Oh, I'm about to outdo all of you,” Penny announced. “This man who now calls himself Thomas happens to be Rocco's biological father. Randy is named the father on Rocco's birth certificate. And I'm in love with Randy.”
“What?” Randy looked at Andrew.
“You're all insane!” Luke shouted.
“Better than being an alcoholic, impulsive, hateful, racist dumbass,” Sharon replied.
“Fuckin’ A!” yelled Norm. "And they call us drummers weird.”
“What’s weird is that I never get any rest with you guys up there always shouting! I’m calling the police!” screamed the downstairs neighbor.
But no one cared.
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