My Internet ConfessionbyDarcyLansdowne©
Authors Note: You do not have to be familiar with "The Middle" to follow this story. For those of you who are fans of "The Middle" I think you'll find it entertaining – I tried to capture Frankie's voice and make the whole thing as plausible as possible.
This is a character driven story and takes time to build.
MY INTERNET CONFESSION
Out here in the middle, there is no middle anymore; it's all just winners and losers... I guess what I'm trying to say is, hey, I'm only human.
CHAPTER ONE: FRANKIE'S LAMENT
Okay, so this is like my confession, my internet confession, 'cause after everything that's happened I feel like I gotta confess to somebody. I could go to a priest, but then I'd have to get dressed up, and do down to the church and all that, you know... effort. This way I can tell my story without leaving home, or even putting on pants. Actually I'm completely naked right now, so try and keep that in mind while you're thinking about giving me absolution – which you're gonna do, right?
I guess I could blame it all on the damn economy. That's what I always used to do, blame everyone and everything but myself. The truth is that I had been carelessly skating on very thin ice for a long time, trying to ignore that it was getting thinner and thinner every year, (the economy is the ice get it), and one day I just dropped right through into the cold, black waters beneath.
Okay, for those of you who don't really care about how I got into to such a jamb, and how bad things got between me and my husband, you can just skip down to Chapter Two when things start moving...forward, that is to say, when I really start to get in way over my head – in the cold, black waters – see above.
For those of you who like poverty and domestic strife, you could read on just for fun.
To save money, Brick's school cut out the free buses, and forced me into a carpool horror that really pushed me beyond my limits. One day, running late as usual, with a car full of stressing children, I tried to squeeze past a garbage truck. I ended up denting my side mirrors and scraping the sides of both my car and the truck. Worse, I almost ran down one of the startled garbage men, and then just kept on driving even though I could hear them yelling at me. That was a big mistake; morally wrong, and also, illegal, but I figured who cares about a scratch on some dirty old garbage truck, right? Of course I didn't tell Mike the truth; I told him someone did it to me in a parking lot. I couldn't tell him the truth, not on top of the other bad news I had been sitting on.
That was Wednesday; on Tuesday Dr Goodwin told me that he wouldn't be needing me on Mondays and Fridays for the foreseeable future. It came as a real shock, although I should have seen it coming. I don't know why I thought I would be a good dental assistant, ya, like it was a lack of skills or training that had been keeping me down all my life, and not my basic laziness, forgetfulness and poor attention to detail. I admit it, I was a lazy bum, but I put that down to poor diet, bad sleeping habits, lack of exercise, and being generally bored and disappointed with my life.
Anyway, I did my dental assistant job the same way I did everything else – half assed. I was usually late, forgot simple things, took long breaks, stole office and bathroom supplies, and was stuck on the phone or running out the door to take care of some family emergency every second day. But I had figured Dr Goodwin was just a dumb hillbilly sap that I could take advantage of forever. It was like somehow I figured I was the only trained dental assistant in Orson.
That was another big mistake; that makes two so far if you're counting. The first one was about the garbage truck, in case I've lost you already.
In the New Year a spunky little tramp came sniffing around the office. She was a Noblesville's girl who had gone out to California to be a movie star, but ended up a dental assistant, and had come back home to reconnect with her roots – or so she said. Unfortunately she had legitimate credentials and references, was full of energy, and was just as cute as a button. I used to be the cute, petite one, but at four-eleven, the little dickens was three inches shorter than me, and at thirty, was fifteen years younger, and she clearly had her eyes on my job. Dr Goodwin was quick to hire her as a temp for emergencies since, "Frankie has a lot of emergencies." Jerk.
Right away she started coming in, without pay, to "learn the ropes" so that she would be ready if called upon. She quickly charmed all the clients, found countless flaws in the way I was doing things, and in less than a week, had Dr Goodwin head over heels in love with her. She made me look like a bumbling, dumpy old witch. Of course she didn't have three kids and a husband to take care of, but no one was going to cut me any slack over that. Of course the love-sick doc couldn't just flat out fire me; he needed some good reasons, but if he had been keeping any kind of notes, he'd have a hockey sock full of my little indiscretions and misdemeanors. If he hadn't, he now had little miss hot pants around to point them out.
I tried to up my game, but even my A-game isn't much to brag about. Losing those two days meant she was all the way in the door now, and would soon own the whole place, which meant I would be in the street on my half-assed kiester. I had hinted about the approaching disaster to Mike, but he wasn't paying attention to me as usual, he had troubles of his own at the quarry where they were squeezing hours and increasing workloads to make up for the mistakes made by those fat cats on Wall Street.
It looked like the day of reckoning had finally arrived for the Hecks. We had deeked, dodged, and wormed our way out of one mess after another, but we no longer had any wiggle room left, none. We had started out okay, a couple of under-achieving kids out of high school with no plans, no worries and no ambition. Times were good, and we had the example of our less than inspiring parents to go on. They hadn't had much in the way of smarts, drive or guile, and they had done just fine. That was the American Dream the way we understood it – everyone was entitled to a comfortable, middle-class living without really bringing anything to the table.
Hang on, you don't really want to hear all this. Look if you really want to know how I got my ass in a sling I'll add like an appendix or index or whatever it's called, at the end. So let me just skip forward to now. Hell, this part is putting me to sleep, and it's my life.
Wow my fingers are tired, no, not from that, from deleting all the boring stuff I wrote.
Okay, let me lay it out for you; with my full-time job at the dental clinic, and my student loans in deferment, we were just about breaking even. I still alternated paying the utilities, which meant we were always a month behind on something, and there was little money for any kind of extras, and no reserve for emergencies or mistakes, and let me tell you, around us, there were always emergencies and mistakes. So even with Mike doing humiliating deliveries for Little Betty Bakery three nights a week, we still had nothing to show, and that was while living a hard, boring life. The worst part was that there were no savings, and no prospects of things ever getting better.
No hope. When that finally sunk in to us, it really put a raw edge on everything. We had run out of humor, pluck and, it was beginning to seem, even love.
Losing those two days' work meant losing five hundred and fifty dollars a month. If we couldn't make that up with new work, we would have to start missing payments on all our essential bills, and actually face the prospect of winding up on the street. This was no joke; it had happened to better people than us in the past few years.
I finally told him on Thursday night. (It gets more interesting from here on in, I promise.)
He was furious. There had been fights before, but never in my life had I seen him so mad, or heard him swear so much. For the first time in my life I thought he might actually hit me; it felt like, for the first time in his life, he really... wanted to hit me. It turned out there had been a lot of pent-up anger and resentment locked behind his quiet demeanor. He blamed me, he really, truly, blamed... me for not being able to hold down a decent job after we had spent so much on my schooling, which he had never been in favor of in the first place. He had a lot to say about my laziness and general lack of usefulness. I argued and cried and pleaded to no avail. That was a little unnerving; the tears had always worked for me in the past.
"So then you're off tomorrow?" it was more of an accusation than a question, like I had screwed up just to get a day off.
"So then you're up at the crack of dawn and your ass is out on the street looking for work."
"Yes of course."
"No dogging it, no lying around. We can't afford to lose even a day's pay, do you understand that Frankie?"
"Yes I get it Mike, I screwed up; I have to be punished," I replied peevishly.
"No you don't get it. It's not a game damn it! You have to try harder; you've got to work harder. Damn it, just when we start to get our shit together you go and fuck it up again!"
It went on and on like that until he had to go to Little Bettys. I slept on the couch, and he didn't even bother to wake me when he got in.
The next morning he shouted "Rise and shine Frankie!" and slammed the door on his way out.
Of course I hadn't slept well with all of the tension and the lumpy couch and all, so after I got the kids off to school, I lay down just for a few minutes. Then the phone rang; I looked at my watch and saw that it was already ten-thirty, and I almost answered it out of habit, but then hesitated and let it go to the voice mail.
It was Mike; "Frankie, you better not be there Frankie. You hear me, get your ass out of the house and find a God damned job!"
So I schlepped around by bus though the snow and cold, and embarrassed myself in front of the whole dental community by begging for a job where I knew there wasn't one, and broadcasting to everyone that I was on the verge of being fired. I told Mike that it was a bad idea to do that, but he wouldn't listen, and I have to admit, that by this time I was a little afraid of him. At the end of the day I put my sorry ass on the bus, and when I dragged it through the door Mike was waiting.
"Get a job?" he asked angrily.
"No, and hello to you too," I snarked back at him.
"I got another delivery job; that makes four nights a week that I have to put on that stupid ice cream jacket and drive that stupid, fucking, fagot truck. I'm a grown man for Christ sake."
"Well excuse me for living. There's nothing out there in the dental field; I went everywhere and practically pleaded for a job."
"And so you're quitting now?"
"What? Everything is closed."
"Not the mall. Keep your coat on."
"What about supper? I haven't even eaten."
"Ya I bet Frankie, let's go."
He was right of course; I had spent my last few dollars on coffee and donuts. So he dragged me like a child to the mall and then stood outside of each store to make sure that I applied, and filled out all the stupid forms that they were just going to throw out anyway. No one wanted me, I was too old and frumpy, and I'm sure I looked like shit. It was humiliating; I could hardly keep from crying through the whole thing, but that wasn't the end of it. After I had gone through all of the stores he made me do the same at all the fast food places in the food court. I had to stand there, in front of all those people in the food court, people who knew me, people who were patients at the dental office, and get brushed off by teenagers while Mike hovered behind like a prison guard.
For the first time in my life I hated him. Not just a flash of silly anger, but a deep hatred. Oh, I knew it would pass, but not for a while. He could see the hate in my eyes and he didn't seem to care at all.
Back in the car he said, "If you don't get a job by Monday night we're selling your car. That'll save us least a hundred and fifty a month."
"Not my car!"
"No choice Frankie."
I slept on the couch again that night. Saturday, Mike took me to all the sad stores downtown, and then out to every hotel and motel within bus range. Nothing, nothing, nothing. At one point I balked and refused to do it, and he bodily dragged me into the lobby of the Eden Rest motel. That was the first time I ever really felt the difference between my five-foot-two and his six-foot-three; physically I was helpless against him. He took me home and then headed off to work. I went to bed and sobbed myself to sleep. That night he slept on the couch, and when I got up he just walked past me and lay down in bed and stayed there for the rest of the day.
I thought my humiliation was over, but it was only a reprieve. We didn't say a word to each other before he went off to work Sunday night. The anger had burned out and I was beginning to reach the point where I was ready to begin the long reconciliation process, with all the tears (on my part) and compromise (mostly on his part), and then the coming together. I was trying to put those vibes out there but I was getting nothing back. I slept on the couch and he passed me by again without a word. For hours I struggled about whether or not I should go to him, but in the end I didn't. On his way out Monday morning he said; "There are still all the offices in town Frankie. Hit them all, and not on the phone – in person."
The hell with him I thought, I wasn't going to take the damn bus downtown and go begging through offices. I didn't get up until noon, ignored Mike when he called, but then lost my nerve and slunk out around two just so I wouldn't be home when he came in. When I got home the rest of the family were in the living room eating out of cans. "Find a job?" Mike asked.
"Did you put the car up for sale?"
"No. I was busy, when was I supposed to do that?"
"I thought so. Doesn't matter, I did it." He said and slapped the paper down on the table. "Five hundred dollars, take no less, absolutely no less, than four hundred."
Then he went to bed, and again it was left to me to decide whether to slink back to him and crawl into bed and admit defeat, or keep the feud going. In the end I caved and slipped into bed a little after midnight. No reaction from him. After a while I tentatively snuggled up to him.
"Don't," He growled.
I stomped out and went back to the couch. I tossed and turned and worried about everything, and then worried that all the worrying was keeping me awake when I had to go to work in the morning.
Mike made sure I got up in time to actually catch the right bus, but then I had to hang around in the cold for twenty minutes waiting for Dr Goodwin to arrive and open up. I felt like death and probably looked like it too, but somehow I managed to drag myself through the day with no more than my usual screw-ups. Tuesday night was one of the few nights Mike didn't work, but he didn't stay home or even have supper with us; instead he went over to his brother's house, and he never goes over to his brother's house. I moped around for a while dreading a call by someone wanting to buy my car and then crashed into bed around nine. I was dead to the world and didn't even wake up when he came home, he slept on the couch anyways.
It's surprising what a good night's sleep will do, and I woke up pretty fresh Wednesday and even prettied myself up as much as I could with the cheap products I have. I got to work on time and was as perky as could be, and didn't screw up at all that day, but you know what, nobody noticed, least of all Dr Goodwin. I left miffed, and hurried home to try and make up with Mike, but he just brushed me off.
After that the life went out of me. I slept badly, was late for work the next day, and stumbled about like a zombie. I'm pretty sure that Dr Goodman would have fired me right then and there if I hadn't dashed out the door at the end of the day before he could talk to me.
It was a horrible weekend. Mike rebuffed every attempt to make up, no one showed any interest in my car, bills were coming due as the end of the month drew near, and Mike dragged me out to do another humiliating round of the stores. The future stretched out in front of me endlessly gray and depressing, relieved only by a nervousness sense of dread that it could all still get worse. Then Monday came and things took off in a whole new direction.
CHAPTER TWO: THE MAN WITH THE ANSWERS
(So for those of you who didn't really care about the details of how I got myself in such a fix, let me summarize ...oh hell, what for? You're smart people you can figure it out from here I'm sure)
Monday morning I dragged myself out of bed around eleven when Mike called to tell me to "get the hell out of bed and get a job." I sneered at the phone and bent down to pick up the mail. Bills; utilities, insurance, credit cards, store cards. I sat on the couch and cried for a while, and then curled up in a ball and went back to sleep. It took me a while to realize that someone was knocking on the door, not loudly, but patiently. Our doorbell hadn't worked for months.
"Shit," I said rolling off the couch. I ran my hands through my hair and shuffled to the door in my slippers. A pleasant looking, middle-aged man stood at the door wearing a new looking, dark ski jacket with the collar pulled up, and a Notre Dame Football cap on his head. He didn't look like a bill collector, too neat, or a cop, too friendly. He was average height for a man, so about six inches taller than me, but I was used to being smaller than everybody, so he didn't look threatening.
A blast of cold air hit me when I opened the door, another unseasonably cold day in mid-march. "Yes?" I said.
"I came to look at the car you have for sale," he said and smiled. He had nice blue eyes, white teeth, and a white, "Crusader" style beard and mustache closely trimmed.
"What? Oh yeah, sure," I replied. I was still foggy brained.
"So, can I look at it?" he asked in a slightly raspy voice.
"Sure, it's right there."
He smiled broader, looked at me closely, expectantly. "Are the keys in it?"
"Oh... No, please, just step in for a second; I'll get them and go out with you. Just wait sec, okay."
He stepped inside, "Sure, thanks," he said.
"Just a sec," I said as I rushed to the bedroom. I whipped off my pajamas bottoms and pulled on my jeans not bothering to put on panties. I stuffed my pajama top into my jeans, pulled on some mis- matched socks and headed for the door. He waited patiently while I pulled on my boots. "Hi, I'm Frankie," I said sticking out my hand.
He gave it a firm shake, "Tom Smith."
I threw on my ski jacket and we went outside where it was very cold and a mean wind was blowing. Despite the cold he took his time looking over the car, spending a long time studying the body where it was damaged. I found myself hopping from foot to foot and suddenly I had to pee. He got in and turned it on and let it run for a couple of minutes, then turned it off and got out. "Five hundred?" he asked.
I almost dropped the price before the negotiation began, but I caught myself. "Yep" I replied.
"Yes," I replied a little taken back.
"Just kidding,' he said and patted my shoulder in a friendly way. "Well," he said, "You have sustained some real damage. Both side mirrors are crushed and there are wicked scratches on both sides. What happened, did someone sideswipe you into another vehicle or something?"
'Yeah, really funny huh. No, I don't know what happened, it happened in a parking lot. I didn't even see what happened. I wasn't there," with a bit of effort I stopped myself from babbling on any further.