Friday, January 30, 2009

Car Jacker Picks Wrong Victim

Hero Mom

Brent Conner rushed home to pick up his pissed-off teenaged daughter. The events of the hectic day had been so super-ordinary and unbelievable, he felt numb. The original plan had been to pick Chelsea up directly from school, but his big meeting with the investors had run longer than anticipated. Consequently she’d had to walk home and let herself into the house with the key they kept hidden under the dog statue by the back door. He’d called Chelsea’s cell to tell her that he wouldn’t make it, and she’d screamed in his ear. Brent had a difficult time dealing with her hormonal mood swings and outbursts, and now he regretted coming off too cross with her over the phone that afternoon.

Marion, his incredibly patient wife, always did her best to cushion the often-troubled space between father and daughter. When Chelse was a girl they’d gotten on famously. The poor communication and lack of kindness started when she hit puberty, and their ability to speak to each other without lashing out in some negative manner had become nearly impossible. Number one, he was under a lot of pressure with the business, and number two, the little ones had come along, complicating life and adding more stress. Chelsea had discovered all his hot buttons and relished in pushing them simultaneously, just to get him going. It was if she enjoyed the back and forth, the friction. Marion had a way of foreseeing these spats and would run interference when possible.

Of late, he’d come to regret their decision to expand the family. After what had happened that morning, he felt enormous guilt. What kind of a lousy no-good father was he anyway?

As Brent’s BMW crept down Wildflower Lane he spotted numerous vehicles and a news van. A crowd had come together at the end of the cul-de-sac and several reporters were gathered in front of his house. Reluctantly jumping out of the vehicle and dashing past a throng of people, he anxiously reached the stoop and fumbled with the key at the front door while reporters shouted inane questions and pointed microphones at his back. Inside, Chelsea sat in the dark with the TV blaring. “Turn that thing down,” he called, flipping the switch and flooding the family room with light.

She blinked frantically and cried out, “Mom’s the most embarrassing person in the world! Some jerk in a nearby car caught her on tape this morning with his video camera. She’s on the news—look!”

Brent hurried over and gawked at the TV. Marion filled the screen, wearing nothing but her favorite flimsy white cotton nightgown, while somehow managing to keep hold of the back of the SUV as the carjacker raced and weaved through traffic down busy Beverly Boulevard. The male anchor spoke about numerous phone calls that were streaming into the station from sympathetic women that had also driven their children to school wearing nightclothes at one time or another. He played a quote from one such woman, her untrained, overly emotional voice trilled, “Marion Connor represents mothers everywhere. There’s nothing as fierce as a mother protecting her babies. We all draw strength from that video tonight. Look out you crooks and criminals, don’t mess with us Mama bears!”

Chelsea grimaced. “Oh brother, give me a break.” She turned away from the TV and addressed her father, saying, “I thought you’d never get here Dad. I had to unplug the phones to make them stop ringing. They keep playing that frickin video over and over on all the stations. They’re calling her Hero Mom! How can I show my face again at Griffin High? They’ll make fun of me! I’ll have to be home schooled now!”

Brent hightailed it for the fridge. Hero Mom? Man, he could use a soda. His doctor recommended that he lay off the stuff, diabetes ran in his family, but he still hadn’t cut down. Carefully making his way across a floor littered with toys he called to Chelsea, “Lower the volume!” She complied.

“Listen to me,” he said calmly, leaning on the counter for support. “Have a heart, your mother dropped you off this morning and then she realized the tank was virtually empty. She crawled into the Shell station on fumes, got out to pump just enough gas to make it home, and that guy jumped behind the wheel. Face it—she could have been injured or killed. God only knows what would have happened to your sister, or your baby brother, if your mother hadn’t held on for dear life. When people saw her they whipped out their cell phones and called the cops. I honestly can’t imagine where she found the strength to hold on! And you’re worried about being teased? I won’t have you belittling or berating your mother! Do you hear me?”

A small yelp emanated from Chelsea before she pitched the remote control, miraculously it landed atop one of the kids stuffed toys and not the slate floor. “Oh please, that carjacker’s only sixteen years old,” she said sarcastically. “On channel 7 a guest psychiatrist said he doubted he would have hurt them.”

Angered, Brent couldn’t seem to stop himself from yelling, “You don’t know what that guy was capable of. And either does that backseat quack psychiatrist! Now, you quit acting like a spoiled brat! It’s about time you grew up. This isn’t about you Chelse!”

Crying, “I hate you Dad!” she stomped off down the hallway. Her bedroom door slammed so hard the house shook, and predictably, loud music began to pulsate and beat through the walls.

Brent popped open his soda and parked his butt on the stool. He wondered if the people outside found it odd that they were playing such loud music at a time like this. Instead of going after his hysterical daughter, Brent decided to let her chill out first. He then picked up the receiver and hit number one, which automatically dialed up his in-laws, Burt and Debbie. They had decided earlier in the day that it would be best for Marion and the little ones to go to their house for safekeeping after they’d been given a clean bill of health at the hospital. When she answered the line Debbie asked if he understood the extent of the news coverage. Did he know that there was a video? Did he know that the carjacker had hidden a gun under the seat? Did he know that Katie Couric was talking about how brave Marion was? By the time his wife came to the phone his skull was pounding.

“Is Chelse okay?” How like Marion, to be worried about her daughter.

 Brent sighed. “Freaking out—what’s new?”

 “I just hate to think of her walking home alone, and having to let herself in.”

When Brent was a kid he’d always walked home alone, he’d been a latch key kid before there was a popular term for it. And he’d turned out okay—hadn’t he? Marion was over-protective at times. He had to smile. Of course she was. Thank God she was.

Marion said, “When Chelsea called she was in a panic. I had to tell her to unplug the phones so she wouldn’t have to listen to them ringing off the hook anymore. I told her to keep her cell phone at her side, to call me if she needed me. When she saw the reporters camped out on the sidewalk she lost it. The poor kid’s so emotional in the best of times. Add this to the mix, well…come on Brent...have a little patience.”

 He decided not to tell Marion about his little tiff with Chelsea. Why worry her? She’d been through enough. He wasn’t proud of his reactionary behavior either.

 “By the look of things on the news, you’ve got quite a crowd out there.”

 “Really?” He said, “The house is on the news right now? Still? Great.”

 “It’s insane. I don’t think my unfortunate encounter would have even made the news if that guy in the Mustang hadn’t of taped the whole thing. Do you?”

 “I haven’t had a lot of time to think about this,” he told her. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw you on TV.”

 “I couldn’t have worn a robe? Dear God how embarrassing. Mom nearly had a heart attack when she got a load of my exposed thighs. Well, I’ll think twice before I ever leave the house half dressed again,” she actually chuckled.

 “You’re amazing Marion, it’s good to hear you laugh.”

 “What am I gonna do? I already cried a bucket, now it’s time to see the humor in the situation. The kids are fine—that’s what counts.”

 “I’m so grateful. The world’s so dangerous. It’s mind-boggling how dangerous.”

 “Look, Mom and Dad have been waiting for you guys, she’ll whip up a batch of margaritas when you get here. Just what the doctor ordered. You two better get a move on, and be careful.”

 Brent wondered if reporters would try to follow him.

 “Bring pizza,” Marion told him. “Stop by Pepino’s. I keep coupons near the phone.”

 “You’re so calm. I hated to leaved that hospital, but I had to make that meeting.”

 “I know. Life goes on. I’m okay, really I am.”

 Brent began to sob into the phone.

 “Don’t cry Honey,” Marion said bravely. “We’re safe.”

 He certainly hoped so. He wasn’t so sure.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

1 comment:

PopArtDiva said...

This was funny, topical and scary at the same time!

I can't tell you how many times I've left the house in jammies to run out and get coffee or a breakfast burrito - with my kind of luck I'm surprised this didn't happen to me, lol!

Now I'll have to put on normal clothes just to grab Jacque dans la boîte french toast fingers!

Thanks again for a great story to start my day!