Truthful Tuesday (names changed)…
TW: Animal abuse; implication of child abuse
I first met my friend Bob on a mountain lake beach playing volleyball with one hand because he was holding a beer. Since it was years and years ago, I don’t remember exactly how but I ended up playing volleyball with them. I think it had something to do with odd numbers.
I learned Bob and his group were Seventh Day Adventists, a Christian organization that thinks it’s really important to worship on Saturday. They think this because, like all Christian groups, they’ve mentally highlighted in psychic yellow ink certain lines of the Bible, deciding they’re more important than other lines in the Bible.
This was on a Sunday, by the way.
Bob was not exactly converted to the organization yet, thus the beer. I got the distinct vibe that the entire reason for their little get-together on the mountain lake beach was for his, Bob’s, benefit. They were ‘fellowshipping’ and trying to fully convert him.
Bob, though, was being a tough, if amicable, sell. He had his own cooler full of beer, for example, separate from the group’s cooler full of pop and water. He took and pretended to read every pamphlet handed to him, which he then carefully folded, stuffed in his pocket, and threw away later when they weren’t looking.
To this day, I’m not exactly sure how Bob got himself into that situation. I think maybe it had something to do with the fact that some of his relatives were Seventh Day Adventists. Something like that.
But that was how I met Bob and we were friends for over 20 years.
Our friendship ended over a dog, but not for a long time—20 years, as I said in the previous sentence. At times we were nearly day to day companions, smoking weed and getting drunk. At others, we lived in different towns and didn’t see each other but a couple of times a year. In the very end we were closer than ever, roommates even.
Bob moved away to another town for work.There, he met and fell in love with a woman. They got married and bought a house. The woman had been married previously and had a teenage daughter, who became Bob’s stepkid.
I went to their wedding, which was a Seventh Day Adventist ceremony. Bob always considered himself a Seventh Day Adventist, even though he didn’t attend church, was pretty much an alcoholic, and smoked weed almost daily. It was simply the little box he had checked off in his head.
Most people need to do that, I find, i.e., “I’m Catholic!”; “I’m atheist!”; “I’m a Colorado Rockies fan!”.
Then tragedy, like it often does, struck. A few years after they got married, Bob’s wife fell ill and passed away. His stepdaughter wanted to finish growing up with blood relatives and he was left all alone in his house.
I did not go to the funeral, which I’m sure was a Seventh day Adventist ceremony.
During the time Bob was married and a stepfather, he didn’t drink or smoke weed. He had become what he had always wanted to become: a regular Joe Schmo. Not only did he have a yard, he even fucking mowed it.
I come back into his picture at this point. I had called up Bob and gave him my condolences, of course, shortly after he lost his wife, and this started us talking regularly again.
Bob resumed his drinking and he would call me up smashed a lot, trying to talk me in to coming up and partying with him (he lived a few hundred miles away). I was having financial issues of the completely fucking broke kind and always declined. At work, my hours had been cut and I was having trouble making rent.
“Come on up and live with me,” he said.
“Hell, yeah. I got plenty of room. This is a three bedroom, one and a half bath house, and I’m the only one here. I got a garage, even a deck. We’ll have cookouts! Plus, there’s a shitload more jobs around here.”
So I packed up and headed north.
My first few days of living with Bob were spent in an alcoholic haze of reminiscing. We were reconnecting and in a lot of ways it was just like old times.
There were some odd little things, though, that began cropping up. Like, for example, padlocks on all the cabinets in the main bathroom. They weren’t locked or anything, but someone had gone to the trouble to install them. Heavy, pendulous padlocks hung unclasped on every cabinet door in the bathroom. WTF?
I asked him about them.
“Oh, that was because of my daughter.” He always referred to his stepdaughter as his daughter. He told me they had begun the process of him adopting her when the illness struck and sidelined everything.
“Because of your daughter?”
“Yeah, she used a lot of towels and rags and stuff when she showered. I mean who needs to use two towels when they shower?”
“So you installed padlocks on all the cabinets?”
“Yep. I had to distribute her towels and toiletries because she always used too much of everything.”
“You had to?”
“Yeah. She was a handful.”
Also, his reaction to some of my books. I had, of course, brought my books with me when I moved in, and he didn’t like the ones on Buddhism. I had (still have, in fact), ten or twelve Buddhist books, sutras and commentaries mostly, some stuff by the Japanese Zen master Dogen, various other related material. He had a problem when he noticed them.
“I’d rather you not have those.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’d rather they not be in my house.”
“Yeah.” He laughed and shook his head like I was some sort of idiot.
I ended up keeping them in the trunk of my car. WTF?
During our many drunken conversations, I discovered that Bob was at constant odds with and truly power-struggling with his daughter. At least that was how he presented it.
“She was such a willful teenager.”
On school nights, she was expected home by 4 pm and couldn’t go out afterward. The only night she was allowed out was Friday and her curfew was 9 pm.
She was a 16 year old, for Christ sake.
One time, he told me that she didn’t make it home till 9:30 pm and he had to ground her for the remaining school year.
This occurred in October. On Halloween, in fact—which, he explained, he didn’t want her participating in anyway.
By grounding, he meant that he picked her up from school everyday and took her there every morning. She was not allowed to do anything else. Apart from school, she had to be at home, and could only go out with a parent. Also, she was not allowed a phone or handheld device, nor access to the net or tv.
“I had no choice,” he lamented. “Teenagers, huh?”
Shortly after this conversation, I discovered the markings on the wood frame of my bedroom door of where a padlock had once been installed. It would have locked from the outside, of course, and guess who’s room it used to be?
I began to grow some distance between us. Not really because of the above, but because of the alcohol. Bob was a full-blown drunk, way worse than he had ever been in our younger days. Now, I like to drink, don’t get me wrong, but getting completely and utterly shitfaced every single night? No, thanks. I enjoy getting lit up once or twice a week, but I just couldn’t do it every night anymore. I had drank like a fish for the first week or so after moving in, but the ‘special occasionness’ of it all wore off and sometimes I’d just want to kick back with a puzzle or a book.
Meanwhile, Bob would be out in the living room blasting Foghat and pissing his pants.
I got a job, settled into a routine, and began searching the paper for a place of my own.
It was about two months after I had moved in that Bob came home with a dog. It was adorable, a young, light brown, medium-sized female with big friendly eyes and a super waggy tail. He had gotten her from a co-worker who had to move house and could no longer keep her.
Bob named her Leah, after his daughter.
Things went to shit almost immediately. The next morning after he got her, I went to work like always, and on my way home I stopped and bought a Pringles potato chip can full of tennis balls as a present for Leah.
When I got home, me, Leah, and Bob, spent the warm afternoon and evening out in the yard playing with the balls. It was great.
As darkness settled in, Bob, of course, began drinking and I joined him. I still drank with him from time to time. Just not every day. He was pretty fun to drink with, up to a certain point. Eventually, he’d get insensible, unable to communicate, stumbling around. I’d call it a night at that point. But for three or four hours, it was the old Bob and pretty damn fun.
Leah was underfoot as we drank. Young and curious, she’d go from me to Bob and back again. We interacted with her and our little party was kind of all about her, which she didn’t mind at all. Bob began to be a little annoyed with her, shooing her away good-naturedly, but then more firmly.
Eventually, he decided that Leah needed to lay down and “be fucking mellow”. He insisted that she lay down on the mat in front of the door. She complied, but only for a second. Bob would make her go back to the mat, getting rougher and rougher with her.
“LAY THE FUCK DOWN!” he screamed at her.
But young and impetuous, she couldn’t, not permanently.
He began to kick her when she’d get off the mat. Hard.
“Fucking chill,” I told him. I felt a bit cornered. It was Bob’s house and Bob’s dog, after all. I’d try to get her to lay on the mat, even sitting next to it cross-legged with her and petting her. But I’d get up to piss or something and BANG! he’d kick her in the ribs.
I stayed up all the way with Bob that time, not wanting to leave Leah alone with him. At one point, after he had completely gone over to the Drunk Side, I even restrained him from kicking her.
Finally he passed out with urine spreading to the knees of his blue jeans.
And so it went every night, for three or four days. Bob got wasted every night and Leah was supposed to lay on the mat in front of the door while he did it or she’d get kicked, fucking hard. The super waggy tail that had once wagged so much it was blurry now hung between her legs like a thing paralyzed or dead. She was terrified of him and this only pissed him off more. If he wanted to pet her, which he did randomly on occasion, she’d flee from him. He would rage and then kick her.
Using my phone, I recorded several instances of his abuse and went to the cops. I spoke to the animal control officer and showed him my video. As he watched, he began to shake his head.
“Well, that’s pretty clear,” he said. “If needed, can we use this in court?”
“Would you be willing to appear?”
I filled out a bunch of papers, signed a bunch of things and went home.
Bob was drinking. I began to drink too. By now, Leah had been trained. Her spirit was completely broken and she pretty much refused to leave the mat in front of the door. I’d call her to me and she would look at Bob and put her head down.
About 9 pm that night, the cops knocked on the door. Bob kicked Leah to make her move from the mat so he could answer it.
They told Bob they were taking Leah and explained that he had the right to go to court to plead his case and try and get her back. They had anonymous complaints of abuse, they said, and even cellphone video.
Off she went. Bob looked at me. “You fucker.”
“Who else would it be?”
“Yeah, it was me. And fuck you.”
We fought—physically. We both ended up bloody and bruised. The kitchen table was destroyed. It ended in a draw and I packed my shit and left that night to constant “get-the-fuck-outs!”
Two years ago, I moved back to this town for a second time. I actually live about four blocks from Bob and his three bedroom, one and a half bath house as I write this.
Even though I’ve been here two years, I have yet to stop by and say howdy.
I’m sure you understand.