Charlie’s Last Stand pt.7

The children had been quietly tucked into bed and Zane was still out! He hadn’t mentioned how long he would be gone, and this conjured sour memories because he was known to stay out all night on rare occasions. Renee was laying on top of a neatly configured duvet in some cotton pajama bottoms and a blue tank top. She was watching network programming on television because YouTube hadn’t been invented yet. “It’s so bazaar being alone in bed,” Renee thought. Zane had his quirks, but at least he wasn’t overly promiscuous. There had been a few occasions when Zane would leave Renee alone at night to go off drinking by himself, but those days were becoming fewer and far between. As the minutes ticked by Renee wondered if Zane would come straight home? Maybe he would get the urge to drink with Quentin? Maybe not? “He’s never been the type to stop off at the corner bar,” she reassured herself. Renee was letting her rational insecurities get the better of her when she heard the familiar fumbling around at the front door! Suddenly the suspense was broken because Zane was safe at home!

When Zane entered the bedroom she muted the tv and asked, “How did your meeting go?” He slowly removed his t-shirt, and absent mindedly tossed it into the hamper. “It went really well I thought,” her husband responded as he pulled open a dresser drawer.  Renee quickly ascertained that Zane was in a good mood for a change and that was a relief! “I think they will look really nice when they’re finished,” Zane informed her as he wiggled into a clean pair of pajama pants. “How much is it going to cost us,” Renee asked?  She wasn’t concerned about the money; she was only trying to keep the conversation going. “I’m sure the whole thing will be just shy of Three Hundred. Curtis wants $150 dollars on his part,” he said. “Oh wow! We should be able to afford that easily,” said Renee.

Zane decided not to talk about the camper, because he didn’t want to get their hopes up. He felt it would be more sensible to wait until after the move. “One rabbit-hole at a time,” Zane thought. It was his secret motto! Without saying a word, Zane positioned his shirtless body into the bed, drawing back the comforter in the process. He shimmied his way in between freshly laundered bedsheets and commenced to stare off out into the distance. The overhead ceiling light was switched off and the room was only partially lit with lamp light.

Renee clicked off the Television and rotated her body to face her husband. She was laying on her side, cradling her head upon her folded left arm as if it were a pillow. Zane was laying flat on his back with the weight of his head supported by his uplifted arms. He was gazing upon the textured ceiling and succumbing to an unrelenting need for sleep. Renee lovingly watched in silent wonder as Zane’s steely gaze was peacefully transformed by the involuntary sinking of his heavy eyelids. In no time he was fast asleep, and Renee wondered if the good times would last forever? She only asked herself the question because she was brought up in scarcity. It was never easy for Renee. She was different from the rest because she lived in her heart, and that was unacceptable where she came from! Renee was the sacrificial lamb in her family, and she took her lumps on a daily basis. Although she was treated like an uncelebrated barn animal, Renee never lost hope.

Renee was born into extreme scarcity in June of 1976. She hailed from the old frontier, and so did Zane. They complimented each other in that respect. With the exception of the naming process, Renee’s birth was uneventful. Throughout the pregnancy the unborn child was designated as Jenifer because that was to be her given name. Upon arrival however, Jenifer’s mother took one look at her fresh infant and realized the child’s name was “Renee.” It had been all along.

Renee’s mother came into the world In 1956. She was born into a desperately primitive environment. It was a quiet, sandy, and desolate space located roughly seventy miles south of Albuquerque. The New Mexican tumbleweeds would meander their way through sleepy streets, and rattlesnakes were a common nuisance! Pick-up trucks had replaced the mule-drawn wagons by this time, but just barely. Cowboys, Ranchers, and Indians cohabited as best they could in the unyielding brutal heat! When Renee’s mother was thirteen she was wed to an older man. He was 21 at the time, but the union didn’t raise any eyebrows. It was customary for women to marry young because it was the Old West. The population consisted primarily of misogynistic Hispanic Americans who resided on the land for generations. Woman were treated as if they were property; they were expected to rear children and cook! If they demanded better, disobedient females could expect a beating! That’s the way things were.

The locals were forced to intermingle with a smattering of Caucasian transients who attended the local college. New Mexico Tech is one of the world’s leading technology and mining institutions and it attracts a lot of talent. Per capita, there are more PhD doctors residing in New Mexico than any other state. This is due in large part to a scientific community that lingered after the big explosion! In the summer of 1945, America detonated the world’s first Atomic Bomb at the Trinity Test Sight!  A town, known to locals as Socorro, was only forty miles away. Apparently indigenous populations were of no consequence to the United States Government. It was wartime after all, and they needed Guinea pigs! The word “Socorro” loosely translates into the word “Help!”  Renee would jokingly suggest that residual nuclear fallout had created a community of genetically altered mutants who have access to yet undiscovered mysterious abilities. Who knows, maybe she was right?  

The comfortable bedroom was still pitch black, with the exception of a 40-watt table lamp that was burning in the corner. Zane was snoring by now and Renee’s thoughts drifted towards Charlie, and his terrible affliction. “I remember the first time that I really got know him,” she thought. “It was just after we moved in here and I was really angry.” While laying peacefully in bed, Renee recalled the occasion when she scolded Charlie! It was an amazing sight to behold, because she was one of the few people who ever had the courage! The incident occurred at Charlie’s place. Zane witnessed the entire event, and he was simply amazed! He had never seen his father backed into such a corner! As it turns out, Charlie was just coming in from outside. He entered the trailer house through the back door. He closed the door behind him and proceeded down the poorly lit corridor where Renee was waiting! The friction centered around a Roper electric clothes dryer that was taking up space. The Hoffman house came complete with its own gas dryer which meant that the electric dryer was rendered useless. Because of this, Charlie agreed to store the appliance on his property. The heated argument ensued when Renee learned how Charlie later went on to sell it for scrap! 

Charlie never fully realized the extent of Renee’s troubled upbringing, and as a result he was unfamiliar with the scarcity that she had to endure. For example, Charlie failed to recognize that normal people spend Thousands of Dollars on household appliances. The concept was lost on him because he would only pay Fifteen Bucks for his washing machines! Sometimes they needed to be repaired but that was beside the point! The parts were cheap and readily available, and Charlie loved to tinker. This was of no consequence to Renee however, because after interest payments her dryer cost over $700!  Renee was livid, and Charlie was dumbfounded! “I had to spend a lot of money for that,” Renee insisted! Charlie loved Renee, and as a result he felt compelled to stifle his frustration. Charlie could be very intimidating when he needed to be and as a result people tended to avoid confrontation.  Renee was undaunted by Charlie’s bluster however, and she continued with her relentless pursuit! He didn’t know how to react, so he calmly offered, “I can get you another one just like it, Renee. They’re not that expensive!” Charlie was being dismissive, and that fueled her anger! “That’s not the point,” Renee retorted in a combative tone!”  She went on to adamantly express how she purchased the washer and dryer combination while in the Air Force with her ex-husband. They were struggling to make ends meet with the monthly car payments, and they were only scraping by! Having their own appliances meant they never had to deal with crowded laundromats, and that’s why she made the financial sacrifice in the first place! This is why it touched a nerve. Like many other struggling Americans, Renee knew the importance of establishing good credit. For Renee a strong credit score gave her hope. It was if she could finally grasp the first rung on a ladder that would assist her on the ascent from crippling poverty! In Renee’s mind having credit was equivalent to living in the mainstream of society. It was her way of pursuing the American Dream! It took years to pay off the credit debt, but Renee finally owned the appliances outright. It was like being released from a financial prison, and it freed up funding for other purposes. In Renee’s view, losing her dryer to the recyclers was akin to losing her economic footing. It prompted irrational feelings of inadequacy and frustration.

All of the thoughts tumbled throughout her tattered mind as she struggled to maintain her composure. She felt like raging, but instead Renee opted to turn her back on Charlie! She stormed out of the corridor and back into the kitchen where Zane stood patiently watching. Charlie glanced over towards his number-one-son who was bearing silent witness from in the kitchen as if to say, “I don’t know what to do Son! You’re going to have to take it from here!” With that, Charlie shrugged his shoulders and turned around. Like a wounded hound Charlie licked his wounds and shuffled the few paces from the hallway back to the relative safety his bedroom. “Well…I guess we should be getting back home,” Zane suggested in a neutral and supportive tone. Besides that, he had nothing more to offer. He could see that Renee was shaken but he lacked the proper skills to help process the anger.  

Renee lay in bed next to her sleeping husband as the memory slowly faded into the night. She recalled the awkward drive home on that same afternoon when Zane did his best to moderate between the two warring factions. Renee could sense Charlie’s adoration towards her, but she was still perturbed. Zane did his best to explain that Dad is just ‘like that.’ After it was all said and done she felt silly for being so upset, and it wouldn’t be necessary for him to procure a replacement. In hindsight she knew that no harm was done. Besides, Charlie made Renee feel like she was accepted, and for her that was rare.

…to be continued

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