Bob's Steering Wheel
Upon graduation from high school, still living at home with Mom and my sister and not sure what my next step would be, I was out with some friends from high school. We were riding around and it was near 1am in the morning. We had been smoking pot, but it was time to go home. They were on their way to dropping me off at Mom's.
Meanwhile, my mother, who at this time owned her own bar, had my sister in the middle of the front seat of her Oldsmobile 88 while her current man of the day, Bob, was on the far side. Mother, I was later informed, was trying to get home as quickly as possible before he 'blew up'.
Unfortunately, she didn't make it there before the inevitable explosion.
As my friends turned the corner through the last signal light on the street leading toward my mom's house, I saw the '88 sitting at a 45 degree angle, front end kicked in about a foot or more, and as we pulled past the abandoned car, a hole in the passenger side front windshield. Head sized. There were no cops, no other vehicles, no lights other than the street lights. Past the car, I spoke with alarm to the driver and told him, 'STOP THE CAR! STOP THE CAR! That's my mother's car!'
He pumped the brakes and we came to a stop. As I stepped out of the car, what do you know? A cop car magically appeared, lights flashing, behind mom's car. I continued toward the car, viewing the damage and growing more alarmed with each second. The policeman got out of his car and came up to me as I stared at the damage in fear and wonder.
"Is this your car, son?'
"No sir, it's not."
"Do you know whose it is?"
"Yes sir. It's my mother's!"
"Do you know where she is?"
"No sir. But, if you'll take me to my mother's house maybe we'll both find out!" I continued to study the wreck.
"All right. Let me secure the vehicle and we'll run you over there. What's the address?"
I gave it to him, and he wrapped up the process of getting another officer and vehicle to the scene, then drove me to Mother's.
As it turned out, and unbeknownst to me, my mother had a present DWI. One of many in her life; but things were different back in 1973. A good lawyer, and those things tended to disappear, with a healthy fine, of course. MADD had not appeared on the horizon at that time I don't believe, or at least their power base was much smaller and therefore they were less influential. She had been driving the car, without a license, and her main concern was getting the policeman out of her house on some distracting mission, a sidetrack of some kind. Somehow (she was a wily one) she got him to go back to assist in getting her car towed, or something, because he left for a bit.
While he was gone, I got my mother to tell me what happened, and her story went something like this:
Just after they crossed the intersection that I and my friends turned through in order to stumble upon her car, Bob had decided it would be a great time to teach her a lesson by grabbing the steering wheel (doing 70mph or so) and jerking it to the right, sending the car lurching toward a telephone pole. My mother was able to extend her arm across Stacie, my sister, and thus keep her from launching through the windshield. But as no one was wearing a seatbelt, still considered a breach of one's freedom in those days, and Bob being the only one who WASN'T secured (she was held in place by the steering wheel at the cost of several of her ribs being broken), he had the privilege of flying through the windshield and making that head sized hole on the passenger side. My sister was miraculously unharmed. The car was made in the day when hitting a fender with your fist would most likely break your fist without so much as a dent in the metal. Nonetheless, hitting a pole at such a speed, the car literally bounced off the pole and back out into the street where I found it. When the car came to a halt, Bob then opened the passenger door (!) and exited the car (!!) heading out across an open field on his side of the car (!!!).
Mom never got to tell me how she and my sister got home because at about this time Bob knocked on the front door (!!!!).
As Mom had been relating this story, my adrenaline levels were rocketing upward. The one concrete thought that kept going through my head was that my sister COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED simply by being caught in the middle of their madness. I WAS LIVID, actually just as mad at her as I was at him. Since seeing the wreck I had been thinking my mother could be hurt, and yes, she was with those broken ribs. But, you see, my mother could be a vicious mate. She had exceeded the maximum number of allowable marriages in the great state of Texas, which only because I was her son and lived through these revolving relationships with her, came to discover was a total of 7 attempts. I guess if you haven't figured it out by that many attempts, you should just give it up. But even then she couldn't be stopped. She went to Oklahoma to get her 8th (and, thank God, her final) marriage. There were, over the years, several repeat marriages, and Bob was one of those. So there weren't actually 7 step dads after my real father, but there were enough that when these guys started getting comfortable enough to begin thinking they could tell us (my older brother, younger sister and me) what to do we would halfheartedly play along, all the while quietly thinking, "...just how long did you think you were going to be here??? You're just the 'Dad of the day.'
I've known my mom to put sugar in the gas tank of one of her husband's cars over some slight she felt they had done her. Personally, I always thought that was really strange because they were at LEAST helping to pay the bills, and without a car how could they do THAT? I wouldn't go into this distracting aside except that you need to know that although there was absolutely NO EXCUSE for what Bob tried to do, which was to presumably kill them all, my Mom was without a doubt a vicious and most experienced antagonist with a horribly sharp mind and an equally sharp tongue to match. In fact, it is highly likely that in the instant just before Bob actually grabbed that steering wheel, that viciously sharp combination had probably just finished laying him wide open.
But I had no way of knowing my sister had been caught up in their firestorm.
Bob knocked again. I was about 5'6", weighed around 140. I would estimate Bob was around 5' 7 1/2" and closer to 175, but he was a car paint and body man, and he liked his beer, so his weight was not in muscle. Plus, I was filled with the wrath of GOD.
I went to the front door and opened it with one hand while quickly grabbing the collar of his shirt with the other, jerking him into the house.
It's weird the things you think about during times like these. I remember starting to throw him down on the floor but delaying that as I noticed the carpet on the living room floor. It was the only room in the house with carpet. So instead of ruining the carpet with his blood stains, I jerked him further into the house until I reached the linoleum covered hallway, and then threw him down to the floor, jumping with my knees onto his shoulders, and proceeded to pound his head with lefts and rights . . . for quite a while . . . until there was another knock at the door.
Let me pause and ask a rhetorical question.
What sense does it make to hit someone in the head with your bare fists when this person not only survived being catapulted through a windshield at 70mph, but retained consciousness and enough presence of mind to exit the vehicle and then walk approximately 2 miles to my mother's house? Yeah. I've thought about that several times.
As it turns out, when I dragged him into the hallway and then pushed him down, I ended up facing the doorway. I didn't take the time to politely close the door, but the glass screen door was closed automatically. I looked up to see two policemen at the door this time, both with mouths open in shock. I waved them on in.
"Officers, I'd like for you to take this man away for attempted murder. He tried to kill my mother and sister." I stated in my most calm and formal voice.
Remember, this was 1973. Things involving domestic violence were quite different back then. And these were the exact words spoken during this very brief conversation with these officers. Whenever I go back to this moment in time I get the whole thing in 3D surround sound.
"Does he live here?" the officer in charge asked.
"Yes, he does."
"Well, then, there's really nothing we can do," he replied.
Again, I am astounded! But with all of the adrenaline running through my outraged body, the pause while I processed this comment was only momentary.
"You mean that unless he kills one - or both - of them, there is no way for you to do anything about it???"
"...yes. That's about the size of it."
Another pregnant pause, and then . . .
"Well . . ." with my knees still on his shoulders and fists bright with his blood, " . . . You don't mind if we defend ourselves should he get out of line again, do you?"
Almost immediately came the incredible reply, "No. That will be fine."
And just as quickly I responded, "Thank you very much. You can leave now." as I stared down at Bob's bloody face.
AND THEY DID! I swear to you on my mother's grave.
But that's not all.
Because, you see, once they closed the door and left, all the additional rage generated by the injustice of this was nearly overwhelming, and I returned to "working out" these emotions on his face, which surely was made of granite.
Finally, I wore myself out some minutes later, and I called out to my mother, who was laying on her bed in their room at the opposite end of the hall.
"What do you want me to do with it?"
"Put him in the garage."
I told him to get up. Yes, he was still conscious. Granite, remember?
"I'm not going a GD place with you!"
Well, in fact, yes, he was, and yes, he did.
Then, after washing my hands in the bathroom sink I went back to talk to Mom. After we had talked for about 5 minutes she had her first change of heart.
"Kelly, why don't you just put him in the middle bedroom?" This bedroom was directly across the hall from the bathroom (an important detail for later). So I got up off of the side of her bed where I had been sitting and went back to the garage.
"Come on. She wants you in the middle bedroom."
"Like hell I . . ."
Well, yes, he would, and he did.
Mom actually hadn't been living in this house very long, and in fact there was only a fold up cot in this bedroom.
I closed the middle bedroom door after getting him "settled" a bit more, and returned to Mom's room. But this time, when I sat on her bed I noticed the crotch of my Levi's was ripped out. Now THAT really pissed me off.
I immediately marched back into the middle bedroom and declared to him as he lay on the cot, "While I was whipping your ass you ripped the crotch out of my jeans, and NOW you owe me a pair of pants!"
"I don't owe you a GD thing!"
Well, in fact, he did, or at least I believed he did. I reached for the side of the cot and jerked it over so he tipped out of it and onto the floor, butt high. With him in this position it was a simple matter to remove his wallet from his back pocket. There was over $400 in there. I took it all, then threw the wallet on the floor beside him as I got up. I would give Mom all but $25, as she was going to get it all anyway unless he spent it on beer first.
"Kelly, you've done whipped my ass and then robbed me, and in the morning you're gonna be sorry!"
"In the morning I'm gonna be WAITING."
You see, in all my life, I have never wanted to kill anyone . . . except for THIS man at THIS time. But I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in jail for doing it. So, I rationalized that all I needed him to do was hit me ONE TIME. Then it would be self defense, right?
All the anger, indignation and feelings of betrayal with regard to the danger my mother and THIS asshole had put my sister in continued to fuel my adrenaline levels. There was no way I would get any sleep, particularly now that he had suggested retaliation in the AM. I eventually was able to sit in a recliner in the living room instead of pacing the floors all night, but I was rockin' like a madman.
Around 4:45 I got another idea. I went into the kitchen, pulled out two iron skillets, and put them on burners on the stove, turning the gas on.
Unfortunately, God must have had enough of my madness. Mom woke and came into the kitchen about 15 minutes later, saw the skillets, turned the burners off and put the skillets in the sink, turning on the water to cool them off. Then I heard the bedroom door open, and as I rushed into the hall to confront him I saw the bathroom door close on the other side of the hall, and heard the distinctive click of the door lock.
You would, and from what I've told you, SHOULD believe that this wasn't going to end well.
For Bob, however, it ended remarkably well.
You see, I did not ever receive the necessary blow from him that by my thinking would have justified me killing him, even though I had every bit the same eagerness that I did upon the conclusion of the previous night's festivities.
In fact, by 9:30 that morning, I had been informed by my mother, in so many words, that *I* was the bad guy!
I mulled this turn of events over in a slow boil. Finally, we all piled in Bob's car to go make arrangements to move Mom's car to the body shop where Bob was working. Since we were all in the car together like some big happy family, I took the opportunity to inform these two adults that
"If you want to beat each other senseless some time in the future you have my blessing. Whale away. I will not interfere. But IF YOU EVER put my sister in that position again, I will beat you BOTH senseless!"
I moved out not too many weeks afterward.