At the end of my first semester at Pierce College, I was so enthralled with the program that I wanted to continue taking more classes. I had earned the highest grade in the class and my journalism instructor asked me to join the staff of the college newspaper, The Round-up.
While I tried to work around Richard’s anger, there was no good way to do that, and I began to not care whether he liked what I was doing or not. As the months passed, I became more involved with my larger class load and extra-curricular work on the student newspaper. In the afternoons, I would pick up my boys at their schools and bring them to the student newspaper located on the college campus. While I worked on stories, they would sit at my desk in the newsroom drawing pictures or play outside on the grass where I could see them.
One day, I had lingered later than usual at school, talking to one of my journalism instructors about a particularly thorny political story I was working on. When I glanced at the big clock on the newsroom wall, I realized I would barely skid home in time to have dinner on the table. I quickly gathered the boys and we ran to the car; however, it was raining hard and my umbrella jammed. We pulled our coats over our heads, but we still got doused. Once home, I hurriedly changed the boys and myself into dry clothes and threw a package of Stouffer’s chipped beef and cream sauce into boiling water, pulled out bread to put in the toaster, and made a green salad.
When Richard arrived, he came in through the garage and saw the wet towels in the laundry area. I heard him swear as he walked into the kitchen, a dark look veiling his face.
I avoided looking at him as I called the boys to dinner. There was a freeze of silence while I put food on the boys’ plates and passed the serving dishes to Richard. I tried to make conversation about our screwy next door neighbor letting his dog poop all over the neighborhood, but he wasn’t having any of it. The boys were silent, sensing their father’s mood. Then, for some ungodly reason, I decided to tell him about my day at Pierce.
“Richard…Mike, and one of the other instructors, encouraged me to enter one of my news stories in the writing competition put on by the Journalism Association of Community Colleges. Not everyone on staff is asked to do that, and I’ve been told that’s quite a compliment. I’m really excited about this opportunity.”
He didn’t answer but continued to serve himself dinner. When he finished loading his plate, he put his elbows on the table and glared at me.
“Did the boys get wet this afternoon because you were busy chatting with your favorite teacher, what’s his name…Mike?” There was a cold sneer in his voice.
I tried to open my mouth, but fear constricted my throat, and I was now silent. I picked up my fork and found my hand shaking.
“Well?” His voice reverberated in the kitchen.
How I hated confrontations, particularly in front of the boys. But I was hoping to enter a profession where confrontation was part of the game, so I sat up straight in my chair and looked directly at my husband.
“They didn’t get wet because I was talking to Mike. They got wet because it was raining when we walked out to the car and the umbrella jammed.”
“Ah…but don’t you see. They did get wet because you were talking to Mike. And I have a frozen dinner sitting on my plate because you were talking to Mike!’
My sudden strength vanished. “Richard, I…”
“Richard, what?” he shouted. “Well, this is what I think of your dinner and your Mike.”
At that instant, he picked up his plate and threw it at the wall, the creamed chipped beef and toast sticking for a hellacious moment to the wallpaper before sliding slowly down, ruining the cheery design of old fashioned pots and pans while the broken dish flew in all directions.
Richard jumped up from the table, knocking his chair to the floor and left the house, while I cradled my crying sons, who only understood that they didn’t understand.
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