Bob and Pat (BB&B)

Here is an actual chapter from the book that is finally almost done. I hope you enjoy.

Long before Karl Childers became infamous as the lead character from Sling Blade, there was Bob Coltrane. They looked alike, they sounded alike, and except for their individual choices of weapons, they seemed to be twins separated at birth.

Bob was married to my aunt Pat. I think that Bob was originally from Texas, and that is where he and Pat met. Sometime later, they moved back to the Midwest, and by the time the seventies rolled around, they were the parents of four kids. There were three older sisters and a much younger brother, Bobby.

In Bobby, the apple had not fallen far from the tree. I most vividly remember Bobby pedaling his bike as fast as he could straight into a tree … over and over. All the while, Bob Sr. smiled toothlessly, rocking back and forth on the front porch. Bobby’s other idea of great fun was pulling ticks off of his dog and lighting them on fire. The future was very bright for this young man.

The older siblings were actually much more “normal,” comparatively speaking. They were born into a strictly religious home, so they were socially muted. Still, I always found them to be engaging and friendly.

In the early summer of 1973, Mom had gone on what could euphemistically be called a long weekend with one of her gentlemen friends. She left my younger sister and me behind to fend for ourselves but committed to returning in a couple of days. This was not an abnormal event, and although food in the house was scarce, I didn’t think too much of it.

Four days later, there was still no sign of my mother. At this point we were down to little food. Some pasta and spaghetti sauce was all we had left for real food. Being almost thirteen, I was pretty comfortable with cooking and decided to cook the pasta for my sister and me. The spaghetti was cooking with no problem, and I put the sauce into a Pyrex bowl and put it on the gas stove. If you know anything at all about cooking, you might have just said “uh-oh” to yourself.

I was facing away from the stove when the explosion happened. Spaghetti sauce and bits of Pyrex went flying everywhere. I wasn’t hurt, but I felt like I had just been shot in the heart. This was going to be our last real meal until my mother came home, and now it was gone. I just started crying because I felt so bad about what I had done and how disappointed my little sister would be.

My sister came running from the back of the trailer to see what had happened. She saw the mess and saw me crying. To her credit, she simply walked up to me and said, “Don’t worry about it. We can just put ketchup on the spaghetti and it will be fine.” Those reassuring words meant a great deal to me, and in those tough times, we would never, ever turn our backs on each other. When things were good, we fought like cats and dogs, but we never deserted each other when we were in the trenches.

The very next day, Aunt Pat showed up at our trailer to speak with Mom. I informed her that she was still gone but was supposed to be home soon. She told me to gather some clothes and that my sister and I would come stay with her until Mom returned. Normally, I would not be much inclined to take her up on the offer. As I mentioned, they were Bible thumpers and lived like throwbacks to the fifties. At the time, they did not even have running water. Still, we were out of food, and at least we would be fed.

We were at Pat’s for about four days when Mom called to say she was on the way to pick us up. Normally, Pat would have probably chastised her a bit but then told her to come get us. This time, however, she told my mom that she couldn’t have us back. She said she was going to file child neglect charges and have us taken away. That was it—no yelling or histrionics, just a factual statement.

Knowing her sister as well as she did, Pat explained to us what she was doing and why she felt compelled to do it. She was earnest, and whatever her faults were, what she was saying seemed to make sense. She told us that there was no doubt that our mom was on her way over to take us and that, when she pulled up, we should run and hide.

In retrospect, I can see that there had been a subtle indoctrination against our mother from the time we got there. So although it would seem odd to run and hide from your own mother, to my sister and me, it made perfect sense. I couldn’t tell you why I felt that way, but I did.

Sure enough, about three hours later Mom pulled up in a sedan with two men I had never seen before. All three got out of the car, but the two men stayed back a bit. (At this point, my sister and I were peeking out of the window to see what was going on.) Mom walked up to the bottom of the steps of Pat’s porch. It was a wide set of stairs with about ten steps. On the porch were Pat, her daughter Karen, and, of course, Bob sitting in the rocking chair.

Mom started off politely enough, saying that she was here to pick up her kids and didn’t want any trouble. However, she had brought help, and she would do whatever she needed to do to get us. Pat was unimpressed by the threat and simply said, “The children are staying with me.” Apparently, Mom did not appreciate this answer and proceeded to bound up the stairs like an Olympic athlete. With equal speed, Pat and Karen met her at the top step and promptly threw her to the ground. There was plenty of screeching, hair pulling, and swearing going on. After a few minutes, Mom stopped struggling with Pat sitting on her chest, arms pinned.

At this point, she screamed for help from her two henchmen. As they slowly walked up to the porch, Bob rose out of his chair and, seemingly from nowhere, pulled out a claw hammer. While the two guys at the foot of the stairs seemed awfully nervous, Bob had the demeanor of Clint Eastwood. He merely said in a low Southern drawl, “If you come up here, I will kill you.”

Of all of the people I have met in my life, I would put Bob among the top two individuals who would actually carry out such a threat. By the look of the two guys standing below, they seemed to believe it as well. For a brief time, there was a stalemate. Then Mom started screaming and struggling again when guy number one bolted for the stairs. Big mistake on his part.

True to his word, Bob raised his hammer and slammed the claw end into the stranger’s head. The claw skipped off of his skull but grabbed the skin. Bob pulled the hammer down, and the guy’s head went forward and down with it. At this time, guy number two came up the stairs and grabbed his buddy by the waist. Bob brought the hammer up to strike again, but by pulling as hard as he could, guy two sent guy one and himself flying backward off of the stairs.

Bob didn’t move. He stood in the same place, hammer in hand, and didn’t say or do anything. The first guy’s head was bleeding profusely, and even Mom realized that this particular battle could not be won. She told Pat that she gave up and would leave. Cautiously, Pat stood up and placed herself between Mom and the front door with Karen by her side. I thought for a brief moment that she was going to bolt for the door again, but she didn’t.

The two guys were now in the car calling for Mom to hurry up. She scurried down the stairs, filling the air with expletives and saying that she would be back and would bring whatever means necessary to get us. That day never came.

Instead, we stayed at Pat’s for a few more days and then went to meet a judge. Because my sister was too young, I spoke for both of us. I remember being worried that I was going to give the wrong answer and get in trouble, but I did the best I could. We sat in a room at the courthouse for most of the day, and we were able to see Mom. She said it would all be fine but it might take time.

Sometime toward the end of the day, a lady I had never seen before came in and introduced herself as Mrs. Green. She said that my sister and I would be staying with her until all of this got sorted out. I was not at all happy about this result, but what could I do?

We stayed at Mrs. Green’s for about three months before my dad sent for me to come live with him. Because my sister was not his child, she was forced to stay behind on her own. I still regret many things that I did and that happened during that period, but I regret nothing more than getting my sister stuck in such a hopeless situation. She was eventually returned to our mother, but I can only imagine how scary and lonely it must have been for her to have been left behind, alone. I realize that as children, none of the blame belonged to us. Still, it hurt then, and when I make myself think about it, it hurts now.

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27 Responses to Bob and Pat (BB&B)

  1. yorksnbeans says:

    You always leave me wanting to read more! You certainly had a very colorful childhood (these stories are true, aren’t they?). Are you still in touch with your sister?

  2. sweatsmodel says:

    What wonderful snapshots of your childhood, TL. Sort of like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting – the darker side.

    I hope you’ll continue to bring us these jewels, even after your book is finished, or at the very least give us an opportunity to see the finished product. You ooze a talent that I am envious of…

    • tannerleah says:

      Thank you for the kind words. It’s funny, but I feel envious of the other blogs that I read including yours. Maybe we can just all sit in a circle and praise each other for our unrecognized (by the masses) talent.

  3. Bart says:

    Great reading TL! Just make sure that it’s ALL true because when you go on Oprah for your book tour you don’t want to end up like James Frey!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Everytime I hear this story or read it (this is the second time I have read it) it always makes my heart break and it makes me adore you even more.

    • tannerleah says:

      Adore? Finally…I have me a good old stalker. About damned time. Send me money, large sums, if you really want to get my attention.

    • Bart says:

      Let me guess TL – Anonymous is your wife??? Who else would (or could) “adore” you??? :o) Sorry to hear that you weren’t able to keep a relationship with your sister.

  5. elizabeth3hersh says:

    I got to know Pat’s (a pseudonym) daughter Kaitlyn (another pseudonym) a little better when she was sent to the same reform school where I lived. We were both teenagers at the time. I was sent there for forging a prescription. I have no idea why Kaitlyn was there, but I can confidently state it did not involve breaking any laws or incorrigible behaviour. We playfully nicknamed Kaitlyn COA which stood for “Center of Attention” because of the outlandish outfits she would wear (picture a cow print pullover sweater) and her bubbly and effervescent personality.

    It is said that the sins of the father are visited upon the children. This would ring true for both me and Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn and I had serious issues with our mothers at the time. These issues would grow to pathological proportions and neither of us ever reconciled with our respective mothers who are both deceased. In Kaitlyn’s case, the pathology manifested itself tragically. Kaitlyn had an eleven or twelve year old son, her only child, who committed suicide (by hanging). As if this wasn’t horrific enough, Kaitlyn confided in me that she refused to cry at her son’s funeral because she did not want her mother to have the satisfaction of seeing her grieve. This struck a chord in me. Although I could not understand the volitional withholding of emotion and the willpower that would entail, I fully understood her rage. Her confession spoke volumes of the depths of her rage.

    Pat was a religious fundamentalist, a holy-roller if you will. She was so enmeshed in scripture that it profoundly stunted her reasoning capabilities and undoubtedly impacted her lifestyle (her environs could not have been much different than that of Christ himself 2,000 years ago). My encounters with Pat (always memorable and sickeningly depressive) were the fuel to dissociate myself from pernicious fundamentalists for the rest of my life. It’s ironic how that worked out.

    TL knows I like to play mental “what if” games all the time. I wonder sometimes, what if Pat had had a proper education, what if she hadn’t fallen into religious fundamentalism, what if she hadn’t married Carl Childers…what if…

    • tannerleah says:

      Ah…more great childhood memories. Thanks for the flashback.

    • Bart says:

      Wow! What a tangled web you and TL have woven!

      • elizabeth3hersh says:

        Based on the richness of my experience, I consider myself a better candidate for Supreme Court justice than nominee Sonia Sotomayer…always looking for some levity to balance life out (which TL does masterfully).

        • Bart says:

          I would hope that a wise, caucasian, atheist, prescription forging, science loving woman of your experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than TL who hasn’t lived that life.

          • elizabeth3hersh says:

            So true Bart. For some reason, TL went the straight and narrow path when he had every reason and opportunity to explore the darker side. Funny how that worked out (chalk it up to sterling character).

    • elizabeth3hersh says:

      Addendum:

      I couldn’t help but wonder all day what sorts of events transpired to forge a lovely young lady who was unable to freely and openly grieve at her only child’s funeral and I couldn’t help but think of my own events which also led to a lifelong estrangement with my mother. If there is a lesson here, it is to reach out to a child or young person and let them know you care. A small gesture can have a huge and lasting impact to a love-starved soul.

  6. nursemyra says:

    I’m confused. and intrigued.

  7. Hopefully one day your sister will read those words and come to realize what she is missing in having a relationship with you.

  8. elizabeth3hersh says:

    “I couldn’t help but wonder all day what sort of events…”

    I have a personal “event” story that I will share. I recall a time when I was left for a few (miserable) days under Pat’s care. She was driving us to her home. Her car was the kind of rusted out jalopy where you kept your head ducked below the window line so your friends could not see you if you had the misfortune to pass by them on the road. I had to take the most urgent pee of my life. My bladder felt like it would rupture from the painful distention. I pleaded fervently with Pat to stop somewhere so I could relieve myself. Pat kept repeating “we’ll be home soon” while she continued to drive, seemingly oblivious to my cries and pleas. Pat was a city dweller and lived out in the boonies which would mean a very long drive. By the time we arrived I thought surely I would experience tremendous relief, and yet astonishingly, my bladder seemed paralyzed!! I was in a state of shock over my body betraying me. It took forever to empty my bladder with its starts and stops and manual compressions to fully empty it. I have never had to pee so badly in my life nor have I ever been so thoroughly ignored.

    Then there was an identical situation, same crew, same circumstances only this time is was hunger. But, this time is was one of her daughters who was painfully hungry and pleading. What did we have when we arrived? A box of Chef Boyardee spaghetti. That was the kind of dinner you never forget. TL and I have such wonderful childhood memories…

  9. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb) wrote in his autobiography “A Hole in the World” about the abuse he and his brother Stanley endured at the hands of his step-mother. One of the stories involved holding in his pee for hours on end and it was excruciating. Unfortunately, my best contributions involve bodily functions or deliriously bad lapses of judgment.

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