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Out of the Cage book cover

Out of the Cage
Wes Boyd
©2010, ©2016

Chapter 13

Feeling like he was finally going to get one thing off his list of things he needed to do, Frenchy got back in the truck and drove back out to Sven’s. Sven wasn’t around and the pickup was gone, so Frenchy suspected that the old logger had headed out to the Spearfish Lake Café or something. It was getting along in the day now, so there was nothing to do but to walk back home. The walk went quickly; it was still warm, although cooling off a bit now, but Frenchy found he didn’t mind it as much as he might have.

The sun was getting low as he got home, after making a stop off at the stash to leave his money – less than it usually was because of the extra meal earlier. The thought crossed his mind that while he’d had a late breakfast, he hadn’t had much lunch, and it was still a little too early to head back over to Monica’s; maybe he could kill some time by having a good dinner.

Fortunately, his folks weren’t back from the casino yet. He didn’t really want to spend any time hanging around home in case they might show up, get on his case, and ruin his good mood, so he quickly showered, changed clothes, put on a different jacket, and got back out the door before they showed up. A quick stop by the stash recharged his money supply, and he headed on down to Rick’s to get some dinner.

After a better than average meal that came close to cleaning out the few bucks he had with him, he sat around the place for a while working on coffee refills, and anticipating what was to come. It sure wasn’t going to be the old days with Mary Lou, or some of the other girls that he could remember; this felt different in a lot of ways, some of which he couldn’t quite put his finger on. In his old days of hanging around with Matt and Larry, they’d usually been able to come up with something if they’d really wanted to, especially at some of the parties they’d been to, but those days were gone. He hadn’t talked to Matt in more than a month, since the day he’d gotten out of jail. He didn’t particularly want to talk to Larry, anyway – in spite of everything that had happened, Larry still needed his ass kicked for stabbing him in the back the way he had.

Finally he could see that the place was emptying out and the waitress was picking stuff up like they were getting set to close. It was still probably a little early to head over to Monica’s but he thought he could walk slow; maybe she wouldn’t mind if he got there a little early.

He was in fact a little early when he got there, but Monica didn’t seem to mind. “I’m just getting the kids ready for bed,” she announced. “We’ll have to wait till they’re asleep, but we can sit and talk or something.”

“Fine, I’m in no hurry,” Frenchy said.

“I could get you a cup of coffee or something,” she offered. “It’d be instant, but it’s about all I can afford.”

“Don’t bother,” he said, already having figured out that money was more than a bit tight around her. “I’m pretty coffeed-out right now anyway.”

So he just sat on the battered old couch across from the warmth of the wood stove and watched as Monica did what she had to do to get the kids ready for the night, just wasting time and anticipating what was to come. He wound up getting comfortable, and in spite of expecting what was to come he found that he was getting sleepy in the warmth of the stove.

All of a sudden he was shocked back awake when the little girl – Cindy? – crawled up on the couch beside him, carrying a battered kid’s book. “Mr. Frenchy?” she asked. “Would you read me my bedtime story? Mommy is busy with Chad and told me to come ask you.”

“Sure,” Frenchy said, willing to be nice. The truth was that he wasn’t much of a reader – he’d never got the hang of it in school the way some kids did – but he figured he could handle a little kid’s book all right. “I don’t know that I’ve read this one before.”

“It’s all right, Mr. Frenchy,” the little girl said as she snuggled up against his side. “It’s my favorite.”

There wasn’t much Frenchy could do but put his arm around the little girl, then open the book to the first page. “Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter,” he began. “They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree . . .”

The reading was easy, and Frenchy could see that Cindy was pretty well able to read it herself, but she enjoyed the story, and the being close to him. The truth be told, he was enjoying it too. Cindy may have been a kid, but she seemed to be a nice and polite one, and it was nice to have her paying attention to him.

The story didn’t take long to read, but Frenchy’s attention was on trying to do a good job of reading it to Cindy, and he didn’t really notice Monica watching from across the room until he finished. “Thank you, Mr. Frenchy,” she said when he had finished. “That was a nice story.”

“You’re welcome, Cindy,” he replied, trying to consider the little girl’s politeness. “Maybe I can read you another one sometime.”

“Come on, Cindy,” Monica spoke up. “It’s past your bedtime. I’ll come and tuck you in.”

“Coming, Mommy,” the little girl said, getting up slowly from beside Frenchy and following her mother up the stairs, leaving him sitting on the couch, a little surprised at how much he’d enjoyed the few minutes he’d spent with her. In the back of his mind he wondered if that had been another one of Monica’s tests, but if it had been, he figured he’d passed.

In a few minutes Monica came back downstairs and sat down on the couch close to him, but not right up against him, either. “I’m sorry I had to stick you with her,” she said, “but Chad needed a little extra attention. It looked like you handled it all right, and she seemed to enjoy it.”

“I really didn’t mind. I may have enjoyed it more than she did,” Frenchy replied honestly. He let out a sigh and added, “I was thinking about it while you were upstairs with her. I think I just barely remember my mother reading to me like that. My dad, never. It was women’s work and he wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Now that I did it for Cindy, I can’t help but wonder what I missed when I was little.”

“That’s a shame,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids even though they didn’t come when I would have liked them to. I know I haven’t got anything much to give them, but I try to do the best for them I can, which includes the favors for friends. We’re going to have to just sit here and talk for a while until I’m sure they’re asleep, so I hope you won’t mind. Then, when we go upstairs, we’re still going to have to be pretty quiet.”

“I don’t mind,” he said. “It’s rare that I just get the time to sit down and talk to anyone.”

“Yeah, it is for me too,” she sighed. “Some of my friends are good to me, but they’re not much on talking, and it’s hard to talk with just kids all day. It’s been pretty much that way since I had to throw Lonnie out of the house.”


“Lonnie Iffland, the guy I was going with for a while. He’s actually Chad’s father. I thought he was all right, but after I had Chad and we moved in here he couldn’t stand the thought of being a father. He started slapping me around and that was bad enough, but then when he started slapping Chad around because he wouldn’t quit crying, I had to call the cops. Shit, Chad was just a little baby, I couldn’t have that.”

“No shit,” Frenchy replied, thinking that a crying little baby would get on his nerves too, but he didn’t think he had it in him to treat a kid like that. “You did the right thing.”

“I like to think so,” she sighed. “At least we never got married so there wasn’t that to have to deal with. Lonnie tried to get back at me after that, but I had a personal protection order on him so he did thirty days. Then, when he got out he came right back after me and I had to call the cops again. Well, the guy next door did. That time he did sixty days. I haven’t seen him since, but I’m always worried that he’ll show up again. It’s been a couple years, and I hope he’s forgotten about us. I’d keep a gun by the front door, but with the small kids in the house I don’t dare do that.”

“No child support, I’d guess,” Frenchy commented.

“Oh, hell no, no such luck. I haven’t seen a cent out of him since I had to throw him out the first time. At least I got a little money out of him, which is more than I ever got for Cindy. I get along, well, I get along with food stamps and W.I.C. and what passes for welfare in this state, plus a little help here and there. And my friends doing favors for me, I can’t forget that. It really is the only thing that helps me keep going.”

“How come you don’t get child support for Cindy?”

“Partly because I don’t know who her father is, and if I did know it wouldn’t do any good. It’s one of four guys. Two of them are in prison, one is dead, and the other I have no idea where he is and don’t really want to know. The chances that the louse would put up any child support are slim and none anyway, even if he’s out of jail too.”

It sounded to Frenchy like there was a story there, and not a very happy one, but he didn’t know what to say. The best thing he could come up with, and he knew it wasn’t very good, was to ask, “Anyone I would know?”

“Christ, I hope not,” she said. “You knew Bobby Lufkin, didn’t you?”

“I knew who he was,” Frenchy said, realizing he should have kept his mouth shut but knowing he had to go ahead from there. “He was older than I was and I didn’t run with him any.”

“That’s goddamn good,” she shook her head. “He was nothing but trouble. If he wanted something he wanted it, and he didn’t care about if someone else didn’t want him to have it. Well, he decided I might be fun to fuck and I turned him down, so one night he and three of his buddies decided that they might as well learn how I stood with them. So after they beat the crap out of me they took what they wanted. All of them, and several times each. I was just fifteen, Frenchy, but that didn’t mean anything to them. They told me that if I told anyone what happened they’d kill me, and I believed them.”

“Shit,” Frenchy said. It sounded a little too familiar to him, although he wasn’t about to say anything about it to her. That was sort of how he and Matt and Larry had threatened people when they’d been forced to kick their asses. He’d never used that technique on a girl, and didn’t think he would have if the opportunity had come up – but then, he had beer to do his work for him back then. It had served him well enough. “That really is the fucking shits.”

“It gets worse,” she sighed. “So I went home, and I didn’t dare tell my folks about it. I mean, they knew something had to be wrong, I was all bruised and beat up and bloody, so they were all over my ass about it, thinking I’d been out asking for it.” She let out a sigh and continued, “By Christmas, I couldn’t cover up the fact that I was pregnant, and they just fucking threw me out after beating me up about as bad as Bobby and his buddies did.”

“At fifteen?” he said. He was eighteen and wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of being thrown out of the house, and had put up with a lot of shit to avoid it. Fifteen and pregnant had to make it a hell of a lot worse.

“At fifteen,” she answered. “Of course I didn’t have any idea of what to do, so I went to a neighbors’ with just a little bit of stuff in my hands. At least she knew what to do; she called Family and Children’s Services. I lived with a foster family for the next two years, until I was eighteen and they didn’t get any help from the state anymore, so I was back out on the street with Cindy, who wasn’t quite two yet.”

“That would be even harder to face than being on the street while you were pregnant,” he said.

“It would have been,” she said, “except for the fact that by that time I’d met Lonnie. I knew his folks and liked them, still do in fact. I don’t think it’s their fault that they turned out such a shit for brains for a kid. I was still in high school since I’d lost a year when I had Cindy. Lonnie was in the same class, so I was a year older. Well, one thing led to another, and his folks took me in. We weren’t sleeping together at the time, but it happened after a while. And, well, I got pregnant again. It wasn’t bad being with Lonnie when his folks were around to keep a cap on things, but it was a pain in the butt too and we could see it was going to get worse. After Chad was born, it did, so Lonnie and I decided we wanted to look for our own place.”

“How did you wind up here, of all places?” Frenchy asked. “I would think that knowing that this was Bobby Lufkin’s house would make it pretty hard for you to live here.”

“Actually, that was the good thing about it,” she smiled. “This was after Cody Archer shot Bobby and his dad. You can still see the blood stains on the living room floor if you know where to look, because their blood soaked through the carpet. All I have to do is to look at the living room floor to know that the son of a bitch got just what the hell he deserved. I’m still above the ground, and he’s in some fucking landfill somewhere, at least that’s what I hear.”


“You know what happened when he got shot,” she said. “He was pulling the same shit on his sister that he’d pulled on me until Cody got involved. The story I heard was that someone came to her later and asked what she wanted done with the body, and she told whoever it was to just toss it in the nearest dumpster. I figured that was a good place; he was a piece of shit at best, anyway.”

“So how did you wind up with his house? Well, his folks’ house, same thing?”

“Well, when the cops came after Cody shot that bastard, they discovered that Bobby and his father had been running a meth lab in the basement, and they really tore the place apart looking for evidence, or just because they could. That’s why there are all the holes in the wall and stuff. Janice didn’t want anything to do with the place, not that I blame her. By then she was living with Cody, and his dad had his brother at least clear the place out, with the idea of cleaning the place up before they tried to sell it. They never quite got around to it since it was pretty clear that it was going to cost more to have the place fixed up than it would increase the value. By that time the housing market had gone to shit anyway, and they just wanted to get rid of it. Well, Lonnie’s dad got the bright idea that we could buy the place real cheap and Lonnie could fix it up. There was a special low-income deal available through the Community Improvement Agency, and it sounded like a pretty good deal. We all talked it around quite a bit, and we decided that it would be cheaper to live here and work on the place than it would be to pay rent, so we went ahead with the deal.”

“It sounds like you got a little lucky on that one,” he said.

“In more ways than one,” she sighed. “The big piece of luck I got was right at the last minute, when we discovered that Lonnie couldn’t sign for the house yet, since he was still under twenty-one. I was just barely over it, so I was the only one who could sign for the house. We were going to fix that after he got old enough, but he turned into the asshole he really was, instead. At least I got the house out of the deal and he doesn’t have any part of it. Anyway, he got some of the work done that needed doing, not much but some, before I had to call the cops on him. So there I was, no income, no boyfriend, and no money to make the payments. Lonnie’s dad tried to help out some, but then he got laid off out at Clark’s and couldn’t help any more. Well, by spring I was getting behind in the payments, even though they weren’t very much, and I was starting to wonder what the fuck I was going to do. Then this guy I know offered to help me out with the house payments if I’d do a favor for him each month. I didn’t really want to do it but I didn’t know what else to do. It’s worked out pretty well so far, enough so that I decided to do a little more of it. So here I am.”

Frenchy lay back on the couch, thinking about what she’d said. There was no doubt that what Piwowar had told him had been dead right – she’d been through a lot of hard times, and he sure didn’t want to make them worse. “It sounds to me like you’ve been through a lot of shit, but have hung in there and fought it out.”

“It wasn’t so much a case of hanging in there but having to do it for the sake of the kids,” she sighed. “It hasn’t all been bad. I still like Lonnie’s dad, for instance. We get along pretty well, and he helps me out when he can. He hasn’t heard from Lonnie for a while, either. It was probably a mistake when Lonnie and I moved out, but it felt like something we had to do.”

“Still, it seems like you’ve done a pretty good job with your kids, in spite of everything,” Frenchy said. “I mean, Cindy is really neat. I haven’t had any time to see Chad, but from what little I’ve seen he seems to be all right for a kid that little.”

“He’s going through his terrible twos, so he can be a real pain at times. I try to be gentle with him, but sometimes it’s hard, especially since I have to spend so much time alone with him. But with any kind of luck he may turn out all right, not like his father.”

“If Lonnie is as bad as you say, Chad is probably better off without him,” Frenchy observed, thinking more about himself and his own father than he was about anything else. To the extent that he’d thought about his list of people who needed their asses kicked, he realized that his father had moved way to the top of the list. Others had moved off it as not really being worth the trouble, but the time to deal with his father wasn’t right, at least not yet. One of these days that would change.

“Most likely,” she sighed. “I can make do for a while, but a boy really needs a father, or at least someone to stand in for him. Maybe someday the right guy will come along, but if not, I’ll just have to make do.”

“If you find someone, I hope he’ll work out better than my father,” Frenchy said, looking to at least change the subject off of Monica’s rather depressing history. “I mean, I can’t ever recall him being a good father, or at least what I think of as a good father. I mean, I could see other kids having good times with their families, but I can’t think of very often when I did when I was a kid. Dad always wanted what he wanted and took it if he had to.”

That caused him to stop and think for a moment. His father was still that way, or else there wouldn’t be the ongoing hassles over his paycheck every Friday. But hadn’t he pretty much been the same way, at least up till last summer? It had to have been something he’d learned from his father, like Bobby Lufkin had learned from his, for that matter, and it hadn’t worked out all that well for Bobby, he thought as he glanced across the room at the spot that Monica had pointed out earlier. It was an uncomfortable thought, and one that needed thinking about. If he was ever a father, would he pass the same thing along to a son of his own?

He was silent long enough that Monica finally said, “Frenchy?”

“Just thinking about something,” he told her. “Maybe you’re doing all right with Chad by yourself. It’s better for a boy to grow up without a father than it is to have the wrong kind of a father.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” she agreed. “But Frenchy, let’s not talk about this kind of stuff any more, at least not now. I’m supposed to be making you feel good, and I can see I’m making you feel bad. Tell me, how do you like working out in the woods?”

“It’s all right,” he replied, refusing to let his mind drift off of his previous thoughts. “In general, the kind of guys I’m working with would have been lousy fathers. A couple of them maybe are, I don’t know. But they’d be lousy fathers for other reasons, mostly booze, and they haven’t had all of that burned out of them. I’m the youngest guy on the crew by a long ways, and I can see some mistakes there that I don’t want to make. Sven, well, Sven is a little different. I haven’t known him that long, but in the last month or so he’s been more of a father to me than my real father has ever been.”

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To be continued . . .

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