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Out of the Cage
Wes Boyd
©2010, ©2016

Chapter 20

June 3 – 4, 2011

It didn’t take long for Frenchy and Sven to clear out Frenchy’s room. He didn’t have much, anyway; he wasn’t the kind of person who accumulated a lot of stuff. When something was no longer of use he’d had a habit of throwing it out, rather than keeping it in case there might be some use for it in the future. He wasn’t much of a reader, so had no collection of books and the like. On Sven’s suggestion, they’d brought some garbage bags with them, and it was no great trick to stuff Frenchy’s few clothes in them, along with some other things that would be useful, like his alarm clock. Figuring that he was going to have to buy a new bed, Frenchy stuffed the sheets, blankets and pillow from his old bed in a garbage bag too.

As they worked, they heard more yelling and bitching from Frenchy’s father downstairs, and occasionally quieter but forceful words from Piwowar. “Jesus, Sven,” Frenchy said as they were finishing things up. “You were right. The cops ain’t always the enemy. We’d have had a hell of a time if they weren’t here.”

“Yaaah, ya betcha,” Sven grinned. “I’m afraid if we’d come with da guys, someone would have wound up goin’ ta jail before dis is over with. I think it was more better we do it dis way. Is dat about it?”

“Pretty much,” Frenchy shrugged. “I can’t think of much else I want out of here but my ass.”

“Then let’s get it out of here.”

It really wasn’t much stuff. The two of them grabbed several garbage bags and headed for the stairs. “Where the fuck are you going with all my shit,” Frenchy’s father raged as soon as they appeared in the living room. “You fuckers are stealing me blind!”

“It’s all stuff out of what was my room,” Frenchy replied. “There ain’t none of it that’s yours.”

“You lyin’ little fuck!” his father yelled. He turned to Piwowar and yelled, “This is your fuckin’ fault, you’re letting them steal all that stuff from me. I ought to kick your fuckin’ ass.”

“That might not be the smartest thing you ever tried,” Piwowar replied as gently as he could, although it was easy to see that he was getting tired of this stuff too.

“Don’t you fuckin’ smart-mouth me,” Frenchy’s father said in a blind rage. “I don’t have to put up with that shit from no fuckin’ cop.” He hauled back and threw a punch at the sergeant.

It never landed; in an instant, Frenchy’s father was on the floor, with Piwowar and the younger cop getting handcuffs on him. “Assault on a police officer,” Piwowar said. “I’ve had enough of this shit, you’re going downtown.” He spent a few seconds giving Frenchy’s father the memorized Miranda rights statement.

“Have fun, jail rat,” Frenchy grinned as his father continued to yell, mostly obscenities. “I guess that means you don’t get to piss your money away on the slots this weekend. The venison shit-on-shingle at the jail is bad enough, but when they serve the venison stew it makes the SOS look pretty good.”

“You young fuck,” his father raged. “You ain’t getting away with this. I’m going to have your ass.”

“Frenchy, you got more stuff to bring down?” Piwowar asked conversationally.

“Yeah, a little.”

“Then why don’t you go get it so we can get this joker out to the car?”

“I can do that,” Frenchy smiled. “Sorry to have caused you any trouble.”

“No big deal, just part of the job,” Piwowar said in a businesslike manner.

Frenchy and Sven headed back upstairs to get the rest of the garbage bags. “We probably oughta give dem a little time ta get him outa here. With him out of da way, is dere anythin’ else ya wanna take?” Sven asked.

“No, not really,” Frenchy replied. “Most of this shit I’m just glad to have behind me. I’ve got what I need.”

“Till I got married da last time I always figured dat da more stuff ya had, da more ya had to move when da time came to move,” Sven grinned. “But now I need da house and da barn and da stuff for da business, so I guess I can’t live like dat no more.”

“Yeah, I can see how having too much stuff would be a pain in the ass,” Frenchy said. He listened for a moment, and didn’t hear any more yelling coming from downstairs. “I suppose we can head back down, now.”

The two weren’t overloaded in getting the rest of the garbage bags out to Frenchy’s pickup in one trip; out in the street in front of the house, they could see Piwowar and the younger officer waiting for them. His father was in the cage in the back of the police car.

“Frenchy,” Piwowar said conversationally. “Have you had to put up with much of that?”

“Almost every day, but not that bad,” Frenchy shook his head. “Fridays, always pretty bad, but never like this.”

Piwowar shook his head. “Jesus, Frenchy, knowing what I know about you I’m surprised you didn’t pop him one a long time ago.”

“Don’t think I didn’t want to,” Frenchy said. “Sometimes it’s been a real struggle to not do it, but I figured it would cause more trouble than it was worth.”

“Ain’t that a fact,” Piwowar smiled. “You don’t always solve problems with your fists. He might have learned that tonight. Do you know if he’s been drinking or on something?”

“Don’t know, but I wouldn’t put it past him,” Frenchy shook his head. “He says he quit drinking and I haven’t seen him do it since I’ve been out of jail, but that proves nothing. Meth or something might get him that crazy but I’ve never seen him do that, either.”

“Well could be,” the officer sighed. “I don’t often see someone in that big a rage without booze or some kind of chemicals being involved. Look, I don’t know how long he’s going to be in jail, but it’ll probably be Monday before Judge Dieball sets bail. If he hasn’t cooled off, you might think about lying a little low. Don’t be afraid to call us if something crops up, and don’t take things into your own hands unless you aren’t left with any choice.”

“Yeah,” Frenchy said. “I think I’ve learned that. I don’t even know if he’s going to be able to make bail, though, and I’m sure not planning on helping him. My mother is still working over at the Super Market; she won’t be home for a while yet. Maybe it’s just as well. She hasn’t been a hell of a lot better than he has, although she hasn’t tried to hit me or anything like that. She’s just gone along with him.”

“After we get him downtown, maybe we’d better stop off and see her,” the officer said. “You got a place to stay?”

“Yeah, I’m going to be boarding with a friend,” Frenchy said, sort of indicating Sven without saying anything.

“Well, good,” Piwowar said. “Just keep your head down and don’t start anything.”

“I’ll try not to,” Frenchy promised.

“Guess we’d better get him downtown,” the officer said. “I’ll see you around.”

“I’ll get the rest of the stuff and lock up the house,” Frenchy told them. “Sorry to have to bother you with this.”

“Like I said, part of the job. Frenchy, a word to the wise. I think I understand you a little better now and I can see how you got into the trouble you got into last summer. I think if you think about it you’ll see it too, and I sure hope you can pull your way out of that kind of thinking.”

“I think I understand what you’re saying,” Frenchy told him. “Although I hadn’t thought about it like that in so many words, and I’m trying to pull away from it.”

The officers headed back to the police car while Sven and Frenchy got the rest of the garbage bags they’d left in the living room. “Well,” Frenchy said as he locked the door, hopefully for the last time, “I guess that’s that. Sven, I’m even more glad you thought to call the cops.”

“Yaaah, I didn’t think it would go dat bad,” Sven told him as he carried an armload of garbage bags down the steps. “Your ol’ man, he’s really a piece a work. I don’t know how ya managed ta put up with dat shit for so long.”

“I guess I was just used to it,” Frenchy sighed, Piwowar’s last words still floating around in his mind. “Maybe that’s how I thought things were supposed to be, but I can see where that shit got me too.”

“You gonna be able ta get all dis stuff into your new place OK?”

“I should be able to,” Frenchy said. “There’s not all that much stuff. I might as well run you home and go get to it. Thanks for your help, Sven. If I hadn’t had it I might be the one heading to jail. And get hold of Red if you can so he doesn’t try to pick me up Monday.”

It didn’t take long for Frenchy to drive Sven out to his place, then back across town to Monica’s. It was getting dark now, and it was easy to see that she was still up and that the lights were still on in the living room. “That took you longer than I thought it would,” she said as he climbed the steps to the front porch, carrying a couple garbage bags.

“Yeah, well, I had some trouble,” Frenchy told her. “Fortunately, it came out all right, mostly thanks to Sven.” He went on to explain what had gone on in the last hour or so.

“God, that sucks,” she sighed. “It went about that bad with my folks when they threw me out of the house when I was pregnant with Cindy. We still aren’t talking, and as far as I know they’re not even still in town, not that I care very much, either. Christ, Frenchy, I hope I’m never that stupid and thoughtless with my kids.”

“Me too,” he sighed. “At least we both have some good examples of what not to do.”

“Come on,” she said. “I’ll help you haul your stuff up to your new room, and then maybe we can sit down and relax a little. We’ll have to be quiet so we don’t wake the kids.”

Frenchy wound up spending the night on the couch, like he’d expected, but he figured he’d have late Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday to get things set up, even though he didn’t have a lot that needed to get set up.

It was nice to wake up the next morning to the smell of fresh coffee; Monica had been up before him, if only for a few minutes. The kids weren’t up yet, and she made him a breakfast of cereal and toast. It wasn’t the breakfast he would have had at Rick’s on a normal Saturday morning, but it was perfectly adequate, and cost him a lot less, so there were already advantages to the new setup. It wasn’t long before a still sleepy Cindy appeared in the kitchen. “Uncle Frenchy!” she cried. “What are you doing here now?”

“Uncle Frenchy is going to be staying with us for a while,” Monica explained. “Up in the new room he’s been working on.”

“Goodie,” the little girl cheered. “Does that mean you’re going to read to me more?”

“Sure does, Cindy,” he smiled. Being around her was going to be one of the best things about staying with Monica. “But I can’t do it now. I’ve got to eat, and then I’ve got things to do. But I’ll read to you some this afternoon if you like.”

“Great,” she said. “I’ll find some nice books for us to read.”

Cindy was well on her way to being a real sweetheart, Frenchy thought as he talked with her for a few minutes while Monica refilled his coffee cup and just sat there and listened with a smile on her face. Finally, Frenchy announced that he had to get up and get going.

“I’ll see you later,” she said, still smiling. “It still amazes me how well you get along with the kids.”

“Well, I like the kids, and that helps,” Frenchy said as he got ready to head to his Saturday morning community service session.

It was nice to finally be able to drive the truck to the session – just not having to walk to go get it whenever he wanted to use it was going to save him a lot of time. As usual, there were several people hanging around waiting for Porter to show up. He finally did, running a little late, which of course no one minded at all.

“I got good news and I got bad news, people,” he said as they gathered around. “The bad news is that the road commission is starting to pick up road-kill deer again. They’ve fattened up enough that there’s finally some meat on their bones.” There was a heartfelt groan that went around the group – they all knew what that meant, and it wasn’t good.

“The good news,” he continued, “is that we’ve just gotten a couple guys on community service who know what they’re doing in processing the deer, so you guys aren’t going to have to do it, at least not until they run their hours out.”

The groans immediately turned to cheers. Frenchy had no idea who the two guys were, but with only two months or so left to go on the community service it looked to him like he wouldn’t get stuck with that chore again. “LeDroit, Mr. Derbyshire wants to see you, I don’t think it’s trouble or anything, but you can catch up with us over on Whicher Street, out towards the plant. The rest of us, let’s get going.”

While the rest of the crew got in the van, Frenchy went inside to see the probation officer. He was sitting in his office, going over some paperwork. “You wanted to see me?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Derbyshire said. “I see you managed to stay out of trouble last night.”

“You mean that deal with my father?” Frenchy asked. “He was the one who wanted to make trouble. I’m just glad a friend of mine decided to call the cops so they were there to stop it.”

“Yeah, no skin off your butt from my viewpoint,” the older man said. “In fact, from what I read on the police report you did a good job of keeping your cool. From what I hear, you’ve been doing a good job at keeping your nose clean and staying out of trouble. Is your job still working out all right?”

“Better than ever,” Frenchy said, taking a moment to explain about the firewood deliveries.

“Good,” the probation officer said. “I realize it’s not the greatest job in the world, but just getting a good work record at this point in your life will help you out a lot. I realize that your working has been keeping you from taking all the opportunities for doing your community service. At the rate you’re going, you’re going to be falling a little short of having it completed by the time your probation runs out. However, if you can keep going at this rate, when your probation runs out I’ll ask Judge Dieball to set aside the rest of the requirement.”

“Thanks,” Frenchy said. “I appreciate that. I’ve been working at it the best I could, but there are times it’s gotten in the way of other things that need to be done. Like, this morning I really need to stop off at the thrift store, and it’ll be closed by the time I get done. As soon as we’re done here, do you think it would be all right if I stopped off there for a few minutes?”

“You’re driving, right?” Derbyshire asked. “Well, I’d think if you didn’t take any more time than it would take you to walk out there that Mr. Porter won’t mind.”

It didn’t take long to finish up with the rest of the session, which Derbyshire told Frenchy would take care of his probation appointment for the month. That meant that he was down to only two of them, one in early July, and one when the probation was completed. It would feel good to have that not hanging around his neck. There were other things that needed to be done, at least some of it for Monica, and maybe Sven could be convinced to give him overtime if he could make firewood deliveries on Saturday. That would mean a little more money in his pocket.

As soon as Frenchy was out of the courthouse, he got in his truck and drove over to the thrift store. He was looking for a bed; sleeping on Monica’s couch would be all right for a night or two, but it wasn’t the kind of thing he could do forever. The thrift store, which resold donated goods and clothes, had a small furniture section of mostly beat-up and used if serviceable furniture. However, they didn’t really have a bed that would serve him; the one they had small enough to fit in the room had a mattress that was very lumpy, with springs poking through, even worse, if possible, than the bed in his parent’s house. However, one of the workers told him to keep checking back because there was always stuff coming and going, and suggested that Frenchy buy an old folding army cot for a couple bucks. The cot was narrow and seemed a little flimsy, but it was easy to set up and after giving it a try Frenchy thought he could live with it – it was easily more comfortable than his old bed.

Frenchy bought another couple things, for a total of less than ten bucks spent, that would help him to set up the room. He tossed them all into the bed of his truck, and started over toward the far end of Whicher Street to get going on the community service, thinking that it would be nice to have a dresser to store some of his clothes in.

He found the community service crew with no difficulty, and Porter had no comment about the time he’d taken to come join them. The work this morning was again mowing lawns of empty houses, which the crew had been doing a lot of the last few weeks. There were several old lawnmowers in a trailer behind the van, and one of them wasn’t being used; he got it out, and started in on the lawn of an empty house with a forlorn “For Sale” sign on it.

Once again, nobody worked very hard, and once again Frenchy skipped lunch – more venison something from the jail kitchen. Frenchy just sat back, bummed a cigarette from another one of the crew, and wondered just how much his father was enjoying the venison, something he had to be eating at the jail.

Even without working very hard, the afternoon dragged on very slowly. It was nice to load the mowers back onto Porter’s trailer and call it a day. As Frenchy was driving across town back to Monica’s, he happened to notice a rather beat-up old dresser sitting out on the curb, waiting for the trash crew to pick it up and haul it off.

He braked hard and backed up for a better look – he’d been thinking about the need for a dresser off and on all morning, but the thrift store hadn’t had anything that looked like it might serve. This one did. It really was a piece of junk; it was beat up, one of the drawers wouldn’t open and the bottom was out of another one and missing. Still, the price was right; Frenchy loaded it into the back of the truck and headed for Monica’s, thinking that there was a piece of left-over wallboard that probably could be made to work as a bottom for the drawer.

“Glad you’re back,” Monica said as he walked in the front door. “How did it go?”

“If I was to say, ‘About the same,’ would you believe me?”

“Yeah, I guess I would. Did you find a bed?”

Frenchy had to tell her that he hadn’t, but about the cot and the dresser. “It won’t be the first piece of furniture in this house that escaped the trash pickup,” she told him. “What are you going to do about painting the room?”

“After thinking about it, nothing,” he replied. He’d put a couple coats of paint on the wallboard on the previous weekend, but it was hard to tell that it had been painted at all – the paint had soaked into the porous wallboard so badly. “It’ll serve for now,” he explained. “Maybe when we get a few bucks built up we can paper it like we talked about, or something, but for now I think I can just leave it the way it is.”

“Suit yourself,” she told him. “You’re the one who’s going to be living there.”

It took an hour and a little work to get the dresser fixed enough to serve him. The wallboard bottom of the one drawer was going to be weak, and he made a mental note to not load much into it. In messing around he saw the problem with the drawer that couldn’t be opened, and decided that it wasn’t worth trying to fix. He could make do without it.

Once that was done, it didn’t take him long to get the cot set up and make up something of a bed out of it. He spent some time unpacking the garbage bags, some into the dresser, some into the milk crates he’d used as sawhorses. His winter clothes he figured he could just leave in the garbage bags, and reshuffle when the time came.

*   *   *

It took him a few days to get settled into living at Monica’s, but right from the beginning it was a much better deal than he’d had at home. The food was much better; no longer did he have to scrounge canned vegetables for breakfast, make peanut butter sandwiches for lunch out of stuff in his truck, or suffer through the lousiest tray meals the Super Market had to offer. Monica was still very careful with the money she spent on food, but still, he ate a lot better.

Other than a quick stop in his old neighborhood to clean a few dollars out of his cash stash, he stayed away from that part of town. He had no idea of whether his father was in jail, out on bail, or what, and didn’t particularly care, as long as he didn’t have to deal with him.

Of course, he played with Cindy and Chad whenever he could – having them around him more just made him like them more. It was especially fun to snuggle up to Cindy and read to her, and about as much fun with Chad, although like any two year old he had a limited attention span. When Cindy had a favor to repay, he enjoyed taking the kids to the park or for a ride in the truck, and they seemed to enjoy it as much as he did.

His list of favors done for Monica consisted of minor things, but there were lots of them, and a couple times over the first couple weeks, she took the time to repay him, and as enjoyably as ever – but still, they slept in their separate beds.

By the time a couple weeks had passed, he’d felt like he was settled in – and that his life was much better than it had been before. It wasn’t perfect, but at least he had a job, wheels, and friends, even if none of them were the same as they had been the year before.

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To be continued . . .

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