Tanya's favorite tool of defense
(Time of story? Many years ago)
Beautiful fifteen year old Tanya and I were playing Boggle one day at the runaway shelter in Bellingham, Washington when she spoke these words to me. “I saw my father's head explode when I was four years old.” Obviously, that sentence had my full attention. I dropped my score keeping pencil and said, “I'm listening.”
“My mom took me on a long trip by car from some farmhouse near Spokane that took days, I think. It seemed forever. We ended up in a East Los Angeles house and she disappeared. I remember waking up and she wasn't anywhere around at the house we had entered late at night. The next thing, I knew, I was in the bad seat of this big red Cadillac and a boy was sitting next to me. I remembering thinking, 'Did they get you too?'
“Was it Ray?” I asked. Ray was her twin brother that visited frequently at the shelter home.
“Yeah, I had never seen him in person before.”
Tanya and I had become very close over the last five months. Grace, an older, caring social worker, had come over one day and literally begged my wife and I to take her in. She explained that she had been picked up by the police in Vancouver B.C. She had hooked up with an ex-con and they were running a robbery scam. Tanya, was a strikingly attractive young woman, over six-feet tall with exquisite clear mocha skin and deep brown eyes. She wore her hair in a little Afro which added three more inches to her height. When she smiled it would light up the entire neighborhood.
She was taught by the ex-con to just walk down the streets near Gas Town, smile and men would follow her back to the cheap second floor apartment where he would jump out with a knife and rob some poor sucker. This little ruse didn't last too long before both of them were deported and ended up in Bellingham, the nearest town with social services. He went back to prison for parole violations and Tanya was back in the system yet again. She had been in 57 different foster homes and was well known by the workers there. Wanda and I had lots of experience as we had met at a tough residential treatment center in an Idaho town where we both had worked. We got the full story, or so we thought, and the next thing we knew, a Whitney Houston look-a-like, with a voice to match was our new roommate.
The phone rang. I got up, irritated by the interruption, as Tanya didn't often open up and she was about to share one hell of a story. She had told me many but never any part of this one. I answered with fake friendliness. “Well, fuck you too buddy, I 'll be here!” I slammed the phone down, hard.
“What was that? “ Tanya inquired.
“Oh, some drunk asshole, claiming he knew I had his daughter here and he was going to come over and kick my ass.”
“What if he comes over, tonight?”
“Ain't my problem now is it?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“It's going to be your problem after that bullshit you pulled at school today. I saved your ass, again, so as pay back you are answering the door. I'll get you a frying pan.”
“Hey, asshole dipshit, you already punished me and the frying pan thing isn't that funny. By the way, do you think it is proper parenting to say, “Fuck “in front of your foster daughter?” her brown eyes were twinkling as she loved this type of banter.
“Punished? Are you kidding me? I took you out to lunch for Christ Sakes. I warned you about my descriptive language the first day I met you.”
“You yelled at me and you call saying , “Fuck” all the time descriptive language?”
“Hey, I like the word and I didn't yell at you. All I said was, “Consider yourself chewed out.”
“But you hurt my feelings,” which she somehow said without laughing aloud.
I had gotten called out from my student teaching day, to deal with a typical Tanya problem at school. She had cussed some teacher out and was about to be suspended. I listened closely, and respectfully and assured the principal and offended teacher that the situation would be attended to. Tanya played her part perfectly, hands folded, eyes downcast, hunched up to look as small as possible, a performance I had seen many times before but still admired. We walked out and I said, “Saved you ass again, bitch. Now, consider yourself chewed out.”
“I really am sorry, you had to leave school again...” eyes downcast, hands folded, still in character.
“Knock it off! Besides I was glad to leave, check this action out." I showed her my slacks that had split at the butt exposing my red long underwear, the ones with the flap in the back. “The fourth graders really enjoyed this.”
We both broke up laughing and ended up eating lunch at the Cliff House Restaurant.
“Are you going to tell Wanda about the school thing?”
“Yep, I tell her everything, but I'll cover your sorry ass again.”
“Please do, I hate getting lectured by her, she can be scary.”
“Scary? She's only 5'2” for Christ Sakes, you tower over her. It's funny to watch from a distance. Hey, want a soda? Let's go out on the deck, I want to hear this story about Big Ray's demise.”
I got the cans of pop and we went out onto the deck that overlooked the town and Western Washington University's campus. It was gorgeous with all the lights. “So, you saw, Ray, you were saying....”
She told me about how her father known as Big Ray, a 6'8” and 300+ pound black man who always wore a brown leather coat, had taken her and brother Ray into a restaurant and they had ordered breakfast. Big Ray was eating away when the door opened and a guy walked in from the busy street and took a seat at the counter. Big Ray slapped down his fork and walked over to the coffee pot. He took four or five huge strides, spun the unsuspecting guy around in the chair and proceeded to pour the entire scalding coffee down his throat. He then calmly put back the pot and returned to eating his eggs. Sometime later, Tanya and little Ray were in the backseat of the Caddy waiting at a stoplight when they heard an explosion and both watched their father die in front of their eyes.
“Jesus, Tanya, that is one hell of a story. Someday, I am going to write all about you."
“Go right ahead but leave out the frying pan stuff.”
“Are you kidding me? Not tell the folks about how you used to knock out your mother's boyfriends with a frying pan? I will not promise that. In fact, whenever you're pissed at me, I hide the pans, just to be safe. “
“I'm going to bed, asshole dipshit.”
“Just a second,” I went and grabbed a couple of blankets and a pillow. “"Here you go.”
“What the fuck?” she involuntarily blurted out.
“You need to sleep out here close to the door, in case that drunk wasn't kidding and here's your frying pan. Don't ever say that nasty word in front of your foster daddy again either.”
The phone rang again. “Oh, fuck me, that goddamn phone again. Shit!”
I heard her laughing and she broke into :
Oh I wanna dance with somebody
I wanna feel the heat with somebody
Yeah I wanna dance with somebody with somebody who loves me “
"Night asshole dipshit. “ she called as she headed upstairs.
“Sleep well, bitch.”
Now, that's she's asleep I can tell you more stories about her and the runaway shelter. Nope, not today, maybe some other time. I need some sleep too. "Oh, no! Not that goddamn phone, again!"