I like to believe I have free agency over my life on this insane, blue ball spinning through space, but every now and then the cackling, malevolent octopus of WTF reaches out, wraps a sucker-covered tentacle around my balls and pulls me somewhere I never in a jillion years wanted to go.
It all started when Mom invited me over to have cowboy tacos with her and Ralph.Cowboy tacos are awesome.Kind of like a cross between a taco and a sloppy joe.I was just cocking my head to bite into my fifth taco when Mom said, “Jimmy Merle, we need to talk.”
“What’s up, Mom,” I said around a mouthful of cowboy taco.
“Well, your Father and I received an order to appear in court.”
“Dolores is suing for visitation,” Ralph said.
“Dolores…?You mean my biological dad’s ex-wife?”
“Yes, dear,” Mom said.
A little family history might be helpful here.Mom and my bio-dad, Jeff, divorced when I was seven.When I was nine Mom wound up marrying Benny, a complete and total asshole.They divorced when I was twenty.Ralph is Mom’s third husband and they’ve been married for a couple of years.
Anyway, after Mom and my real dad, Jeff, split up I didn’t see him again for many years.I was an adult when we reconnected, and that’s when I met his new wife, Dolores.I liked her even though she could be a little weird.They got divorced a few years later.Apparently, Jeff got really drunk and tried to hold up a Krispy Kreme with a Nerf gun, and that was the last straw for Dolores.
“Who does she want visitation with?”
“You, of course.” Mom said.
“Me!?”I said, spewing taco down my shirt.
Mom handed me a napkin.“Dolores feels that since she had a relationship with you growing up, that she has certain rights as a step-parent.”
“Growing up?!I didn’t meet her until I was twenty-five!”
“Well,” Ralph said, clearing his throat, “unfortunately there is legal precedent for step-parents to be awarded visitation to older step-children if the step-parent has had significant involvement in the child’s life.”
“But I’m fifty-two years old!”
“Of course you are, dear,” Mom said, “and we’re going to explain that to the judge.They have some leeway in these cases, and will usually take an older step-child’s wishes into account when ordering visitation.”
“But I don’t want to be forced to visit anyone!”
“Now, don’t you worry, sweetie.We’ve been praying hard, we’ve hired a good lawyer, and we’re going to fight this.”
“What kind of visitation does she want?”
“One weekend a month, every other Christmas, and six weeks during Summer vacation,” said Ralph.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!Things are just starting to take off for Civilian Fuck Monkey.CNN picked up the mall shooter story, and we’re getting national publicity.We’re finally getting advertisers, and a bunch of charities want to partner with us.I can’t get pulled away now!How am I supposed to take six weeks off running CFM every Summer to go stay with Dolores?”
“It will all work out because it’s in the Lord’s hands, Dear,” Mom said, patting my hand.“And don’t say the f-word.”
Later that evening Kevin and I were playing Fortnight and working our way through a case of Sierra Nevada pale ales when I told him about the upcoming custody battle.
“So, let me get this straight,” Kevin said, cracking open another beer.“Dolores is suing for partial custody of you?”
“She claims that as a step-parent she has certain rights.”
“Yeah, I get that,” Kevin said.“What I mean is who in their right mind would actually want custody of a fuckwit like you?”
“Lots of people,” I said defensively.
“And want it badly enough to sue for it?”
“Well, Dolores for one—”
“Do you think she’s suffering from some kind of mental illness?”
“Oh, fuck off.”
“It sounds like a complete psychotic breakdown,” he mused.
“Go fuck yourself, ass hat.”
“She’ll probably need to be committed.”
“God DAMMIT, Kevin!Shut the fuck UP!”
He just laughed and flipped me the bird, then tossed me a beer.
On the date of the hearing I drove to the courthouse, arriving a few minutes early.Mom and Ralph were in the hall outside the courtroom with their lawyer, looking nervous.
“Hi Mom, hi Daddy,” I said, giving them both a hug.“Where’s Dolores?”
“She went inside a few minutes ago,” Mom said.
“So, do we go in now, or what?”
“Well, Dear, when parents are fighting a legal battle over visitation, Judges don’t like the children involved to be in the courtroom.Studies have shown that it’s too traumatizing.You’ll have to wait our here in the hallway.”
“You mean I don’t even get to participate in a hearing that affects my life?!”
The lawyer finally spoke up.“Jimmy Merle, we’ll let the judge know that you don’t want forced visitation, and make the case that you’re old enough to have some input on this decision.Given your age, I feel we have a very strong case.”
“For crying out loud!I’m old enough to get ads for erectile dysfunction.We’d better have a strong case.”
“We do, dear, we do,” Mom said.“Everything’s going to be fine.Now, you sit right out here in the hallway in one of these nice, comfortable chairs.”
“Here’s some money for the vending machine,” she said, stuffing some dollar bills into my shirt pocket.
“Mom, I have my own money.Wait—”
“Don’t wander off, Dear,” she whispered over her shoulder as they disappeared into the courtroom.
“Shit,” I said.
Mom poked her head back out of the door.“And don’t say the s-word.”
I walked over to the vending machine and got a diet Coke, then went and sat down.I was a bundle of nerves.The truth is, I like Dolores, but I feel like I have to be loyal to Mom and Ralph.I guess I was feeling caught in the middle.
I was halfway through my fourth diet Coke when the courtroom doors opened.Mom, Ralph and the lawyer came out.Ralph and the lawyer looked grim.Mom was crying.
“What the hell happened?” I said.
“Don’t say the h-word,” Mom said, wiping her eyes.
“Things didn’t quite go our way,” Ralph sighed.“Dolores was awarded visitation.”
“But, but…didn’t you tell them my age?That I’m old enough to have a say in this?”
“We did, Jimmy Merle,” said the lawyer.“But Dolores showed the judge your Civilian Fuck Monkey website—”
“Shit,” I said.
“And he spent considerable time going through the site—”
“And he felt that, well, given the nature of the content that you’re not quite mature enough yet to have input on visitation.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
“But it’s not all bad news,” the lawyer said brightly.“I was able to negotiate down the length of the visitation.”
“Only five weeks in the Summer.”
“Fuck me hard!”
“I told you not to put up that awful, awful site!” Mom sobbed as Ralph patted her on the shoulder.“And don’t say the f-word.”
Just then Dolores burst through the courtroom door, all smiles.
“Jimmy Merle!”She chirped.“Oh, Jimmy Merle!Where’s my favorite stepson!There you are!”She ran over and smothered my face in a massive, bosomy, bear hug.“Did they tell you the good news!”
“They tolth me,” I mumbled through her ample bosoms.
“Isn’t this exciting!You’ll get to come visit, and we’ll binge watch The Crown, and you’ll come to my book club.The ladies are dying to meet you!And, oh, we’ll just spend lots and lots and lots of time together!”
“That’th greath, Doloreth.You can leth me go now.”
I pulled free of Delores’ embrace and saw Ralph leading Mom away, his arm around her shoulder, Mom’s sobs echoing down the hallway.
“Let’s celebrate!” Dolores said, hooking her arm through mine and escorting me the opposite direction.“I’m taking you to Dairy Queen for a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard!Your favorite!”
“Don’t tell Mom.She thinks sugar makes me hyperactive.”
As Dolores walked me towards the exit, Mom’s sobs turned to wailing, the echoes receding in the distance.
“And after Dairy Queen…I’m taking you putt-putt golfing!”
“Fuck’s sake,” I sighed as Dolores led me outside.
That was three weeks ago.I’ve got my overnight bag all packed for my first weekend visit with Dolores.Kevin says I should stop being such a goddamm pussy and quit complaining about it.I think he’s just happy to have me off his couch.But maybe he’s right.
But goddammit, this sucks.Dolores is really strict, she makes me go to church, and she doesn’t buy the kind of cereal I like.And I’m not sure, but I get the feeling she may have a crush on me.