We ride the bus to the Aviation Mall. Once inside, we walk to a cluster of phone booths. I notice the enameled blue bell near the coin slot. I wonder how a phone works. Dad inserts a few quarters and presses the square number buttons. I don’t know who he’s calling until I hear him say my Mother’s name, Deborah.
“Deborah, It’s Thomas. Have you been watching the news with this shuttle?”
I can’t hear her response.
“I predicted that, you know. Do you remember when I called you before it went off and said Deb I have a bad feeling about the shuttle; it’s going to blow up.”
I don’t remember him making this phone call to her. I wonder if she remembers.
Then Dad begins to raise his voice, “Come on Debbie. It’s Jenny’s first year going into Kindergarten, and you are leaving? Who is this man anyways? So you are just going to move to California with a man you only knew for a few weeks? What about your other kids?”
I don’t have visitation with my mother because Dad carries a piece of paper in his pocket, which proves that he owns me.
He always says, “Jenny, even before you were born, Daddy knew I wanted another daughter. I had a premonition. I saw everything…my ex-wife…re-married to a young guy. And Daddy knew that I would end up alone with you. When your Mother was unhappy, and wanted out, I told her to take the car, take the money, but give me the baby. So I made her sign this.” He unfolds a fragile looking piece of paper. It’s a contract written in her hand stating: “I, Deborah Lee give Thomas Paul full rights and custody of Jenny Leigh.” They both signed and dated it.
Dad says he’s a psychic. Not a phony like the rest of them. He told me about when he was younger and he predicted that President Kennedy would be killed.
“Jenny, I was riding the bus to work one day, and just looking out the window when a cloud appeared in the shape of President Kennedy’s face. He said to me ‘Thomas, they are going to kill me.’ I asked the woman sitting next to me if she saw that cloud. Of course, she didn’t. Then I told my wife, right away, after getting home. She thought I was crazy. But wouldn’t you know it, two weeks later, I come home and she was crying on the bed with my mother. I thought she lost the baby, but then she told me the President had been shot! Kennedy knew the bastards wanted him dead and he told your Father.”
On my first day of school, Dad kneels down to meet my eye as he gives me some instructions.
“Jenny, I don’t want you crying like all these other kids. Little whine-blatts. No you have to be strong in life because it’s just you and Daddy.”
He snaps his fingers, saying, “see this, as fast as Daddy just snapped his fingers you will be graduated from school. That’s how time works. It goes so fast.”
“And don’t forget, Daddy keeps this paper your Mother signed in my wallet at all times in case anyone ever tries to take you away. Trust me, Jenny; she didn’t want you! But there is something very important and you have to listen to Daddy because this is a matter of life and death. If your Mother ever shows up at your school, then you SCREAM, “kidnap!” Do you know what Daddy means by screaming? I mean bloody-murder like I taught you to do if a stranger tries to touch you. Then run and go get your teacher.”
I don’t blink or breathe when he gives me these instructions.