CALL ME MOMMY
A novel by Marshall Frank
Miami, Florida, May, 1964
It was a glorious day. Applause seemed to emanate from every corner of the campus as she made her way to the parking lot, beaming with pride. The announcements had just been released. Professors, friends, even students she had never met before offered congratulations for finishing with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, head of her class. After four long years, that sweet Bachelor's Degree was hers. Only one more paper to study, her valedictorian speech for the graduation ceremony. The long, arduous haul was over for this pert, wide-eyed country girl who, four years earlier, earned an academic scholarship at the University of Miami. It was time to celebrate. At twenty-two, Laura Jean Ramsey was the happiest woman alive.
She checked her watch. It was nearly four. She figured he would probably not be home by now. Normally, she'd phone him at the office but this called for a little surprise. First, a stop at a local deli for a pound of smoked sailfish, Swiss cheese and a box of sesame crackers, his favorite, then to the liquor store for a bottle...no, two bottles of champagne. She'd leave the baby at the sitter's an extra couple of hours, maybe even overnight so they could have this time alone. It had been so long. With all the school commitments, mounds of text books, countless term papers, the new baby and his law practice, it seemed they hardly knew each other. He would be so pleased.
She dropped a nickel in the pay phone and dialed. “Hi, Sally. It's Laura. I was wondering if you could keep the baby for a while....”
“Oh, Mrs. Ramsey. The baby is already gone. Mr. Ramsey picked him up a couple hours ago.”
“Really? Oh, well. Never mind. Thanks.”
Strange. Why would he...?
The forty-five minute ride from Coral Gables to North Miami Beach went by swiftly as she reflected on the year that changed her life forever, meeting the man of her dreams then toughing out a senior year through a pregnancy which was conceived in the back seat of a Sedan DeVille. He said he loved her and wanted to make it all right and proper. They were married barely a month before the baby was born. As she cruised north in her white four-door, ‘59 Chevy Impala, her thoughts drifted back to Ada, Oklahoma and how proud her parents would be when they got the news. Oh Mom, Dad, I love you both so much. Please, be patient with me. I know you'll just love Lloyd when you meet him, I just know you will. It was a sensitive topic.
She turned up the volume on the radio and listened to the news. President Lyndon Johnson was promising he'd never send any American combat troops to Viet Nam if elected. India announced the death of its Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, while another wave of Cuban refugees had made their way to the United States via Miami's International Airport. She changed the station and sang aloud to Louis Armstrong's, Hello Dolly, her frizzy brown hair swirling into her eyes from the open window. The warm, briny smell of the ocean invaded her car as she reached highway A1A where Sunny Isles Causeway terminated at the Atlantic shoreline. A turn to the left, then north through motel row, a gauntlet of two story resorts en route to the posh five bedroom home which had been his bachelor pad before they married. “Wheeee,” she hooted, bouncing and singing, slapping the steering wheel in rhythm to the Supreme's Baby Love.
At the end of the two-mile stretch, the road narrowed into Golden Beach, an upscale commun-ity of elegant, custom-built manors sprinkled between the intracoastal waterway and the ocean front. She turned to the left and drove past several homes toward the intracoastal side of the island before arriving at a flamingo pink, two-story mansion with a barrel-tiled roof. As she pulled into the carport, she was surprised to see his little MG in the circular driveway and wondered who owned the blue Oldsmobile parked just behind it.
With a book bag in one hand, the sack of champagne bottles in the other and a purse over her shoulder, she approached the side door and hollered, “Lloyd! Lloyd! Can you let me in? My arms are loaded.” There was no answer, but she could hear music inside. She kicked at the door, but still there was no answer. Frustrated, she set the bags down, fumbled through her purse and inserted a key into the door. It wouldn't turn. Strange, she thought. It worked fine yesterday. She studied her key ring, then tried another. It didn't work either. Oh, for cryin' out loud! “Lloyd!” she shouted, louder this time. “Lloyd, open up honey. My key isn't working.” Still no answer. She looked to the western sky and saw the bright golden sun hanging over the horizon. A warm bead of perspiration trickled from her temple.
My God, I hope he's okay. Hell, I'll just use the front door. Briskly, she stepped to the front of the house, passing the two cars in the driveway. A furry object was hanging from the mirror of the Oldsmobile. She could still hear the music from inside, a symphony playing “Autumn Leaves.” She took out another key and tried it into the front door, but it would not turn. What the...? Hey, something's wrong here. It was the right key but no matter how much she tried, it didn't work. Again she shouted, louder this time. “Lloyd. Are you all right? Let me in, please!”
No answer. Orchestral music continued to play. The salt taste of perspiration saturated her tongue as she licked her lips, then wiped her forehead. She peeked inside the awning windows but saw no movement, nothing out of place. A flickering glow from the console television set made her think he might be asleep in the Florida room. Confused, curious, she ambled over to the Oldsmobile but it was locked. Inside, she saw an open pack of Parliament cigarettes on the seat, Lloyd's brand. Several butts were crushed in the ash tray. A small Teddy bear hung from the mirror.
She returned to the side door, beating it one more time to no avail. Perplexed, mystified, she removed her shoe and used the heel to break a glass jalousie pane, pushed the screen and reached through to the knob. Drenched in perspiration, she stepped into the kitchen, relieved to set down the bags. The music from upstairs was louder now. No wonder he couldn't hear me.
In stocking feet she placed the champagne bottles in the refrigerator then strode across the tile floor into the living room expecting to see a new face, wondering all the while who owned the Oldsmobile. The Florida room was empty. A rerun of Candid Camera appeared on the black and white console with Allen Funt interviewing a group of children. In the front foyer, two suitcases were standing upright, but she would pay them no mind until she knew Lloyd was all right. Maybe a friend of his is coming to stay? It was all very strange, keys not working, the Oldsmobile, suitcases, loud music. Slowly, she ascended the curved staircase to the corridor then looked to the end. The door to the master bedroom was closed. Strains of the orchestra playing Fascination grew eerily louder as she approached. She glanced into the other rooms but they were empty. The baby's room was undisturbed, just as she left it that morning. Where's Bowen ? Where's my baby? She remembered Sally saying that Lloyd had picked the baby up a couple hours ago. Something is wrong here.
Orchestral music crescendoed as she stepped cautiously toward the master bedroom door. A dark, ominous feeling came over her as she sensed all things in her life were about to change. She swallowed nervously and gave thought to running back down the stairs and out of the house. She was afraid of what she would find on the other side of that door. But there was no turning back. Her mouth was dry as talcum powder as she turned the knob and pushed.
The music grew louder the instant it opened. A stench of alcohol amid a pall of cigarette smoke blasted her nostrils. Shadows were moving against the far wall. The door swung wider, all the way, the music blaring, muffling sounds of grunts and groans. Her eyes nearly popped from her head. She stood watching in horror as he continued humping, thrusting, his bare buttocks pounding like a jackhammer between milky-white legs. The woman's knees were elevated, red toe-nails suspended, voices of sheer pleasure whining, moaning, rockin' and a rollin'. It was climax time as they howled together, embracing fervently, oblivious to innocent Laura standing in the doorway gasping in disbelief. As Mantovani reached maximum volume, she felt faint and stumbled toward the dresser, her heart pounding like sledge hammer, eyes riveted to the salacious scene before her. Shocked and quaking, she took several short panting breaths and then wailed at the top of her lungs, “No! No! No!” The unsuspecting couple halted abruptly, panting, then turned their heads to find Laura standing there crazed, teeth bared, spewing saliva. Out of control, she leaped upon the two of them, knocked over a bottle of scotch on the end table then beat her fists on his bare back, over and over.
At first he cowered, shielding his head. “Stop Laura.! Stop it!” The woman screamed, trying desperately to break away. Laura shouted again and again, unintelligible sounds as sheer pandemonium erupted in the room. Romantic strains of Laura continued to blare from the small record player on the dresser. The naked couple pulled and pushed, grunting, shouting expletives until the buxom blonde bounced from the bed, faced Laura for one fearful moment, then sprinted naked toward the bathroom. Reeking of alcohol, Lloyd grabbed Laura's arms to fend her off and shouted to his playmate, “Get dressed, Merrilee, and get the fuck out of here. Hurry.” Hysterical, Laura let out a strident shrill, panting, biting at her husband, spewing phlegm, growling, hyperventilating like a crazed psychopath while he held her wrists.
“Laura. Stop it, Laura! Come on,..you're crazy. You're crazy.” He grabbed her hair, pushing her face down.
“I'll kill you, you son of a bitch! How could you? Why? Why? You bastard! I'll kill you!”
“Laura, stop it! Let me explain.”
“Explain? Explain what? That you didn't mean to fuck her? You bastard!”
He was a head taller, sinewy and strong. He took control by holding her hair and twisting an arm behind her, then lifted her from the bed while she raved on. Finally, he pushed her into a small closet, slammed the door and wedged a vanity chair under the knob. From inside, Laura began pounding and ranting maniacally, “You bastard! I hate you! How could you? Let me outa here, you son of a bitch! I'll kill you!”
The blonde quickly dressed, rushed out of the bathroom and raced toward to the door. Lloyd shouted, “Merrilee, wait. Hold this door shut until I can get that dresser over here.”
Laura heard the woman reply, gasping for breath, angry, “Lloyd, god dammit, you didn't tell me, ....oh my God, I got to get out of here.”
In the dark, cramped space amid racks of his suits and shirts, Laura continued to kick and pound the door, yelling at the top of her lungs. She stopped a moment, groping wildly, feeling his clothes hanging on the racks, then,... oh no... a wide, empty space where her clothes were,...once. The suitcases? This was all planned? It was all so surreal and bewildering, like she had crawled inside the skin of another woman. This can't be happening. This couldn't be me. No baby, no clothes, no house keys, her husband with another woman in her bed, her house.
He pulled a heavy dresser across the carpet and wedged it against the closet door. In a controlled tone now, she heard him say, “Okay, get outa here.” A door slammed. The blonde was gone.
There was a lull in the shouting as Lloyd dressed, made up the bed and tidied the room. Laura's poundings had ebbed. She was exhausted, whimpering, her voice trailing off, hoarse from screaming. In the darkness, she slid to the floor, lowered her head into her hands and sobbed. “My God, what have I done? What did I do, God, what did I do?” Images of her three-month-old baby boy suddenly flashed through her brain. Oh my God. Bowen. Where's my baby? Where's my baby?
“Mr. Ramsey picked the baby up a couple hours ago.”
Gathering her wits, trying to compose herself, she felt another surge of adrenalin, then shouted through the door, “Lloyd? Lloyd...where's the baby? Listen to me. I want to know, where's Bowen?” No answer . But she heard footsteps and the sounds of movement, like tumblers being rinsed, a flushing toilet, music being turned off. “Lloyd, answer me! I want to know, where is my baby? Let me out of here! Godammit, let me out of here!” Still, no response. Then she screamed at the top of her lungs, “Where is my baby?”
The harsh odor of moth balls in the stifling closet brought a burning sensation to her eyes. Totally defenseless, she found herself a victim of this monster who she called her husband. Her imagination began to soar. Oh God. Oh God. What if he's a killer? What did he do with Bowen? Did he kill the baby? Is he going to kill me? Oh my God, my God. I've got to get out. I've got to find my baby. She burst anew into a violent frenzy, screaming relentlessly, pounding and kicking on the door until she finally collapsed from the heat.
Meanwhile, Lloyd Bernard Ramsey had neatly arranged all the furnishings, showered, chewed a breath mint and telephoned the Golden Beach police. The cop was there in less than one minute.
“Yes, Mister Ramsey,” asked the old timer at the door in his uniform regalia. “What's up?”
“Hello Harold, come on in. I have a terrible problem here.”
As with the rest of the five man department, and its chief, Lloyd knew Officer Harold Plevnic well. He helped get him the job four years before. The Ramsey house was a regular coffee stop for local cops, especially when the MG was in the driveway.
They settled at the kitchen table, each with a glass of soda pop. “Laura and I,...well, we honestly should never have gotten married, Harold. I did it, you know, for the baby, because....”
“Because you're an honorable man, yes sir.”
The conversation was interrupted by the muffled sounds of periodic outbursts from upstairs. Deferring to Lloyd, the officer paid no mind. “I think she just overdid it, completely stressed herself out with that school schedule and the baby and all, blinded by ambition, totally disregard-ing her responsibilities here at home.”
“Yes sir, too bad.”
“She even had the gall to accuse me of infidelity. Would you believe, Harold, she's saying she caught me with another woman?”
“Of course it's absurd. If I was going to...well, I certainly wouldn't in my own house.”
“That would be crazy sir.”
“Yes, well, Laura is not well, I'm afraid.”
“What do you mean?” asked the greying cop.
Lloyd tapped the side of his forehead.
“Oh, I see. Delusions. Tch tch.”
The dapper young lawyer lit a Parliament cigarette and exhaled a waft of smoke. “She's upstairs, ranting out of control. I locked her in a closet because I'm afraid she might hurt herself or hurt someone else. We were just talking, you know, about our situation and when I suggested a trial separation she agreed. She even packed her clothes. As she was about to leave, she went completely bonkers. Harold, I mean, I've never seen someone with such crazy eyes, screaming her lungs out, like something out of a horror show, beating on me, making false accusations. It's so sad.”
“Yes sir. Very sad. May I ask, is the baby here?”
“He's over at my mother's. I took him there as a precaution, just in case there was any problem. Looks like I was right.”
“Good thinking, sir.”
“You know, I'm not that familiar with the mental health laws these days. What can I do to have her, you know, evaluated or something? Maybe placed somewhere for her own good?”
“Well, sir, if you're willing to sign the authorization as a close relative, I can have her transported to the psychiatric center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.”
“How long would she be there?”
“‘Bout three days.”
“Then you can petition the court to have her committed as incompetent for an undetermined period, until she's considered safe from hurting herself, or others.”
“I want to help her.”
The heat was oppressive, the air unbreathable, so she crouched to the floor of the closet and nudged her face at the sliver of light under the door to suck a gulp of fresh oxygen. In a matter of moments, Laura Ramsey's rosy life had plunged into a dark abyss, her world in total chaos. Weeping softly, hoarse, she muttered, “Lloyd, please. Please let me out. Where is my baby? I want my little boy.” The wonderful evening she had planned briefly flashed through her mind until she visualized his grotesque, hairy ass humping between suspended sets of painted toe nails. “Get dressed Merrilee and get the fuck out of here.” All this time his intentions had been a total sham. He had been fooling her, toying with her emotions, never loving her. Now she was discarded like unwanted trash. She realized he only married her to save his precious reputation.
Oh my God. What's he going to do to me? My baby! I've got to get out of here ! She began kicking and pounding again, but to no avail. As she crouched to the floor to suck another breath of air, she saw shadows moving, shoes, voices, men's voices. Finally, freedom. She would find her baby and run far, far away, so far that he would never know where she was. There were people moving about in her bedroom and men's voices , so she composed herself. Don't lose it, Laura. Stay calm. Get your baby and get out.
The dresser moved away. Then the chair. As the door opened, a blast of fresh air cooled her face. Half sitting, half laying, twisted, flushed, contorted, she glistened from perspiration. Wiry brown hair stood out from her head like she had been zapped by ten thousand volts of electricity. First, she saw two sets of white pants, white shoes and white smocks. Two middle-aged men, one bald, the other with black wavy hair and a mustache stood over her. The bald one spoke first, “How are you, Mrs. Ramsey?”
Her eyes bulged like cue-balls as she strained to speak, her voice muted. “How would you be if you just caught your wife fucking a complete stranger, in your bed? Huh? Right here, in that bed, I walked in and...”
“Yes, of course. You'll have to come with us, Mrs. Ramsey.”
“Come with you? What are you talking about? Who are you? Where is my husband? Where is my baby? What's going on?” She was more frightened now, shielding her body with outstretched hands.
They reached down, grabbed her flailing arms and wrestled her back to the floor. She writhed and squirmed, fighting, biting one on the arm. “Ouch!” “Ohhh!” “Yike!” They grunted and squealed, rolled and wrestled on the carpet for several minutes until sheer exhaustion set in. Finally, the bald one grabbed her in a choke hold and ordered his partner, “Phil. Get the jacket.”
She felt rock-hard power in his arm and smartly relaxed before being strangled. “Okay. Okay,” she grunted.
As the man returned with the straitjacket, she started resisting again, pulling away, cursing, spitting, kicking until they tied her into the jacket. Hysterical, her face scratched, Laura was carted away with her arms wrapped across her chest, hair in disarray, eyes flitting side to side. Her husband stood near to Officer Harold Plevnic as she was ushered past, babbling, “Stop! God damn you! Don't you see? He was screwing some broad. Can't you see? Can't you see, you fools, it was him....not me who...”
“Tch tch,” muttered the police officer. “Too bad.”
She babbled all the way to a waiting Nash Rambler. “My baby, where's my baby? Just tell me where my baby...I have to study for my speech, wait, let me get my speech. I'm valedictorian... My husband's a lawyer...wait...what's happening...champagne...red toe nails...my baby, my baby...I want my baby. Oh, Daddy help, please Daddy...I want my little baaaabeeee...pleeeease.”
A golden sun had settled into the western horizon producing a bright glow of pink and orange hues framed by a rich, azure sky. Fading stratus clouds brushed across the distant sky. The humid air left everyone soaked in perspiration, especially Laura who had languished over an hour sobbing in a small, airless closet. There were no inside handles to the rear doors of the Nash. Wrapped like a hog on a spit, she struggled and managed to sit up as the car pulled from the driveway. She strained to peer out the rear window where she saw the old policeman stroll casually toward his car while her handsome twenty-six year old husband stood at the front steps smiling at her and waving goodbye.
* * *
©2005 Marshall Frank
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