The Domination of Mister Mike
By Karen Singer
Chapter 8 – Part 1 of 2
I think that jar of cream that Joanna Desmond had given me actually did help. I had kept it on my raw bottom all night, and in the morning things back there felt much better. The only problem was, it was greasy. When I tried to use it with my work clothes, it felt so uncomfortable that I wound up getting undressed again and cleaning my bottom off real well. The stuff was just too sticky and messy. I was too afraid that some kind of stains from it would start showing through my pants.
Joanna was gone when I got up that morning. But she had told me she would be leaving very early. I noticed though that her bed had been made and the room looked a bit more presentable – despite all of my boxes and Ashley’s stuff in there. I noticed that the bathroom looked much neater as well. Now if Ashley could just learn something from her mother.
My cell phone rang again shortly before noon and I saw Joanna’s name on the caller ID. “Hello?”
“Hi Mike,” she said. “Please tell me you’re available for lunch today.”
“Uh…I guess I am. I usually have lunch with a few people I work with, but I don’t have any real plans.”
“Good. Then would you mind? Right now I need someone to talk to, and you’re about the most mature person I know in this damn city.”
“Just my one usual problem. It’s called Ashley. She’s being impossible!”
“Sure,” I said. “Want me to pick you up at the hospital?”
“That would be great,” she replied.
I took her to a restaurant where she could order just about anything, and they were used to handling a lot of lunchtime traffic. In the car I had asked how Ashley was doing. She had told me Ashley was a lot better. Hence all the problems she was having with her now. She also mentioned that Ashley had gotten stuck with a major traffic ticket since the fault was all hers, and she was hoping that when it was all over, that Ashley would still keep her driver’s license.
“So it sounds like you’ve had a difficult morning,” I noted once we both had ordered.
She grunted. “Look,” she said. “Ashley is my only daughter and I love her like you wouldn’t believe. But her brother Billy has a good job, he’s married and living in a nice home, and the two of them are trying to have a baby now. I couldn’t be happier with him. But Ashley, all she wants to do is party with her friends and nothing else.”
“She told me once that she didn’t have time to go back to school.”
“Bull! She has more than enough time. She just wants to spend it all with her friends instead. She’s always been that way. Her friends and having fun have always been more important to her than anything else.”
“I’m sure that working twelve hour shifts can make it more difficult,” I suggested.
She shook her head. “I’m a nurse. I started the same way she did, at the bottom with the least degree I could have to get to get my foot in the door with a job. But then I kept going back to school and advancing my nursing career. And each additional level didn’t take that long. But Ashley doesn’t seem to be interested in a better career. She says she is, but she won’t put forth the effort and try.”
“Maybe nursing isn’t what she really wants to do.”
“No. She says she wants to be a nurse. And I know she can be a good one.”
I looked skeptically at her, but kept silent about that issue. “So I’m guessing she told you this morning that she wasn’t interested in going back to school?”
She shook her head. “The subject never even came up.”
That surprised me. “Then what was the problem?”
“Her! She’s…impossible! The doctor is saying that hopefully she can get out of there tomorrow morning if all looks good. But she absolutely pitched a fit with me this morning when I even started talking about taking her home with me.”
That surprised me. “She pitched a fit? Where else was she planning on staying?”
“On her friend Amanda’s couch! On a couch! And her friend works all the time. Now I ask you, does that sound stupid or what?”
“Um…more than a little,” I agreed.
“Six weeks!” she said. “She’s going to be in a cast and out of work for six weeks! Probably longer. And she has no other place to stay than her friend’s couch? What is she thinking? No! I’ll tell you what she’s thinking. She’s thinking she can literally spend all her time with her friends and party to her hearts content…despite being laid up with a cast on her entire leg and arm. She’s going to be almost helpless! Not to mention the fact that since she can’t work, she won’t be making any money.”
“Um…it does sound pretty dumb,” I agreed.
“Thank you!” she replied. “So far, you’re the first intelligent person I’ve talked to today that can see that!”
“Who else have you talked to about it?”
“Chris called me earlier this morning to check on her,” she replied. “Ashley wouldn’t even talk to him. In fact, the names she used for him were ones I’d never repeat!”
“Uh…yeah. I’ve heard most of them. How about her friend Amanda? What does she think about this?”
“Ashley hasn’t even talked to her about it yet. She just assumes that Amanda will let her stay there since that’s where she was going when she had her accident.”
“Look,” I said. “If it’s any consolation, I agree with you completely. It all just sounds stupid.”
She nodded as if she was satisfied. “I could just kill her!”
Our drinks arrived, which gave her a moment to calm down.
“Sorry,” she said, once she had gotten a sip of her coffee. “I just had to vent.”
“I understand. And forgive me for saying this, but I’m afraid that in the last couple of days I’ve noticed more than a bit of what you’ve just told me about her.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “It’s just so frustrating! I love her to death…but she won’t listen – to anyone!”
“It’s a problem,” I agreed.
To get her mind off of it, I asked about her husband. We spent the rest of our lunch discussing her ancient divorce, my purposeful lack of women in my life, and the fact that neither of us were ever any kind of problem at all for our parents.
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Joanna phoned me again later that afternoon. I don’t think I had ever had that many personal phone calls at work. “Hello?”
“Hi Mike,” Joanna’s frustrated voice replied.
“Ashley’s taking a nap, that’s what’s happening,” she told me. “The pain pills she’s on right now are going to do that to her.”
“I take it she’s being more reasonable now?”
“Only because she’s asleep. As to anything else, not one bit!”
I grunted a laugh. “So what can I do for you?”
“I’ve got a…business proposition for you.”
That surprised me. “Business proposition?”
“Kind of. What I want to know is if there’s any way I can get the key to your house so I can get back in. I’ll cook you dinner tonight and then we can discuss it.”
I was immediately wary…because it only conjured up images of things I didn’t want.
“Uh…okay,” I replied cautiously.
“Look,” she said. “At the least you’ll get a home cooked meal out of it. Okay?”
“Uh. Why not?” I told her where I worked and how to get to me. Thirty minutes later, I had handed over the key to my front door. I rarely ever went in my front door anyway. Most of the time I went in and out through my garage with the automatic opener in my car.
When I got home that night, I walked in to the smell of dinner cooking, and my kitchen smelling better than it ever had. “Smells good,” I told her happily.
“Dinner’s going to be a little while, I’m afraid. The grocery store took longer than I thought.”
“No problem,” I told her. “Uh…would you mind if I changed and went out to my workshop for a bit. I’ve got to put another coat of varnish on my project.”
“How long is it going to take?”
“Probably half an hour or so. Maybe less.”
“Should be fine then.”
I hurried to change and hurried out to my workshop. My printer stand was coming along nicely. I was sure that almost nobody went to the trouble of rubbing down the polyurethane varnish between coats with steel wool anymore, but I did. I had read that it helped get rid of any tiny imperfections in the finish to produce a better, smoother result in the end. As far as I could tell, it worked very well. That night, I rubbed my pieces down with the steel wool, but I did a very quick job of it. I also did a quick but very acceptable job of adding the second coat of finish.
The door opened as I was finishing up the last part, and Joanna hurried in. “It’s nice and warm in here,” she noted.
“I’ve been keeping the heater running so the finish can dry properly,” I told her.
“Are you going to be long now? Because dinner is almost ready.”
“No more than five minutes,” I told her. “I’m just finishing up now.”
She quickly glanced all around my shop for a few moments, then ducked out and left. Ten minutes later, I had washed my hands and was sitting down at the table while she brought the food, already dished out on plates, to the table.
“Smells great,” I told her.
“Thanks,” she replied as she sat down. “I love cooking.”
I smiled. “And I love working with wood. So what’s this…business deal you’re interested in?”
“Ashley, of course.”
I had been afraid of that. “What about her?”
“I don’t want her staying on someone’s couch! It’s not what she needs.”
I forced myself to remain calm and reasonable – or at least sound that way. “And you want her to stay here?”
“A hundred dollars a week,” she said. “Plus half of all your food expenses, plus half of all your utilities – electric, water, gas, whatever.”
I shook my head. “I don’t need your money, and I don’t need that kind of aggravation!”
“But I’m desperate!” she pleaded. “She won’t come home with me where she belongs, and she doesn’t have any place decent to stay.”
“What does Ashley think about this?”
“I haven’t even mentioned it to her. I only thought about all this while she was sleeping this afternoon.”
“But you know what she did to me. And I’m sorry to say it, but she can be nothing but a pain in the neck! She doesn’t pick up after herself, and she expects to be waited on hand and foot!”
She stared at me for a moment. “Unfortunately, she’s going to need that for a while. With both her left leg and left arm in casts, she’s going to have a hard time doing much of anything.”
“And what about the fact that I’m at work all day? I can’t help her then.”
“I’ve taken all this week off from work,” she told me. “I’ll stay on and try to figure out how we can arrange things so she can manage while you’re not here.”
“You’re going to stay on? But I’ve only got the one extra bed.”
“I’ll sleep on the couch. Damn it, I’ll sleep on the floor if I have to. I don’t care. I just want my daughter taken care of in someplace decent. I know what she did to you. I know this is not ideal. I know you probably hate the entire idea of it, but I’m desperate! You’re smart. Mature. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders…despite your rather…odd inclinations. Ashley needs that maturity around her right now. She needs someone around who can handle problems when they occur. She needs someone around…that I can trust!”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know how it can work if she’s that laid up. What happens if something happens to her while I’m at work?”
“Then I won’t hold you responsible! I’ll even put it all in writing for you.”
I shook my head. “I’m not crazy about this idea.”
“I know. But it’s just until she can get well and then find herself a better place to live.”
“Most likely it’s going to be a bit longer than that. It may be a bit more until she’ll be strong enough to go back to work and stay on her feet for a full twelve hour shift. And then she’ll have to find somewhere else to live too.”
I stared at her. I didn’t like the idea. I didn’t like Ashley. Even though Joanna was a lot older than me, I did like her though…but that didn’t mean anything in this deal. “Like I said, I’m not crazy about this.”
“I’ll come down whenever I’m off!” she said. “I usually work Sunday through Thursday, so I can be here every Friday and Saturday to help out.”
I shook my head. “I don’t like it,” I said. “I think it’s a bad idea.”
“Please…” she pleaded. “I’m desperate! She won’t go home with me and she won’t listen to reason.”
I shook my head again, but against my better judgement I replied, “Well try it. See how it works.”
She jumped up from her seat and came around the table and kissed my cheek. “Thank you!” she breathed. “And I promise, we’ll work everything out so that when I leave everything will be just fine.”
I had some serious doubts about that.
She insisted on doing the dishes – herself. While I went into my office to catch up on a few bills. But the bills barely registered in my mind. I was still too fixated on the fact that Ashley would not only be coming back, but she’d be staying. And she would be basically helpless. That part had its good points and bad. Overall, I viewed the entire situation as nothing but trouble!