In 1973, Warner Brothers worked with Pepsi Coca Cola Company to release a series of Looney Toons glasses. Danny had collected all of them. Well, maybe not all of them, since there were thousands; each with different characters or wording with different colors, or thicknesses of the glass used to make them. But he had collected a lot of them.
Danny, he hated that name. Hated it like the red flames of hell. Hated it like a trip to the dentist when he was ten. Hated it like any other respectable 42 year old man should hate being called Danny. Why his parents couldn’t have named him Daniel, so that he could grow out of that childhood nickname? Maybe if he had been a Daniel he wouldn’t be where he is now. An unemployed soon-to-be single father, freshly showered and watching talk shows on a Thursday afternoon.
“God, what am I going to do?” he though, noticing his feet on the living room table. “How are we going to pay the bills? Are men allowed to get food stamps?” He shuddered at the thought.
High school far behind him, years of life experience completely overlooked in the bathing light of a powerful, and unstable wife; Danny had no prospects. None at all. Nothing. No training, making a killer omelet on demand simply doesn’t pay for school supplies. “What happens when they need new sneakers? Why couldn’t I have been a Daniel instead of a Danny?”
Because you aren’t strong enough for Daniel, Danny boy, she hissed. The venom of his life, the pollution of all his prime years; materialized, a ghost, from the smoke of his three beer fogged mind. You have the money for that beer. Living off my trust fund? The interest? Did you sell the stock already? I noticed that new watch you told Samantha, yes Samantha not Sam, was a gift from a friend. Didn’t buy that at the pawn shop did you? Not a cheap knock off, is it?
Danny closed his eyes, willing her to be drained from his life. Why had she lingered? Why hadn’t she dsiapeared? Because the police took me doesn’t mean I’m dead, Danny. I’m not gone, and take your goddamn feet off my mother’s table. He obeyed her imagined order, laying his head on the back of the couch and pulling his knees to his chin, a seated fetal position. Dear god why can’t we be free?
Jessica, not Jess but Jessica, had not died on the day the police took her from the house. They hand cuffed her as she screamed obscenities at them and bit their arms. She spit in their faces and kicked out the window in the front door. She flung herself forward in their grip, trying to rip out Danny’s throat with her teeth.
You spineless bastard! You will never keep my children from me, you can’t have them!
Their neighbor, Kristen, had called the police. She had been out walking her dog, Truffles, in the joined suburban yards, and noticed through the window on the MacKillroy home objects flying through the living room. That, in itself, was not an unusual happening. What was unusual was the blood curdling, frantic sound of Danny pleading with Jessica to breath, to calm down, to talk instead of screaming. To put down the knife. Right then, on a tuft of Kentucky green between a white picket fence and a rose bush, Kristen Flannery had probably saved Danny’s life.
On the day the police came and took Jessica away, Danny had thought that he would gain a little freedom. He understood that there would be nightmares. That he would have to try to figure out how to make the household work. He understood that while he had been doing all the “woman’s work” as Jessica would call it, she had been bringing home the bacon. How dehumanizing, how humiliating. Here he was, healthy and strong, and completely unable to cope with his wife yelling at him. What sort of man was he, anyhow? She had told him, she had let him know how completely worthless he was. He knew that. But he didn’t know how to balance a budget. He didn’t even know for sure how much money they had left. The last paycheck to go into the account was over a month ago, and the mortgage was auto withdrawn. That he did know. How much had Jessica squirreled away?
“Money wasn’t even the point, it’s still not the point. She was just a bitch. A flat out bitch. Goddamn I never did anything but love her. I did everything I could, everything.” He sighed and opened his eyes. Still afternoon, a commercial between Oprah and the news update at 2:30. The kids would be getting off the bus in an hour. Samantha, yes Samantha. She’s 12, she knows her mom was sick. But James, he doesn’t get it. He’s only 8. He doesn’t understand why mom isn’t here anymore. Where’s mom dad? When can she come home? When can we visit her?
Jessica had one redeeming feature, besides helping him produce the children. She loved the Looney Toons too. Maybe it was some happily buried childhood memory of root beer floats. Maybe she had actually smiled in her eyes the first time she watched the cartoons, instead of just the plastic one she wore at their wedding 20 years ago. That plastic one that the kids never saw through, the one she wore every day, all day, at work. The smile she could slap on like duct tape over a bloody wound. Jessica had loved the Looney Toons, and had helped Danny collect the glasses.
On her brighter, cloudless days, she would stalk the internet, finding deals on characters missing from the collection. Daring against hope that they would be shipped sans damage. Her favorite had been the Tasmanian Devil. “Fitting,” Danny muttered. “Very fitting. The crazy hoe liked the devil.” He frowned at himself. Disrespecting a woman, even Jessica, was not his normal mindset. He frowned more deeply, his eyebrows becoming involved in the action, as he stared down the now 5 beer cans on her mother’s dear and beloved table. When had he finished those other two?
The news flashed from a plain looking woman in a grey suit reporting that yes, it would be nice this weekend, to a spectacularly blond and well-endowed anchor woman. She was flanked by a picture of the entry way to an official looking building. Danny blinked, burry, bogged down by the beginnings of the last of the six pack. He watched her lips move, listened to her words, and grasped what she was saying when the background picture changed, displaying the sign for the State Woman’s Corrections Facility.
(continued next week) ———– Sarah Ockershausen Delp