Friday

Belize Survivor, part 55

Max had opinions about domestic issues that most people considered to be completely outside, or even beneath, a man's domain or interest. Even her father, Frank, had remarked on it. Household matters, such as how Alexis arranged the kitchen utensils in a drawer, what she cooked for dinner, and how she folded the towels – nothing was immune from his criticism, and apologies only seemed to pique his irritation. Worst of all, Alexis knew now that she was bound to him forever because they had a child together. Over a period of time, she was forced into further subservience, and Max began to truly enjoy the sensation of power. Alexis was a woman, not his mother, and he realized he could treat her any way he pleased.

As the huge stockpile of finished product accumulated, Max became obsessed with finding the ultimate retail market in time for Christmas. In late October, he found a mall in nearby Harrisburg that was renting space to artisans for the Christmas season, so he paid for a prime corner-spot and made arrangements to set up shop at the beginning of December. Then Max sold their VW van, bought a '59 Ford step-van, parked it in the barn, and began remodeling the inside. Alexis was not enthused, and it showed in the timbre of her voice as they sat at the dinner table in the old farmhouse. It was mid-November, and winter was upon them. She could smell the cold, and the snows were not far behind.

"You mean we're actually going to live in that old step-van while we're doing the stint at the mall?" She barely picked at her food, and was concentrating on watching Jordan with the toys in his play-pen in the other room.

"Yeah. Have you got a problem with that?" Max barked.

"Where is it going to be parked? In the mall parking lot? The security people would never let us do that. What about water, and electric, and sewerage?"

"I'll fix it so we can be completely self-contained. Then we'll just have to talk the security guy in to letting us do it. Bribe him, if necessary.”

"This isn’t Africa; you’re not dealing with Bantu. What if he won't go for it?" she argued.

"He'll go for it. It's not a problem," Max spat back.

"Sounds like a serious loophole to me." Alexis couldn’t help it; her ire was up. “I don’t want to work in a shopping mall and then sleep in a parking lot in a truck with a baby for three weeks. That’s not a life!”

"God damn it, Alexis!" Max exploded in anger. "You're always rowing in the opposite direction, so all we ever do is go around in circles. Why don't you pull your finger out and get with the program?"

"I'm just trying to be realistic,” she protested, refusing to back off. “If they won't let us park there, it'll blow the entire scheme. Then what will we do? Spend all the profit on hotel rooms?"

"Oh, bullshit. You're just being contrary as usual.” Max’s face was dark and red, and he was seething. “I ought to knock you. All you ever do is contradict me. You're getting to be a total pain in the ass!" A loud cry interrupted their argument. "Now look what you've done,” he reprimanded. “You’ve upset Jordan. Go take care of him. Better yet, I'll do it." Max walked over and picked up the baby. He shoved his hand down into his diaper. "He's wet again," he said with finality. "Take him up and change him."

Alexis took Jordan from his father's arms and carried him upstairs to the bedroom. As she started to remove the diaper, she realized it was completely dry. Shaking her head, she brought the baby back downstairs.

"Are you disobeying me again, woman? I told you to change that baby. You've only been gone for thirty seconds." His rage had begun to build, and Alexis could feel a cold chill as she saw his fist at his side.

"He was bone dry, Max."

"Bullshit," he snarled. "I'm going to take that kid upstairs, and check for myself. If there's any wetness in his diaper, you can prepare yourself for a little lesson in discipline."

Thirty seconds before the baby had been dry. But what if he peed again before Max could check him? This is ridiculous, she thought nervously, as her husband disappeared up the stairs. Max returned a minute later and stared at Alexis with steely eyes.

“He was dry. You're lucky."