The Boy in the Bin

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26) ACTING OUT

Ratso/Raphael got home in the evening, with only moments to spare before Sylvia walked in. He stood in the kitchen staring motionless into the open refrigerator; looking for a clue to tonight’s menu.

“Where did you get the coat?” Sylvia quizzed Raphael as she came in the door.

Raphael’s motionless staring quickly turned into a ‘the deer in the headlights’ moment. He realized he hadn’t concocted a reasonable explanation for his new attire. But quick as a whip, he blurted out his answer.

“One of nmy friends gave nme a present,” he answered. “He said his grandmother sent the coat from Montana, but he can’t close the front. He said his cousin owned the coat before he went in the army.”

“This jacket is brand new,” she gasped. “Why wouldn’t she exchange the coat for a larger size?”

“He didn’t say, Mommy,” Raphael stated, “he ngave nme the coat because he likes nme. I didn’t interrogate nhim.”

“The coat is way too big for you,” Sylvia decided. “The sleeves are hanging down and I don’t like all those snaps and zippers. Are you some hoodlum?”

“I nlike this style,” Raphael argued as he turned around, “and I’m nkeeping the coat.”

The attitude of her son set Sylvia back on her heels . He always behaved sort of docile and withdrawn, but now he snapped back at her like an enemy. Possibly the new crowd at school caused this or even the jacket itself. Whatever the reason, she didn’t care for the change.

“Well tomorrow,” she commanded, “I want you to give your friend the coat back. If you want a new jacket, I will buy you one, but you are not wearing this one.”

“NO!” Raphael shouted, “I nLIKE IT AND I’M nKEEPING IT.”

He slammed the refrigerator door and stomped down the hallway on the way to his room. He almost slammed the bedroom door but thought if he did, his mother would come charging in. He needed time to think and he wanted no hassles at the moment. He definitely intended to keep his new jacket.

Sylvia followed him to discuss the matter, but more important things filled her mind. She wanted to call Mr. Lawrence at MassEye Investigations before his office closed and also before Raul got home from work. She decided she wanted to hire his services for a few more days.

“Is Mr. Lawrence in?” Sylvia asked the receptionist.

“I’ll transfer you to his mobile phone,” she informed Sylvia, “He’s out on a job.”

Sylvia listened to buzzes, clicks and beeps followed by the voice of Mr. Lawrence. Sylvia told him she gave the matter thought and wanted to get another week of surveillance on Raul.

“I think you are making an excellent choice, Sylvia,” he agreed. “I’m currently on a job, but I finish today and can start working for you tomorrow.”

“Mark, can you find any way to bug his office?” she questioned. “I’d like to at least get an audio recording of what he is doing?”

“I can do better, Sylvia,” he boasted. “I own all kinds of equipment, from pinhole cameras to long-range zoom lenses. I recently purchased an infrared unit which will give thermal images, even through walls. I will use everything in my bag of tricks for you, dear.”

Sylvia got feelings in her body like the other day when Mark stopped by. She pushed her lurid thoughts aside and got back to the professional side of their business.

“OK, Mark,” she complimented, “you are the expert. Call me with any information.”

She hung up the phone as Raul walked in through the door. Sylvia glanced at the wall and noted the clock read exactly 5:00 P.M. What the hell brought him home so early?

“You’re home early,” she stammered. “What’s the occasion?”

“I wanted to be with my loving wife,” he crowed, “that’s all. I scooted out early today because we got a big contract with a new company and I wanted to celebrate.”

“Natasha made meatloaf for dinner,” Sylvia explained, “but I suppose we can eat meatloaf anytime.”

“Precisely what I hoped you’d say,” he affirmed. “I’m rather ravenous tonight and would like a steak dinner. I thought we might go to Ruth’s Chris Steak House up on 51st Street in Manhattan.”

“Geez Raul,” Sylvia hummed, “how big of a new contract did you get? Ruth Chris will cost you an arm and a leg for the three of us.”

“I thought Natasha would take him tonight and we’d enjoy some quality time together.”

Ah, Sylvia thought. Raul assumes he will get lucky tonight. Well, here’s a news flash for him. I’m not having any contact with him until I’m sure he hasn’t been fishing in someone else’s pond.

“Oh baby,” she lamented, “I can’t do tonight. Tomorrow is a super early day at work. I need to leave at around 5:30 A.M. because we are having a big audit. And also, Raphael can use a little discipline tonight. We can go out to dinner another time.”

“What kind of discipline are you talking about?” Raul wondered. “Did he get in trouble at school?”

“No,” she reported, “He came home with a hoodlum jacket today. He said someone ‘gave’ him the coat because of being too small. The thing may have come right off the rack, and definitely offends me. There are zippers and snaps all over the front and he stands out like kind of motorcycle punk. I told him I wanted him to send the damn thing back and he got an attitude with me. He’s never behaved like this before.”

“Sylvia,” Raul confirmed. “He’s growing up. He’s finding his own self. You can’t expect him to stay a little boy for the rest of his life. Give him some space.”

“I don’t care, Raul,” Sylvia snapped back, “he’s not going to wear a motorcycle jacket. I’ll be damned if my son reminds the neighbors of those greasers in ‘Saturday Night Fever’; even if he does need his own space. Now I want you to do your job and make him recognize who the parents are and who the child is.”

Raul always took a mellow approach to life and he hated any discord. A special objection for him became disciplining his son; especially for something as simple as a jacket.

But Sylvia acted like a mad-woman and seemed adamant about his dress. He acknowledged she took responsibility for picking out his school clothes and he always appeared respectable. As much as he hated doing so, he conceded to telling Raphael about returning the jacket back to his friend.

Sylvia moved the meatloaf dinner out of the refrigerator to the oven. She loved Natasha doing the evening meals because every night became a feast. Natasha always made sure the family got fresh baked rolls, a salad, and the main entree.

But her desserts stood out as the crowning glory. Today she baked a delicious looking Cherry Pie, complete with a criss-cross top crust. As soon as everything finished cooking, she called Raphael and announced dinner. The three sat at the table in total enjoyment of this wonderful meal. Raul hated to break the peace, but Sylvia made her desires clear.

“I understand you got a new jacket,” he commented. “Can I check it out?”

Raphael left the table and went to his room and returned with his new possession. His father peered closely at the coat and came to the same conclusion his wife. The jacket wasn’t something he wanted his son wearing.

“I don’t think you should wear this Raphael,” he cautioned. “You own so many fine clothes and this coat reminds me of what the gang members wear.”

“It’s nmine,” Raphael pointed out. “He gave nme a gift and I nlike the style; so I’m nkeeping it.”

“Why do you want to wear this?” He badgered. “Don’t you like the clothes we buy you?”

“It’s nspecial,” he insisted. “Nobody else in nschool wears a special coat nlike this. I’m nkeeping it.”

“Let me explain my little smart ass,” Raul grunted. “You are not the parent; you are the child. And as long as you are in this house, you will do what your mom and I say. Do you understand?”

Raphael stood and slipped his arms inside the coat. He walked towards the front door and both Raul and Sylvia yelled in unison, “Where are you going?”

“Fuck you,” he sputtered and ran out the door.

Raul stared at Sylvia for a moment and gave chase. By the time he got out into the alley, Raphael disappeared without a clue where. Raul immediately went back inside and called the police. He told them their son ran out of the house and wouldn’t say tell them his destination. They gave his description to the desk sergeant and told him to call back when information became available.

“What the hell kind of ideas is Natasha filling our boy’s head with?” Raul noted “He never spoke to us like this before.”

“Perhaps the school is causing this,” Sylvia theorized. “I don’t think Natasha has anything to do with his attitude.”

“And what’s with his language?” he continued. “He’s never been exposed to swearing around here because you don’t curse and I rarely do.”

Sylvia had an emotional boil over. Partially because of the altercation with Raphael, but mostly due to the fact she believed Raul cheated on her. The tears came to her eyes and she went to sit at the kitchen table. Raul came out and joined her. He sat staring at her for a moment and broke more bad news to her. His timing couldn’t be worse because of Sylvia’s mental disarray.

“We can deal with this situation next week,” he concluded. “I’m going to Connecticut on Saturday, but I’ll be back late at night.”

“I wanted to go shopping this weekend,” Sylvia whined, “and Natasha is going to be away. I thought you might hang out with Raphael and discuss matters with him.”

“No,” Raul objected, “I can’t get out of going. This is a big client we took on. I may even work late some evenings until we take their corporate dealings care of.”

“Well I’m busy too Raul,” she barked. “I should be at work more, but someone needs to be home for Raphael when he gets home from school.”

“I guess you need to quit your job,” Raul remarked, “and stay home with him.”

“WHAT?” Sylvia shrieked. “Me, quit my job? I got news for you buddy-boy; I’m not quitting my job. Perhaps if you acted like more of a father to him, he wouldn’t be this way.”

“Oh, so now you blame me,” he coughed. “I work my ass off to give you and Raphael classy things. You sure as hell require no help in running the bills up on the credit card, do you?”

Sylvia stood and picked up her purse from the counter. She went through the wallet and pulled out her Macy’s credit card and another from Bloomingdales. She walked over to Raul and threw them at him.

“Stick these up your ass Raul,” she burst out. “Everything I spend, I spend for this family. I won’t burden you with any more expenses. From now on, you can do the shopping.”

“YOU LITTLE BITCH,” Raul screamed. “I’ve got a good mind to throw both of you out of this house. Now I know where Raphael gets his attitude.”

Sylvia wasted no moment of time in her response. She made a move right out of Raphael’s playbook and drove her knee right up into Raul’s balls. His eyes flew open, his head flew back and he dropped to his knees. Sylvia turned on her heal and charged off for the bedroom with the comment, “Sleep on the couch, fucker.”

At about 8:00 P.M., a knock came on the door. Raul got off the couch where he sat watching the news and went down through the mud room to answer the door. In the blackness of the night, there stood Raphael and the intrepid Lieutenant Sherman.

“I found him wandering in Battery Park,” the detective told them.”

Raul invited them in and they sat down at the kitchen table. Sylvia heard the knock and came out of the bedroom to join them. Raul explained about the argument over Raphael’s new coat and how they didn’t want him dressing this way. He explained Raphael simply got up from the table and ran out.

“We were worried sick,” Sylvia acknowledged. “He’s 10 years old and shouldn’t be roaming around at night.”

“I’m almost 11,” Raphael chimed in.

“Your age doesn’t matter, Son,” Raul shot back. “We don’t WANT you out at night.”

“I’m not getting involved in your family matters Mr. Hernandez,” the Lieutenant replied, “but I’ll tell you this. We found him walking around the park and could arrest him for vagrancy. You are vagrant when you can’t show a visible means of support. I remember this boy from the incident at Village Community School and I think you’ve got a real problem on your hands. I booked no charges tonight but if this continues, I will.”

“Don’t worry,” Sylvia said. “We won’t let this happen again, officer. One of my work associates is also a social worker and she may get to the root of the problem. Thank you for returning our son to us.”

“What about nmy coat?” Raphael inquired. “I’m still nkeeping it.”

“Yes, Raphael,” Sylvia nodded, “you can keep the coat. I don’t like you wearing something like this. But I won’t let you run away from home over a stupid jacket.”

Detective Sherman believed the family needed to settle things themselves and he left. Sylvia asked Raphael if he would like to eat dinner now, but he said he only wanted Cherry Pie. Raul went back to the couch to rest his aching balls.

And the excitement for the evening ended.

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