The bald eagle soared above Lock and Dam fourteen on the Mississippi River. Bitter cold in the North Country of the Boundary Waters had encased his normal fishing habitat under a shelf of impenetrable ice. The majestic bird knew where to find free flowing water during frigid winter weather. Plenty of barren trees to perch in. Access to abundant fish swimming in the depths of the mighty Mississippi. The nation’s symbol felt the Quad-Cities was paradise. What more could the eagle ask for.
The city of Riverdale hugged the shoreline. A modest community that supported the predominant agricultural milieu. Farm implement factories of John Deere, International Harvester and Farmall provided the main source of income. The standard of living was good in the 1960s. A prosperous future was projected for years to come. The bread basket of America was thriving.
A yellow brick apartment building, situated beside a hilltop street opposite a city park, sheltered one unit bristling with negative vibes.
Andrew Parker, under the influence of several beers, spit an offending brownie square into his napkin, crumbling it with his balled fist. “Your baking skills disappoint me, Jessica!”
He rose from the couch, towering over his wife, face angry red, mouth snarling, blue eyes glazed, sandy hair electrified with mounting rage.
Jessica scurried to the end of the couch. Frantic to avoid a well aimed fist to her face. She knew what was coming. There was no way to stop his uncontrollable aggression when it escalated to this point. Her only recourse was to run. Escape the blow.
Jessica was athletically fit, quick on her feet. She rose, a split second after he did, pushed off on one foot like it was the start of a race---Andy’s hand grabbed her wrist, halting her progress. Down she went. Slamming the edge of the coffee table.
The two toppled in tandem. Aided by force of gravity. Landing hard. Heads striking the hardwood floor. Both dazed from the impact. Andy’s angry outburst quelled by the sudden pain.
Jessica rolled free. Managing to stand. Weaving with the adrenaline rush. Left forearm screaming with distress. She might have broken it.
Andy began to stir, rubbing the back of his skull.
The fight or flight spell broken, Nurse Jessica surfaced in her mind. “Andy, are you all right?”
His drunken haze cleared, Andy slowly stood upon wavering legs. “What just happened?” He noticed Jessica favoring her arm. “Jess, are you hurt?”
“I think my arm might be broken,” she stated numbly.
Reality sunk in. Andy became contrite. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you--I love you, Jessica. I don’t know what came over me. Let me take you to the hospital for X-rays.”
Tom, one of her nursing colleagues, was on duty in the emergency room.
“I’ve never known you to be clumsy, Jessica,” he teased.
Andy sat in the corner of the private cubicle, worry lines etched across his forehead. “You can blame me,” he confessed, sheepishly. “I said something that distracted her when she was moving away from the couch. It’s all my fault.” He bowed his head in shame.
The privacy curtain was pulled aside. “Excuse me, I have the
results of the X-rays,” said an aide in blue scrubs.
Tom read the memo. “No bones broken. Just a sprain,” he pronounced. “I’ll confer with the doctor on duty. Be right back.”
Andy sat beside Jessica, arm around her waist.
Tom wrapped her wrist expertly upon his return. “Here’s a permission slip to take a couple days off before returning to work. Take care of yourself, Jessica.”
Back at home, Andy had snuggled close in bed, his loving arm draped over her as she slept.
Jessica paced the floor of the apartment, cradling her sprained wrist. It throbbed. An ace wrap, applied in the emergency room the evening before, supported torn ligaments. The bruises along her left leg rebelled with each step. She frowned as conflicting emotions battled in her mind.
Limping into the bathroom, she opened the medicine cabinet to get some Advil. Confronted with a jumbled mess of medication bottles, annoyance with Andy’s disregard for order surfaced. Why can’t Andy put things back where they belong? Popping the Advil cap with difficulty, she managed to swallow two pills.
The mirror’s reflection was disturbing. Her fine chestnut hair draped an average face with deep set dark eyes, and prominent nose. The image evoked old feelings of homeliness. Critical of her appearance since childhood, she wondered, What does Andy see in me anyway?
Sitting in a chair was uncomfortable, so Jessica resumed pacing the apartment, mulling over the latest incident. He always finds fault with anything I do. Can’t seem to please him. Reminds me of my mother.
Jessica had been miffed anyway. He had come home reeking of beer, tipsy and babbling nonsense. He had hit her in the past over perceived slights, especially after consuming much alcohol.
She was wary, watching for signs of an impending altercation. Attempting to placate him with a plate of brownies. Wrong move. Instead it had set him off.
“I’m so sorry,” she recalled him saying after the mishap. How could she doubt his love? His earnest blue eyes looking so distressed over her feeling threatened? Sandy curls had fallen across his face. His apology sounded so sincere. Her heart had softened at his words. He was the man she loved. “For better or worse,” unbidden--her wedding vows had surfaced.
She gazed out the living room window toward the public park across the street. Yellow forsythia bushes were in full bloom. Tulips and daffodils flourished on the hillsides. The view uplifted her mood. Spring was her favorite season, a testament to the renewal of life.
The couple, married two years, had moved to Riverdale, Iowa, Andy’s hometown. Their two-room apartment was on the second floor of a weathered brick building with no elevator. The space was divided into a bedroom, lounge with dining area, and a utility kitchen. Recently discharged from the military in February 1965, it was all they could afford.
They were excited about the move. Andy, with an advanced degree, had joined his father’s architectural firm immediately. Bruce Parker, his dad, started the business in the fifties, building suburban tract homes. He was a member of many civic organizations.
Jessica, with a degree in nursing, obtained employment at the local hospital on a Coronary Unit. She loved the challenge of skilled critical care. Few patients died there. Most were admitted with heart conditions. The nursing staff encouraged their patients to change the lifestyles that initiated their attacks: smoking, high cholesterol meals, lack of exercise. Jessica found it incongruous that many of the nurses smoked themselves.
She decided to lie down for a while before Andy came home. She had assimilated the gender roles portrayed on the TV show, Ozzie and Harriet while growing up. She longed to have a successful marriage. Her own parents had failed at theirs. They were divorced now and living apart in New York State.