A cordial introduction welcomed the two of us into her office. Lola’s strong, firm presence prevailed her petite structure. She was in control as she spoke:
“Mr. Pruett, do you know why I asked for this meeting to take place today?” She asked my father, as his forced smile began to dissipate into a stern look of power.
“Shawn has been telling you lies, and you want me to defend myself and my actions towards my son,” he responded, changing the position in his chair and crossing his arms.
“Well, Mr. Pruett, let’s talk about your actions towards your son,” she pushed, as she scribbled something onto a lined pad of yellow paper.
“And what actions do you speak of, Miss Murphy?” He spoke in a sarcastic tone.
I was still as fruit in a painting, trying my hardest to become an unnoticeable piece of décor; a fly on the wall, even. I was aware that it was inevitable that I would have to speak at some point. I did not want to be there, but I was.
She went on to describe some of the behavior I had confided in her about daily life under his roof.
My father looked at me before he spoke, “He is embellishing these stories and is not being truthful to you.”
And then, the moment I tried to hide from came.
“Shawn, will you tell me the story of what happened the night you spent with your neighbor?” She peeled my response from me, causing my still life painting to turn into a surreal one. I went on to recant the incident, as she nodded her head to me in protect. I looked at the floor as I spoke.
“Well he didn’t tell you that he stole a pack of cigarettes from me, did he, Miss Murphy?” He unfolded his arms and repositioned himself in his chair again. The tension was tight in the small office. He went on, “He didn’t tell you that he skipped school again, did he now, Miss Murphy?”
“Mr. Pruett, physical punishment is not an acceptable means of correcting this sort, or any sort, for that matter, of behavior from your son,” she told him.
“I never laid a hand on that boy,” he lied.
“Shawn, will you take a seat in the waiting area, please?” Lola asked, excusing me from what I knew would be a toxic environment soon.
I had to walk right by my father. Like I had before, I felt his searing stare burn a hole in the fragile protective covering Lola provided me as I left her office. I made myself to the small waiting area and sat, nervously, on the plastic molded seating. On one hand I was relieved not to be sitting in that office, on the other, I knew that in no time I would be faced, in the confines of a moving vehicle, with my father and his fury.
After only a short period of time, I heard the quiet of the waiting area change into a verbal commotion coming from Lola’s office. The sound waves moved as an oil pump, with the upside a loud, muffled argument, and quiet lulls on the down. Serious business was being played out between the aggressor and the protector.
The meeting ended quickly, with my father bursting from the office door. Lola followed him, yelling out, “Mr. Pruett, this meeting is not finished!” She tried to stop him.
“Watch it be,” he responded, “Let’s go, boy,” he told me, as he walked briskly by me without a glance.
I looked at Lola afraid. I would rather have been booked into the detention facility again, than go with Jay. “Go on, Shawn,” she told me, “and mind your P’s and Q’s, I will see you soon. We’re gonna get to the bottom of this mess, I promise you that.”
“Shawn, let’s go!” My father called out as he walked out of the building.
The eye of the storm had passed, short as it was, and the stage was set for the next phase. It would start with yet another long ride home.