The Courts – Part Nine


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.


The Courts – Part Eight


Tensions mounted as the time drew nearer for my father’s meeting with Lola. Other than closed door talks with my mother, and bully-like looks from him, Jay left me alone. Very few words were exchanged between us during the passing of the several days before the session. It was the quiet before the storm.

I was well aware that Jay would be questioned about his behavior towards me, and knew that his reaction would be denial and accusations, with the possibility of a complete meltdown. I figured he would hand the big blob of blame sitting in front of him, to me, as he so often did. He had painted me guilty for years, conveniently leaving his a clean, blank canvas. I also figured he would reason that I deserved to be punished for the things I had done…and, in his eyes, continued to do. Lola was not fooled. By this time, she had been a witness to the abuse.

I knew Jay well enough to know that once he was sitting behind the desk of a court-ordered social worker, who happened to be a female, and who was questioning his actions and authority, he would not have the self-control to pull off a sweet, fatherly demeanor. This meeting would not become a catalyst for a new and improved version of a relationship that had already been tainted. It would turn out to be something, though-

The day of the meeting arrived. I was picked up from school and driven to the facility by my father. The drive to Lola’s office was somber, yet filled with thickness.

“Do you realize the trouble you are bringing to this family?” My father asked me, looking straight ahead.

Out of all of the things I truly wanted to say, like how he was the one who brought and had been bringing the trouble, all I could mutter were the forbidden words, “I don’t know.”


The Courts – Part Seven

Jay had been addicted to prescription drugs for several years. He had injured his knees in high school, playing football and contracted gout, which caused him great pain. He used these injuries as a cover to swindle his doctors into giving him droves of pain pills, of which he used to ease the pain and feed his addiction. At one point he worked night security at Keesler Air Force Bases’ Hospital, where he was able to snatch many strong medications undetected.

It surprises me that I haven’t mentioned this part of the problem until now. It had been going on for some time, and was definitely a player in the problems we all faced with Jay. As children, he would send me and my sister into the medicine cabinets of neighbor’s homes to look for the bottles with the red stickers with the sleepy eyes on them. If it had the sticker, he would order us to take several of the pills, leaving only a few left in the bottle.

When he mixed the pain meds with alcohol, as he regularly did, I knew my day would turn out badly. He became like a rabid hyena towards me, and many times towards my mother. Blaming me for all of the trouble I brought his way. Accusing me of ruining the family. He did everything in his power to make me and my mother take on the guilt he must have felt. He would ask me questions that no matter what the answer, he would become enraged and physically attack me. It was worse if ever I said “I don’t know”, like I told you about already.

I was a seventeen year old young man, who surely possessed the strength to overpower a drunken pill popping man, but still, I was afraid of him; like a child. My mother had faith in the Lord and blindly put everything in His hands, denying the severity of the problem.

One night, I feared for my life. Jay was on a rampage and I was in his sights. I thought my own father was going to kill me that night. I ran from him as he chased me to my neighbor’s house. I had no other place to go for refuge. I pounded the door hard, as one might do if they were being chased by a crazed man in the middle of the night. My neighbor opened the door just in time, and I barged in and locked the door behind me. My father screamed obscenities at me through the safety of the dead-bolted door. My neighbor was rattled, but other than offer me the safety of their home for the night, did nothing.

The next day, upon realization of what he had done, he pulled out the roses. He always did that. My mom fell for it hook-line-and-sinker every single time, and I used to, but not now. No sir-E bob! I played along, having him believe that what he had done was water under the bridge…water under the bridge. My mom used to say that phrase when I tried to reason with her about the abuse. “Oh Shawn, that’s water under the bridge,” she would say. Pure denial. When there is a bridge and you are submerged in water, take the bridge, stay dry!

This time though, I was in a paddle boat paddling my ass off under the bridge and as far away from Jay as the current would carry me. The current finally landed me and my mother on the other side of Lola’s desk. After relaying the story of what had happened, Lola asked my mother about it. My mothers’ instinctual fear of her husband left her protecting and covering for him, while I lay wounded in the trenches with no one to tend to me. She always had and she always would. That is one of the scarier parts of domestic violence. When you’ve controlled someone for so long, as Jay did her, they will do anything for you. And she did, as God as her witness.

Lola saw that there was a reason to bring Jay in for a session and scheduled it. This meeting would change my life forever.