Mary didn't understand what her son was getting at when speaking about his wife until his eldest daughter stated quite clearly, "Dad's all butt-hurt because mom makes more than him." Dan snapped an angry glare at her, his lips turning white as he pressed them together.
"I wasn't asking for your opinion," he growled.
"No," Casserine stated. "You were bitching and the bottom line is you're upset because mom makes more money than you." Everyone else as the table was very quiet. Thanksgivings were sometimes tense but they hadn't been this tense in a long time. Chuck, Mary's eldest son who had been married for 8 years then had his wife leave with the kids, was sitting across from Casserine. He was grotesquely overweight and he looked at his neice as if she needed to be hit.
"What is Susan doing now?" Mary asked, keeping an eye on Dan.
"She's works with crazies," Ben, Dan's son muttered.
"Ben," Casserine scowled at her brother on the other side of her dad. "Mom's told us not to say that because it's not polite." Then, speaking to her grandmother, "She's a CNA at the mental institution in the next town over."
"Really?" Elizabeth, Herbert's fifth wife, sat up with interest. "That must be a demanding job." Herbert worked as a real estate agent and he married women who didn't want to work a day in their life, or at least Mary thought so. "Working with the mentally handicapped and such much be so..." Elizabeth let out a sound closely associated with disgust and waved her hand in the snotty manner she often did.
"Mom doesn't mind it. She's working and bills are getting paid." Casserine picked up her fork and picked halfheartedly at her peas.
"Yes but how did she get her license?" Herbert asked cynically. Making a high income, Herbert was quick to pass judgment on others. Casserine stopped with her fork and fixed her uncle with a cold stare. For a moment the 16 year old looked like a copy of her mother.
"Are you implying that my mother isn't employed under honest conditions?"
"You don't need to be a bitch about it," Dan snapped.
"What pisses you off more, dad?" Casserine dropped her fork so it clattered loudly on her plate. "The fact that mom said 'I'm going to be a nurse,' and you laughed and she proved you wrong or the fact that she makes more than you? Maybe it's the fact that she did it without your help. Or maybe its the fact that she has self confidence for a change." Mary leaned back. Dan wasn't the best husband and she really had been waiting for something like this. "How about we go over how many times you told her she was worthless and she should get a job, huh? Or are you upset because she set her sights higher than waitress or motel maid? Could it be that being a CNA qualifies as having a 'career' and you can't even spell the word much less obtain one yourself?"
Herbert coughed into his hand and Elizabeth had a blank look on her face. Chuck took a drink of his wine to wash down the large bite of turkey he had barely chewed, excited by his neice's outburst. Ben slid down out of his chair to hide under the table like any other sever year old. Mary scooted back and patted her lap gently, offering a safe haven for the frightened boy. He climbed up and hid his face in her shoulder as his arms gripped tightly around her neck.
"Since when did you get all high and mighty?" Dan scooted his chair back.
"When I realized I could do better than you!" Casserine yelled. That struck Dan hard and he had to lean back in his chair. "I'm not going to have kids go through what I went through. I'm not going to marry a man who can't keep any promises and wants nothing to do with the kids. I'm not going to know the cops by name. I'm not going to have my children hiding under the kitchen table trying to reach the phone because dad's trying to kill mom!" Casserine slammed her fist down on the table, causing all the silverware to rattle and everyone to jump. "I'm better than you and so is mom. You're pissed because you're too chicken-shit to admit your scared that now she can leave you. Now she can support herself and us kids. Now she doesn't have a reason to accept the empty promises and dozen roses bought by a bar buddy when you fuck up!" Ben had begun to cry now and Mary could feel the hot tears soak through her shirt.
The silence settled in with Casserine's last words. Dan's face was red with rage now that he'd recovered from her initial statement. She sat back, waiting for him to respond. Chuck was now eating a whole piece of pie with large bites, barely stopping to chew. His eyes never left Casserine and Mary tasted bile in the back of her throat.
"Chuck," Mary said calmly. He didn't hear her. "Chuck," her voice was firmer this time but she was quickly losing her patients as he gorged himself. "CHARLES VINCENT PEIRCE!" Ben flinched in her arms as did everyone else. Chuck snapped his face to her, his jowls swaying as he did so. Pie fell on to his lap. "GET THE HELL OUT OF MY HOUSE YOU FAT, DISGUSTING PIG!" Mary pointed at the door. "I INVITED YOU BECAUSE YOU BEGGED ME BUT YOU KNOW YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE AROUND KIDS!"
Chuck pushed from the table so quickly his chair fell backwards. As he toppled over in a heap of clothed lard, Mary continued yelling. "You're a pedophile! A God-damned pedophile! You molested your kids and that's why Justine left you! That's why you can't keep a job and that's why you're no longer welcome in my house!" Scrambling to his feet as fast as he could, Chuck wobbled for the front door as fast as he could. "You're a disgrace as a son and husband and SICK excuse for a father!"
"You promised not to tell!" Chuck sniveled as he fumbled with the locks.
"Well, guess what? I'M TELLING!" A resounding thud let the house know that Chuck had left. Wrapping her arms around Ben in a tight hug, she cooed to him. "I'm sorry to yell in your ear, sweetie." He hugged her tighter.
"And you said I'm a bad father," Dan said in a poor attempt of humor.
"There's more than one type of bad father," Casserine replied sourly.