Behind Lori Baer
……….My father worked at Staley processing soybeans. He did that during the day. At night, he drank with his friends. Sometimes he screwed my mother.
You look uncomfortable, Mr. Tomassetti. I’m sorry, but you and Gabe wanted to hear this.
My mother, she hated him screwing her. She just plain despised my father. So naturally when he forced himself on her, she hated it.
On weekends, my father was rarely home. He preached. He preached most all the time. But on weekends he preached formally in a room at the union hall. They didn’t mind. It wasn’t like it is today, everybody uptight about you proselytizing your religious beliefs.
He was an old time preacher. He had a fundamentalist’s view of religion and the world. It was grim and strict. I suppose that’s why he drank and did the other things he did. Who could exist in a world that black?
I puzzled over that for a long time, you know. That contradiction in my father; that oxymoronic dichotomy of his. He preached good as he understood it. He excoriated the bad in everyone he knew. Everybody was imperfect and burdened by evil to some extent in his cosmos. He recognized it in himself. But that didn’t stop him. He did everything he preached against. He was the biggest offender.
Truth was he was too weak to control himself. And it tortured him. So, he drank all the time.
I don’t suppose he was the first preacher to drink and break the rules. I don’t suppose he’ll be the last either.
I loved my father. I think if it’s possible, I loved him from the moment I escaped my mother’s womb. Most people don’t remember their lives as babies. But I remember mine. My memories are vivid as brightly colored movies, like they made in the fifties. Very bright and very cheery.
I think I remember those times so well because they were the happiest times I had with my father. They were the times when he was a real father.
When I cried in the night, he came to me. He held me, and sang to me. He whispered bible stories to me. Even those times, though, he smelled of liquor. But I came to like the aroma, because I associated it with love. I still do. I still like to have that fragrance around me. It reminds me that once I was loved.
Don’t misunderstand me: I loved Chuck very much, and I know he loved me. He was very good to me. But I loved him best when he’d had a drink. I loved making love to him when he had that faint aroma of liquor on his breath. He wasn’t a heavy drinker. But he did like a drink in the evening. And when he came to me, when he bent over me to kiss me, I would catch the scent, and I loved it, loved him ever so more intensely.
I miss Chuck very much.
My father loved me. I didn’t realize how much until I was older.
As I grew up, he continued coming to my room. It was always innocent—all caresses and gentle words—until I was eight. Then he began touching me. Then asking me to undress.
He’d been visiting me regularly—at least twice a week—since I was born. But when I was eight or so, he began kissing me constantly, everywhere. He played with my belly and kissed it. He squeezed by rear and laughed with me about it.
Yes, I knew more than most when I was only eight. But, of course, I didn’t rally know anything, and I certainly knew zero about sex; or in this case, depravity. He was my father and I loved him and I trusted him. I couldn’t believe he would … he could … do anything wrong. And not anything to hurt me.
Then he began putting his fingers inside me.
This bothers you? Isn’t that why you went to Hillcrest, to Champaign? You wanted this. You wanted to know every disgusting detail of my life. Don’t grimace, Mr. Tomassetti, Gabe. This is what you wanted.
This went on for years. He’d visit me in my bedroom late at night, perhaps twice a week. By the time I was ten he was fucking me twice a week.
I’m telling it like it was, gentlemen. Fucking, plain and simple. Or maybe you’re wondering if anybody suspected what he was doing to me. Maybe my mother, since she hated him on her or in her?
Well, here’s my answer: When she killed herself, I was happy. I despised her for what she didn’t do. She knew about my father from the beginning. She was there in the beginning. I can see her standing beside him smiling. She was happy he was fucking me. My theory: I suppose that meant he’d leave her alone. I suppose I shouldn’t blame her for that, or hate her for it.
You don’t get it, Gabe, do you? Why wouldn’t I go to anybody for help? Then, to me, it was normal. I thought everybody did it. Sure, it felt wrong. But I didn’t know any better. How could I? My own father was doing it to me since I had a memory. My mother stood by and practically rejoiced in it. Besides, my father was a preacher, a religious man. Would a man of God, a good man, do anything so horrible to a child? No, I had no reason to talk to anybody then.
But things changed when I was eleven. I started sleeping over girlfriends’ homes. Sleepovers. I asked my mother several times if I could have a friend to our house. It was embarrassing. I’d been to their houses many times, but none had come to mine. I pestered and pestered her; you know how that is. She talked to my father about this a few times, and each time the discussion ended in an argument. Finally, she came to me and said I could have a friend stay over on a Saturday night. She said my father would be away and we would have a pleasant time.
Her name was Sue Ann Coleman. I’d known Sue Ann since the first grade. She was a cute girl. Freckle-faced with bright red hair. Curly. I loved those curls.
Her family was like mine, maybe a little better off. But definitely lower on the middle class scale. They lived in a little house like ours a few blocks away. Her father worked at Staley. Her mother stayed home like mine. We were alike. I suppose that’s why we were such good friends. Two peas in a pod, as the old saying goes.
So, she came over that night. Her mother dropped her off and stayed a few minutes to have coffee with my mother. Sue Ann had an overnight back filled the things little girls consider essential. That included two stuffed animals that’d been her companion’s since she was a baby. I had my own, of course. It was a dog. It was a ratty clump of frayed brown cloth by that time. But to me it was my most precious possession. It went with me on sleepovers.
We played in the kitchen while our mothers talked and drank coffee. Sue Ann’s mother left at nine. Then Sue Ann and I went to my room for privacy. Around eleven, my mother served us milk and cookies. We talked and laughed and played until late, oh, around one or so. Then we fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion.
I don’t remember the time, but it must have been near morning. I remember looking out the window. The sky was gray, pearl gray, the way it gets just before daybreak. My door squeaked open. It was a quiet squeak. I was very familiar with the sound. It meant my father was home.
You think I was nervous or afraid? Not at all. I had no idea what my father was doing to me was wrong. What I was was jealous. Jealous that he might choose Sue Ann over me. Can you imagine that? I thought what he did to me was normal. I believed that my best girlfriend who was only eleven was my rival for my father’s affections. I wondered how she would like it if I traipsed over to her house and seduced her father.
Funny, isn’t it? Why aren’t you two laughing? No sense of humor. Sue Ann didn’t hear him, but I did. He came to me, stepping over Sue Ann, who slept on the floor next to the bed. I scooted over, the way I usually did when he came to sleep with me. The bed springs squeaked. I giggled. He shushed me. Then he undressed me and caressed me. I was happy to let him do it. I knew that while he was with me, Sue Ann couldn’t take him away from me.
But he stopped. The greedy son-of-a-bitch stopped. If he had just done as he always did maybe nothing would have happened. Maybe he wouldn’t have gone to prison. Perhaps not so soon, anyway. And maybe I would have been spared being the one who put him there. Lots of maybes.
When I saw what he was about, I grabbed his arm. He stared deep into my eyes. I could feel him cutting to my soul. You know, in that instant I felt as if I had done something bad. And I had, you know. I had turned against him. He had me so conditioned that I thought restraining him was a travesty.
He yanked his arm free of my grip. He glared at me. I don’t think I’d ever seen him quite as angry, except for a few times with my mother. He scared me. I felt tears clot my eyes, felt them sear my checks. But I wept silently. I don’t know why. Maybe I was afraid to wake Sue Ann. Maybe I thought the little bitch would fuck him better than I ever did. And she would steal him from me. Who knows what I thought?
He lifted me off the bed and dropped me in the corner like a bad puppy. I started to rise. He pinned me to the floor, not physically, but just by pointing at me. He pointed at me, and I cowered in the corner. If I’d had a goddamn tail, I’d have tucked it between my legs. By then the tears were flooding over my face, and I could barely see him as he stretched out over the bed and reached down for Sue Ann.
I heard her cry out, startled. Then she screeched. It was piercing, the howl of a wounded animal, really. She begged my father to leave her alone. She knew he was a preacher. She came from a religious family, Baptists I think. She quoted scripture at him. To get him to stop. I was so brainwashed, so stupid, I didn’t know what was going on. I imagined she was spouting bible verses to turn him on. Unbelievable, isn’t it, that I could be so deceived to even give credence to the idea.
He whispered to her. I couldn’t hear his words distinctly. But I’d heard him before. I knew he was telling her how much she should like what he was doing to her. God made women to serve men, and this duty was one way they obeyed his word. He was a sick, manipulative bastard. And good, too, because she quieted down. Of course, it probably occurred to her that there was no place to go. She was trapped. She might as well make the best of it.
I wasn’t thinking that at the time. Then, I was cursing her under my breath for robbing me of my father’s affections. I didn’t dare budge from the corner. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. He removed her nightie, pulling it over her head. He laid her back on the bed and pulled off her panties. He bent over her and brought his head down to her stomach. I knew what he was doing. He’d done it dozens of times to me. I tingled with the memories. He worked on her and worked on her until her crying faded into moaning, soft little wet moans, almost whimpers.
I clenched my fists in rage. I drew up a list of the revenges I’d inflict on Sue Ann once my father left. I’d invited her into my home and she’d stolen the affection of my father on her first visit.
After he’d worked on her for a while, he undid his pants and shrugged them off. He did the same with his underwear. He kicked both at me. And then with his shirt still on, and his socks too, he mounted her. He pumped her for a minute, maybe less, and then he exclaimed, “Oh, so tight,” and expelled his love into her. He’d say that to me. Not only was he giving his physical self to her, he was giving his feelings to her as well. In that terrifying moment, I felt more alone than I’d ever felt and will ever feel as long as I live. I’d lost my father to a person I thought was my best friend.
His betrayal was more than I could bear, but I couldn’t tell him. I loved him and didn’t want to do anything that might push him farther from me. Instead, I took my anger out on my friend, Sue Ann.
Yes, I know it was sick and pitiful. I was sick and pitiful, and stupid.
What followed was even more horrible, if you can imagine that. I pulled myself off the floor and put on my pajamas. Sue Ann lay in bed, nude, weeping. Her legs were pulled up to her chest. She hugged herself. I stared down at her, hating her for the wedge she had driven between my father and me. She was whimpering words I couldn’t understand. I leaned low over her. She was crying for her mommy. That struck me as odd, that after seducing and fucking my father she would be crying for her mother.
To my demented way of thinking at the time, I thought she should have been happy. Instead of balling, she should have been gloating over winning him, or at least praising his name. An almost uncontrollable urge to beat her to death possessed me. But when I stood over her, I felt sorry for her. She couldn’t appreciate the significance of what she’d done. She accomplished what my own mother couldn’t. She had stolen my father’s affections away from me.
And I wondered why she was upset. At worst, I thought she might be indifferent. But she was truly upset, nearly hysterical.
Then the door burst open. My mother’s form, thick and chunky, was silhouetted in the hallway light. She asked quietly, “What happened? I heard crying and saw your father leave. What happened?” I sneered at her and pointed to Sue Ann who continued to weep on the bed. If anything, her balling had intensified.
“What did he do?” she screamed at me. That angered me. He had done nothing. The little whore lying in the bed had stolen my father from me. Was she so blind she couldn’t see that? I screamed back, “This little bitch fucked him. He didn’t do anything. She fucked him.”
My mother charged across the room. She stopped abruptly at the bed. She looked from me to Sue Ann. She switched back and forth a couple of times. It was kind of comical. And I giggled at her quandary. It was so typical of her.
An animalistic yelp thrust up from her belly and cut through Sue Ann’s wailing. My mother’s hand followed, lightning fast, scourging my cheek with white-hot pain. I feel that pain even today.
I raised my hand to hit my mother, but she grabbed it, twisted my arm, until I yelled that she was hurting me. Then she hit me again and again, maybe a dozen times. I collapsed on the floor next to the bed, too terrorized, in too much pain to scream. I tasted blood in my mouth and I thought she might kill me. She’d always hated me for taking her husband from her. Now she was going to kill me. And I thought, it was her plan to bring Sue Ann here tonight. She had engineered the entire affair. Now she was upset because Sue Ann was crying. She assumed I had done something to Sue Ann. Her real reason for being upset simply did not occur to me.
My mother ignored me and sat on the bed. I saw her feet through my tears. I caught pieces of what she said. It was enough. She was soothing Sue Ann: It was over. He wouldn’t be back. She would call Sue Ann’s parents. I didn’t understand. Apart from rejecting me, I didn’t think my father had done anything wrong. Sue Ann was the culprit.
After she calmed Sue Ann and put my blanket over her, she came to me. She knelt in front of me and checked my injuries, the ones she had inflicted on me. Then she made the strangest request. “For all our sakes, tell the police your father did this to you. And tell them he does this to you all the time.”
“You want me to lie about my father?” I asked, incredulously. I knew she hated my father for choosing me over her. She probably hated me too for the same reason.
“Yes,” she said, “I hate him. But I don’t hate you, Lorilee. I hate myself for letting him do this to you.”
I confess. I had no clue as to what she was talking about. He had brainwashed me to the point where in this matter I could not tell right from wrong, good from bad. To me, our sex was normal. He said it was. It was my duty as his daughter to please him. He claimed it was written in The Book. That’s what he called the Bible, The Book, as if it transcended paper and ink and gravity.
If he’d actually understood The Book I might not been in the situation I am now, and I’d have a husband, and a mother, and a family.
So, my mother slunk off and called the police. Why not? I remember thinking. It was her opportunity to get back at him.
My father was long gone, and Sue Ann and I were in my bedroom alone. I didn’t think for a minute she’s do it, call the police.
But then she returned with two uniformed policemen. They examined us, Sue Ann and me, cursorily and asked if we were all right. I said nothing. I still tasted the blood in my mouth. Sue Ann screeched and babbled. My mother sat beside her and petted her shoulder.
My mother had hurt me. She wanted me to lie to the police. But she could take care of Sue Ann. My feelings were jumbled up as if they’d been through a mixer.
I jumped up and lunged at my mother.
I was a small girl. My mother was a big, bulky woman, sort of a female linebacker. Needless to say, I didn’t do much harm. But I did scare the hell out of her and the police officers. They didn’t know what to make of the situation and were slow to react. Finally, one of them restrained me. I kicked and yelled obscenities at my mother. Oh, I knew a few. I learned them listening to her and my father argue.
After they got me away, the police asked my mother what was going on. Naturally, they’d ask her, she being the adult in the room. That, however, stoked my anger and I whither in the grip of the policeman. And I continued issuing epithets.
Sandwiched between them I tried telling how my mother was jealous and angry that my father loved me more than he did her. I screamed that Sue Ann was a little bitch in heat. My mother arranged for her to spend the night and steal my father’s affections.
An officer, the one not holding me, asked me to repeat myself, which I did. By this time, my mother had abandoned Sue Ann and stood a foot or so in front of me. I can see her even today. She spread and planted her legs. She raised her arm and pointed her finger at me. She jabbed it at me, spiking me with each accusation she made.
She lied. What else could she do? She called me a willful child, a little liar, a jealous, angry girl who cared only for herself. I had no friends for that reason. Who would want me as a friend? Now I was lying about her and about my father.
It was stupid. But it shows you the spell my father had cast over both of us. We both were delusional. Then the only sensible person among us spoke up. At first, none of us even knew she was talking. She got everybody’s attention by throwing off the blanket and kneeling on the bed. She said, “He raped me.” She repeated it several times, each time louder than the time before, until she was shouting hysterically.
It was funny, really, because here was something my mother and I agreed upon. In unison, we called Sue Ann a liar. But the police demanded we be quiet. They wanted to hear what Sue Ann had to say.
We ignored them. At that point, my mother and I diverged. She yelled I was to blame. I had fought with Sue Ann. Sue Ann had gotten the best of me. That’s how I came by my injuries. And to hide the fact, I had put her up to lying.
I was the one who indicted my father. Not directly, mind you. Inadvertently, because I didn’t know any better. Remember, I thought our relationship was normal.
I said Sue Ann had seduced my father. And my mother had arranged it. It got their attention. At that point, they decided to separate us until the detectives arrived. One of the uniforms covered up Sue Ann and stayed with her. The other led my mother and me to the living room. She had quieted down, but I kept of my barrage up, which consisted mostly of calling her a liar and assorted other not so pleasant names.
The officer put me in the kitchen and stood in the doorway between us. I remember putting my head on the table and crying myself to sleep. When I awoke the detectives had arrived, and it was then I got the biggest shock of my young life. It remains with me to this day.