The Red Lion Hotel, Downtown Seattle . . .
Drew’s groggy voice answered the bedside telephone on its fifth ring. He had slept through incessant ringing of his cell phone, which by now had recorded seven unsuccessful call attempts from Montana’s 406 area code.
It was Harve and he was mad as hell.
“Jesus H. Christ!” the lawyer scolded, “I send you to Seattle to get a dose of emergency contraception for your recalcitrant young daughter, and all of a sudden, you, Alex and Joey are media stars!”
“What are you talking about?” Drew stammered, still trying to wake up.
Harve admonished in a softer but still-agitated voice: “I’ve had a hard enough time working around your criminal record and your desire to adopt two randy young adolescents. Now this! Just turn on CNN and get up to speed. Then call me back and we’ll figure out what to tell the judge.”
Click. The line went dead.
In the darkness of his drape-drawn hotel suite, Drew flirted with denial. The king-size bed, so warm and comforting after one of the most stressful days in his recent life, beckoned him to close his eyes and pretend that call hadn’t come.
His survival instincts, waned on the streets during a hardscrabble upbringing, nixed that idea. Eyes still blurred from lack of sleep, Drew groped for the remote control. The 55-inch LED screen threw a sudden blast of light that illuminated the room. Its stark images, and the announcer’s professional but serious commentary instantaneously rendered the struggling father wide awake.
“In Seattle last night, the latest skirmish of the continuing culture wars over abortion: Police
contained a mini riot in this city’s university district when protesters outside of an abortion
clinic attacked the car carrying a teenage abortion recipient and her family.”
The troubling footage showed Sergeant Blackwell’s outnumbered patrolmen struggling to keep protesters from banging on the hood of Drew’s rental car as it emerged from the clinic grounds. Angry men, some carrying signs with anti-abortion slogans, screamed: “You killed your baby! You’re going to roast in hell!”
A close up of Drew behind the wheel cut to a shot of a brick crashing through the car’s rear windshield. Then, the cameraman caught dramatic footage of Joey poking his head out of the broken window, surrounded perilously by shattered, jagged safety glass, as he hurled the brick back into the crowd. The last scene, shot from another angle, showed the brick hitting Mary Madeline O’Shea in the face, bloodying her nose, and knocking the Crisis Pregnancy Center’s director to the ground.
“Alex! Joey! Get in here now!”
Drew’s anger was an unwelcome wake-up call. Alex, physically sore and mentally worn from the procedure last night, bolted upright in the suite’s other bedroom. The last thing she needed now was a confrontation with her father. Joey, always afraid of displeasing Drew, jumped up from the living room coach and ran into Drew’s bedroom in his underwear.
Drew flicked the channels randomly until he found “Good Morning, Seattle, Sunday Edition.”
Last night’s events were the lead story, but this segment began with the incident at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. It showed footage of the broken ultrasound machine, a large pair of scissors lodged in its monitor. The television reporter didn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. He painted a word picture of an out-of-control young teenager reeking havoc at the Coalition for Life’s facility, followed by an assertion that the unidentified young lady had then had then run across the street for an abortion at the White Eagle Clinic.
Alex and Joey watched in horror while Drew’s anger escalated. Not since he escaped the Bertulli clan back east had he felt his family to be physically endangered like they were during their departure from the White Eagle Clinic the previous even
"Jesus!" Alex exclaimed, "I didn't have an abortion." Another protest from Alex wasn't what Drew wanted to hear.
The ringing of Drew's cell phone saved Alex from an eruption of Drew's temper. The caller ID said it was Michelle. She knew all about the media circus, and what she had to add didn’t help anybody’s disposition.
“I just got off the phone with a reporter for the New York Times,” she recounted. “Apparently, somebody made a YouTube video of the incident outside the clinic, and the damn thing has gone viral. In just over 12 hours, it has more than a hundred thousand hits. There are more than 2,000 comments, evenly divided between the pro-choice and pro-life camps. The reporter told me the YouTube editors have had to delete dozens of comments because they contained threats.”
“How did they find out who we are?” Drew asked in astonishment.
“Apparently, somebody traced the license plates of your rental car, found your name and address through the rental company, and matched it with the on-line directory of Montana driver’s licenses. This reporter wants to interview you, and he’s asking for the identity of Alex and Joey. Apparently, the Associated Press has moved a wire photo of Joey throwing that brick back at the protesters and a lot of subscribing papers are planning to run it in Monday’s editions.
“The Times reporter says the liberal East Coast media is making Joey out to be a hero, a protector of his girlfriend’s right to control her body, and that we shouldn’t be surprised if we get more calls from newspapers and television stations.”
“You didn’t tell him anything, did you?” Drew asked with trepidation.
“Certainly not,” Michelle responded, “but I caught some video of what happened on the local news this morning. The local TV station didn’t make a connection with our family, but I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before everybody in town finds out.”
Drew had put the conversation on speakerphone, and Alex was already in tears. Joey was terribly conflicted—proud that somebody considered his defense of his family to be heroic, but afraid of what Drew was going to do to him for thrusting the family into the limelight. He already had calculated a running tally of how many paddle swats he and Alex were due because of the weekend’s misadventures, and he was afraid this latest incident would push the total into triple digits.
Drew thanked Michelle for the report and rehashed their flight schedule. They’d depart Seatac Airport at 6 p.m. Pacific time, arrive in Missoula by 7 p.m. local and be home by nine. They agreed nobody would talk to the press. He kissed the phone’s mouthpiece, told Michelle he loved her, and that they’d see her soon.
Long minutes passed as Drew just sat on the edge of the bed and stared at Alex and Joey. Alex sobbed and Joey trembled in fear.
Then, for the second time that weekend, Drew surprised them.
“Come here, both of you,” he said softly. Sitting Joey to his right and Alex to his left, he put an arm around each of them and hugged them tightly.
“What the hell am I going to do with you guys?”
Drew's tone commingled his paternal exasperation with his deep love for both his spunky natural daughter and the loyal, obedient young man who would soon legally become his only son.
“I’m so sorry, Daddy,” Alex cried as the tears flowed copiously and her chest heaved. Joey’s trembling subsided. He hugged the only man who had ever given a damn about him. Joey had never met his natural father, as his mother had been drunk that night he was conceived, with a “gentleman” she hadn’t met before and would never see again.
It was shocking, in a way. Alex never called him “Daddy.” Drew did not fail to notice.
The events of the last 36 hours had a sobering effect on the 16-year-old. She had initiated the sex when Joey expressed reluctance. She had thrown care to the wind with regard to contraception. Her flippant attitude at the breakfast table the next morning, her comments to the ticket agent at the Missoula airport, and her temper tantrum when confronted by Mary O’Shea, all came back to shame her. Then, when she found out this morning that her behavior had resulted in her family’s sudden and unwelcome notoriety . . . it was almost too much to bear. She couldn't make herself stop crying.
* * *
(Left to right) A locking vaginal speculum, a tenaculum, and a fully deployed IUD inserted in a model of a uterus.
The previous evening, at the White Eagle Clinic . . .
Alex’s epiphany had occurred on the examination table, naked from the waste down, her feet in the stirrups. Receiving the IUD had been an excruciating experience, both physically and emotionally. Dr. Kimberly Madison had explained that IUDs for birth control were usually the choice of adult women who had already experienced a full-term pregnancy and vaginal birth. To receive one this young, and for the purpose of emergency contraception, would be unavoidably painful—even with the topical anesthetic that the doctor sprayed on her cervix.
The whole procedure had taken only took a couple of minutes, but they were the longest minutes of Alex’s life. First, Dr. Madison inserted a hinged vaginal speculum that she then opened and locked into place. Then Kimberly introduced a tenaculum: slender, sharp-pointed hooks on the end of a scissors-like instrument, which she used to position and hold steady Alex’s cervix for installation of the IUD.
Then, with her patient crying soft tears as she struggled to be as brave as possible, Dr. Madison carefully inserted the folded IUD, in a plastic sleeve, through Alex’s cervix and into her uterus. As she withdrew the sleeve, the IUD deployed into its t-shape. Kimberly then trimmed the string that would protrude out of the uterus into the vagina, and which Alex would be cautioned to check after each menstrual cycle.
Withdrawing the medical tools from Alex’s most private place took only a second, and then Dr. Madison turned comforter. She gently wiped her young patient’s tears and held her tightly.
“So, are you in trouble with your daddy for this little adventure?” Kimberly asked with a warm smile, trying to divert Alex’s attention from the pain she was feeling “down there.”
“Well, you’re not going to believe this,” Alex admitted with an embarrassed blush. “But I’m 16 years old and I still get spankings. I’m sure Dad is going to wear my little tush out, but I’ve go to admit I’ve got it coming. I was pretty irresponsible, and I’ve cost him a lot of money with this little trip.”
Kimberly laughed in an understanding manner.
“Hey, kiddo, don’t let it get you down. This might be hard to swallow, but I got my last bare-butt paddling from my old man on my 18th birthday, and the only stunt I pulled that evening was coming in late for curfew. The “board of education” was our constant companion when my sisters and I were growing up. We lived on a farm in Eastern Washington, about 60 miles from Spokane. It was conservative country with old-fashioned family values. Mom and dad blistered our bottoms regularly, and as the oldest of four girls, I got the worst of it.
“If you can handle the pain of having an IUD inserted,” the doctor continued jocularly, “a spanking will be no sweat.”
They both laughed and chatted as Kimberly helped Alex up from the examining table and watched the young patient get dressed. Then Dr. Madison gave Alex a big hug before leading her back to the waiting room and briefing Drew.
To be continued . . .