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Read an Excerpt
By Keith J. Netto
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Keith J. Netto
All right reserved.
Chapter OneComing Together
As a teenager, Jerome tried desperately to fit in at all costs. From birth, however, there were challenges that to a young boy proved to be initially insurmountable. His father was an all-American football player who excelled both in academics and athletics. His photographic memory made life easy in maintaining a solid "A" average throughout his educational pursuits. His tall muscular body and homogenous good looks made him the envy of other men and a prized catch of co-eds at the Division 1 University where he was awarded a full athletic scholarship. To a young man bent on becoming a star football player and moving to the big league, life was good. To him, things were as good as it gets. During a well-attended playoff game where professional scouts were in attendance, he attempted to take the ball through a small opening. He had the end zone in his sight and knew that glory awaited his arrival. This was to be the final play with his team down by six points. A touchdown would tie the game. The extra point would secure a victory over their fiercest rival. This was his moment and he was not about to be denied his place in history. His narrow focus on stardom and glory blinded him from the middle linebacker bent on saving his team from defeat. The clash was violent. The thud was deafening. The pain was agonizing. He crumpled to the turf like an empty beer can that was discarded by an uncaring fraternity brother. His helmet met the turf and bounced back into the air only to return and lay still. The coaching staff held their collective breaths and for a moment stayed frozen on the sideline before heading out to the field. A hushed tone quickly engulfed the stadium and ladies put their hands to their mouths as they awaited some sign of life. None came. After some agonizing minutes and frantic motioning by the coaches and other attendants a motorized cart sped onto the field and the fallen player's seemingly lifeless body was hoisted onto it. The cart sped towards an opening in the stadium and disappeared quickly with several attendants in hot pursuit.
He awakened in the hospital surrounded by his parents and attached to tubes, wires, and a host of devices that registered all sorts of numbers and graphs that danced about with each breath and heartbeat. He vacillated between consciousness and unconsciousness and after four weeks he was released with the diagnosis and the realization that his football days were over. For a young man whose passion was to play professionally, accepting this fate was not about to be easy. Athletic competition was out of the question for him.
Jerome Stanton McCauly resumed his college study with an intense focus on academics. He graduated at the top of his class and was heavily recruited by top fortune 500 companies. But his decision shocked everyone. He joined the Army as a second Lieutenant! His father and grandfather talked fervently of their military experiences and he was not about to deny himself a similar path to glory after the painful end to his dream of playing professional football. Within two years he achieved the rank of Captain and married his sweetheart, Cindy. Within a year, the couple was expecting their first child and the sonogram revealed a son was on the way. At the baby shower the discussion of a name arose. Jerome was at a loss since he had already decided on a name and there was to be no discussion. After all he was a Captain and the ruler of his household. Wives of McCauley men were relegated to a subservient and submissive role. Their position in the family was not subject to discussion. They were expected to provide a well-balanced meal, care for the children, and be available for sex upon demand. Lovemaking in a sharing and caring way of togetherness was not a consideration. With a show of authority, Jerome stood up and with a stern and decisive voice announced that his son would be Jerome Stanton McCauley II. He was not about to entertain any more discussion on the subject. With that he left the room.
A hushed silence engulfed the room. It was about three minutes before the next word was spoken, and even so, the conversation was conducted in hushed tones as if at a funeral service. Jerome Stanton McCauly II came into the world with the fanfare of a prince. His grandparents were present to welcome their first grandchild and all relatives were present for the baptism into the Lutheran faith. The party that followed was exorbitant and the gifts were lavish ... including financial gifts towards a college education. Whether he attended college was not an option.... The decision was already made and he was only three weeks old! To avoid confusion his Grandmother dubbed him "J" which others expanded to Jay. Regardless of his moniker, high expectations were set and Captain McCauly was there to be the enforcer. This was a role he was not about to share with anyone else.
As the years rolled on, Captain McCauly moved up the ranks to colonel. With his increased span of control and power came an offsetting decrease in his desire to debate or discuss anything. He ruled with an unyielding iron fist. His decision was final in anything he said. When it came to issues regarding his son he was even more dogmatic if that was at all possible. He decided which school Jay would attend and in which sports he would participate. Of course football was at the top of the list. It proved manhood and toughness in the eyes of the colonel. He attended all games and mercilessly admonished the officials if a call was questionable ... even if he was the only one with a question regarding the call. The merciless riding of the officials paled in comparison to what Jay faced on the ride home if his team happened to lose the game. On some occasions even when the team was victorious the colonel was not impressed with his son's play. To those witnessing the ranting and raving the reason was evident. The colonel wished to live vicariously through Jay. The colonel wished his son to be the football player that he could not be due to his injury. The McCauly name must live on at all costs. But Jay wanted no part of his father's life or desires and they clashed constantly. The father desperately wanted from his son what he wished for himself. Cindy on the other hand was no match for the colonel's way with words and could offer little help for her defenseless son.
When Jay reached sixteen, the final blow to a festering and potentially volatile situation inevitably erupted. It was a Friday afternoon and the colonel stopped off at the local bar before going home. On his way there he saw the school principal who provided a verbal report on Jay's attendance, behavior, and productivity. Or should we say the lack of all three. The report was bad but to the colonel who demanded perfection it was nothing short of horrible and was totally unacceptable. Jay missed at least two days a week. Homework, on the few occasions when attempted, was incomplete. His behavior was disruptive to the point where his absence provided some relief to the teachers and classmates who wished to use their time more productively. The colonel listened intently, offered a meek and humble apology and said goodbye. For a brief moment he thought of racing home but on second thought realized that murder was still against the law even if in his mind it was fully justified. He moved to another establishment and welcomed a cold beer, or two, or three to offer some relief. About two hours and six drinks later he ventured home. Rational thinking now took leave from his state of mind. The thoughts of his son's failure were still dominating his mind and the internal battle of how to best handle the situation raged within him. Cindy on the other hand had a way of bonding with her son in the colonel's absence. Prior miscarriages led Cindy to believe that she could not have children. Now she faced a difficult pregnancy which created a special kinship between mother and child. From birth she walked her son around the room and sang to him. She engaged in long conversations with him even before he could speak. Later, when Jay was a young boy, she would lie across his bed and read to him. Children's books later were replaced with the local newspapers or magazines. What was read was unimportant. The time together was what counted. When it came to bedtime she ended all their talks with the same sentence. "We all have a guardian angel up there." She lifted her eyes heavenward. "But sometimes he gets busy. But I will never be too busy for you. I will always be your guardian angel. You can always count on me, even if I'm not around." To a young boy the last statement had no special meaning. Young children always thought that their mothers would always be there.
Jay and his Mom were having a long and pleasant conversation. They discussed family issues, the neighbors, politics, sex, and any other topic either of them chose to discuss. When their marathon talks ensued, nothing was out of bounds. With a deafening thud the colonel burst through the door. He never looked in the direction of his wife and without a proper greeting went into a tirade towards his son.
"Sometimes I wonder where the hell I went wrong! Sometimes I wonder whether you do any thinking or if anything works that would even allow rational thinking! Sometimes I wonder whether you have a brain! Well, do you?"
"Well good afternoon to you too, sir." Jay, in a sort of condescending tone and with a feeble attempt at humor, offered to his father. Unfortunately this lit the fuse. It was akin to tossing gasoline on a raging fire.
"Don't you sass me boy! I was totally humiliated because of you today! I saw the principal and he had nothing good to say about my son! My son! That's right! You're a god-damn disgrace to me! I have done everything humanly possible to provide for you and this is the thanks I get! I wish to hell you were never born!"
Cindy stood by quietly and then in her feeble attempt tried to intercede, which only made matters worse.
"And you! You got me into this mess! I never wanted children in the first god-damn place but you, you, you were not complete as a woman unless you had a child! Oh no! Life was too god-damned perfect with just the two of us! You had to go and screw things up royally for me! You gave me this god-damned loser!" Motioning to Jay he continued, "You brought this loser into the world! I wish to hell I had never laid eyes on either one of you! Maybe you will both do me a favor and disappear! I'm god-damn sick and tired of the incompetence and stupidity that is rampant in this household! Sick! You hear me!"
The colonel slammed the door and went downstairs. Jay hugged his mother and apologized profusely to her. Cindy turned to not allow her son to see the tears streaming down her face. Jay went into his bedroom, packed a small bag and left through the window without another word. His mind was made up. He had enough and could no longer stand by to see his mother disrespected and humiliated by his father. He knew he was the cause of the unhappiness and would have accepted the wrath had it been directed solely towards him. His mother's pain became his and he blamed himself for creating the unpleasant environment for her. Cindy stood in the same spot after the last tirade. It appeared that even if she wanted to move her body lacked the strength and coordination to do so. Her shoulders sank towards the floor as if pulled down by gravity and the weight of the world. Her head hung low and drops of tears cascaded down her cheeks and crashed to the floor forming a puddle in front of her feet. She agonized over her inability to protect her son. She knew he was at fault for his behavior and had talked with him on the importance of respect, civility, and a good education. But she also thought her husband to be an extremely unreasonable person. She felt he could handle the situation differently but was afraid to challenge him. A thought entered her mind only to be confused by a thousand more. She entered the bedroom and reached for the bottle that was hidden in the last drawer of her night table. She slowly and painfully walked to the bathroom door, hesitated for some time and finally entered and locked the door behind her. For some time she wanted to hug her son again. She obviously was unaware that he had left the house.
During the early part of her married life Cindy had some issues with depression and insomnia. She suffered from low self-esteem from an earlier abusive relationship after her boyfriend lost his job and took to drinking. In her calm and soothing manner she offered support and encouragement. The one mistake she made was in suggesting he was not trying hard enough to find a job since he stayed out late and remained in bed till way past noon every day. It was this suggestion or accusation, as he saw it, which started the verbal abuse that was followed by the physical abuse. At her father's insistence, she broke off the relationship and was stalked for months. She never fully recovered and was under the care of a therapist for a long time. After two years of leading a somewhat reclusive life she ventured to a local tavern with a friend. A young military man entered and sat at the bar. Eventually their eyes connected and he asked the bartender to offer a drink of her choice. She graciously declined the offer and this peaked his curiosity even more. He finally ventured over, introduced himself and was invited to join the two ladies. They spoke for hours and made a connection. Meeting the young, brilliant military man provided some measure of relief and buoyed her sagging confidence. After a short courtship he proposed and she accepted. She felt safe in the arms of her knight in shining armor and was able to wean herself off the sleeping pills which were prescribed to help on those occasions when her husband was away on military duty and sleep was difficult and sometimes impossible.
After about four hours the colonel came up to use the bathroom. The door was locked with no evidence of light piercing from the small opening beneath. At first he gently rapped on the door and inquired if anyone was in. When there was no reply he knocked even more vigorously. Now he was nervous. He rushed to the bedroom and then to the kitchen trying to find Cindy. He looked in the garage and the back yard but to no avail. With a swift kick the door broke open and he stopped dead in his tracks. Cindy was down in a sitting position against the vanity. The whites of her eyes were all that were visible. Her breathing was shallow and labored. Next to her left hand was a small bottle and pills strewn about on the floor. The colonel rushed in yelling her name! She was totally unresponsive, and after some initial confusion on what to do, he rushed off to the kitchen and dialed 911! It was five minutes before the medics arrived. To the colonel it seemed to be a lifetime. They immediately began CPR and prepared Cindy for the ride to the hospital with the colonel in hot pursuit. Jay was totally unaware of the episode and did manage to sleep through the night. He was still determined never to set foot in his father's house again.
The colonel raced to the hospital and pulled into the first available parking spot, totally oblivious to the sign identifying it as one reserved for handicap patrons only. He hurried through the doors leading to the Emergency Room and rudely interrupted the nurse at the front desk.
"Where's my wife? I'm Colonel McCauly and my wife Cindy was brought in here?"
"One minute please sir. I'll be with you shortly as ..." The nurse did not get the opportunity to complete her sentence. The colonel was accustomed to having people jump to his commands and the nurse was not about to yield.
"I'm a god-damn colonel and demand to know where my wife Cindy is. Now you take me to her or I'll report your ass! Now!"
"Sir, please hold down your voice or....." Again she was not allowed to finish. The colonel at this time was erect and appeared to be taller than his six foot four inch frame. The nurse quietly excused herself from her customer and beckoned for the police officer that was seated just beyond the double glass doors.
"What seems to be the problem nurse?"
"Officer this gentleman is rude and disruptive. He will be next as soon as I'm through with the lady at the desk." The officer approached the colonel in a soothing tone and inquired as to the nature of his visit. From one uniformed man to another he was able to calm the colonel by offering to check on Cindy. Within a minute he took the colonel to a back room where a doctor briefed him on her status. Her pulse had returned briefly and her breathing remained shallow. The recommended course of action was to pump her stomach, which at this time would be a risky undertaking. Taking no action could bring about a coma and possible death. Taking action however could yield a similar result. The doctor left the room to allow for some personal time to reach a decision. He assured the colonel he would be back in ten minutes.
The colonel had resorted to pacing vigorously within the waiting room. His shoulders sagged and his face was drawn and ashen. With each military turn he came face to face with a large clock on the wall and ten minutes seemed to skip along more quickly than he wished. The doctors entered the room with pursed lips and he feared the worse. They explained their concerns and impressed on the colonel that time was of the essence. Upon hearing of their dilemma he voted to begin the pumping even though there was some risk. He just did not want to do nothing and let her slip into a coma. The colonel implored them to do their best for his wife and with solemn faces they disappeared through the glass doors. It was three hours before they appeared again and words were not necessary.
Excerpted from The Frontrunner by Keith J. Netto Copyright © 2010 by Keith J. Netto. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
The Senate Race....................79
Enter the Intern....................108
It's about the colonel....................124
The Race Begins....................167
The needed vacation....................205
The Final Journey....................234
List of works consulted....................261
About the Author....................262