Anonymous Tip: Problems with the Ex

Anonymous Tip: Problems with the Ex March 11, 2016

A Review Series of Anonymous Tip, by Michael Farris

Pp. 229-234

We start this section with Gordon and Casey.

Casey zipped down the slide from the huge Radio Flyer Wagon on the southern edge of Spokane’s Riverfront Park to Gordon’s waiting arms. The ten-foot high, Paul Bunyan-sized wagon was a favorite with kids for obvious reasons, and a favorite for parents, because—unlike other attractions in the park—play on the wagon was free.

Hey, look, google!

But seriously, is it impossible for Farris to write about Gordon spending time with Casey without taking a stab at his lack of money? Really? I mean for god’s sake look:

Gordon had just barely enough money to let Casey ride a couple of times on the elaborate carousel—the centerpiece of the park’s attraction for kids.

We can’t go with something like “Gordon had saved up enough extra money to give Casey a special treat riding the carousel”? Instead we have to go with “Gordon had just barely enough money to let Casey ride” the carousel? Really?

After a couple hours of walking, playing, and throwing bread to the ducks, Casey and her father settled down on a park bench to a lunch of hot dog with ketchup and a small coke. The purchase had emptied Gordon’s reserves.


I mean for gracious sakes, spending several hours doing nothing but playing with a four-year-old is nothing to be sniffed at. Gordon appears to be putting real effort into having fun with Casey and building a relationship with her, but all Farris cares about is the fact that he’s broke.

“Havin’ fun, Casey?”

She giggled and nodded her head, bouncing the curls her mother spent half an hour creating that morning.

WHAT. Look, I get doing your kid’s hair, but spending half an hour putting curls in her hair for a Saturday morning at the park seems like more than a little bit of overkill. Anyway, you can add this factoid to your understanding of Gwen as a character. And notice, too, that Casey’s still giggling—always. I mean I guess at least she’s happy? It just seems like—again—overkill.

And now we have an actual conversation with Casey. In fact, now that I think about it, Casey has said more to Gordon during visitation than she has said to Gwen this entire book. The long and short of it is that Gordon tells Casey it’s a too bad her mom couldn’t come with them to the park, and then asks what she’s doing, and out comes the whole long story.

“She’s going to Lynn’s house,” Casey answered.

“Who’s Lynn?”

“She’s the lady from church.”

“Church?” Gordon asked, astonished. “What church is that?”

“It’s Peter’s church,” Casey said, chewing her hot dog.

“Peter the lawyer?”

“Uh . . . I dunno. Just Peter.”

“Is he a tall man with black hair?”

“Uh huh,” Casey nodded affirmatively.

“Does Peter come over to your house a lot?”


“Lots of times or just once or twice?” Gordon asked, jealousy building but the second.

“I dunno. Just sometimes.”

“Is he nice to you?”

“Uh huh,” she said, nodding again. “One time he rocked me when I was scared.”

Gordon had heard enough to arouse his envy. But he couldn’t help asking one more question.

“Is Peter with your mommy at Lynn’s house?”

“I dunno,” Casey answered.

Gordon assumed the worst, bit his lip, and tried to concentrate on the little girl whose affections might not be exclusively his for very much longer.

Okay, let’s talk about this. First of all, Gordon is prying. He asked a lot more questions than he needed to ask. But notice that he didn’t ask any of this until after spending hours playing with Casey, so it’s pretty clear he’s not just using her for the information. And also, a lot of this is a product of Gwen not telling Gordon, well, anything. Gordon wasn’t even notified of the decision to sue the social workers, remember. It’s also partly the product of Gwen doing things she shouldn’t have, like having her lawyer over for dinner.

But one thing that’s clear is that Gordon is about to be a problem. No matter how unethical Peter is acting with Gwen, Gordon has no business acting like he has any claim on her affections. They’re divorced, and Gwen has made it clear that she won’t consider taking Gordon back unless he gets a steady job and sobers up, and Gordon has made it equally clear that he’s not going to do that. I get the feeling that Gordon is about to start acting like the kind of ex that becomes a threat, and that’s not cool.

Anyway, that’s curtains on Gordon and Casey. Next we turn to Gwen.

Gwen was surprised when she saw Peter’s car there when she got to Lynn’s house. Remember that even though Peter is Gwen’s lawyer and is not supposed to be toying with her romantically, he has been, and now Lynn’s husband Aaron has invited him over to their house, knowing that Gwen was going to be there—in fact, because Gwen was going to be there—and this was very much a bad idea. Gwen is, quite naturally, thrown off guard.

“Uh . . . hi, Lynn. I see you already have company,” she said, gesturing to Peter’s truck.

“Oh, Peter. He’s not company. He’s practically family.”

Oh okay, so you know, no need to be upset. Are we all remembering Gwen’s tears the day before? Gwen! Tell Lynn you don’t want to see Peter! Leave!

But of course, she won’t.

Lynn tells Gwen that Aaron is with Peter at Joey’s baseball game. She says she only skipped the game because the baby was still sleeping, but that seems a bit odd, because if she’d gone to the game she wouldn’t have been at the house when Gwen got there, and she knew she’d invited Gwen over. Also, if she has a baby, why didn’t she take the baby with her when she visited Gwen the previous week, instead leaving the baby at home with her fifteen-year-old? I mean yes, that’s old enough to babysit, but in my experience babies usually come with for a relaxed social visit like that.

Anyway, Lynn takes Gwen to the kitchen and gives her coffee—“Starbucks French Roast”—and Gwen s trying to figure out how she feels about being about to see Peter. Lynn tells her Peter came because he has “some good news about the case,” but she says she doesn’t know what it was. Next the two start talking about kids and, next, religion. Farris tells us that Lynn “was thrilled with Gwen’s spiritual progress.” I have never read a book that made religious conversion sound so much like the stages of joining a cult. Farris tells us that it was obvious to Lynn that Gwen had been reading the Word and doing the Bible studies she’d left. He doesn’t give specifics.

Next the conversation shifts to homeschooling, and suddenly it reads like an infocommercial. Gwen asks about socialization, and Lynn’s response is to quite literally laugh out loud. Sigh. Look, as a homeschool alumna, that is not a question to laugh about, it’s a question to take seriously. Lynn asks Gwen to judge for herself how her kids are doing and points out that Joey is off “socializing with twenty-five boys and their father at the baseball diamond.” Farris tells us that Gwen was “intrigued with the idea of homeschooling” but that “it was a little too new for her just then.” So, question. Gwen is a single mom working (ostensibly) full time. How exactly is she supposed to homeschool Casey, Farris?

Anyway, Joey—who is 11—gets home from his game just then and saves us from Lynn’s constant homeschool hype. He’s excited about baseball, but Lynn chides him for not saying hello “to Mrs. Landis.” Awesome, Lynn. Way to puncture an 11-year-old boy’s excitement by requiring him to adhere to archaic social norms. Joey asks to go outside and Peter, Aaron, Lynn, and Gwen sit at the kitchen table to talk about Gwen’s case.

Peter explains that Aaron can “work some computer magic” and find out if anyone at CPS changed the file. Gwen gasps—gasps, I tell you, gasps. Peter says he’ll have to get a court order for it, but that he thinks he can. Peter explains their suspicion that the records were falsified to Lynn—once again without asking Gwen’s permission to share details of her case—and as they talk, Aaron sits back and . . . well.

Aaron sat back and took stock of the situation. It seemed so natural for the four of them to be sitting around as couples, talking and chatting as friends. As he watched Gwen watching Peter, he realized more fully just how difficult it would be for Peter to maintain his commitment. They do some perfect for each other, he thought. Aaron began to wonder if he had given Peter the right advice. But as he sat and thought, he remembered that it was Peter’s own spirit that was convicting him, not merely his advice. Aaron made an inner vow to be very careful not to substitute his personal opinions for the leading of the Holy Spirit in Peter’s life.

Does no one in this book actually value the importance of really getting to know people?! Peter and Gwen haven’t known each other long enough or well enough to let down their guards around each other. Until you get to the point that you (and they) relax and stop performing—stop thinking about how you’re supposed to act and start just being you—you don’t really know someone, and no one here seems aware of this. This entire situation feels icky, almost like Aaron is picking out a bride for his friend.

Gwen! Get the hell out girl! Run!

Peter stays for lunch, and then heads out.

Gwen was home at four, an hour before Gordon was scheduled to return with Casey. Hew as twenty minutes early, having run out of money and ideas.

Good lord. Gwen got to Lynn’s house at ten, so Gordon had Casey for at least seven hours. Seven hours. But no, Farris has to remind us that he’s broke and tell us that he has also run out of ideas for things to do with Casey—after seven straight hours. Casey runs into the house, hugs Gwen “around the legs,” and says “Hi, Mommy. We had fun.” Gwen looks around to see if Gordon’s there, and finds him in the doorway. She greets him “a little tersely” and he tells her that they went to Riverfront Park and that it’s “too bad you couldn’t join us.”

Gordon was not normally this testy, and Gwen was taken aback.

“I’m sorry, Gordon, but you know that is simply not going to happen. And it doesn’t help to say this kind of stuff in this setting,” Gwen said with a subtle head nod in Casey’s direction.

Gordon was not to be deflected that easily. “Oh, that’s right. You had a pressing engagement with some lady from church.”

“How did you know—” Gwen stopped before finishing, instantly discerning that Gordon had been pumping Casey for information.

“And I imagine that lawyer of yours was there, too. Getting pretty cozy, aren’t you?” Gordon asked sarcastically.

Gwen burned inside. She knew the meeting with Peter was happenstance, but she also knew there was an element of truth in Gordon’s underlying accusation.

“That is none of your business,” Gwen said, emphasizing each word.

Gordon knew her answer meant that Peter had been present.

“Pretty cozy, I’d say.”

Gwen’s anger flared. In a soft but emphatic voice she said, “Out. Get out now.”

Oh god, no, this is not going well. I must admit I am positively impressed by the amount of interest Gordon shows in Casey—though he shouldn’t have asked her any questions about Gwen to begin with—but I am not at all okay with the way he’s treating Gwen. He is completely out of line here, regardless of the fact that Gwen should not be involved with her lawyer.

Anyway, Gordon leaves and Gwen glares after him.

“You are a free woman, I guess,” Gordon said, opening the car door. “But if I ever find out that he is spending the night here, I’ll call CPS myself.”

WTF. No, Gordon, no. That is not something you call CPS for.

Gwen started to launch a steaming verbal counterattack, but something insider her changed.

“Gordon, I’m really sorry you said that,” she said softly. “It disappoints me greatly. But I can assure you hat Peter is my lawyer and my friend. There is absolutely nothing romantic between us.”

Her words didn’t convince him. But Gordon was surprised at the tone of her answer. He was expecting fire. It suddenly occurred to him that her answer might actually be true.

Okay, first of all, I think this is probably supposed to be a sign that Gwen is letting God in and changing to become less angry and prone to yell and more gracious, kind, and godly. But I’m honestly not sure, because Farris usually does his whole tell-don’t-show thing, so I’m not sure whether this moment of show-don’t-tell is intentional or completely accidental. Either way, it’s worth bearing in mind that Gwen just lied to Gordon about her relationship with Peter. There absolutely is something romantic between them, and she knows it.

Without another word, he slammed the door and headed down the South Hill to his favorite tavern on Maple Avenue, only a few blocks from his apartment. After all, it was Saturday night.

Wait, I thought he was out of money?

Sigh. Next week we return to Blackburn and the crew at CPS.

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