Today we return to Deanna Thomas, the homeschool mom whose son Layton is in Laura Fraiser’s Sunday school class.
Deanna Thomas heard the crunch of the car’s wheels on the travel road leading to the house before she actually saw it turn into the driveway.
It’s a gorgeous day, so Deanna is doing Layton’s lessons with him outside at the picnic table. Her obliging baby is inside napping, and her gender conforming preschool daughter is—actually, we’ll let Farris tell it:
Nikki happily carted her dolls and tea set outside. The regular site for her imaginary homes under the swings beckoned to her.
God forbid Nikki do something physically active like using the swings to, you know, swing.
Nikki may be lost in her imaginary world of dolls and tea, but Deanna is curious about the car coming up the driveway.
Drop-by visitors to their rural home were rare. Friends normally called first. As Deanna turned the corner, she was indeed curious why a brown Loudoun County Sheriff’s cruiser was headed down her five-hundred-foot-long driveway. He was a good driver, she thought, having noticed the skill with which he dodged all the potholes that needed to be fixed.
And then something weird happens.
A deputy gets out of the car. Deanna is immediately afraid something has happened to her husband, Rick, but the deputy allays her concern with this:
“Oh, I’ve just got some legal papers for you, that’s all. Don’t ask me what they’re about. I don’t know. Don’t ever know. I don’t read ’em. I don’t write ’em. I just deliver ’em,” he replied. It was his standard incantation.”
Actually, Farris doesn’t give us any reason to actually believe it’s Wally—despite some of his other characters crossing over between books. The resemblance, however, is uncanny. Here is how Spokane County sheriff’s deputy Wally Elrod delivered a subpoena to Gwen in Michael Farris’ first novel, Anonymous Tip:
“No, ma’am. I just deliver ’em. Don’t read ’em, and I sure as shoot’n don’t explain ’em. Just call your lawyer. He gets paid to explain these things.
Farris seems to be doing some recycling.
The anonymous Wally stand-in leaves the papers with Deanna and heads back down the driveway. Deanna is baffled by the papers.
She scanned the document, clueless as to the full meaning of the document, but it appeared that there was some kind of hearing scheduled on April 29, and she and Rick had to be there.
I get that legal documents can be difficult to understand, but something like this shouldn’t be that difficult to understand.
Weirdly, Farris follows these lines with Deanna’s continued perusal of the papers, and Deanna is indeed able to ascertain that Layton has been appointed a guardian ad litem, that there was a “Petition for Dependency” that involved a desire to supervise Layton’s activities, and that “home schooling, spanking, and religious instruction all were mentioned” as well as “something very strange about a treaty obligation.”
It seems Deanna is both clueless as to what the documents say and able to figure the most important bits out.
As she read deeper into the seven-page petition, the edges of her ears gradually changed from pink to fiery crimson. The Irish temper of her Boston-bred father began to well up inside her. But it was her very Southern mother from Richmond who chose the somewhat dated words she spoke. “That wanton hussy!” Deanna exclaimed out loud.
“Layton, honey! Come here,” she cried out.
Layton rounded the corner at a full run. He stopped immediately upon seeing his mother’s beet-red face. He did a quick mental review of his recent actions to see if he had done anything to deserve her anger. His conscience tentatively acquitted him. “Mama, what’s wrong?” he asked, with a frightened tone in his voice.
I’m divided on whether Layton’s reaction is a natural one for a child in his situation—coming upon his mother so obviously upset—or whether it suggests an adversarial or negative parent-child relationship (is he constantly worried he’s in trouble, like I so often was as a child?).
Deanna asks Layton to go get the portable phone for her, then calls Rick’s cell phone. Rick is on the road and the reception is bad, so all he hears is her plea for him to come home. He makes an immediate u-turn and heads her way.
Deanna marched up and down the asphalt driveway with the papers clutch tightly in one hand and the phone in the other. She wanted to plot revenge. She wanted to find a way to get back at this woman for invading her home and her life and her family. But, she knew too little to do this effectively, so she just fumed.
Wally isn’t the only thing Farris is recycling. Deanna is virtually indistinguishable from Gwen.
When Rick reaches an area with better reception he calls Deanna to make sure the kids are ok. Deanna tells Rick about the legal papers and he says that there must be some mistake.
“All I know for sure is that we have a tour hearing on April 29, and that a woman lawyer named Rachel Hennessy has been appointed as a guardian of some Latin name or something for Layton.”
I’ll just remind you that this was written in the early 2000s, not in 1974 or 1983 or some time when a “woman lawyer” might still have been a novelty. Nope.
“I’ll be right home. Don’t do anything.”
Deanna wasn’t always a submissive wife, but on this occasion she had no problem obeying her husband’s command. She had no idea what to do anyway.
After hanging up with Deanna, Rick made a phone call.
He hit the number of his racquetball partner and then the send button.
Um. Guess who else played racquetball. Yes, that’s right. In Anonymous Tip, Farris’ first novel, Peter Barron played racquetball with his best friend Aaron. Peter was a single lawyer who played racquetball with his church friend, Aaron, who was the married father of four homeschooled children. Rick is a married father of three homeschooled children who plays racquetball with his single buddy from church, lawyer Cooper Stone.
It’s almost like this is the same book.
Rick talks to Cooper’s secretary, Nancy, and schedules an emergency appointment with Cooper for 3:45 that afternoon. Next week we will see our brave band of heroes begin to mount their valiant defense against an evil treaty and the meddling, manipulative members of the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child.
I’ll draw the curtain here, but I think it’s safe to say that we now know more about Deanna—as well as about the categories Farris puts women in. Deanna is feisty and not always submissive. But, she’s feisty and not always submissive in a cute way that makes menfolk all protective and the like.
Women are just so adorable when they get all angry and worked up and stomp their feet helplessly, amirite?
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