By K. Hecht, A. Hosack, & P. Berman
Oh no she came too early! My parents are going to really give it to me. What am I going to do?
Claire wanted to see the nurse badly. She had so many questions. Why did the nurse have to come at 9 a.m.? This was hours before Claire’s parents usually got up. Claire rushed to open the door hoping her parents hadn’t heard the doorbell. As the Nurse came in, she looked around at the dirty living room and noticed empty beer bottles everywhere. Claire noticed her grimace; she was sure the nurse was thinking her family was trash; just like everyone at school.
Claire rushed the nurse into her bedroom at the back of the house trying not to make any noise as she closed her bedroom door. Without looking at the nurse, Claire promised her that none of the beer empties were hers. At the hospital, Nurse Karin had explained how important it was that she not drink while she was nursing Davy. The nurse smiled at Claire and told her what a smart decision that was for Davy’s health.
Claire relaxed, maybe everything was going to be okay with this new nurse. Claire told the nurse that Davy was crying more at home than at the hospital even though she was keeping him warm all the time. The nurse checked Davy out carefully explaining to Claire what she was doing. Davy’s belly was very hard. The nurse thought that Davy’s stomach was full of gas and this was a safe, but painful condition. Once Davy had passed enough of this gas, he would probably stop crying so much. The nurse was just showing Claire how to hold Davy to help him get rid of the gas when her father flung open the bedroom door; it slammed against the wall. The loud noise scared Davy and he began to cry.
Mr. Caldwell grabbed Davy, shoved him at Claire, and ordered the nurse out of his house. Claire was terrified, her worst nightmare might be about to happen. Would her mother throw Davy in the trash? Should she try and hide with Davy in the woods while her parents were distracted by the nurse?
Gail was waiting in the hall. She walked the nurse to the door, telling her to never come back. Once the nurse was outside, she slammed and locked the door. The last thing the nurse had heard, before the door slammed, was Bill’s angry voice telling Claire she should have known better than to let that stranger into their house.
The visiting nurse sat in her car outside the Caldwell house feeling very worried about Claire and Davy. Bill Caldwell had been so quick to tell her to leave he hadn’t given her the chance to explain who she was and why she was there. The look of the living room, Claire’s evident fear of her parents, how Mr. Caldwell had roughly shoved Davy at Claire, were all warning signs of abuse. The nurse worried that even as she sat in the car, Claire, Davy, or both, might be in danger. She called Children and Youth Services and made a report of suspected child abuse. Ms. Alexandra, the caseworker on call, is concerned by the report of a young mother and newborn at immediate risk; she promises to leave immediately.
It takes Ms. Alexandra about thirty minutes to reach the Caldwell home because it is out in a rural area. Her job is to try and assess if Claire and Davy are immediately safe and can be left at home to receive nursing services or if they need to be given an emergency placement somewhere else. Fortunately for Claire and Davy, both of her parents had gone back to sleep, promising to teach her and the brat a lesson when they woke up.
When Alexandra rings the bell, Claire jumps. Her parents are going to be woken up a second time and she and Davy are in real trouble. Should she open the door? She doesn’t think she can hide outside with Davy, it is too cold for him.
Mr. Caldwell runs to the door, ready to beat the crap out of the nurse if she has come back. When he sees Ms. Alexandra, and she asks to come in, he tells her she is waking his family up and to go the hell away whoever she is. Ms. Alexandra puts her foot in the door and warns him that she is from Child Protective Services and if he doesn’t let her see Claire right now, she will be calling the police.
The word police rings unpleasantly for Mr. Caldwell. He hesitates for a moment as he thinks about his record for drunk driving and a fight he got into at a local bar. He lets Ms. Alexandra in. After hearing a few of Ms. Alexandra’s questions about Claire and Davy, Mrs. Caldwell screams at her to take the bitch and her bastard and get the hell out of her house. Mr. Caldwell is dragging Claire who is struggling to hold Davy and shoves her and Ms. Alexandra out the front door. Meanwhile, Mrs. Caldwell is shoving all of Claire and Davy’s meager possessions out the bedroom window.
Claire and Davy are both crying as Ms. Alexandra hustles them into her car. The last words Claire hears is her mother’s screaming that Claire and Davy are both a waste of space and she is relieved to be rid of them.
Ms. Alexandra backs slowly down the driveway and then heads off towards her office back in town. She tries to reassure Claire that everything will work out, but Claire is crying too hard to take her words in.
Why is Claire crying? Isn’t she better off without her parents?