Gen's intention, I think, was to make her kids mad at Doug's kids and get everybody fighting. It didn't work out that way. Bill and Larkann would sneak around helping us when Gen wasn't looking. Doug saw what was going on, but didn't comment or act to prevent it. When Gen was supervising, Doug's kids disappeared. Who could blame them? You didn't want Gen to decide you were the problem or even remotely connected with it. If she did, you had to endure arcane punishments and harangues that might escalate to violence, especially if her biorhythm cycle was averaging -95.

There was no way for anybody to do anything to relieve the tension. Apologies to Gen for misbehavior returned comments like "and you think an apology makes everything all right?" Gestures of compassion usually produced cruel accusations of misconstrued intent. Gen went to very dark places.

Maybe it was all the noise and the stress of dealing with the emotional needs of all those kids. Maybe it was work and constant worrying about money. Some of it certainly had to do with her menstrual cycle. Whatever the cause, Gen became an angry paranoid depressive, both at home and on the road. She would get into a foul mood, turn into a PMS-crazed Medusa, pick a fight with Doug, who would beat his kids to appease her, or she would whale on her kids, and then everything would calm down again.

One fight between Doug and Gen end when Doug beat Larkann down onto the kitchen floor with a broomstick. Her bruises were many, her infraction trivial.

Gen turned into Captain Queeg at one point. One of the kitchen windows, behind a counter, overlooked the driveway. The window was covered with a translucent plastic curtain. Since the countertop was higher than the windowsill, the bottom of the curtain sat in a shallow well behind the counter. If you wanted to see whose car was in the driveway, you had to lift the curtain out of the well to look through the window. The stiff plastic curtain didn't fall back into the well on its own, so if you looked out the window, you had to push the curtain behind the counter or else it stayed crumpled on the countertop.

Captain QueegGen came home from work in a snit one afternoon. Somebody had left the curtain in disarray, threatening the order and safety of the entire western hemisphere, perhaps by collecting breadcrumbs in its folds, thereby producing the risk of a pandemic from a foodborne pathogen or marauding hantavirus or plague-infected mice. She came in through the back door into the kitchen and homed right in on this typical example of how unruly and thoughtless the kids were. She demanded to know who among the assembled crew left it that way. Nobody knew.

Stephen was home on leave from the Army, but he wasn't at the house when Gen got there and saw the offending curtain. Stephen and hadn't lived under the procedures of blended family life long enough to know the rules. We shrugged and offered that maybe Stephen left the curtain that way.