Wednesday, December 4, 2013



….I wrote this yesterday:

                                                                      Southern Comfort

            Christmas Eve my Dad shoots an arrow through the kitchen window as a constellation of glass explodes across the countertops and unwashed dishes.  Sister screams.  My older brother chuckles.  Mom runs.
            She locks herself in the bedroom but Dad bangs on the door with his boot and fists and when nothing comes of it he starts shooting arrows into the door, some zinging off the tarnished knob, others piercing the wood and spitting slivers in the air.  Our trailer shakes each time Dad’s weight shifts.  The air is spiced with cigarette smoke, axle grease and the faintest trace of cinnamon.  When Dad starts to wail, Blue, our basset hound, mewls outside and I can hear the dog straining against his chain as metal scrapes metal.
            Sister squeezes my arm.  She tells me, “Please.  Please.  Please.” 
            If the police come again, we’ll be broken for good.  My older brother knows this as do I, so we stand and wait and watch.
            Dad takes swigs from the Southern Comfort bottle, swaying in front of the door like a woozy totem pole, his shadow a confused stage light on the linoleum floor.  When he leans forward his belt is visible, the belt with tooled deer and rabbits, the same belt he’s used on us plenty of times.
            He rights himself and lists down the hall, knocking me out of the way, going through the door, and I think we’re saved for now, he’s leaving, but then he’s back with a crowbar, working the bedroom door jamb.
            Sister squeezes my arm harder, going, “Please.  Please.  Please.”  I can feel my heartbeat through my eyelids.  The air is hot and heavy, a forest fire on its way.
            I take a knife from the drawer, the one we butcher chickens with.  When I tell my Dad I’ll use it on him if he doesn’t stop, he spits on the floor and cackles.  He calls me a wimp, a coward, a puny little bastard, and puffs out his chest, saying, “Do it.  Go on.”
            I raise the knife and out of the corner of my eye I see Older Brother, his mouth open.
            Dad yells but the words are slurred gibberish.  He pounds his chest like a drugged gorilla.           
            In my mind I make a hacking motion through the air and the knife lands where Dad’s black heart would be.  In my mind he topples and we cheer and Mom comes out of the bedroom and hugs me and we go to the other end of the trailer where there’s an actual tree with presents under it.

            But then the door does open and it’s Mom and she says she’s sorry, she says put down the knife, give it to me, she says, you kids go out and play, and when we turn to do as told, I hear Dad make a wet, gurgling noise before he falls, and I grab Sis so she can’t see, tell Brother, let’s go, it’s finished, even though I know this is only partially true.

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