“Hours” by E.

The policeman came. The roads were slick, he says. But Dad and I know different. The rain didn’t kill Mom. Life did.

Killian’s Irish Red is on the air, heavy and hoppy. Mom’s drunk again. She’s warring with dad because she’s out of beer and the liquor store is just down the road. He won’t drive her. He says she doesn’t need anymore; she’s had enough for chrissakes! She doesn’t think so. She never does. Dad pushes her out of the foyer. She stumbles back, falls, lands on her ass. She’s yelling, “How dare you hit me!” But he didn’t hit her. He should have, but he didn’t. He pushed her. But her pickled brain doesn’t see that. It sees danger. She’s a coyote with its paw in a trap. Fight or flight. She’s up and clawing at Dad’s face. He’ll need stitches when this is over. She head-butts him. Dad’s nose is filled with pomegranate juice. He drops to his knees. She pushes past him. Her keys jingle together as she grabs the door handle. She’s still yelling, calling him all kinds of useless. She’s gone. I’m kneeling beside Dad, crying. I’m pinching the bridge of his nose. My hands are slippery with his blood. He’s mumbling something about how it’s all going to be all right. I don’t see how that’s possible but I’m nodding. In two hours, Mom will be dead.

Rain pelts the window. Mom moans about the bad hand life has dealt her. Dad’s telling her to man up, which I find funny because she’s a woman. This is while the fighting is still somewhat comical. All bark and no bite; like Ralph on that Honeymooner’s program they show on Nick at Night. “To the moon, Alice!” No one’s hit anyone yet. Mom says she has to drink. She doesn’t have a choice. Dad says she has plenty of choices but she won’t listen long enough for him to tell her what her options are. A dog barks outside. Barking, but not biting. I’m in my room, on my bed, clutching a stuffed fox who I’ve named Foxenne. I’m petting her and wishing for ice cream. I ate all my dinner but no one’s mentioned dessert. I always get dessert when I eat all my dinner. I silently pray that Mom and Dad will stop talking about choices and options and other nonsense so I can have a bowl of rainbow sherbet. The rain comes down in sheets across my windowpane. Dad says he’s tired of it all. Mom says she is, too. She’s tired of his weakness. Dad doesn’t respond. The dog gets louder. The bite is coming. In five hours, Mom will be dead.

Mom’s on the back porch, crying. She’s a squall—simply blowing through. An empty bottle of Killians languidly twirls on the table. Dad’s behind her, rubbing her shoulders. He’s crying, too, but not as fervently. I watch them from my bedroom window. This brief moment of shared kindness is a welcome respite from the norm. I need it. Relish it. Reside within it. These times will be gone soon. When Dad gets tired of the drinking, the bottles will shatter against one wall or another. And when Mom gets tired of all the money Dad’s wasting by destroying her escape plan, she’ll start slapping and clawing and rending him from her. Dad will be a different man after she’s dead. He’ll actually be a man for the first time in his life. The dog’s not barking yet. It hasn’t even whimpered. There’s nothing but cold abandon. A giving up of things best kept. An attrition of the soul. In eight hours, Mom will be dead.

Mom pulls me back on the swing. Her beer bottle tinkles against the chains. I go up. Storm clouds are overhead. I come down. The green of my backyard rushes away. I am drawn back once more. The worn rut beneath me races by. Mom’s laughing, as am I. Dad’s in the kitchen window, watching, smiling, beaming. The first drop of that day’s shower lands in my eye. In twelve hours, Mom will be dead.

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