Our house was small and not very neat. My mother tried to keep it nice, but once she started drinking, all her efforts went down the drain. I don’t know which came first: her pulling out the bottle from the closet, or him closing the door to our bedroom…my sister’s and mine.

Cassie was two years older than me and, to my young mind, the prettier one, but maybe that’s just because it made sense why he chose her.

It didn’t happen every night or anything…maybe a few times every few months, and once after grandma’s funeral.

There’d be quiet, or maybe mamma be’d washing the dishes. And then I’d hear a slam, not a very loud one, just the footrest on his recliner going back in. Then there were footsteps, and the light in the living room dimmed, which was my sister’s cue to dim ours and mine to go into the small room that connected to ours. It might have been a bathroom at one time, because there was a pipe sticking up from the floor, but in my family’s time it was just a catch’all for all my parent’s junk, which I guess included me…at least in these moments.

He’d come in, as he always did, and hand me a new Nancy Drew mystery, then nod towards the bathroom door…but only after smiling and putting his hand on my shoulder. There was no mystery in what was going to happen.

I stopped looking into my sister’s eyes after the first couple of times. She knew I knew. I knew she knew I knew. But neither of us ever said or did anything. What was there to be done? But for me to sit on the floor, among the stinky, old tools and faded blankets and plastic swimming toys, trying to drown out a squeaking bed and grunting father.

Next Vignette: Quiet

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