Required Words: birthday, calligraphy, fireplace, float, fresh, fur, green, magic, picture, scar
For a child, an early bedtime is an effect correlated with some undesired cause. Tonight, however, the most scrupulous abridgment of my actions uncovered no fault on my behalf. As even-handed as my mother was, she had made an oversight concerning my castigation. Through some primordial awareness I knew something was erroneous. Incentive hid where parents forbid my presence. Predisposition led me to one conclusion: daddy was drinking again.
Even before being banished to the confinement of my room, I saw the signs. It was Tuesday, and daddy was on his way home from Calligraphy class. Time wasn’t my confidant, though. On occasion I would plead with the clock for the knowledge it shared with adults. There was no spoken dialogue between either party. Mommy or daddy would look intently at the wall adornment in some sort of silent struggle for information. On each occasion the clock would relent, handing over the desired insight. Apparently, with age and awareness I would accrue the capacity to take time from clock. But not tonight.
My evidence was uncomplicated. Mommy had gathered kindling from the back yard and arranged it within the fireplace. She was wearing her birthday gift: blue sweats with a drawstring waist and a wife-beater. An inch of ribbed fabric draped over her right shoulder. The other fell off of her left arm in a capitulating fashion.
Through the garment her scar was palpable. Superlative skin shrouded a psyche withered from misuse. I had never glimpsed it firsthand. No one had that I'm informed of. But mommy kept the picture in her purse.
I anticipated each outing to the grocery story because I loved watching mommy write checks. There was even an unwritten, highly revered procedure. To start, she must franticly undress her purse in search of a pen. Subsequently, in a merciful show of leniency, the clerk would bequeath the ballpoint reserved for such emergencies. And finally, my mommy would wield the pen with such authority as to make one question the pen's original proprietor. And then it happened.
My drifting eye observed a small photograph. It was rounded at the edges from years or stress. Time had drained the picture of much of its color. Within the photo stood mommy, unmaimed. Adolescent. Discarded of the weight she now seemed to bear begrudgingly. Next to her was a man unrecognizable to me. Around his neck hung the fur of some unknown animal. From the poverty I tasted on a daily basis, I had never encountered a heap of bills so significant. Fresh green seemed to spill from his wardrobe. Behind them rested a float. At the time of the picture, the float was probably making its way through the crowded downtown streets. But within the boundaries of a photograph, movement was arrested. A Polaroid had flooded the parade with guilt, and all one could do was stand still, cloaked in culpability.
“Paper or plastic?” solicited the clerk, unapologetically.
* * * * *
Subtly I induced my door into a silent opening. From my confinement at the end of the hall, I was only able to pilfer a partial view of clandestine events of which my mother forbade me. And the accolade was without value. Daddy was masked from head to toe in black and white attire. He was going to show mommy his magic.