Papa's Not Home


United States
33° 15' 59.1876" N, 111° 49' 15.9132" W

Number five.
My sisters and I count each clank into the trash can, growing more uneasy with each one
We usually don’t get very scared until number eight, that’s when he starts to fuss
Papa asks me to bring him another
He says that if I shake it again I’ll be in trouble
That’s what we used to do; we thought it was funny watching the bubbles pour out when he opened it
I guess that’s just one of the things we didn’t agree on
I run inside, open the fridge, and grab a new can
It feels cold and heavy; it’s filled with some dreadful poison that changes him
The taste is bad, I remember, when Papa made me try it one day
Lounging out back in the bright blue lawn chair that matches the color of his hat
After handing it to him gently, as to not stir up the bubbles,
I take my sister back with me into the red brick house

I wish Papa would just go inside though;
Then the neighbors wouldn’t hear him getting angry with the world
They wouldn’t give me funny looks when they saw me playing in the front yard

Mama told Renee to lie to her preschool teacher about the bruises; say they were an accident
I guess a benefit of being a plumber’s wife is that you’re prone to accidents while on the job

We hear loud screams and run to the living room to see what has happened
I get there just in time to see Mommy fall to the ground with an earth-shattering thud
She tells us to go outside and stay there, but Daddy yells at us to stay and watch
It’s as if he’s got some dark vendetta against her, but I don’t know why
We’re scared that we’ll get hit, too, if we don’t do as he says, so we stay
Mama’s the same way though, she’s scared to leave him, too
She thinks we’re too young and Daddy will take us back to Argentina with him
Besides, all the money from the business belongs to him anyway
So we are stuck, like gum to the bottom of a dirty shoe, just waiting to get scraped off

Moving the family to Arizona will be a fresh start, Mommy says
We’ll be closer to grandma and grandpa
He may loosen his suffocating chains that have been suffocating us as long as I can remember
Or at least that’s what we assume; we didn’t think it could get any worse

But Daddy doesn’t like that Mama has a new job with new friends
He starts secretly following her around, and showing up at her work to scare her
One day he told us that he bought a gun for all of us; I’d never seem my mama cry so hard

We each packed suitcases for ourselves and hid them in the garage;
Mommy said they were in case we had to leave in a hurry
But it’s no fun living in fear, being followed, or threatened
So one day Mama brought home some papers for Papa
I remember there was a lot of yelling and fighting after that, but after a while, it all quieted down

Daddy doesn’t live with us anymore, but he’s closer than we had hoped
I guess it’s just hard for him to let go of what he once loved, even though it doesn’t love him back much
Lucky for him he can still see us often, since he moved in down the street from grandma


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