Mom turned a ceiling light on in our bedroom. She didn’t use the small covered wagon lamp next to the bunk bed that she normally switched on when it was time to get up for school. I knew something was wrong. I always know when my mother is in despair. Bill started to cry from above me. He took my parent’s problems personal. He was oldest, perhaps it was instinctive that he expose his emotions in the form of red cheeks and watery eyes. That bright light would make anyone cry if exposed to it while in a deep slumber. Not me. I held large plastic garbage bags while she emptied out almost all of our clothing from the dresser.
“We are getting out of here.”
“I don’t want to go to school.”
“It’s not time to get up for school yet. We are going to Pap Pap’s house.”
She didn’t try to keep our clothes neatly folded. No matter how helpful I tried to be, it was not enough to make things better for her. She started to cry as she tossed our Toughskins, underwear and school shirts into what was our only luggage.
I must have crawled back in the bed and drifted back to sleep as mom finished getting everything together. She carried me to the car but I do not remember her doing so. I woke up cold, dressed only in a one piece pair of pajamas with my toes sticking out from torn plastic stockings which were attached to the legs of a space man sleeping suit that I got dressed in after taking my bath. Mom was really mad at Dad this time. She said she had enough of his shit this time around. He was being bad again at the bars. That’s what made her so angry at him. Although I had yet to learn of the birds and the bees, I knew what a cheating bastard was.
The trees of the woodland that lined the narrow road down the mountain seemed angry at us for running away in the dark of night. When Dad drove, the trees did not appear to be monstrous and alive. Mom rushed past stop signs with high beams on, lighting up the night like the moon often does. The forest appeared endless and I hoped that I would never have to walk in the woods at night.
Pap Pap carried me from the car. I felt his whiskers brush against my slobbering sleepy face. He stroked my head and used his mason worker hands that never washed completely clean to push my cheeks against his strong shoulders. He carried me inside. I often remember the night he stopped the trees from chasing after us. He made everything better for us, always.
He put me down on my Uncle Francis’ bed. I didn’t want to go to bed yet, I wanted to see my grandmother.
“Go to bed now, Charlie.”
“Where is Mal Mal?”
“I’m down here, Charlie. Come downstairs I want to see you.”
Mom was crying as she told grandma about Dad. She held me on her lap and we listened to her. Pap pap was downstairs, putting wood in the fire. The smell of the furnace was what made that old house so warm. I stood on the heating vent, still dressed in my p.j.’s and warmed up my toes. As soon as the burning pain of the cold of night had ended in my piggies, mom felt better too.
She was better now and so was I. I walked all by myself upstairs in the dark and put myself in bed. I had become a man, like my Pap Pap.