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Daddy's been drinkin'
The thunder rumbled louder, reminding us to leave.
“My Ma’ll be worried if I’m late” Henry said, sitting up, leaving the grass patted down from where he was laying. “She doesn’t like me to stay out in storms. I better go”. When I didn’t respond, he said
I hated my name. It sounded like someone was saying Louise, but then sneezed.
“I don’t want to go home” I said, staring at the blackening August sky. “Daddy’s been drinkin’”
“But your sisters’ll be worried” he reminded.
I didn’t care what they thought. I didn’t want to go home to a drunk Daddy again. But I didn’t want to be beat, either. I looked over the fresh black and blue bruises on my arms, and then the yellow healing ones. I remembered how much it hurt. But not as much as it hurt when Momma died. I used to cry every time I heard her name. Francis Jackson, I miss her, Fran…She had 4 children! Francis? How’d it happen! But now I was tough. I showed no tears on the outside, but I felt like I got hit again on the inside. I sighed.
“See ya tomorrow” Henry said, getting on his light blue banana bike.
“See yah” I replied, hopping on my rusted, hand-me-down, Fuscia banana bike. I hated pink. But this was the only bike we had.
“Oh and you’re it tomorrow!” he hollered. Then it started to rain, big fat drops.
The rain turned my red shirt dark, and my long brown, wavy hair darker. I rode my bike to the edge of the field and into the bushes. The thunder rumbled again, quiet and sincere, then gradually growing loud and angry, then a huge crack of lightning split the air.
I walked into the old trailer I called home. I did a quick scan with my eyes…no Daddy. He must be still at the bar. I was soaking wet, dripping water on the floor. Gloria would be mad at me.
I ran into my room that I shared with my 3 sisters, Jan, Arleen and Gloria. Arleen was on her bed, reading a fashion magazine.
“Why are you all wet?” she asked, disgusted. Her wide, crystal blue eyes, long black lashes and perfect lips stared at me. Why did she get to be the prettiest when she was so snobby!
But she also got beat the most because she looked just like Momma.
“I was playing with Henry” I said, stripping down and putting on new shorts and a T-shirt. I dashed out of the bedroom, into the kitchen.
“Why is the floor all wet?” Gloria asked, eyeing me suspiciously. Gloria was almost as pretty as Arlene, except her lashes were blonde. They matched her pale skin. Her blonde curls hung around her face as she whirled around and continued to work on supper. Jan bounced into the room, her red curls back in a ponytail. Her lashes were pitch black, and had the same lips as Gloria and Arleen.
“When’s supper?” she said, inhaling the smell of Mom’s fried chicken. She wrinkled her delicate nose. It always made me happy to see Jan. She was always in a great mood.
“Right now” Gloria said before calling “Supper!”
Arlene walked quietly into the room and sat down in her chair.
Jan bounced into her seat beside Arlene.
I sat down in my chair, and Gloria sat down beside me.
We said grace, thanking God for our family and this food, and then praying for Daddy.
Gloria dished up herself because oldest eats most. She then gave Arleen some, then Jan, then me. I hated being 11! She put the rest on a plate for Daddy. He wasn’t usually hungry when he got back from the bar, but if we didn’t dish some up for him he would get mad.
Supper was our only time that we could relax, talk about things freely and be ourselves.
She hated Daddy. Well, didn’t hate him, but thought that if he wasn’t going to be a good Dad, he should just leave. We all agreed.
We still loved him, but hated him at the same time.
We talked about the day we’d had…But we had to wrap it up before Daddy got home. If we were “lying about” as he called it, we would get beat.
Gloria cleaned up and we all got ready for nighttime. We prayed together, and then crawled into our beds. Jan and I shared a bed, because we were the youngest. Jan was 13.
Have you ever had that feeling, where you just couldn’t sleep? Where you had to work hard to keep your eyes closed for a few minutes?
I had that feeling.
And so did Jan.
She turned to me and whispered, “I’m gonna say something to Daddy”
“Something to smarten him up!”
She was asking for a beating!
“You are too outgoing for your own good” I said to her.
“No! I’m serious!”
“I’m not picking up your guts after”
But she knew I would. I would do anything for my sisters, and they would do anything for me.
We were best friends.
Then we heard Daddy’s truck in the driveway.
My heart froze.
“We gotta get to sleep before he checks on us!” I spluttered.
“Chill. I’m going to talk to him”
She removed the blankets and I grabbed her arm.
“Jan NO! I don’t want you hurt!” I was truly, horribly scared. I always was whenever Daddy beat someone.
She met my eyes and said,
“It’s gonna be ok.”
Jan was an amazing girl. She was going to be an amazing woman.
I gently let go of her arm.
Stupid! I thought. Why’d I let her go?
She tiptoed into the living room.
I followed her.
I hid behind the wall, crouched down, trying to blend into the shadows.
Not like Jan.
She stood firm, her red hair like fire around her face, her green eyes determined.
Then Daddy stumbled into the room.
His red hair was messy, and his green eyes wandered, then met Jan.
I was scared. There was no other way to put it.
“Go to bed” he sighed. “Before I beat you”
Strange. Daddy didn’t usually warn us…he just…started.
“We need to talk” Jan said, iron in her voice.
He gave a weak laugh, then said
“Go to bed”
He meant it.
“No Daddy, I want to talk. I was thinking…”
“GO TO BED!” he yelled. He was mad.
Jan was mad, too.
The string of words that came out of her mouth was…amazing. It was like a super talented therapist. She could have convinced the Queen of England to make a statue of a giant toothbrush, made of hot dogs. If I even tried to describe them, I would…wreck them. Her words were kind, yet…harsh, but not mean either. I started to question if she was human.
She stopped and stared at Daddy, looking…triumphant. I would too if I were her.
“GET THE HELL TO BED, JANICE MARY JACKSON!”
Daddy was very, very, very mad now. The amazing words that could have put a baby tiger to sleep yet intimidate Hercules were making him mad.
He lunged at her, but he was drunk and not very fast or accurate.
Jan stepped nimbly out of the way.
I could tell she wasn’t done yet, by the look in her eyes.
“DADDY, STOP DRINKING!! YOU CAN GET YOUR LIFE BACK!”
These words were simple. Yet…meaningful. I could tell she was done then.
Daddy stared at her for a long time.
But Jan didn’t even blink.
First Daddy looked mad, then considerate, then…
Then the weirdest thing happened…
He started to cry!
My daddy has cried three times in his entire life.
when he was born
When Momma died
Then he and Jan…
Daddy hadn’t hugged us since Mamma died.
After a long while,
Jan turned her head and said
“Louisa, it’s ok”
I came out from the shadows.
Daddy looked at me with his green eyes. With Jan’s eyes. With my eyes.
Then me, Jan and Daddy hugged.
I knew, in that moment, Daddy would change. The alcoholic who
lost his wife, daughters and life would try. Try to get his life back.