Permanent Business Trip

My daddy travels. A lot. So I wasn’t really surprised that Daddy was going for another business trip. But Mommy told me he wasn’t going to come back for a long time. And that when he came back, he might not come back home, that he might be living in some kind of mean-al hospital for a while. I guess that means they’re going to be mean to him. I asked Mom where he was going first. She just said,

“Nowhere you need to know about, sweetie.”

See, I’m five. So I have to go to bed at 7:00 like a good little girl. But I heard Mommy crying in our living room. Mommy, Daddy, big brother Danny, and me live in a small apartment. So it’s easy to hear when Mommy’s yelling “help” when Mommy and Daddy are waiting at home for me after school. I wanna help, but Daddy says it’s “mommy-and-daddy stuff”, and they’ll “unlock the door in a few minutes.”

Anyway, I hear crying, so I go into the living room, but make sure Mommy can’t see me. She’s watching TV. I can tell it’s the Action 5 News because everyone on that show shouts too loud for seven o’clock at night.

“Tonight’s top story: a man beats a woman to death a work, right in the office cubicle.” Daddy’s picture appeared on the TV. Mommy’s crying gets louder, and it’s one of those cries that makes your shoulders bounce up and down.

“Who would’ve thought that a man with a family-Ashton Robinson has a wife and two kids- would’ve done such a horrible act of crime?” Ashton Robinson was Daddy. The two kids were me and Danny. But TV didn’t know that.

“Robinson will serve only 10 years in prison. Afterwards, it is planned to have him sent to a mental hospital nearby the Robinsons’ home in D.C.”

“Mommy, what does ‘mental’ mean?” I asked from underneath the coffee table. Mommy stepped crying and turned around to face me. She opened her arms, inviting me to sit in her lap. She held me in her arms.

“Well, you know what a hospital is, ri-” the front door swung open, and you could hear the keys land on the coffee table.

“I got the milk, the bread, but I couldn’t find the-” I heard Danny’s voice say, “oh. Bri-Bri found out, huh?” My real name is Brianna. But when I was born, Danny was 12 and in a rock band. He wrote a song about me, but in order for it to rhyme, he had to call me Bri-Bri, and the name stuck, as Mommy says. Then, I started calling Danny Dan-Dan. That stuck, too.

“So, you know what a hospital is, right?” Mommy confirmed. I nodded my head as Dan-Dan sat in his chair over on the other side of the small room.

“Well, mental has to do with how you think, so-”

“Dad will go to the wacky shack.” Dan-Dan explained.

“Huh?” I was confused.

“It’s for crazy people.” Dan-Dan said. Mommy said Dan-Dan made everything seem “black-and-white” and that he shouldn’t because I “still don’t know better.” I do so!

“It is not, Daniel!” Mom said angrily. “It’s just for…” Mommy was having trouble finding a good word.

“People who are nuts.” Dan-Dan finished.

“Daniel Matthew…” That was Dan-Dan’s very full name. I knew when Mommy talked like that, Dan-Dan got quiet.

“People who think differently. They just need some guidance so they can think the same way we do. Unfortunately, some never do.” Mommy explained.

“But I thought being different was what made us special. Doesn’t thinking count?”

“Well, people are allowed to think differently, sweetie. But some people think so differently, they can harm other people. Those people need help. Like Daddy.” Mommy mumbled the last sentence. She took a big sigh, then said,

“Head back to bed, sweetie.” Well, I would’ve, but then Mommy and Dan-Dan started arguing in the kitchen as Dan-Dan put away the groceries.

“I think I explained it better for her.” Dan-Dan said. “Telling her about people thinking differently… as I learned in English, ‘little pitchers have big ears’.” Even though I didn’t get what Dan-Dan said, Mommy must’ve, because then she got mad.

“I don’t need help raising my children by one of my own.” Her voice was calm, but when I peaked in the kitchen, she looked like she was shivering. She does that when she’s mad.

“You will soon! By the time Dad gets out, Bri-Bri will be grown and out of the house, if he ever gets out!” After that, it was pretty quiet, except it sounded like Mommy was crying again. It was like that for a long time, until Dan-Dan said,

“Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. This is hard enough for me and Bri-Bri. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you.” I guess this is what Mommy means by “Dan-Dan knows how to be blunt, but he can be sensitive when he wants to.” Then I heard the rustle of clothing, like they were hugging, as I left. I guess were gonna be OK.





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