It was raining. Ugh. I watched the rivulets run down the classroom window and felt that familiar tightening in my gut. After the last bell, I closed my locker and headed for the buses lined up like a trail of yellow caterpillars in front of the school. As I took a seat in the back I began my usual rainy day mantra in my head: please don’t be there, please don’t be there, please don’t be there.
The bus rumbled away from the curb and a few minutes later pulled up to the four-way stop heading out of town. I made myself look over to the curbside parking in front of Wayne’s Tavern. Damn! There it was, Dad’s truck parked right in front, where I was sure it had been all afternoon. That’s why I hate rainy days. When your dad is a construction worker and the job gets rained out and he heads for the bar, that’s not a good thing at my house.
Now that I know what kind of evening we are in for, the worrying begins. I try to push back the memories of other rainy day nightmares, but they crowd in anyway not to be denied. The bus stops along the highway in front of our house and my little brother and I dash through the rain and run in the back door. Mom is standing in front of the stove holding a can of vegetables and gives us a strained smile as we come into the kitchen. I can see the lines of tension around her eyes, knowing that she has also seen the location of Dad’s truck on her way home from work.
The late afternoon progresses to evening and supper time comes. The three of us sit at the kitchen table and listlessly pick at our food, Dad’s place being noticeably empty. From past experience we know the longer he stays at the bar, the more likely it is that there will be hell to pay when he gets here.
I sit on the couch, TV playing some mindless sitcom, watching the headlights coming and going on the highway through the living room window. I glance over at Mom in her usual place in her rocking chair, seeing how her hand trembles as she stirs her coffee over and over. My evening mantra is now playing in my head: please don’t stop, please don’t stop - as I will each set of headlights to keep going past our driveway.
My hands are clenched so tightly that my nails are biting into my palms. I know if I were to look in the bathroom mirror I would see a scattering of hives along my collar bones and upper chest. The tension in the room is almost a living breathing being. Then it happens, a pair of headlights slowing down, a lurch of the truck into the driveway and skidding gravel.
Mom and I look at each other and brace ourselves for the opening of the back door.