Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Family: Chapter Two- The Neighbor

Come midnight there is a rapping at our back door, insistent and aggravating. I awake with a start- for the summer I have moved a cot onto the back porch and the noise is right outside my little window. I huddle under the covers, too frightened to answer. The rapping continues, perhaps growing even louder.
Before long my father strides into the room, slamming doors behind him. He wears white cut off shorts and stands shirtless in the summer heat. His white hair stands up in volcanic tufts. Grumbling, he answers the door.
A huddled shape enters; together they argue in hushed voices at the foot of my bed. Perhaps sensing my presence, the two men adjourn to the nearby kitchen.
Harsh words carry from the adjacent room, and I strain in the darkness to see what is the matter. Through the door's milky glass I dimly see my father growling at our next-door neighbor, who attended a party here earlier tonight. The figures of the two men are distorted by the coated windowpane, they are ivory silhouettes moving slowly in a cloudy ocean.
Soon they are shouting; I recognize the dull fury of my father’s voice. Scuffling sounds ensue, are they fighting? A glass breaks.
The neighbor throws the door open and stumbles past me, his mouth a red smear. He fumbles clumsily with the latch on he back door, then escapes out into the starry night.
My father follows slowly, gently locking the door behind the intruder.
“Daddy?” I squeak in the darkness, voice bright with fear. He sits down heavily beside me on the bed.
“Shhh….” he whispers, ruffling my hair with one huge hand. “Everything’s all right now.” His eyes are bleary with drink, and his breath smells like stale peaches.
“What’s happening?” I ask, feeling very small under his great paw.
As he speaks, his eyes look away. ”He wants your mother….” he mutters under his breath, and a strange, primal longing rises in me, although I do not understand the nature of his revelation. “Sleep now….” he mumbles, and kisses my forehead roughly, his course beard sandpapering my skin. Sniffing, he trundles off to bed.
I lie awake, listening to his heavy footfalls growing fainter and fainter, as they fade into the distant mystery of the upstairs. Cool moonlight spills across my pillow from the window beside my bed. Outside an owl hoots, and I find myself thinking of the neighbor.
I wonder if he is still out there?

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