I was on my third reading of Dave’s letters, when the smell of supper drifted upstairs into my room. Something familiar seemed to be missing for that time of day. It didn’t fully dawn on me, until I glanced out the window, overlooking the vacant driveway. Deryl wasn’t home from work yet.
I changed my school clothes and put on rolled up jeans and an oversized shirt. I entered the kitchen. I took one look at Mom and I knew the potatoes weren’t the only ones stewing.
“Is Deryl working late?” I asked innocently.
“Not that I know of,” she answered through tight lips.
“Maybe he had trouble with his pickup,” Chuck interjected from a kitchen chair.
Mom, her brows knitted into a frown, didn’t answer as she turned the stove knob to low and walked to the open window.
Supper simmered, the clock ticked away, tension built and we waited.
Finally, the white vehicle raced onto the gravel driveway, and came to an abrupt stop.
Mom looked relieved and then disgusted, as a flushed Deryl walked, with deliberate steps, to the back door.
“You’ve got your nerve coming home like this!”
“Ahhh...come on Baby, don’t start on me,” Deryl stammered.
I retreated to the living room away from the barrage of angry words. I could still hear them filtering through the walls.
“Well.... If that’s the way...you feel...about it...you...you can...just go to *** for all I care!” Deryl bellowed.
The back screen door slammed and I looked out the dining room window just in time to see the pickup back up and spin onto the road. Deryl was driving but someone else was in the passenger seat.
Mom was standing over the stove, angrily flicking the knobs off, as I reentered the kitchen.
“Where’s Chuck?” I asked as I glanced around.
“He left with Deryl!” she answered angrily. She threw a hot pad onto the counter, stomped across the kitchen, entered her bedroom and slammed the door.
The house was quiet except for Bronco pushing his toy cars across the dining room floor. A rush of cool evening air touched me as I opened the front door and sat on the faded, top step of the porch.
The birds in the large trees rustled and sang to each other as they bedded for the night. Crickets, under the porch, chirped for the coming darkness. Dark hews of blue lengthened, as the setting sun caused the oak branches to cast their shadows on the house. Everything had the feeling of peace… except me.
I cupped my chin in my hands and relived the earlier scene. Embarrassment brought heat in my cheeks when I thought of Chuck seeing Deryl drunk. It was ironic. I was the one who wanted Chuck to revel the secrets of his heart and past. Now our family was the ones on display. I longed for a privacy screen to hide us from view.
Why had Deryl started drinking again? It had been a long time; and perhaps this was a one-time incident. But, even as I pondered it, I felt sadness. Fear stole over me like a suffocating blanket; coming face to face with an old enemy. I had hoped and prayed I would never encounter it again. Realizing, the adversary had been stalking all along; waiting for a weakness, an opportune moment when he could seize his victim. This enemy would attack on occasion; gradually pulling into captivity, until he had such a hold, that life and purpose were drained, and all that mattered was that alcohol reigned.
How could I know, at such a young age, the battle and devastation that would ensue in the years to come? Everyone, this enemy touched, would become sick, from its affect. Not only would alcoholic cause a pattern of self-destruction but also imprint a mark on each member of the family.
Darkness fell and I changed my self-appointed sentry duty to the living room. It was past 10 p.m. when lights shone up the road and into the driveway.
Chuck was in high spirits when he entered the room.
“You should have been with us Gloria. Deryl is just a riot. I never knew he could swear like that. He could put a sailor to shame.”
I glared at Chuck. “I’m glad you find it so amusing because I do not!”
My outburst didn’t daunt Chuck. He was still chuckling to himself when I left the living room in a huff.
I didn’t know that within a month Chuck would be standing in a revealing light. And even if I had known, I wouldn’t have wished it upon him.
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