On the blonde hi-fi stereo, my mother’s favorite record spins. I’m fighting sleep on our sticky, plastic sofa too early in the evening. I just can’t resist those soothing rays of light this time of day.
Mom is singing along to “The Look of Love” with Lani Hall in our freshly painted kitchen. Her new beige cafe curtains arrived today from the Sears catalogue, launching her over the moon—the little balls adorning the edges match the color, Avocado Adventures, perfectly.
She holds her vodka-martini-on-the-rocks-with-a-twist in a commemorative, Apollo 11 gas station glass. A cigarette dangles from her lips as she prepares dinner for us on a Friday night. Time to turn the patio steaks—Dad is on his way.
Caught in a daydream, a groggy, incoherent daze, I continue to fight the urge to sleep worried that my underpants are showing. My underpants are all I can think about since I stood on that stage last night, wearing less-than-opaque white tights and a micro-mini tutu, playing the triangle to “Three Little Stars.” But no one would listen. They thought I was cute.
Mom winks at me with an eye brushed in lime shadow, her hot pink lips upturned in a smile. She takes another drag on her Salem cigarette and blows the smoke in my direction. I adore her long earrings made of three white plastic balls. Someday, they will be mine.
Dad is home. His sky-blue Impala pulls up in the carport, a door slams shut. Instantly, he’s standing over me, the smell of printer’s ink thick in the air. “Going Out of My Head” is playing on the stereo now; he likes that song, but where is Mom?
Suddenly, Dad belts out the verse, “Day and night, night and day and night, wrong or right” in my face. It scares me when he does that! He gives me a big kiss on my forehead and laughs at the crease running down my cheek, the lock of hair pinned to my temple with spit.
My head flops back down on the couch. My eyes search for Mom, but I’m too tired to go look for her. I’m never wearing a tutu again! I vow to myself. I’m going to tell Mom that in a minute, but a heavy sleep-funk beats me to it. Mom thinks I still need an afternoon nap, but I don’t.
“Donna!” Dad calls from the bathroom. “The dog ate the baby’s poop again!” Dad is sitting on the toilet, door open, holding up a dirty diaper he found on the floor. “Look at this! The damn thing licked it clean!” he laughs.
My mom has a bad habit of setting diapers on the floor before she empties them into the toilet and puts them in the smelly diaper pail. Our dog, Ritzy, likes my baby brother’s poop… a lot.
Here comes Mom with Davey now. He’s been fussy all day. Dad meets Mom halfway down the hallway and clinks his glass with hers. “To Friday night, honey!” He heads to the bedroom to change his clothes.
With Davey in her arms, Mom starts dancing to the song on the stereo in front of me. I don’t know what they’re saying in the song, but it sounds like “musty nacho.” Their dancing makes me dizzy and I finally fall asleep.
“Almost there,” Mom whispers, smiling at Dad, “we’re almost there.” She continues going round and round with Davey until he falls asleep too.
From his den, Dad sees Mom nod down at Ritzy. She mouths the word “tiddlywink” after she figures out what’s in his mouth. But before Dad can catch him, Ritzy runs under the table in the kitchen and spits it out on the floor.
Sprawled on the vinyl, Ritzy watches us, probably plotting his next diaper change or maybe he’s waiting there because he smells burnt patio steaks in the pan. I think they both smell about the same.
copyright © Kelly Huntson and findingwhatssweet.com 2015-2019. All rights reserved.
*originally published Sept., 2016
The process in crafting this piece encapsulates the joy I find in writing. Thank you for reading. I wish you joy in all your writing endeavors too!