Long night …
The old man slammed the door and staggered across the driveway, opened the door of his old truck and stepped up onto the running board. I heard the starter grinding as he pulled out the hand choke and bounced a couple of times on the gas pedal. My mother in the background of the kitchen behind me spoke softly, ” Well there he goes again ………”, The old truck coughed to life like a choking dinosaur and as the transmission ground into first he rolled the window down and hollered to me, staring at me through dark glasses ” Well…………are you coming or not ?” ………….. And I knew two things immediately, One, before the night was over I would be driving this beast of a truck and two, there was no telling where the night would take us all.
Little more, I remember now , did my mother know the Dad had already begun drinking long before she had come home from work , I had found the empty Black Velvet whiskey bottle behind the horse stall in the barn but if there is one thing I do know from experience, you don’t question anything about my fathers drinking habits and you don’t let on what you DO know to your mother , I always say ” Why start a third world war if you don’t have to . ” I looked over as my father yanked the tranny into fourth gear on the long road to town, fifty miles per hour was about all this truck is safely good for and we were doing sixty-two MPH. yet as he held another fifth of whiskey between his legs with his right hand and draped his left over the wheel I knew, right at this moment my father was in full control ………………and the night itself is young.
Ten miles down the road I felt the cool evening air coming through the vent window and thought, ” Please God, just let us get through this one night unscathed, while deep down inside I knew exactly what was going to happen. My father had been talking in the last few months about the failures of justice in the local cops and the courts and how easy it would be to exact revenge on someone,”…. if one had a mind to, that is “. Not two years before our family had buried my little brother, just eight years old and struck down by a ‘hit and run ‘ drunk driver. Since that time the investigation, the court proceedings and the final outcome of a trial had all but torn our family to shreds. My father had begun a long slide downhill, as they say.
Later that evening, after dark, I looked out of the windshield following his gaze as my father now pretty drunk from sitting at the old diner in town drinking beer, continually arriving brown bottles that were free drinks from friends and co-workers. In my father’s right hand was a loaded handgun, a colt 45 auto he had brought home from the WWII war. I glanced at him and then out through the windshield at a house in the dark, the windows lit up with the yellow glow of lights within. At first I did not know whose house this was until after an hour and a half the porch light snapped on and as the door of the house opened a man stepped out onto the sagging porch , I saw him bend his head, cupping his hands in front of his face a light a cigarette, the glow of the match lighting his face as he shook the match out with one hand and blew a cloud of smoke I knew two things .
One, his night vision was wrecked by the porch light and the lit match and two, he would not be able to see us just a few yards from the front porch of his own house. Being careful not to seem obvious, I looked slowly over at my father, at his hand with the gun in it, at his gaze seemingly growing more and more intent. For the following half hour, my father just sat staring, staring and drinking from his open fifth of Black Velvet whiskey in his lap. I kept half expecting my Father to move, to reach for the door handle, to pick up the handgun or do something, anything, but he just sat watching, waiting but for what I cannot say. In a few moments, the man standing the porch just yards from the front of the truck turned at a small voice, in the screen door behind him stood a small girl asking “Daddy, daddy,………..will you come back in a read me a good night story? ”
After the man ground out his cigarette beneath his shoe, turned to his daughter and said,” Yes Amy, come on now, let’s go in and get you ready for bedtime. The door to the dark house closed slowly behind them, the porch light went out and a curtain dropped. My Father finally stirred. He reached up and lifted the driver’s door inside handle, opened the door and quietly got out. Standing there at the front of the truck looking at the house I began to wonder half in a panic, What is he going to do now ……………..? Yet as my father began to walk towards the house, he stopped, turning slowly he walked around to my door of the truck and through the open window he spoke softly ………..” Slide over will you and drive us on home “.