How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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Tailspin (Part 2)

Tailspin Part 1 is here

 

“You ‘usband…gold mine …Mon Dieu…accident…”

The words were muffled. Not an accident like Smitty’s daddy. No. Not my daddy. Please God.

“My Everett? Where he is per favore?”

Médecin d’examiner… I go home, wait news.

Grazie. grazie.” My mother’s voice cracked.

Mrs. Fournier flung the bedroom door hard in her haste towards the front door. I don’t believe she saw me. I reared back though my legs were leaden.

“Ma, Daddy’s going to be okay, right?”

“Shhh, Bella. No worry. Want nice glass milk? Where Caterina?”

“She’s—in bed—still sleeping. Mrs. Fournier put her down for her nap.”

Ma paced from kitchen to living-room to bedroom and back. Over and over again. I leaned on the windowsill, with one eye on the clock and the other on the road. I peeked at Ma now and again. Smitty and Franco were nowhere in sight. The floor creaked and complained in various spots beneath Ma’s endless wandering. I already knew each one by heart.

 

Twenty-eight stomach-churning minutes later, a taxi pulled up in front of our house. I’d only seen one once before. “Ma, why is a taxi here? Aren’t they for rich people?”

She made an awful noise. And then, I saw him.

“Ma’s forehead glistened; her face white as my sister’s new diapers. She grabbed my hand, a strangled cry lodged in her throat. She stumbled for the door like Frankenstein tugging at my arm, but I let go and rushed ahead. I dashed outside and down the stairs. A soon as he unfolded himself from the backseat, I exploded into his arms and almost knocked him over. He swayed against the car to catch his balance. I noticed the cane but it didn’t register. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy…”

“I’m fine. See. Just a limp and a scratch.” He withdrew his bruised arm from the sling. With the other, he leaned the cane against his hip and reached into his pants pocket. I’d forgotten about the taxi.

Nien. No pay, Ev-rrett. We drink some beer soon, yah?” Mr. Schmitt, the driver, winked at me before he coaxed the taxi up the dusty street and out of sight.

Daddy hobbled towards Ma. I hung onto his jacket sleeve as if he’d vanish. Ma sagged against the doorway framework and slid down in slow motion, into a heap of clothing and useless limbs. She might have been a rag doll left propped against the doorjamb.

Her eyes fluttered. Claw-like hands covered her face and she began to wail, the sound sorrowful and lost. It reminded me of the loon’s cry on our lake: eerie and mournful; haunting and tragic. It was the kind of wail that made me feel helpless and more scared than I’d ever been in my whole life.

Daddy patted my shoulder and leaned over Ma. I let go of his sleeve. “Olivia, come inside. I. Am. All. Right.” He leaned hard on his new cane and extended the bruised hand. His voice came out in a hoarse whisper like he’d swallowed sandpaper, each word enunciated the way a person would with a mouthful of cotton. He cleared his throat several times. He reached for Ma’s lifeless hand and tugged. Rivers of tears zigzagged her cheeks; eyes staring, forgetting to blink. Her mouth quivered; hungry eyes devouring every inch of his face.

Caterina began to bawl. What timing. She was the baby and knew nothing about the accident. I knew a little and I wanted to shriek too.

I couldn’t leave yet. “Daddy?” My throat hurt to talk. “You won’t ever go back to that mine again, will you?” I committed to memory this tower of a man with a greed new to me. I don’t think he heard me. I wanted to stay, but my sister now howled. I rushed in to calm her though I had more important worries. I felt older than the eight-year-old girl I had been earlier in the day.

My Daddy had made it home—home in one piece. This time.

Smitty’s Daddy would never come home again. My Daddy made it home. Today, we were lucky.

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