Saturday Mourning

by David Swingle

I awake to sounds of thuds, voices low, murmurings of chaos and occasional laughter. It is coming from my daughter's room. I sit on the edge of the bed and wait for the mist to clear. Pulling on some dirty jeans, I scratch myself and stretch. The smell of brewing coffee draws me downward, down the stairs that I am now beginning to fear every morning. When did they become a threat?

The front door crashes open, I see two young men enter, nervous at the sight of me, they smile politely. Road Warriors, I think, dirty, pierced and tattooed, but then, I am no image to behold, my Levis slumping down in front to permit an old man's belly. I wonder who is more afraid. I say "Hi" but it is not sincere. They grunt back and then bound up the stairs towards her room. One has two stainless steel spikes sticking out the back of his neck. More laughter, thuds, and they emerge wrestling a mattress turned crocodile. I look down at the morning paper laid out on the dining room table, trying to feign interest in the headlines then watch as they crash through the front door again and start to run towards a pickup truck stacked with pieces of furniture, an old sofa my mother has offered, watching as they recklessly throw the mattress to the top of the pile. Some worn and twisted rope comes out to secure the heap to the pile of bolted rust on wheels. I wonder which will disintegrate first, the truck or the load.

My daughter quietly descends the stairs, followed by a black plastic garbage sack knotted to hold in the clothes from her closet and dresser, rolling limply over each stair behind her.

"Well, Dad, I guess this is it" she smiles as her head drops slightly downward and to the side, her eyes searching for weakness in my whiskered face. She pauses, drops her sack of clothes, and opens her arms to me.

"Don't go please don't go." She laughs with me, she knows I am teasing, sort of. I hold her for a long time. She seems smaller somehow. "OK, now you will call me if you need anything, right? You'll let me know if any of those boys need me to come over and give them a tune up?" my fatherly tone fading from years of wear. "Yup...." Maybe her eyes are rolling as I watch her exit the door, walking slowly towards the truck dragging the over-loaded plastic bag through the grass. Car doors slam.

I go upstairs to find her room abandoned. Her bed frame is still set up, so I sit on the edge, holding my coffee to my chin. I look out her window and see the truck accelerating down the street, blue smoke fogging the morning air, her car in tow. She never did fix the tail light. My wife enters the vacancy, stands beside me, her hand comes to rest on my shoulder.

"She'll be back, dad, you know she'll be back." "I know" I manage to speak. We watch the battered Ford Escort with a missing hub cap turn the corner and disappear.

She'll be back but never again will she come home.

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