We’re All Strangers: Chapter 4

photography of distribution board with graffiti sticker

“Thanks for all your help,” Mom smiled at the nurse who pushed her wheelchair. She carefully gathered Paris and climbed into the car. As soon as the door closed, and the nurse had her back turned, Mom’s face changed. It was hard. She turned to dad, “Where were you? My husband should’ve pushed me to the car.”

“I… I went on a walk.” Dad said as he looked out the window. Mom knew he was lying. She shook her head while glaring at him, clenching her jaw.

“Yeah, okay. So what did you really go do?”

“I went on a walk. Jeez, get off my back.” Dad snarled back. Mom kept her mouth shut, knowing that if she said anything more it would get ugly real fast. We all knew he was lying. The more I looked at him driving the more I could realize he had been falling apart, almost as if he was being unraveled. His eyes were saggy and he had big black bags under them. Wrinkles seemed to have appeared overnight, and his voice had grown full of gravel, smoke, and growl. He had smoked cigarettes all my life and it had never make his voice weak like that. I could tell something was changing my dad, and it was for the worse.

The rest of the ride home was as quiet and cold as a grave. The sound of the car accelerating, and the wind were the only comforting sounds. I laid my head down on the baby seat next to me. I rested my hand on Paris’s chest. I began to close my eyes to the soothing pattern of her breaths and drifted off to darkness.

“Get up, Kelsy. Now.” Dad growled as he flung my door open letting in the chilling cold that crept up my sweatshirt.

“I’m going.” I say chattering my teeth together, rubbing my hands for warmth. I staggered to the porch in the dark tripping over the toys and holes in the yard. Walking into the house, I collapsed onto the couch. I melted into the fluffy throw pillow, and I slipped into a deep slumber.

I opened my eyes to the squawking alarm in my ear. “Oh my God! Shut the hell up!” I said as I slammed my phone down on the table. I had no strength to pull myself off the couch. “Sebastien get up!” I yelled across the house. I heard nothing, “Sebastien! Up now!”

“Noo!” He yelps back.

“Whatever.” I couldn’t find the energy to argue with him, so I just let it be. I closed my eyes again.

“What the hell? Why are you guys still here?” I heard a voice yell. “Kelsy, what the hell?” I see my Dad standing above me, shaking me awake.

“What? It was a long night I’m tired. He’s tired and Mom probably needs help with the baby.”

“She doesn’t need any damn help.” He said, rolling his eyes and walking towards the dark kitchen.

“How would you know? You’re never here to help.” I mumbled under my breath.

“What was that?” He said.

“I didn’t say anything.”

Dad let out an annoyed huff and pulls his lunch box out of the fridge. After he opened it he banged his fist on the table rattling the salt shaker, making the table-cloth wrinkly and uneven.

“Son of a bitch! Why doesn’t anyone ever make me a damn lunch. I’ve gotta be at work in a half an hour. I don’t have time for this bull!” Dad stormed into the bathroom. Slamming the door shut and flinging the toilet seat up. I couldn’t help but giggle at his frustration. I used to make his lunch every morning before school, that’s until he stopped saying thank you and disappearing every night on us.

I heard the bathroom door open again. My father came out still mumbling curse words under his breath as he snatched his truck keys off the kitchen counter. “Bull shit.” He said before forcing the door shut.

“Yep. Love you too. Have a good day.” I yelled from behind the door. I felt my face sink and my heart ache when I didn’t get an ‘I love you’ back. Even if it was full of attitude it would have still meant something to me. I rolled over facing the back of the couch and slowly pulled the fluff filled blanket over my head. I began to feel a lump in my throat as I tried to hold back unnecessary tears. I took a deep breath in and wiped my water filled eyes. I sniffled once and began to drift back off to sleep.

I had been woken up by the sound of Paris’s ear piercing wails. Mom was still passed out and it seemed like she wasn’t going to get up anytime soon. I walked over to Paris’s crib and peeked in. She was wrapped up in a dainty little pink onesie that said ‘New Arrival.’ It had a tiny ladybug on a golden sunflower. I picked her up gently. “Shhh, it’s okay baby. Its okay.” I said as I bounced her in my arms trying to sooth the cries. I walked over to the fridge and open the sterling silver door. It was black as I opened it. No light. I just figured that the breaker had just switched over so I walked to the back of the house to the panel box. Everything was how it was supposed to be.

“That’s weird.” I said to myself out loud. I walked back out to the quiet kitchen and flicked the light switch by the back door. Nothing, I bat the switch back and forth a couple of times but the light never came on.”Damn it!” I said as  realized what was going on. Our electric had been shut off. “What a fantastic first day home, am I right.” I said looking at Paris with a sarcastic smirk on my face.

This was the third time in the past five months that this had happened. It wasn’t anything new to us. Our electric had always been on and off. My parents would forget to pay the bill for a couple months until the electric company would come out to the house to shut it off. We would usually go a week without it and then my parents would scrape up the money to pay the outrageously high bill. If we couldn’t come up with the money within the week my Father would go out with wire cutters and cut the meter making sure we had electric for a couple more days to get our shit together.

I remember one year, it was in the dead of winter, we had our electric turned off, and a snow storm happened shortly after, so we were snowed in with no heat. It was the coldest winter I had ever experienced. Our pipes had ice icicles hanging from them and you could see your breath when you spoke. Snow had barricaded us in. Covering our door and all the windows. Lifting the window would cause the snow to pour into the room and the door was completely useless. No matter the might Dad put into ramming that door open, it wouldn’t budge. I didn’t really mind being stuck at home all that time. We spent a lot of time as a family. Laughing, being happy, and playing games. We had to do everything by candle light, and it was honestly the best thing I’ve ever had to endure. We were completely cut off from the electrical world for days, and it was fantastic. We couldn’t use our fridge, so we had to make one out of ice blocks and snow. We made little shelves for the drinks and condiments and we even had a freezer area where the meats and such would go. It was the cutest little thing. My brother and I had a blast creating it. Not only did we have to configure a new way to hold our food, we also needed to find a way to cook it. We had a very old wood furnace that we only used in case of emergencies. This was most definitely an emergency. It was rust black and dust riddled. It had a chamber half way up the wall that would constantly smoke out of, sending a cloud of smoke to linger around the house. The smoke was awful, making our vision foggy, but the smell was worth it. The smoke smelled like fresh oak and a hint of tree sap. I absolutely adored it. After we would get the furnace roaring for a good fifteen minutes, it was time to cook. Our first night, we had my Pappy’s famous spicy chili. Cooking on the furnace gave the chili an outdoorsy taste, and it was amazing. Another night we had a juicy succulent roast. It was bursting with flavor. It had to be cooked for four hours but every second felt like years. The smell of caramelized onions and steak seasoning flooded the house. Biting into it felt like heaven. It melted in your mouth and the flavor shot you in the back of the throat, sending the flavor straight to your taste buds. It was challenging, yet satisfying and rewarding. It wasn’t going to be nearly as hard this time around.

I walked over to Mom laying on the couch with her mouth open, “Mom, wake up. Mom, hey. Get up, I need your help.” I whispered to her as I gently sway her. She groaned and turned the other direction, “Mom, get up we have a problem.” I said a lot more stern, shaking her slightly harder.

“What is it.” Mom’s voice growled finding her voice.

“We have no electric.”

“Fan-freaking-tastic,” Mom rolled her eyes and sat up on the couch. “Your father is in charge of the electric bill. What the hell. I knew I couldn’t trust him to do anything important. If you want it done right, do it your damn self.” Mom’s voice was full of attitude and aggravation. “Hand me the damn phone.” She extended her hand out for me to give her her cell phone. She dialed Butomac Fedison, our electric company, to figure out how much we had owed this month.

“Hello… Hi yes, this is Jennifer Grill and I’d like to know how much my bill for this month is…. Yes our electric was shut off this morning…. Are you kidding me? That’s an outrage. When was the last time it was paid… What the hell? Okay thank you ma’am you have a nice day.” Mom slammed the phone down on the table. “Your father hasn’t paid the bill in 5 months. It’s almost a thousand dollars! I give him a portion of money every month to go towards the bills. What the hell has he been up to?” Mom’s ears began to turn red and her eyes had a devilish twinkle in them. She was pissed.

Dad had swung the door open as if he had known we were talking about him. It was two in the afternoon, and Dad wasn’t supposed to be home for another three hours. He had the stench of alcohol on his clothes and a slur in his words.

“Hey guys. I did something fantastic today. You all are going to love it.” Dad hiccupped between almost every word. He threw himself in the recliner next to the hanging flower-pot of Mom’s Devils Ivy, its vines and leaves attacked his face as he sat back and rocked. “Damn plant.” He swatted at the limbs ripping off its shiny green leaves.

“Jason, knock it the hell off. I have a big bone to pick with you. Actually many big bones.” Mom glared at him with her lips puckered, eyes narrow, and jaw clenched down.

“Yeah, yeah, hold on. I said I had awesome news first.” He said as he flung his work boots off over onto the welcome mat directly in front on the door. While slipping his socks off, almost hitting himself in the face as he jerked them, he had stuffed them in the crease of the recliner.

“Dad! That’s disgusting, you’re the reason that chair stinks.” I rolled my eyes and sat over in the scratchy rubber red bar stool by the island waiting to see where this was going to go. He instantly burped back proving my point.

“Yea whatever. But for real guys listen to me,” He paused for a solid 2 minutes as if he had zoned out, he shook his head to snap back in, “I bought 5.7 acres. We’ve got our own land.” He said with a proud, drunken smile.

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