Photo by Walker Evans
Sometimes on a Sunday my dad would sleep late and mum would make pancakes, and maple syrup dribbled over them, and we’d eat out back on the porch, and once on the swing in the garden. Mum and me and Lucy – and Chipper would get to lick the plates till they were as clean as though they’d been washed.
Sometimes on a Sunday my dad would have a head like a drum and we’d have to move around the house on tip-toe and talking in only whispers. And we’d close the doors with a soft slide so as not even Chipper could hear, and we’d go on long walks to nowhere, Mum and me and Lucy and Chipper. And we’d be in no hurry to return home and we’d laugh ourselves silly and soft.
One time we walked so far we were lost and we had to phone grandma to come and find us and grandma bought cookies and bottled milk and we picnicked at the side of the road and I saw a rattlesnake slither into the dry grass and Mum said it was fun being lost and then being found.
Sometimes Sundays were like that. They were something to get lost in and they were fun. I marked those Sundays on the calendar, put a small flower next to the number so that we could count all the fun Sundays in the year, so that we wouldn’t forget that there were more of them than the other. Mum liked that and I caught her sometimes just counting and as that was what I did once a week I thought that was normal.
Then there were those other sometimes Sundays and he was up before us, if he’d ever slept. And he was dressed in shorts and a string vest and he was making a noise in the kitchen. Making coffee is all he was about, but he beat the bottoms of pans with a spoon just so the world would be no more a-sleeping. And he growled at the dog and he spat in the sink and he cussed the light spilling into the house.
And, when he caught me watching, his voice was all syrup-sticky and he called me by a name that only he used and he beckoned me near and his hand was heavy on my head as he stroked my hair and he said I was his ‘little doll’. He was nice as nice in those first Sunday moments, but I knew what was next. I knew he’d want kisses and his chin all rough and sharp as pins. And he’d expect me to dance, there in the kitchen with the radio playing, and he’d watch me and he’d look at my legs like the men outside Bob’s Bar looked and those men with their hands down the front of their pants and a silver spittle thread unspooling from their lips. That was the look on my dad’s face.
Don’t get me wrong. He never laid a hand on me, not unless you count the stroking of my hair. And the kisses, well they weren’t anything more than a dad could expect. But it was the look and the smell of him and the hard he would be as those Sundays unwound. Harder on mum than on me and Lucy and Chipper. And I’d put my fingers in my ears and close my eyes tight as cats’ bums and I’d wish and wish for those Sundays to end and wish for flowers on the next Sunday and all the Sundays after, and I know Lucy was wishing too. And Mum, well she always counted the Sunny Sundays on the calendar and I think she was wishing the same.
Once again, Lindsay, you move me with your responses. Thank you so much for sharing. Always a wonder to read your pieces.
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