1974

That summer was extra hot. We had become limp at the ends, humidity getting the best of us. We’d wander into the kitchen on Sunday mornings, complaining of Mama and Daddy’s Christian habits. We’d skip out, stay home, make it a habit.

About mid-July, we got antsy. We’d drive Daddy’s Doge Dart around town all night. We’d howl at boys, our faces like wolves, lips pursed toward the moon. We’d smoke Marlboros in the evening; push our painted toes against the windshield and leave a mark.

We’d take Mama’s change, buy ourselves chocolate malts, and make fun of anyone that got strawberry.

One night we decided to go skinny-dipping in our pool.  We wished we were rebels. Our skin showed pale in the moonlight and our chests no longer resembled girls, but women. One of us ahead of the other, one of us a little less ashamed.

  It was above ground, the pool, and the Bradford pear trees between the yard and Old Mr. Schubert’s created little privacy.

We waded in deep, threw our bikinis over the edge, laid on our backs with our eyes toward the stars. We let it melt the day’s heat off our skin, copied each other’s movements, and somersaulted in the blue. We let our hair fan out behind our heads, taking our worries with it. We bobbed in the water, keeping beat with David Bowie on our Mama’s boom box.

We got bored after an hour and slipped back into our swimsuits that were strewn in the grass. We got devious, rowdy, and the idea to find our ping-pong ball and paddles and to hit Old Mr. Schubert’s window until he came lookin’. We could see the lights on in his house, the flashin’ colors of The Price is Right glaring on his TV.

We took swings, heard it hit the window with a hollow bounce and ran to retrieve it. We kept this up for nearly an hour, crossing our fingers that he’d turn his TV off in order to hear our racket.

We kept watch every 5 minutes, peering behind trees like criminals, but it was all for the thrill and nothin’ for the protection. Our figures were slim, juvenile. We swayed our hips and flung our hair. We swung, we crouched, and we ran and whispered, forgetting our parents who played cards inside.

We laughed carelessly. We snuck our Daddy’s liquor from the cabinet near the garage. We would each take a swig, fighting the impulse to gag. We’d spin in circles, fall dizzy. We kept hittin’ that ping-pong ball, making bets on who could hit it the hardest.

We were young, drunk, and dumb, unprepared for what happened.

We were screaming.

And then we were silent.

Our daddy found him in his living room that night, sitting in his burnt orange chair, glass shards a few feet away from him, near the window. The TV was still blinking in the background, but we heard no nothin’.  We watched him get rolled out. We saw the white sheet, the landscape of a man cast upon a midnight backdrop. We got woozy, threw up until our stomachs were empty.

Our Daddy said it was a good thing; Old Man Schubert had been gone for hours, according to doctors.  We hugged our parents, hard. We gave back their empty liquor bottles. We ate toast at our kitchen table and ignored their stares; the punishments we knew would come eventually.

“If that hadn’t happened,” our Mama had said, “who knows how long he could’ve sat in there.”

          We cried ourselves to sleep. We choked on guilt. We slept as close as possible. We saw the shadow of his house cast upon our floor.  We went back to church to that next Sunday. And we prayed.

And we prayed.

And oh, did we pray.