To Tell the Truth
THE FIRST THING I NOTICED ABOUT my father was how he stumbled that night. I never moved and he didn’t see me. Not in all the years that I hid in the tree did he ever see me.
I had been crouching there, huddled in my blanket, wondering what my mother thought about his nighttime escapades. I was now sixteen years old and had been hiding in the tree ever since I found out, on my ninth birthday.
I had watched him, my cupped hands around my face pressed against the dark window, when the headlights from his car woke me that first night. The light had come through the window, bounced off my mirror and landed right in my eyes. I had gone to the window then, and watched.
He had pulled up next to the woodshed and turned off the engine. Then he sat in the car for the longest time. Then he opened the door and fell out onto the ground. It took a while before he was able to get onto his hands and knees. He crawled through the gravel to the door where I couldn’t see him anymore. But I could hear him, banging the door, pounding on the stairs. I listened for my mother’s footsteps, but no sound came from their room down the hall.
From that time on, I’d climb out and hide in the crotch of the tree every time he wasn’t home by the time I went to bed. The big limb from the box elder tree brushed up against the side of the house where my room was on the east side of our two-story home. I’d carefully open the window and toss my blanket out first. Then I’d slide out onto the branch and pull my window closed, almost all the way, leaving just enough room for me to get my fingers under the edge so I could open it again.
Sometimes I would sit for hours, studying the stars through the bare branches. Sometimes I’d bring a book and a flashlight. My mother never knew I was out there or if she did, she never said. I guessed she was too busy worrying about where he was or if was going to crash into someone and kill them. Or maybe she was thinking about what lie she would tell his boss or his customers when he didn’t show up for work on time. I’d watched her tell those lies over and over again.
But now that I was sixteen I was going to change things. After Father stumbled into the house and passed out on the bathroom floor, where he usually slept after nights like this, I woke early. I peeked in the bathroom and saw him lying there. I pushed the door open and it banged against his head. His hand went to his temple and he groaned but then he didn’t move again. I banged the door against his head again, for good measure, and then pulled out my phone. I took a picture of my father, passed out on the bathroom floor, and composed a text to his boss that said, “Hi, Mr. Benson. This is Jimmy Gordon. The reason my dad is late for work today is because he is passed out, drunk, on the bathroom floor.”
I hit send.
A minute later Mr. Benson sent a message back. “I know about your dad’s drinking, and why he’s often late for work. No matter what your mother tells me, your dad always tells me the truth, and since he’s the best salesman I’ve ever had when he is on time, I’ve decided to keep him on.”
Copper Rose perforates the edges of the page while writing unusual stories from the heart of Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and online journals. She also understands there really is something about pie. You can connect with her at https://julieceger.wordpress.com/copper-rose-author/ and Author Copper Rose.