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31 March 2010 @ 04:39 pm
[Topic 20: Playing House]  
"We have to be there at nine," my dad says and I look up from my cartoon show.
"I know, I know," my mother answers dismissively.  "I just need to finish the laundry and put away the leftovers before we leave."
"But we're going to be late!" My dad is emphatic.
"I know!" my mother exclaims.
My brother is playing with action figures upstairs and my mother shuffles me along towards the coat rack. "Remember to put on your scarf before you zip up your coat," she says and I nod.  I wonder why it is that we wait so long to do things and then rush, rush to get them done.
"Straighten up!" my father yells, pushing me towards the front door.
"I am!" I protest, but stand up straighter.
"Adam!" my mother yells.
"Wha-aaat?" my brother yells back.
"It's time to go!  It's ten to nine!"
"I kno-ow!" he says.

My dad hurries through the kitchen and living room, double-checking that he has his wallet and his chequebook.  I notice mud on the tip of my shoe and I drag it along the mat by the door trying to wipe it off.

"Adaaaam!" my mom yells.
"I'm coming!" my brother says.  The sound of toys being tossed echoes down the staircase.
My dad checks his watch.  He is not pleased. 

"I'm going to get the car!" he announces to no one in particular and then pushes me towards a wall and moves past me.  My small body misses the wall and hits the coat rack.  Pain sears through my elbow and I feel my eyes welling up with tears.

"Mo-om," I start to cry.
"What is it now?!" She is exasperated.
"My elbow hurts!"
"How did that happen?" she says without really wanting an answer.

My brother bounds down the stairs two at a time, not realizing the tension that is rising on the first floor of our house.  My mom rushes into the kitchen in search of band-aids.  Why would there be band-aids in the kitchen? I think, but I know she is flustered.  As my tears subside, my father storms back into the house.

"It's fucking nine o'clock!" he yells.  His face is red, he stomps his foot.  Seeing my red eyes doesn't improve the situation.

"Now what's the fucking problem?" he yells.  He balls up one fist and nails it into my stomach. I double over with shock and with pain, my back hits the wall and I slump down towards the ground.  "Why the fuck can't we ever do anything right?" he screams and I bite my lip, I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry.

My brother's face pales as he realizes what is happening.  He is only four, but he has seen this before.  He ducks upstairs, hoping to escape the situation.  I wish I could escape.  I slowly gather myself up and lean against the wall for support.  My mom comes back into the foyer and thrusts a band-aid at me.  "Here," she says, as if it will help.

"But I'm not bleeding," I say and then my dad screams, "ADAM!"

My brother comes running out of his bedroom and down the steps he descended just moments earlier.  On the last step, he trips and falls towards the floor.  He starts to cry, my mom looks bewildered and my dad loses it.  He runs into the living room and picks up the pillows on the sofa.  He waves them in his hands like weapons and then begins throwing them around the room, observing where they land.

"We... can't...  ever... fucking... do... ANYTHING!" he screams, the words so measured, but so full of fury.  He picks up a vase and throws it across the hall.  It shatters in the hallway and the noise fills my ears.

My mom looks around the room, not comprehending the intensity of the situation.

"But...  but we're heading out the door," she starts.
"With two crying children?!" my dad thunders.

"I'm not crying," I say as I wipe away the evidence from my cheeks.
Everyone looks at my brother and he is suddenly silent.  He stands up, brushes himself off and walks out the front door.  I follow him and we stand by the car.

A moment later, our parents lock the door and unlock the car for us.  We all pile into the white Ford Tempo.  Nobody says a word.  I barely dare to breathe.  I look at my brother and  his eyes are red and angry.  His brows are furrowed together and he ignores me.  It is your fault, I hear him say.  You did this.  You made father angry.  I cannot bear his silent accusation and I look out the window at the tall evergreens rushing by.  They blur, they blur together into scenery with no beginning and no end.

When we arrive at our landlord's house, my parents hustle us out of the cars and up the front steps.  My brother and I have stopped crying, but our eyes are wet and we are silent.  Every month, we come to this unfamiliar house and give this woman a cheque.  I know it is for our house, but I do not understand why we must get dressed up and do this every month.

"Stand up straight!  And remember to smile!" my father hisses as he pushes the doorbell.  I wait until the last moment, the very last moment, until I see the crack of the wooden door widening and the face of our familiar landlord.  My dad extends the cheque in his right hand and then, only then, I spread an empty smile across my face as we all play house.

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This is my submission for therealljidol  Topic 20: Playing House. I hope you will consider voting for me in this week's poll.
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baxaphobiabaxaphobia on March 31st, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
My heart breaks every time I read one of the stories of your childhood.
heather chick: oscarkittenboo on April 1st, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
This is very well done, it paints a very vivid picture of something that happens all too often in this world.
Jennyonda_bianca on April 1st, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
Gosh...scary and heartbreaking. :(
Connieintrepia on April 1st, 2010 02:25 am (UTC)
Did you ever figure out why your entire family had to go to give the landlady the rent check? That seems really unusual.
Rosa the Beautiful__rosieposie on April 1st, 2010 11:56 am (UTC)
I remember that our landlord often invited us in for coffee and cookies when we came over, so we sometimes went in to chat with her. It was a cultural thing, I think. My dad hadn't been living in Canada for all that long and he liked to make good impressions on other people of him and his family.

I don't know why it was a family event, but when we lived in that particular house, we always went together to give her the rent cheque on the first of every month.
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": Humans are Weirdroina_arwen on April 1st, 2010 02:30 am (UTC)
Awww - a sad tale, but well told. I'd thought maybe you were all heading out to church or something, but I gather your dad was just trying to make a good impression on the landlord.
tea berry-blueteaberryblue on April 1st, 2010 02:01 pm (UTC)
The idea of trying to make a good impression on a landlord is mind-boggling to me! I've never met a single one of my landlords.

But yeah, I thought maybe it was a school play or a movie or Christmas Mass or something-- not the landlord's! Which I think was one of the most interesting parts of the story, when you realize that he's angry over being "late" for something that doesn't even really have a set time and isn't even necessary or important.
rattsu on April 1st, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC)
Very strong and intense, and I love the last line.
Sammy-Joe: food - eggssra33 on April 1st, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
... why do you have to go to the landlord...?
Rosa the Beautiful__rosieposie on April 1st, 2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
Some of the comments above explain this in greater detail. For some reason, our entire family always delivered the rent cheque to our landlord on the first of each month. Our landlord often invited us in for some socialization. My father immigrated to Canada in his late 20s, met my mother and became a father to my brother and I in his early 30s. When he began renting a townhouse for our family, he always felt it important to deliver rent cheques in person. As I mentioned earlier, I don't really know why it was important to him... maybe it was a cultural thing.
Sammy-Joe: holiday - 'ween - candy cornsra33 on April 1st, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
Might have been. I know people around that generation that paid everything in person. Water bill, gas bill, rent, mortgage, so on and so forth. But I never knew of the whole family doing it, must have just been his "thing". :)

Sorry for the edit, I get weird and press buttons before I'm done typing! XD

Edited at 2010-04-01 08:00 pm (UTC)
lawchickylawchicky on April 2nd, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
How awful :(
m strobelmstrobel on April 2nd, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
That was quite incredible to read. I could -feel- the tension.
Awesomely creepyagirlnamedluna on April 2nd, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)
This is so very heartbreaking *hugs*
Greybeautyofgrey on April 2nd, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
:( Your stories of your past always make me so sad.
Cat!hug_machine on April 3rd, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
Ow. So vivid and heartbreaking. ♥
imafarmgirlimafarmgirl on April 3rd, 2010 01:18 pm (UTC)
Very sad entry. I love the ending and how you tie it all in to the topic.
Seantalon on April 3rd, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)
Surely there had to be some happy stories in your childhood?