On the blonde hi-fi stereo, my mother’s favorite record spins. I’m falling asleep on our sticky, plastic sofa too early in the evening. I just can’t fight those soothing rays of light this time of day.
Mom is singing along to “The Look of Love” with Lani Hall in the kitchen, freshly painted in the groovy shade of Avocado Adventures. Her new beige cafe curtains arrived yesterday from the Sears catalogue, launching her over the moon because the balls of fringe adorning the edges match the paint color perfectly.
She holds her vodka martini-on-the-rocks-with-a-twist in an Apollo 11 glass, cigarette dangling from her lips, as she prepares dinner for us on a Friday night.
Time to turn the patio steaks– Dad is on his way.
I’m caught in a daydream; a groggy, incoherent daze, worried that my underpants are showing (again) as I fight the urge to sleep. It’s all I can think about since I stood on that stage last night, in less-than-opaque white tights and a micro-mini tutu, playing the triangle to “Three Little Stars.” But no one would listen. They thought I was cute.
Mom winks at me with an eye brushed in lime shadow, her hot pink lips upturned in a smile. She takes another drag on her cigarette and blows the smoke in my direction. I adore her long earrings made of three white plastic balls. Someday, they will be mine.
Dad’s home. His sky-blue Impala pulls up in the carport and I hear a door slam shut. Instantly, he’s standing over me, the smell of printer’s ink wafting in the air. “Goin’ Out of My Head” is playing on the stereo next; he likes that song, but I don’t see Mom.
Suddenly, Dad belts out the verse, “Day and night, night and day and night, wrong or right…” in my face. It scares me when he does that. He gives me a big kiss on my forehead and laughs at the crease running down my cheek and lock of hair pinned to my temple in spit.
My head flops back down on the couch, eyes darting for Mom, but I’m too tired to go look for her. I’m not wearing dresses anymore. I’m sick of my underpants showing, I say to myself again. I’m going to tell her in a minute…, I decide. A heavy sleep funk steadily overtakes me; Mom thinks I still need an afternoon nap, but I don’t.
“Donna!” Dad calls from the bathroom. “The dog ate the baby’s poop again!” Dad is sitting on the toilet, door open, holding up a dirty diaper he found on the floor. “Look at this! The damn thing licked it clean!” he laughs. I hear every word, roused by his yelling, eyes half open and grumpy.
My mom has a bad habit of setting diapers on the floor before she empties them in the toilet and puts them in the smelly diaper pail. Our dog, Ritzy, likes my baby brother’s poop… a lot.
Here comes Mom with Davey now. He’s been fussy all day. Dad meets Mom down the hallway and clinks his glass with hers. “To Friday night, honey!” he sniggers, heading to the bedroom to change his clothes.
Mom starts dancing with Davey in her arms to a new song on the stereo now. I don’t know what they’re saying, but it sounds like “musty nacho.” They’re dancing right in front of me. Their circles make me dizzy and I finally fall asleep.
“Almost there,” Mom whispers, smiling at Dad. “We’re almost there.” She continues going round and round with Davey until he falls asleep too. Dad’s been watching from his den and sees Mom nod down at Ritzy, mouthing the word “tiddlywink” after she figures out what’s in his mouth. But before Dad can catch him, Ritzy runs under the table in the kitchen and spits it out.
Sprawled on the vinyl, Ritzy watches us, probably plotting his next diaper change… or maybe he’s waiting there because he smells burnt patio steaks in the pan. I think they both smell about the same.