Dad let us stay up
the nights Mom went out
to sing with Sweet Adelines,
saying we were big girls
and could put ourselves to bed.

“You don’t need me,” he said.
“Apparently, your mother
doesn’t either.”

We got in our pajamas
and brushed our teeth,
coming downstairs
to sit cross-legged
in front of the Zenith.
Mr. Ed was on.
Then Patty Duke.
We rolled onto our bellies
and bent our knees,
our bare dirty feet
pointed to the ceiling
as Granny and Jed
then Dick Van Dyke
flashed on the screen.

Dad sat behind us,
burning cigarettes
and drinking beer,
throwing empty cans
beside the sofa,
grinding embers
into a glass ashtray
on a wrought iron stand.

“Where the hell is she?”
He stumbled to the kitchen
on the commercial break,
rattling in the ‘frig,
searching for another Stroh’s.

“God damn it.”
He kicked over a wastebasket
and threw a dirty dish at the wall.

Stomping back,
he hurtled a TV guide
at our feet,
the pages rippling
like sparrows.

“Go to bed,” Dad yelled.
“Your Mom’ll be home soon.”

Janie cried.
I scrambled up
and took her hand.
Dad said to knock it off,
then softened,
giving us a sloppy hug
at the base of the steps.

“Be good girls now,” he said.
“Stay upstairs.”

We ran to our room,
nightlight rippling
over our unmade bed.
I tucked Janie in
then slipped in beside her,
shadows inking the walls.

Rain pinged the window
as tires spit in the drive.
I peered out,
seeing a white Cadillac,
the same one
Mom had left in,
a man with silver hair
behind the wheel,
her head resting
on his shoulder.

“What the hell?”
Dad staggered from the house,
the rain sheer tinsel.
He pounded the car hood,
then yanked open the door,
pulling Mom out,
her sleeve ripping
as she slipped
and lost her heels.

“Get inside,” Dad yelled.
Picking up Mom’s shoes
he threw one at her,
the other at the windshield.

“God damn son-of-a-bitch” he bellered.
“Get the hell outta here.”

Lit by headlights,
drenched in rain,
Dad waved his fist,
his clothes a sag of rivulets,
as the Cadillac pulled away.

Selected byPoetry by Ann Kammerer
Image credit: Stephen McFadden

Ann Kammerer lives near Chicago, and is a recent transplant from her home state of Michigan. Her short fiction and narrative poetry have appeared in several publications and anthologies, and her collections of narrative poetry include Yesterday's Playlist (Bottlecap Press 2023), Beaut (Kelsay Books 2024) and Friends Once There (Impspired, coming summer 2024). Visit annkammerer.com