38 Years Old (Never Kissed a Girl): Chapter Six
Author’s Note: This is Part 6 of a series of posts serializing my novella 38 Years Old (Never Kissed a Girl). For more information on the origins of this novella, including all disclaimers, and a complete chapter list, please see the announcement regarding this series.
I was in bed when I heard the unmistakable stomp of Mikey’s boots coming up the sidewalk. The screen door squeaked a little more loudly than normal.
“Thank God,” my mother sighed. My parents had been sitting at the kitchen table, not speaking for over an hour when they sent the rest of us to bed. From the sound of the chairs sliding on the floor, I guessed they were still there when Mikey came in.
“Where ya been, Michael?” Dad sounded tired, like he, himself, had been beat, and he wasn’t going to fight anymore, not even with Mike.
“Out with Billy.” The icebox opened with a rattle of glass milk bottles. There usually wasn’t much left in any of them at this point in the weekend, so Mikey was probably drinking right from the bottle. He did that a lot.
“Out where? You had us worried sick.”
“Just out.” Mikey set the bottle down in the sink. The tap ran for a moment. Water sloshed around inside a bottle.
“What happened to your hand?” My ears pricked up.
“I banged it, that’s all.”
“Billy and I were horsing around. Hit it on the side of the truck.”
“How many times?” From the sounds of it, it must have been pretty bad.
“Damn it, Mike. We needed you here today. We needed you here—not out there, screwing around.” Whatever energy Pop had left, drained as he spoke.
“I had stuff to do.”
“Your sister’s lying in the hospital, and you had stuff to do?” Mom’s voice rose, her patience thin.
“Yes. How is she?”
“Doctor said she’ll be okay in a few months. She’s going to be in a lot of pain for the next few weeks though.”
“Son of a bitch.” Mikey didn’t swear too much in the house. This was a tired, aching curse. Mom didn’t say a thing. She didn’t seem worried about the little stuff like that tonight.
Mikey’s boot shuffled across the kitchen floor. A chair scraped across the wood. Silence filled the house. Ricky shifted in his bed. He wasn’t sleeping either.
“Have you eaten?” Mom asked after a minute or two passed.
“Not hungry. I think I’ll sack out.” Another scrape of a chair moving.
“G’night, Mike.” My parents spoke in unison, a long practiced habit. The porch door opened, and closed. Outside, crickets chirped in the darkness. I laid there and listened to the quiet for a while, said a silent prayer for everyone, and a double prayer for Cathy, before drifting off to sleep.