March 15, 2013 § 4 Comments
Happy to share our third-place winner in the Mystery and Memory Contest, from Ryder Ziebarth:
Between dusk and dark on a summer night, before star shine and moon glow and lightning bugs, is the slow exhalation of twilight. A time for cocktails and chitchat and settling into silvery Adirondack chairs turned toward the setting sun. This night our young daughter leads me toward the hammock strung between the cedars, already cocooning her father. Tonight is a celebration. A bottle of scotch almost empty, and a highball, neat and almost full, tilt precariously from the crook of his elbow toward the grass below.
Flesh pile! Lizzie shrieks, yanking me along and jumps into the ropes where the three of us become one wriggling heap of arms and legs — fingers tickling, we howl like coyotes, sick with laughter. The bottle and the glass go flying. Tonight, no one cares, least of all my husband. It is his last drink.
The fragrance from a nearby honeysuckle overcomes the heavier waft of alcohol. Just for tonight, Lizzie, who turns away from the smell she hates, says nothing. Tonight, we are happy — elated– and I don’t stand guard, making sure she is out of the way of whatever drops next.
My husband rolls out of the hammock, grabs Lizzie’s ankle and wrist with his big hands, and she becomes a whorl of blue gingham shorts and no shirt flying through the air in loopy circles like an airplane at a country fair. Her blond bob flies up and over the moon, like a dandelion gone to seed. I anticipate disaster. Planes crash often around here.
Out of breath, he stops, stumbles and falls backward. How green, the bottoms of her grass-stained feet are as they fly over her head. I anticipate a howl, but she sits up, unhurt, and then assess her father’s face. We know this unspoken routine, Lizzie and I. It is why I no longer drink.
But he jumps up, grinning and challenges her to a game of tag between the silver maples hovering over our house. Now, I can barely see them tearing across the lawn, as bats begin to swoop. She zigzags between the trees. He careens after her, but she knows tonight he is “tipsy”, silly Daddy, who falls down a lot, and she has the advantage.
‘Home base is the hammock!” she says, running to climb back in with me.
Tonight, Lizzie and I sway in the ropes for just another minute. Tomorrow, Daddy leaves on a long trip to a “rehab” center, although Lizzie is only vaguely aware what that means. “Just Coke?” she says? “Just Coke.” I say back.
“Bed Time!” he says, with a goofy smile, smelling bitter-sweet.
The sun sinks all the way down with a pop on the horizon, arms reaching out across the field. I wish hard on the first barely flickering star, that Lizzie will remember tonight only as a celebration of summer with a symphony of cicadas, while Daddy with his big hands carries her off to bed.