Dad was drunk that night, like most nights. He woke me just after midnight, just after all the bars near his office close.
"Get up, boy."
He voice was a hushed whiskey roar.
"Get up. I'm gonna show you how to scare the shit out of an entire neighborhood."
He sure enough scared the shit out of me most of the time. He began drinking upon rising every morning, pouring vodka and orange juice into a tall travel tumbler. After work he'd head straight to one of two bars near his office: either the dark wood and velvet-paned place with live jazz and willing older women or the dive bar, but only when he'd spent too much at the first.
Then he'd come home and frighten his family.
"Put your shoes on, boy."
I grabbed my sneakers instead of slippers, because I was afraid we'd have to run.
"We are going to hear some screaming tonight."
We made our way to the valley, where all the new parents lived. He wanted to make sure babies were woken.
"Get in the fucking car, kid."
I hated riding with him when he was this wasted, but I hated even more what happened when I didn't.
I left my pajamas on but grabbed my raincoat, the one with the hood. Last time I got soaked to the bone.
He snatched me by the hood of the jacket just as I'd pulled it on and hurled me toward the carport. He grabbed my sister's softball bat on the way to the truck.
He had The Eagles blaring "Take It Easy" in the cab of the pick-up. My dad started laughing as he squealed backwards out of our driveway and up the cul-de-sac and out onto the main road. I swear to God, when that man laughs it'll turn your blood into ice.
"The whole goddamn Valley is going to get it tonight, boy."
He was going 70 on a stretch of road that was marked 35. I held on to the side of the seat and closed my eyes and hoped he wouldn't look over to see me doing that. He parked at the edge of the quiet neighborhood and revved his engine. He revved it loud while he laughed.
Then I saw it. I saw him try to mask a yawn. He was laughing that maniacal laugh, but his eyelids were heavy. I unclenched the fists from the seat beneath me. He hadn't been able to find any more booze in the house. He was finally wearing down.
"Go on, boy."
He wanted me to do it. I knew it was bound to happen eventually. Knew it since I turned 12.
I stared down at my plaid pajama pants and my running shoes. And I thought about it for a minute. I thought about whether I could do it. I knew right away I couldn't, but I sat staring at my shoes trying to make my hand open the door.
But he passed out. I looked up from my feet to see his head slumped back and his mouth hanging wide. He always passed out if he couldn't keep drinking, the only thing that ever spared any of us.
I walked back. Took about an hour. I got back and mom was up, sitting in her robe, sitting staring at the television that wasn't on. She saw me come in, I know she saw me, but she didn't move. She'd wait for dad.
I crawled into bed and made shadow puppets on the wall until the sun came up.