Dad laughed at me last night when I told him that I just wanted to spend my first day off in two weeks sleeping, at least until noon. Between our loudmouth neighbors and the arrogant sunlight intruding through my bedroom window that I couldn’t afford curtains for, I guess sleeping in really was a ridiculous expectation. The strange dream I just had probably didn’t help matters either, judging by my tank top that is now soaked in sweat. I wish I could remember what the dream had been about. I glance at the clock on my bedside table, and it’s only 7:30. Dad was right.
I really believed that if I picked up extra hours at the shop, I’d be able to save up enough money to get us out of this dump by summer. Again, Dad knew better. Of course, if he would put down the bottle and pick up a pen and start filling out that job application I picked up for him a few months ago, things might be different right now. Maybe we would actually be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment so he wouldn’t have to sleep in the living room anymore. Maybe we could afford a place with actual air conditioning and walls thick enough to filter out our obnoxious neighbors. We might even be able to afford a place where the neighbors actually have some kind of consideration for each other. To be honest, if we were ever fortunate enough to end up in a place as decent as any of that, Dad and I would most likely end up being the obnoxious neighbors.
With the way we’ve been fighting lately, we probably already are. At least Dad and I just yell at each other on occasion. We’ve never gotten into anything physical, unlike the people in the apartment next to us. Seems like by now they would have run out of dishes to break and furniture to throw at each other. Dad says that God always seems to give the loudest voices to the dumbest people because he knows that nobody would listen to them otherwise. This Sunday morning is no exception.
The neighbor’s bedroom is on the other side of the wall, right next to mine. Already, I can hear him screaming at her.
“Get up and make me some goddamn breakfast, you useless whore!”
I would never talk to my girlfriend that way.
Surprised by the silence that follows his disrespectful demand, I roll over and face the wall, listening intently. Sure enough, the moment of silence is followed by her screaming,
“You want breakfast in bed? Here’s your breakfast!”
There’s a loud crash and the shattering of what I assume to be a glass plate smashing against the other side of the wall next to me.
Time to get up.
I roll out of bed and make my way into the living room. For a moment, I am surprised to find Dad’s couch empty. He’s never up this early. It isn’t until I walk to the kitchen, check the calendar and realize that it is the first Sunday of the month that I remember he’s at the church. More hungry than religious, Dad attends one service a month in exchange for a couple bags of free food offered by the church. I used to feel guilty taking the food when we don’t attend church as regularly as we probably should, but Dad said that it’s okay because God knows we need it.
I open the fridge and grab the last bottle of water, the only thing left in there besides a six pack of dad’s beer. When I walk back into the living room, a wave of sadness washes over me at the sight of the empty beer bottles that clutter the table in the corner, and the floor in front of the couch. Dad wasn’t always like this. About a year ago, right after Mom walked out, he just lost it. He just stopped caring about everything, stopped going to work, stopped leaving the house unless absolutely necessary. Wasn’t long before we lost the house and I dropped out of high school to get a job and moved us into this dump. As much as I hate to admit it, if it were just me on my own I know, I would be able to afford nicer things. Having to support him holds me back. I guess that’s just the way it has to be right now though, right?
The clock on the wall above the TV says it’s now a few minutes after 8. Dad will probably be back around 11, which gives me enough time to give in to my sudden, overwhelming urge to straighten this place up. Now that I think about it, I don’t really think this living room has been clean since the week we moved in, about 6 months ago. The furniture hasn’t been rearranged since then, either. Maybe if I clean it up, move things around, take down these damn blankets that dad nailed over the windows and let the sun in, Dad will feel a little better. I know I will. I grab a trash bag out of the kitchen and start collecting the beer bottles.
A few hours later, collapsing on to the newly-positioned couch, I admire my work. The room looks a lot bigger without all of the bottles, and with the couch over here under the window. The light coming in through the open window gives the place a happier atmosphere. Maybe the brightness of the sun’s arrogance wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Dad’s gonna love it. He should be back any time now.
I grab the remote and turn the TV up to block out the sound of the couple next door fighting again. I wish they would lose their voices, even just for a day. Today, her voice is even more annoying than he is.
Mid-way through an old rerun of The Walking Dead, dad walks in. I pause the TV and turn to face him so I can absorb his reaction as he enters the room.
To my dismay, his face immediately drops.
“What the hell is this?” He yells, his tone of voice more of anger than excitement.
“I thought I’d do a little spring cleaning-”
“I liked it how it was! That sun is too damn bright through that window!” He throws the two bags of food on the floor behind the front door, causing a carton of eggs to splatter and start to leak out of the bag. He grabs the arm of the couch. “Move!”
I get up and run to the kitchen doorway, to watch as he angrily shoves the couch back against the wall it was originally next to, the one that separates our apartment from the loudmouths next door. I just stand there, speechless as I hear the woman next door scream “I HATE YOU!” to her boyfriend. At that moment, I know exactly how she feels. Dad plops down on the couch and reaches for the remote.
I need to get out of here, I can’t even stand looking at him right now.
I run to my room and slam the door. I grab my old high school backpack out of the closet and start stuffing clothes inside. As I head to the bathroom for my toothbrush and deodorant, I am stopped by two extremely loud bangs, followed by Dad’s screams.
Running into the living room, I see dad sitting at an awkward angle, halfway hanging off the couch. His hands, grasping his chest, are covered in dark red. “C-call an am-ambulance,” he chokes.
Completely numb, I stand outside of the hospital room. The flat line on the electrocardiogram monitor next to Dad’s bed forever etched into my brain; An infinite linear reminder that I won’t be giving that Father’s Day card that I had tucked safely away under my mattress to anyone next month, after all. I don’t even notice the Officer standing next to me until he speaks.
“I am so sorry for your loss, son,“ he says, placing a hand on my shoulder. “I can’t imagine what you must be going through. I am so sorry to ask this, but we need you to come with us to the station for some statements.”
“Wh-why did this happen?” My question is aimed at God, but the officer answers instead.
“I am so sorry,” he repeats, “It appears that the people in the apartment next to you got into some kind of alteration, and he shot her. One of the bullets must have missed her and gone through the wall and…”
Suddenly, I remember my dream from the previous night, and it all makes sense why I woke up in a cold sweat and had the overwhelming urge to rearrange the living room this morning.
“Why couldn’t Dad just leave the couch by the window?” I ask.
God doesn’t answer, and this time neither does the Officer.