As I played with my toy cars next to the giant living room window, the early morning summer sun shined a rectangle of heat all around me. My neck and arms burned, but I was frozen tense as I watched my mom from the corner of my eye pacing back and forth. She bit her nails while her other hand gripped the cordless phone to her chest. Suddenly, I heard keys at the door.
It opened and I saw my dad standing there wearing the same clothes from yesterday. I fell asleep the night before in his rocking chair waiting for him.
My heart pounded and my hands stiffened on my Hot Wheels. It didn’t make sense why she’d scream at him to leave when he’d just gotten there. My stomach moaned and ached.
Mom gripped the phone, trembled and swallowed, and stared at him with teary eyes.
He said nothing. He glanced at her then looked down, took a shallow breath, and walked past us and into the kitchen. I heard a drawer open and a big noisy trash bag was taken out. Dad walked back in holding the bag and hurried into the bedroom without looking at us. Mom followed.
I pretended not to stare through the doorway at them as she kept screaming.
I wondered if she meant the lady dad made me talk to on the payphone the other night. I got worried he would think I told mom after I promised I wouldn’t.
She kept screaming: “Si querés andar jodiendo largate a la mierda mejor!”
Why would she scream at him to leave like that? My heart pounded faster and I felt worry on my face.
I heard the plastic bag being filled while mom kept screaming. Dad was quiet. With my head lowered I peaked at them again and saw him lifting the bag to cascade its contents toward the bottom. He pulled his pants, shirts, and underwear from our dirty laundry hamper and threw them into the black trash bag.
I looked back down at my cars simmering in the sun and my hands were shaking. Dad walked back into the living room with the bag and stood far from me, but I felt him staring. He stepped closer, to the edge of the sunlit rectangle, and knelt down as he dropped the trash bag of clothes onto the warm carpet in front of me.
“Mirame hijo,” he said, and I looked up at him. He looked away quickly.
“Me tengo que ir,” he said avoiding eye contact, “pero sabés que te quiero mucho.” With his hand on my shoulder, he forced a hug around me.
I didn’t move. I didn’t say anything back. I didn’t ask why he had to leave, or tell him to stay, even though I really wanted to. Everything was bright and blurry and I noticed I was squeezing my car.
He stood up, took a deep breath, and lifted the trash bag over his shoulder. He said nothing else.
In the quiet, my mom sniffled. Dad walked to the door, left the house, and mom and me stayed there quiet and shaky.
I turned quickly to look out the living room window, but the brightness burned my blurry eyes. I wiped them and as they adjusted I saw dad walk across the street with the black trash bag over his shoulder. He threw it into the bed of his beat up blue pick up truck, got inside, started the motor, put it into gear, and drove away without looking back.
“Quitate de allí,” mom said, but I didn’t move.
“Quitate de allí!!” she screamed and the cordless phone shattered against the living room wall.
Dug Ramon was born, raised, and resides in East Hollywood, Los Angeles. An LAUSD, LACC and Cal State LA alumni with a background in psychology and mental health, Dug works as an office manager and writes daily for his own joy and sanity. Dug hopes to grow as a writer in the coming years and share his work with more readers. He’s currently working on a fiction project, from which “Hot Wheels” is an excerpt.