Drought destroyed my family. My stepfather, Mac, scoffed at the city’s water rationing ordinance. He filled the kiddie pool, washed his 1974 Ford F-100 and watered the empty flower beds every day. He didn’t garden.
Mac had a strange relationship with my mother. He had a strange relationship with his ex-wife, Luanne. The women had a strange relationship with each other. That is to say, they were best friends. I’d come home from school and find the three of them smoking marijuana, bitching about Ronald Reagan, or washing Mac’s truck. Or all three. It was also not unusual to find my mother hiding in the closet, worrying the fringe of her dresses with nail-bitten fingers and jumping at every sound.
Mac lived off a trust his daddy’d left to him. That’s what he still called him — “Daddy.” Mac didn’t have friends; he used to be a violent drunk.
“Back in the day,” he’d say to my mom and Luanne, “I didn’t know which way was up. Good thing I met you two.”
The bottles in the trash said otherwise.
On a scorching September afternoon, tendrils of clouds marking the sky — what people call earthquake weather — I found Mac face-down in a dark circle of dust, dead. On his back, a carpet of black hair crisping in the sun. His bare arms had gone crimson.
Nearby, the snake of the water hose issued a meager trickle of water. I tightened the spigot and wrapped the hose around the hanger. I’d never liked Mac, so I wasn’t upset that he was dead. I was, however, concerned for my mother.
Inside the house, I found her and Luanne drinking pink cocktails from tiki mugs, maraschino cherry stems scattered on the floor like the smallest game of pick-up-sticks. My mother held a tiny paper umbrella over her head, pretending it was raining.
“Mom?” I said.
“In here honey!” she hollered.
“I know. I’m in the same room as you. You know where Mac is?”
“Drowned,” Luanne added.
“It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring,” my mother sang.
“Except he’s not, is he?” Luanne said.
“Not anymore,” my mom said. She laughed and clinked her tiki mug against Luanne’s, a celebratory toast.
I would move the body. What else could I do? Call the police? Have my mother incarcerated? Then what — where would I go?
By his calloused feet, I dragged Mac’s body across the gravel driveway. Dust swirled around his body like a shroud. I pulled him through the dry flower beds and under the carport, away from the strangling sun. I’d bury him in the morning, when it was cooler.
In the morning, with their suitcases packed, my mom and Luanne hopped into the Ford F-100. Bug-eyed sunglasses on them both.
I stood by the side of the truck. My mom raised her sunglasses. The whites of her eyes were scarlet from alcohol and pain.
“I really wanted a garden,” she said.
Jennifer Fliss is a New York raised, Wisconsin schooled, Seattle based writer. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in diverse publications including, The Citron Review, Brain Child Magazine, Prime Number, and The Establishment. More can be found on her website, www.jenniferflisscreative.com