The bed sheets stripped off, Mom climbed back on top of the bare mattress.
Dad told us, “We’ll get it later. Let her rest,” which caused Mom to say, “How can I ever rest again?” She shrieked, “I’m foreclosed,” like a curse word.
Her sobs filled the dark master bedroom. It was hard to make out her face. But I knew if we’d open the blinds, the bright full moon might’ve helped.
My high school friend, Ty, lent a hand with the other beds. We rode twin mattresses down the staircase like bobsleds. Dad didn’t care when we banked into the cheap wooden banister at the bottom. He jabbed the end of it, watched it sway, a splintered elephant’s trunk. Next Dad left to clear out the garage. My older brother and a few of his Mt. SAC friends moved the furniture out of the living room, dining room. Loud bangs sounded off from walls and corners and the front door’s frame. My little sister packed up the kitchen. Some box tops wouldn’t close, the handles of pots poked up through the thick web of tape.
Finally, Dad begged Mom to get off the king-size mattress. She touched both my face and Ty’s with her wet hands as she left the bedroom. She mumbled something, maybe, “Just wait for it,” but, really, I’m not sure what she said. She ended up in the rental truck’s cab. Ty said it was late, already one in the morning. He had to go. We shook hands goodbye, my palm damp, too. I wiped my hand hard against my hip.
After the house was empty, we gathered on the driveway. Dad asked us to circle up, hold hands. My dad and sister’s hands were dry and numb-cold. He called for Mom to join in. We waited and listened to the buckle-buckle-buckle of semis crossing the freeway overpass in the distance. She wasn’t budging, though, so Dad asked us to close our eyes. He began to pray.
In the moonlight, I saw a stray dog gallop up a slope across the street and disappear, followed by the sporadic barks of other dogs nearby. My brother’s friends, how they sideways glanced, their smirks. My brother and sister’s bowed heads, their eyes pinched shut. My mom’s face floating like a cracked plate in the shadows. How Dad sounded, how he squeezed my hand, I avoided looking at his face. His voice pleaded for us. For what may come.
The dog appeared again at the crest of the hill. The defiant stare. Neither the dog or I blinked, I’m sure of it. Even after more frantic barking erupted, seemingly from every direction.
Dan Crawley is the author of the novella Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019) and the short story collection The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021). His writing appears or is forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including JMWW, Lost Balloon, Tiny Molecules, and Atticus Review. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. Along with teaching creative writing workshops and literature courses, he is a fiction reader for Little Patuxent Review.