PLAYING CARS by James Thibeault
It was better to sit in the hallway and play cars with Tim than open the bathroom door. As Michelle screamed, banging hard against the bathroom wall, I kept an eye on my grandson. I wasn’t having fun, pushing a small Matchbox car back and forth. Tim wasn’t enjoying it either. We weren’t smiling.
“Is Mommy almost done?” said Tim.
“She’ll be in there a little longer.”
Tyler always took her in the bathroom. He wanted to treat her like shit – something easily flushable. Still, she screamed for a man who couldn’t get a puddle wet. I could take him. I could break down the door, punch him in his tiny manhood… No, I probably couldn’t. Could I even get off the floor?
Tyler gave a groan and Michelle matched it. Christ, it wasn’t a duet. Tyler came out of the bathroom first, his pants still down.
“Jesus, gramps. If you wanted to hear it so bad, I could have left the door open for you.”
“If I wanted to hear you moan, I would have broken your nose.”
Tyler bent down.
“You better watch your tone or the kid and your whore of a daughter will be back on the street.”
He slapped me lightly on the face. As he walked by Tim, he ruffled the boy’s hair, leaving a sticky residue. Tim continued to play.
The bathroom door creaked open. Michelle’s worn-out eyes peered at us. She adjusted her dress and walked out.
“Goddammit, Dad. Did you have to get this close?”
“It’s the only part flat enough where we can play cars.”
“Play with cars, Dad. Do I have to spend money on your head too?”
“He’s been good.”
“He better be, or else he’ll have to play with the ambulance.”
“Just please shut up. I’m off to the diner. Can you watch him until midnight?”
“Where else am I going to go?”
“Look for a job?”
She let out a moan, the most realistic one I’d heard.
“Dad, I know. But I can’t have Tyler paying rent forever.”
“Go. I’ll watch Tim and we’ll talk tomorrow.”
She bent down and kissed me on the cheek. It was good to feel her warmth, but I was close enough to see the scarred lines on her arms.
The door slammed. My heart lightened. Together, Tim and I resumed playing. We were tiny metal figures, not old sacks of flesh or underdeveloped brains.
“Vroom, vroom,” mouthed Tim.
“Exactly,” I said.