After the Snowstorm

 After the Snowstorm

Cora brushed the sleep-straggled hair from her daughter’s forehead and secured Katniss’ car-seat. Tonight was their escape. For two months she hid their go-bag under the emergency kit. She thought Frank really meant it when he said he would sober up. 

She checked her rear-view mirror, Katniss slept, a residual hick from fearful crying shuddered her tiny rib cage. Cora’s left eye socket was swelling purple and blue; she had shielded Katniss from her daddy. When Frank turned his drunken-wrath towards Katniss, Cora knew it was time to flee. 

He had not yet harmed Katniss -- his size and bellow were frightening enough. Cora took the hit. But it was only a question of time before Katniss drew his physical wrath, or became a cowering husk of a human -- like Cora had been. If they didn’t run now, if Cora didn’t stand tall, one of them was going to get felled by his inebriated axe.  

The blizzard was lifting. Earlier, when Frank left for his plow-truck shift, Cora noticed his flask had gone with him. Frank hit a power pole blinded by the blizzard’s wake and was fired on the spot. She wasn’t sure how he got home, but he arrived with a crumpled bag around the neck of Johnny Walker Red. Frank stumbled across the frosting of snow -- fully bashed. 

Katniss had done nothing wrong. She wanted to show her daddy her crayoned portrait of his big work truck. She shot her arms out, holding her drawing up at his drooping view. She innocently hoped he would admire it; her cupid-blue eyes trusting; she waited for approval in her outgrown jammies, her ankles and wrists exposed her pink skin. 

Cora stepped in, realizing the mistake too late. Frank backhanded Cora for allowing “such fucking bullshit.” Somehow, it was Cora’s fault her daughter trusted her father to be loving. 

He grabbed a low-ball; the ice clinked as he filled it with 90 proof; drained the glass, gasped, and wiped his foamy mouth with his meaty hand. She scurried Katniss to bed, tears drowned their daughter’s innocent eyelashes. 

Pissed to the world, Frank passed out on the lumps of the den couch.

Cora emptied every bottle of booze, one after the other, tarnished liquid swirled down the drain. Each empty rotgut glass urn lined-up on the counter like a green and brown forest -- alive and dead -- an elegy to her marriage. She listened for the snore of the boar, then slunk out with her sleeping daughter.

“Momma?” Katniss woke up after an hour, pushed a strand of hair back into its tangled mass. She nuzzled her snowman stuffy with its carrot nose, “where we goin’?”  

“To sleep over at Gramma and Grampa’s house,” Cora encouraged. 

“Where’s mean-ol’ Daddy?” Katniss’ delicate eyebrows furrowed.

“He stayed home. Momma put him into a big-ol’ time-out.” 

“Momma? Can we sing that song?”

“Honey, I need to concentrate, I am about to cross a slippery bridge.” 

“Just like that song! We are going over the river!”

“Yep, and then what?” 

“And through the woods. Momma? Can I make snow angels and build a snowman tomorrow with Grampa?”

“Yes, baby, after the storm.”  

“Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”― Ray Bradbury

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