Rafter Fiction is short stories based on songs by Rafter. I am starting the series with the songs from album, “Terrestrial Extras”. This is track #15, “Wishing That Your Family Was Intact.” Buy it here
Ed Taylor parked his truck two blocks away from his daughter and son-in-law’s house. The truck was old, rusted and rattled, so he did not want to be too close to the house when he turned the motor and hightailed it out of town. He turned off the engine and waited for the night to come.
His plan was to approach the house through the back yard. There was more cover from trees and less lighting, and his grandchildren had their room in the back of the house, a room that melted in the summer because it shared a wall with the laundry room, a room with all of the holes where mice squeeze in to escape the cold. Ed told Greg, his son-in-law, that he needed to take pride in his house and fix some problems to make it safer for his children, but Greg shrugged him off. Greg was always doing this. When he was kicked out of the house last time for fighting with Greg, Samantha, his own flesh and blood daughter called. “Dad. I don’t think you should come over anymore.”
The words sounded like poison. “Then what about my grandkids?”
“They will be fine.”
During that visit, he knew there was something more to the dynamic, more to the neglect. When Samantha told him he could not see them anymore, he finally had enough nerve, or maybe rage, to ask. “What the hell are you guys doing? Are you guys smoking that shit again?”
He flicked a cigarette butt out of the window and waited for twilight. The thought of them being into crystal meth again left a bad taste in his mouth. After Samantha’s last stint in rehab and Greg in jail, he swore to his wife that those kids needed to come first no matter what. “We might not have the money for them, but God will provide.”
His wife shook her head. She did not have much to say about the entire situation, but Ed knew she agreed with him. She hated that she took care of them for months while her daughter getting clean. She whispered to him late at night that she hoped they would not try to pick them up when they were cleared to get them, and she cried when they were taken back home. He hated the hurt she felt, but there was not anything they could do but wait.
Last night was the night that all of their patience came to fruition. After a week of silence, Samantha called him. “Dad. Can we get some food? The kids are hungry and we don’t have anything.” Ed loaded up $200 worth of groceries on his credit card and drove it over to their house. As soon as he stepped inside, he knew they were getting high again. They did not even try to hide all of their pipes and paraphernalia. “What the fuck?” he said to Samantha.
“We don’t need your judgement.”
He tried to find a clean enough surface in the kitchen to sit the groceries and ended up putting them on top of a stack of unopened mail. Greggy and Ariel ran up to him, each hugging a leg. “You puppies hungry?” he asked.
“Yes,” Ariel said.
“Woof,” Greggy said.
“You’re mom can make you something.” Samantha stumbled into the kitchen. Her eyes were so glazed and dead that she probably forgot why he was even there. “Or I can make you something before I leave.”
Ed got out and slammed the truck door. He grabbed the two sleeping bags out of the truck bed and started to sneak through the streets. He hoped that the kids would remember what Grandpa told them, the instructions that he gave while they were eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he made them and their parents were in their own bedroom doing God knows what. “I’ll come back and get you tomorrow. Leave your window open and you can jump out.”
“But I don’t want to get hurt,” Ariel said. She was always the most cautious child.
“I’ll bring sleeping bags to land on.” He heard sounds in the next room, and they all looked through the doorway. Samantha emerged, her hair looking as if it has not been washed in sixteen years, a matted mess on the top of her head. She had been losing too much weight. She had scabs and sores all over her face and hands. Ed was so mad at her that he could not say anything. He walked toward the front door. “You need help,” he said to her when he walked passed.
“I know what I’m doing, Dad.”
The street lights were on but the bulbs were broken out in the alley behind their house. He cut across the treeline and crept through the back yard. The place was sad and neglected. A broken kid’s pool lay in the unkempt bushes. Weeds and grass were so high that there were other toys completely swallowed up by the growth. He sneaked toward the window. It was open, and he saw two little heads peek over the window sill. He stood underneath it, and he opened up the first sleeping bag. “Jump in,” he said.
“Okay,” Greggy said. He climbed out and leaped. Ed caught him in the sleeping bag.
“Cover up and hide.” He opened up the second bag, and told Ariel, “Okay, sister. It’s your turn.” She heard something inside that made her turn her head. “Hurry,” Ed said. Ariel jumped and landed in the second bag. He lifted the bag up over her head and grabbed the opening. He did the same with Greggy’s bag.
He turned to run out of the yard when he heard his daughter’s voice yelling, “Greggy. Ariel.” He skipped the alley and ran through backyards. He was out of shape from age and smoking, but even when he heard the back door slam and his daughter’s voice more higher pitched, more frantic, yelling for her children, over and over, he did not stop. He ran faster than he knew possible. He made it to his truck, threw the sleeping bag with his grand kids in them into the truck bed, and the engine fired up. Ed was out of the neighborhood within minutes. He looked at the bed of his truck, and his two grand kids were uncovered, sitting and looking into the cab of the truck. Greggy asked, “Are we free now?”
“I don’t know,” Ed said. “At least for the moment.”