A Dangerous Man
It was Christmas morning, and Uncle Hank was in the kitchen, drinking from a bottle of scotch. I was nine years old, and my parents and I were at Uncle Hank and Aunt Verna's gray house by the bay. My parents, Aunt Verna and I were in the living room.
Uncle Hank usually had at least one or two beers in the morning, but drinking scotch was a bad sign, and the other three adults were mad at him for it. He yelled at Aunt Verna from the kitchen. Like the others, I tried to pay him no mind. We opened our presents. My parents had given me Lone Ranger and Tonto figures, along with their plastic horses.
Uncle Hank kept on yelling and his speech was slurred. Aunt Verna went into the kitchen and told him he was a drunken bum. Uncle Hank said there couldn't be no other way living with her. Silverware crashed and something thudded on the floor. My father froze in his chair, back straight like a Marine, unable to move.
"Get off your hands! Do something!" my mother yelled. My father, who never liked to put his nose in other people's business, slowly got up. He always did what my mother wanted. I followed behind him so I could see what was going on. My mother made a grab for my belt loops, but I was ahead of her.
Uncle Hank had Aunt Verna pinned to the floor. Her face was red and she struggled to get up. Uncle Hank looked as if he was going to pull his fist back and hit her one.
"Get up," my father said.
Uncle Hank turned to look at my father.
"You son of a goddamn weasel," he said. "Come into a man's house and tell him what to do."
He got up and called my father some more names. My father didn't say anything, but his jaw was grinding. Aunt Verna grabbed me and brought me back to the living room.
Uncle Hank was bigger than my father, but my father knew Tae Kwon Do from the Marines. There was more crashing and thudding. After my father came out, I looked in. Uncle Hank was spread out on the floor, his head propped up against a cabinet. His dark eyes darted around and then his gaze fixed on me. I winced and went back to the living room.
"You should have killed him," Aunt Verna said to my father. "He's a bum."
My mother ignored what Aunt Verna was saying and had my father and me load the car. Aunt Verna followed us out, but my mother refused to say goodbye.
"I can't divorce him."
"Yeah, well, I got divorced," my mother said, referring to the man she had married before she married my father. "I don't care what the Pope likes."
I got crammed into the back seat with blankets and unopened presents. Snow hit the windshield and melted against it. When Aunt Verna waved goodbye to us, my mother didn't return the wave. We headed down the street.
strangers coming from a church
leave footprints in the snow