1987: Our Business

After his unemployment check arrives, Dad rents another summer cabin even though it’s November. The landlord man told us there’s no heat for the winter. Dad nods as the owner hands him the keys. Brown key tag. Number 4.

While we make our way down a stone path to the cabin, Dad says, “Jenny, that won’t be a problem for you and Daddy. We’ll just leave our coats on all winter. And besides, what does Daddy always teach you? When you’re cold you don’t think about the cold. When you’re in pain, you don’t think about the pain. Just like they taught us in the military.”

Once we step inside, the air feels the same as outside. Dad asks me to help him unload the trunk. “Here’s a light box for you.” The brown box pulls my arms nearly to the ground. I clench my stomach as we make our way back down the stone path. Don’t drop it. Don’t drop it.

Next week, Dad scatters things around the cabin that I haven’t seen before. A television, a lamp, an old radio, and two wooden tennis rackets. Did he take those from summer camp?

“Goddamn money’s still tight. Daddy’s gonna have a little sale, here and try to get me some pony money. And maybe a little extra so we can have some sharp cheese later.”

A man that I’ve never met walks around the cabin. He eyes the old T.V. set.

The man asks my father, “Does the T.V. work?”

Before Dad can reply, I say proudly, “No. It’s broken.”

The man looks disappointed. Dad tries to sell him the radio instead. “You know sir, that T.V. worked yesterday. Maybe it just needs a new fuse.”

But the man leaves empty-handed. Oh no.

Dad walks up to me and bashes me hard in the nose. The pain shoots up through my nostrils into my brain. I can’t breathe for a long time. It’s cold and stingy. Will it ever stop?

“That’s for goddamn telling someone our business. You better listen up because your Father is only going to say this once; our business is our business. No one needs to know anything! Do you understand me, cunt?”

I stare at him as my organs quiver.

“And I better not see one fucking crocodile tear out of you. It’s your fault if we starve this week!”

Should you be quiet? Or are you supposed to lie?

Only bad people lie. So you just stay quiet forever.

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