He did it several times a month. Everyone was asleep, or at least he hoped they were, when he tiptoed into our father’s bedroom. I don’t know what excuse he would have used if my parents woke and found him reaching inside my father’s pocket. He might have had one ready or maybe not. With breath held he made his way over the brown linoleum, past their double bed and must have groped toward the closet like a blind man with arms extended, feeling his way in the dark. The keys must have clanged because they lived on a fat silver ring with many others, but Sparky didn’t care, or had perfected his deception, I don’t know which. That was my brother’s name, Sparky.
I stayed up most nights cutting paper dolls, so I knew he was doing it. I begged him to take me along, and one night he did. There were three gentle taps on my bedroom door and a whisper. If you’re coming, come, cause I’m not going to wait.
My hair was a scramble, my eyes heavy with sleep, but I jumped from my bed eager for adventure.
I’m coming now. Don’t go without me.
He was 14, I was 11. My brother wanted nothing to do with me on my best day, so I was thrilled to be included.
We moved down the stairs, Spark looking over his shoulder to schuss me with his finger. My pajama bottoms dragged on each step, threatening to trip me and foil our escape. I pulled them up and followed, silently like an obedient dog.
Once outside he opened the door of the Chrysler Imperial and motioned to me. I slid past the steering wheel and waited, breathless and full of risk.
The engine purred, Spark lowered the gearshift on the steering column from P to D and we crept away.
Once we hit route 14, the main highway that ran in front of the restaurant, my brother slammed the door shut and let it rip.
Watch this, he shouted, as he drove into Mr. Palmer’s yard, up over his lawn and out the other side. I can do anything I want and no one can stop me.
He swerved to the right and we were back on the highway. Next it was Gail Allen’s house. He headed straight for her mailbox and took it out with a quick, thump. Up and down we went over neighbor’s yards, through shrubbery, past loaded wheelbarrows and into flower gardens.
My eyes were round with shock and excitement. Just don’t tell anybody, he said, if nobody knows we’ll be okay. I sunk low in my seat, eyes in the sky, swallowing moonlight.
Eventually he tired and turned the car toward home, but home was not the way we left it. Every light in the house shone through the windows like a lighthouse, which welcomed and warned at the same time.
When we pulled into the drive my father was waiting, rage seething from every pore. He grabbed my brother and began beating him, as my mother marched me to my room. I listened, my ear pressed against the door, my heart frozen in my chest, hot tears running down my face for my brother’s pain. I waited for my turn, as Spark’s screams rose and fell again and again.
When my father reached my door, my mother blocked his path. That’s enough now, she said. That’s enough for one night.