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A.T. Cross


Mom kept me home from school. She thought I might be getting sick. I was in my blue pooh bear pajamas with the footies. My baby brother Dylan was in his crib next to me, cooing to the sound of the cartoons. Mom was on the phone. She talked and paced, swinging the cord to the side as she walked. She hung up and walked into the living room and knelt down beside me. Her makeup was smeared on one side. “He’s on his way. He’s going to be angry when he gets here. Whatever happens, I want you to take the baby with you. Go next door or something. Get out of the house.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing bear, nothing.” She got up and walked towards the kitchen. “He tried to forge a check and the bank called. I told them to refuse it.”

I knew that checks could bounce. That’s all they did, I thought, picturing rubber checks and the springy bouncing sounds of the cartoon soundtrack. Dylan danced. When he caught me looking at him, he smiled.

When my stepdad got home she took him straight back to the bedroom. I turned up the TV, and poked at baby Dylan to keep him occupied. The argument got louder. The bedroom door swung open, spilling their fight down the hall. “Get out of my way, Bonnie.”

“No,” she said.

“I will blacken your eyes, break your nose, or kill you to get to the baby,” he said.

The cartoons boinked and sproinged and Dylan wiggled his little naked legs.

I picked up the phone and dialed 911. I told them that I was afraid my stepdad was going to kill my mom. The lady on the other end of the phone was nice. She told me to go wait for the police out front.

Dylan smiled, all gums and drool. I took him from his crib, wrapped the blanket over his face and snuck to the door. We stepped into the not quite snow falling outside. My little plastic footies left slushy footsteps out to the curb.

There were no sirens, just flashing red and blue lights swimming swiftly to the curb, the hiss of tires and two officers in dark blue. One of them walked straight past me, through the front door and into the house. The second stopped to talk with me. She wore the same armor, but she knelt down in the snow and looked me in the eye. She asked us questions, and checked Dylan. When she walked us back into the house, he was already in handcuffs, kneeling on the floor in front of mom.

“Please, Bonnie,” he said, “tell them it’s okay. Tell them not to arrest me.”

The officer stopped him. “In cases of domestic disputes, we have to remove someone.”

“Please,” he said. The cartoons sang cheerily.

She cried, her cheeks glistening.

“Please, Honey.” The officer shook his head slowly. “It’s the law.”

My stepdad glanced over at me. He glared. The lady officer placed her hand on my shoulder. I held Dylan tighter.

A.T. Cross recently gave up writing as a lucrative career path, and currently spends most of his time down at the Daley Double Saloon, editing, and drunkdialing his ex-professors.

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