“Get in the damn truck Logan.”

I was scrambling down the laneway toward the 4x4 scared for my life, wanting to stop and run right back to the porch. The massive duffel I had packed in all of what must have been five minutes, almost as big as me, banged against my knee as I half-ran, half-fell down the frosted slope. Fog from my breath clouded my face and I tripped coming around the tailgate. I wasn’t tall enough to see over it yet.

Dad lifted me to my feet, cursing under his breath, and tossed my life in the back of the truck, “Get in and start her up, like I showed you. I’ll be back.” Climbing in, I grabbed the keys from the glove box and tried to focus. Sliding all the way down in the driver’s seat I got my foot on the clutch, then pushed on the steering wheel to get my other foot on the brake with enough pressure to keep them both down. With a sideward glance, the shifter looked like it was in the middle, so I closed my tired eyes and turned the key.

That busted farm tuck came to life like she didn’t want any part of it. I climbed back up and made sure all the blowers were going to get the thin layer of ice off the windows. Sitting on my freezing hands, I watched Dad and Mom become clearer through the windshield. He was yelling again, waving his arms around. She stood and listened, her own bag at her feet. That’s when I really remembered.

I remembered summer nights when we’d come home and Mom would turn on the news, having some excuse or another for not wanting to star gaze. She’d stay there for hours, long after Dad and I went to bed. A few months went by before the arguments started. Trying to keep them from me was a challenge, even if I was too scared to interrupt. I was in my room reading one time when I heard yelling downstairs, a door slam, and then silence. I crept into the empty kitchen later, there were a few broken plates still on the floor, spread out, and thoroughly smashed. Dad was gone and Mom was outside looking at the sunset. Her tablet was still unlocked on the counter, a picture of a flag I didn’t recognize lingering on the screen.

I went from worried to scared when the leaves started to turn. I came downstairs early one morning in my PJ’s to find Dad sleeping on our couch with a single blanket by the fire, his face pained. I’d never seen him do that before. I was so spooked I ran back to my bed and hid. It wasn’t long after that.

The driver’s door swung open and I scrambled into the passenger seat, “GO THAN! GO WITH THE BASTARDS! BUT YOU WON’T TAKE HIM, NOT WHILE I’M ALIVE!” Dad was shouting back up at the house. My chin was trembling as he threw the truck into gear and got us turned down the laneway. I watched my mother lean against one of the porch posts and cry through the back window as we sped down the bumpy dirt road, faster than I’d ever been. Dad cursing the whole time. There was a sudden roar and rush of wind as shadows passed over us in the cold morning sun.

Three grey helicopters had passed over us, heading back the way we had come, low over the trees. They were slowing down. My dad was quiet now and I looked at him as I was about to start crying, but he had beaten me to it. That big, burly, bull of man, clung to the steering wheel like it was the last thing he owned, tears rolling down his face. His flask was open, sitting in the center console. I could smell it already and it was fifty miles to anywhere.

My name is Logan Rockton, and that was the last time I saw my mother alive.

Written by Bartlet

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