She stood at the window and waited. Looking out through the space
in a row of bushes and the branches of an old oak that bent over the
front of the building, she waited. It was three weeks past since he
last walked down Muncie street, but nothing kept her from her vigil,
as her face strained swept with anticipation, that in the next seconds
he would come around the corner on his way home. She knew his route,
but waited here, the place where he called her from and where she
ran to his open arms. From here she would see him first come from
the right. Having jumped off the state street trolley that came down
western and stopped at 38th, three blocks from their house, no matter
the weather on weekdays, if he came home on time, it was always the
same. He wore a straw hat, and a spiffy blue and white suit that made
him look like a cross between a dandy and a private detective, which
were respectively what he did for a living and what he aspired to
It seemed to her he came around the corner the same way every time,
as if it were always a warm summer day, and late afternoon, where
the shadows were just starting to be stretched out into the giants
they would become just before the day ended. He always seemed to turn
the corner with his head up, looking at the entanglement of green
trees, black telephone and power cables, and the gray of that lone
street lamp down by the corner. His face had seriousness about it,
like he wasn't just looking at the cables up above, but counting them
to make sure they were all there, or to be sure they were in the right
place. It wasn't till he was crossing the street, moving around the
Howard’s beautiful black shiny Ford, that he would tip his hat
and then glide sideways across to the sidewalk just outside. He had
a big frame, very square, that true mick shouldering that spoke of
generations of farmers, or the new generation of forgers and factory
workers. She thought he had a sort of bigger then life, like the man
he had pointed out to her the day he had taken her to the ballpark
to watch her first ball game. Even if the man was fat to her Father's
thin, even if his hair was black to Father's blond to reddish curls,
they seemed to her to be cast out of the same mold. He had carried
her at the beginning of the game to the side where the man stood signing
popcorn containers and small cards with his picture on it.
He pulled her up so that they were check to cheek and whispered, "Marilyn
sweetie, that's the Babe. The greatest baseball player that ever lived."
She had no idea what it meant to be the greatest baseball player,
but she was sure that her assumption was right. They came from the
same mold. Her father was the greatest father that ever was.
So she waited. If you came down the stairs, -- it was a strange arraignment
for a box house like this, with the stairs behind the kitchen, so
you had the dinning / living room and kitchen between the front door
and the stairs to the bedrooms, -- and went through the kitchen the
first thing you would see is tiny Marilyn framed by that curved window
of the front room, watching and waiting.
Betty didn't care what her oldest little girl did, as long as the
child left her alone. Since two weeks ago Thursday she had been sleeping
almost all the time. Upstairs in the empty bedroom, if she could get
her youngest one to drift off in a nap, she would dress down to her
slip and go limp on to the big beautiful bed. She was drinking gin,
not that she had a taste for alcohol, but Warren had gotten her use
to gin, so gin was what she drank. When the heat soaked the whole
house as it did these days, she just took the bottle upstairs and
sipped from it with that lush tilt that she felt was more obscene
than anything she did on her own, that's why she only did it alone,
in the bedroom, in her hell.
When either Joy or something as little as the whine of the neighborhood
ally cat got her up she would reactivate herself by going down the
stairs with the bottle of gin, sort of to make sure the kitchen was
still there. She would put the bottle away and think to herself, how
she aught to make some dinner or something. It was dusk, which meant
it as at least 8:00, or 8:30. And there in the front window was Marilyn.
Watching and waiting. The child was really starting to under her skin.
He was gone, and he had made it clear he wasn't coming back, and who
did that little child think she was, the apple of his eye, the delight
of his days, that somewhere half way between here and California,
with that blond hussy cuddling up to him like the meal ticket he was.
She supposed her oldest child thought that Warren would realize that
he wanted Marilyn and turn around and come back. I ought to go over
there and just slap her from here till next Tuesday was Betty's first
thought. But the heat in her faded quickly. Like the reality of Warren's
departure, he just left cause he could, and she was back to being
nothing again, and she had no say, just like it always was. She looked
at her older daughter and shrugged, let her figure it out on her own,
it was about time that pudgy little child got a taste of reality.
So little seven-year-old Marilyn watched on till there was no light
left to see by. Since her mother never seemed to have enough energy
to get then anything to eat, she would then walk into the kitchen
and start fixing dinner. Already she knew that something had happened,
she just didn't know what. As if in the middle of the night a storm
had come, torn the world apart but because it had also been rebuilt
that same night, one would only know a storm had passed because the
special things and certain people were missing. The ones swept away
in the storm. Marilyn knew that her Father Warren had been one of
the swept away in the storm. But she could make her heart believe
it just yet, so she kept on waiting and caring on.
Marilyn without question had in the two years she had found herself
in the kitchen, become a better cook then her Mother had in all of
Betty's twenty nine years. It was one more reason for Joy to look
to Marilyn as much as she did her Mother for the things mother's are
suppose to give. Marilyn was making a rice and chicken dish, letting
the chicken and the vegetables, carrots, green beans, and an onion
simmer in the fatty juice. Joy just five came up to Marilyn’s
nose, -- Marilyn being a little tall as well as over weight for her
age, -- and Joy wrapped her arm around her sister’s shoulders.
Joy felt like asking if Daddy was ever coming home, but she had barley
breached the subject once before to which Marilyn had actually started
hitting her and Joy had run to Betty, crying, something she usually
did the other way around. So tonight Joy just hugged Marilyn, until
her older sister got tired of the weight, and gave Joy something to
do, like setting the table, or maybe pulling the bad leaves of lettuce
off for the salad.
At some point in the making of a meal Betty would make her way down
the stairs, stepping over to the sink or stove where Marilyn worked,
pushing her to the side saying in a reprimanding toneless direction
to do some other task of making the meal ready then the one she was
working on. Then Betty would make some comment about how much food
there in the preparing, "Who do you think you're setting a table
for? Course, I know you were thinking he might be coming in the front
door any minute. Well he ain 't. And we don't got money to be spending
on food that's only purpose is to feed your thick headedness, Marilyn."
Sometimes depending on Betty's energy she'd get a slap to go with
it, and Marilyn would then let slip out a cry, which she'd pull back
before it made it all the way out, a half cry. Marilyn didn't know
it but inside her a way of getting by in the world wrote itself in
her those days. She had up till that time believed in a world where
you could show your whole self. Warren had made that come out in her,
and she'd always be one of the type people who got involved with the
world, but not all the way anymore. Now when something brought her
out, showed a shine of that bright humanity inside each of us, she'd
pull some of it back. She'd make sure she was prepared for that slap,
and to hold back the cry that she no longer wanted, or could pay the
price of letting the world see her even the smallest bit broken.
Once she overcame her fear she found she liked pushing things a bit.
She recalled the way He had pushed the edge of Mother. The house could
smell of booze, but Warren wouldn't cop to any of it. He had a whole
roster of ploys. He'd usually start with the "What do you mean
you can smell that I'm liquored up. I'll tell you it's not me that's
been drinking, but you might be right, I might smell some liquor 'round
here. Have you been drinking!?! You have haven't have you Betty? The
boys told me you were a lush when I said I was going to marry you.
But did I believe 'm. Not me. 'Just cause Betty likes a drink from
time to time don't make her no lush boys' is what I said to 'm. I
told 'm right didn't I? You ain't no lush are you sweetie?"
He could go on for hours like this. For once he took the bull by
the horns, well Betty couldn't get them back. For Marilyn it was fair
play, a game that her Da should win. But the truth got hold of her,
somewhere deep, where there were more feeling then thought, so that
when she had to grow up, and she'd have to do it quicker then a child
should, she'd find she was hooked to the pleasure of providing pain,
which both her parents had a skill at. This dance was a lesson well
So now that Warren was gone Marilyn pushed.