A Pair of Black Garbage Bags

At 2 am

Mom woke us up in the middle of the night

gave my brother and I a pair of black garbage bags

“Put as much winter clothing as you can fit inside these bags, when you run out of warm clothes, you can begin with the toys,

then meet me downstairs.”

this was not the first time we were given this instruction

so Edgar and I basically knew how to proceed

but it was never easy

Edgar was only 6 and he had great trouble accepting

that he would have to give up an action figure

in place of a sweater

a nebulizer in place of a lite-brite

when we were done,

we headed downstairs

where our mom held out her arms to both of us and we all huddled together

Dad had not beaten her up in a number of years but Mom still made us move every time

she spotted his car in the towns we lived

he didn’t approach us anymore

it was as if he just wanted to be in the vicinity

I had seen him a handful of times from the backseat of Mom’s car

in Temecula, he was helping some people move a sofa into their apartment

in Tahoe, he was putting on someone’s snow chains on the side of the road

in Spokane, he was up on a ladder working on a faulty street light

when I was little

he seemed like a pretty nice guy to do these things

but mom said

he wasn’t doing it out of kindness

it was how he “stayed afloat”

the night she told me this

I dreamt my dad was on a busted-up oil freighter on the high seas

running around patching up all of the holes

just as he plugged one another would open

“Boys we are going north to Canada —

what do you know about Canada?” asked mom.

“The capital is Ottawa.” I said.

“It’s cold,” added Edgar.

“Very good.”

“Will there be snow, Mama?” queried Edgar.

“More snow than you can imagine in that little mind of yours.”

There was a big smile on Edgar’s face now

and my mother made her face look like his once she spotted it

“Mom why can’t we go back to Los Angeles where it’s warm?,” I ventured to ask.

“You know we can’t ever go back there, hijo.”

I did, but it didn’t stop me from asking the question every time.

“Okay mis hijos, my loves. Time to go.”

And then the three of us went out into the cold

or what we considered cold

because a lot of what I thought I knew back then

we left behind in that house.

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4 thoughts on “A Pair of Black Garbage Bags

  1. misskzebra says:

    I like the way you structured this. It made me pace my reading very well, and had an interesting effect.

  2. Brieuse Bernhard Piers-Gûdmönd says:

    This is brilliant.

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