The fireworks went off every year about ten blocks away from our house. None of the neighborhood was too tall, so we could watch them from our windows. Dad said we couldn’t go to the porch. Since the fireworks covered up any noise, gangs usually had their standoffs that night. Sometimes whole rows of houses would be burned out by morning.
Saturdays, dad and my brother got up early to do yard work. I’d wake up with them and watch TV. I ate store brand Lucky Charms, that’s all we ever had. The old Japanese cartoons were my favorite because the dubbing was so badly done they were fun to watch. Dad and Ian could never get the grass to grow. The dry spots just spread every summer.
July 24 the water was shut off. Dad went into town to talk to someone and mom called a few people but it never got turned back on. Dad didn’t come back until after I was in bed. I watched him and mom whisper to each other from the top of the stairs.
Ian cut himself by tripping on one of the cracks in the sidewalk that same day, but no one seemed to care.
Mom left the next Monday.
Dad, Ian, and I watched TV the rest of the day. Dad made a frozen pizza for lunch and dinner. The day after he went to work as normal and never brought it up again. Ian stayed in his room a lot for the next couple weeks. He was mom’s favorite.
In August, I came back from school and the power was out. Dad packed up our toothbrushes and some clothes and we went to the gas station. We slept in the car, used the gas station bathroom, and ate the hot food that was behind the counter. Dad’s friend Rob let us borrow his gas stove, so we went back home. Someone tagged the side of the house with “worm.”
A piece of paper was taped to our front door. It was an eviction notice. Dad never took it down so they might think we never got it. Soon we got a letter. Then we got another letter saying that they saw that we took our mail in, so they knew we got the first letter. Dad stopped going to work. Instead he started stripping the copper out of the walls.
The scrapyard guys paid him $1.50 per pound at first. Then they started saying that the copper was #2 so he only got 85 cents.
On a Tuesday, Dad woke Ian and I up early. The sun hadn’t even made its way through our window yet. He told us to pack our bags. Dad emptied the rest of his small gas can into the truck. We drove away and never came back.
more by TYLER CLIFTON
photograph by Christopher Windus