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It all began on my parent’s cedar chest. I sat Indian style with the flowery comforter wrapped around me creating a swirl of pink and green and yellow. The wood was hard and uncomfortable underneath me. My foot had fallen asleep and my back was protesting its prolonged curving. The chest lay on the foot of my parent’s gigantic bed. I could have easily crawled into the bed behind me, but I had to sit on the edge. Being eight I was enthralled by the talking cartoon bobcat bouncing around the screen. I didn’t notice the discomfort of sitting on a wooden chest for an hour.

It was Sunday, which meant football in my house. We liked the Redskins. The Redskins haven’t had a good season since 1991. This made my parents and my brothers angry. I usually ran up to my room when football came on.

I remember the yelling. It was faint at first, but it didn’t sound good. I thought the Redskins were losing. I was eight, but I grew up knowing the Redskins would never make you happy.

It got worse. I hoped they weren’t doing too badly. The bobcat stopped talking then. I slid off the chest scraping the backs of my legs on the rough edges. I wanted to see what all the noise was about. I crept down the stairs squishing my toes into the green carpet. When I reached the first landing I grabbed the wooden railing so I could thrust my head forward. I couldn’t see anyone on the couch. The wood of the railing was smooth compared to the chest. My fingers tapped each pole as I walked down the stairs

It didn’t sound like yelling anymore. There was screaming and tears. My mom was kneeling on the floor next to the bathroom door. My younger brother was crying in that messy way five year olds do.  His face red and shiny from the tears and dripping nose, mouth open. I walked past him.

The last five steps led me to my parents. I sat on the top looking down at them.

My dad was lying on the floor. He used to point at his flushed skin and brag that he was a true Redskins fan. I know now that the rust color of his skin was the product of working outside and high blood pressure. His skin was an awful ash gray that day. His body was cut in two by the doorway of the bathroom so I could only see his torso. He looked like he was sleeping. He wasn’t moving even though my mom was shaking him and yelling at him. There was vomit on the floor beside his head. I scooted down two steps to get a better look.

Suddenly my mom turned on me. She thrust the clunky phone into my hand and told me to call 911. I didn’t think I should. I was scared that I would get in trouble because you’re only supposed to call in an emergency. She pushed the phone further into my hand poking me with the plastic antennae. I clumsily pressed down on the buttons and listened to the ring.

The woman on the other end sounded bored as she answered with the standard, “911. What is your emergency?” I forgot my address. My mom got so frustrated with me she snatched the phone back. She was mad at me. Turning her back to me she told me to get out of here.

The bobcat was still on TV. Bonkers was his name. I crawled back on the chest into my flowered cocoon and stared at the picture on the screen. My dad had never been sick before. The doctors would come and fix him. I would apologize to my mom and she wouldn’t be mad at me anymore. My brother would stop crying. I would memorize my address.

My brother’s screams followed me up the stairs. I slipped out of my nest and padded across the carpet to the door. I found him on his hands and knees a few steps below the floor. I couldn’t understand him. I didn’t want to go near him. He seemed almost animalistic on all fours. The panic and fear was choking his words.

The ambulance announced its arrival with the screeching of sirens. My brother and I were sent next door while my parents rode off in the wake of flashing lights and chattering neighbors.



I was playing Barbies with Ansleigh, the neighbor’s daughter, when I started shrieking that my dad was dead. They told me I was being silly. They told me he would be fine. They were wrong.

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One Response to “Bonkers”

  1. Warren Rochelle Says:

    So what happened?

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