One night in December during my senior year of high school, my mother had some kind of committee meeting and my father was drinking. Actually this happened a lot, but it only drove me out of the house this one time, because my brother was out somewhere too.

Mom was getting ready to go, piling up papers or books or something, her movements quick and angry, and Dad was shouting, taunting her. He was saying something about some woman who was "so damn sexy." I was watching them in the kitchen. Big soft snowflakes were coming down in the dark. Finally Mom walked out, her stonelike eyes fixed ahead; she didn't say anything to me. The dinner dishes were still in the kitchen. Dad was in the living room shouting back at some loud music on the stereo; his glass tumbler jumped on the coffee table every time he pounded the rhythm with his fist. My shoes were in my bedroom, in the basement, so I slipped out the kitchen door in only my stocking feet in the snow.

The car I always used that year was a 1967 Cutlass Supreme, a big two-door with a real screw-you interior -- metal and hard plastic on the dash, steering column aimed at your heart, lap belt only. The accelerator and brake pedals were sharp-edged metal squares with hard rubber caps that kept falling off. I felt the cold square of the brake pedal through my wet sock as I backed the car out onto the street and drove away, intending to return after Dad lost consciousness.

My sock kept sticking to the metal brake pedal. I had to keep wiggling my toes. The lights made stars in the ice crystals and frozen droplets on the windshield. They were Christmas lights. I drove around and around Sugarhouse Park and the commercial district near the freeway. The sugar in the original sugar-house must have been made from beets. When the Mormons first reached the Salt Lake Valley there were no maple trees, certainly never any cane fields. The sugary snow was twinkling. I don't know how I guessed the right amount of time to stay away. When I came home I couldn't hear him singing any more. I didn’t look for him. It was a little like giving up.

I always kept a large sharp pair of scissors under my pillow anyway. They were mostly for breaking my window and tearing out the screen in case he came to kill me. I never actually tried this but I think it would have worked. Mom wasn't home yet. She must have come in after I went to sleep.