I sat on the bathroom floor beside the tub, splashing the water on my baby brother. Daniel was almost a year old, and I was just six. I held up a toy boat.

“Whee!” I shouted enthusiastically.

My parents’ fighting had escalated, and I wasn’t sure anymore why they were mad. They were looking for excuses at this point. Though I hated to hear them yelling at all, I was relieved whenever I wasn’t the target of their anger.

That night, they fought about the long wooden table in our living room. The year before, Laura had gashed her head open on the corner of it, and we’d driven to the hospital in the night so she could get stitches. The table sat beneath the front window, in the sun. My mother had picked a light finish for it; my father wanted a darker glaze.

“We talked about it! We agreed on this one!”

“I thought we said the lighter one!”

“No, we did not!”

I ran down the hall quickly and peeked around the corner into the living room. They were standing in front of the table, in front of the window, out in the open, face to face but not touching.

“Well, we’re not going to stain it that color, I can tell you that much!”

“What am I supposed to do with this then?”

“Take it back to the store! Get the darker one!”

“And what if I don’t?”

My father laughed. “Seriously, Emily. Just take it back.”


Just a minute!”

“I think Daniel is done with his bath.”

She whipped around to face me: “Now is not a good time!”

“I think he needs to get out now.” I had hoped this would stop the fight.

My father looked at me. “If you’re so concerned, why don’t you take him out?”

I shuffled back to the tub and pulled out my brother. He was a little big for me to handle, but I knew I could lift him, and I had carried him farther than the length of the house before.

I carried him in the towel to the changing table in the room that was once mine, dried him off, and put a clean diaper on him, just as I had seen my mother do. I chose a pair of blue footie pajamas that had been handed down from Laura to me to Victoria, and finally to Daniel, struggling to dress him as he squirmed. I put him into his crib and sneaked out, careful now not to draw my parents’ attention.

from The Book of Revelation

previous chapter - next chapter