My little brother and I were making a snowman in the front yard when our father pulled his old green truck into the driveway. The door opened with a squeak and he stepped out, a broad smile on his bearded face.
“Hey boys,” he said before heading into the house. Shortly after, the familiar shouting erupted.
We were forming the snowman’s head when my father stomped out, slamming the front door so hard, snow fell from the roof and buried the remains of my mother’s flower garden. He got in the truck and drove off without looking at us. I knew we wouldn’t see him until late the next day after he’d slept off a hangover.
I could see tears threatening in my brother’s eyes, so I took his hand and led him inside. “Let’s have a snack,” I said.
In the kitchen, I grabbed the step stool and placed it next to the counter so my brother could help me make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He always made a mess of the jelly, turned the counter into a sticky fly trap, but I knew how much he loved doing “big boy things.” I hoped it would distract him from my mother’s crying, which was echoing through the quiet house.
“Wanna watch cartoons,” I asked when we finished making the sandwiches.
My brother nodded and smiled as I ruffled his wild brown hair. “Take this,” I said, handing him the plate of sandwiches. He followed me into the living room and I grabbed the remote which was peeking out from under the coffee table along with an empty beer bottle. After switching on the television and finding the right channel, I turned to my brother. He was staring out the front window, the plate tilted forward, the sandwiches in danger.
“The snowman needs a head,” he cried.
I looked outside. The last time we’d made a snowman, my father came home drunk and stumbled into it, knocking off its head. My mother had been pacing the living room floor, waiting. After watching my father’s run-in with the snowman, and listening to his struggle with the front lock, she lit into him. Their shouting woke my little brother and he cried until my parents shut up, my mother retreating to their bedroom, my father throwing himself on the couch. I let my brother crawl into my bed even though it was barely big enough for me, and I listened to his breathing as I stared at the ceiling, kept awake by guilt over my desire to leave and never look back.
“We’ll make a new snowman tomorrow, buddy,” I said. “Promise.”
Lisa Lerma Weber lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and son. Her work has recently appeared in (mac)ro(mic), Serotonin, TunaFish Journal, X-R-A-Y, and others. She is a prose editor for Versification.