Rain on the Fourth of July

A hot dog and punch bowl sunset spiked with carbonated flickers of electricity greeted her as she pulled from the freeway. The off ramp was slick with condensation from frantic parents’ sweat while chasing their children like stray dogs across the park or back yard to the sonic fury of fireworks on this celebration of freedom. And the rain. In the rear view, a towering supercell spun, putting smiles on the faces of schadenfreude gods. Wolves. The road stretched on like an American flag flying over Iraq, over Saigon, over Korea, tattered and bleeding. She couldn’t remember a holiday quite like this one. Weeks of waiting on her father for help. Several days of hoping the man who provided half of her being would finally step up and do the right thing.

And now here she was, driving herself to Boise on the 4th of July, one of her few holidays off–the one day she could afford to leave behind her little apartment and little dog in Twin Falls, with her daughter strapped into the back seat and the rain alternating between plaintive drizzle and eye-gouging downpour–making the long haul to terminate the baby brother or sister her daughter dearly wanted because of one foolish mistake. Werewolves. It happened on the one night her paranoia took a short vacation, thanks to a few drinks after work, when she forgot to be wary of the shadows lurking around her. In a few moments, the scepters of hell had reached out from the shadows of alley and stolen her last breath of innocence.

Now, she drove with that primeval urge leading her on, because she knew the seed of a pure psycho was dividing and conquering inside her–a malevolent energy she couldn’t tame with love or might or negligence no matter how hard she tried. She drove because her own home state had decided–old white men had determined–to make it difficult for a woman to control her own destiny. Boise had one of the few remaining clinics where she could make a choice between raising a child she could never forgive for the sins of its father. She drove because she couldn’t handle the thought of one man’s violence raiding food or love or energy from her daughter, and not because it was always right, but because it was right for her and her life.

She called her father again. Pick up, damn it. Pick up. She wasn’t searching for his approval or love or a handout. All she needed was a place where her broke ass and her little girl could crash until the clinic opened up in the morning. Wherewolves. All she wanted was his couch for the night, his shoulder to lean on for a few short hours–the strong sad shoulder she vaguely remembered from her childhood before he turned into a ghost.

Pick up, damn you. Pick up. The phone rang, and her eyes slicked over like the windshield. The one time I need you. The one time I could forgive you for leaving us to fend for ourselves, and you can’t even pull it together. Wolves stuck together. With a last name like Wolf, her mom always said, you had to stick together. The lights of Boise bounced off the pea-green clouds. What would she do? She didn’t have enough for gas, a procedure, and a motel. They could sleep in her car, but she didn’t want to put her daughter’s safety at risk. Taking a risk, letting down her guard, was what brought them to Boise in the first place. She dialed one last time. Please, dad. The phone just rang and rang and rang.

“Hello?”

“Dad?”

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