"Hello?" Dad's usual chipper voice answered, and I could have deflated into a useless sack at the sound.
I remember being excited at the sight of the vast sandbox, as he scooted me through the gate and closed it swiftly. As if he didn't trust me not to try and dart through before he could get it latched, which was a fair suspicion. But for the time being, I was completely enthralled with my buckets, plastic shovel, and endless amounts of sand.
I would soon be distracted by the racket dad was making while he walked on top of our house. I didn't know we were allowed to do that. I stood, gripping the fence with my tiny fingers, mesmerized by his movements. Crouched down he swung a tool, smashing it against the top of the house.
Soon, I toddled from my observation post, wiggling the gate to test the kind of gap I could create. I wriggled my body past my confines and hurried as fast as my chubby legs could carry me. The loud noises had stopped, and I could no longer see dad.
A tall metal staircase leaned against the house. I could climb that.
So I did.
To my surprise, dad was nowhere to be seen on top of the house anymore. That's weird, he was just up here. Right? I began walking across the rough surface on top of my house, when I heard dad's voice. I edged closer to where the top of the house ended.
Dad was on the ground now, looking up at me with big, round eyes.
"Myrn," he stuttered, as if he was really having trouble with what he wanted to say next. "Just sit down, baby. Sit down and wait for me." Dad didn't move until I did as I was told. I sat.
He disappeared from view, but I heard rushed footsteps, the scrape of the metal staircase, and then I saw dad again. I wanted to jump up and run to him, but his eyes had left me for just a moment to stare at a gaping hole in the top of our house.
I stayed seated just as he said, watching him rush forward and scoop me up. I wrapped my tiny arms around his neck as his arms shook around me.
"Good job, Myrn."
The fence was gone around the sandbox. It never did my parents any good anyway. I always found a way out of it, no matter how many times dad tried to tighten the gap between the gate and fence.
I had buried my legs under the sand, looking around the yard for something else to do. We had a lot of green grass to run around on. Including a sloping hill that led to our pond.
Dad was cutting the grass, his music earmuffs secured around his head. I huffed, standing up from the sand and walking to my bike, bored. I rode around the cement circle that surrounded the sandbox a couple times, before abandoning the bike beside the basketball hoop.
I grabbed the plastic handle of my red wagon, taking my barbies around the cement circle, telling them to keep their hands and feet in the ride at all times.
Not that it would do them any good as I ran too fast around the circle, causing the wagon to topple over, the passengers scattering about the sand. I sighed, setting the wagon right side up, eyeing my Barbies, a beautiful idea blossoming in my tiny mind.
I steered the wagon to the top of the hill, spotting dad mowing by the creek that ran along the very end of our yard. I hurriedly hopped into the wagon, my body jolting the plastic thing forward enough that it started down the hill at surprising speed.
I realized the flaw in my plan too late as I rocketed toward the pond. I was screaming before I could even think of what else to do. I screamed so hard my throat felt like it caved in, the taste of pennies filling my mouth.
"Daddy!" I screeched, knowing he wouldn't hear me over his music earmuffs. "Daddy, help--" I was cut off just as the front of the wagon hit the water. Someone had snatched me up before a single trickle of water could touch me.
I wrapped my quaking arms around dad's neck, “Oh thank you, daddy. Thank you.”
Uncle John and Dad talked by the pond as I drove around the dirt track that circled the very back of our yard. I was driving our forest green, electric golf cart around as my cousin Megan convinced my parents to let me stay the night at her house.
I already had a navy canvas bag packed with Pj's and jeans. The bag sat on the seat next to me as I drove, singing "All-American Girl," by Carrie Underwood.
I glanced down at the seat, to find it was empty. I stopped singing, as I looked behind me to find my bag slipping out the back of the cart. I grabbed onto it, but suddenly, I wasn't on the dirt path anymore.
I gasped, placing both hands on the wheel, but too late as I rockted across a patch of grass right before I dropped into the creek. Luckily the summer had been hot, we hadn't had much rain, so there was very little water on the bottom.
"Myrna!" I heard from above the creek. I craned my neck to peek from under the golf cart's roof.
"I'm okay. I'm okay!" I announced immediately. Dad swore a few times, before he hastily lowered himself into the creek. I cringed at the idea of his bare feet scraping against rocks.
Dad landed in the creek with a sickening squelch, tugging me from the golf cart to engulf me in a hug.
"Sorry, dad," My voice wavered.
I was face down on our musty couch. I was already in a foul mood, so I didn't want to deal with looking around the dusty old farmhouse we lived in. It was tiny compared to the castle I once lived in. I missed our yard, the pond, and sandbox.
Dad and I had just returned from my driver's test. That I had failed. I didn't even make it out of the parking lot. I couldn't parallel park, and there was no way I was reversing a whole car into a parking space. I had stormed into the house, but dad was still outside.
I raised my head when I heard loud clanking coming from outside. Great dad was most certainly dismantling my poor Calavlier. I wasn't worthy to drive her. My poor Bertha had a failure as a driver.
I rose from the couch with a groan, crossing the dining room into the kitchen, so I could peek out the window. Dad was installing metal poles into our tiny yard, near the shed. He had already installed four poles that he decorated with rope.
I chomped down on my lip as I realized he was making me parking spaces. The one he completed was deep enough for me to back into and the one he worked on now was for parallel parking.
I rushed to the back door, flying through the storm door. I watched as he finished tying off the final rope. He looked up to meet my gaze.
"Practice," Dad demanded, pointing to the Cavalier. I nodded, tears clouding my eyes.
The next time I took my test, I yelled "nailed it," as I successfully, and without hesitation backed into the parking space, using my mirrors.
"C'mon, baby, just a little further," I coaxed my Cavalier as the engine whined and the temperature gauge told me she was overheating.
"Fuck," I whispered as I rolled into the parking space outside of my townhouse. I turned off the car immediately and threw the keys in my passenger seat. I chewed my lip for a moment, staring at the clock.
Would Dad be awake at 11:27 at night? I sighed, leaning to the side so I could pull my phone from my back pocket of my jeans. I huffed once more as I hit his contact button on my screen.
I held the phone up to my ear, holding my breath as I counted the third ring.
"Hello?" Dad's usual chipper voice answered, and I could have deflated into a useless sack at the sound.
"Hey papa," I replied innocently.
"What's wrong?" he drawled.
"Bertha is overheating and I don't know what to do?"
"Does she need coolant?"
"Probably," I replied instantly.
"Do you have any?"
"Absolutely not." I let out a nervous laugh, as dad laughed lowly.
"Alright, I'll be up in an hour, or so."
"Tonight?" I asked, leaning forward in my seat. "I only have classes tomorrow, and I walk to campus, so I can wait until tomorrow." Guilt swirled in my stomach. If all she needed was coolant, I could buy that. Then figure out where it went.
"You sure?" Dad asked, doubt laced his voice.
"Yeah, my last class ends around six, let me buy you dinner." I fell back into my seat relieved.
"Alright, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Thanks, Papa, I love you."
I slammed the hood of my truck closed as I wiped my hands on my shirt, licking my lips as I tried to focus on anything but my nerves.
"Myrna, it's time. We have to start getting ready," my sister chastised from the passenger seat.
"Yeah," I replied, suppressing an eyeroll. I was well-aware that my wedding started in forty-five minutes and I still needed to shower. I slid into the driver seat, reveling in the sound when my truck turned over. It was the family truck we've had since 2005, Dad had gifted it to me when I graduated college.
I was about to pull out of the extra parking in front of my house and drive onto camp, but I slammed on the brakes as a woman pulled up in front of me in her car. A guest for my wedding, but I didn't recognize her. Angry anxiety swirled in my belly as my composure finally broke.
We hadn't been able to set up any decorations for the ceremony or reception the night before because of rain. I had been up since 7 a.m. frantically throwing my wedding together with the help of my bridesmaid. My husband-to-be had put his mother in charge of cabin assignments, but she wasn't quite as familiar with the Boy Scout Camp he worked for, where our wedding was taking place. So, his mother was... not as helpful as we needed.
So, as his mother talked with the stranger blocking me, the bride, from getting ready for my wedding, I sat behind the wheel sobbing as my sister tried to frantically tell the women to move. Finally the older lady in her car got the message and pulled out of my way.
I squealed my tires as I jolted forward and over the speed bump, flinging my sister and myself forward violently. I drove slowly down the dirt path as I tried to gain control of my emotions once more. My sister muttered reassurances from beside me.
"I'll go to the store and get you new flowers." She glanced at me. "And maybe some booze." She typed frantically on her phone as I sniffled violently. Right, because she had depetaled the daisies that were supposed to be for my bouquet, mistaking them for my flower pal's daisies.
We made it to the cabin where everyone was frantically getting ready. Originally I had planned to french braid everyone's hair myself, but we obviously didn't have time for that. Thankfully, my fiance's best man had family who owned a salon. She did all our hair for free.
I stood alone in the loft, my lilac colored dress wasn't tied as tightly as I wanted, and I felt stupid wearing my mother's pearls. My bridesmaids had all filtered out of the cabin, walking to the ceremony area. Was I supposed to walk? I huffed, shooing away the last of the women from the cabin, stepping outside alone.
I surveyed the lush woods, inhaling the intoxicating scents of leaves, dirt, and drying rainfall. The sky was gray, only letting the sun breathe for brief moments before concealing it once more. I sighed, about to start walking toward the fire pit, when I saw movement through the trees.
I fought tears as I watched my dad roll up in our forest green golf cart.
"Need a ride?"
Money had been weighing on my mind a lot lately. I just so badly wanted to get paid to write my stories. I was tired of working myself silly for retailers who most certainly didn't deserve me.
I was haunted by my massive credit card debt, not to mention my husband and I owed my dad money. When the Boy Scouts lost the camp my husband and I previously lived on, the county bought the property and gave my husband a job. But since the county doesn't have their workers live on the property, they asked us to leave.
We found a townhouse, thanks to one of my co-workers at my useless retail job, but my husband's bank account was frozen due to suspicious activity. We had no way to pay our move in costs.
I sighed, leaning my forehead against the window I had been staring out with unseeing eyes. I straightened up and exited my office, eyeing the closed bedroom door warily as I descended the staircase. I haven't been able to visit my family lately. I was either working or sleeping, and when I wasn't working or sleeping I was writing.
I was so close to a completed, polished manuscript I had to make sacrifices when it came to my social life. I stood in my dimly lit kitchen, my only source of light was the one above the stove. I felt hopeless, and uncertain. I didn't know what I should do. I pulled my phone from my robe pocket.
I held my breath as I counted the rings.