Though I’ve never smoked meth, I recognize the long, clear glass stemand charred bulb. My pipe had a metal tip and bowl connected by ared plastic tube where I’d store my weed. As a teen, I carried it with meeverywhere, even on camping trips. Each morning, I’d tell my parentsI was taking a walk; then I’d crouch down in the tall grass and smoke abowl or two. I’d return with a bouquet of purple aster and silvery whitemoney plant or a handful of pinecones for the fire, an offering for ourcamp. Come afternoon, I’d sneak away with a similar lie.
Movement inside the trailer stops. A cat darts across the street.
“Where’s the officer?” I ask my father. “They’re getting ready to leave.”“Just calm down,” he says.
I watch him straighten his tools. When we pulled into the parking
lot, he hadn’t even seen the woman, and when I pointed her out, he only
shrugged. “I don’t pay attention to those things, Sis,” he said. His beard
turned gray decades ago, but I’ve noticed this past year how he’s aged,
how he squints and stoops like my grandfather used to. Last summer,
when we went bass fishing up the Snake River, he showed me how to run
the boat—“in case something happens.”
“What’s going to happen?” I nearly asked, though I never would. Our
conversations don’t dip beneath what’s practical: turn the key on the
motor, push the gear into forward, crank the throttle. When my mother-
in-law died, she had just turned seventy-nine—only five years older than
my father is now. It had to be on his mind. But like my teenage drug use,
it’s something better left unsaid. Just as we don’t talk about his atrial
fibrillation, his prediabetes, and how he drinks too much to be good for
Five more minutes go by. I look at my father. He refuses to carry acell phone and likes to go to the shop before six am. What if he’s working on a table one morning and they decide to rob him? What if he’s bentover a piece of wood, sanding it, and they hit him on the head? Then Ithink about Marie, the elderly mother of family friends in North Idaho.Twenty years ago, a mentally ill woman threw herself through the picture window in Marie’s living room and stabbed her to death with abroken teacup.
“This is ridiculous,” I declare and call the police department again.
A different dispatcher answers. “The sergeant will call you back.”Since I hadn’t received a call, I’d assumed he was on his way. “When?”“Right now.”We hang up, and a moment later my phone rings.