"His name is Bobo."
My brother Bobby and I looked up from the Nintendo. Our parents had given us the new game console for Christmas, and we had been glued to the television set ever since. We were beyond obsessed with Donkey Kong Country. We spent our afternoons and weekends collecting bananas, swinging from vines, dominating the virtual jungle, and making bets about who would win the game first. I was convinced I would win by default because I was the oldest. Bobby said he would beat me because he was faster with the controller. The competition was fierce.
I punched a button and the animated gorilla was frozen in time, his massive hand ready to grab the next vine. Dad was standing in the doorway, a toddler-sized monkey clinging to the side of his rotund belly. The monkey's arms were wrapped tightly around his neck like a frightened child. I blinked, wondering if I was hallucinating. Maybe Dad was right - maybe playing too many video games really was bad for the eyes.
Bobby and I exchanged a look.
"Huh?" we asked together.
"Bobo." Dad stepped forward and pulled the monkey's arms away from his neck. He let the lanky brown creature crawl onto the sofa. Bobo walked the length of it and stopped at the end, his interest piqued by one of the frilly peach-colored throw pillows. The animal sniffed it and twisted his face in disgust. The face was remarkably similar to the one Dad made when Mom lit a cigarette.
"He didn't like that smell too much, did he?" Dad laughed. "I keep telling your mom to stop spraying perfume on those pillows. Makes the whole house reek like a brothel."
I opened my mouth to ask what a brothel was, but stopped myself. I looked at Bobby. He was sounding out the word, an activity he'd been practicing in his kindergarten class. "Bra-thul," he whispered to himself. "Braaa-thuuul."
"Bobby, erase that," Dad boomed. He always said that when he didn't want Bobby or I to repeat a bad word in front of Mom. I'd learned my lesson a few years before when I repeated "bullshit" at the dinner table:
"Mom, what's bullshit?"
"Honey, who'd you hear that from? Someone at school?"
I glanced at Dad, saying nothing. I didn't have to. Mom already knew.
"She's nine, Bob. For fuck's sake."
"What's fuck, Mom?"
"Oh, Jesus. See what you made me do?"
"Calm down, Denise. Krissy, just erase all that, okay?"
After the "bullshit" debacle, Mom had forced Dad to sleep on the sofa for a week. I felt guilty every time I passed him on my way to the kitchen for a midnight glass of milk. His agitated snores followed me down the hallway and echoed in my dreams. By the time Bobo entered the picture, Dad had started spending more and more nights on the sofa.
"Go ahead and pet him." Dad was saying. He gestured to Bobo, who was timidly inching toward Bobby and me. His ears were large and fanned out like Dad's. Mom called him Mr. Potato Head when she was really wanted to sock it to him.
"Does he bite?" Bobby asked. He raised his right hand and pinched the stem of his glasses. Both of us did that when we were scared or nervous. I instinctively touched the stem of my own glasses.
"Nah, he's just a baby. Here, let me show you." Dad knelt on the carpet beside us, reached forward, and patted the top of Bobo's head. Bobo responded with a high-pitched hiccup and a toothy grin.
"Where did he come from?" I asked, still not quite believing there was a mini-Donkey Kong in our living room.
"Grandpa Bill found him for me. Looks just like the monkey he got us when I was a kid." Dad tickled Bobo's foot. I wondered if I had any friends whose parents brought home pet monkeys. "Anyway, you two need a pet. No more of this video game business. I keep telling your mom that goddamn game will rot your brains."
Bobby sounded the word out. "Gaw-d-da-mmmmm." Bobo shrieked as if cheering him on.
"Erase that," Dad and I said together.
* * *
Mom had never been fond of animals. "They're just another mouth to feed around here. And a dirty one at that," she'd say whenever Bobby and I asked for a cat or a puppy or a hamster. "Your dad and I had a dog when we first got married, and he didn't do dick to help take care of it." Mom always referred to animals as "it".
Dad assured us that Mom would love Bobo. He hid the monkey in the bathroom and we all waited for her to come home from work. Bobby was excited; all I could do was touch the stem of my glasses. I could no longer predict what mood Mom would be in or what would trigger her screamfests. They usually had something to do with Dad. I was only twelve, but I was old enough to know that something wasn't right between my parents.
The backdoor slammed. Mom's heels clicked on the hardwood floor as she walked down the hallway. Her Chanel No. 5 reached the living room before she did. Then she was standing in the doorway, a bag from Payless Pharmacy dangling from her thin wrist, her sunglasses pushed up on her short black hair (Dad called it her "Terminator 2" haircut because it looked so much like Arnold's). We stared at her and she stared back at us.
"Why's everyone settin' here in silence?"
" Sitting , Denise, not settin' ," Dad corrected her. Mom's Southern colloquialisms annoyed him.
"We have a surprise for you."
Her dark eyes narrowed. "What?" she asked suspiciously.
"Hang on." Dad got up from the sofa and walked to the back of the house.
Mom set her purse and the Payless bag on the kitchen counter. She walked to the sofa and rumpled Bobby's hair. "You guys okay?"
Bobby leaned his head against her hip. "Yeah, mama."
"Why wouldn't we be?" I asked.
"I was just asking. What's Bob up to?" Mom had started referring to Dad by his first name.
"Uh . . . I don't know," I lied. I shot a "keep your mouth shut" look to Bobby.
Mom sighed. She reached into the Payless bag and pulled out two small brown bags. Her pills. I didn't know what they were, but I knew Mom acted differently when she took them-still, glassy, quiet, distant, on another planet. "In the zone," Dad liked to say. She twisted one of the orange containers open, popped two pills in her mouth, and swallowed them dry. Bobby and I looked on in silence.
"Mama, what are those?" he asked. He always asked.
"The doctor gave these to Mom to make her better, remember, honey?" Bobby nodded, but didn't seem to accept her answer. She looked at me. I turned away and looked toward the hallway, wondering what was taking Dad so long.
We heard Bobo before we saw him. He was clinging to Dad's neck again, his little face buried against Dad's shoulder. Dad smiled at Mom. It was the smile he reserved just for her. The smile that had once calmed her, softened her gaze, caused the corners of her mouth to shift from down to up. The smile that no longer penetrated her icy exterior.
"What the fuck?" She was flabbergasted. "Bob, what is that?"
"Meet Bobo," Dad said with a charm he had learned from his years as a beer salesman. He walked to the kitchen counter and held the monkey out to her. The tiled island stood between them like a barricade. "My dad gave him to me. I was telling the kids he looks just like the one I had growing up."
Mom made no move to touch Bobo. "Are you watching it for the day or something?"
"No, he's ours. He's our very own Donkey Kong." Dad winked at Bobby and me.
"Bob, you know I hate animals. That thing'll be shittin' like a goose on my new floors."
"Denise, the kids." Bobo yelped like the "National Geographic" monkeys we had watched in Mr. Farley's biology class.
"Seriously, Bob. That thing needs to go."
Dad's smile faded. "We can't just return him like a pair of shoes."
They stared each other down. Bobby pointed at the Nintendo controller as if to say, "Shall we resume?" I shook my head. All of us were on pause.
"Well, I ain't helpin'." Mom stuffed her prescription bottles back in their bags and tersely clicked down the hallway toward the master bedroom. By the time she slammed the door, I had snapped the stem of my glasses in half.
* * *
Bobo took up residence in our garage. He spent his nights in a cage and his days climbing the old plaid couch in the corner. Dad threw a fit whenever Mom smoked inside the house, and the plaid couch had been her nicotine sanctuary for as long as I could remember. When Bobby and I were in the garage teaching Bobo to do things like play dominoes and perform "Soul Train" dance moves, Mom sat on the arm of the couch and watched in silence, the smoke hovering around her head like a halo. When she reached the butt of her Virginia Slim, she stamped it out in the large, overflowing ashtray next to Bobo's cage and muttered obscenities: "This garage smells like petrified donkey turds", "Bob's an asshole", or simply, "Fuck this shit".
I told Bobby to erase all of them.
Dad was completely into Bobo. Every night when he came home, he went straight to the garage. When Bobby and I tried to join him, he told us to get back inside. "It's freezing out here," he would say. He stayed out there for hours in spite of the winter chill. Sometimes he stayed in the garage for so long, his dinner grew cold. He sat at his workbench while the rest of us ate, drinking cases of beer he hadn't been able to sell and giving Bobo free reign of the rafters.
Once in a while, Dad did join us at the dinner table, but he wouldn't come without Bobo. He would sit the little guy in the dining chair next to his and focus all of his attention on him. When Mom complained that the monkey stunk and needed a bath, he would fire back and say her spaghetti tasted nothing like his Sicilian mother's:
"Denise, this is more like Hamburger Helper." He held up a forkful of boxed pasta and ground beef, his face an atlas of displeasure.
"If you don't like it, you ain't gotta eat it," she replied.
"Don't say 'ain't', Denise. It makes you sound like such a hillbilly."
"I like it, Mama," Bobby said. He smiled, revealing the front tooth he had lost just before Bobo's arrival.
"Krissy?" she asked. It was more like an accusation than a question.
"Grandma makes good meatballs," I said after a long delay. Dad smiled with pride and patted my head. Then he turned to his right and patted Bobo's head.
Mom excused herself from the table.
On one rare occasion, Dad allowed me to join him and Bobo in the garage after Bobby had gone to bed. I sat in a camping chair next to Dad's "big boy" chair (an old office chair he had swiped from work) and we watched Bobo swing from the beams above Mom's car. It was a three-car garage, but my parents only parked one car inside. They often argued over who should park in the driveway and who should park in the garage. Mom usually won.
I had always been intrigued by an old photo Dad kept on his workbench. It's a Polaroid of him and Mom on their wedding day, nineteen and twenty-one years old respectively. They didn't have a lot of money, and their honeymoon consisted of a trip to the local Hilton just a few streets away from their apartment. Dad drove a pink Pinto back then, and someone had scrawled "Just Married" across the back window. Mom is leaning out of the passenger window still wearing her wedding veil and Dad is leaning out of the driver's window, his bow tie loose around his neck. I'm amazed by two things in this shot: Dad's tiny waist and Mom's huge smile. I turned my attention away from Bobo and searched for the photograph. There was now a beer can in the spot where it had been.
"Dad, where's that picture of you and Mom?"
"The one you had right there." I pointed.
"Oh." He grimaced, but didn't answer.
"Did you lose it?"
He sprung forward in the office chair, his cheeks flushed with anger. He gestured to the door.
"Krissy, get back in the house. It's freezing out here."
* * *
Eventually, Bobo grew on Mom. A few weeks after he became part of the family, she took some extended time off from her job as a payroll clerk. She spent her days smoking on the couch, watching talk shows, and staring off into space. She let Bobby and I play Donkey Kong Country for hours. When we grew tired of the game, we went to the garage and played with our own monkey. When we opened the backdoor, Bobo and Mom would be sitting on the plaid couch together watching the little black and white television on Dad's workbench. The garage itself looked black and white with the lights shut off and the cigarette smoke floating upward like a snake, Geraldo's voice charming it along.
Bobby and I learned how to do a lot of things on our own. On days when he had baseball practice, I walked him to the field and walked him home afterward. I was the only one who went to his games. When the coach asked where my parents were, I said they were on their way, then hid behind the bleachers for the remainder of the game. I didn't want to answer questions about why Dad would be working on a Sunday and why Mom would be at home passing the time with a monkey. When relatives called, I told them Mom and Dad were busy working and couldn't talk. I packed our lunches and prepared Bobby's cereal in the morning. I left a quarter under his pillow when he lost his other front tooth. When he cried, I consoled him. Then I would go to my room and cry in solitude.
One day when Bobby was at practice, I went home to get a snack. As usual, the house was dark and quiet. I ate a fruit rollup in the kitchen and debated going to the garage to see what Mom was up to. She was never up to anything new, never on the go like everyone else's mother. But I would feel guilty of I didn't check on her.
"Fuck, Mom," I said to the empty living room. It felt good to say it loudly and with extra enunciation on the "-ck".
I walked down the hallway, noticing the whole house had begun to smell like Bobo. Even Mom's perfume couldn't mask it. I opened the backdoor slowly, letting my eyes adjust. "Mom?" She would yell, but I turned the light on anyway.
She was lying on the concrete, her limbs limp like overcooked spaghetti. She looked dead. Bobo was on the couch with an empty Payless bag in his lap. He seemed to be as comatose as she was. I knelt on the ground beside Mom and shook her shoulder. A prescription bottle was on the ground beside her, overturned as if it had passed out along with her, the cap nowhere to be seen. The little blue pills were scattered around her like confetti.
"Mom!" I shook her violently. An anger I had never experienced passed through me. Why couldn't we just be a normal family? Even the family in "The Simpsons" cartoon Bobby and I had recently started watching wasn't this dysfunctional.
Mom opened her eyes. She looked at me in confusion, then took in her surroundings. Bobo looked on, his stoned black eyes glittering in the dim light.
"Is it morning?" She was groggy.
"No, Mom. It's the afternoon."
I picked up the bottle and started cleaning up the pills. I snatched the bag from Bobo's lap. There was another open bottle inside. Pills slid around the bottom of the bag, reminding me of the Sweet Tarts Mom passed out on Halloween.
"Did you take too many of these?"
She stared at the bottle. "I don't know. Where's the monkey?" Her voice was slow and languid, her drawl more pronounced.
I pointed to the couch. She turned and looked at Bobo with concern.
"Oh, fuck. Did he get into my shit?" She tried to stand, but fell back against the couch.
"Looks like it."
"Godamnit, Bob," she muttered.
"Bobo," I corrected her. Sometimes she slipped and called Bobo Bob and Bob Bobo. Bobby and I usually laughed when she did this, but this time it didn't seem funny.
"Will he be okay?"
She considered the bottle in my hand first, then the question. "I think so."
"Maybe you should take him to a vet."
"I ain't doin' that. He'll be fine."
Will you be?
"I need to pick up Bobby from practice," I finally said.
"Oh, is that today?"
"Every Wednesday," I replied with a bitterness beyond my years.
I waited for her to say something more, but she simply picked up the remote and flipped the television on. I headed to the door, Bobo's eyes following me.
"Honey?" She never called me honey. I looked at her hopefully, expecting a profuse apology, an acknowledgement, an explanation, something.
"Don't tell Bobo about this."
* * *
Sometimes Bobby and I talked Mom into bringing Bobo with us when we ran errands. Instead of a dog's ears flapping outside the window of our car, we had a monkey's. People pointed and honked. At first, the horn blasts scared Bobo. But once he was used to it, he loved the attention. I taught him to wave his hand Miss America-style. Mom taught him to wave his middle finger.
"Mo-ooooom," I would groan in disapproval as she and Bobo flipped off the car next to us.
"What?" she would laugh. I sank in the passenger seat of her blue minivan.
I often wished Mom was more like my friends' mothers: a sweet, blonde, skirt-wearing, brownie-baking, carpool-coordinating Mom who got involved in the PTA and read us bedtime stories. On rare occasions when she did show up for school and social events, Dad and I would both watch the other mothers longingly as they bragged about their kids and presented the host with a Jell-O mold. My mother spent most of these events smoking a cigarette behind the building.
One particular day, Bobo and I joined Mom for our nightly trip to McDonald's. Dad had started working late hours and she no longer saw the need to cook family dinners. As an adult, I've grown to despise those golden arches because we visited them so often. The scent of those pathetic little cheeseburgers makes me nauseous.
Mom stopped at a red light one block away from the restaurant. I was sitting in the front seat with Bobo in my lap. The talk radio station Mom always listened to blared in the minivan, white noise interrupting the host's baritone. That day, he was discussing President Clinton ending the trade embargo with Vietnam. I quickly zoned out. Bobo had fallen asleep against my chest. Even the monkey was bored to tears.
"Mom, can we listen to some music?"
She didn't answer. I followed her gaze to the gas station across the street. A man with black hair, glasses, and a considerable belly was talking on a payphone near the pumps. He looked like Ned Flanders, mustache and all.
Mom rolled the window down. Even from that far away, I recognized my father's guffaw. I squinted through the thick lenses of my glasses.
"Hey, look-there's Dad."
"I ain't blind," Mom said quietly. We stared at him, tried to read his lips.
"Who's he talking to?"
"Hell, Krissy, I don't know." Her voice was rising. "Why don't we go ask him?"
The light turned green. The brisk March air cut through the car and jarred Bobo awake. He stood up on my lap and leaned against the dashboard, taking in the street, the cars, and the people. He began to hoot when he saw Dad, his voice overpowering the talk radio host's.
"Shut your trap, Bob!" Mom snapped. I didn't bother correcting her.
She pulled into the gas station, tires squealing. Customers looked up from the pumps curiously. Mom stopped the car just a few feet away from the row of payphones and silenced the radio with a flick of her finger. Dad looked up from the phone he had been using, eyes wide behind his glasses. He dropped it back into its cradle. From my angle, I could see a stack of quarters on top of the metal box surrounding the phone. It reminded me of the Friday nights we used to spend at Chuck E. Cheese, our coin collection heaped on the table next to the pizza and pitchers of Coke. Dad and I had perfected the art of Skee Ball and air hockey. We hadn't been to there in months.
I held Bobo still with one hand and pinched the stem of my glasses with the other.
"Hi, girls," Dad said. "What a pleasant surprise." There was a tremble in his usually confident voice. He did not move forward to kiss Mom or me.
"Who were you talkin' to?" Mom asked.
"Uh, you know." He smiled crookedly. "Work stuff." He brushed imaginary lint from his work-issued Budweiser polo.
"At a gas station? Since when do you have phone conferences at the fucking gas station?"
"I sell products to these guys." He gestured toward the snack mart. "I'm at gas stations all the time, Denise. You know that."
My parents started at each other, arguing with their eyes for a long minute. I turned to Mom. Her eyes were wet. Dad shook his head and walked toward a destination I wasn't sure of. I almost yelled at him to take his quarters, but stopped myself.
* * *
On nights when Dad decided to work late, he came home after he thought Mom had fallen asleep. I had trouble sleeping until I knew he was in the house. I strained my ears, not allowing myself to doze until I heard the front door close and his shoes squeak across the hardwood floor. Instead of going straight to the garage as he used to do, he began going straight to the kitchen. The garage was next door to my bedroom, and when Dad came home, I could hear Bobo shaking the metal bars of his cage, desperate for attention. He shook them for a long time, and when he stopped, always abruptly, I imagined him falling over from exhaustion the way Donkey Kong did when he hadn't eaten enough bananas.
Dad loved to eat-food was to him as prescriptions were to Mom-but he especially loved to eat late at night. He fancied a lot of strange things during the wee hours-pickle juice, canned salmon, hearts of palm, sardines-but the one I remember most is raw hot dogs.
In the weeks following Mom's pill binge, the image of her passed out haunted me. I agonized over whether or not to tell Dad, holding out because I didn't want to cause a fight and because I didn't want to experience Mom's wrath. I had just turned thirteen and was dealing with things way beyond my maturity level, but even at thirteen, I knew the things I chose and chose not to say was a political strategy. I thought that if I erased the image from my mind and forgot it happened, the problems between Mom and Dad would disappear as well. But I couldn't get the image out of my mind. I was ready to explode.
When I felt I had gathered enough courage to tell Dad, I decided to spring it on him during his late-night snack hodgepodge. I opened my bedroom door quietly, passing Mom's room as silently as possible. Dad no longer slept in there with her-his new quarters was the living room. I reached the end of the hallway and stopped at the archway, watching as Dad stood at the counter and lined up his selections. He was clearly in the mood for chilidogs that evening. Sensing someone was spying, he scanned the room suspiciously. When his eyes met mine, he dropped the butter knife he was holding and touched his chest.
"Jesus, Krissy-you scared me." I felt as if I had invaded his privacy.
I don't know why I called him that. I hadn't called him Daddy since I was in preschool. He softened.
"You're up late. Everything okay?"
"Yeah. I'm just . . . hungry."
He smiled. "Chilidogs sound good?"
I've never liked hot dogs, but I nodded anyway.
I watched Dad place the thin logs of meat on a paper plate and put them in the microwave. He took them out after thirty seconds, then cut them into bite-sized pieces. It reminded me of the Saturday morning breakfasts he used to make for all of us. He knew everyone's likes and dislikes: Mom love for eggs benedict, my distaste for cottage cheese, Bobby's excitement over blueberry pancakes, our collective affinity for maple bacon. I couldn't remember the last time we had all eaten breakfast together.
He pushed the plate toward me.
"Mustard?" He held the bottle out. I took it and drowned the pink and brown with yellow. I picked at my food while he inhaled his.
"Wish I had time to make real chili," he said with his mouth full. Tell him. "Remember those cook-offs we used to have with the Indian Princesses? I made the best chili around, didn't I?" He smiled and rubbed his belly.
Indian Princesses is a father/daughter organization Dad and I had been a part of when I was in elementary school. Every week, we met with other fathers and daughters in town and sang, made crafts, and drank punch while wearing feather headdresses and saying, "How-how" to one other. We called our group the Cherokee and chose a native-sounding name for ourselves. Mine was Little Shining Star; Dad's was Big Stinking Buffalo. The other fathers chose Dad to be our tribe's medicine man, which meant nothing more than getting to wear a Davey Crockett-type hat with horns instead of a tail.
I had lost interest in Indian Princesses when I hit ten, but sitting in that kitchen with Dad a mere two years later, I longed for the days of sugary drinks, lanyard key chains, and "Kumbaya".
"Yeah, Dad. Your chili is the best."
He was now eating the hot dogs raw from the package. He looked at my plate with concern.
"Come on, princess-eat up. Hot dogs are your favorite."
* * *
Six months after Dad brought Bobo home, he seemed to forget we even had a monkey. Late nights had turned into all-nighters and all-nighters had turned into staying in the guest room at Grandma's house. Without Dad's enthusiasm, the rest of us quickly lost interest in Bobo. Mom had returned to work and didn't want anything to do with caring for an animal, even an animal that had once been her pill-popping, television-watching buddy.
Around the same time, Bobby and I beat the Donkey Kong Country game and moved on to Super Mario Brothers . Our obsession with monkeys turned into an obsession with deadly mushrooms and evil dragons. The only reminder of Bobo was the occasional cage-shaking. Sometimes we forgot to lock his cage at night, and the following day we would find him swinging from the rafters, hooting hysterically.
Visits with Dad became sporadic. He showed up without notice to see Bobby and I, which always upset Mom. They couldn't have a conversation without arguing and had ceased telling us to erase their verbal transgressions. Mom would watch from the open garage as Dad hustled us to the car, her arms crossed over her chest and her mouth twisted into an angry asterisk.
When we were well away from the house, Dad would shake his head and ask no one in particular when Mom had turned into such a bitch. I suggested menopause, which was something we had been learning about in biology.
"Men-o-paws," Bobby would say from the backseat.
Grandma was a chain-smoker and Dad didn't like taking us to her house, so during our visits with him, we fell into the habit of going to Bob's Big Boy for banana splits. We sat in the same booth every time and attacked the huge dessert with our spoons, often spoiling the fast food dinner Mom would give us later.
On the last day of school, Dad took us to Bob's Big Boy to celebrate. The hostess greeted us by name and went to check on our usual table.
"Your table is available, Mr. Brownell. Oh, and your guest has already arrived."
"What guest?" I asked as we followed the hostess.
"It's a surprise," Dad said with a wink. Bobby and I both touched the stem of our glasses.
We turned the corner and our table was in sight. Sitting in it was a beautiful blonde with an ivory complexion, a perfect smile, and striking blue eyes.
"That lady took our seats, Dad," Bobby said.
"That's our guest, son." Dad thanked the hostess and led us to the booth. "Kids, this is Janelle."
I didn't know who this woman was, but something told me she was the reason why Dad had been working so many late nights and skulking around gas station payphones. I wondered if my face betrayed my suspicion.
Janelle stood up, continuing to smile. She was tall, almost as tall as Dad. She went for Bobby first, shaking his little hand and patting him on the head. "Hi, sweetie. You're cute as a button," she said with a sing-songy twang I didn't recognize. Then she turned to me, her smile retracting slightly. She held her hand out. I didn't take it.
"Krissy, don't be rude." Dad laughed nervously. He pushed me forward slightly. I reluctantly shook Janelle's perfectly manicured hand.
Dad and Janelle sat on one side of the booth and Bobby and I sat on the other. He began to tell us about her. I registered bits and pieces: she's from Minnesota, she worked in the human resources department at Budweiser, she had been a teen model. She spoke to Bobby and I as if we were toddlers, saying she had a son close to Bobby's age and couldn't wait for us to meet him. My spoon went unused as she and Dad held hands and gazed at one another. Mom's face was in the forefront of my mind. I turned to Bobby. He seemed confused. I wished I could tell him to erase the entire hour we spent listening to Dad and Janelle's love story.
"Well? What do you think? Great, isn't she?" Dad asked as we headed back towards the house. He turned the radio up and started singling along to "Wouldn't It Be Nice?".
Bobby nodded. I shrugged.
When we pulled into the driveway, the garage door was still open. Mom's car was gone.
"She probably went to get dinner," I said as I got out of the passenger's seat. I couldn't wait to get away from my father. I helped Bobby out of the car.
"Krissy?" Dad said.
He turned the radio off. "I think it'd be best if you didn't tell your mom about Janelle. At least not yet."
I curled my fists into tight balls and nodded.
He backed out of the driveway. When he was about to pull away, I yelled as loud as timidity would let me:
"I fucking hate hot dogs!"
The radio was back on and my voice was drowned out by the Beatles. Bobby and I watched Dad peal around the corner. When he was gone, Bobby reached up, uncurled my fingers, and held my hand.
"Let's play Mario," he said.
Bobby disappeared through the backdoor. I stayed behind and waited for the garage door to close. Before I turned to go inside, I caught a glimpse of Bobo's cage. He wasn't in it. I looked up at the rafters. No Bobo. I searched behind the couch. Nothing. I went inside the house, panic filling my chest. I searched every room, looked under every bed, and checked each closet.
"Bobby, have you seen Bobo?"
"No," he answered, not looking up from Super Mario Brothers.
There was one more place to check: the backyard. I walked outside and scanned the grass, the trees, the vines growing along the walls, and the foreboding hill beyond the back gate. It looked like a jungle without Dad around to pick weeds and mow the lawn. There was no sign of life. The sun was almost down. Everything was still and quiet.
Bobo was gone.