Heavy rain furrowed against the corrugated metal of the shanty roof. You were sitting just underneath the overhang. Your feet were crooked awkwardly in the downpour, big toes splayed, as you tossed pebbles one after the other, chuck, zoop, pip, into a petroleum-swirled puddle out there in the mud.
For what, I asked myself, and closed my eyes against the sudden red light of hate that went off in my mind. It always does, when you sit there, chucking stones into the mud.
Inside the children were screaming, the bigger boys ganging up on the two littlest from the sound. I stood for a moment more, saying, Show me you are a father. Show me you are made of sterner things. I said it with all my strength, but I couldn't say it out loud. If I needed a reason not to, I had only to touch the still-swollen circle gracing my eye.
Instead I bustled inside again, clucked to the boys before grabbing a wrist, twisting an arm, hauling them off away from the wailing toddlers. The boys didn't want to be out in the rain, not this day, but I shoved them out anyway. Let it be spoiled for them, I told myself. Let it be a day of mud and stones for them.
I reached down to brush the hair of the littlest one, perfunctorily, but my eyes were already fixed on my tiny treasure. My hand burrowed as if with a mind and heart and heat of its own, seeking, finding, retrieving the gold-inlaid box from under the mattress all of us used for a bed. Such a pretty thing could bring us more than enough to eat for a week, two, however long it was until you dried up and sought another quick job. I was never going to part with it. You laughed and called it my amnesia gun, which it isn't, unfortunately. But any forgetfulness was what I needed, any at all.
I slumped on the mattress, closed my eyes, and smiled as I popped open the box.