When it rains at night, I wake up to my sister across from me in bed. She is usually awake and staring and I tell her to go back to her room and sleep. She tells me that it is too noisy in her room, can’t she just stay in mine? It happens every time now, every time it rains.
“Where do you think mom is?” she wants to know.
“Out,” I say.
“It’s late, when is she coming home?”
“When you go back to sleep.”
“Shouldn’t she be home?”
My sister goes on like this until I’m up and now I’m up. She asks me to teach her another card trick. So far, I’ve taught her the Two Card Flight, the Burning Rush, the Cardeenie Single, and Flipping Aces. I went through each one step by step and she’ll ask me to do it again and again and she’ll never learn them. It’s the process, I guess.
Mattie comes into join us and I don’t like when he gets junk in his eyes and he doesn’t like it when I clean it out. He buries his head in my sister’s lap and she pets his head and looks up at me. ”At least you can see me clearly now, can’t you?” I say and he looks away.
Sometimes on rainy days Mattie hides in my bed just before.
There’s a tree in the courtyard that my sister is afraid of when it’s windy because it scrapes against her window and she says it sounds like ghosts are knocking. I ask her Why not vampires? She shrugs. She likes the tree though, when we are outside. We used to hang my GI-Joes from the branches and she would throw them around the big ones so that they would be tied up. She’d put her hands in her pockets and watch me climb the tree. She’d say sorry and do it again.
I got the impression she always meant it though, the apology.
“Do you want to go to the tree house?” she asks me.
“In this weather? I haven’t taught you the card trick yet.”
“Please? We can look for mom getting home.”
Dad’s old treehouse he built just before he was gone. It sits out there and it is not quite finished and I don’t know if it is still safe. But I say that we can go and my sister gets her rain boots on.
We run outside the raindrops come down hard and hit my sister’s back. I watch them bounce off between her shoulder blades, hunched over. She runs and splashes me through each puddle and looks back and mouths Sorry to me and I just push her on to keep running.
We climb the ladder and I tell her Careful not to slip and Mattie is barking at the backdoor. I wave for him to come over and he runs out with his tongue out, his hair flopping and then matted down, wet. Under the tree, I grab him between his legs and my finger falls to the part on the side of him that hair doesn’t grow from when my sister hit him with a stick playing fetch. She cried and it was Mattie who consoled her, bleeding. I hold him in one arm and climb up.
In the tree house, the rain is loud and it makes it difficult to talk. Mattie wags over to my sister and they hug, both wet and now wetter. The branches rub up against the walls and in big gusts, I’m afraid that they might break through. My sister takes a peek out the door and into the storm and says, “I don’t see mom.” Mattie puts his head on her lap.
I walk over to one of the walls to see if it’ll hold and I put my hand on it and it feels wet and shaky. I try to push one of the screws in that came out a little near the roof. I can’t quite get it. I turn to ask my sister and she is asleep on Mattie, looking at me, the rain coming down harder now and the street light goes out.