When my father comes after me now I make him melt. That way I’m not so afraid. He still yells at me, but with his neck melting his voice warbles and I can’t understand what he’s saying. His melting arms are floppy, like rubber bands, so when he hits me it doesn’t hurt as much.
I didn’t know you could make things melt, but you can if you look at things the right way. I learned that at the library from a book of paintings by a man named Salvador Dali. He’s dead now, but the book had a photo of him, with wide, huge eyes that look like they’re shooting arrows at you. I bet he could see through anything. He put melting clocks in one of his paintings. One’s melting off a table, one’s melting off a tree branch, one’s melting over some horrible dead creature lying on the ground. I don’t know why he did that. Maybe he was afraid of time like I’m afraid of my father. I don’t like clocks either. When I look at a clock I know I’m only getting closer to the next bad thing that’s going to happen.
The next bad thing will happen when my father gets home from work. I threw a rock at the Simpsons’ dog taking a crap near our driveway. My father hates dog shit on the lawn. I missed the dog and broke the windshield of my mother’s car. My idea was smart, but my aim was terrible.
My mother called a taxi and disappeared. She goes off by herself a lot these days. My sister Lindy’s always with her friends. We used to watch movies together, the four of us, in the family room. We went to a rodeo once, and a circus. Now we all go everywhere alone.
If I try to talk to Lindy she says “Shut up. For godsake, don’t you have friends?” But I can’t invite other kids to our house. Mom or Dad or Lindy might start shouting. At school I don’t act smart or brag about anything, but three eighth-graders keep hitting me. I don’t know why they do that.
When Lindy’s home she shuts herself in her room, but I see through her door with my Salvador Dali eyes. She keeps her breasts on her dressing table. I want to go in and touch them, but she keeps them in a birdcage with a little padlock on it. There’s a man in there with her, too. He’s completely naked, all scrunched up in a big glass jar shaped like a missile. He keeps looking at her like he’s about to cry, but Lindy mostly ignores him. Sometimes she looks at him and laughs.
Mom’s sister, Aunt Sarah, came to visit last weekend. She brought her own special coffee. “Hawaiian,” she said. “Organic. I cannot drink that grocery store stuff.”
My father called her an idiot and told her she was “getting above herself.” That sounded crazy at first, but it’s not. In Dali’s paintings, elephants go above themselves. They walk up in the sky on super long spider legs. I want to go above myself and be a cloud. I won’t be soft, though. I’ll be thin and stretched out, a white shark cloud with wicked teeth. No one will ever hit me again.
Evening now. Cloudy and windy. From my bedroom window I see Mr. Simpson’s cornfield. In May, I helped him put up poles for four scarecrows, different sizes, to match my family. Mr. Simpson likes us, and he likes lots of scarecrows to keep crows and deer away. We each gave Mr. Simpson some old clothes for the scarecrows. It’s September now. We’ve been out there all summer, and we’ve fallen off our poles, all except my straw father. But he’s flapping around in the wind and sliding down his pole.
I hear rumbling. A thunderstorm’s coming, or my real father just pulled in. He always revs the car up loud before he turns it off. He’s probably already seen the broken windshield.
My straw father’s on the ground now, down with the rest of us. The wind blows harder, and we all start spinning away through the field, tumbling in different directions. We’re coming apart, losing our old jackets and pants and hats. Our straw’s being ripped out of us, too. It whirls up in the air and blows away, the precious straw scarecrows are made of.