My mother's voice was low and concerned, begging at times that my father slow down. My sister and I did what we always did when my father had one of his rages; we hid. In this case there was no bed under which to take cover, so we simply covered our faces with our hands. We were coming home from Doug Henning's magic act.
The day had started out with my father distressed because his pants no longer fit. He was in a fat mood, and on our way to the car that morning, my mother, sister, and I had to step around piles of discarded trousers and belts that had been slammed to the floor.
It was a day off from school. A special treat that was to begin with a Christmas shopping expedition to Paramus Park, our favorite mall, and culminate with the Broadway show. In Paramus, we drove for forty-five minutes looking for a place to park. When another car beat us to a space, my father rolled down his window and screamed at the woman who got there first, "You moronic bitch!"
My father had taken a vow of starvation. He was not going to eat the entire day. My sister and I guiltily indulged in potatoes tempura at a food court table, while my father sullenly chained Merit 100s.
The best thing about the city was the roasted chestnuts. After we handed the keys over to the parking garage attendant, on our way to the show, we passed several vendors, but I knew better than to ask. Finally, my sister did. We got in line, but there were a couple people ahead of us, and after a few minutes, when we were next to be served, my father changed his mind, telling us we didn't need any more goodies.
I don't remember much about the Magic Show other than my need to constantly look over at my father, to see what his face was doing. At one point he nodded off. I remember a woman volunteering to have knives thrown at her.
It was night time, and we survived the tunnel, but still my father yelled. He hated Christmas, he said, he hated the city, he hated everything. When we got to Sloatsburg and then Tuxedo, he kept passing entire lines of cars. All along the road headlights of oncoming vehicles were directly in front of our car. I could feel the lights come through my hands, against my eyelids, the blackness becoming orange. The bags of Christmas presents in the trunk clunked from side to side as my father weaved in and out of traffic.
When we got back to our town, my father stopped the car at the corner store for cigarettes. While my father was in the store, my mother hunted for the glove, which she found under the rubber mat up near the fuse box. My father came out of the store with a carton of Merits and two giant Hershey bars. My sister and I sat quietly and watched my mother hold my father's gloves up to him. We watched them embrace. We watched the silent shudders of his back, up and down as my mother's arms wrapped around him, his two leather gloves still in her hand.