Mrs. Larsen craned her neck to pull into traffic and drive the car away. “Where were you guys? I was worried.”
Mr. Larsen slapped the metal dash of the car with both his large bear-like hands. “You said you were going to be at the Ohio Theater. We drove up and down North Street,” he cursed and swayed side to side, “and no Rich. We didn’t know what to do. We were worried sick.”
Mrs. Larsen quickly added as she checked for the traffic signal, “I told you the Sigma, but you insisted the Ohio.”
“Shut up!” Mr. Larsen shouted, “For all we knew you could have been laying in the gutter dead.”
“So you went back to the bar?” The sarcasm slipped out before Rich knew it.
Mr. Larsen’s teeth were clenched tight and he stabbed his finger at Rich. “Look here you little smart-aleck, don’t get wise with me. We didn‘t know where you were.”
Rich tried to reason. “Why would I be at the Ohio when you left me off near the Sigma? And I said, Sigma!’”
Mr. Larsen pounded his massive fist into the seat. He bellowed and cursed, “We left you at the Cook’s Spot, but you said you were going to the Ohio, for god’s sake, the Ohio!!!”
Mrs. Larsen’s driving became erratic.
“But you left me off at the Cook’s Spot, that wouldn’t make sense for me to walk all the way to the Ohio,” Rich said.
“Grrrrrrrrrrrr!” Mr. Larsen growled like a wild beast and cursed. “How on earth did I know what you were thinking,” he yelled and pounded his fists on his thighs and screamed at the top of his lungs, “You are driving me crazy and killing me.” He grabbed a pack of Camel cigarettes from his shirt pocket and chomped the pack in half with his teeth and growled again.
“Let me out!” Rich pleaded through tears. He felt as if his chest was about to explode.
Mr. Larsen turned to Mrs. Larsen and shook his finger angrily at her. “What on earth is this crap with Frank Blaine. You two got something going on?”
“We were just talking,” Mrs. Larsen said innocently. She accelerated to make it through a light before it turned red.
“Talking!” Mr. Larsen said. “Every time my back was turned on you two, he was hanging all over you.”
“That’s not true!” Mrs. Larsen reached forward to wipe moisture from the windshield. “He just put his arm on my shoulder.”
“He was trying something with you and you liked it,” Mr. Larsen said, “and you wanted it.”
“Stop that kind of talk!” Mrs. Larsen protested.
“You were running around on me when I worked on the pipeline over in Indiana,” Mr. Larsen said.
“That was twenty-five years ago. I had to work ‘cause you weren’t sending any money home for us to live on. You was drinking all our money up and I wasn’t running around.” Mrs. Larsen slammed her hand on the steering wheel.
“I’ve worked like a dog my whole life and we’ve lived in nothing but holes,” Mr. Larsen said.
“Butch, you got to stop your drinking!” Mrs. Larsen slammed the wheel again.
“It’s not my drinking, it’s your runnin’ around,” Mr. Larsen said.
“Stop it! Stop it!” Rich cried pounding his hand against the window, “Just let me out of here. Stop the car. I want out.”
Mr. Larsen turned to Rich and grabbed the back of the seat as if he were choking the life from it. His face was furious and twisted in hate. “See what you started. This is all your fault!”
“He did not. It started before we picked him up,” Mrs. Larsen said loudly and pointed her finger at Mr. Larsen.
Mr. Larsen slapped Mrs. Larsen’s finger away, doubled his fist, and cocked his arm as though he were going to punch her. His elbow hit the passenger side window. Mrs. Larsen ducked down and the car swerved.
“Don’t hit her!” Rich screamed, lurched forward, and held his arms between them to protect his mom.
“I’m not going to hit her,” Mr. Larsen said. “If I wanted to, she’d be flat on her back by now.”
“Than put your fist down,” Rich sobbed.
Mr. Larsen relaxed and Rich sat back in the seat. He was now ill and felt as if he were about to vomit.
“He’s the one that got things all upset.” Mr. Larsen said. “You had to go act like a fool with Frank Blaine. Just admit it. You two have something going on.”
“For goodness sakes, Butch, come to your senses.”
“You and that friend of yours, Flo, ran around on me when you were supposed to be my steady,” Mr. Larsen said. “I heard you went up to Darrell Lotz’s apartment and spent the night.”
“That was Flo’s brother and he was out of town,” Mrs. Larsen said.
Mr. Larsen’s tirades were usually no more than a few minutes. They were always accompanied by outlandish accusations from the past and the vilest language possible. He stopped at times to listen to what he was saying and then seemed embarrassed. This time was different. It was not going away. It just went on and on. Mr. Larsen kept wildly flaring his arms, hitting the seat, pounding the car door, slapping the dash, and cursing.
Rich was a six-foot-tall fifteen-year-old cowering with fear in the corner of the back seat. He was ashamed of his posture and not being able to come to his mom’s defense. He was a coward, but if a gun were available, he would have shot him.
“I’m going to kill us all,” Mrs. Larsen cried out as if that were the final solution. The car accelerated and she steered toward a tree. “I can’t take it! I can’t take it anymore! I just can’t take it!!!”
“No, Mom!” Rich saw the tree in the headlights. “Don’t let him do this to you!”
Mr. Larsen grabbed the wheel and they wrestled with it. The car dipped into a ditch, slowing considerably. Thus, impact with the tree, only slight. The car rested in the mud. All was quiet except for the sobs of Mrs. Larsen and Rich.
“What’s wrong with you two?” Mr. Larsen said. “Are you crazy?”