I can’t sleep because my Daddy is in trouble. He seems nervous all the time. No cameras around make me feel things are bad. Mommy and Daddy still fight, even Nana can’t stop them. There were lots of cameras when we were in Japan and Daddy was making a movie.
All I know is that when other people are around, you smile. It is never okay to forget to smile if there is a camera around. Looks are very important. You never know when someone might be taking your picture? It’s very important to get your picture taken as much as possible so that it can be in magazines.
Sometimes Daddy takes me and Jeb places just so we can get our picture taken. I always smile and know who has the camera and how to pose according to the mood and occasion. I don’t know how I know, but I do.
I try to go to sleep with the covers pulled up around my neck to protect me from the vampire I know is going to get me if I ever let my guard down. I try to stay awake as long as possible so I can catch his shadow in the window. My plan is to scream for help but I’m afraid I will shout air since that is what happened when Andy’s kids locked me in the closet with a Boogie man mask hanging on the light bulb. That was the worst night of my life. I screamed and just air came out. No one could hear me.
If the vampire comes, I have two plans. One is to sneak away. Two is to make friends with it. I will tell him I have seen all his movies and that he’s wonderful, but if he was smart, he would just kiss those pretty girls instead of biting them because that is what they really want. Even though it is a nice effect coming through the lace curtains blowing in the wind, he would scare people less if he just used the door. Then I fall asleep, but not tonight.
Daddy went to Mexico to make a movie and promised to bring me back a donkey for my eighth birthday that is 18 days away. I hope it’s a real donkey because once I wanted a Chihuahua and he gave me a Terrier. Daddy didn’t think I would know but I looked it up in a Dog Encyclopedia. Yep, different dog. I guess he thought that because it was small it would be okay. But this time I want a real donkey for my party.
I really want a pony, but since he’s going to Mexico, I think a donkey will be quicker. Daddy promised and gave me a hug on the stairs. I like to climb four steps high and fall into his arms and so I did. It would have made a good picture.
I still can’t sleep so I get my Japanese music box and bring it to bed with me. It plays Sakura when I lift the lid on the piano. I loved Japan and was sad when we left because the maids gave us a big box of origami with a thousand cranes in every color. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Rainbows of birds, animals and flowers. We had to leave it behind because we couldn’t take it on the plane, but I got to keep this music box they gave me.
That’s probably why my wish didn’t come true. There is a Japanese luck story that says if you fold a thousand cranes you will get a wish. The pretty maids came to our hotel room everyday and taught Jeb and me how to fold the little paper birds. I was folding as many as I could.
Tokyo was strange and busy, where everyone smokes. Mommy and Daddy were separated and then got back together for me and Jeb. We all flew to Tokyo, and Nana too, because Mommy would need someone to talk to because Daddy would be working all the time playing an astronaut that saves the world from Godzilla.
Landing in Tokyo was crazy because we went from hotel to hotel with Daddy running to the windows to see if they opened. When they didn’t, we would all jump back in the taxi and Mommy would say “Oh God Nick,” as we drove to the next hotel to repeat the same routine. Finally at the Hilton they had real windows that opened and were not sealed shut because Daddy needed real air. We finally found the perfect hotel at the Hilton, the most magical place ever.
There were Toucans inside the hotel. The owner was a real Sumo wrestler with a fat belly and walked around with a black rubber band up his bare bottom and his shiny black hair in a bun. Big, huge goldfish in orange, black and white called Koi swam in ponds that were INSIDE the hotel.
In Japan, people bow to you and are nice and polite. The mothers carry their babies on their back so I tied my Tiny Tears to my back too. That made everybody smile. When people have a cold they wear a mask so germs don’t spread. I think that’s a good idea.
I learned to say goodbye in Japanese. Sayonara. Onogato means thank you. Never blow your nose in a napkin. Daddy did and Mommy was embarrassed. She was embarrassed when we were in the elevator and the doors started to close before the people could get on.
Daddy put his hands between those doors like Hercules and made a really loud noise and opened those doors with his bare hands! People clapped and took pictures. When all the people were gone Mommy said, “God Nick, do you always have to be such an ass?” Which is a bad word, but Mommy said it anyway. This was before Daddy called Mommy a horse. The baddest word.
Daddy called Mommy a horse on the phone when he didn’t know I was there. Then he said that was the baddest word in the world and to never say it. So I whispered that word to all the kids at school.
“You mean the horse you ride?”
“No, I think it’s a different kind.”
I don’t want to think about that so I think of –
and the ladies wearing silk kimonos pouring tea,
smoky churches with waving flags and bald men in red robes.
Roosters running all around.
I remember the white triangle Mount Fuji
and the little miniature Godzilla standing tall
over a model of Tokyo city inside the studio.
Mommy, Daddy, me, Jeb and Nana all posing
for a picture at the airport with everybody smiling.
The wind is howling but we smile anyway.
Me and Jeb think Mommy and Daddy are back together, but we’re wrong.
I listen to Sakura over and over rewinding the little knob so it will keep playing,
Finally I can barely keep my eyes open.
I hope I get a donkey.
– A man screams in the darkness. Don’t take me! Bad men in black are whispering, I can’t understand what they are saying, it’s a strange sound I’ve never heard like an echo with deep low voices. The room is so dark, where am I? A basement, dungeon? A scary movie? The man is fighting with the men. I see his hands reaching up, he’s shouting No, No. I see blank faces, I can’t see faces, only dark suits, he’s fighting with no clothes on. They drag him from his bed. They are all around him in a circle. A hand raises and the man is quiet. The dark figures carry him out above their heads in a line. A door opens and they are gone.-
I wake up from a bad dream screaming Daddy! Then I hear mommy crying in the living room.
I’ve never heard mommy cry like this. I had heard her cry a lot since she and Daddy were going through the divorce and sometimes after we went to the court we couldn’t see her. Usually she tries not to show it, like she is crying inside. Not tonight, I can hear her loud and clear.
Daddy told us she was bad and that he loved us the most because he bought us all our toys. I didn’t think my Mommy was bad and I told that to the Judge. I said I wanted to live with them both and that I loved them both the same.
The Judge didn’t believe me because she gave me and Jeb to Daddy. I don’t know why because Mary, the maid, always takes care of us in Watts where we aren’t allowed to sit on the furniture. I’m always still hungry after we eat liver and ketchup with rice, and sugar if we can sneak it. We have fun with Mary’s 5 kids running around the neighborhood and we all sleep in the same bed. I wonder what would happen if Jeb got caught stealing those candy bars from the market? But I don’t think he will because he’s really good at it.
The best part is singing at Baptist Church where me and Jeb are the only white people and were dunked in a pool with our clothes on. The only time Mary is happy is when she’s clapping her hands to Rockin My Soul in the bosom of Abraham. Then one day Daddy showed up and said “Come on kids, you belong with your Mom,” and we left.
The phone rings again. I make myself get out of bed because I’m not allowed to be afraid and go down the long, dark hallway with pictures on the wall with everyone smiling. My knees are shaking.
I get to the living room high above Sunset Strip with a million lights twinkling below. A wall of glass shows the glowing blue pool shaped like a kidney. The long cord to Mommy’s gold princess phone reaches across to the middle of the carpet where Mommy is crumpled up. She picks up the phone and I hear a voice. Then click. Mommy is so upset when she see’s me she cries “Go back to bed.” She hugs me but I know she means it and I run back to my room.
I don’t want vampires to get me so I pull my covers up around my neck and watch the window for any shadows. Why is Mommy crying? I’m scared. My dolls will protect me. He’s got the whole world in his hands, he’s got the itty bitty baby in his hands, he’s got you and me brother in his hands, he’s got the whole world in his hands...I wonder if Jeb is okay?
I can still hear Mommy crying.
I know my Daddy is dead.
(Excerpt from “The Daddy Box, a daughter’s memoir” by Allyson Lee Adams. Copyright 2008-2015)