We got home and Papa came up from the basement. It was Sunday so he didn’t work today. He was smiling and his eyes were glassy and yellow. He was dirty and he smelled bad. I passed close by him on my way to my room.
“Mama!” he said a little bit too loudly. I stopped. “Everything’s done, just like you wanted.”
Mama put her purse and stuff down on one of the two sofas in the living room. “Oh, no,” she said. “He’s found one of his old bottles downstairs,” she said.
“Ronnie, go put your stuff down and come back down. There’s something we need to show you.”
I trotted up the stairs, put my clothes away in the little drawer. Bret and I shared a white, two-drawer chest between the bunks. I came back down.
Mama got me off to the side. “Papa’s drunk,” she said. “Sometimes he gets mean when he drinks. I’ve called Andre’s work and he’s on his way home. He’s picking up Penny on the way. If he puts his hands on you, I’m calling the Police. If I tell you to run, get to the neighbor’s house and have Ms. Johnson call the Police. I’m not saying he will get mean today, but just in case he does. Do you understand?” I thought about Andre’s car. Andre had an old car he bought with his own money. He and Penny ride to high school in it, when she goes, which isn’t very much from the way they talked.
“Yes Ma’am,” I said.
“Mama?” Papa asked as he staggered into the living room. “There you all are. Didn’t you hear me?” He weaved as he pointed toward the basement door. “I got everything finished downstairs. Come see.” He staggered off toward the door. I had never seen anyone drunk before.
“Let me go first,” Mama said as she went around me. “He’s going to break his neck on those steps.”
Papa used both hands along each wall to help him walk down the twelve wooden steps to the basement, until the last few steps when he ran out of wall to hold to and had to use the railing. It wasn’t such a bad basement, as they go, but it smelled a little like mildew. It had cinder block walls. We followed Papa down those steps, then turned left in front of the washer and dryer. Shelves lined the walls on the left and there was some storage space under the steps. The area to the left past the washer and dryer was more open. Mama turned on lights. The big hot water heater was at the back wall and the sewer pipe from upstairs came down through near there. Straight ahead of us, against the far wall, was a door. It was an interior door like for a bedroom. Papa went to the door and opened it.
“And here you go, little cream puff!” he said with the silliest grin. I had to giggle a little at that one. Where did that come from? He laughed when I giggled.
“Special accommodations,” he went on to say. “That’s what the forms said, right Mama?”
She didn’t answer. She went into the room and clicked on the light.
I peeked around her. There was a single bunk like the one I had upstairs. She moved and I could see one of those two-drawer chests beside it. She went on inside and I followed. The room wasn’t very wide, but it was really long. Papa had put me a little writing table across from my bunk and that was nice. I smiled at him for that, but what drew my attention was the toilet, small sink, and shower with one of those old-fashioned, wrap-around curtains at the end of the room about seven feet from the end of my bunk. I had my own little bathroom.
“I had to put on a new showerhead, and a new drain pipe for the sink and a new section of brass pipe for the cold water for the sink, but everything works now,” Papa said, slurring while he talked, and his breath smelled like pooty gas.
“It’s going to get lonely down here, Ronni. Can you handle it?” Mama asked.