It was one of those sticky hot Missouri nights, when even the wail of the cicadas seemed to swim through the wet heat. We were waiting on the curb in a dark spot under Old Man Woodbury’s oak tree, squatting silently. We took up the spot directly across from Andrea’s house because it gave us a good view of what was happening inside. We could see right into the house through the big window in the front room. Not that we needed to see anything – we could hear everything we needed in order to understand what was going on inside the house.
And we were not strangers to Andrea and her “family meetings”. Andrea always had a family meeting on Saturdays. Randy, her stepdad, said it was good to account for their many sins before the Sabbath and so they all gathered in the living room late Saturday afternoons to let Randy lash out at them: Andrea, her mom and her little brother. So, yeah, it wasn’t much of a meeting – and there was nothing family-like about it.
We felt somehow protected by the big oak while we stared into the darkness and listened to the pained cries of Andrea and her family and the husky screams of Randy belittling them for their various imperfections. We were all misfits ourselves, some of us with our own Randys and all of us on the outside edges of life.
When the yelling and crying subsided, we would pick up our bottles of alcohol – whatever we had been able to scrounge during the week – and head inside Andrea’s house to drink and play cards together, a rowdy bunch finding courage in fifths of Jack Daniels.
Randy let us drink and pretend, and so we overlooked the violence he inflicted on our friend. And we all knew that as long as Andrea was the target of his sexual molestation later, when we were all drunk, we would say nothing. Randy was the man in charge of the family anyway and it wasn’t our business.
But hell, the whole neighborhood knew. It was on display every week in the picture window of the front room.
None of us ever did anything to help Andrea. Not that night or any other one. And that was just the way it was.