Dodging a Jim Beam bottle hurled in her direction, Haley bolts through the back door and runs on a dirt path to the river, where she takes cover under thick foliage to avoid her angry, intoxicated father. In a few hours, when Hank passes out, she can return. The following morning, he won’t remember any of this. His drinking worsens after paydays and on his wife’s death anniversary. Haley wishes her mother was here to appease her husband’s rage.
An hour later, she hears twigs snapping under heavy footfalls and smells of alcohol carried on the breeze.
“Girl, you better show yourself if you know what’s good for you, or you'll wish you were never born.”
Haley hopes her Pa can’t hear her teeth chattering and her heart pounding.
“Lord, don’t let him find me, and please don’t hold it against me for wanting him dead.”
Hank trips on a root and slams into a tree, knocking him onto a sharp rock. He rises, sways sideways, and falls into the river. Under a full moon, his daughter sees the back of her father’s bleeding head and splayed long limbs. She heads home when the swift current carries him around a bend.
Haley eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, drinks milk, and goes to bed. Tomorrow she will turn 10. Waking refreshed, Haley counts on one of her friendly relatives from out west to claim her. She rides a horse with the wind combing through her long chestnut hair in her dreams.