The Night Child,

Pasatiempo - - Holiday Writing Contest -

“So what do you think would help her?” I said, to change the sub­ject. “I mean, what would put an end to all this?”

“Dis­ci­pline,” her dad shot back. “Knock some sense into her. I don’t mean phys­i­cally,” he added in haste. “But she’s got to have more su­per­vi­sion. I’m ob­vi­ously not the guy to do it.”

“She gets away with murder,” Elaine put in. “He does ev­ery­thing for that girl.”

“She didn’t just wave that knife at me,” her fa­ther re­peated, with con­vic­tion. “She came at me hard. I grabbed a piece of wood and blocked it. Oth­er­wise I’d have been done for.” “And there was no warn­ing?” “None at all. Well, she’d been get­ting in trou­ble a lot, but she’d never come af­ter me be­fore.” “Scared the heck out of me,” the girl­friend con­firmed. We crossed the gorge. In the dark, it was like skim­ming over a vast pool of ink. “What does her ther­a­pist say?” “Not much, un­for­tu­nately. She’s about at the end of her rope, too.” “Tabby is on med­i­ca­tions?” “Three or four dif­fer­ent ones. They don’t seem to be help­ing.” I glanced over at him. He was silent now, maybe hop­ing to catch a few winks. He looked tired be­yond mere ex­haus­tion. Tired in the spirit. I read the signs: this was a man who had given up. It was in his voice, his pos­ture. Like Job, he lived be­tween af­flic­tions.

When we ar­rived at the hos­pi­tal, Tabby was al­ready in the ad­mit­ting of­fice, all smiles now, pep­per­ing the clerk with ques­tions about Billy and Sally and Jevon and her other lit­tle friends from the hos­pi­tal. “Most of those went home, honey,” the clerk said. “Peo­ple don’t stay long here.”

It took 30 min­utes to do the pa­per­work. When the or­derly came to take her up­stairs, she hopped right into the wheel­chair. She was shout­ing at her dad to bring her this, bring her that, no hos­til­ity now, just a self­ish, de­mand­ing child. The clerk and the or­derly ex­changed dis­ap­prov­ing looks that said, Hasn’t any­body taught her some man­ners? I fig­ured the doc­tors would give her seda­tives to keep her asleep far into to­mor­row.

It was a quiet ride back, ex­cept for when I asked the girl’s fa­ther if she’d be re­turn­ing home af­ter the hos­pi­tal.

“I don’t see how she can. My daugh­ter tried to kill me, sir. I don’t know how to make that right.” I didn’t ei­ther. When I left them, we shook hands. “You’re do­ing the Lord’s work, sir,” he told me.

I drove off, wish­ing the Lord would do more of it. Chan­dler Scott McMillin moved to Santa Fe five years ago from Washington, D.C., and was di­rec­tor of an emo­tional trauma treat­ment cen­ter in Santa Fe. He has co-au­thored seven books on ad­dic­tion.

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