We were walking behind the hedge that screened our house from the street—it was my hiding place, my castle wall, my brother’s source of ammunition: wormy berries that stung and exploded red on impact. I had just glanced down at my new patent leather shoes and back up when Dad jerked his hand out in front of Mom. In the space between them, I glimpsed our front door. It was ajar. My brother Ricky and I came to a stop on either side of our parents, and Mom latched onto my hand.
Dad pivoted to face us and whispered, “Back to the car. Lay down on the floor and don’t
move until I come back.” He pressed his index finger to his pursed lips looking back and forth between Ricky and me.
We nodded, then Dad nudged us back toward the driveway.
Mom hurried us into the car and scrambled in behind us. Ricky and I hunkered under the glove box while Mom leaned over from her seat with her arm resting across our backs. Afraid that I would see a bad guy reaching in for us through the open window, I kept my eyes on Mom and Ricky and the space between the three of us all crouched there in the car. Following Dad’s order, I tried not to move, except for a shiver that ran down my whole body even though it was a warm day, including when my feet prickled with pins and needles. To stretch out a little, I rested my chin on the seat and stared at the creases in the upholstery that were supposed to make it look like real leather. Up close, I could see branching out from some of the creases were tiny cracks caused from the fact that our car baked in the Miami sun day after day.
After several minutes, Mom shifted around in her seat and fumbled to put the keys in the ignition while peering over the dashboard.
“Can we get out now,” I said, almost just mouthing the words.
She shook her head and leaned back over us. “We’ll wait another minute for your daddy.”
A couple of minutes later, a rapping on the car roof caused me to flinch, but it was one of those involuntary movements, as Mom would say, because in the split second after I heard that drumming noise above us, I knew it was Dad. No criminal would tap on the roof of a car where a family was hiding; he would sneak up quiet and slow. As Mom straightened up, Dad stuck his head in the car window and pecked her on the cheek. “Coast is clear,” he said.