By Gerard Hall

As Scout drifted off to sleep, he heard arguing coming from his parents’ bedroom. He didn’t know exactly what they were arguing about, but it didn’t matter. All he knew was that they were upset about something. However, that didn’t bother him a whole lot because they had been mad at each other before, and they were always able to work out their differences. Scout tried for several minutes to fall asleep, and as he finally felt his eyelids getting heavy, he thought his mom said, “I’m leaving tomorrow.” With that last thought, darkness covered him for several hours until he woke up later to daylight.

It was nice and bright out as Scout got ready for the day. There were rays shining through his window, and even though Scout noticed a few dark, ominous clouds off in the distance, he didn’t think much of it.

He continued to get ready and when he put on his shirt, he noticed it was a little tighter than normal. That bothered him a little bit; it was a nice white t-shirt with a drawing of his family that he drew when he was in kindergarten. The shirt was tearing in several places, and there were holes in between the places where him and his parents were drawn, so Scout was bound to throw the shirt away soon enough. However, Scout thought that it must have shrunk in the washer when his mom was doing laundry. Scout wasn’t that big of a kid, even for a seven year old, and his parents would have surely said something if he was growing. They were waiting for him to get big enough to play a sport, such as soccer, so that he could go and make new friends.

Anyway, he threw that shirt in his laundry pile and decided to wear a blue shirt with a picture of Iron Man on it. His dad got him that shirt for his birthday, and it never failed to put a smile on his face whenever he wore it.

Scout made his way downstairs to the kitchen where he saw breakfast being made. His mom was making scrambled eggs while his dad was making sausage links. The smell of breakfast always put a huge grin on his face and the scent itself was intoxicating. However, today was different. Instead of that nice pleasant aroma of greasy sausage and salty eggs, he smelt something burning. It smelled as though his parents were making charcoal and they didn’t even realize it.

Scout called out to his parents, “Um Mommy? Daddy? Are you guys burning breakfast? It smells like Dad’s farts!”

When Scout asked this, he saw a look of shock come over his mom’s face. She had been so lost in thought that she didn’t even realize what she did. She immediately turned off the stove and glared menacingly at her husband.

“Damnit, Adam. Why didn’t you tell me I was burning the eggs? Thanks to you, breakfast is ruined!”

Her husband sighed. “Whatever you say, Sweetie.” He gritted his teeth. It seemed like he had something to say, but he didn’t say anything. At least in front of Scout.

After they had set the table with the plates and silverware, along with the burnt food, they all sat together and ate. Scout figured his parents were still mad at each other from the fight they had last night because they weren’t sitting by each other. In fact, they were sitting on completely opposite sides of the table, not even looking at each other, but rather down at their food. With no conversation, Scout took this time to study them and figure out what they were thinking.

His mom had her fists clenched and she seemed to be sweating all over. She gritted her teeth and her muscles appeared to be very tense. Scout rarely saw her this way, and he had enough common sense to know that when she got this way, he needed to be as far away from her as possible until she cooled off.

He became surprised however, when he turned and studied his father. His dad just looked down at his plate, not even picking up the fork and trying to eat. His face was pale white, and he had several deep sighs. He looked overwhelmed and stressed out.

“Scout!” his mom yelled, hitting him across the back of the head. “Don’t stare at people. It’s rude.”

“Hey, leave the poor kid out of this!” his dad snapped. “He has enough to deal with without you abusing him”

“I’m only teaching him a lesson,” Scout’s mom screamed. “This is what I can’t stand about you Adam! You’re always…”

“Betty, please,” Adam said, as calmly as possible. “Don’t go there. At least not now.”

It was a very long, awkward moment. Both of Scout’s parents just stared at each other. Adam, with a pleading look, and his mom, looking as though she was ready to kill him. Scout could hear distant thunder and when he looked out the window, he saw the clouds rolling in even more, this time covering the whole sky. Scout could feel the hairs on his neck standing and could tell his face got red and warm. He only wanted to retreat up to his room and hide from his parents. “What happened last night?” Scout wondered.

Finally, his mom broke the uncomfortable tension. “Fine.” She sighed. “I’m going upstairs. I’ll be back down in a little bit.” With that she threw her napkin onto her plate and headed upstairs, slamming the door behind her.

“I’m sorry you had to see that, Scout,” his dad said.

“What happened last night, dad?! I heard you two fighting, but I didn’t realize how crazy it was until just now. What were you guys fighting about?”

“I’ll tell you later,” his dad said, a little embarrassed. “Now isn’t a good time to talk about it.”

“That’s what you always say. You never tell me what’s going on,” Scout said.

They both sat in silence for several moments. Scout thought about his parents and the many fights they had gotten in before. They had always been able to make love and forgive each other within a few hours after every fight. Why was this fight so different? Thinking about all of this put a pit in his stomach, and a single tear left his right eye. “Hey, Scout,” his dad finally said. “Do you want to have some father and son time today? We can go to the mall and get ice cream. We can even get that new Pokémon game that you have been wanting.”

Scout sat up and wiped his face with a small grin appearing. “Sure. Only, while we’re out, could you tell me what is going on between you and mommy?”

Scout saw his dad sigh and it looked like he was thinking about how to respond. Finally, his dad said, “Sure, bud, we can talk about it. It’s only fair that you know what’s happening.” “Thanks, Daddy,” Scout said.

“Let me finish getting ready upstairs and then we can head out.” With that, before his dad headed upstairs, Scout gave him a hug. However, Scout noticed a concerned look come across his father’s face. What was wrong with dad? What did he have to tell Scout?

So, Scout waited downstairs while his dad finished getting ready. While he looked out the window, he saw that it had begun to rain. It wasn’t pouring just yet, but he heard the thunder roaring loud and clear, coming significantly closer than before. Despite this, however, he jumped for joy inside because of how much he wanted to spend time with his father. He hardly got to see his dad due to how much he worked. He had an office job where he worked early in the morning and went very late into the evening, long after Scout was in bed. He gave his family a lot, but he always sounded so sad when he talked about his work. It’s as though his dad was Iron Man fighting off Thanos, but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t win. Scout didn’t understand why his dad always kept working if he never sounded happy with what he was doing.

Scout went to sit on the sofa and when he put his arm on it, there were springs poking out of it that cut him.

Scout let out a cry and his mom yelled from upstairs, “What’s wrong?”

“Oh nothing. I got a little scratch, but I’ll be ok.” This reminded Scout of when he was in kindergarten and he was playing tag with some of his friends on the playground. The school needed parent volunteers to help watch the kids during this time and his mom agreed to come watch the kids at recess. While they were playing tag, one of his friends pushed him too hard and he scraped his knee against the concrete, leaving cuts and marks on his knee. With tears in his eyes, Scout approached his mom and told her about all of his owies. He wanted her to somehow make the pain go away, but instead of trying to do that, she got down on one knee and talked to him at his level.

“Would Iron Man run and cry if he got a bunch of owies?” his mom asked.

“Well, no. But…”

“Would Spider Man back away and hide if his enemy, Venom, hurt him?”

“No. He would keep fighting.”

“Right. So why don’t you be like those superheroes you love so much and fight through the pain?”

So, with that Scout wiped his face, brushed himself off, and ran back out to play with his friends. And ever since then, that’s how he has dealt with his pain, to just keep fighting through it.

While Scout waited, he noticed a large yellow suitcase waiting by their front door. He recognized it as belonging to his mom. He wondered why her suitcase was downstairs. Where was she going?

As he thought about this, he heard footsteps coming downstairs. He saw that it was his mom carrying yet another suitcase. It was another large one. This time though it was green.

Scout didn’t understand what was going on. What was his mom doing?

“Hey, Mommy, where are you going with those suitcases?”

But before his mom could answer, his dad was calling from upstairs, “Betty, wait,” and raced down the steps where he confronted both his wife and his son.

“You promised you wouldn’t leave like this! In front of Scout?”

“Well, I changed my mind. I can’t stand living here anymore.”

“What’s going on?” Scout asked with a little bit of terror in his voice.

“Scout, I…” his father began but struggled to find the right words to help the situation.

“I’m leaving your father,” Betty said. “He and I are always fighting, and I can’t put on this facade anymore of pretending I love him for your sake, Scout.”

“I-I don’t understand,” Scout said, choking back tears. “Daddy! Is this true?”

With his quivering lip and his bloodshot eyes streaming tears across his face, Scout noticed that his dad was completely silent, not even trying to offer any words for comfort. It was as though a chain was wrapped around his neck, preventing him to breathe, let alone speak.

“I didn’t want you to find out this way,” Adam said.

“Then how was he going to find out, Adam?” Betty yelled. “Were you just going to hide the truth from him the way you’ve been hiding from him the last three years of his life?” With that, she went to face her son, kneeling down to meet him at his level.

“Scout, honey, I have to go. I can’t continue to be unhappy living here. I’m sure you’ll understand one day.”

With that, she opened the door and went out toward her car. It was completely pouring rain at this point. The icy wind blowing as hard as bricks with streaks of lightning flashing across the sky. Scout just stood in utter disbelief as he watched his support and help leave before his very eyes. As he watched his mom back out of the driveway, he had this deep desire to run after her. To try and stop her before she got away.

So, without even realizing what he was doing, he ran out into the frigid, harsh winds, the rain completely soaking him from head to toe. Running as fast as his little legs could carry him, he called out,

“Mom! Mom!” hoping he could catch her before she got away. However, by the time he got to the end of the driveway, his mom had driven off, her car becoming just a small dot fading away.

Scout stood outside for several moments, allowing himself to become completely drenched as he tried to process what just happened. A tidal wave of emotions and thoughts flooded his mind as he tried to figure out how to even respond. Finally, a sense of anger and rage filled him, and he let out a large scream toward the sky. With a bolt of lightning and a sound of thunder as loud as a cannon, Scout collapsed on the driveway, pounding his fists into the concrete ground again and again. Scout heard his dad running toward him, but he got up and completely distanced himself from his father, not wanting to be touched.

“Stop. Leave me alone,” Scout said, without evening turning to face his dad.

“Scout…” his dad began.

Scout turned around. “Don’t even try to comfort me!” Scout snapped at him, tears running down his face. “Why were you trying to hide this from me? Why are you never in my life, leaving me to face the bad guys by myself?”

“Oh, buddy…” his dad began.

“Forget it. I’m going inside. Why don’t you just keep letting me fight through the pain on my own? You and Mommy seem to be pretty good at that.”

Walking while looking down at the ground, Scout tried to make his way inside. However, his dad grabbed him and held him close to his chest, allowing a burst of sobs and heavy breathing to come over him. As he continued to hold Scout, Adam kept saying, “I love you” to him again and again. With individual tears running down his own face, Adam just continued to hold Scout, stroking his brown hair, reminding him that he loved him and that he would always be there for him.

As Scout and Adam continued to stand outside, the rain came to a drizzle, with a rainbow that could be seen far off in the distance