The fact that my dad moved out did not surprise me. It had been coming a long time. I had expected it, even wanted it. What surprised me was the scene I found when I came home from soccer practice that day. I walked through the kitchen door, saw Mom standing at the long kitchen counter, the one we climbed on as kids and helped roll biscuits on. She held a meat mallet in one hand, tenderizing steaks for dinner. Across the room was Dad, leaning on the table drinking a Budweiser, looking as if nothing had happened though his sweaty brow and shaky hand told me otherwise. And then there was my older brother Robbie, sitting on a chair in the middle of the room, his eye swelling yellow and green the size of a baseball. My mother looked up briefly. My brother appeared beaten, but his one good eye told me otherwise. No one spoke. Then Dad grabbed a steak off the counter — a thick juicy one that Mom had not yet pulverized — and placed it gently on Robbie’s eye. “It’ll help,” he said, as he made for the door. He glanced back once, not at my mother and not at me, but at Robbie, who half-shrugged, half-nodded.
My mother took the floppy Popeye-remedy from Robbie’s eye, offered him a cold-pack and a dose of ibuprofen instead. Then she placed the steak on the counter and pounded it tender.