There it was again, that same thumping noise above me. It felt like it happened every night nowadays, and every time I wanted to rush to my mother, to see if she was all right. She told me I was a good boy; she had such a good little boy, but I was never to go into her room when Frank was here. Especially when I heard the noises, she'd always tell me; my eyes then always questioned that flush which surfaced on her deeply carved cheeks.
"All right, momma," I would always say, an acceptance typical of any child. It didn't take long for me to realize what really went on behind my mother's door. She wasn't a bad mother; she always tried her hardest to protect my innocence. But on the nights Frank would show up, when she'd cry out so ecstatically to God, I knew she wasn't praying. I did my best to pretend for her sake.
Frank wasn't a bad man – tall, dark, rugged, like all my mother's boyfriends, a wad of tobacco always tucked under his lip. He held a steady job at the local auto repair shop, spending more time with grease and oil than he did with my mother. It's funny, now that I think about it: he was under the hoods of cars in the daylight, under my mother's skirts at night. Sounds boring to me, but I guess that's grown-ups for you. They like routine, for some reason.
I think it was just two nights ago when I confronted Frank for the first time in my mother's absence. The toy fire truck squeaked beneath my hand, crashing into the wooden block castle, when Frank's bare feet padded down the steps and across the kitchen floor. I paused in my fire truck droning to eye him during his trek to the fridge. He pulled out a couple of long necks. Typical; I didn't know what was so special about the stuff; I thought it tasted horrible. Must be an adult thing, I guess.
"Enjoying your truck?" his voice slurred, obviously a side-effect of his diminishing ecstasy. I gave a nod. "What about them figures I gave you the other day?" My eyes fell on the twelve toy-soldier sized cowboys and Indians strewn by my feet. You know, the plastic figures you could get in bags at any convenience store for a dollar; they only come in two colors, an earth red for the Indians and a kind of sick peach for the cowboys. It showed what kind of person Frank really was, behind that seemingly charming smile of his. That was the great thing about being a kid – you weren't fooled so easily by looks, the way my mother was. But I knew she cared about Frank very much, even if he would sooner trade me for a six pack. Whether or not my mother knew this, I wasn't sure.
"Yes, thank you very much for the toys," I said, politely despite my contempt for the man. You're a good boy, my mother always told me; like my innocence, I pretended to like Frank, greasy hands and all. It was all for my mother's sake. Frank twisted off the lid of one beer, took a swig, then let out a satisfying belch. Unfortunately, my politeness was never really returned by Frank. His belching, his crude remarks, the hand discreetly resting under my mother's shirt…all this was done in front of me. But then I'd see my mother's worried eyes fall on me, and I'd of course pretend not to notice.
"You be a good boy now, m'kay? Play with the Indians and cowboys Uncle Frankie got for you, while I go play with your mother some more, huh?" Uncle Frankie – somehow, that amused me. But I did as he told me, returning to my innocent fire truck drone, the wheels screeching, stacking blocks, while Frank lumbered up the stairs with the beers. Sometimes, it frightens me to think that one day, I will be grown up. Maybe not like Frank – at least I hope not – but nonetheless an adult. But that was the beauty of it; you never know what will happen. Maybe I, too, will end up drinking beer like it was water, flipping up car hoods and women's skirts, giving thoughtless gifts to boys like myself. But then, that's adulthood, isn't it? And then the thumping started up again.