"You drank all my Molson Canadians!" Annekin Jones wheeled from the counter to stare at his wife and son, tears gleaming in his eyes. "I bought it from Mr. Singh’s store especially for my new beer diet! I got you Labatt Blue. How could you drink my Molsons?"
Jeremy froze over his baby bottle, his mouth full of formula. Across the table, his mother continued to stare at the comic strip pages of the newspaper. The lines in her face had gone ominously taut as if she were reading a crappy pun in a comic strip by Lynn Johnston.
His mother shot him an icy look. "There's Molson in the cupboard. If you weren’t so drunk, you could see it."
"What? I gave up a wonderful country music career to marry you, and this is how you treat me? Looking for my own beer?" His father's rather prominent blue eyes were wide and blurred with tears, his expression tragic as he turned to Jeremy.
His mother threw down her paper and came to her feet snarling. "You damn country music-playing idiot. How do you think all your stupid beer gets paid for? I have to work a regular job while you lie around drinking and complain about how you want to wander all over the country playing and getting only enough money for your next beer!”
His father laughed, his voice shrilling toward hysteria. "My God, the woman can't go one single minute without talking about beer! You don't have a heart." he stabbed a dirty fingernail into his wife's breast. "There's a teetotaler in there where it should be."
"You drunken bull! Ungrateful, self-centered - "
"Oh don't be angry with me, Padme." In a lightning change of mood, Annekin flung his arms around his wife's neck. "You just don't understand how much I need beer. It's as necessary to me as - as breathing. And you're so indifferent - you just don't seem to care." His voice caught on an appealing little belch of unhappiness.
His mother cursed and hugged him close. "Don't care! Man, how can you - " Her head dropped to his. Jeremy's hair stood on end as they clung together in a ferocious kiss.
"Bye, Mamma. Bye, Dad." He jumped out of his high chair and ran to the front hallway. He didn't look back as he raced to his room.
One evening in December that Jeremy came home full of music and high spirits from the day care Christmas Concert. For the first time, he had been put in charge of the sound and lighting. It had been scary, but he had done OK. Lots of people had praised him afterward. They said it was the best sound and lighting they had ever seen done by a 2-year-old.
It was disappointing that neither of his parents had been there, though. His father always played a lot of Christmas gigs at year-end, so his absence hadn't been a surprise. But Jeremy had been disappointed when his mother decided at the last minute that she didn't feel well enough to go.
He stepped into the house to see his mother slumped on the couch, hair and shirt rumpled and an empty glass in her hand. She was glowering at the beer cans left on the floor. Jeremy stopped short in bewilderment. He'd never seen his mother with such a poor posture. The woman slouched in their living room looked like a stranger.
Something was very wrong. He swallowed back his fear. "Where's Dad?"
"Gone." His mother lifted her glass and almost casually flung it into the plastic wall of the dishwasher.
"Who cares a dipsy-doodle?" His mother heaved herself out of the chair and stood looking down at him, her eyes glittering. "He couldn't stand it any more. That's what he said. Couldn't stand me. Wants to tour with his band full-time, and never come home." She laughed bitterly. "He can't stand you, either, because you're turning out like me, or at least how I looked when I was a baby. How do you like that?"
She stiffened as Jeremy caught his breath. "No. Don't you dare cry for him. You start bawling now, Jerry, I swear I'll pitch you out of this house. There's been enough dramatics around here to last me a lifetime."
Jeremy choked back the sobs that were burning his throat, and turned away so his mother couldn't see his tears. “Why did she call me Jerry? Doesn’t she know my name?” he thought through his misery.
"I'm sorry." The anger slid from his mother's voice. Now she just sounded miserable, and tired. "I didn't mean to hurt you, son. It's just - ." She sighed and shrugged. "Pee-yoo! You need your diaper changed and then we'd better both get to bed. It's getting late."
The next morning, Jeremy came down after a night of restless misery to find his mother eating breakfast and reading the comic strips in the paper just as she did every morning. Jeremy eyed her uncertainly. His mom looked haggard and there were shadows around her eyes, but her posture was impeccable as usual.
"Mom." Jeremy gulped. "About Dad - "
"Yes." His mother looked up with a smile that was somehow frightening. "It is peaceful around the house this morning, isn't it? Thank God for that. And no beer anywhere in the house."
In the weeks that followed, his mother never once mentioned his father. Within days of his departure, every trace of him had vanished from the house. It was as though Annekin Jones had been vaporized from the face of the earth, and had gone to fight a war in a distant galaxy. Years past and soon Jeremy had forgotten about his father, except when he would occasionally hear his voice on the country radio stations.