counting

when i was younger
i always thought that my mother
was a mathematician
the way she counted my old man’s beers
on weekends
at picnics
on holidays
in the car afterwards
when she took over the driving
you had five beers, she’d tell him
as the old man sat there watching the road
five beers
and those were just the ones that i saw
in the age of sesame street
i waited for the thunder and lightning
to rain down after she was finished counting
like it did to the puppet on television
but that peaceful noise never came
just arguments and threats
screaming and crying
divorce talk
in between top 40 pap
my mind working like an abacus
to try and save the old man
with a different calculation
as fourth of july fireworks
illuminated the sky
along allegheny river boulevard
as christmas lights glowed from quiet homes
you had seven beers
eight beers
nine beers
ha ha ha!
and a shot of whiskey
my brother and i would sit in the backseat
of the car
or in our bedroom
scared
crying
angry
our own counts not matching
our mother’s
telling each other
that in the future
if some woman
ever does that shit to me..
knowing that the old man was going to wake up
on the couch the next morning
another holiday gone to shit
drinking
one cup
two cups
three cups of coffee
with the a.m. newspaper
trying to take away a dull hangover
and the lingering sound
of my mother’s economical voice
before she got up
and the counting started all over again.