Coming home from USU, I slammed on my brakes on 2400 West, already past the old speedboat, and put the Subaru in reverse. The Petersons hadn’t staged a figure in the boat for quite a while, but there was one in it now. I always thought it was their then-teenage sons who had mounted the apparently defunct boat at an angle in the corner of their hayfield and commemorated holidays with varying drivers sitting behind the wheel—a human-sized yellow bunny at Easter, a green leprechaun in March, Uncle Sam in July, Santa for solstice. I figured the boys had grown up but no one had the energy to take down the boat. My eye had been caught by the huge red TRUMP flag mounted on the prow but yes, there he was, a Trump figure—you could tell by the hair—wearing a blue suit with a red tie, his stumpy hands on the wheel, driving the boat, no doubt out of control, as he was driving the country into chaos. I thought of the boat rally for him in Texas, where a bunch sank.
“I’m going to have to look at that thing every time I drive to town,” I stewed. “At least it’ll be something good to laugh about,” I thought, as I got out of the car to take a photo.
I sent it out to friends with what I considered a pretty neutral comment: “A little over the top?” But one of my texted photos apparently went awry because I received a text from a man pictured in a suit the next day saying, “Wrong number, Bitch.”
The next day my daughter Kestral, sixteen years old and driving only six months, called me a few hours after dark.
“Mom, mom, I’m hurt, I cut my hands, can you get some bandages ready, I’m almost home.”
“What happened? Where are you? I’ll come… Well, I can’t come, you have the car. Maybe you should go to the emergency room. How bad are the cuts?” I wasn’t giving her a chance to answer.
“I’ll be okay, Mom, it’s just cuts on my hands but I’m bleeding and I can’t get it to stop. Just get some bandages. Not band-aids, real bandages and that sticky tape to wrap around them. Tanner’s with me. He’s driving.”
By the time Tanner turned into the drive, I had dumped almost the whole medicine cabinet into a box and was waiting on the front porch. Kestral came running, dripping blood, threw herself into my arms, sobbing. Over her head I watched Tanner shuffle up, looking guilty.
“What happened!” I said to him. I knew I sounded accusing when in fact whenever they got in trouble, it was Kestral who instigated. Though a therapist had diagnosed her with “oppositional defiance disorder,” I was always pleased when people pronounced that she was “just like her mother.” The therapist suggested that I had to offer her “controlled” risky things to do, like sky diving or ski jumping. I bought her a season pass to Beaver Ski Mountain.
Tanner shrugged. He was a big guy but gentle, sweet even. Kestral pulled back and said, “It’s not Tanner’s fault. It was my idea.” I took her hands, still dripping, etched by fine cuts, a few pretty deep, in long lines across her palms.
“Let’s wash these up. Come on in, Tanner.” I led Kestral to the downstairs washroom beside the front door. “Use lots of soap. What was your idea?”
“Stealing the Trump signs.” Kestral winced as the soap hit the cuts. The water turned pink in the basin. “There aren’t many up by the university, but there are lots in Hyrum. Tanner drove and I ran up and stole the signs. We got maybe ten or twelve and then when I grabbed the last one, they had taped razor blades on the top and I got all these cuts.”
“Keep washing,” I said, suppressing saying but thinking, “What flaming assholes would do something like that.” I knew people were stealing signs around Cache Valley. My friend Jane’s Biden/Harris signs had been stolen twice, and she knew which neighbor was doing it. My house was so far from the main road I hadn’t bothered getting one for someone to steal or damage. Given my own reaction to the Trump-captained boat, I wasn’t sure what to say to Kestral and Tanner.
“Okay, let’s get you bandaged up,” I started, drying her hands with an old towel. They were still bleeding. “The antiseptic cream won’t stick while they’re still bleeding so we’ll get it stopped, then rebandage.” I put clean gauze pads on, then started wrapping stretchy tape tightly across her palms.
“So why did you do that? What made you think taking the signs was okay?” When Trump got Covid, my friends and I joked about not being hypocritical enough to say that we of course hoped he would be fine. Had I told her that?
“It was that story in the news yesterday, about how the Supreme Court was going to take back gay marriage. And he nominated that woman who’s going to stop my right to birth control. And that debate! It was cringeworthy. He’s destroying the whole country!”
“But that doesn’t justify stealing signs, right?” Even I could hear that my admonishment was lackluster. “Which house was it?” I asked suddenly.
“Why? I’m not going to go apologize, if that’s what you are going to say. Look what they did to my hands!” Tanner shifted from foot to foot.
“I’m sorry, Annie,” he said. “I know we shouldn’t have done it.”
“No, I’m not going to make you apologize. Just don’t do it again. Are the signs in the car? Bring them in the garage. We’ll get rid of them after the election. I just want to know who did this.”’
“We weren’t really paying attention to where we were, we were just looking for the signs, and it was dark,” Tanner said. “I don’t know what house it was.”
“Neither do I,” said Kestral, putting her hands in her armpits.
“Okay. Go deal with the signs then I’ll drive you home, Tanner. Keep your hands high, Kestral.”
When I got up in the middle of the night to give Kestral more Tylenol, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was anxious enough from dealing with the Covid spikes throughout Utah, and this assault on my daughter seemed like piling on. What was wrong with people! Could I figure out whose house it was, tell them they are idiots? They deserved some retribution. Retaliation.
Jane’s response to the speedboat photograph came back to me: “Don’t you think he needs a mask?”
“Oh, that’s tempting,” I texted back. “But they used to have a sign that said something like ‘This site is watched by hidden cameras’ to keep people from vandalizing it. And they no doubt have guns!”
It was 3 a.m. The election was just three weeks away. I got up and put my hair up under a baseball cap, not a MAGA cap but the Nike one Colin Kaepernick promoted. Just Do it.
I put on my Nike mask too, then some old gloves. I drove down 2400, turning off my headlights as I approached the boat. The moonlight in Utah’s dry sky made it easy to climb over the fence. It was a little harder to get the mask over Trump’s hairdo but I managed. As I drove back to my house, I felt much better. I thought about the line, “Wanting revenge is like taking poison and expecting the other guy to die.” No, revenge felt great.
By the next day, I began to wonder if my actions the night before were an expression of a dark night of the Covid soul brought on by watching too much news… Was I poisoned by all…all the vitriol? Yet when Kestral laughed as I was driving her to school, pointing at the mask and saying, “OMG, look, someone put a mask on him!” I laughed along with her. But I did not tell her it was her mother who had trespassed. That I will keep to myself. Except I’m going to tell Jane that I couldn’t resist. . .Trumptation…
By the time we drove home that afternoon, someone had removed the mask. But when I next drove by someone had painted Trump’s face orange. Then someone stole his hair.
Three weeks later, a sign appeared. “LOSER,” it said.