Father – a story

I guess my dad was right after all, I’ve lived all this time and I’m nothin’. Nothin’. I never had anything spectacular happen to me, no heroic war stories, no tall tales of runnin’ from the law, no scandals, no nothin’. I sit around here most days and wonder what the fuck happened to Time, it seemed, when I was a kid, that I had bottles of the stuff everywhere, that I’d never grow old. Never be too old to try, but one day just came, and here I am alone but for a bunch of dusty memories. When I was a kid I thought I’d grow up and have such an exciting life, I’d travel, I’d have more friends than I could count, I’d be happy, most of all I wouldn’t be my father. But here I am-it took me all these years, all that schooling, and here I am, my father, all over again. As if one wasn’t enough. Worked in a factory he did, same factory I worked in most of my life, same factory that took my brother-his son. My brother Curt promised he’d never be like the old man too, swore he’d die before he would let a factory suck the life from him like a vampire, and he was right-and wasn’t a damned thing I could have done to change things either. He was a nice guy, my brother, could draw anything he saw, down to the smallest little sparkle in Mary Thomsons’ eyes, he could draw it. Worked a paper route that took him past every whispered about, shunned, and avoid-at-all-costs places you could name in Flatston Falls, just to save money for a mail order art kit, which my father, in his Divine wisdom burned when Curt got a ‘C’ in shop class. The motherfucker. Curt wouldn’t look at my father for nearly a year afterwards, and spent the better part of a month’s nights crying in his closet. Eventually he forgot, as we all tend to, but I didn’t, no way, and neither did my father when he found a rattler in his shoes.

He was getting dressed for work, this was about eight months after the incident with the art kit, and things were quieting down, hell, Curt had even went fishin’ with the old man a couple of times, but I still remembered. I sat around for weeks and weeks trying to think of something to get him back, I had to – he’d ruined our mother’s life, and he wasn’t gonna do it to Curt. Curt could get out, he had a chance, if he got out alive then I would be happy to slave in Dad’s footsteps. Oh, my mom? I, I don’t like to talk about that, it, uh, it bothers me, uh, I dunno. I, uh, my mother and my father went out to dinner on their twentieth wedding anniversary, they were fighting when they left, nothing new. Me and my brother were left to fend for ourselves, nothing new. We were listening to the radio (our father wouldn’t buy a T.V. and he thought rock music was the pulpit of the devil), and we were startled by a knock on the door. It was a policeman, Sheriff Zarian it was, he said he had something to tell us, sat me and Curt down, and told us my mother had been killed in a car wreck out on old Junction Road, that our father was okay, but our momma wasn’t coming home. That’s how he said it- ‘Yer momma ain’t comin’ home no more boys, now yer gonna have to take it like men, ya think ya can do that for the Sheriff?’ And we nodded yes, and I marked that day in my heart, and I added it to a list that I’ve had in my heart since the day I saw that sonofabitch hit my mother for the first time. But I guess I’ve run down that old brick path that leads to bullshit, haven’t I? Like I said, it was eight months after the thing with the art set, and I hadn’t forgotten, even though Curt had. I wouldn’t let him get away with it-he took momma, he took me, and he took himself, but he wasn’t gonna take Curt to Hell with the rest of us. Dammit, Curt was better than all of us combined, he, he created beauty, and not many people can do that, and, and I wasn’t about to let that fucker take him from the world. It was late in Autumn and Dad was workin’ late, real late, down at the factory, and that was when I took my chance, I had waited and waited, and here it was, my chance. One shot. It wasn’t hard findin’ a rattler in the woods behind the house, wasn’t hard at all, the hard part was doin’ it. I waited up that night, the wind blowin’ from deep in the woods, and whispering to me so I wouldn’t fall asleep, but then, at two, I heard the truck pull up. It was him. I looked outside and saw him sitting there, in the blacker than black night, but, but he wasn’t alone. I, I swear to you I saw Tonya Marguirrete with him, then, then her head disappeared. And then she disappeared not long after. Found her body in the very woods behind that house, or should I say this house, and they never knew what had happened to her. She had been raped and beaten, but she was so decayed by the time they found her that there was no way to find who had done it. But I knew. And I marked that in my heart too, and I waited, and waited, and finally, at three, she ran off into the night, and my father he came inside and went to sleep. I snuck into his room as quiet as possible, that snake in an old knap-sack, knowing full well that if he caught me, with that snake, he’d kill me, or make me want to be dead, and I knew if he did find me, I’d have to kill him, with my bare hands if need be. So, I set that snake in there and crept back into my room and lay in my bed, waiting, waiting. I must have fallen asleep because I woke up to the sound of my father screaming-he was bit, he must have been bit. It was over, finally. I ran out in my underwear and found my father standing a million miles above Curt, his right hand held tightly in one hand, and a sledge hammer in his other. Piss rolled down my legs, and my breath was stolen, stolen by what my dad was sayin’- ‘You miserable fucker, you worm, you think yer gonna fuckin’ kill me? Me? No way, you worm. I’ll outlive every one of you slimy worms, you hear me?’ And that’s when he brought the sledge down, crushing every bone in Curt’s right hand, his drawing hand. And that was the beginning of the end. I tried to tell him it was me, but Curt looked at me in a way I’ll never forget, his eyes all cloudy, distant, and he just stared at me, and I knew, and I marked this day and swore I’d mete out every hell my father ever inflicted on us one million-fold. ‘You lookin’ fer some of this worm? Huh? You in on this? Did you put that snake in my shoe? Kill me…’ He whacked me around real good and then took Curt to the hospital, sayin’ the wood pile rolled onto his hand when he was gettin’ some wood for the fire. And Curt never said a word, just looked in that cloudy way, and I knew right then, he was dead, the minute that bastard dropped that sledge hammer on his hand he died. His body just didn’t know it.

My brother’s hand never completely mended, and he could never draw again, let alone do most of the simple things we all take for advantage. Sometimes even the very sight of an art store would make him sick. So, under the insistence of my father he took up work at the factory, and he did, without even bitching. But I knew he wasn’t gonna last, I could see it in his eyes, and each day he was in that shop, next to my father, our father, it was takin’ what was left of him, bit by bit, until he finally found the courage to put an end to things. I was in my room, trying to convince Patty Emerson I loved her, tryin’ to get laid in actuality, when I heard a commotion in my brother’s room. I pulled my boxers on and went and pounded on his door as hard as possible, knowin’ in my heart what was goin’ down, but not wanting to know it. I heard a chair fall over, so I kicked the door in and there he was, hanging from the inner doorknob of his closet. He was finally free of that bastard. This was about the time Andrea Dremshire’s body was also found behind our house, and this time they had more to go, someone had phoned them and told them to look in my father’s truck for her panties, and purse. And this was also the time my father disappeared, him and the few hundred dollars he had in his mattress. Word has it he’s stayin’ up in Scottstown, I got me a vacation comin’ up, and I got me a knife, and I got a long list in my head that I’ve been makin’ for him, and I know exactly where he’ll be. No, I ain’t much of a man – no wife, no kids, not even a goddamned dog. But I got me this heart full of hate, and I tell ya this, it’s hard to balance a life when ya got the kind of rage in ya that I got. Ain’t that much room in the heart. But I’m tryin’ to find who I am, but I gotta do this one thing, clear the ledgers. Wipe all traces of that motherfucker that calls himself my father away. And then we’ll see what happens…

…chris ringler…9/12/95…

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