Barry received the ax from G & L Fabrications. Temporary lack of work evolved to an indefinite separation. Unemployment sufficed for basic necessities and Candice paid the bills while maintaining two High Schoolers’ upkeep and the minor needs of their youngest. They made it, and Barry was content, yet Candice felt betrayal sink in like a brooding sickness, eating her alive from within.
“Don’t worry, I’ll do everything before I end another sixty-hour work week.”
Candice paraded her martyrdom while tidying-up minuscule clutter around the living room.
“I said I’d get to it when the kids go to bed.”
“You mean kid,” she corrected. “Beth and James are sleeping over at their friend’s tonight, or did the beer make you forget?”
Barry took a sip, then a chug. “You know we’re getting by fine without the need to work overtime every week,” he leaned forward and placed the empty on the coffee table. “I know you like to spoil everyone, but there is no need for to make yourself miserable.”
“You know who is miserable? You, Barry. All you do is sit around waiting for something to happen. It’s time to realize that they’re not calling you back in. It’s time to move on. And when you can finally do that, maybe I won’t be so miserable.”
Her footfalls, deliberate with thunder, crashed towards the far bedrooms. Barry heard his youngest whine, pleading for mommy not to go again, not to leave him alone. That thunder returned, “Maybe you can give your son some attention tonight, or are you too drunk? Just make sure he goes to bed at a normal hour. Can you handle that?”
Rage never allowed him the moment to respond and Barry was fine with that. The front door slammed and the reverberation lingered like a caustic ripple in an acid pool, burning the air and scouring his skin.
Trevor whimpered from the mouth of the hallway.
“Hey buddy,” said Barry. “What’s the matter?”
He rose from the couch. Trevor wiped his nose and sniffled through clogged nostrils.
“Mommy said it’s your fault that she has to work at nights. Why daddy, why?”
“Oh bud, that’s not really true. Mommy is just tired from working a lot and sometimes when grownups get tired, they say things that are silly,” he ruffled the brown tuft of Trevor’s hair. “What do you want to do tonight?”
The squeak of his youngest child followed him into the kitchen, and to the liquor cabinet.
“Petey and I are playing in my room. Do you want to play with us?”
Beer before liquor, never been sicker he mused in his mind I guess I can’t get much sicker than this. Two finger widths of bourbon filled a rocks glass, and he drank.
Barry cleared his throat with another round.
“Sure buddy, whatever you want.”
Bourbon was left out, waiting for him to return, and Trevor reached up, grabbing his father’s hand.
“What are you two playing tonight?”
“Cars and trucks.”
And those cars and trucks scattered atop the Nascar playmat Barry bought Trevor for his birthday.
“You want to race, Daddy?”
“Sure thing buddy, let’s take a second to clean up this mess,” he pointed at the unkempt bed and strewn blocks. “It’ll make it easier for us.”
“Okay,” he huffed.
Bourbon swelled his veins, warming body and mind. Recent memories surfaced like vile oils, acrid and hurtful.
“Watch the attitude,” said Barry.
There was no backlash here. No passive-aggressive reminders of his worth nor damning glares to crush him further in the ground like a child squishing bugs out of boredom. Trevor shoved the corner of his comforter in and received a tilt of approval.
“Why are you playing with your cars? Didn’t you hear me when I said bed and blocks?”
“Blocks, Trevor. Let’s make it happen,” he said. “I want you on blocks now.”
What am I doing? Barry asked himself. This is meant for Candice, not him.
“I’m sorry, Trevor,” this was hard for him to say. He bent down, and moved the cars around on the mat. “You work on that and Daddy will get us a nice race going.”
“It’s okay, Daddy. Petey says that he will help me and play with me,” said Trevor.
Barry took the hint and ran with it. “That’s good, son, that’s good. I’ll come back in a few minutes.”
A blast of invisible air, frigid and menacing, struck Barry as passed the threshold of Trevor’s room and into the hallway.
“Are you cold, Trevor?”
“No,” he said. “Let me ask Petey. Petey, are you cold?” Trevor pivoted to a shadowed corner between bed and window. “He says he is fine; just perfect for him.”
He nodded to his son. The walls and closed doors spun like a lazy tumbler as he shuffled through, turning into the kitchen. Bourbon told him to forget a sweater, drink me instead.
“Yeah, just a little more,” he said to the bottle. “You always warm me up good.”
Lips sucked around the stout glass neck and Barry hauled, chugging until air grasped strained lungs. Gullet burned, scarring with memories of Candice’s poking and prodding. Palpable are his festering sores, oozing with infections left by her hatred. His head swam in those echoes, and underneath was the cutting squeak of Trevor, calling to him from his room.
“Daddy, Daddy,” he said. “Daddy, come play with me.”
Feet heavy, legs woozy. Barry made it, bracing himself for the impact he yearned for, for the fire to soothe and encourage.
“Whaddya want to play next?” Barry asked, teetering at the door.
“Pillow fight, Daddy,” he jumped with joy.
Barry gripped the pillow and allowed Trevor to hit him over and over. He stumbled around the cars, dodging what he could, laughing with his son. Cushioned blows countered at Trevor’s side, pillows danced and danced like puffs of joyous innocence.
And he tripped over the blocks.
“I told you to pick these damn toys up,” he slurred, pulling himself up by his dresser. “Can’t you do anything right?”
He made sure his palm was open on the first strike to his stomach. It dropped Trevor with an umphf. Barry wound the pillow over his shoulder and brought it down, hard. Trevor sprawled over his cars, and wept. Barry couldn’t stop. He imagined Candice with each blow, picturing the pillow as a bat or an axe, bludgeoning and cutting and killing.
“You think you can get away talking to me like that?” Barry yelled. “Always jabbing with your nastiness. Huh?”
The pillow was ripped from his hands by an unseen force. It floated in the air with a drunken blur before crashing into his face. His nose crackled, blood gushed. Barry staggered and his heels tripped over bawling Trevor. He tried to stand, but was pushed back onto the bed. He could only crawl backwards, scooting his body towards the headboard. A weight trapped his hips to the mattress and the pillow smothered his face. Hands flailed, slapping only wall. Legs kicked, hitting nothing but air. Hot, whiskey soaked blood poured choked Barry. He gurgled his son’s name, apologizing with muffled pleads. They never reached him.
Death took him, and Trevor thanked Petey for always being there when he needed him.
© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.
That’s a picture of Petey the Pirate. He is my son’s first “stuffy”, a gift for his first birthday. Petey has been there through thick and thin, watching life progress for not only my son, but for my family.
Petey has seen some shit, man. He has witnessed me at my worst with depression and drinking, has seen my wife and I fight over the latter, and was there when I came around to sober up; long enough to function either for a day, or for my long stretches. It sounds confusing, so let me explain: I slipped up a few times during the last five years to equate to roughly eighteen months of drinking, and three and a half years of sobriety.
Speaking of stretches in sobriety, I will be at two years straight without a sip of alcohol come July. Woot!
My son also has an imaginary friend. The other day when we were pillow fighting (nothing like in the story, obviously) he wanted GiGi to get in on the action. He said that he was just kidding, because GiGi is pretend.
I held out the pillow anyways, and watched it drop to the ground.
I took a few moments and thought about GiGi. Would he still have relevance if I was drinking, and what would that bond between my son and him (or her, we’ve never determined GiGi’s sex) be today? Would I have been replaced? Would it manifest into something real?
I was Barry at one point; minus abuse of physical nature.
This was an easy story to write. My wife hated it. It hit too close to the recent past, and that abhorrent history is easy to fictionalize, yet hard to stomach. She said it made her sick, and when I heard that, I thought of success. The impact was delivered to what I desired with this tale.
I want characters that people hate. I want their conflicts and demons and mannerisms and lifestyles to be felt deep within. I want you to relate to them and to know that these creatures I weave have a sense of potential realism. Barry was part of me, and if you’ve been around enough alcoholics, you’ll see that he is a part of them all in some way.
That, my friends, is horror in my eyes.
“The Haunting of Hill House” was a fantastic read! I plowed through that last weekend and would recommend it to anyone. Right now I am reading a Robert E. Howard horror anthology and Sarah Langan’s “The Missing”. I should be jumping back to some graphic novels afterwards. I have issue five of “Chew: The Omnivore Edition” and I am forcing myself to get to it as soon as I can. I’m a slow reader so this is a tricky task. “Chew” is one of my favorite series as it is both hilarious and extraordinarily unique.
Ghoul’s Ice Skating nonsense continues. It’s a fun mini-series and I think next week will see it’s conclusion.
I’m back to work come this Monday. A friend reached out to me a few weeks ago and asked me to be one of his supervisor’s at a group home for wonderful folks with brain injuries and personality disorders. I’ve worked in that field for a few years now and I absolutely enjoy it.
I have enjoyed taking the last six months off to sharpen and energize my craft. I think it was a necessity for my mind and core. Physically, not so much. I’m usually active and have become rather lazy. I’ve accomplished a lot for myself and will continue to work at becoming a full-time writer. Realistically, I would like to work for a couple more years and by then I should have a novel ready or an anthology of short stories. I still plan to post weekly, but the next few weeks may see a delay with posts. I’m going to be right straight out with classes and traveling.
Thank you all so much for being a constant reader, and with that, I bid you farewell….
… Until next week!
John Potts Jr