His Light in the Dark(2)

By: L. A. Fiore


No point in torturing myself watching something I’d never have, so I stood and started down the street but the sight of the guy and his kid haunted me anyway.

My father didn’t believe in cooking, he preferred his sustenance in liquid form, so I had become a connoisseur of canned soup. I preferred Chunky but being one of the more expensive soups, I usually had condensed. Opening the can, I held it over the pot and waited for the glob to slip slowly from its tin storage before adding the water. Turning to toss the can in the trash, my hand knocked over the glass on the counter. It shattered into pieces and as my heart moved up into my throat, I stood immobile straining to hear if the old man heard the crash. After a few minutes, the fear ebbed; he was probably too far-gone to hear much of anything. Quickly cleaning up the mess, I finished heating my soup.

He had been gone most of the day, returning home about an hour ago. He didn’t come into the house, and I didn’t seek him out, but my guess was he had a friend with him and they were hanging outside for a bit. That was usually how it went. He had either spent the day introducing himself to the clerks at the area liquor stores or he’d stopped at a bar to chat up the locals. For someone as mean as him, he made friends and easily. Really knew how to lay it on thick when he wanted to; he liked the idea of being thought of as his favorite TV character—the neighborhood Norm. Clearly an alcoholic but a friendly one, at least in public. My guess, the friend either worked at one of the liquor stores or he’d picked her up at the bar.

Thinking about him was making me lose my appetite, so I focused instead on my new school; some of the kids were actually kind of friendly and the teachers seemed nice. Sixth graders rotated their science class and my class was starting on pulleys. That sounded really cool, there’d be labs that we’d work on with other kids and as much fun as that sounded, I worried. You were supposed to go to each other’s houses to work, but I couldn’t ask anyone to my house because I never knew what I’d be coming home to. Had made that mistake in first grade, brought a friend home only to have him calling his mom almost as soon as he arrived because my dad had been in a rage. The kid had stopped hanging with me at school and I had stopped trying to make friends. It always ended the same.

The sound of the front screen opening had my stomach squeezing into a knot. I quickly cleaned up the pot and took my food to the old table that sat in the corner. He stumbled into the kitchen and would have face planted if not for the woman hanging on him.

“Get upstairs.”

He didn’t have to ask me twice, grabbing my dinner, I practically ran up the stairs. He’d be busy all night, which meant I could eat my dinner, maybe read a bit, and likely sleep through the night. For me, that was a good night.

As soon as I reached my house after school, I wanted to keep walking passed it. Dad stood outside on the stoop waiting for me. Didn’t know what I had done, seemed like he went crazy for no reason at all lately.

“You think we’re made of money?”

I couldn’t answer because I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“It’s not enough that you do nothing at all around here but now you’re breaking shit. Like I’m fucking made of money.” The glass. He must have seen it in the trash. I should have taken the bag out to the cans. It was a glass, hardly worth beating me for, but to Carl Campbell it was all the excuse he needed. Normally he didn’t touch me until we were in the house, but not today. Something must have happened to him that he didn’t like and naturally, as was his way, he blamed me. Yanking me by the hair, I yelped, just before he threw me into the steps, my cry cut short when the wind was knocked out of me. Working to catch my breath, I didn’t cover my face for the backhanded knuckle slap that landed under my eye or the hard smack across the face.

Scurrying backwards up the steps to the door, I caught a movement just behind my dad. In the next minute, the man next door appeared in a towering rage. He lifted my dad clear off the pavement and hurled him into the steps.

“How’s it feel?” The neighbor snarled.

“Get off my property.”

“You hit your kid, I’ll hit you.”

My jaw dropped, so did my dad’s.

“I’ll call the police.” My dad was scared, his voice cracked but then looking at my rescuer, I’d be scared too.

“Call them. I’d like for them to see how you treat your son.”

“Why the fuck are you getting involved?”

“I see a grown ass man beating the shit out of his kid, damn straight I’m going to get involved.”