This is the first short novel (novella) I wrote for the 3 Day Novel Contest three years ago. It was my first time entering, and I was successful in that I was able to actually complete a manuscript and submit it in by the deadline. Three days of nonstop writing produced the following book. 92 pages, 26k words. It's a sad story, and it's rough around the edges, of course. Enjoy what may be the longest blog post in the world, the first (and most likely last) draft of the very first short novel (novella) I ever wrote, written in three days for a contest, and dealing with subject matter that is very personal to me, The Gift.
(By the way, Hunter's Bluff was the novel I did the next year. I'm really proud of that one, as you can tell if you follow the link.)
It always began with his father shouting. Sighing, a look of weary resignation far beyond his years on his face, sixteen year old Timmy Smith put down his pen and closed his textbook. He knew from experience that unless his mother was somehow able to diffuse the situation before it escalated, he would likely not get any further work done this evening. Unfortunately, Beth’s success rate was not very high, and it sounded as though Gary was just warming up. Timmy stood up and walked to the door. Standing in the doorway, he did as he usually did: listen to the argument unfold and hope it wouldn’t turn physical.
Downstairs, his mother and father were in the kitchen. Gary had just arrived home from work, and he was quite late. Beth had made a tactical error in that she had pointed this fact out to him. She had done it in a very non accusatory way, although she wasn’t necessarily unassuming. She had her ideas about why he was often late coming home from work, but years of living with this man had taught her that he did not respond well to accusations of any kind. Unfortunately for Beth, it seemed as though Gary was unprepared this evening to react well to any inquisition, accusatory in nature or not.
He had been placing his keys on the kitchen counter when Beth had inquired abut his tardiness. He had visibly stiffened up, still facing away from her. He turned to her and already the expression on his face spelt trouble.
“What,” he asked, does that mean?” He took a step towards her. “Just what are you saying here Beth?”
Tensing up inwardly, yet outwardly stoic, at least for now, she responded. “Well, I’m not saying anything. It’s just that you would have finished work and hour and a half ago. You didn’t call, and so I was worried, that’s all.” She stood still, awaiting his reaction.
“How do you know I wasn’t late on the job?” “Why,” he exclaimed, advancing towards her again, “do you assume I was doing something other than working? What else would I be doing?”
Choosing her words carefully, thinking that at this moment, this man she had married resembled a snake, coiled and ready to spring at any moment, she apologized. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t implying anything. I didn’t think you were off doing anything else. I didn’t think anything. I was just concerned. I should have thought that you were working late, but you know how I get sometimes. I wasn't just worried, thinking that maybe something had happened.” She studied his face, looking for any sign that would indicate just how this little scene would play out. He is so volatile, she thought to herself. I just do not know this man anymore.
Yes, but do you even want to know him anymore? She pushed this thought away as quickly as it struck, but it had hurt nonetheless.
Unsurprisingly, Beth found herself on the verge of tears, but she held them back, knowing at this point crying would be interpreted as a sign of weakness and may add fuel to the fire. What kind of man sees his wife’s tears as a sign of weakness and uses them against her? She pushed this thought away as well.
Gary was watching her closely, content in his instinctive knowledge that she had, in fact, suspected something, and she had been right to be suspicious. Not that he would ever tell her that, he thought. Besides, right now he had other things to worry about. Like his anger. His anger at this….this…questioning…..no…not questioning,….interrogation. Yes, that’s it, interrogation! Who the hell is she to interrogate me he wondered to himself. Well, he thought, we’ll just have to remind her just who is in charge around here. “What I do,” he spit, taking another step towards Beth, “before or after work is my goddamn business.” “And If I decide,” he said, grabbing her wrist, “that I want to go for a beer after work, or play golf, or whatever, I will.” As if to enunciate this point, he tightened his grip on her wrist. Now beginning to shout, he pulled her closer and continued. “For your information, Bethany, I was working late” he lied, “not that I owe you any damn explanation. Now, if you have no further questions, why don’t you tell me where that damn kid of yours is?”
Ours, she thought. You son of a bitch, he’s ours. He’s our kid, not just mine. Fighting the instinct to pull her wrist from his grip, knowing that could be the catalyst to an ugly scene, she replied to his question. “He’s upstairs, but don’t bother him, he’s doing his homework.” Incredulous, he looked at her with an expression that, in other circumstances, might have been somewhat humorous. In his surprise, he even relaxed his grip on her wrist, which came as a momentary relief to Beth.
“BOTHER HIM!” he screamed, his spittle brushing her cheeks. “Bother him? He’s my son, and I will do with him as I please. I don’t give a shit if he’s in his room or on the goddamn moon. If I want to talk to him, so help me, I will.”
Beth had to restrain herself from replying “your son? I thought he was my son? Now he’s yours?” Instead, she said “that’s not what I meant.” “I just meant that he has an assignment due, and you know how easily distracted he can be. I just want him to be able to finish it on time, that’s all. I’m sorry.”
Dropping her wrist with a look of disgust on his face, he walked briskly away, muttering something to himself that sounded to Beth like “always sorry.”
Upstairs, listening to this, Timmy heard his father coming and retreated to his room, opening his textbook and taking the seat at his desk again. Gary arrived a few seconds later with Beth trailing close behind, although not too closely. A look of apprehension defined her once pretty, now only worn, facial features.
Timmy looked up expectantly at his father, who was towering in the doorway. His father was a very large man. He was 2 years older than his mother (he was 40, she was 38) and he had very dark hair, much unlike Beth’s red hair and Tim’s fair hair. He worked on an industrial landfill as a crane operator. He liked to drink, although was not an alcoholic, which Tim (and Beth) were inwardly grateful for, as his behaviours would likely have been exacerbated, as they sometimes were on the occasions were he did drink.
A moment passed, and then Gary asked the question that started the worst of the whole as of yet unpleasant, but not quite violent, scene. “Why” he asked, a look of knowing malice in his eyes, “are you holed up in here like some outcast and not playing football or chasing some skirts like a normal kid?”
Timmy did not reply, as both he and his dad knew that Tim, the pale, lanky, freckled, fair haired and bespectacled sixteen year old boy had no fiends nor any female companions. Stung, Timmy told his father that he had homework that really needed to be done.
“Why don’t you stop being such a pansy and be a man for Christ’s sake?” His father’s voice started to rise again. “Did I raise some kind of fag or something?”
Beth was listening to this unfold and was torn between anger and disgust. There was one particular subject on which she rarely, if ever, held her tongue, and that was Timmy, who she loved dearly and sympathized heavily with. “Leave him alone!” she cried. “He didn’t do anything to you. And there’s no need to be so crude and homophobic. I don’t want you passing on that filth to him.”
Gary turned to her in a flash and before she could react, his hand pistoned out and stung her cheek. The slap caused her to rock back in her heels, and before she could right herself, he hit her again, driving her back against the railing.
Timmy shot out of his chair. “Hey!” he yelled, “she’s going to fall! Stop it!” This effort did manage to get Gary away from Beth, but now his attention was on Timmy. “What did you say, you little shit?” He stepped into the room. Timmy took a step back, his gaze alternating quickly between his mother and father, wondering how to get himself out of this predicament.
Gary’s hand pistoned out again, and Timmy’s vision was blurred by the tears that sprang in his eyes. His father shoved him backwards into the bedroom wall. Gary then closed in and added two additional slaps to the first, each of which was accompanied by a sharp smacking sound and a cry from Timmy. Gary was shouting during this. “Why don’t you mind your own goddamn BUSINESS?” He was screaming now, and the words mind and goddamn were each punctuated with a slap.
Beth saw this from the hall, and was nearly consumed by a sudden fit of rage. “Why don’t you just leave him alone?” Shouting now, she added “just leave him alone you fucking BASTARD!”
All three family members froze at that. This was not the first time Beth had truly lost it with Gary, but it certainly was rare. The other times had resulted in serious bouts of rage on Gary’s part, and this was to be no different.
Spinning on his heels, Gary turned to face Beth, and letting her know in no uncertain terms that he was going to hurt her, her charged at her, seemingly prepared to tackle her right over the second story railing. At the same moment, Timmy screamed for his dad to stop, and his mother took off running down the stairs. Both he and his father gave chase, each with purpose; one enraged and the other terrified.
Beth reached the first floor and ran for the laundry room, apparently meaning to lock herself in. Gary caught up to her just before she reached her destination and pulled her back, his fist caught in a tangle of her hair. Screaming, she was stopped in her tracks, and tried with no success, to pull away. Gary spun her around and launched a fist that was delivered with bad intentions. Luckily for Beth, at that same moment, Timmy collided with his dad. The punch hit home but off target. It glanced off of Beth’s forehead, drawing blood but doing no significant damage.
Timmy didn’t know what to expect when he ran into his dad, but luckily for him and Beth, it seemed to somehow diffuse the situation. Gary turned around, and regarded Timmy with a look that was half poison, and oddly enough, half apprehension. After a lengthy pause, during which Gary seemed to contemplate a course of action, he spoke. “Well,” he said to Timmy, motioning behind him in Beth’s direction, “clean up this mess. I’m going out.” At that, he walked into the kitchen, grabbed his keys and left, leaving mother and son staring at each other, similar expressions on each face. They were expressions that simultaneously conveyed both fear and pain, as well as relief.
Three hours had passed since hours since the incident with his father. Timmy’s mother was downstairs on the telephone, and he was in his room, supposedly doing his homework. What he was really doing was writing. Timmy had always had a creative and expansive imagination, and he had used this for years as an escape from his reality. He kept a journal, and in this journal his writing took two forms. First there were his simple journal entries, in which he kept tabs on his life, usually regarding either incidents with his family, similar to the one that had transpired this evening, or events at school, usually involving the three bullies that had worked to make his school life as difficult as his home life for the past several years. In addition to these entries, Timmy liked to write fiction. Timmy’s fiction though was quite unique, as it involved three things: himself, a strange and mystical garden, and a creature with whom he could communicate. Whenever Timmy wanted to escape his reality, he would write about this place, and through his vivid imagination, he would lose himself in this world, sometimes spending several hours at a time lost in this fantasy. During these times, the real world would cease to exist to Timmy. He would often quite literally be surprised to find himself back in his room when an external event, such as his father barging in, would lull him from this alternate existence. It is in this world where we can find Timmy currently. His physical being may be seen in his bedroom, bent over his desk, lips pursed in concentration, a look in his eyes that to a passing outsider might be described as “glassy” or “far gone,” but the rest of him was away in this alternate reality. It is there that we can now find him. He writes:
Timmy walks down the gravel path, which is outlined on either side by great white stones intertwined with a beautiful mix of roses, both yellow and white, and carnations, so stunningly pink they almost demand the eye’s full attention. He walks amiably on, not rushing, taking his time and enjoying the scenery. Every time he comes to this place he is as taken back by its beauty as he was the first time. Not for the first time, he wonders aloud to himself “is this heaven?” And as always, the sound of his voice has a sort of ethereal quality to it in this place, a haunting sort of melody that carries through the surrounding Sakura trees as it reaches destinations unknown. There is a rustling sound to his left, and when he looks in that direction he sees an adorable white bunny making his way through the flowers and trees. The bunny hops onto one of the white rocks that outline the path, and looks at Timmy. Not moving, seemingly unafraid of the human presence, it just watches intently. Timmy calls to it. “Hi bunny,” he calls out, as he makes his way over to it. “Aren’t you just adorable?” He reaches the rabbit and unflinching, it allows Timmy to pet it atop its head, which feels to Timmy like the most exquisite velvet anyone has ever laid their hands upon. Continuing on, the bunny scampering away to do whatever it is bunnies do, Timmy looks up and admires the beautiful sight of the sprawling Sakura, or Cherry trees; their blossoms, also known as Cherry Blossoms, captivating him as they always did. They seem to him like the absolute epitome of beauty. Their pink blossoms sway gently in the slight breeze. Dotting the landscape, not as prevalent as the Sakura trees, but just as captivating, are large Oak trees. Beautiful as they were, the reason they are so captivating to Timmy is the fact that each one is inhabited by a variety of colourful birds. He sees Hummingbirds, beautiful red breasted Robins, Blue Jays and Cardinals, all existing in a perfect harmony atop the Oak trees, as well as around them. The grass, lush in its perfect dark green color, closed the gaps between each tree and flower; and running through it, on either side of the gravel path, were all sorts of critters. He sees squirrels, chipmunks, and even possums, as well as what appear to be white mice. He also observes the occasional scampering raccoon. None of the animals seem to be in much of a hurry or doing much of anything, really, he thinks to himself. There were no nuts to be gathered for winter, since the harsh hand of winter did not touch this place. The animals seem to be content just co-existing together in this place of harmony. It would be very surreal to an outsider, but to Timmy it was normality defined, at least for this existence. If this place had a name it would probably be Tranquility, he had thought to himself on a few occasions as he walked this very path.
After some undetermined amount of time (time too, seemed to be different here) Timmy arrives at a clearing, and, just as he always is when he starts to traverse the path, he is stunned by the sheer magnitude of its beauty. The clearing at the end of the path is sectioned into 3 distinct areas. A beautiful flower garden, filled with an arrangement of Irises, Lilies, Daisies, Tulips and Hydrangeas is to his left. To his right is a pond, and if one were to peer into this pond they would see a vast assortment of colourful fish, mainly coy fish, goldfish and angel fish; even a few beavers called the pond their home. All of these species co-existing in the harmony that is typical of this place. Straight ahead is a very large marble bird bath, and represented on this bath are all of the aforementioned species of bird that Timmy spotted among the trees that lined the path. Encapsuling all of this magnificence is a very dense forest. Timmy has never ventured out to this forest, as he has been warned not to. Thus far he has heeded this warning, and currently has no plans to disregard them. Stepping off the path, he heads towards the bird bath and the lonely tree stump before it, on which he has often sat and gazed around him in wonder. It is upon this stump that he has also engaged in conversation. For in this world, not only is there a harmony and a beauty unmatched in the real world, there is also companionship. Companionship that is never judgmental. This companion always has a kind word or encouragement to offer. There is also advice to give if sought by Timmy. Of course, there is one piece of advice that is always doled out without any prodding. And that advice is to stay out of the forest. Never venture out into the forest.
Timmy takes a seat on the stump and gazes off into the distance, awaiting the arrival of his friend. After some unspecified period of time, Timmy hears movement in the trees that dot the outside of the forest beyond, and a second later a Black Bear emerges, and heads in Timmy’s direction. It approaches him, and when it draws within a foot or two of the stump upon which Timmy sits, the bear sits on the grass and speaks.
“Hello friend,” Bear says. “The day is especially beautiful today, is it not?” He regards Timmy with a look that relays a sort of tired peacefulness, as though he has grown just slightly weary of this place in his unspecified, but surely great, age. Weary, but certainly still appreciative.
Timmy offers Bear a smile, and replies. “It really is. I saw a white rabbit on the path as I was walking here, and I don’t remember seeing it here before. I walked right up to it and it let me pet it, and the texture of its fur was amazing. It felt like velvet. It was so soft, I could have stayed there all day, but I wanted to come talk to you.” At this, he lets out a barely audible sigh, and there was a sadness that appeared in is eyes. Bear sees this, and inquires about it.
“What’s troubling you son?” he asks, already formulating a guess as to what the answer will be.
Sighing again, Timmy replies. “It’s my dad again. He started in on me and my mom, and I don’t even know why. My mom was talking to him in the kitchen and something set him off, and he ended up hitting both of us again. Then he left the house.”
Bear gives Timmy a sympathetic glance. “Timmy,” he begins, “no father should act that way towards his son or his wife. Do remember though, what we always talk about. Your father does love you. He loves you and your mother. He may not always show it the way that other fathers do, but in his own way he does. You see, young one, he must, for it is a foolish man who does not love his son, and one who does not love a son as special as you is both foolish and stupid.”
“But why is he often so angry with us? What have we done?”
“Well, it is more often than not that the recipient of a man’s anger is the not the person for whom it is felt, but the person of the nearest convenience. Just remember, Tim, even in times of misguided anger, your father does love you. And so does your mother. Your mother especially adores you, and she treats you very well. Besides, aren’t there times when he acts lovingly towards you?” There is a pause, and then Timmy replies.
“Yes, sometimes he acts like the other dads. He’ll talk to me about school, and he took me to a baseball game once, but I don’t really care much about sports. He was really annoyed when I didn’t show much of an interest, although I did try, for his sake. Usually though, he just ignores me…….whenever he’s not yelling at me or hitting me, that is. He calls me horrible names sometimes, and always puts down the things I accomplish. He’s always angry that I don’t like sports, and I don’t have a girlfriend.” His voice starting to break now, Timmy adds “he just doesn’t understand me.” “No one does. I get treated like this at home, and when I go to school it’s no better. If I’m not being ignored I’m being made fun of or bullied. I get teased all the time and a lot of times I get beat up for no reason I can understand. I try to stay away from everybody and just keep to myself but it doesn’t always work. They just find me. Or they will get to me during or after classes if they can’t pick on me during breaks. I usually end up spending most of my time in the library reading or \writing, or doing homework.” Two tears make their way silently down his cheeks. He wipes them away absently, and adds “I’m just so alone.”
Bear offers Timmy a sad smile and says “You are not alone. You have me, and you have this place. But more importantly, you have your mother. You are not alone, Timothy, even if it sometimes feels that way.”
Tim smiles at the name Timothy. Bear was the only one to call him that. Everybody else called him Timmy, and on occasion, a teacher at school or his mother will call him Tim. No one other than Bear ever calls him Timothy. He liked that about Bear. He felt like it conveyed respect. It carried a sense of equality, as though for once he was someone’s equal as opposed to inferior little Timmy. He smiles again and thanks Bear for the kind words. Looking for a change of topic he asks, not for the first time, and the thinks to himself, with just a touch of deviousness, likely not the last either, “so, Bear, really, what is it that’s back there in that forest?” At this query, the amiable Bear’s expression darkens. His brow furrows, and he regards Timmy with a cool glance that belays two clear emotions: annoyance……and fear.
“Tim,” he begins, enunciating each word very carefully and purposefully, “I have told you before, do not concern yourself with the forest, and do not EVER venture out there. EVER. Do you understand me?” He looks expectantly at Tim, awaiting a response.
“I know, I know, you don’t have to be so serious about it. I’m not going to ever go back there, but why can’t you just tell me what’s there? You live there, right? So, it can’t be that bad, can it?”
Bear’s expression softens, and he regards Timmy with what can only be deciphered as a loving, almost paternal expression. “Kid,” he begins, shifting his weight forward onto his front paws, resembling a human parent shifting forward to relay something of importance to their child, “I’m a bear, remember? I can live just about anywhere.” He offers Timmy his most winning Bear smile. “Besides, it really is dangerous in there. I might live there, but you are not a bear, and maybe whatever is back there wouldn’t be concerned with me. We cannot, however, say the same for you. So please, just stay out of there.”
“I will Bear, I will.” Timmy offers Bear a smile of his own. “Thank you for caring so much.” “You are the reason I love to come here so often,” Timmy says, and then, looking out at the beauty surrounding them, adds “well, most of the reason.” He punctuates this last comment with a wink. Timmy glances behind Bear at the great forest beyond the clearing and wonders to himself, just what is it that’s back there that he doesn’t want me to see?
Timmy’s mother has been watching her son write feverishly for some time, feeling both sad and proud, two emotions which she often felt simultaneously as she observed her son. Her son, poor Timmy, who has never had a true friend, nor a girlfriend. He doesn’t involve himself with any extra curricular activities, never has a date or even a simple night out to the movies. He has a bear of a father who is so hard on him, and he seems to internalize all of this with nary a word. This certainly cannot be healthy she thinks, and again the idea of divorce creeps into her rmind again. She thinks of just picking up and going. Taking Timmy somewhere and making a fresh go of things, just the two of them. But where do we go? And how? Would Gary let us leave that easily? Or would he do something to make sure we didn’t get very far? Beth thought that quite likely, and, her mind added hadn’t he told her as much once, when Tim was two? Besides, the thought that in some way, Tim might need his father has crossed her mind on more than one occasion, as it did now. She found this thought somewhat morbid, but nonetheless probably true. Beth was also sure of one other thing. Or at least, she felt mostly sure. She suspected that Gary was having an affair. With whom, she did not know. Probably someone without kids she thought bitterly.
Gary had not wanted children. The two of them had been married for two years. She was 22, he was 24. They had been using protection throughout their relationship and subsequent marriage but one night they had returned home from a wedding, both somewhat inebriated, him more so, and they had intercourse. Somehow they had both forgotten the condom, or perhaps in a drunken haste had neglected it, and sure enough, less than a month later she realized she was pregnant. When she showed him the test results, he had spent a very tense few moments just staring, before he had exploded in a barrage of obscenities and stormed out of the room. She had known that he hadn’t wanted kids, and although this really hurt her, she did understand his feelings. She tried to talk to him further that day and for weeks after, but nothing would get through. Finally, a couple of months into the pregnancy he had approached her and suggested the unthinkable. He wanted her to have an abortion. When she refused, he did something that he had never done before, ever, but has done many times since: he hit her. The blow left her both dazed and surprised, and in her total shock she had said only “you hit me.” He had left the house without a response and had stayed away for two full days. He had apologized profusely upon his return, and thinking that she was making a mistake, but with a baby on the way and several years invested into the relationship, she had relented and agreed to put it behind them. It had not happened again until Timmy was two years old and had broken one of Gary’s sports memorabilia. Gary had hit Timmy, which to that point, he had not done before, and this had left Timmy crying and Bethany quite angered, as well as horrified.
“What the hell are you doing?” she cried. “Why did you hit him? He’s only two years old!” It was just an accident! Jesus, Ga--” The blow had caught her midsentence. He had turned to her and smacked her. It was an openhanded blow against the left side of her face, and it had left behind an angry red handprint. He had stood there waiting for her next move, making no effort to hide the fact that he was prepared to hit her again if he had felt it necessary. She had started to say something and before he even knew what it was, he had rocked her head back with a second even harder blow. Timmy’s cries intensified, and Gary looked in his direction and then proceeded to deliver a kick to his midsection which had knocked him down and taken the wind out of him. He began to wheeze, and Beth, momentarily forgetting everything that had been happening sprang into action, coming to Tim’s aid. She picked him up and carried him to the kitchen where she placed him on the table and tried her best to comfort him while he regained his breath. Gary watched almost nonchalantly from behind, not saying anything, and not particularly hoping for any certain outcome.
Timmy eventually regained his composure, and began to cry again. Beth comforted him while keeping her eyes averted from her husband, who at this moment in time seemed to her to be nothing short of a monster. She waited until he left the room and then carried Timmy upstairs to his room. When she came back down, Gary had a drink in his hand and his eyes were on the television. She walked right up to him, and said simply “I’m leaving you.” And it was then that he had told her the simple truth of it.
“If you try it,” he said, “I will make sure that little brat is left with no mommy.” He stared coldly into her eyes as he said this, and did not avert his gaze until she dropped her eyes, realizing that he was serious, or at least appeared to be. That had been the moment that essentially sealed her fate: she and Timmy were likely to stay with this man. It hadn’t been all bad though, she told herself. There were times when the old Gary shone through, and he did try to involve Tim in his life from time to time……it was just that he was apt to get angry easily, especially when Tim didn’t take a liking to something that “boys ought to enjoy.” Timmy wasn’t Gary’s idea of a “typical man.”
The sound of the front door awakened her from her stupor. She headed into Tim’s room to tell him that he should get back to his homework, especially now that his dad was home. He wouldn’t want Gary to catch him “writing in his little diary like a schoolgirl” as he so eloquently put it, she thinks, as she heads into Tim’s room.
The bell rang signalling the lunch period. The once empty halls of Ridgemont High are now filled with an influx of chatting, excited students, ready to feed their grumbling stomachs. Most of the students seemed to be in good spirits as they walked through the halls in groups of three, four, five, or more teens, talking about the recent activities of the characters on their favourite televiosn shows, or perhaps the goings on of their peers at the school. Music was another common subject; much as it has been at high schools since, well, since there has been the simultaneous existence of high schools and music. Timmy was not one of these happy students. He walked out of his third period science class, head down, alone. He kept to himself en route to the library, where he would eat a solitary brown bagged lunch, as opposed to eating among friends at the cafeteria like most of the other students. He was a few turns away from the library when he realized he had to go to the washroom. He took a detour to the nearest bathroom and made his way in to relieve himself.
Adam Roberts, Don Wilkinson, and Eric Anderson were walking though the hallway talking about the three girls ahead of them when Adam spotted Timmy Smith walking into the bathroom down the hall that ran perpendicular to the one they were walking through. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute” he said. “I just saw little Timmy boy go into the bathroom down the hall there.” He pointed in the general direction of the bathroom as he said this.
Adam was the eldest of the three boys. At seventeen years old, he already possessed the jaded cynicism that one would associate with a person twice his age. Perhaps an old, bitter alcoholic. A category of people to which his father belonged. His father, who took to the bottle as well as he did the fist. Or the belt. His mother was deceased, had been for seven years. His father had become ever increasingly bitter and a lot more mean since then.
Adam hated Timmy for a variety of reasons. One of which was not really a reason at all. He just did. It seems that in every school, both elementary and secondary, there are always those kids, who, for seemingly no reason at all, become victimized. Timmy was one of those unfortunate kids. He spent all of grade school and all of high school thus far being verbally and physically assaulted. He has shed lots of tears, and spent many a solitary hour reading or writing in the various school libraries. Although what he was really doing was hiding. Hiding from his peers. Peers that included Adam, Don and Eric, Adam being the worst of the three. Another reason Adam hated Timmy was the incident that occurred two months prior.
It had been the middle of March. The last remnants of winter were finally starting to lose their hold on the world. Adam and co. had been hanging out around Eric’s locker when Timmy had the misfortune to happen by. “Hey Timmy boy, come on over here buddy!” Adam had called. When Tim looked up and saw them, he quickened his pace and tried to dart by, but Adam and Don stepped into his path and blocked his escape. Don grabbed Timmy by his shirt collar, and said “not so fast little buddy” while simultaneously pushing Timmy backwards, who’s lower half bumped into Adam, who was strategically placed on all fours behind Timmy so that when he was pushed backwards, he would go sprawling over Adam and land in a heap behind him. The plan was executed perfectly, and the two of them shared a hearty laugh and a few high fives.
Timmy had stood up slowly, and he had felt both anger and fear. His anger had shown through that day. He stood, fists clenched near his side, face red with anger, and had said “Why don’t you guys just leave me the fuck alone for once?” This didn’t go over so well with Don, who pushed Tim back into Adam, who had been standing again at this point. Adam pushed him in Eric’s direction, and Eric, who had known Timmy since grade school and who was a reluctant participant in all of these events, pushed Timmy back towards Don again, but not nearly as heard as the other two had and with no malice. If one were so inclined, they could ask Eric what he has against Timmy, and he would not have an answer to that question. The unfortunate truth was that he wanted to fit in with the other two, and so to be on one side you had to battle the other. He and Timmy were on two sides of an invisible social divide. Therefore, Timmy, and the tormenting of him, were a frequent part of Eric’s school life.
As Timmy wheeled back in Don’t direction, Don stuck his foot out and tripped him. As he crashed to the floor for the second time, he felt his fear evaporate, and and absolute mountain of fury took its place. He also felt embarrassed, for predictably, a crowd had gathered around this little scene, and predictably, he was yet again the laughing stock of what seemed to be half the student body. But bigger than the embarrassment was his fury. How many tears had he shed because of these three? How many hours spent alone, sad and afraid? Well, enough was enough. He rose to his feet and with a yell, charged at Don. Don side stepped, and Timmy caught himself before he crashed into the lockers. He turned himself around and charged again, this time at Adam. He ran straight into a fist, which caught him just under the left eye, causing swelling and almost immediate bruising. It also served to temporarily stun him. “Into the locker, put him in Eric’s locker!” Adam yelled. He and Don grabbed him and shoved the small boy into the locker. Tim struggled but it was futile, within a dozen seconds he was locked inside of Eric’s locker. This of course drew a large laugh from the students gathered around watching this play out. This large gathering had also garnered the attention of one of the teachers at the school, who had arrived in time to see the last part of the incident. The three boys were sent to the principal’s office and all three were suspended from school. Don and Adam were suspended for 5 days, and Eric was suspended for 3. This suspension was the second one of the year for Adam (he’d been suspended previously for fighting, and event that was, however, unrelated to Timmy). Unfortunately for him, the school has a three strikes you’re out type rule. Any student suspended three times over the course of one school year is expelled automatically.
Now, standing in the hall with Don and Eric, and reflecting on this, after having seen Timmy enter the bathroom, Adam starts to feel the ebb of that old familiar emotion: anger. “Let’s show that little shit what happens when you go to the bathroom without supervision.” He started in the direction of the bathroom, the other two in tow, Don looking like a shark that has stumbled upon a particularly meaty looking swimmer, and Eric wearing a look of weary resignation. They reached the bathroom with Adam leading the charge. Once they entered, Eric stood guard at the door and Adam and Don went in. They spotted Timmy at the sink, washing his hands. When he looked up at the mirror behind him, he saw the sneer that had haunted him for the last few years. Adam was already seething. “Hello asshole” he spat. “I don’t see any teachers around this time, do you?” Before Timmy could reply, or turn around, Adam had him pressed up against the sink. He had hold of the back of Timmy’s neck, and he pulled backwards, bringing Timmy closer to him and Don, then turned him around to face them. Timmy smacked Adam’s hand off of him, and Adam smiled. “Come on then,” he said, “hit me then. What are you waiting for, tough guy? Let me have it.”
The three of them knew Timmy wouldn’t, he just wasn’t the type of person to punch someone. The only times he ever had were times when he had been struck first and had no choice but to fight back. But he spent mist of his time out of class trying to avoid confrontation, which was likely part of the appeal he held for the bullies. Adam decided Timmy would need a bit of prodding, so he gave him a shove. “Come on, do it.” Shove. “Hit me, asshole.” Shove. Suddenly, he lashed out with a vicious slap that rocked Timmy’s head back and surprised both Don and Eric. Timmy actually cried out, and this seemed to anger Adam even more. Adam threw a punch and Timmy fell back, and as he stumbled he lost his footing and fell, hitting his head on the sink as he did. Luckily for him this blow to the head was only a glancing blow, most of his head missed the sink and so he was cut and stunned, but sustained no further injury. He lay on the floor, dazed, and rather than make his exit, Adam delivered a kick at Timmy’s midsection and screamed for him to get up. Eric, seeing this, yelled out “Whoa!!!! Adam, stop it man, that’s enough, seriously.” Adam turned on him and snarled “what, are you his little buddy now? Are you friends with this little pansy now?” Unsure of what to say or do, Eric relented.
“No, of course not,” he said, trying to think of a way out of this that wouldn’t have him excluded from the group but at the same time save Timmy from and serious harm. “It’s just that you can’t get suspended again, that’s all.” Adam seemed to consider this. Turning in Timmy’s direction he looked down at him. “I’m going to go now. I’ll leave it at this if you don’t say anything to anyone about this. If I find out you did, I’ll make this look like a friendly game of tag, you dig?” Timmy, knowing he was beaten, feeling weary and sore, nodded to signify that he did indeed, dig. Adam stared at him for a few seconds, and then turned to his friends.
‘Alright, let’s go.” They made their exit, with Adam in the lead, Don following right behind and Eric bringing up the rear. With one last look behind him, Eric followed the other two out. Timmy picked himself up and after washing up and gathering himself, he walked out of the bathroom and left for home.
He arrived home to an empty house. His father wouldn’t be home from work for a few more hours. He assumed his mother was out running errands, or perhaps visiting with her friend Danielle, who was married to a man that his mother had gone to university with. Both had been accounting majors, and in fact, his mother had been a corporate accountant before having him. She had chosen to stay home to better take care of him, something for which he was ever grateful. She had never seemed to regret that decision, and that made it easier for Tim to be grateful.
He made his way upstairs to his bedroom and took out his journal. He started to write about Tranquility, as he thought it should be called (he had not officially dubbed it as such however, and had not given any thought as to why) when he did something he had never done while writing. He fell asleep.
The path is empty, and the place is eerily quiet. Timothy walks slowly along the path, feeling completely mystified. The silence is unnerving. He recalls how on other occasions visiting this place he observed that his voice seemed to have an ethereal quality to it when he spoke aloud here, but when he calls out “hello?” it now sounds only eerie. The Sakura and Oak trees were still present, but there were no animals. He sees neither squirrels, nor chipmunks; no possums or mice. No raccoons to be seen. “Rabbit?” he calls out, already knowing there are no bunnies here. Nothing. He moves further along the path, and for the first time ever in this place, he feels the first inkling of fear. He moves on, and when he finally reaches the clearing, he stops cold. What he sees, or rather, what he doesn’t, is even more unnerving than the lack of animal life on the path.
There’s nothing there. No garden. No birdbath and no pond. Only the tree stump, and the woods beyond, which look especially dark and ominous today, and for the first time he realizes it’s nearly dusk. This strikes him as odd, for it has always been daylight when he has visited this place. Feeling the fear starting to sink into his bones, he shakily walks over to the stump and sits down, already suspecting that Bear too would be missing. After waiting a fee minutes, he calls out hesitantly. “Bear?” he calls out. He hears his voice echo back at him. No Bear. He stands up, deciding that maybe he should leave, when he hears the voice.
“Timmy” it calls. “Timothy, Timotheeeee.” It was the voice of a beautiful female. The voice of a seductress. The voice of an angel. “Tiiimotheeeee.” He tilts his head to the side, trying to locate the sound of the voice, although part of him already suspected just where it originated. He stands, and stops. It was definitely coming from the woods beyond the clearing. “Timothy.” The voice calls out again. He hesitates, not knowing what to do. On one hand, he knows that he is supposed to stay away from the woods. On the other hand, the voice was very hard to ignore. It sounds so seductive, so teasing and so tempting. And there was nothing evil or malicious about the sound of it, he thinks. Then again, what better way to lure him out there than the voice of a lovely female? Timmy stands there, debating, when the voice calls out again, and before he realizes he had decided on a course of action, he finds himself walking towards the tree line. It looms nearer and nearer until he is inches from the nearest tree. He hesitates for just the briefest moment and then he steps through. He walks through a thicket of trees and then stumbles upon a small dirt path, just wide enough for one person (perhaps a small-for-his-age sixteen year old boy?) to traverse. He follows along the path for a couple of minutes and then stops. Hadn’t he just caught a shadow of movement off to his right? He looks around and is suddenly, acutely aware that he is being watched. He cannot see the person, or…thing….that he is sure is watching him, but he is sure of its presence. He waits a few moments longer, and then moves on, thinking that he had been mistaken. As he walks along, there is, unbeknownst to him, just the slightest bit of movement behind him. Four pairs of eyes follow his every movement, and there is some chattering, inaudible to the human ear, that swells in intensity then peters off as Timmy makes his way further down the path.
Some time later he reaches a clearing, and what he sees is too hard to believe at first; so hard to believe in fact, that he acts out the old cliché and actually rubs his eyes and shakes his head before he looks again. What it is that he has seen is simply a lovely, gloriously naked young woman, perched upon a rock that appears to be floating just slightly above the ground. There is a surreal quality to her; it appears as though she possesses a very slight transparency. She just does not quite seem to fit in; if someone were to take a photograph of the scene, Timmy thinks, the woman would appear as though she had been pasted onto the background……although the effect would be subtle. The woman has beautiful, shoulder length auburn hair, and a figure that would have made Timothy blush if he had been any younger. As it was, he is completely transfixed. Her skin is very pale, and it appears to be glowing, as though she has an internal light source and was lit from the inside. A few moments pass, and then the woman (apparition?) speaks..
“Timothy, do you find this place attractive??” she asks. “Do you wish to have the power to visit this place with your very physical being? Your earthly existence has been unkind to you. You are sad and lonely, and I can help take those feelings away. I can make it so that you can escape to this place any time you so choose, but not just in mind and soul but in body as well. I can make this happen for you. I can grant you the power to change the world around you, if you so choose. All you need do is put pen to paper and your very desires will be realized. This gift I can bestow upon you, Timothy. All you must do is agree to receive it.”
Timmy stares in utter disbelief. Was this some sort of trick? Is this a ghost? Was it the devil in disguise? What was going on here? He does not even know what to say. His mouth opens, and then closes. Opens, closes. He opens it again, and then closes it. He is completely dumbfounded. The woman (apparition?) repeats herself.
“Timothy, do you find this place attractive??” she asks. “Do you wish to have the power to visit this place with your very physical being? Your earthly existence has been unkind to you. You are sad and lonely, and I can help take those feelings away. I can make it so that you can escape to this place any time you so choose, but not just in mind and soul but in body as well. I can make this happen for you. I can grant you the power to change the world around you, if you so choose. All you need do is put pen to paper and your very desires will be realized. This gift I can bestow upon you, Timothy. All you must do is agree to receive it.”
Timothy opens his mouth and before he knows what he is going to say he says “yes, I agree.” “I wish to change my destiny. I do not want to feel so lonely and so helpless all the time. I want to have friends. I don’t want to be left out, and I wish my father would love me for who I am. Please, please help me. Grant this power to me.”
“Very well,” she says, “but be warned: this gift comes with a price. You must use this only for good, and you must choose your destiny carefully, for misuse of this gift could be disastrous.”
“I understand,” he finds himself saying. “I wish only to find happiness.” She tilts her chin up and beckons him to come to her. He does, and she places her hand on his forehead. Her touch is cold, and somewhat clammy, which takes him by surprise. He cries out and tries to shy away but he is locked in place, and cannot move. He looks up and what he sees standing in her place is his mother. He opens his mouth to cry out, or speak, or something, but nothing comes out. Then everything goes gray.
Tim awakened to find himself sitting at his desk. He found he was sore and stiff as a board. He stood up, stretched, and walked downstairs to see if his mother had returned home yet. He has no recollection of any dream. No memory of any naked woman, or promises of bestowing any gifts upon him. All he knows is he has a sore neck, a stiff back, a headache (from his incident today at school), and his stomach was screaming hunger. Yes, hunger. He had missed lunch today, hadn’t he?
Gary Smith sat in his favourite chair in the living room, thinking about Sue Hammond. Sue was the owner and proprietor of Sue’s Diner, which was, in his opinion, the best damn diner in the town of Ridgemont, where he and his family currently reside. There were two reasons Gary thought this. One, the open face steak sandwich was, again, in his opinion, the best damn sandwich in town. The second reason he thought it was the best damn diner in town, was that the owner, Sue Hammond, was the reason he had so often come home late these last several months. Forty years old and still a regular little firecracker, he thought, and she don’t have any goddamn kids neither. A man can get a lot done in a house with no kids. And a lot he had been getting done. Both at her house, at the diner after hours, and once, in his own marital bed, which gave him a queer sense of satisfaction as opposed to the guilt one would assume he would have felt. For Gary though, there was no guilt, not about that one night five weeks prior when Beth and the kid had been at, well, wherever the hell they had been, who gives a damn anyways?, he thought, nor about the affair in general. All he felt was vindicated. He also felt a sense of entitlement. She had given him a kid when he didn’t want one, and she didn’t provide for him all that often in the ways that a woman should, as he thought of it. So, he thought, fuck her. She’s lucky I don’t flaunt it in front of her and that damned kid. Looking over at her sitting on the couch, he recalled the day he met Sue.
He had been on his lunch break and had been looking for a new place to eat since Jon’s Restaurant and Tavern had closed down the day prior. Stupid asshole probably didn’t pay his damn bills, he thought to himself as he drove, looking for a new place to eat lunch, and maybe grab a quick beer or two. So now I have to find somewhere else to go after almost, what….. 10 years at the same place? I guess this is what you get for being loyal these days. He had passed by Sue’s Diner on more than one occasion, as he did now, and as ususal, he passed by without stopping. Need a man’s establishment, he thought to himself. As he drove on he started to realize that there were only two other Diners in Ridgemont besides Sue’s, and he had been to both of them in the past and had been less than impressed. He had been to J. P’s Bar and Grill once, and would never venture out to that place again. He’d had a pretty decent lunch, and he had enjoyed it more than it merited because the server who was working that afternoon was mighty fine, he thought, and so he had let her know this fact when she brought him the bill.
“So,” he had said, “what time do you get out of this hole today?” She had regarded him with a look that said here we go again. As a cute brunette in her late 20’s, serving the “working man” his lunch in the middle of the lunch break, she had encountered plenty of men who were willing to offer more than a tip. Usually it was an inquiry about when her shift was over, or whether or not she had a boyfriend (or needed one ha ha ha), but sometimes it was a very inappropriate comment, or on a couple of occasions, a physical solicitation. She wasn’t sure where this one would go but she knew that it was probably going to be uncomfortable.
“Why do you ask,” she replied, and stood there awaiting a response. He looked her up and down in a very obvious manner, thinking he was looking suggestive but really looking ridiculous, and then had winked.
“Well,” he began, “How about you tell me the time you get off, and maybe we’ll see If I can make that happen a second time for you today.” He followed this crude comment with a second wink.
She had made a sound that relayed disgust, which had sounded like ughck, and had then left to get the manager. Gary had walked out without paying the bill, and felt pretty fine about that too. Didn’t have to see any manager and got a free meal, fine by me, he thought. Dumb bitch doesn’t’ know what she’s missing though.
The only other diner besides Sue’s was the King’s Coach, and he had not even finished his meal there. He had sat down and one glance at the menu had him up and out of there before he could even be accosted by a server. King’s coach is right, he had thought as he entered his truck, those prices were fit for a King. Who the hell did they think he was? $9.99 for a burger? No way, Jose`. It was on this day that he had gone to Jon’s Restaurant and Tavern for the first time, and had made that his regular establishment for somewhere around ten years.
So now, realizing he had no other choice, he backtracked to Sue’s Diner and made his way in. The place had been half full; most of the people in there were guys, probably on their lunch breaks as well. He had taken a stool seat at the counter, and when the woman had come around the corner and asked him what he would like to drink, he had thought to himself that she was quite the looker….for her age, he had added. She smiled at him when he had, for no reason that he could think of, replied “just a water ma’am.”
Smiling, she had said, “oh, you don’t have to call me ma’am, sweetheart,” and then she had asked, “so, first time in here, right?”
“Sure is, and if you don’t mind me saying, the scenery in here might be bringing me back,” he said, and had followed this up with his trademark wink, which for once had actually elicited a smile, and an especially devilish one at that.
“Well then, how about I get you a beer, isnetad of that water. A big man like you should drink a nice cold beer, especially since I’m sure you’ve been working pretty hard today.”
“Alright, what the hell, that sounds pretty good.” He gave her what he thought was his most winning smile.
She had returned with a beer and had chatted with him throughout his meal (he’d ordered the steak sandwhich and thought it mighty fine) and by the end of his lunch he had learned her name was Sue, she was the owner of the diner, and he had promised to return that evening after his shift for a drink or two. He had kept good on his word and he had chatted some more with her as he drank a couple of beers. He left with her address and the invitation to “come over anytime.” He had done so that weekend and had continued to do so over the course of the last several months. Over the course of their affair, he had told her all about Beth and Timmy, and how she had saddled him with a “no good pansy of a son”, when he hadn’t even wanted one in the first place. She had played the sympathetic ear to his “poor me” bit, and the two of them had carried on this affair ever since.
Gary was jolted out of his thoughts by the ringing of the telephone. He grabbed it on the second ring, and, annoyed to have been disrupted while thinking of Sue, barked out a rough hello. The voice on the other end spoke and he placed the receiver down and shouted up for Timmy.
“Yeah?” he replied, timidly.
“Phone?” Timmy’s voice relayed his surprise. His mother was watching this scene unfold with a look that showed both surprise and amusement.
“Yeah, phone!” Gary was annoyed now. Is this kid deaf, or just dumb? Then there was Timmy’s timid “hello?” on the line. He had picked up the extension. Gary hung up on his end.
“Who is that?” Beth was surprised; Timmy never received phone calls unless it was family members calling to wish him happy birthday.
“I dunno. Some girl I guess.”
“Some girl?” “A girl?” “Really?” “Who?”
Gary regarded her with a look that said How the hell should I know? and then proceeded to say just that.
Upstairs, Timmy was listening to the voice on the other end of the line with an ever increasing feeling of shock. The girl on the other end was a girl from his school. Her name was Amanda Dee. She was a cute brunette whom he’d had a crush on for years; they had gone to grade school together, and he had once asked her to a school dance, to which she had replied with a hasty no, and had walked away with her two best friends, who had done a poor job suppressing their giggles as they did. Now, here she was asking him if he wanted to go to the movies that night with her and two other people, and then out for coffee or something after.
“Tim?” “Tim, are you there?”
“Huh?” “Oh, yeah, uh huh, I’m here.”
“Well?” She awaited his response.
“Ah, yeah…..I can….go…..” He just could not believe what he was hearing. Part of him was feeling a bit skeptical but his dominant emotion was elation. HE HAD A DATE! And it was with Amanda! He didn’t stop to wonder why or how; he just accepted it.
“Ok, great,” she said, “we’ll be around to pick you up at like 7:00, alright?”
“Yeah, that’s great. This’ll be awesome!” He winced, knowing that sounded pretty lame, hoping she didn’t notice.
“Alright,” she said. “I’ll see you at 7. Later!” At that she hung up.
Timmy hung up the phone and bolted down the stairs at Olympic speed, reaching the living room where his parents sat half out of breath but floating on cloud nine. His parents looked up at him, his mother expectantly, his father with his trademarked indifference.
“I have a DATE!” he cried. “Amanda Dee called and asked me to go to the movies with her and a couple of other people!”
“A date?” his mother asked, incredulous. “Really?”
“YES, really!” He was ecstatic
His mother beamed. “Well, that’s great!” Good for you, Tim!”
His father even chimed in. “Atta boy, bout damn time.” This was basically Gary’s version of a compliment. It didn’t matter, however, at this point, not much could phase Tim. Besides, that was actually the nicest thing his father had said to him in some time. Tim vaulted back up the stairs and began to prepare for his date. When 6:30 rolled around, he decided to wait outside, because he was too anxious to sit in his room. He bid farewell to his parents and ventured outside to wait for the arrival of his first date. How wonderful that word sounded, he thought as he waited. It had such a magical sound to it didn’t it?
Date. D-A-T-E. Date. Yes, excuse me Miss, I’m just on my way to my DATE. Ah, how glorious that felt. He begins to count the minutes.
7:05 The first bit of panic starts to form. Nervous, he wipes a bead of sweat from his brow, and that old familiar sinking feeling in his stomach begins to set in. The feeling that yet again, he being made a fool of, and yet again, he would end up alone.
7:15 The first tear trickles down his cheek. How could he have been so stupid? He decides to go back inside, and as he turns to the door, he hears the engine of a car behind him. Spinning around expectantly, he watches as the car first approaches his house, then slows down. A window opens, and Claudio Candido, a guy from his high school, sticks his head out the window and calls out.
“Hey, Timmy, ready to go buddy?”
Timmy can now see Amanda sitting in the backseat beside him. Eric Matthews is driving and Amber Elizabeth Moore is in the passenger seat. Eric and Amber are dating. Timmy sees them together, and sees Claudio with Amanda, and he is instantly suspicious. He slowly approaches the car, and as he does, Claudio yells out to him.
“No? Alright then, I’ll take good care of her for you.” And then laughing, they speed off, leaving Timmy standing near the end of his driveway feeling as low as he’s ever felt before. And for someone who is tormented like he is, that’s pretty low. Timmy stood there for several minutes, unable to stop the flow of tears and the pangs of sadness in his heart. Then, slowly, he turned back around and went inside.
Beth heard Tim enter the house again, and she prepared herself to call to him to find out why he was home, but as soon as she saw him, she knew the whole story, or at least got the gist of it. Her heart ached for her soon, and a flash of anger set in. Why do they do this to him? What did he ever do to anybody? It seemed so senseless to her. And it was. It was completely and utterly senseless, and it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair to Timmy, nor to the other kids to whom it happens every day. It just seems that in every year, in every class, there are one or two kids who are singled out and bullied, beaten and ignored for their entire school careers.
Beth looked at Gary, and he was tuned into the television, apparently unaware of the events unfolding around him. That might even be for the best she thinks to herself, he might just make it worse for Timmy.
Upstairs, Timmy is sitting on his bed. Staring at the wall, he thinks about an similar incident that occurred when he was in grade eight. He had been sitting at home, lonely as usual, when there had come a knock at the door. When his mother called him and said there were some kids there for him, he had gone to the door and seen three kids from his grade school. They asked him if he wanted to go for a walk to the park and play some touch football. Feeling as though something was strange, but happy nonetheless, he agreed, and left with them. They chatted amiably along the way, and when they arrived at the park five minutes or so later, they stood in a circle around Timmy. He started to feel very nervous, and a little frightened; but dominating those two feeling were simple confusion.
“What’s going on?” he had asked, and as he did, Adam Servic had stepped out from behind a maple tree and grinned gleefully at Timmy. Adam Servic was Timmy’s main tormentor at grade school, before he had entered high school and Adam Roberts had taken over those duties. Frightened, Timmy had backed up a step and bumped into one of the three people surrounding him. He was trapped.
“Let’s fight,” Adam had said simply, and punched Timmy in the eye. He grabbed him and started to pull Timmy’s shirt over his head, which is an act often referred to as ‘jerseying.” This would allow Adam to punch Timmy without recourse, since Timmy would be effectively blinded and mostly unable to defend himself. Timmy managed to push Adam away and got his clothing righted. Crying, he stated that he did not want to fight. Adam had then taunted him, pushed him to the ground, and proceeded to walk away, the other three following, leaving Timmy with his tears and his newly forming black eye.
Now, sitting in his room and remembering this, feeling the pain of both tonight’s events, as well as those of the day he had just been thinking of, Timmy pulled out his journal. Feeling weary, tired, and sad, he wrote simply:
I wish I had a friend.
He then put his journal away and lay down in bed. The next thing he knew he was waking up and there were a pair of eyes in the dark, inches from his face.
Screaming, he leaped out of bed and turned on the light. On the bed, there was a small black and tan colored miniature pinscher puppy. The puppy was whimpering and clearly distressed. Standing there in complete and utter shock, Timmy watched as the puppy regarded him closely, afraid of what he might do next. Slowly, Timmy’s shock wore off, as did his fear, and what set in was simple: a pure and total mix of glee and sympathy. He went to the puppy, and, holding his hand out so the puppy could smell it, he made shushing and cooing sounds, trying to calm the frightened puppy. The puppy smelled his hand, observed his body language and listened to his tone of voice, and ascertained that the boy meant him no harm. Relenting, he rolled onto his back and exposed his belly in a submissive gesture. Timmy gladly rubbed and tickled it, and then the puppy righted itself and began to lick feverishly at Timmy’s hands and then face.
Beth was sound asleep when she was awakened by the sound of her son screaming in his bedroom. She listened closely, trying to figure out if he had been having a nightmare or perhaps something far more sinister was transpiring. A few seconds passed and then she thought she heard Timmy speaking. Odd, he doesn’t talk in his sleep, she thought, but after what happened to him tonight, who knows. She then heard the strangest thing. She heard Timmy’s laughter…..and a small “yip!.” Was that a dog barking? What the hell?
She got up and went to his room. When she opened the door, what she saw was hard to take in. She saw her son lying on his bed laughing, and lying on top of him licking his face was what appeared to be a small dog. She stood there in disbelief.
Timmy looked up and saw his mom standing there in what appeared to be a state of shock. “Mom,” he called, “did you guys get me a puppy?” He stopped the dog from licking his face and instead picked him up, cradled him in his arms and stood up, facing his mother. “He’s so adorable!!! And look, he likes me!!”
Beth, still completely confused, said “ah……no, we didn’t get you a dog……at least, I didn’t.” “Did your father maybe……..no, that doesn’t make sense…….” She trailed off. “He must have got through a window or the door or something…….”
“Well, can I keep him? Can I? Please mom?”
She looked at Tim, then at the puppy who seemed to be perfectly at home in Tim’s arms, then back at Tim, who was looking at the puppy with a look that was unmistakable. He looked like someone in love. That puppy sure is cute she thought. Timmy seemed to be infatuated already. Probably be good for him to have a dog, her mind added. But will Gary go for it? “Alright,” she said, “but we have to try and get you r dad to agree. Also, we need to make sure no one else is missing him, although he doesn’t have any tags or markings anywhere……” she trailed off again. It’s like the dog appeared out of thin air.
“Well,” she continued, “it’s too late to do anything about it now, so go back to bed and keep him with you. We’ll figure this out in the morning.”
Ecstatic, Timmy returned to bed, this time with a beautiful little miniature pinscher puppy cradled in his arms. And he’d already picked out a name: Rocky. Like the boxer, who didn’t take any bullying from anyone. Yeah, he thought, I’m naming you Rocky.
Surprisingly, his father had put up no resistance. He had merely said two things:
One was “this is why I say shut the damn doors after you when you come in.” and the second was “I’m not taking care of it or cleaning up after it. If it makes a mess or puts anything out of order, it’s gone.” And that was that. Timmy now had a puppy.
The two of them bonded immediately, and as the days went by, the bond grew stronger. As far as puppies go, this one was unreal. He was fully housetrained in three days. He didn’t bark much. His only little puppy vice was if someone left something like a shoe or a newspaper out, he would take it and run away with it, stopping somewhere secluded where he could chew on it to his little heart’s delight.
Apart from the addition of the puppy, nothing else had changed in Timmy’s life. He went to school. He attended classes. He was teased at school, although there weren’t any physical altercations. His dad was less violent, but seemed more distant. He worked late a lot now. His mom seemed a bit sad lately, but he didn’t know what was wrong. Well, there was one other change other than the addition of the puppy, and it was directly related to it. Timmy had stopped writing. He had a great companion at home and so he felt he no longer needed his journal. He never though about the place he almost, but not quite, knew as Tranquility. He did not think of his fictional friend Black Bear.
Life went on without any major events……..until June 7th.
June 7th started out like any other day. Timmy got through his first two classes without any incident, and then on his way to third period, the last class before lunch, he was accosted in the hall by three familiar faces. He spotted Adam Roberts, Don Wilkinson, and Eric Anderson walking towards him. He tried to do his best to remain inconspicuous and just walk by them but Don pointed him out and for whatever reason, Adam decided he was still angry about the second suspension and wanted to fight. Timmy tried his best but Adam persisted, and a scuffle broke out. Adam had him pinned to a locker and after verbally assaulting him, threw two punches in quick succession into Timmy’s midsection. Unfortunately for Adam, but fortunately for Timmy, Mr. Biltmer, the 12th grade history teacher, happened by at just that moment, and even though Eric tried to alert Adam to this fact, it was too late. The teacher had seen the punches thrown, and Adam was sent to the principal’s office, where true to their policy, he was promptly, and without much incident, expelled. Adam tried to fight it but met with unflinching resistance. He offered the principal some scathing words, and was promptly escorted off the premises.
Timmy hadn’t sustained any real injury, and although he was late, he made it to his third period class, as well as his lunch and the classes afterwards. Once the bell rang signalling the end of the day, he gathered his belongings and headed out, ready to walk home and greet Rocky, who was surely anxiously awaiting his arrival. He couldn’t wait to see Rocky; he loved the little guy a tremendous amount. His arrival at home always seemed to be a joyous occasion for Rocky, who very clearly made it known that he was happy to see Timmy. Rocky would jump around and bark, and always seemed to have dozens of kisses to dole out. Timmy would take him out to go to the bathroom, and then they would play, sometimes for hours. And at night Rocky would sleep snug as a bug in Timmy’s bed, curled up right next to him under the covers.
Thinking of this, with a smile on his face (he had been smiling a lot since Rocky appeared in his life) Timmy left the school building and walked out into the bright summer day. Still thinking of Rocky, he rounded the first corner and was immediately taken out of his reverie by the hand that grasped his collar. Before he was fully aware of what was happening, he was pulled into an alleyway and surrounded yet again by Adam Roberts, Don Wilkinson, and Eric Anderson.
“What do you WANT!!” he shouted, as by this point he was just exasperated. “Why can’t you guys just leave me alone! What did I ever do to you?” he cried. Tears welled up in his eyes and his voice started to crack. “Can’t you just let me be?” he pleaded with them. Looking from one face to the other, he saw no remorse, only malice. He thought Eric might have displayed some, but when he looked in his direction, Eric looked downwards rather than meet his gaze.
“Didn’t you hear the news asshole?” Adam asked, seething with anger. “You got me expelled. Now I’m going to kill you.” As he said this he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pocketknife, which he opened up and held up to Timmy’s face, making sure Timmy saw the light gleaming off the blade.
Timmy felt his blood turn cold, and realized this was a serious situation. He started to say something to pacify it when Eric spoke up.
“Adam! Dude, seriously, that’s going way too far. Put the knife away, man.”
Adam turned his attention on Eric, his face flush with anger, his respiration deep and hard. “You listen to me,” he said, slowly and purposefully, “if you don’t hold him still and shut your mouth, I’ll slice you up too.”
At that, Don, who had, up until this point, said nothing and done little, chimed in. “He’s right man. This might be going too far. We’re talking real trouble here.”
Adam offered him a stern look and reiterated the same sentiment he had offered Eric. Hold him still or get some action too.
Eric and Don exchanged a look, unsure of what to do. Timmy stood, transfixed by the blade and paralyzed by fear. When Adam turned back to Eric and swung the blade at him in a threatening gesture meant to force his compliance, Timmy’s paralysis broke and he ran. Shouting, Adam gave chase, with Don following reluctantly. Eric stood, not knowing what to do, and then gave chase as well, wishing as he did that he had chosen different fronds, and vowing to do so if he got out of this without incident.
Timmy ran out of the alley and headed left, back in the direction of the school. He knew if he made it there he could seek help inside. Legs pumping, chest heaving, he ran, quite literally, for his life (at least as far as he knew Adam meant to actually kill him).
Adam, giving chase, realized where the little shit meant to go and decided on the spot to upgrade his plan from a beating and a couple of superficial knife wounds to some serious damage. Provided he caught him first, of course. Screaming nonsense, he ran after him as hard as he could.
Don ran a few paces behind Adam, thinking that perhaps he should trip or otherwise hinder him so that the pansy could get away. Not because he cared about Timmy’s well being (he could give a shit either way), but because a knife attack meant trouble. Like, police trouble, and he did not want that, especially with his already extensive juvenile record.
Eric trailed behind Don, trying to figure out a way to stop this. He didn’t particularly dislike Timmy, and he certainly did not think he deserved what Adam intended to dole out (he was unsure of the specifics of it but he knew a knife spelled trouble). So he ran hard, trying to catch up.
Timmy reached the school yard, and he ran for the steps leading to the front entrance, with Adam in tow still shouting. The steps drew nearer. They were almost within reach now. Just a few more feet, he thought, and then the ground was looming up at him. He hit the ground face first, having tripped over some sort of object (ball? rock?).
Adam was on him immediately, throwing a punch to the back of his head and a kick to his backside. He raised the knife upwards, seemingly meaning to either bring it down in a stabbing motion, or swipe it across Timmy’s backside, delivering a gash. He brought he knife down in an arc, and stopped. Or was stopped, rather, when Don ran into him from behind, knocking the knife out of his hands and putting him off balance. Eric caught up to them and scooped the knife up and put it in his pocket.
“Run,” he said to Timmy, who was just scrambling to get up, “get the fuck out of here, but don’t say anything about this to anyone; he might do something really crazy if you do. Just go home.” He didn’t have to tell him twice. Timmy ran back in the direction of home.
“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TWO ASSHOLES DOING?” Adam bellowed as he regained his balance and footing. He looked expectantly at his two friends.
“You were going to really hurt him this time, man.” Eric hoped he hadn’t said the wrong thing. Adam had a very volatile temper, and had been known to turn in an instant. “You’re going too far.”
“Yeah man,” Don chimed in, “you wanna get arrested?”
Adam looked at the two of them, and a few seconds passed. Then he said simply “where’s my blade?” “Give it back to me.”
Hesitant, Eric looked back and forth between Don and Adam, and decided that he should do as he had asked. So, reluctantly, he handed the knife back over, but not before saying “come on Adam, let it go, seriously.”
Adam stood motionless, apparently deciding a course of action, and then after what seemed like an eternity to Eric, and maybe seven seconds to Don, he folded the knife closed and put it away. “This isn’t over,” he said, looking from one friend to the other, “he got me expelled, and he’s going to pay for that.” With that, he turned and walked away, leaving the other two to watch him as he walked, each debating whether or not to follow. They both did, and that was the first of a few decisions that ultimately decided their fate.
The second decision they made that had a hand in the events to come was to pool their money and buy a bottle (Adam’s decision) and go cruising (Don’s decision). Eric just wanted to go home but knew that after what had transpired, he needed to tag along. They bought a bottle of Rum, and walked to Adam’s father’s house. His dad wasn;t home, which Adam was grateful for, as his dad had not taken the news of the expulsion well and would likely still want to “discuss” it. Discussing anything in Adam’s household meant physical abuse, and both the frequency and duration of these “discussions” had increased tenfold since the passing of his mother Anne seven years prior. His father, Ted, had become an ever increasingly viscious drunkard since, and was showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it was quite the opposite. So his absence from home, especially on this day, came as a blessing. Of course, he relayed none of this to his friends. The three of them got into Adam’s car (Eric being hesitant to do so but again feeling powerless to do otherwise) and took off.
Timmy felt the punch and kick hit home, and then heard some commotion behind and above him. He started to rise and then Eric was telling him to run home but keep his mouth shut abut this whole thing lest he wanted even worse trouble later on. He believed this to be true, and so he ran and kept his word about staying silent. When he got home, he did two things, one of which he had never done, and the second being something that he had not done in quite some time. When he got home he bypassed Rocky with nary a glance, and went up to his room to grab his journal, and he began to write. He wrote about the incident, and he did this because he knew he would not be able to tell anyone. So he saw writing it down as his next best option. After detailing the events, he added one simple sentence. He wrote:
I wish Adam, Don and Eric would just disappear. I want them out of my life.
He then put his journal down and went back downstairs to seek out Rocky and see if his mother had left him a note, since if she was absent when he arrived home from school, there was usually a note waiting for him,. He was still somewhat shaken up, but as usual, felt a bit better after writing it down.
Adam, Don, and Eric were in the car driving around aimlessly. Adam was driving, Don was in the passenger seat, and Eric was in the back. Adam and Don were passing the bottle back and forth, and Eric had taken a few sips when offered, although he did not feel like drinking, and, in fact, wished the other two would stop, especially Adam who was driving. Anger and alcohol do not mix well behind the wheel, and Eric was worried, but he tried to not let it show.
The cruise brought them to a few hot spots, where they met with people, grabbed a quick bite, and talked about Timmy. Adam was still hell bent on doing whatever to him it was he had planned on doing, and the alcohol had made Don more susceptible to the idea. The ideas got wilder and wilder as time and alcohol flowed, and by nightfall, the talk had gotten so ridiculous (as Eric saw it) that the possibility of firebombing Timmy’s house had been mentioned. Sitting in the back of the car, listening to this, and feeling fearful both because of the increasingly stupid talk, and Adam’s increasingly worsening driving, Eric considered his options. Unfortunately for him, as they crested the next hill in the road, he ran out of options. As they reached the top of the hill, Adam turned to Eric, and with his eyes off the road entirely, slurred something about ordering pizzas to Timmy’s house but putting bombs in the boxes instead of pizza. Eric yelled for him to watch the road, and as he did, two things happened simultaneously. The car veered onto the left lane, and Eric saw the scariest thing he had ever witnessed in his sixteen years on earth: a par of fast approaching headlights.
“LOOK OUT!!!!” Eric screamed this as he covered his eyes with his hands, a futile but automatic gesture. A spilt second later, Don screamed as he saw what Eric had seen, and just as Adam turned around, there was the desperate sound of a blaring horn and then the sickening sound of all hell breaking loose. They hit a city dump truck, with both vehicles traveling over 80 km/hr, on a road with a posted limit of 50km/hr. The results were devastating.
Upon impact, Adam was immediately decapitated by a piece of metal that had dislodged from the front of one of the two vehicles and came ripping through the windshield.
Screaming, tears pouring out of his eyes in a freshet, Don, who was unfortunate enough not have been wearing a seatbelt, went flying through the remains of the windshield, slicing his carotid artery, and lacerating his limbs and body so badly that his left arm and right leg were nearly severed. He flew into the air, half of him hitting the dump truck with a sickening thump as he flew by it, breaking at least half a dozen bones in his body. His left leg, left shoulder, ankle, three ribs, and his neck were broken. He flew another forty or so feet and landed on the road, fracturing his skull so badly it was really closer to disintegration than fracture.
Eric, who had a seatbelt on and was sitting in the back, was left badly hurt but alive. He had two factured vertebrae, a broken leg, a broken jaw, and two broken ribs from the impact of the seat in front of him, and he was knocked unconscious by the piece of metal that had decapitated Adam, who was seated in front of him. He was unconscious and trapped in the car.
The driver of the truck was knocked out cold at the moment of impact but was otherwise unharmed, save for a few lacerations and a busted lip. When he came to, he slowly dragged himself out of the vehicle, and lowered himself from the cab. He got no more than three or four feet from the wreck when one of the two vehicles caught fire. Within a minute the entire wreck was ablaze, and although the sight of this was bad, it was nothing compared to the tortured screams he heard coming from the car he had ht a few seconds later. Thos screams would haunt him for the rest of his life, which ended up being another thirteen years before he was killed in a second automobile accident; an accident that would also not be his fault. That however, was for later. Right now in the present he had those screams to deal with, and the knowledge that there was nothing he could do but wait helplessly for them to stop.
The next day, word of the accident had spread, and the school day was cancelled. When he heard about it, Timmy was horrified. The three boys had worked hard to make his school life that much more difficult, especially Adam and Don, but to die, especially like that, at such a young age was horrible. He felt saddened, and he also felt guilty, for he had to admit to himself that there had been several occasions on which he had wished for the very same people to meet their doom. But he never would have actually chosen for this to happen, if it had somehow been under his control. Which it wasn’t, he thought, as he sat in his room, Rocky by his side, contemplating the news. He might have thought that hearing something like this would have brought him some sense of relief, but it did not. He found it truly horrific. For if this was some sort of karmic or cosmic act of retribution, surely it was far too strong a punishment. No one deserves to die like that, he thought, not even Adam Roberts. Still, his mind persisted, you had wished for this, no? Just yesterday in fact, when you had written in your journal that you wished they would disappear. Well, ta-da! Your wish came true.
Nonsense, he thought, that doesn’t make any sense. It’s just a coincidence, and a horrible one at that. Those guys were mean, but I never wished for this. And even if I did, wishes don’t just come true. You don’t get to write things down and make them happen. As he thought this, Rocky licked his hand. Ah, Rocky, he thought, always there for m-
HOLY SHIT. His mind reeled. I wrote I wanted them to disappear, and they did. Didn’t I also write that I wanted a friend on the same day that Rocky just seemed it appear out of thin air? Ah, stop it, he thought, you’re just scaring yourself, and you’re in shock from the news, that’s all. He was thinking this as he reached for his journal.
He flipped it open and looked back for the entry and sure enough, there it was. Dated the same day that Rocky had seemingly appeared out of nowhere:
I wish I had a friend.
Yes, but, that’s just a coi- And then the memory of the dream hit. The woman in the clearing; the clearing which was in the woods beyond the limits of where he was supposed to visit. Yes, in my STORIES his mind added, in my FICTION STORIES. But the truth was right there. He had dreamed of the mysterious woman, who had seemed to be somewhat of an apparition, and what was it she had said to him? He strained to recall, and then it hit him. She had said:
You are sad and lonely, and I can help take those feelings away. I can make it so that you can escape to this place any time you so choose, but not just in mind and soul but in body as well. I can make this happen for you. I can grant you the power to change the world around you, if you so choose. All you need do is put pen to paper and your very desires will be realized.
But that’s crazy, he thought. That was just a dream!
Oh, was it Timmy? Was it really?
YES!! It was!! He looked at his journal again. He had wished for a friend, and that night a puppy had appeared in his room. Yesterday he had wished for Adam, Don and Eric to disappear, and that night they were killed in a horrible accident. What was that one thing she had said?
I can make it so that you can escape to this place any time you so choose, but not just in mind and soul but in body as well.
His mind still reeling, he grabbed his pen, flipped to a fresh page in his journal, and began to write.
Timmy finds himself on the path before the clearing again, and this time, the sensations are far too real to be fiction. He reaches out and touches the nearest Sakura tree, and he can feel the bark. Really feel it. The sounds have a quality to them they have never had here before. He inhales deeply and he can smell the various scents that fill the air. The flowers, the animals, the trees, everything giving off an array of odours that he can detect as well as any smell at any other time in his life. Looking around, feeling a wonder far deeper than he had ever felt before, as well as the unmistakable mix of fear and apprehension that he had become so accustomed to both at school and at home, he walks on.
When he reaches the clearing, everything is back in its familiar place. The garden is to his left as before; the pond is to his right, still filled with the same colourful fish and the beavers, busy building their dams. And straight ahead again lies the bird bath and the tree stump before it. Timmy walks onward, reaches the tree stump, and sits down, knowing that this time Black Bear will come. And a short time later, he does.
“Timothy,” Black Bear starts, “what have you done?”
“I don’t know, I am so confused and so scared.” Tim looks hopefully into Bear’s eyes, perhaps seeking forgiveness in addition to answers, since part of him seems to have the answers already.
“You disobeyed me, Timothy. You entered the forest beyond this clearing.” Not questioning, but stating a fact.
“NO BUTS” Bear has never shouted before, and Tim recoils from the sheer magnitude of the anger he hears.
“Yes, but,” he begins again, and again he is interrupted.
“But nothing Timothy. I told you, I warned you, over and over again, DO NOT ENTER THE WOODS BEYOND THE CLEARING. AND YOU DISOBEYED MY ONE COMMAND.” Bear relents, somewhat. “Now you have awakened something terrible, a terrible power that feeds on the ignorance of those not strong enough or knowledgeable enough to wield it. A knight with no training is not to be given a lance, and a young human barely into his teenage years is not to be given the powers of the cosmos. Yet, you have been given just that. Tricked into it, and foolishly accepted. Now, unfortunately, son, you must bear the burden of this gift.”
“I don’t WANT this stupid gift. I didn’t ask for it, and I don’t want it anymore.”
Bear regards Timmy with a sad, knowing look. He understands that Tim was tricked, but he had disobeyed the one command given to him, and, just like Pandora’s Box, he must now pay the price for his curiosity.
“Timothy,” he begins, “a gift of this magnitude cannot be rejected once accepted. It cannot be wished or willed away. It cannot be passed on. It cannot be forgotten. It must simply be owned. Your only course of action is to never use it again.”
“Yes, okay,” Timmy replies, “I won’t EVER. I didn’t want this, and I will not use this….thing….whatever it is, gift, curse, magic trick, whatever, I will never use it again.”
“Go forth, then, my son. Return to your home, and heed the warnings. Keep your promises, no matter the temptations that may present themselves. No matter the circumstances, remember, this power is too great to bear, the consequences too grave, and the cost too large. It is a devilish power born out of trickery and deceit, and it feeds upon the wishes of the noble and makes them sinister. It does this of its own volition, and only after bestowing upon its new owner confidence in its truth, usually by staying true to the first desire, then warping the rest. It is sin. It is trickery, madness, and lies, and it feeds on the pain of others. At its best it is debauchery, at its worst it is death and destruction. There is no middle ground. No compromise. And no going back. Return home, sweet Timothy, and heed my warnings. Remember my words. And stay true to yourself. Be strong, young one, and remember, the strong persevere, and the weak crumble before tribulation. Go now, and stand strong.”
The end of the school year is drawing near. Timmy has spent a lot of time the last week in a sort of daze, still absorbing the things that have transpired, and having no one to talk to about it (who would believe it?) is left to digest it alone. Things at home had been about the same, his parents have had a couple of heated arguments but no violence, and his father has basically ignored him as he so often does, but he hasn’t hit or belittled him, so he had that at least.
One change, however, was that his father, who up until a couple of days prior had seemed to tolerate Rocky, had lost his patience with him a couple of times. Three nights ago it had been when the newspaper, which Rocky had gotten hold of and chewed on merrily until caught by Gary, who had screamed at him that he hadn’t read the damn sports section yet, and had appeared to have barely restrained himself from kicking the poor, frightened puppy. The second incident had occurred last night. Rocky had made the unfortunate mistake of chewing Gary’s shoe, which he had forgotten to put in the hall closet, and when he discovered it he had gone ballistic. He stormed around the house looking for Rocky, who had hidden under Timmy’s bed, and when Gary had peered under the bed and seen Rocky there, he had launched into a frighteningly lengthy and intense expletive filled bout of screaming. He had stormed out of the room vowing to “get that damn mutt,” and this had left Timmy worried.
So, in addition to dealing with the fact that he had written the deaths of three people into the script of his life; the power to do so given to him by a floating, internally lit naked woman who turned into his mother, he also had to deal with the worry that his dad might do something mean to Rocky, who he loved so much it hurt to think of his father even yelling at him, let alone doing something worse.
It was this thought that dominated his attention as he walked home from school. When he got home, his mother was home, but his father was not. His mother looked troubled.
“Mom?” he asked, “what’s wrong?”
Beth looked at her son and her heart ached more fiercely than she had ever thought possible. “Timmy…….” She trailed off. “Timmy…..I don’t know how to say this……….I think Rocky ran away.”
Timmy’s heart dropped somewhere near his feet. He felt it simultaneously break and drop. He turned cold. “Wh-wh-……but………how?....what do you me-“ Timmy burst into tears.
“Oh, honey,” she said, as she gathered her son into her arms, holding him tight. “When I got up this morning, after your father had left for work, I found the back door open and Rocky was nowhere to be found. I searched all over the city for him, and there are already posters up and I’ve called the animal control, so they are on the lookout as well.”
“But……why was the back door open?” he asked. “Unless……..” His eyes narrowed.
Beth knew exactly what he was thinking; she had thought the same thing herself and still hadn’t quite dismissed it. She wouldn’t tell him this though, she decided. “No Tim. Your father wouldn’t do that.”
“But, he was really mad last nigt, and he said-“
“No. He wouldn’t have done that.” I hope.
“Well……..” He didn’t even know what to say at this point. “Well, I’m going to go look for him.”
“Of course,” she said, “I’ll take you.”
“No, I’ll take my bike, I want to do this alone.”
And so he left, and spent the next couple of hours canvassing the neighbourhood, knocking on doors, looking everywhere, to no avail. He could not find Rocky anywhere. When he returned home, his father was in the kitchen at the table having a drink. Timmy walked right up to him and for one of the few times in his life addressed him with authority and without restraint.
“If you did this, I will hate you for the rest of your life. If you took Rocky away from me, my one friend, my BEST friend, I will hate you until the day you die.” And before his father even had a chance to respond he turned around and exited the kitchen. He walked upstairs, lay down upon his bed and soaked his pillow with hot tears which flowed freely for a long time.
Some time after, an idea struck. It was inevitable that it would, and it seemed such a simple idea really. Rocky was gone, but a few simple pen strokes could bring him back.
Excited at the prospect, Timmy grabbed his journal and a pen and opened to a fresh page. And before he could write anything, he heard the voice of Black Bear in his head:
Keep your promises, no matter the temptations that may present themselves. No matter the circumstances, remember, this power is too great to bear, the consequences too grave, and the cost too large. It is a devilish power born out of trickery and deceit, and it feeds upon the wishes of the noble and makes them sinister. It does this of its own volition, and only after bestowing upon its new owner confidence in its truth, usually by staying true to the first desire, then warping the rest. It is sin. It is trickery, madness, and lies, and it feeds on the pain of others. At its best it is debauchery, at its worst it is death and destruction. There is no middle ground. No compromise. And no going back. Return home, sweet Timothy, and heed my warnings. Remember my words. And stay true to yourself. Be strong, young one, and remember, the strong persevere, and the weak crumble before tribulation. Go now, and stand strong.
No matter the circumstances, remember, this power is too great to bear, the consequences too grave, and the cost too large.
No matter the circumstances. He hesitated. Surely a simple think like having Rocky return home couldn’t be that bad?
No matter the circumstances. Sighing, Timmy put down the pen and placed his journal back on his desk. He wanted so desperately to bring Rocky back, but he had to remember that the cost may be too great to bear. And so, with a weary heart, as he often had in his short existence on this earth, Timmy left his bedroom and sought out his parents. Perhaps he could find some solace in their company. At least my mom will comfort me, he thought, as he made his way downstairs.
Gary rolled off of Sue and placed a cigarette in his mouth. Sue handed him her lighter, and after lighting it, he inhaled deeply, and then exhaled, savouring it. She watched this with a mix if pleasure and amusement. This man is a walking cliché, she thought, but he is a pretty good lay. Watching him, she wondered if maybe now was the time to tell him about the little problem she was having with Steve.
Steve Gerlach was her ex-fiancée, and even though the relationship had disintegrated and ended in an acrimonious fashion, they still kept in contact, although only via phone and only averaging a few minutes of talk time a month. The relationship had ended a year or so prior, and it had ended for one simple reason: she had grown tired of being “tied down,” as she put it. She wanted to be free, to live alone and to be with whoever she chose to be with, with no strings attached. He had resented this, and had accused her of cheating, an offence that she was not guilty of; although she had certainly considered it over the years, if for no other reason than simple boredom. Their last day together was spent arguing, then screaming, then in bed, and then screaming again. Eventually he had left, and they hadn’t spoken for a few months when out of the blue he had called her. Ever since, they have retained casual contact. Well, everything was amicable until a few days ago, when Steve had called. At first, everything was fine, until he had asked the winning question.
“So,” he had asked,” seeing anyone?”
“Maybe……..why?” came her reply.
“No reason, no reason…….well…….I might have heard that a certain dirty little girl was bonking a married man……”
“…..Bonking?” She was incredulous. “Did you just say BONKING?”
After a small pause, he had let out a calculated sigh. “You’re missing the point dearheart; you are missing the point indeed. You see, I may know your married loveboy, and I may have had a small……..run in….with him some time ago, and I am afraid that I may one day soon no longer be able to hold my tongue. A certain phone in a certain household may ring, and a certain individual’s marriage might just go up in smoke. Poof.”
“Steve……come on. If you cared for me at all, you wouldn’t do this. You would be hurting more than just him. What about his wife? His son? Me?”
“Ah, but the million dollar question here is does he even care about his wife and son? And do you? You are the one stealing him away, are you not, mon cheri?”
Sue wrinkled her brow in disgust. His little act was getting old. “Listen, and listen well. Mind. Your. Own. Goddamn. Fucking. Business. We clear?”
Steve let out a little laugh, said “nope,” and hung up the phone.
Now, laying here in bed next to Gary, who was enjoying a post coital smoke and seemingly lost in a world of pleasure only attained outside of the confines of his marriage, she decided it was as good a time as any to bring it up. “Gary, does the name Steve Gerlach mean anything to you?”
He coughed, and then turned towards her, blowing a plume of smoke directly into her eyes. His own eyes narrowed into slits. “Yes, I know that piece of shit, and why do you ask?”
“Well,” she sighed, “you see…..I was engaged to him once…and I wa-“
“ENGAGED?” he bellowed. “You were engaged to that….that LIAR? Why? What the hell did you see in him?”
“First of all, I see no reason to yell here. We are talking about the past, not the present. Besides, this isn’t the point. There’s a bit of a problem at hand. He threatened to call your wife and expose us. Why would he do that?”
“Because he’s a bitter cheating fraud, that’s why. We used to work together years ago, and to make a long story short, he had an “on the job accident” and needed to go on disability. Except his so called “on the job accident” was really an off the job accident. So here I am busting my ass at work, and this idiot is at home collecting money without having to do a goddamn thing. So I blew the whistle on his little asshole charade, and they made him come back to work. He’s lucky they didn’t fire his sorry ass. And if you ask me, they should have.”
“Well, this must have been long before I met him because this is the first I have heard of it. Anyways, he threatened to call your wife and when I asked him not to he hung up on me.”
“Well, if I answer the phone when he calls he’ll have to deal with me. And if my wife does, then maybe he’ll have to deal with me in person. And I don’t think he’d want that. So maybe you should let him know this the next time you talk.”
Sue looked him straight in the eyes and said “Gary, I’m afraid the next phone call he places will be to your house, not mine.”
Bethany Smith sat at home staring at the television, not seeing the images on the screen. Her mind was adrift. She was thinking of three tings. One, she was thinking about Timmy, who was upstairs in his room trying to do his homework but most likely not accomplishing much other than thinking about Rocky, his beloved min pin who, at least as of yet, has still not turned up.
And probably never will, her mind added.
She had her suspicions about what had happened, and it was these suspicions which led her to her second train of thought, and that was leaving Gary for good. What kind of man could do that to his son? Take away his only companion, the one thing he really cared for, and took any comfort from. A boy’s love for his dog is always great, and to take that away was a horrible thing to do. Of course, she didn’t have proof that he had a hand in Rocky’s disappearance, but she would be fooling herself if she didn’t think it very likely.
When the hell did he ever leave a door open on his way to work? That man barely trusts anybody, she thought. He makes sure the doors are locked when he’s home, let alone at work. Leaving one wide open just isn’t him.
The third thing that was on her mind, which was related to the second, was Gary’s increasingly frequent late shift, golf games, trips to the bar, or all sorts of other after work activities. Her suspicions that he was having an affair had been growing stronger, and even at this moment, she had a feeling her was with her, whoever, her may be. He hadn’t even bothered to call, just hadn’t shown up.
He’ll show up in an hour or two with some stupid excuse, she thought. And you won’t believe it but you won’t question it either.
Ah, but she thought this time she might, She knew she would be incurring his wrath, but she also thought that it might be for the last time. She realized that as long as she and Timmy stayed with this man, he would slowly poison their lives. She had tried to justify staying to herself on many an occasion, and her logic hadn’t been entirely unsound, but she had to realize that she was both giving Gary more credit than he deserved and not being honest to herself about just how much of a negative impact on Timmy’s life his father was exuding. The verbal and physical abuse were bad enough. Then add to it the fact that he most likely either killed or ran out of the house Timmy’s puppy, and you start to draw a picture of a really bad father.
And husband, don’t forget that. Bad husband. Cheating, abusive, crude bear of a man, with less and less positive to offer as time passed.
She had been giving more thought to this lately, especially since Rocky’s disappearance, and she thought that perhaps they could do it and be alright. She could go back to accounting, which she had enjoyed doing, and been good at, she thought, a touch of a smile on her lips. They could move to another town. Tim had a rough time at school anyways, so he could probably use a fresh start. And they needed to get away from Gary. The only real hitch in this little scenario was how to go about leaving without Gary doing something drastic to stop it. Or tracking them down afterwards and again, doing something drastic.
Could I have Gary arrested, she wondered, not for the first time. Maybe I could get a restraining order against him? She thought this and then she thought of all the stories she had seen on the news ovser the years. Stories in which wives got their husbands in trouble with the law, or had restraining orders put in place, only to be killed the moment the husband was free.
Would a restraining order really stop Gary if he decided to come after us? No, of course not. Might as well just tack a piece of paper to the fridge before we go saying DO NOT FOLLOW US. This is an ORDER. That would be just as effective, and it would be a hell of a lot quicker too.
She was still dwelling on these things a short time later when the phone rang.
She picked it up on the second ring. “Hello?” she said.
The voice on the other end was male, and unfamiliar. “Hello, Bethany.” “Is Gary there?”
“No,” she answered, “he’s working late.” Well, maybe. Can I take a message for him, or would you prefer me to have him phone you back?
There was a pause, and then the voice on the other end of the line said something that stopped her blood cold. “Oh, Beth, sweet, inncocent, oblivious little Beth. How naïve you really are. Well, I’m here to set the record straight for you Beth baby. You see, I knew Gary wasn’t home. I know where he is.”
“WHO IS THIS?” she shouted. “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?” Confused and scared, she thought she should hang up, but some part of her actually knew just what it was that was transpiring here, and wanted to hear the rest.
“Ok, I see I am upsetting you, so how about I do us both a favour and just get right to the juicy part of this little story, what do you say?” And then, without waiting for a response, the voice said simply “he’s with his new love, dear.”
I knew it. I knew this was coming, she thought bitterly, feeling both hurt and yet, oddly relieved. At least I know I wasn’t wrong. I’m not crazy. This little revelation might work in her favour, she thought. She was already thinking that she could use this knowledge as leverage in brokering an escape.
But you knew anyways, before this person called, you knew. You think that telling him someone called and spilled the beans is going to make a lick of a difference? Come on Bethy, don’t be so naïve.
“Beth, are you still with me?” The joy in his voice was unmistakable. Whoever he was, he had a personal reason for doing this and it was bringing him pleasure to do so.
“Who?” she asked, “who is it?” “Tell me her name.”
“Gladly. Are you familiar with Sue’s Diner? Well, the little proprietor of that fine establishment is named Sue Hammond. It is Sue Hammond who has been, if I maybe be crude for a moment, waxing your husband’s candle these past months.” Triumphant, he waited for a response. All he got was a click as Bethany hung up the phone.
Doesn’t matter, he thought. She knows now, which means my job is done.
Gary was getting dressed when the phone rang. Sue picked up the receiver, said hello, and then listened for a moment or two before hanging up. She turned to Gary and her face spelt trouble.
“What’s wrong, what is it?,” he asked.
“It was him. He said he just had a chat with Beth, and then he hung up the phone.”
Gary was angered immediately. “Son of a BICTH!” he screamed. “Goddamn MOTHERFUCKER!” He was turning red, and he had his fists clenched by his sides. He started to pace back and forth, spewing more obscenities.
Sue had never seen him like this, and was frightened. She hesitated, and then called his name.
“GARY!” Finally, she got his attention. HE looked in her direction.
“I have to go home right now,” he said, “and deal with this. But when I’m done, you’re going to tell me where I can find this piece of shit, and I am going to go have a little chat with him. We’ll have a nice heart to heart, him and I.” At that, he finished dressing and left, leaving Sue to stare after him, not knowing what to do.
After hanging up the phone, Beth sat on the couch for what seemed to her like hours, not moving, only staring straight ahead. Her emotions came in waves, first in series then all at once. Sadness, relief, anger, rage, fear, and despair. Sadness for Timmy, who-
That got her moving. She had to get Timmy out of the house somehow, because she planned to confront Gary when he came home, and she had a feeling it wouldn’t go very well. Timmy doesn’t need to be around for it, she thought.
She went upstairs and found Timmy bent over his desk, reading, or at least appearing to.
“Timmy.” She called out to him. “Tim.” He turned towards the sound of her voice, and she saw that his eyes were red. Crying over Rocky again, she thought. Poor kid. And at that, she felt another flash of anger.
“Timmy, why don’t you head over to the video store and rent yourself a couple of movies? Take a break from all that work. I’ll give you the money. And while you’re out, I’d appreciate it if you could run over to the supermarket for me and pick up a couple of things.”
“I don’t really feel like going anywhere mom.” He looked tired. Tired and sad.
“Tim, I really need you to go to the store for me, I have some things I have to do around here, otherwise I would go myself. And I really think you need a break from your work. A couple of movies would do you good. Get your mind off of things, you know?”
There was a pause, and then he sighed. “Alright mom, I’ll go.”
She felt bad, but she knew it was the right thing to do. There’s no way I can do this with him around.
“Come with me, and I’ll make you a list of things to buy, and then I’ll give you money for the movies and the groceries.” At that, she headed back downstairs.
Gary pulled into the driveway just in time to see the kid head out on his bike. He noticed this but assigned no real importance to it. He had other things to worry about. Still fuming, he parked his truck, cut the engine, and got out, stretching as he did so. Standing in the driveway, he paused to consider just turning around, getting back in the truck, and driving away, maybe out of this damn town for good. Hole up somewhere and figure something out.
Fuck that, he thought. I’m going to deal with this shit first, and then deal with that walking corpse, Steve Gerlach. He started to head to the house, and then a thought popped into his mind.
The kid. She sent the kid away. Son of a bitch, look at what we have here. Gather around, pay your five pence and see the show. She is planning on confronting me? Well, she has a nice surprise coming to her, I’ll tell you that people.
He put the keys into the lock, unlocked the door, and stepped in.
Beth sent Timmy on his way and turned back towards the living room when she heard the sound of a vehicle pulling into the driveway. She turned towards the door.
She suddenly felt like someone had placed an icicle down the back of her shirt. She tensed up, and then reminded herself that at the very least, Timmy wasn’t home, and besides, she was in the right. He’d been having an affair. Maybe he’ll be remorseful, she thought.
Yeah, and then he’ll tell me he’s sorry for everything, and he wants to go to counselling and try to patch things between him and I and him and his son. He’ll cry and I’ll cry, and then Timmy will come home and he’ll cry, and we’ll all live happily ever after.
She was about to offer herself some sort of sarcastic rebuttal when she heard the key in the lock. She watched the door open and Gary walked in. Looking at him, not knowing what she would do or say, it was decided for her.
He’s ANGRY? The bastard’s been cheating, and HE’S angry?
She was suddenly infuriated. “You,” she said, before he had even shut the door. “You cheating bastard. You goddamn LIAR!” For the first time in quite some time she allowed herself to be fully angry with him, and she had to admit to herself it was liberating. “You filthy, cheating pig!”
He shut the door behind him, and, keys dangling from the hand at his side, he looked at his wife. Go ahead, he thought, keep it up.
She did. “How dare you? You treat me like shit, you treat your son like shit, you probably did something to his dog, and on top of it you have the balls to have an affair? You’re not a man. You’re a scumbag piece of sh-“
This last was cut off when he reared back and threw his keys at her as hard as he could.
She darted her head to the left at the last second, and rather than hit flush, they bounced off the side of her face, drawing blood but leaving her otherwise unharmed. Stunned, but unharmed.
He used this moment to rush at her, and en route, he bumped into an end table, upending it and her coffee that had been perched upon it, but tripping him up enough to afford her an extra second, which she used to dart into the kitchen. When he entered, she had her back against the counter. She was holding a knife.
“Put that fucking knife down Beth.” “If you knew what was good for you, you would drop that knife right now.” He said this slowly, and as he did he advanced towards her, also slowly.
She stood, wide eyed, wondering how this had gotten so serious so quickly, and unsure of what to do.
He brushed by the table, and as he did he noticed the vase sitting on it. In one quick, smooth motion, he swept up the vase and threw it at her, hoping for one of two outcomes. It would either hit her, or cause her to duck/sidestep, which would afford him the two seconds he needed to close the distance and wrench the knife away from her. Either outcome would do, he thought, and he was charging at her even as he was releasing the vase.
She saw what he meant to do just in time to avoid the flying vase, but before she could do anything else, he was on top of her. Screaming, she tried to get away but she had no chance. He had her by the wrist and yelling, delivered a blow to her arm with all the force he could muster, causing her to both cry out and drop the knife. He kicked it away and went to work.
He grabbed hold of her and, turning, threw her back into the direction of the living room. Scrambling for purchase, she grabbed onto the table and steadied herself before she tumbled completely to the floor. She looked up in time to see his fist flying at her and it smashed home, bloodying her lip immediately. She cried out, and he shoved her back towards the living room. This time she did fall, half in the kitchen and half in the living room. She kicked up at him as he advanced at her. He stood back, just out of reach of her flailing limbs, and when he saw his chance he grabbed hold of her ankle. He then viciously wrenched it to one side, smacking it into the wall, and then stomped on her midsection four times in quick succession. This was enough to stop her from kicking up at him, and he used the brief lapse in offence as an opportunity to move past her intot he living room. He turned towards her and told her to get up.
Lying on the floor, in pain, terrified, humiliated, and angry, Beth could only scream. She stopped when Gary told her to quit it and raised his foot in a threatening gesture. She rose to her knees. She spoke. “Why? You do this to me. But I’m the one who gets this. What happened to you Gary? Don’t you remember what it used to be like for us? What changed?” She wiped away blood that dripped from her lip.
He glared at her, and then spoke slowly, with purpose. “What changed, you ask? You changed. My life changed, when you ruined it having a damn kid. I found someone though. Someone who knows how to have fun, how to have a good time. Someone who knows how to give me what I want. Someone who’s looks didn’t go because she got too comfortable. Someone who isn’t saddled with a kid. And you know what? I fucking love it.”
She looked at him, opened her mouth to speak, and burst into tears. Why was he doing this to her? Why did he get off on hurting her? What kind of monster did she marry? “I’ll call the cops. I’m going to take Timmy and I’m going to leave you. You don’t want us anyways, so why not just let us GO?” She shouted this last, and regarded him through a stream of tears.
“I decide who comes and who goes. No one leaves me until I tell them to. Now get up. You wanted a confrontation baby? Well, you got one.”
She stayed put, and he raised his foot again. “If you don’t stand up in three seconds, this foot is going right into your face.” He started counting.
“Okay! Okay!” she cried, as she stood up.
The stood facing one another. He was breathing hard, face still flush with anger. She was bleeding from the lip, and every time she inhaled she felt a small but sharp pain in her side. No one said or did anything for a few seconds. Then Gary broke the silence.
“Where’d the kid go?”
She was confused. “What?”
He repeated himself, his impatience in his voice. “Where......did…the…kid…go?”
I sent him away so he wouldn’t have to see this. She thought this, but instead said “he went to go rent a couple of movies and I also sent him to…” She stopped, realizing she had made a mistake.
“Sent him to what?” he asked, enjoying this, knowing that he had her to himself for a while.
“Sent him where, Beth.?”
Sighing, she relented, knowing that he already had a good idea where Timmy was, and that lying would only make it worse. She told him where Timmy had gone. Gary favoured her with a smile that conveyed a malicious sort of glee.
“Okay then Bethy……you wanted a confrontation, let’s have it,” he said, advancing yet again towards her.
Timmy had seen his father’s truck pulling in but he had paid it no heed. He was lost in his thoughts. He was thinking about Rocky, and how much he missed him. He pedaled on, and he reached the first corner, where he made a right onto Murdoch Ave. His route would then take him left onto Astor Dr., where he would stop into the local video store, pick out a movie or two (only to placate his mother, he did not feel much for a movie tonight) and continue on towards Main St. where he would head into the local grocery store and pick up the dozen or so things on the list his mother had sent him off with. It was going to be a bit of a ride to Main St., but he thought maybe his mother thought the time away from home would get his mind off of Rocky. It wouldn’t, but he felt grateful to her just the same. At least she was trying. Unlike his father, who had continued to show a remarkable indifference towards him. He made his left onto Astor, Dr. and pulled up the video store. He went in, and browsed around, half-heartedly trying to find something interesting. He spied a movie with a superhero on the cover, and grabbed that. He had always liked the idea of s superhero. Superheros were tough, but they didn’t use that to hurt people. They helped people, and they stood up to the bad guys. He walked up to the counter with his choice, and reached into his pocket to take out the money his mother had given him. He pulled out a stick of gum and some pocket lint, and nothing else. Frowning jus slightly, he checked his other pocket and came up empty.
Where’s the money? Did I lose it? And then it hits him. Ah crap, I changed my shorts before I left and forgot to transfer the money over to these ones. He relayed this to the clerk with just a touch of embarrassment, and headed back out of the store and back towards Murdoch Ave.
Beth bolted for the stairs and caught Gary by surprise in doing so. She got to the first stair and he grabbed hold of her hair, pulling her back. Screaming in fury, she turned on him and gave him a hard punch in the face and, without hesitation, tried to run past. Gary caught her with a stiff forearm as she tried to pass. He turned to face her, and she scratched at his face. He swatted her arm away, and then touched his hand to his face. He drew blood. It was little more than a scratch but it served to infuriate him even more.
Bitch drew blood, he thought. No one makes me bleed. No one.
She ran back into the living room, and when he turned to face her, he was met with a barrage of ceramic knick knacks that she had scooped off of the mantle and was now throwing at him, screaming at him while she did it.
“HERE!!!!” she screamed, “HERE YOU BASTARD!!!! She threw blindly, seeing him through a film of tears, but she threw hard and he was only half a room’s distance away. The first one missed. The second one shattered on his forehead, cutting him. The third bounced of his chest. The fourth I hit im in the throat, not shattering but hurting him worse than it migh have had it shattered, since he took the full weight of it. He gasped, and she threw the fifth and final one, and this one took him on the cheek, again drawing blood.
She looked around and saw nothing else to throw, and seeing this, Gary offered her a smile. Then, bellowing, he charged full speed in her direction.
Timmy pedaled his way up Astor Dr. and made the turn onto Murdoch Ave. He headed back towards Maple Ave. and home.
Gary reached Beth, who had tried to sidestep him but had failed and he grabbed her roughly around the shoulders and threw her to the ground. Towering over her, a look of sadistic pleasure on his face, he held her down with a foot on her groin, and did something he had only done one other time in their marriage, when, years prior, after a particularly ugly scene, Beth had told him she wanted a divorce: he began to take off his belt.
Timmy pulled into the driveway and rounded the back, planning to enter through the back door so as to keep his bike out of view (his previous bike had been stolen out of the driveway). As he got to the back and parked his bike, he heard a sound that stopped him cold. He heard his mother screaming. He darted for the door and unlocked it, still hearing his mother’s screams. Once he had the door open, he heard a second sound. The sound of a leather belt hitting skin. Dashing through the kitchen, he stepped on something which caused him to lose balance. He looked down briefly as he regained his balance, and dimly registered that it was a knife as he ran to the living room, which was the place where the sounds were originating. He burst into the room and saw his father bent over his mother, who was cowering on the floor, trying desperately to protect herself from the blows he was raining down on her.
“DAD!!!!!!!!! STOP IT!!!!!!!!!” Screaming, he ran blindly towards his father, who turned towards him and snarled:
“Stay back! If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay back.” And then he turned back towards Beth and raised the belt up again.
Panicked, terrified, and also angry, Timmy’s mind flashed on the object he had tripped on moments ago. The knife. He turned and ran back to the kitchen. He scanned the floor and saw the knife. Grabbing it, he turned and ran back towards his father.
“STOP IT!!!!” he screamed, and watched himself plunge the knife into his father’s back.
Timmy stood behind his father and envisioned himself plunging the knife into his father’s back, while in reality, he screamed out again, and when his father finally turned around he held the knife up threateningly.
“Oh, you’re going to stab your father, are you?” Gary stood fully erect and turned completely in Tim’s direction. “Go ahead then, asshole, stab your own father.”
Timmy looked at his father, then looked down at his mother, who was sobbing on the floor. When he looked back at his father, he was furious.
“Get out of here. Put down that belt and get out of here. If you are not out of here in thirty seconds I will grab the phone right there,” he said, pointing to the nearby phone extension, “and call 911. All I have to do is dial, so even if you come at me, knife or not, they will trace the call. But if you do come at me, I might use the knife. Because I’m afraid you might kill someone tonight. So just go.” He looked at his father and tried to seem confident when in reality he was utterly terrified.
His father must have believed at least some of it, because he silently dropped his belt and walked out the front door. Timmy heard the truck start and drive out les than a minute later. He ran to his mother.
Gary was furious. He decided to head over to Sue’s place and find out where he can find Steve Gerlach, the guy who had screwed everything up so bad for him (as he saw it). On the way there, though, he decided he would get good and drunk first. So he stopped off at the nearest bar. An hour later he stumbled out, completely inebriated, and drove the short distance to Sue’s house.
He arrived there and let himself in with the spare key she had given him. She was reading a novel, and when he walked in she looked up and saw a cut, bruised and scratched up Gary, who was clearly drunk and also had spots of blood on his face and forehead.
“What the hell?” she cried, “what happened?”
“Gerlacshk….gimme gerlacks…..” he slurred, as he stumbled towards her. “Gimme Gerlacshks…..”
She took a second or tow to register what it was he was asking for, and when she understood she felt afraid. It looked like Gary actually meant to track Steve down and, in his present condition, probably meant to actually kill him. She stood and placed her book down on the coffee table which was between the two of them. “Maybe you should just go home,” she said.
At the same time his father was arriving at Sue’s apartment, Timmy was in his room listening to his mother’s sobs from the next room over and looking at a blank notebook page, debating. After getting his mother to her feet and making sure she was not grievously injured, he had suggested they call the police, and for reasons never quite made clear to him (although he could venture a guess) his mother had rejected the idea. Now he sat at his desk, pen in hand, blank journal page open in front of him, and after nearly an hour’s worth of debate, he put pen to paper, and wrote one sentence:
I wish my father would stop being so mean.
He sat back and closed his journal.
Gary heard her tell him to go home and for the first time, he lost it with her. He charged at her, bellowing. She shied away from him, but fortunately for her, and unfortunately for him, he never made it to her. He was so drunk that when he attempted to run he lost his footing, and came down hard, smacking his head off of her coffee table with a sickening thump.
Beth got the call from the hospital. Gary had sustained a brain injury, and was now in a coma. She was shocked of course, but if she was to be honest with herself, she wasn’t particularly upset.
But how do I tell Timmy? How will he even take it? Will he even care at this point?
Pushing these thoughts away, she went to his room.
“Tim…..I have some bad news. I don’t know how to tell you this, so I guess I’ll just have to say it.”
“It’s dad, right?” he asked, not surprised, but already feeling a twang of guilt. “He’s dead, isn’t he?” He wasn’t supposed to die!!!! Why can’t it just do what I write? Why does it have to twist things?
“It is you dad, Tim, but he’s not dead.”
What then, he thought, what?
She looked at her son, not wanting to have to say this to him. Gary might be a terrible father, but the fact remained that he was, in fact, still Timmy’s dad. Sighing, she said “he had an accident……..and now he’s in a coma.”
“That’s not what I wanted!” he cried.
Beth’s heart went out to her son. Poor kid, she thought, even through al of this, he still loves his father.
“Well, Timmy,” she said, “He left here and he went to the bar. He had too much to drink, and he took a fall and hit his head.”
Timmy listened to this and started to cry. He had meant for his father to have a change in personality, not end up in a coma. His mother saw his crying as a sign that he was simply upset about his father, which was true, in part. He was more upset that he didn’t get the result he had wanted, more so than he was upset about his father’s accident. He had envisioned his father returning home a new man. He felt as though he had just been robbed of the chance to finally have a normal father. Reluctantly, he agreed to accompany his mother to the hospital.
Two months have passed since the events involving Gary Smith had transpired. Timmy and Beth were doing pretty well. Beth had gone back to work as a corporate accountant, and after an initial adjustment period, which was to be expected after so much time away, she began to do quite well. Timmy had adjusted to life with just one parent fairly quickly, although she had to admit to herself it was pretty obvious why that was. Timmy had celebrated his 17th birthday.
As for Gary, nothing had changed, and the doctors did not expect him to recover, certainly not any time soon.
And so life continued.
Nothing much happened until Wednesday, August 27th. Beth had finished work a few hours early and was running a few errands. Her second to last stop was the bank on 4th Ave. After the bank she had decided she would get some take out and surprise Timmy with an early dinner full of beef, cheese, and grease, three of his favourite foods. Smiling at this thought, she pulled up to the bank and parked her car in the lot. She walked into the bank, and took her spot in line, planning on making a withdrawal, when she heard a commotion behind her. Three masked men burst in, each brandishing a weapon and both wearing ski masks. Like a scene from a movie, she found herself thinking randomly, before she and the man in front of her were grabbed and held at gunpoint.
“Everybody stay calm and nobody gets hurt!” shouted one of the robbers, as the third criminal demanded money at the counter. The teller was apparently not as quick as he wanted, and so, to the disbelief of everybody present, he shot her from point blank range, right in the face, killing her almost instantly. Panic broke out, and in the ensuing chaos, the man holding Beth was bumped. Beth felt the bump and the next thing she knew she heard a bang and was on the ground, unable to breathe.
Her mouth moved, but no words came out. She was trying to call to her son, but her son was at home and unaware of what was transpiring. She lay there unable to breathe and soon everything went dark.
Timmy was in a daze as he unpacked the rest of his belongings. It was the day after his mother’s funeral, and he was at his aunt’s house. He thought about his mother, and again, as it had so many times these last few days, the grief consumed him, and he collapsed onto his new, unwanted bed, and cried fiercely. He cried for his mother, and when those tears finally dried, he cried for his father. And finally, he cried for himself. Timmy Smith, who never had a friend all through grade school and through most of high school, until Rocky had literally appeared in his life. Timmy Smith, who had to create a fiend for himself in a fictional world that he had created for himself as an escape from his real life. Timmy Smith, who had never had a girlfriend. Timmy Smith, who was bullied, picked on, berated, ignored and physically assaulted, both by his peers and his father. He cried for Rocky. He cried for all of the hurt he has felt his whole life.
Eventually, the tears stopped, at least momentarily, and he resumed the process of unpacking, feeling sick to his stomach at the thought that his mom was really gone and he now had to live with his Aunt, whom he barely knew. He unpacked some clothing, and then his books. He was putting a few books on his bed when he saw it.
The journal. In all of the confusion he had forgotten the journal.
And suddenly, he had a thought. I could bring her back.
He stood there thinking. He thought of how the things he had written had been twisted. How the outcomes of these incidents had been horrible and not at all what he had desired. But, he thought, how could this be changed? Wishing someone alive when they are…..well, no longer alive, can’t be screwed up. You can only be alive or…..not alive, right?
He thought of his mother, and how he longed to be with her again. And that decided it. He scrounged around for a pen, and when he found one, he turned to an open page in his journal, and with only the slightest hesitation, lowered the pen to the paper and wrote:
I want my mom back.
He sat up and read this aloud twice before closing the journal. He stood up,
And there was a knock at the front door.
He froze in place, and then the paralysis broke when the thought of his mom came to him, and he ran out of the room and down the stairs, beating his aunt to the front door even though she had been in the kitchen on the main floor. He flung the door open.
And standing there, on the front porch, was a man dressed in a suit; a salesman of some sort. Timmy turned without a word and ran back upstairs and into his room.
That night, Timmy dreamt he was reunited with his mother. He dreamed he was in the clearing at the end of the path, and his mother was there when he arrived.
Timmy walks down the path, surrounded again by nature, but today he is not cognizant of the beauty around him. He is concerned only with getting to the clearing, for he is going there to meet his mother, who has come back from the dead. He walks at a pace just a shade slower than running, for he knows that running is prohibited in this place. He has never been explicitly told this, but he knows it just the same. After some time, he reaches the clearing.
His mother is there. She is beautiful. She is radiant. She is incredible. She’s a goddess. She is his mother and she is whole again. Timmy runs to her, and they embrace. It is the sweetest embrace that has ever existed, and as far as Tommy is concerned, it can last forever.
“WHAT DID YOU DO? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”
A roaring voice startles Timmy, and he looks back to see Black Bear standing behind him. He turns back to his mother, but she is no longer there. She is gone. Frantic, he scans the surrounding area, and she is nowhere to be found.
“Where’s my mother?” he asks, “what did you do with my mother?”
Black Bear looks terrified. He speaks again, this time at a much lower volume, and for the first time his voice loses its authoritative, soothing quality, and it shakes. “Timothy, you should not have done this. You have now crossed the barrier that separates life and death. This is not good at all. This is terrible. Horrible. It must be undone.”
Timmy listens to this but he is unfazed. “My mother is back. She’s not some murderer; she is my mother, the sweetest woman on earth. What is so bad about it?”
And in another first for Black Bear, he offers no answer. He simply turns around and disappears into the woods beyond the clearing.
Timmy is awakened from his dream by a sound. He cannot tell the origin of the sound, until it occurs again. It sounds as though there is somebody downstairs. His aunt, perhaps? He got out of bed, opened the door, and walked to the top of the stairs. He heard the rustling sound again. He called out his aunt’s name. No response. He turned and looked to his left. Her bedroom door was closed. He began to feel afraid, but found himself descending three stairs anyways. He waited, and then he heard a new sound. The new sound he heard sounded like a sort of squishing. As though someone were walking in shoes that were full of water.
Feeling afraid but unable to stop himself, he walked down the rest of the stairs. The sounds were coming from the kitchen, and after a brief pause he walked in that direction. He got into the entrance to the kitchen and froze.
Standing there in the kitchen was his mother. Or at least, what used to be his mother. She was breathing and she was moving, but the decaying process had begun and she was clearly dead. Yet, here she was.
The mom-thing was missing clumps of hair, as well as most of its nose. Its skin was bubbly and it was bloated and turning black. It smelled of death and decay, and there were worms in its eye sockets, where there used to be eyes. It opened its mouth, and what remained of its tongue fell onto the floor. Maggots crawled over it, and some dangled from the remains of its lips. It sucked these back with a disgusting slurping sound, and then it smiled a gruesome smile, full of decayed teeth and maggots. It took one lurching step towards Timmy
and then the mom-thing spoke:
“Hello Timmy,” it said, “mommy’s home.”
Its voice sounded like Beth’s voice overlaid with the voice of Satan. The sound of its voice broke Timmy’s paralysis and he ran, screaming all the way upstairs, and to his room, slammed the door shut, turned on the light and flipped open his journal. Going as quickly as possible, he found a blank page, and, having no time to consider the ways in which this may be misconstrued, how it might be twisted and used against him, he wrote frantically:
This is not happening. This is all a dream. It is not real. I imagined it all.
And then he fainted.
Ridgemont Memorial Hospital
Bethany Smith arrived at the ICU and Dr. Werner accosts her in the hall.
“Mrs. Smith?” he called out to her from part way down the hall, “I need to speak with you, it’s urgent.”
He pulled her aside into an empty waiting room and began the uncomfortable job of relaying the bad news.
“Mrs. Smith, I do not know how to say this without just coming out with it. The brain activity that we have been seeing for the last several months……..the activity that has resembled dreaming……..I am very troubled to report to you that, as of approximately 3am this morning, it has stopped. It seems as though Timmy’s condition has changed into what we are unfortunately now forced to call a vegetative state. I…..I am very, very sorry.
Beth took this in, and then pulled a tissue from her purse to wipe away the tear that had slid down her cheek. She had been doing a lot of crying lately. Bitterly, she silently cursed her husband.
Soon to be ex-husband, she thought.
Her husband Gary, who had gone too far with his idea of “discipline” and had done this to their sweet, innocent son, was now rotting in jail, although if one were to ask Bethany Smith, it was not punishment enough.
Beth collected herself and thanked the doctor. She went to see her son.
She stood beside her son’s bed and held his hand. She stayed like that for some time, and then after a while, she returned home.
Later, she sits in his room and as she has done for the past few weeks, she reads his journal. Flipping through the entries, tears streaming silently down her cheeks, she relives her sons pain through his documentation. And, as usual, she flips to the last entry in the book, and reads this last, before putting the book back on his desk and retiring to bed, where she will sleep the troubled sleep of the grieving. The entry reads:
Today was another bad day at school. I won’t even bother writing the details, by this point you get the idea. I came home and I cried for a while, and now I write this. But I am not crying anymore. You see, I am lonely, sad and angry. I am abused, misused, mistreated, and perhaps worst of all, ignored. But I have my mother. My father is working late tonight, and my mother and I are going to watch a movie together. I love my mother. And who knows, maybe tomorrow I can get my dad to talk to me a little bit. I’ll try watching baseball with him if he wants. You’ll know how that goes, because it will be in tomorrow’s entry. So, even though today was another horrible day, I leave on a happy note. Goodbye for now. My mother is waiting for me.
Smiling a sad smile, Bethany Smith wipes away her tears and closes the journal.