Monday, September 19, 2011
Flash Fiction--A Father Knows
Today I thought I'd post one of my short fiction pieces. It's not perfect but so few things are. I hope you enjoy.
This story is a bit disturbing so if you are easily upset, stop here. It's not gory or graphic but emotionally upsetting.
A FATHER KNOWS by Tirzah L. Goodwin
The evenings in Morganstown are loud. Cars drift by, music blaring, a mix of Mexicana and rap that swells into a headache behind my right eye. I feel the beat there now, pounding. Or maybe it's my heart that pounds out, "No, no, no" but I feel the answer, a cold bubble of truth that lodges like a knife in my gut.
I know but I don't want to know.
He's standing on the steps of his mother's apartment building, his teeth flash as he laughs with a skinny boy with FT shaved into the back of his head. But I don't see that other boy; I see him, my son.
Just his name and he freezes, his dark eyes wide, the dimple disappearing from his cheek.
I grab his arm, digging my calloused fingers into the plump flesh underneath.
"Dad?...Dad?"someone calls but I'm already dragging him across the street, ignoring the screaming horns and swear words. His skin is slippery with sweat but I yank him after me, not stopping when he stumbles. The music beats in the background like an accusation, ringing in my ears.
In the park where I took him to play as a kid, I stop. He trips and falls to his knees, blubbering. The swings sit empty and silent behind him as big sloppy tears pour down his cheeks, leaving wet circles on his blue t-shirt.
That bubble of cold breaks in my belly and spreads through my bones. I'm trembling. He's trembling.
"Darius, don't lie to me, son. Did you do it?"
He's on his knees, his eyes rolling wildly, looking at anything, anyone but me. To me, we are the only two people in the world. The vein behind my eye throbs. I yank the gun from the waist band of my jeans and I press it against his forehead. He moans. The cold wraps around my heart until each beat of it rips a bigger hole in my chest.
"Darius, I will know if you lie. I'll know."
He won't took at me because I can see him, really see him. I see him squealing as he races up an escalator as a kid, I see him with my brother's darkness in him. He's my son, mine.
"I'll know," I whisper but I don't know, not for sure. I want him to tell me I'm wrong. I want him to convince me.
"I didn't mean it, Daddy. I didn't. She's just kept huggin' me and followin' me..."
Pain leaves me in a howl. No.
My right hand moves before I even think. The butt of the gun smacks him backwards, warm blood flooding down his chin from his busted lip. My nose burns as the air spikes with the smell of urine and a dark stain spread across the crotch of Darius's jeans.
"She's four. Four, Darius! What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."
Darius is curled up at my feet, trembling, blood smeared across his chin, and I don't know what to do. My skin flashes hot, then cold. My stomach rolls with each convulsive swallow of bile. Then calm settles inside me like God laid his hand on my shoulder. I suck in a deep breath, hold it, then let it out slowly, the sound whistling between my teeth.
I love him. I do. Even now, I love him.
Falling to my knees in the worn grass, my tears drip down on his bare head like a baptism.
"Darius, son, I forgive you."
I reach out and pull him close with my left arm. The warm air of his breath flutters against my chest. My right arm aches from the awkward angle. I squeeze the trigger softly.
He stiffens then sighs, his body going limp against mine.
I kiss his forehead and follow him into sleep.