I wanted to give all of my readers something special today so I decided to write a story. Keep in mind that this is fiction and I’ve never actually written a full length short story before. It may need some work, but I think I have a solid foundation. I’d love to know what any of you think about it.
I woke up in a cold sweat as the screeching halt of the city bus jerked my body forward; forcing me from one nightmare into another with the only difference being that this one never seemed to end. I looked around me and saw to my surprise that the bus was nearly empty with the remaining few passengers beginning the journey toward the front of the bus and the street below. “Last stop on the line” the driver yelled as the rain drops collided with the window at my right and the pitter patter echoed in my ears. The light outside had faded and the sky had become a tapestry of black and white with every shade of gray in between. “How long had I been asleep?” I wondered. It had only felt like a few minutes, but by the look of things it had been much longer. I dug through my pockets and found my cell phone. “Four missed calls” the screen had read as I brought it closer to my face and allowed my still-blurry eyes to focus. I cleared the calls and looked at the time. It was nearly eight o’clock. I had been sleeping for several hours.
As the last passenger exited the bus and reality sunk in I gathered my things and made my way to the front where a large middle aged man sat. As I approached him I noticed faint traces of something I was all too familiar with: a combination of cheap bourbon, stale cigars, and bodily odors; the very same things I smelled at home on a daily basis. As I got closer the pungent stench of the man nearly overwhelmed me and I had to keep myself from breathing through my nose in order to stand in his general vicinity. Unsure of where the bus had stopped I turned to the man and politely asked.
“Where do you think, kid? The fuckin’ bus terminal.” He snapped with a thick city accent that over emphasized every syllable and an obvious annoyance at my question.
“I’ve never been this far on the line.” I replied meekly, recoiling slightly and hoping he would give me more to go on without me having to ask again. He looked at me with impatient piercing eyes and said nothing. “Can you at least tell me how to get to Bradford Street from here?” I managed to ask with a slight whimper in my voice. As much as I hated to admit it, the driver’s disposition was slightly unnerving, but something I was somewhat accustomed to.
“Do I look like a goddamn compass, kid? I’ve got shit to do.” He said, abrasively. He then reached over to a console behind his seat and pulled out a city map before shoving it my way and telling me to get lost.
I took the map and descended the steps, being glad to escape the cloud of stench and hostility that had assaulted me only moments before. The rain pelted my face with a searing cold I had not expected and was hardly prepared for. I quickly rushed beyond the gates and to the awning in front of the terminal, where I found a brief reprieve from the storm. Ignoring the now dampened state of the map I opened it and took a moment to find my bearings. Within a minute I had not only located where the bus terminal was, but also where my street was in relation to it. From the looks of the map I was quite a ways away from Bradford. It would take me at least an hour to get there on foot. I turned back to the terminal, hoping that there would be at least one more bus running, but to no avail. The final light beyond the glass windows was flipped to the off position and the station went dark, eliminating any chance I had of finding a running bus.
With a direction in mind, I pulled the hood of my jacket over my head and began the three mile walk to my house in the unwelcoming evening air. As I walked I thought about any and everything that came to mind; the things that could distract me from the cold air upon my face and the feeling of mash potatoes beneath my feet as the water soaked through the soles of my worn away shoes.
I thought about the A I had gotten in art class earlier that day for a drawing that had taken me nearly a week to complete. The assignment was a warped perspective drawing of a place that was familiar to us. I had chosen the park down the street from my house. It was rundown and falling apart, neglected by the city and the people in the neighborhood. It hadn’t always been that way, though. Before my mother died, she used to take me there all the time and push me on the swings. The grass was nicely cut, flowers sprung up from the ground in various scattered patches, and the jungle gym was always clean and free of debris. As the years passed, however, it became something else entirely.
I decided to draw the park as I remembered it, though; how I had always known it as a kid. It was my safe place and whenever I needed to escape from the house and my father, it was my home away from home, no matter the disrepair and forlorn appearance.
My art teacher, Ms. Ryan, who knew the area (and me) pretty well, fell in love with the piece and hung it up in the classroom to share with others. Although I wasn’t too keen on the attention, she was always someone who I couldn’t say no to because of her kind and warm disposition. Without even asking she tacked it to the wall for everyone to see. Seeing the excitement in her eyes, I kept my mouth shut and let it stay there. To be honest, her love of it made me love it more and even prouder of the fact that I had drawn something so captivating. It was nice to have someone appreciate me in even the smallest of ways; it wasn’t something I was used to so I clung to it like a child would cling to a blanket, drawing on its warmth.
The warmth faded quickly, however, as a cold gust of icy wind struck me, plunging me from my reverie into the familiar darkness of the city. I had let my mind wander so far that I barely noticed how close I had come to my street or how quickly I had been walking. As I walked down Bradford and my house came into view a familiar feeling of unyielding dread crept in and took hold. How would I explain this to my father? Would he even listen? Probably not. And even if he did, it wouldn’t be enough to escape his wrath. The liquor would make sure of that. I could run somewhere; anywhere. But where? I didn’t have anyone I could stay with and trying to escape him would just make it worse when I would inevitably have to return and face him.
I walked up the front steps and stood below the flickering light. With hands shaking I turned the handle on the door as I had so many times before and braced myself for the inevitable torrent of anger that would come my way. I stepped inside and noticed a faint glow in the front hallway, coming from the living room off to the right. The TV volume had been turned up high and the front of the house reeked of various smells that reminded me of the bus driver I came across earlier on in the evening. As I walked by the entrance to the living room I noticed my father sprawled out in his recliner with a nearly empty bottle of whiskey on his lap and an ashtray that was overflowing on the table beside him. He was dressed in only an old tank top that I would have guessed had been white at one point in time and a pair of worn away boxer shorts covered in crumbs from whatever he had been eating.
At the sight of him I was relieved. As long as he stayed like that I was safe for a while. I turned back to the hallway in front of me and took a step forward only to be met with the most horrifying sound I could have come across at that point in time: the ear splitting sound of a creaking floorboard beneath my feet. In an instant my relief was replaced with outright panic; a panic that welled up inside of my chest and could have easily burst from my body at any moment. I ached for the volume of the TV to overpower the sound of the floorboard, but as I had expected it did not.
My father’s head jerked upright and with groggy, nearly bloodshot eyes he turned to me. My feet froze in place as I turned my head to meet his gaze.
“Boy!” He yelled as his bellowing voice drowned out the sound of the TV in its entirety. “Get your ass over here.”
I wanted to run. I wanted to run away and never look back. But I was cold, sopping wet from the rain, and felt helpless in my father’s presence. No matter how old I was or how big I had gotten, I felt small around him. It didn’t matter than I was taller than him or even stronger; he was my father and I was his son, small and weak. So I did as he said. I made my way to where he sat across the room. As I came closer to his drunken form he stood, unsteady on his feet and swaying slightly.
“Where the fuck have you been?” He asked, jaw clenched and a look of rage in his eyes. Before I could even respond, however, I felt something cold and sharp strike the side of my head. The force of the blow coupled with the shock of it nearly knocked me off my feet. I stumbled backward away from my father, with a ringing in my ears and a blurred image in front of me. I stood there confused and in pain with a throbbing sensation at my right temple, trying with difficulty to grapple with the pieces of that moment.
I looked up and my father stood before me with the remnants of a half broken jagged-edged whiskey bottle smeared with drops of blood; my blood. It was only then that I comprehended the event that had just transpired. I instinctively raised my hand to the right sight of my head where the bottle had struck me and blood now matted my hair and trickled down the side of my face.
My father had hit me before; he had beaten me time and time again, but never had he taken it this far. Never had he left me with a mark I could not strategically cover.
I backed away from him, knowing that the only thing keeping him at bay was the liquor that swayed his movements. I fled from the living room as he called after me, screaming at the top of his lungs, but remaining where he was too drunk to even chase after me. I ran to the kitchen, discovering that my own movements were wobbly at best and delayed by the gash on my head. I grabbed the closest cloth I could find, ran it under the warm tap water, and pressed it gently to the wound, hoping it would sever the bleeding without imbedding the small fragments of glass even further in my skull. I thought about how easily I could cover a bruise. But this; this was something I couldn’t hide. My mind raced with more thoughts than I could put into focus and the panic I felt before had vanished as I felt the disgusting weight of guilt upon me. This never would have happened if I hadn’t fallen asleep. He wouldn’t have gotten so angry. He wouldn’t have crossed that line. I told myself more things than I could count, even though a voice in my head was telling me I was being ridiculous and there was nothing I could do; he would have done it either way. I wrestled with that thought for what seemed like forever in the span of no more than a few seconds.
I stood there by the sink, gathering my thoughts, tending to the blood that now drenched the wet towel, and hoping my father’s fit of rage had passed. As I stood there looking around, I noticed something off to the side of the counter, sticking out from the trashcan: a large thick envelope embroidered with fancy lettering. I moved closer to it and plucked it from the pile. Upon first inspection I noticed that it was not only addressed to me, but marked with the return address of an art school I had applied to months before at Ms. Ryan’s urging. With an unsteady hand I opened the envelope and read only the first line, before being overcome with two conflicting emotions simultaneously: joy at the sight of my acceptance and unexpected rage toward my father for attempting to keep it from me.
Without thinking I returned to the living room where my father still stood and held the letter up for him to see. “You threw this in the trash?” I screamed, unsure if I was more outraged by what had happened only moments before or by the fact that he had thrown the letter away. I had never yelled at my father before and while I innately felt terrified of doing so, my anger outweighed my fear.
“You’re not going anywhere, you little faggot.” He said through gritted teeth. “Nobody wants you. Look at you.”
“Look at me?” I yelled, furthering the argument and testing the waters in a way that I never had before. At that point I didn’t care about my safety. It was beyond that now. “You’re the one who can barely dress yourself or even keep a job. You’re a selfish, inconsiderate asshole who would rather spend your life at the bottom of bottle than actually deal with your problems.” Before I could even catch what I was saying the words came out like liquid, pouring forth into the hostile world I had been a part of for far too long. It was as if everything I had been keeping inside could no longer be contained and needed to breathe.
My father’s face contorted in a way that I had never seen before and with all his might he lunged at me. Without a moment’s hesitation my free hand, which had been tightly clenched with rage, collided with his jaw with more force than I would have even thought possible. My fist recoiled in searing pain as I swore under my breath and held it limply to my side, while my father in his surprised and drunken state stumbled backward to the floor upon the shards of glass that he had created.
I stood over him for a moment in awe of everything that had occurred in such a short span of time; in awe of what he had done to me and what I had done to him in return. For the first time as I looked down upon my father I saw him – I mean truly saw him – for the small man that he had become. And there was no doubt in my mind that in that moment he finally saw me.
I hope you liked what you read and until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry
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