photo credit: studiofovea.deviantart.com
“I know where her body is buried.” Tom was sitting in a dark booth at a dive bar on the outskirts of Louis Port. He stopped in to visit Marlena, an old friend of his mother. He had ordered one too many drinks and Marlena stayed after to help him sober up. She had the looks of a woman who I had seen and heard it all. They got around to talking about old times and soon they found themselves on the subject of his father.
“Your mother hated leaving you with him,” she said. Tom’s mother work nights as a nurse at the local hospital. His father worked at the docks loading cargo that was being shipped down river. Jim’s tall frame had become naturally muscular from years of heavy lifting. Tom’s thinness stood in sharp contrast to his father’s imposing body and equally intimidating personality. Already possessing a shy demeanor, Tom became mute whenever he was with him. In turn, Tom’s father did his best to ignore his son. He wasn’t a man who was good at conversation and he made no attempts to keep enough food in the house or cook a meal.
Jim was a heavy drinker and perpetual womanizer. Often times he would head down to the neighborhood tavern leaving his son alone for the night. Sometimes Tommy fell asleep to the hum of the tv set or put himself to bed. Jim would come home drunk, always with company for the night. Tommy could hear them through the walls. Bed creaking. His father moaning. A woman mewing or at times screaming. He covered his ears with a pillow to block out the noises. Some of them would stay around for a few months. They attempted to be friendly but more often than not, they were more interested in fucking his father. Jim would often send Tommy off on his bike during these times telling him to stay out of the house because “Daddy had business to take care of.” He would ride for hours all over town. Joe would meet up with him and they would head to his house where Joe’s mom would cook them up a special treat. Or he would ride over to the Trackside Diner, where Marlena was working at the time. She always made sure he ate a hearty meal, his belly full to bursting.
When he did arrive back at his Dad’s, he and his latest date would often be passed out on the couch with beer cans strewn on the floor and cigarettes still burning in the ashtrays.
His father knew no boundaries. He didn’t seem to care when Tommy would accidentally walk in on his acts in the living room or even the kitchen. “Hey there son, Daddy is just having some fun with this little lady. You go on back to bed now,” he’d laugh. Or there would be two women with him. Unabashed in their nakedness. “I had trouble choosing. So I thought I would invite both of them home with me.”
Tommy was overwhelmed. He did not have the words to even speak of the situations he witnessed. He was always relieved to be back with his mother, putting those times out of his mind.
And this is what he thought he did that one last time. He was awakened once again by the sounds from his father’s bedroom. This time, however, it was different. Fearful screaming. Furniture banging against the wall. His father making monstrous noises. More yelling. “Please stop! You’re hurting me. Let go of me!” Then the sound of someone falling to the floor with a loud thud.
Tommy couldn’t help himself. He got out of bed and peeked in the doorway of his father’s room. He saw his father straddled over the bloody, naked body of his latest conquest. A knife was in his hands. When he turned and saw his son, he said, “She wouldn’t listen, son. Help me clean up.” He began to roll her body in a rug. “Go open up the car’s trunk and get a shovel too. Then get in the back seat.”
They drove out to Cedar Grove Forest. He left Tommy in the car while he walked down the path with the shovel. A few minutes later, he came back for her. “Help me out here son. Hold the flashlight. I don’t want to trip on the path with this heavy load.” Tommy held the light out in front of him as his father walked behind. When they got to the hole, he father said, “Go on back to the car and wait for me.”
Minutes later, Tommy heard the car door open and watched his father slide into the driver’s seat. Then he turned around and brought Tommy’s face close to his. He was filthy and reeked of sweat and blood. Breathing heavily, nearly spitting out the words, he said: “Don’t you ever tell a god damn soul.”
The smell of bleach awakened him. Sunlight streamed across his face. “Get dressed. I am taking you back to your mother’s.” He dropped his son at the curb and sped off. That was the last time he saw his father. It was only three years later, when Tommy was twelve, that he heard about his father’s death in a cheap motel room. He had been found shot to death.
By the time he was done talking, the sun was about to rise. The confession purged his soul. He knew that he would need to talk to the authorities. But first he would go home. He no idea of how he would tell Ella about his past. No clue about his present misdeeds. Their future together was uncertain. But he owed her the truth.
These thoughts were swimming in his sleepless mind as he said goodbye to Marlena and headed out towards the airport. Dazed and distracted, he was unaware of the moose in the middle of the road. He hit it head on, the car flipping over and over into the air until it landed in a ditch. They say you travel towards a white light at the end. But all Tom saw was red.