Fiction: Dad

By Terry Donohue

My dad squints through the blinds into the scathing daylight outside and taps his cigarette ash onto the floor. Light plays across pockmarks on his face, making his cheeks look like the surface of the moon. “We’re clear,” he says, walking over to the fridge to get a beer. A dog barks somewhere in the neighborhood.
Yukky and I watch as he crosses the moldy cave of the living room. I try to look busy sharpening the knife he got me against the whetstone. Yukky stands next to me with arms folded, chuckling. Dad runs his fingers through his greasy mop of hair as he surveys the contents of the fridge, as though expecting food to have appeared.
“Ask him what he’s looking for,” Yukky snickers.
“Whaddya looking for, Dad?” I ask.
“Eh, your mother,” he whispers to the empty fridge. Then, as though he’s just heard me, he blurts, “Uh, nothing, bud. Just lost in thought.” He takes a Ballantine from the fridge and twists open the cap with the hem of his stained undershirt.
“Ask him what he’s thinking about,” Yukky dares, flashinghis four-toothed grin at me through his scraggly gray beard.Dangling from his facial hair are bits of food and paper and malt liquor foam and cigarillo ashes. He nudges me, smirking. “Go ahead, ask him.”
“No,” I mutter.
Dad whips his head in my direction and glares at me. “’No,’ what?” he replies. “Who are you talking to?”
“No one,” I whisper.
Dad stomps across the floor towards me. The scented candles covering the tables rattle with his footfalls. He grabs me by the elbow and wrenches me to my feet.
“Who are you talking to?” he hisses. I open my mouth, but he shoves me into the hallway. I tumble to the floor and the dingy gray carpet scrapes my palms. “Go to your room!” he screams.
I glance back at him as he sucks on his beer, his free hand clenched. I sulk off to my room.
“I’m sorry,” he mutters behind me, “I’m trying to protect you.” He collapses onto the couch.
When I enter my room, Yukky is sitting on my bed, shaking his head at me. “You should have asked him,” he says. “He would have reacted the same way anyway.” 
“Shut up, Yukky,” I mumble.
I hear my dad leave a few minutes later. I open the door to my room and poke my head out.
“Where do you think he went?” Yukky asks.
“I don’t know,” I answer.
“Yes you do.”
I enter the living room, walk to the blinds, and peek through into the front yard. There’s a red Mazda Miata parked across the street. Mrs. Molloy waddles by with her little white fluffy dog on a leash. She’s talking to herself, her saggy, pendulous tits almost touching her waist. The dog stops and stares at our house and begins to bark at it. A white surveillance van drives by, real slow, but the driver is alone and staring at the houses across the street. I know I should tell my dad about it.
“Anyone out there?” Yukky grins, sitting on the gray armchair. 
I imagine I’m the passenger in the white van. The man driving glances over at me and grins. He only has four teeth, like Yukky, and has a big scar over his left eyebrow and he has my wrist zip-tied to the door handle and he’s driving really fast on the freeway and now we are at the edge of the city. Where are you taking me, I ask, and You’ll know when we get there, he says, and before I know it we’re blasting down a lonesome desert highway in the late afternoon with the mountains to the North sliding past like we’re on a dangerous carousel, and Do you know where we are? the man asks. No, I say, and Good, he answers, and we drive through the night and into the morning and the zip-tie is starting to leave a purple mark on my wrist but I have no chance of getting it off, and then the man pulls off onto a dirt road where nothing but cacti grow and the van trundles down and I wasn’t scared before but now I am. And looming up ahead is a field of wind turbines, stretching to the horizon, and we stop underneath one of them and the man gets out of the van and goes around to the back and opens the doors and roots around for something. While he’s back there I start chewing on the zip-tie and it hurts my teeth and gums, but I can’t get through it and the man comes back to the front seat and says Stop thatGive me your shoes. So I pry off my sneakers by putting my toe against each heel and slipping them off and I lean down in the passenger seat to get them but the man grabs me by the throat and pins me against the back of it and takes my shoes and throws them into the dirt behind him. He takes out a switchblade, and I get scared, but he reaches over me and cuts through the zip-tie. My hand is free. Now get out, the man says, and I put my hand on the door handle.
The door opens.
Dad walks in. I’m holding the blinds open with my fingers and my face is to the window. He’s holding a six-pack of Ballantine and drinking from a pint of blackberry brandy. He looks at me behind his dark sunglasses and black baseball hat, and I think he’s about to yell at me.
“Hey bud,” he says. “Anyone out there?”
Yukky smirks from the couch.
“A van drove by,” I tell him.
Dad stares at me. “Did they stop and look?”
“No,” I say, “they were looking at the houses across the street.”
“Yeah, the driver was, maybe,” he scoffs. He takes a sip of brandy. “What color was it?”
“White.” I hold out my hand.
Dad passes me the bottle. I take a sip. He peers through the blinds and exhales slowly through his nose.
“What about that Mazda? You didn’t see that right there?” he asks.
“I think that’s Mrs. Molloy’s,” I say.
“Yeah, you think so,” Dad says.
“You could break in and check the registration,” Yukky whispers in my ear.
I take another sip of brandy. “Alright,” my dad says, taking the bottle, “into the tub with you. We’ve gotta leave soon.”
***
Dad grabs me by the elbow as we hurry down the boulevard in the fading daylight, pushing me ahead of him.
“Ow, Dad! That hurts!”
“Shit, I’m sorry, buddy, but you’ve gotta keep up.” He’s holding his phone out in front of him, pointing it at every person who passes. They hold their shopping bags and walk their dogs and talk on their phones. “Watch this guy,” Dad says, and hip-checks me into a planter outside of a Louis Vuitton store. A business guy in a gray jacket walks past us, talking on the phone.
“No, you’ve gotta steer them out of natural gas and into petrochemical,” the guy shouts into his phone. My dad points his phone right at his face. “Jer, listen, we’ve got derricks in Texas and Alaska, but the green energy guys are kicking our asses in the markets dominated by…” The guy strides past us, taking no notice.
“Okay, where was he from?” Dad asks.
“L.A.P.D.?”
“No.”
“F.B.I.?”
“No! Gray coat!” Dad yells. He smacks me under the chinwith his fingers. A woman in a red dress walking by glances at us. “Come on, you know this one!”
I stare at the sidewalk and think. Gray coat, I wonder. Who wears gray?
“You know this one,” Dad says.
“The Jews,” Yukky says, leaning against the fa├žade of the store with his arms crossed.
“The Jews?” I ask.
“Yes!” Dad says, pumping his fist in the air. “Anyone in gray works for Mossad or the J.D.L. Watch out for them, they’re almost as dangerous as the judges.” Dad starts walking again, and I jog to catch up. Yukky claps me on the shoulder as I pass.
“They’ll gut the goyims like fish, all because their God said to,” Dad says, scanning the block with his phone. I reach into my belt loop and check to make sure my knife is still in there. I don’t want to get gutted. I’d probably puke.
We turn down a side street, the setting sun looming behind us. The street stretches ahead, our line of sight dotted withchain-link fences and storage units and the fronts of warehouses and beat-up old cars. A lone palm tree reaches toward the sky on the corner, and Yukky is leaning against it. He’s packing some chunky yellow stuff into a glass tube.
“You sure you wanna go this way, kid?” Yukky asks. He takes out a lighter and smokes from the glass tube.
“Come on, let’s go,” Dad says. He grabs me by the shirt collar and breaks into a jog past Yukky. I almost fall on my facewhen our eyes meet but keep my footing and chug along next to Dad. “Keep up!” Dad yells at me. We pass two cars with no windows and no tires, sitting up on blocks. We soon approach a big dumpster in the middle of the sidewalk, surrounded by broken glass. There is a dead, crushed cat with bloody pink strings coiling out of its stomach in front of it. It smells like the closet in Dad’s room.
Dad stops running and holds out his hand in front of me. We creep around the side of the dumpster. There’s a young white guy, maybe twenty years old, standing against the wall. He’s wearing a green hooded sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off and his grimy hair is falling out the front. Even though he isstanding up, he is also leaning over, with eyes completely closed and mouth hung open. Dad looks at me with a finger over his lips to shush me. His yellow eyes are wide and trembling but flicker with excitement. Dad points his phone at the guy and films him as he sways in place.
“Okay,” Dad whispers, “which one is he?”
I stare. Drool falls from his lower lip and splats to the sidewalk. He isn’t watching us at all and I feel sorry for him. Aneedle dangles from the crook of his arm.
“I don’t know,” I whisper. “Green? Dark green?”
The guy starts and I’m about to run away, but he keeps nodding.
“Come on,” Dad whispers.
I shake my head and look back at Dad. His yellow eyes are wide, but he’s smiling.
“Christ, this guy ain’t watching shit,” Yukky says, smoking from his glass tube.
I glance behind me at Yukky.
“Don’t look behind you!” my Dad hisses, grabbing me by the shoulder. “Answer me!”
The guy remains totally inert.
“Fuck off, Dad,” I say. “He’s not one of them, he’s just some guy.”
Dad grins at me for a second, then turns around and reaches into the dumpster. “Atta boy, bud,” he says, pulling out an empty whiskey bottle. “That was a test and you passed.”
My father slinks up to the guy. With a silent overhand swing, he breaks the guy’s cheekbone with the bottom of the bottle. The guy grunts and collapses to the sidewalk. His mouth shoots open into a haunting gape as the back of his head bounces on the pavement. Dad brings the bottle down again, gashing open his forehead. The guy convulses and spasms on the pavement.
My father turns back to me, grinning now, with a few spots of blood on his own forehead. Yukky stares down at the guy, holding his glass tube, his jaw hanging open.
“Still got that shiv I got you, bud?” Dad asks. Yukky looks at me and shakes his head.
I nod.
I think of the woman in the red dress who saw Dad hit me on the boulevard. I imagine she jumps between us, shielding me from my father with her own tan, lithe body, enshrined like a holy grail in that skin-tight red dress, and she scolds my father, How could you hurt such a beautiful child, and she hurries offwith me to her lime-green Volkswagen Beetle and tosses me into the front passenger’s seat, and we swerve into oncoming traffic and barely miss them before getting on the freeway, and she takes me up into the hills with the mansions north of the city. Thanks for taking me home with you, I say, and she parks the car on some dark, winding lane and we get out, and I don’t live here, she says. And we creep up the driveway and enter the backyardof a mansion. We jump into the pool, and the underwater lights illuminate her face, accentuating her curvaceous cheekbones and wavy brown hair, and her tits are floating under her dress on the surface of the water. And then she peels her wet dress downwards off her body and lets it float to the top of the pool and it dangles there between us like a shroud between reality and a perfect dimension, and then she grabs my wrist and places it upon her tit, and it’s the first breast I’ve ever touched, and I’m so hard I almost finish off right there - 
“You wanna finish it off?” Dad asks me, grinning.
I look down at the poor bastard, no longer shaking, but whimpering and clutching his face as blood seeps between his fingers.
I look back at my dad and shake my head.
My father smiles sadly and nods. “It’s okay, son,” he says, patting my shoulder. “If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. But you’re going to be eleven next week, and we need to make sure you’ve got what it takes to fight them off.” He glances down at the guy at his feet. His hands are limp at his sides now, and he’s not moving. His eyes, thankfully, are closed.
I’m trembling madly as Dad places his hand on my shoulder and steers me back the way we came. “You want some pizza, bud?” Yukky is standing on the other side of the dumpster, smoking from his tube. I look at him, but he turns his back to me and keeps smoking.
“Yeah, we’ll get some pizza on the way home, buddy,” Dad says.
***
I’m sinking into my dirty mattress with two stiff slices of cold pizza on a bath towel in my lap. Yukky is leaning against my bedroom door with his hands clasped behind his back. “Want some?” I ask him, gesturing towards the pizza.
“I’m good, shorty,” he says, twirling a greasy strand of beard around his finger.
I pick a rubbery chunk of pineapple up and squeeze it between my fingers. I drop it back into the towel, put it on the milk crate at the head of my bed and lay back. We are silent.
“Something you wanna ask me, kid?” Yukky asks finally.
“No,” I say. I shrug with my eyes closed.
“Okay, I’ll go then,” he says, sitting at the foot of my bed. “Do you think that poor junkie bastard deserved that?”
I lean up on my elbow and glare at Yukky. “He shouldn’t have been following us!” I say.
“He wasn’t,” Yukky says, raising an eyebrow. “And even if he was?”
I sigh and lay back in bed, looking at the peeling gray paint on my ceiling.
“If he was one of them,” Yukky asks, “how should he have been dealt with?”
I cover my eyes with my hands and press the heels in. Swirling neon fractals begin forming under my eyelids, washing through each other like global ocean currents. Then the blue dots appear above them, prickling through the swirling seas like the scattered island chains of Micronesia. Finally the golden wisps stretch out in between the blue dots, tracing routes the Maorismight have taken to other islands to introduce new animals and diseases, to find other tribes and intermarry with or kill them. I take my palms off my eyes and open them and the cramped and cluttered room bleeds slowly back into my field of vision.
“No.”
“How should they be dealt with?” Yukky asks, a cigarillo clutched between his teeth. The tip bounces with every word. He lights it.
“They’re out to get us, Yuk,” I say. I sit up, grab the pineapple pizza, and take a bite.
“How do you know that?” Yukky croaks through a throatful of cigarillo smoke.
I look back at Yukky, still chewing my pizza. I don’t feel like swallowing it.
Yukky stares back at me, the cigarillo smoldering in between his lips.
We hear a thud from the living room that rattles the walls, and the clinking of glass bottles against each other. After a second we hear soft moans.
“Better go check on your pops,” Yukky says. “I’ll be in here.”
I spit the pizza onto the floor, open the door to my room,and poke my head out. My dad is crumpled in a heap on the floor between the couch and the coffee table. The bottle of brandy is tipped over, and a few drips leak onto the coffee table.
“Dad,” I say, kneeling down and shaking him. “Dad, get the fuck up!” He moans.
His eyes are open, but unfocused, staring at the ceiling as though into his own past. There’s an empty Ballantine bottle under the back of his neck, and his forehead above his right eye is raw and swollen.
“Dad!” I say, louder. His eyes seek out my face and recognize me. He gives me a small smile. I try to lift his limp body back up onto the couch, but he’s too heavy. I place his head gently back on the carpet. He’s still smiling, and he gives a faint chuckle before closing his eyes and snoring.
“He’ll be alright,” Yukky says, sitting at the end of the couch, “but he ain’t right.” He smokes from his glass tube again.
“Hey, Yuk,” I whisper, “why’d you turn away from me after we hit that guy?”
He looks back at me, the glass tube dangling from his mouth, like he’s been caught doing something.
“I needed you to show me what’s next,” I say, rubbing my dad’s chest. 
Yukky shrugs and hits his pipe again.
“Yukky!” I shout. Yukky starts and stares at me as he exhales a plume of smoke.
“Uh?” my dad grunts. “Me, yucky? Who you talking to, boy?”
He closes his eyes again and sleeps.
“I’m sorry, kid,” Yukky says. “I just couldn’t face the moment. Shit was ugly.”
Mrs. Molloy’s dog barks three times next door.
***
It’s seven on Tuesday night. We’re sitting on folding chairs in the assembly room of the First Church of Christ, Scientist. My dad is on my left, with his legs crossed and his arms folded and a pamphlet in his hand. The title reads, “Gang-Stalking: Know the Signs.” The fluorescent lighting plays off the knot on his forehead and it looks like a caterpillar died under there.
There are about twenty other people in the room. Mrs. Prieto is speaking at the podium.
“They go through my trash five time last week,” she says.She’s a tiny, squat Salvadoran lady who works as a maid for a family on the beaches northwest of the city. “Dig through my compost. I guess they hope I put my… you know, my documents, in there.” Her accent is thick, and her shoulders sag with the stress of what she’s endured. “They key my car while I sleep, they break my mailbox last year, dress as teenagers. I know they la migra.” She brings her palms to her face and weeps.
“Stay strong, Marivelita!” some guy yells from the back row. A few people clap. “Don’t give those fucks an inch!” More clapping. Mrs. Prieto lifts one hand away from her face and raises it to the crowd, still sobbing. I imagine I’m lifting her thin, white nightgown off her sleeping form and sucking on her pointy brown nipples as she snores heavily. They become erect in my mouth and she moans, and she shifts in her bed from her side onto her back, and I don’t take my tongue from her nipple, and as she shifts she spreads her legs wide open and breaks into a smile as I suck her dark, pointy tit higher and higher, and then her husband, Yukky, is suddenly standing, awake, at the foot of the bed…
Yukky stands behind Mrs. Prieto’s weeping form. Her shoulders shake as she clutches her face, and Yukky fucking grins at me. And gives me a thumbs up. I flip him the middle finger.
My dad grabs my wrist and wrenches my hand down. “What the fuck are you doing?” he hisses. “She’s crying and you flip her off? Stop being an asshole! I raised you better than that!”
“Sorry, dad,” I say, openly snickering. My dad matches my smile and smacks me on the back of the head, hard enough that it hurts. “Ow!” I blurt.
“Man the fuck up,” he laughs.
We giggle and I rub the back of my head as Father Elmer stands up to the podium.
“Marivel was very brave tonight,” Father Elmer says. He’s a young white guy with cropped dark hair and square glasses. “And I hope the rest of you will be as brave as she was when you resist this ultimate wickedness, straight from the pit of Hell. These people following you are demons, spawns of Satan, or should I say, spawns of the State, and they want to destroy your ingenuity and individualism.”
“Don’t listen to this part,” Dad says, tapping my head, lighter this time, “we’re still Catholics.”
“They were sent by the Pope!” Father Elmer screams. People jeer from the audience. “And the Pope is controlled by Jews, and Africans!” People shout again, except for Mr. George and Mr. Djembe, who are both from the Ivory Coast. They sit next to each other, and both clasp their hands when Father Elmer says this.
“The Christ of the Covenant will protect you all, but you must be vigilant,” Father Elmer says. “You film and, if need be, confront our tormentors in the streets, and bring the evidence to me. I can have them dealt with, but I need your proof, okay, people?”
Everyone nods and murmurs. 
I remember Father Elmer bringing me into the convent about a year ago. The place was way nicer and more ornate than a place I thought a pastor would live in, made of white marble that gave the whole building a chill, and he had a bar there in the sun-drenched living room, and he offered me some of the Blood of Christ. I’m not old enough to drink, I said. But, You’re Catholic, aren’t you, he said, You’ve had wine before, he said, What’s a little more, and Oh, you don’t like it, here, have some blackberry brandy, he said, and that was a lot sweeter, and it made me silly and numb and warm. And I looked at a giant painting above his fireplace of some hot, big-titted African babe with her bush spread right against the bottom of the painting and these glinting metal jewels stabbed through her nipples, and I got so hard and bothered that it wasn’t hard for Father Elmer to bother me with more brandy. And I didn’t really like where this was going, but my father had dropped me off here, so it had to be for the best, and I was bent over the arm of Elmer’s white velvet couch while something I didn’t like was happening to me, but I was too wasted to notice because I was getting so horny over staring at the naked black girl in the painting, and wondering what her asshole looked like or her titties felt like, and by the time it was done, and I had lost consciousness and fallen asleep on the couch and woken up to my dad picking me up the next morning, I had no idea what had actually happened and what was my imagination.
Yukky stands behind Father Elmer at the podium and makes eyes at me. “These people will stop at nothing to shield the public from the truth,” Father Elmer says, and Yukky was makes dick-sucking motions at the Father’s shoulder. I screech out in laughter for a second, then clamp my mouth shut with my hand, but my father grabs me by the meaty part of my neck, yanks me out of my chair, and drags me from the room.
“That’s enough!” he hisses, scowling now, and as we reach the back door, he kicks it open and hurls me outside into amulch pile.
“Father Elmer was talking there!” my father screams at me. He kicks me in the chest with his dress shoe and the wind is knocked from my lungs. “You just embarrassed me!” My father smacks me on the cheek with the back of his hand, and I crumple into the mulch, face-first. “How could you do this to me!” he shrieks. I thought he was about to hit me again, and I reach for the knife in my belt loop, but he just sits down hard on the steps outside the church door, buries his face in his hands, and weeps like Mrs. Prieto.
“Need a hand, kid?” Yukky asks from behind me. He pullsme to my feet as my father gasps and shudders on the steps like he can’t feed himself. I wipe off some of the mulch that hasstuck to my cheek.
Dad looks up at me as I hold his face and use my palms to wipe some snot that had dripped from his nose. “Yeah, stand on your own two feet, you little bastard,” he says. “Your mother never taught you to.” He turns and spits some of the snot that has dripped into his mouth.
“Harsh,” is all Yukky says as I stare at my dad. Yukky takesout a lighter and hit his glass tube.
***
We’ve been walking through the loud city night for over an hour, and my dad keeps pushing me forwards.
“Hurry up,” he growls, and there are no offers of pizza in between.
We hustle down a sparsely-lit boulevard, lined with pizza parlors and dark buildings with bright neon signs advertising hot, big-titted women, probably with hairy African bushes. Every once in a while a bus zips by, carrying a blur of weary faces wherever they go at night.
“Dad, can we take that bus?” I ask, as one trundles by. One of those sleepwalking guys walks with his two kids in the crosswalk and the bus almost hits them. The kids scream and run back through traffic to the sidewalk they came from, but their sleeping dad just wanders forward to the other side of the road.
“No!” dad screams.
“But I’m tired,” I whimper. The children run screaming into Yukky’s arms, and he cradles them all, very gently, and pulls from his pocket a flask of blackberry brandy. He looks at me and shakes his head. The children hug his thighs and scream as their father gets sucked under the wheels of a big pickup truck. I hear the crunch of his pelvis breaking under the tires and he stays flattened against the pavement, his legs spread apart like he’s doing a split.
Dad pushes me away from the scene of the accident, making me walk faster than I can go. I flop face-first onto the pavement, scraping my chin, and dad pulls me up by the back of my collar before I can even cry out.
“Go!” dad screams, pushing me forwards, and I begin to jog, just to get away from his pushes. I don’t know how fast I need to go.
“We can’t get on the buses,” he explains, striding along behind me, “because they’re just rolling tracking devices. The police run them, drive them, operate them, and the passengers on them are all cops. If we get on that bus, we’re fucked.”
“Why?” Yukky asks, leaning against a palm tree.
My dad pushes me further on. “And the LAPD? Fucking forget about it. They’re everywhere.”
I jog ahead. Yukky sticks his foot out and trips me from behind a mailbox. I land on the pavement, scraping my hands to shit, and look up at him.
“Hey, what the fuck did you do that for!” my dad screams, and looks from Yukky back down at me.
“I’m sorry, pa,” I say.
Yukky hits his yellow tube with the lighter.
Dad hoists me to my feet. “Don’t call me that, buddy,” he says, brushing me off. “They might be listening.” He hustles me back down the street. 
We pass a line of one-story bungalow houses. Two old Spanish guys with mustaches sit on rickety stools, playing dominoes on an overturned milk crate. They stare at my dad as he steers me along. He reaches into his pocket, takes out his phone, and pushes me over to the side so that he’s in between the guys and me. We walk past and my dad films them.
A few feet past them, there’s an old black guy talking on the phone. He’s looking down the street away from us, and he wanders into the middle of the sidewalk and turns around to face us, still looking down the street. “Naw, if you cross Ortega Street, you went too far,” he says on the phone. “Turn around and come back this way.”
My dad’s hand bolts out across my chest and we stop in our tracks. Dad points his phone directly at the old man’s face, and the guy notices us.
“Who are you talking to?” Dad asks the guy.
“None of your fuckin’ business, mo’fucker,” the guy says, sizing my dad up. “Just keep on walkin’.”
“This could get ugly, kid,” Yukky says at my shoulder. I step around Yukky and hide behind him. My dad is holding his hand out to keep me back, and still pointing his camera right in the old guy’s face.
“I said who the fuck are you talking to!” my dad shouts, moving closer. “The cops? The N.S.A.? Who? Fucking tell me!”
“Yo, I’ll call you back,” the old man says into his phone. “Boy, if you don’t back the fuck up…” he says, putting the phone in his pocket. He reaches down and picks up a glass beer bottle from the sidewalk and brandishes it at my dad.
“Don’t fucking lie to me!” Dad screams. He points the phone at the guy’s face and his other hand is clenched in a fist and his stance is wide and he inches closer to the old man.
“Dad, don’t,” I plead.
“Want me to step in?” Yukky asks.
“And do what?” I ask him.
My dad turns around to look at us, and the old man leans in and cracks my father right above his left eye. My dad grunts and falls to the sidewalk, landing on his back, but keeps his guard up. The old man looms over him, looking for an opening to smash Dad’s face with the bottle again, but I dart in with my knife and stick the guy right in his waist.
“Ah, fuck,” the man yells. He drops the bottle and it bounces on the sidewalk and rolls away as he clutches one hand to the gash on his hip.
“Hey, cholo!” I hear someone call behind me. I turn around and see the two Spanish guys walking up to us, past Yukky, but suddenly my head is thumped and I fly off my feet as the old man lays me out with a left to the cheek. I land on my stomach and look up to see the guy running away, all hunched over.
“Stop right there, cono!” one of the Spanish guys is saying, but my dad lifts me to my feet by the arm and hustles me across the busy street. He has blood running down the side of his face, staining the collar of his shirt, and he is grinning and he gives a triumphant whoop. We stop short as a bus zooms in front of us, and I imagine that my dad keeps going in front of it and he gets smeared across the road like a pigeon turd on a windshield, and I run around the back of the bus and get on and high-five the driver and he brings me further down the boulevard as I sit in the back next to a girl about my age with freckles and red hair in pigtails. And we start talking and the girl lives in the suburbs by the beach to the south of the city, and she wants to know if I want to come over and play on her trampoline, and when we get to her house the babysitter is there with her boyfriend, sitting on the couch with her bathrobe open and her boyfriend is squeezing her titties, and she sees us when we walk in, but the two don’t stop. And my new girlfriend and I stand there and watch the babysitter and her boyfriend fool around on the couch for an hour and then we get some juice boxes from the fridge and the puppy runs behind us barking as we run out onto the trampoline and jump around laughing. Dad always hated puppies anyway.
***
When we finally get home it must be after midnight, and my legs are so tired I feel like I’m walking on boiled chicken bones. Dad has wiped the blood off his face, but there are still dried smears on his cheek and his hair sticks out from the side of his head in funny angles with the dried blood in it. He pushes me towards the front door of the house. “Sure you wanna go in there, kid?” Yukky asks, leaning with his arms on our chain-link fence.
“Yeah, we’re home,” Dad growls. “Get inside before they see.”
Mrs. Molloy comes wandering down the street with her little white dog on the leash. The dog growls at my dad, but Mrs. Molloy just stares at me.
“What do you want, Debbie?” my dad asks.
“Is everything okay?” Mrs. Molloy asks. She’s looking directly at me.
“Now’s your chance, kid,” Yukky says.
The dog barks. Mrs. Molloy stares at me.
“We’re fine, Debbie,” my dad says. “Go inside.”
“Son?” Mrs. Molloy presses. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, Mrs. Molloy,” I answer.
Dad pushes me inside and the dog barks and snarls behind him. My dad turns around and aims a kick at the dog, and it yelps and Mrs. Molloy shouts, “Hey!” We hustle inside as Yukky hits his yellow glass tube. 
***
I wake up in the morning on the living room floor. The blinds are drawn and the house is completely silent. I blink a few times and notice that dad’s old Carhartt canvas jacket is draped across me. I whip it off and I’m only in my skivvies.
I stand up. Yukky isn’t here.
I notice a big dark spot on the gray carpet right next to where I fell asleep. Next to it, there is a smaller spot, and thenanother. I follow them along the carpet into my dad’s room. There is a big smear of blood on his gray sheets and a few coiled pink strings protruding from the dark space underneath Dad’s bed. I step closer.
“Who’re you following now, shorty?” Yukky asks from behind me. He’s leaning against Dad’s closet door, drinking a Ballantine from the fridge.
“A bit early for that, ain’t it?” I ask him.
“Time doesn’t apply to me, remember?” 
His face is blank as he lifts the bottle up to his lips.
Yukky nods toward the bed. “Go ahead, champ,” he says, “find the prize.”
I reach under the bed and feel curly fur around cold limp flesh.
“Play ‘til you win,” Yukky laughs.
I drag Mrs. Molloy’s dog from under the bed, through its own entrails, like a mop. Its eyes are wide and glassy and sad, like it trusted the last person to see it.
“Maybe it had to go,” Yukky says. “Maybe it was one of them.”
He’s grinning, but my eyes burn and I feel like puking. The dog is slit open up its belly like a Gucci purse, its tongue is dangling from its mouth, and its wet net of hair is congealed with blood like a science project. I remember when it bit my hand when I fed it a bit of cold McNugget, and I screamed and pulled my hand away, and the dog knew it hurt me, so it bit onto the front of my leg and chewed on my jeans until I scratched his head and flipped him over and gave him a belly rub, and I don’t know if dogs can smile, but I think he smiled at me.
“’She,’” Yukky corrects me. “Her name was Pearl. Like, ‘S. Buck.’”  
My tears are dropping onto the dead dog and the carpetnow, making loud, sloppy thumps, and I stand up and whirl around and smack the beer bottle out of Yukky’s hand. I grab his throat and push him up against the wall with all my strength.
“You fucking did this,” I hiss at him. “She’s dead because of you!”
I stare back at him, tears streaming down my face, my mouth opening and closing like a trout on a dock. I let go of his throat and look down at the butchered dog. She was innocent until the agony. I step over her and stride out of my dad’s room. 
I wander through the dark house, looking around at the upturned bottles and broken scented candles on the mantelpiece.The cushions have been pulled off the couch and are thrown into the corner of the room.
I turn into the kitchen where the early morning sun blasts through the window like a revelation. My dad is passed out at the table, his head slumped over onto the surface and resting in a puddle of blackberry brandy. I pick up the bottle and hurl it at the kitchen window. The window crashes to bits and the bottle falls to the floor, and my dad bolts awake.
“What!” he shouts, scanning the room with his bloodshot eyes. He can’t find me in the light of the room and he shades his face with his hand. “What is it!”
I stand in front of him, crying silently, waiting for him to notice me. He slumps back against the wall and closes his eyes again. I grab him by the face with both hands and shake his head back and forth.
“Why, dad, why!” I scream. “Why did you do that!”
“Oh, buddy!” His face lights up when he sees me. I realize he won’t remember this. He tries to get out of his chair, butstumbles forward and falls head-first into the cabinet under the sink with a grunt.
“The dog, dad,” I say, watching him roll over. “You killed it.”
He shakes his head and clutches his face where he hit the cabinet door. He’s just wearing a white undershirt, and it’s still stained with his blood from last night. “Hey, I got you something,” he says, holding his finger out. “Let me find it.” He crawls across the floor, reaches under the kitchen table, and pulls out a paper bag. He hands it to me.
In the bag is a pint of blackberry brandy.
“Happy birthday, son!”
My father is beaming slack-jawed in my general direction.He rolls onto his back and falls back asleep on the kitchen floor.
I’m eleven today.
“Some birthday, huh?” Yukky says from the kitchen doorway. I drop the pint to the linoleum floor and it clatters. My dad wakes again with a start.
He stares at Yukky.
“What are you doing here?” he asks. “Who are you? What are you…”
Yukky and I glance at each other, unsure of what to do. Yukky slowly backs away as my dad sits up.
“Dad…” I say, but I can’t think.
My dad staggers to his feet, scowling at Yukky.
“Get away from my son!” my dad growls. “Get out of here!”
“Dad, calm down,” I say. “You’re not making any sense.”
My dad shoves me out of the way and begins to grope for Yukky. At that moment we all hear screaming outside.
“Where is she, you son of a bitch!”
There are more muffled voices behind the woman’s shrieking, trying to calm her down. Dad looks towards the front window, now wide-eyed and alert as a wolf. Yukky is gone.
Dad starts for the front door but I grab his wrist. “No,” I whisper. He pries my hand off of him and takes another step, but I wrap both my arms around his waist. I’m crying again.
“Dad,” I sob, “don’t go out there.”
My father grabs me by the shoulders, kneels down and stares into my face. “They’ve followed us here, buddy,” he says. His breath stinks like a gas station. “I have to go confront them. They’ve brought the fight to us.”
“Dad, there is no ‘them!’” I shout. “You’re imagining it!”
His face contorts with the fury of a challenged emperor and he throws me to the floor. My hip lands on a Ballantine bottle and I cry out in pain just as my father backhands me across the cheek.
“I never imagined anything!” he shrieks. “They’re REAL!”
“He’s right inside there!” I hear Mrs. Molloy shout outside. 
“I’m trying to protect you, Dad!” I shout back at him, clutching my cheek.
He kicks me in the chin with his dress shoe, and my head snaps back against the floor and I bite the tip of my tongue. I taste blood as my dad stomps away. The room is suddenly filled with a blazing white light as he rips the front door open and strides outside.
“There’s the motherfucker!” Mrs. Molloy shouts. “What did you do with Pearl?”
I crawl to pint of brandy on the floor. I stand up, swish the liquor around in my mouth, and spit it into the sink. With a deep breath, clutching the bottle, I step out onto the front lawn.
There are two young patrolmen standing in between Mrs. Molloy and my father. They are now both facing my father, who is waving his arms at them as he paces back and forth on the lawn like a caged lion. Yukky is standing on the sidewalk, away from all of them, and he looks at me and holds his hands out towards my dad.
“Do you get it now?” Yukky asks me.
“Don’t you talk to my son!” my father shrieks at Yukky. He charges and tries to tackle him, but Yukky dodges my father’s attack and sends him sprawling into the middle of the street. Dad flops hard on his fat stomach, scraping himself to shit on the asphalt like a walrus. The two cops begin to move towards my dad.
“Do you see how crazy he is!” Mrs. Molloy shrieks. “I know he took my dog!”
One cop speaks into his shoulder radio as they move to restrain my dad. “Middle-aged white male, highly agitated, seems to be hearing voices and conversing with-“
My father jumps up from the pavement and squares up with the two cops. He looks clumsy and confused, but his guard is steady and practiced, and the cops falter. “You work for them!” my father shrieks. “Get off my property, before I kill you!”
The two cops reach for their guns, and Mrs. Molloy hides behind her red Miata, and a white van drives down the street and around my father and the driver of the white van still looks at the houses across the street, and the cops hold their hands out to my father to calm him down, but unsnap their holsters, and I take a sip of brandy, and look at Yukky, and he is waving to me, and he says, “Go, kid, I love you anyway and forever,” and I take another sip of brandy, and walk off down the side of the house towards the alleyway in the back.
And the brandy is warming me up from within as the rising mid-morning sun warms me from without, and I run down the alleyway and there is another one of the sleeping guys swaying in place with his eyes closed, drugs coursing through his veins, dying a hundred small deaths a day, and I break into a jog until I hit the main boulevard. 
And I run down the boulevard, weaving in between palm trees with cabs and limos whizzing next to me through the winding hills of the city, and I imagine I find a little freckle-faced girl my age running along next to me, and she’s training to be in the top twenty in the state in the 800-meter dash at the private school her rich parents sent her to, but she slows down to a brisk jog because she wants to talk to me. And a few cop cars whiz down the boulevard with their lights and sirens howling towards my old house. And so the girl and I slow down to a walk, and she laughs at me when I tell her what I just ran away from because she thinks I’m lying just to be goofy, and she crinkles her freckled nose at me because she thinks I’m weird and scrunches up her skinny little eyebrows above her narrowed green eyes, and the next thing I know we’re holding hands, but then she confides in me that her track coach, who is the best and toughest and smartest in the state, insists on showering with her sometimes, if only to massage her aching calves and make sure she doesn’t cramp up, and my new girlfriend admits that she trusts her new track coach, even though the crotchety old bitch threatened to kick her out of school if she ever told her parents, and that her parents would probably disown her for showering with a woman anyway. And I tell my new girlfriend, whose frizzy red hair is now matted in sweaty locks around the side of her head, about Father Elmer, and his hospitality, and how he wanted to show me how the world works and guide me through what was sure to be a painful adolescence, and he wanted to do that through the kind of intimacy and penetration that can only be provided with sensitivity to a young lad like me by a man of God. And I express to her how I was made to go to a Catholic church, even though I didn’t want to, because my mom said it was good for me, and my dad agreed, and my dad kept making me go even after my mom just disappeared and I never heard from her again.
And then my new girlfriend and I stop in a pizza joint along the boulevard, and a cop that is standing in line waiting for his food with his forearm resting on his gun holster as he stares off into space hears something on his shoulder radio and brushes past us without a word and speeds off in the direction of my old house. And so my new girlfriend gets a buffalo chicken slice and I get a Hawaiian slice with extra ham, and we go walking down the boulevard, hand in hand, dodging blonde-haired gay guys rollerblading in neon green thongs and old Spanish guys shooting dice against walls or playing dominoes on upturned milk cartons, and my new girlfriend says something.
Happy birthday, she says, with greasy buffalo sauce running down her chin and flakes of oregano caught in her teeth, and I hear faint gunshots in the distance as more cops whiz by responding to who knows what the fuck. Do you want to come meet my family, says one of six girls in the entire state to get a perfect score on the AP chemistry exam. Yes, I say, as one of thousands of kids in the county who is considered truant that day. And Here he is, says my new girlfriend, and the white van pulls up, and the driver still has four teeth, just like Yukky, but he smiles kindly at me this time, as I am smushing his beloved daughter’s face, whose heart he carries with him, whose heart is carried in his heart, with paper napkins to try and blot the pizza grease off her beautiful freckled face, so that she won’t be embarrassed in front of her father. But she just laughs and smiles back at him.
And we both get in the white surveillance van, driven by one of them, and he drives us down the highway and out of the city, with the sinister mountains slipping by on either side again, except this time we are headed for the suburbs, and away from my old home, and away from my father.
And away from Yukky, too, for fuck’s sake.





Terry Donohue is a writer from Red Bank, New Jersey. He writes darkly humorous historical fiction and lyric essays. He has had work published in such literary magazines as the Scarlet Leaf Review and Tilde Literary Journal.

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