Being a Bad Father Takes A Lot More Than You Think

May 7, 2009
By Logan Ryan BRONZE, Davie, Florida
Logan Ryan BRONZE, Davie, Florida
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

“Daddy, where are we going?” she asked over the steady hum of the car’s engine. This was the one question I hoped she wouldn’t ask, but now that she did I would have to answer it. I thought about how to phrase it for a second. “We’re going to...Go to mommy’s house.” That was the best I could do. She didn’t know what happened yet, so it was hard to say. “Are we going to see her?” she said excitedly.” “Probably not,” I said, not turning around to talk to her because she might see the fear on my face. “But we’re going to see Danny.” “Really? Wow.” She hasn’t seen her brother in awhile, and neither had I. The situation had been peculiar since me and Joan split up. My daughter, Charlotte, had been staying with me for a year since then, and Danny had been staying with Joan. It was strange, not seeing them, and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived. I wasn’t even sure of exactly what had happened there, but I had to go, and being a responsible father, I had to bring my six-year-old daughter with me. I didn’t want to, but what was I going to do, just leave her at home?
I saw a gas station with a general store on the side of the road. It was the only building in sight, the other side of the road next to a small river, and beyond that fields of tall grass, which were also on the left side. I pulled in to the gas station and stopped the car. “Daddy’s going to pick up some things, alright?” I said to her. “Alright,” she mumbled. She seemed pretty bored right then. I would have been too, if I didn’t know exactly what was going on. It had something to do with the reason we split, I just knew it. It was my fault for exposing Danny to that kind of stuff. I think I deserved it when we split. I was angry at first, but since the split I had time to cool down and think. I know now that I should have done the thinking back when we were married. I rolled down the side window a bit so it wouldn’t get too hot inside the car, and stepped out, shutting the door behind me. I entered the gas station, the bell hanging from the door tinkling as I opened it. An old, hick-looking man waited behind the counter. I picked up the things I needed, and went to the counter. I couldn’t help but feeling like I was committing some kind of crime. “One baby powder...” the man said as he rung the items up. “TWO water bottles...well, I s’pose it’s never good to get dehy’drated,” he stated with a toothy grin. “and some sleepin’ pills...Hmph. Sleepin’ in a car?” “Yeah,” I replied. “Long trip.” Half of that statement was a lie. It had been a long trip, but I was not sleeping in a car tonight. The sleeping pills were for another purpose. “Is it okay if I use your bathroom?” I asked. “Well sure!” the man replied. “S’ open to customers.” I walked to the back of the store, where there was a hallway that lead to a door, which opened to a dark, dank bathroom. I turned on the light switch that I saw in the light of the hallway, and a lightbulb turned on above me. I closed the door, and went over to the sink with the bag of things I bought. I took out a water bottle and the sleeping pills, and out them on the sink, putting the bag and the other things in it on the floor. I set the water bottle down on the sink and opened the box to the sleeping pills, taking the pack out and ripping two pills (which was the dosage on the box) free of the plastic they were encased in. I put them in my left hand and took my cell phone out of my pocket with the other hand. I held my left hand out and brought the phone repeatedly down upon it, crushing the sleeping pills. Since a phone is not a pestle, it took awhile to get a powder out of that. I put down the phone and flushed the toilet with my right hand to seem like I was actually going to the bathroom, then unscrewed the cap of the water bottle and dumped the powder in, then shook it so it was well mixed. I screwed the cap back on and put the bottle back in the bag, then closed the sleeping pill box and put that back too. Then I actually WASHED my hands, and whatever was left of the sleeping pill-powder went down into the sink. I walked out of the bathroom and waved to the old shop owner on the way out. “Have a nice trip, now!” He said. “I will,” I replied. I had a feeling that was another lie.
I went to the car and got in. Charlotte was silent for the first few minutes after I started driving again, and then she asked, “So, if mommy’s not there, where is she?” I was lucky I had premeditated answers to most of these questions. “I’m not sure,” I said. That was actually true. I was pretty sure I knew, but not too sure. It was boring, driving. It was just me and Charlotte there, in the rusted red car that I’ve had for over 20 years. I put on a CD that she liked, one of those new tween idols. But this time she didn’t sing along like she usually did. I think she knew that something was pretty wrong. I guess it was in our blood. While the CD was playing, I thought about everything that went on between me and Joan before we split up. Everything was going fine before she found out the things I was showing Danny. I though it was alright, for protection, maybe, but she didn’t take kindly to it at all. But we were getting closer to where she lived, and we started seeing sights that we remembered from the few others times we went this way since what I call the “End of Days”. We passed a few developments, most under construction, and eventually most weren’t. We passed the log cabin that had always been there (more of a rich-guy-living-in-the-past thing then a landmark thing), and had a laugh about how out of place it was like we always did. It occurred to me that that might be the last time I ever saw that cabin, and it made me sad. It made me hope that what I knew happened didn’t happen. It made me hope that there wouldn’t be blood. But I knew there would be.
After we had driven for awhile more, Charlotte got out of her brooding and said she was hungry. I gave her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I made before we left, along with the water bottle that was mixed in with the sleeping powder. It seemed my plan was in action. After a few minutes (luckily after she had finished the sandwich, I didn’t want it to get all over the seats when she fell asleep), I heard her yawn. ‘Ugh, daddy, I’m tired...” she moaned. “Well, you can take a nap. We’ll be back home before you know it.” I told her. She yawned again. “Alright...” and I saw her lay down in that awkward side-but-still-in-seatbelt position through the rearview mirror. After a few more minutes, she seemed to be asleep. My thoughts drifted to Danny this time. He was always an erratic boy...I know if someone noticed what happened he wouldn’t confront least not directly. And I also knew he couldn’t take the truth very well when it came to bad things. When we split up, he was devastated. Personally, I was surprised that Joan even let him stay with me after the End of Days, but it made him happy. He didn’t understand Joan’s feeling towards what I’d been teaching him.
Through all these thoughts I drove closer and closer, onto the street where her small, two-story house that she’d bought after the split sat. It was not a happy sight. I didn’t feel the need to park on the sidewalk or in the driveway, which I couldn’t do anyway because a car had already swerved onto it, blocking both spaces. I stopped the car in the middle of the road, looked behind me to make sure Charlotte was asleep. I had to get her asleep because she wouldn’t be able to bear what I was seeing right then. Perhaps me and Danny would tell her when she was older. I unbuckled my seatbelt and got out of the car, stepping right into a pool of blood. Which was everywhere. On the garage of the house across the street, splattered onto the road and Joan’s driveway, leaking from the bodies of various policemen whose bodies lay around the street. That explained the three cop cars, all crashed around the area, one of them in the driveway as I saw before. I noticed that there were no neighbors around either. Oh, Daniel... I thought. You could have stopped them, but THIS? I should have taught him better than that. I had a feeling that more cops would be coming soon, so I had to finish this quickly.
I walked up to the front door, and knocked. A few seconds passed, and the door began to open. My worst fears were confirmed. Standing there was my ex-wife, Joan, and she was not looking very good. Her long brown hair was unkempt, and there was dust on her face and clothes, which were ripped. Her eyes were out of focus, looking straight past me. Behind her the room was dark. I immediately knew what was going on. “H-Hi.” She said in a hollow voice, her body swaying like she was about to faint. I’d taught my son well, but not that well. I sighed. “It’s not gonna work, Danny.” I said. “Wh-what...Are you taaalking about?” Joan said. “I’m fuh-fine. Whatever you felllt must ha-have been wrong.” “Danny....I’m not mad.” I said. Joan was silent for a few seconds. “Th-there’s no be...” She muttered, swaying again. “I’m fffine...” I sighed again, and took out the can of baby powder, which I had taken out of the car with me, from behind my back, opened it, and shook it vigorously for a few seconds. Joan froze in fear, and the facade was revealed. Attached to Joan’s head, arms, hands, fingers, and legs were many strings, only visible in the haze made by the powder, like an agent spreading chalk powder to see security lines in a spy movie. The strings extended back into the room, and got closer together until they reached two hands-the form of a boy was also there in the haze. “It’s over now, Danny,” I told the form. “I’m not mad.” “B-but...” Joan started up...And fell to the ground, the previously invisible strings connected to her disappearing, and the boy’s hands lowering. “She’s gone...” the boy ended the sentence, suddenly becoming visible outside of the powder-haze. It was my son, wearing a shirt with a dragon on it and shorts. He was smart for his nine years, but I knew he would do something like the puppet trick. He lowered his head, not wanting to look at me. “Danny,” I asked him. “Did you do it?” He was silent, then he spoke up, still looking at the floor. “N-no...No.” I was relieved. What had killed her was something I couldn’t sense. “Well...How did it happen?” I asked. “Dunno,” he replied. “I came in and she was on the,” he started to sniffle. “fl-floor, and,” now he was crying. “I didn’t know what to do and I thought you’d be mad and think it was my fault and you’d hurt me...”
“I would never hurt you, Danny,” I said to him. “...Are the neighbors alright?” I asked. “Yeah,” he replied, stopping crying as soon as he started and wiping his eyes. He looked up at me. “Just a st-stopper for them. Should wear off soon.” “Jesus, Danny...” I said, thinking about outside. “You really didn’t have to do THAT to those cops...”
“I w-was scared...”
“Well, we’d better get out of here. Your sister’s in the car. We’ll go home once and then leave, go somewhere else. This won’t go away easily. Don’t mention any of this to Charlotte. She’s asleep. I don’t think we should tell her just yet.”
“Alright...” he said, walking next to me. I put my hand on his shoulder, and the turned halfway around, and looked at the dark house. “Well,” I said, leading him out the door, “She was right about one thing...” we walked towards the car. “Maybe I shouldn’t have taught you that darn sorcery after all.”

The author's comments:
I consider this short story one of the best things I've ever written. A big challenge for me was keeping things mysterious without making it so that the reader would have no idea what's going on. This was hard to do because I know so much about the universe of the story and it's tough to go into the mindset of someone who doesn't, like the reader. One of my goals with this story was to make a world that seemed normal at first, but quickly got strange. I want the reader to wonder what else is possible in the world of the story after they finish it.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Jun. 8 2009 at 6:15 pm
Denae Worcester BRONZE, Castle Rock, Colorado
1 article 0 photos 31 comments
You did really well setting up the story, though some things were a little too slowly revealed (wouldn't he have noticed the cops and cars BEFORE he got out of his car?) but good with the sorcery at the very end.

Make sure each speaker gets his/her own paragraph. Don't put quotes by seperate people into one. And, "alright" isn't a word. It's "all" and "right". 2 words.

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