A three year old Timothy Shearling bashed two plastic Star Wars characters together and thought of what it would be like to watch the movies. He had no idea what they were, or what they were about, but the bright fonts and flashy packaging all of his toys came with intrigued him. Timothy paused to contemplate what the dialogue between his two characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader would be like.
“Timothy!” Dianne Shearling called. Timothy sat up straight at the sound of his mother’s voice, and clumsily tumbled over himself in order to hobble out of the living room and into the kitchen. Timothy’s eyes lit up with delight when he saw a bowl of “Spaghetti-O’s.” The words “thank you” quickly slurred out of his mouth as he grabbed a spoon from a drawer and collected his meal, then ran as swiftly as his young legs could carry him back to the couch, and plopped down.
“Mommy, can we watch TV?” Timothy inquired from where he was sitting. “Sorry baby, but I’m busy right now,” his mother answered, before turning off the kitchen light. She grabbed the remote from the counter and tossed it next to Timothy. “I promise we can tomorrow night,” she assured the small boy. It pained her to see that look of disappointment in his eyes. She hugged Timothy, and as she rose, Timothy heard her say in a much lighter tone; “You can have an extra ten minutes of screen time tonight.” Dianne smiled when she saw a spark of liveliness restored in her son’s form. Timothy retrieved the remote from next to him and turned on the television to his favorite channel.
Dianne walked out of the den feeling the flicker of guilt in her chest turn into a raging fire. She just didn’t have time for Timothy right now. Dianne slumped into her desk chair and sighed as she pulled up a spreadsheet. She was a doctor, but she was also a single mother in a big city. Her payments were behind. Dianne spent the next thirty or so minutes double checking everything, scanning over numbers she already knew. She glanced at the time and then called Timothy’s name and told him to get in bed. The living room went silent as the TV paused and Timothy called ¨I love you.”As he walked to bed, but Dianne was too busy drowning in the thoughts of paperwork and debt to hear him by then.
Timothy slipped into bed and pulled up his covers to his shoulders, to where only his little head was exposed amongst the excessively large bed he was in. He missed his mom tucking him and kissing him on the cheek, and he knew she wanted to-- she just couldn’t right now. At least, that’s what he hoped. Timothy was empathetic for his mother, even though he didn’t know what was wrong or why she always seemed so stressed and frustrated. Timothy swam in his thoughts for a while, before he drifted to sleep. A few tears escaped his eyes as he dreamed of his father who he had seen in various photos around the house. But even in the moment of sorrow, Timothy felt warm-- Timothy felt loved.
As Dianne’s alarm clock screeched its hideous and dreaded morning tune, Dr. Shearling awoke and became immediately bitter. She was no longer being caressed by the tranquil bounds of the unconscious mind, and that pissed her off. Dianne threw on a T-shirt and pants before, lazily slinging a purse over her shoulder. She walked into the dining room with a cup of coffee and saw Timothy already up and halfway done with a bowl of cereal.
¨Good morning early bird,” she greeted Timothy, with as much passion as she could muster.
¨Good morning.¨ Timothy replied.
The duo rushed out the door, greeting their neighbor, Mr. Hennigan, as they made a break for the car. Timothy and Dianne drove to school and work for the day as per the normal schedule, but an awkward silence filled the car. This was an unearthly situation to Dianne; Timothy was always full of excited chatter, so she attempted her best to initiate somewhat of a conversation.
“How has David been?” Dianne said, referring to Timothy’s friend from preschool.
Timothy responded with a meek, “He’s been fine.”
Dianne grimaced and hoped he was just tired. A few minutes later, they reached Timothy’s preschool, and he hopped out of the car.
“Love you honey! I’ll pick you up at three!” Dianne yelled out the window as Timothy walked, greeting a teacher at the door. He looked back and waved.
Dianne quickly stepped out of the door of her clinic and down the hallway to a side door where she moved outside. She lifted a pack of cigarettes from her pocket, lit one, and took a long drag. She thought about all of the chemicals rushing through her and shivered a bit. She checked her phone and saw a few notifications. She felt a rush of glee hit her when she saw a new text from her boyfriend. Dianne had been so lonely for the past three years. Her husband said he was going on a business trip when he found out Dianne was pregnant, but Mr. Todd Shearling never came back. Being a single mother was the hardest thing she had ever done, and having a man that would be a strong husband and father was all that she wanted. After some time of texting back and forth, Dianne saw that he was calling her. She picked up the phone and smiled. His greeting to her was warm and lively, caring and simple. Everytime she heard his voice, she liked him a bit more. “Hey Phil,” she said.
Timothy spent his five hours at school that day, waiting. He wasn’t like the other kids; he didn’t speak as loudly, or ask questions in such abundance. He liked reflection, peace, and exploring the depths of his growing mind. There was an intelligent buzz about how he thought, that was very fresh and vital. Timothy was perceptive and knew he just had to be patient and wait; wait for the day to end, the year, and so on. One day he would be older, and that’s what he wanted. These periods of time trapped him, his capacity hindered by age, and abilities by physicality. But Timothy was an extrovert. Instead of living inside his ultra meta mind, he decided that it might be easier for once, to just color a few pictures, chatter aimlessly, and glue a few more things together.
Once it was one o’clock, Timothy filed in line for after school care, dreading what was the most boring part of his day. His time spent here would be full of unnecessary and tedious activities. But at least the day soon would reach an end.
Dianne pulled into the school parking lot promptly at three, and waited for Timothy to emerge from the cloud of students lodged in the doorway. After a bit the crowd cleared and Dianne saw Timothy at the back, waiting patiently alone. He carefully made his way to the car and gingerly dropped his bag in the seat next to him in the back of the vehicle.
“Hey.” Dianne said. Timothy mumbled in response. Dianne had found some good cheer after hearing from Phil, and she disregarded Timothy’s negative vibes and blasted some tunes from an 80’s channel.
Once Timothy and Dianne arrived home, they both made a break for the kitchen, starved after a day of droll activity. Timothy, as usual, grabbed a cereal bar from the cabinet, while Dianne reached for an apple.
“You should cut down on those, hon,” Dianne told Timothy before biting a chunk out of her granny smith.
“But I like them,” Timothy said while swallowing the last of the oat bar that he had devoured.
Timothy crumpled up his waste and tossed it into a trash bin. He opened up his book bag and placed a small sheet on the table. His teacher had referred to this piece of paper as “homework,” a phrase he had never heard of up until this point. He dumped his pencils out of a case and began to stare intently at the questions for a bit.
“Need some help?” Dianne inquired. Timothy shook his head and started to add up the numbers in his head. He slowly scribbled down an answer and then repeated the process. Dianne ruffled Timothy’s hair and told him she’d be out in a bit. Timothy responded in body language again, and Dianne went to her room to work.
A few hours later, Dianne emerged. She was wearing a stunning purple dress and a dazzling necklace; her heels shined, but not as brightly as her smile. Dianne was surprised to see that Timothy was still gazing blankly into his math work.
“Sweetheart, do you want to get help from your teacher tomorrow?” Timothy nodded and slowly pushed the paper back into its folder and put it away. “He sure is acting strange…” Dianne thought to herself. “Sweety, I need you to get in bed by eight, I should be back by then to tuck you in,” Dianne while she knelt down to meet Timothy’s eyes. She kissed Timothy, leaving a small red imprint of her lips on his forehead. He smiled at her some, and they hugged before Dianne headed out to her car.
“Well, aren’t you dressed up?” Phillip Dewalt teased Dianne. She blushed a bit and explained that she always wanted to look her best.
“I missed you,” she said, in a moment of seriousness afterwards.
“I missed you too,” Phil said as he reached to hug her. Dianne hugged him back, squeezing his shoulders tightly. There was something about Phil that made her heart feel whole again. She never wanted this moment to end-- she was embraced by his strong arms and warm scent, his charming manner, and infinite compassion. The moment died quicker than she wanted, and Dianne returned to the then and now.
After an hour or so of mingling over dinner, Phil signaled the waiter for the check and stretched his arms into the air. He looked up and smiled knowingly at Dianne. There was a moment of silence as they gazed into each others eyes.
¨I had a great time tonight,” he told her.
She clung to his words before whispering in reply, ¨So did I.¨
Timothy lived in a world of gray the next day. There was something oddly bland about everything. He lived in the motions and life had become nothing more than an endlessly repeating system. His mother was home late last night, and many more. Thoughts drifted through his mind, some of darkness, some of hope. Mother was always too busy for him, always off somewhere far, far away. He was beaten down and ever so tired. What were only short periods of time had felt so long. Timothy was putting up his walls after all this time spent waiting for a day of prosper; a day that would never come.
Weeks went by, full of passion for Dianne, and glum, distant daydreaming for Timothy. Timothy was thinking things he knew weren’t true, but all of the neglect had been adding up. Some nights his mom wouldn’t even come home anymore. She never taught Timothy how to warm up his food, so he was forced to eat oat bars until none remained. Other nights, he would go hungry, or attempt to reach the microwave, burning himself after heating up a pack of ramen noodles for ten minutes. Deep, dark circles had developed under his young eyes.
Phillip Dewalt slowly rolled out of bed, yawned, and spread his arms to stretch. He was feeling inexplicably good this morning, and he pondered on why as he poured a cup of strong brew for himself. He took a shower and hummed the tune to a song he heard once, but could never remember the lyrics to. There was something comforting about these sorts of things. They are special and personal; invaluable and unique. After throwing on a pair of khakis and a button down, he began to polish his shoes just as every morning. Phillip Dewalt was a habitual man, chained to his sanity only by the details in life.
¨Good morning Regina.¨ he said as he walked by his wife.
¨Have a great day honey,” she responded.
Regina Dewalt watched her husband leave. She picked up his untouched plate of food off of the table and slid it into the disposal. Regina strode leisurely down the hall and grasped the knob on a simple white door, her heart thudded in her chest. The door creaked open and she peaked inside. A single portrait lay atop a barren dresser. Regina stepped towards it and grasped it in her hands. The smooth border made her smile a bit. She stared into the photo inside for a minute, gently tracing the outline of a young boy’s face. She sighed as she felt a buzz in her pocket.
¨Another is ready for pickup,¨ she read. She closed the conversation with the private number and texted Phillip, ¨Time for a new one.¨
Phil slid open the lock on his phone as a notification sound alerted him. He took a hand off the steering wheel and glanced down once, and then grimaced, shaking his head. His job interview had gone bad, and now this. Phillip was perfectly aware that his wife was a child trafficker. But that didn't mean he approved of it. Regina was unstable, he didn't know what she would do if he tried to split ways with her. The death of their son left her broken beyond repair. And although he was seeing another person, that didn't mean he didn't care for her. He just needed something; someone to make his reality tangible, and not the plot out of a Thriller from the 70's. Dianne was his escape from everything. She was his nicotine, his dream, his goals. Dianne represented the brightness in his life, the future, the unknown. He smiled a bit when he saw a message from her, and quickly asked if she was up for dinner that night.
During dinner, Dianne felt an awkward presence between her and Phillip. He seemed much more distant and troubled. Silence was maintained throughout most of the meal, until it was broken by an unexpected flurry of emotion from Phillip.
¨Dianne, I think I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I need to tell you something first.¨
Dianne blushed immensely and then responded, ¨Anything.¨
Phillip’s voice became unusually grave, ¨I’m married.¨ he said.
When he saw the processing thoughts of Dianne, he continued on quickly, in attempt to void any detests from Dianne.
¨It was a mistake--” Phillip paused when he saw a look of deep despair in Dianne’s eyes.
“I know that this isn’t what you wanted to hear, and it’s not something I wanted to have to say. But I love you Dianne-- you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Please--”
Dianne broke his speech as she began speaking in a calm, but serious tone: “Phil, I loved you too, but marriage is a dedication. There is nothing that hurts more than someone abandoning when they said they’d be there forever.” Her makeup ran some as a trail of tears rolled down her cheeks. People around them were staring, but she didn’t care anymore. “I would know,” she said, before hastily getting up from her chair. She walked past him in a hurry, trying to hide the tears that were now flooding her eyes.
Phillip paid for the check and avoided the glares of those around him. His lungs seemed to be running out of air, and nothing occupied his mind outside of her- the world became black and white, movements a blur, thoughts no more than a muddle of actions. She wasn’t responding to any text or calls. She didn't love him anymore... Something deep inside Phil Dewalt broke.
Dianne was now at a bar. Her woes were now sitting tight in her stomach with a couple of glasses of scotch. She would always be one man’s leftovers. There was nobody out there who simply wanted her and only her, for who she was. She hummed some as she deleted all of the texts Phillip had been sending her, smiling smugly. All of those little words-- “I’m sorry,” “forgive me,” I didn’t mean it”-- were drowned out by someone turning up the boombox on the bar that was playing a song by The Beastie Boys. She shrieked in delight and got up to dance to the tunes with the other eleven or so women who were blowing off some steam. As the song slowed down, all of them laughed in a drunken manner, hanging off of each other lazily. The scent of fading cheap spray on perfume and sweat permeated throughout the room as the whole album played, and they all danced the night away. She didn’t feel half bad about leaving Timothy alone; she had made sure he had gotten in bed, at least, she thought she did.
He couldn’t live without her. Phillip’s brow was drenched with his perspiration, his button down soaked, and hair matted just above his eyes. He pressed the barrel to his head, the receipt for a Colt from a pawn shop wedged somewhere deep in his pocket. The muzzle slipped a few times, and his hands shook uncontrollably. He panted just from his simple attempts to hold the gun steady. Phillip Dewalt was a failure of a man. He was unable to hold a job, nor find one. He was unloyal to his wife, and his name made Dianne slither with disgust. There was nothing left for him here. He put down the pistol and slid his hands through his hair and pushed up his glasses which had been sliding off his nose. He looked around him-- this place was covered in filth, and so was he. It was dark, and all that could be heard in the city was the distant sounds of sirens. He thought about one of them coming for his cold, lifeless body. He thought and he thought and he thought. A few minutes later his face turned red, he screamed like he was mad, cursing his existence. His depressions turned into pure, unfiltered rage.
The person living next to Dianne; John Hennigan was a quiet man. He spent his mornings watering his garden, and then worked on a novel late into the afternoon. He was living off of the small earnings from his most recent book, but it wasn’t much. His life was relaxing, to a point of almost being boring. The sound of soft rock and his keyboard has become all too familiar, and completely enveloped his life. This all summed up to why he readily obliged to watch Timothy at the park on the weekends. This was a weekly routine for the Shearlings, and Dianne wanted to make sure that Timothy was not deprived of some normalcy despite her new work schedule. The schedule was a consequence to Dianne’s often early departures and late arrivals to work, and she was informed that she would be terminated promptly if she did not maintain a regular shift. This was all the motivation she needed.
Phillip looked through the window of the Shearling’s house, a buck knife shoved into his jeans. He stared as Dianne slept, and trailed around the back of the house, letting his fingernails scrape against the old, chipped paint. He then saw something that put a smile on his face, and a new element in his plan.
Timothy liked the park. He would spend hours on end bashing two plastic figurines against each other, while John busied himself with his writing. Thursday and Friday went by quickly, and Saturday went by even quicker, because Timothy had made a friend.
A man had driven by the thick bush he was sitting at early that afternoon, and joined them, nicely offering him a candy cane. They were concealed by the shadows in the thicket where they sat, just outside of John Hennigan’s peripheral vision. He was tall and slender, with a pair of thin glasses perched on his nose. His smile was charismatic, and there was something about him that made Timothy feel like he had to do anything the man ever asked. Most of the time, they would talk about small things, like school, or television. But every once in a while, he would ask about Timothy’s mother. At first, the man said things Timothy thought to be untrue, but the more he listened, the more he believed. His mother was never around; she didn’t do anything with him, and maybe, just maybe, she didn’t love him. After an hour or so of deep conversation, Timothy saw Mr. Hennigan rise, pushing his scraggly curls past his shoulders, and under his long Winter scarf. His friend whispered something in his ear, and Timothy nodded.
Phillip Dewalt saw the bulky figure of John Hennigan walking nearby; he didn’t have time to escape this time around. He waited in silence for a moment, knowing he would soon be spotted.
“Hey! Phillip nearly jumped at the raspy bellowing of Mr. Hennigan. He waited a few more seconds and suddenly there was a gruff hand on his shoulder.
“What are you do--” John was cut off by the glint of a metallic object. He put up his hands to protect himself, but ended up feeling the broad handle of a knife lodged in his throat. He fell to his knees, overwhelmed by the sensation of drowning. As his body touched ground, the delicate figure of the grass around him wilted immediately. John’s clenched fists and tight jaw went lax. His nerve endings flared a bit causing, his body to twitch wretchedly, making a fit of his mouth as it jutted out, releasing a slow dribble of blood. His eyes no longer seemed to be looking in any particular direction, the blue pupils were enveloped by the sky. Timothy giggled a bit and clapped as Phillip Dewalt bowed. To Timothy's knowledge, this carnage was no more than a scene from a Star Wars movie. Mr. Dewalt seemed to be an enthusiast of the series as well.
Dianne stared at the words for minutes. She didn't know what to think; she didn't think. She looked over them, and over them, waiting for a meaning or explanation to pop in to her head. She was horrified, and scared by such a simple phrase; “I never knew you had a son,” from a blocked number. She thought of all the people it could have been, but her thoughts were interrupted by her phone ringing. She hesitated a moment, scanning over the same private number. She put the speaker to her ear and quietly said “Hello?”
Phillip Dewalt licked his lips, thinking of what he should say. The adrenaline pumped through his veins, this was the moment she would remember forever, and he was the mastermind. He picked up on the unsteady sound of her breathing a shrill wave of smugness washed over him. He had her at his fingertips.
“Hey sweetie.” he said politely. He was grinning, restraining himself from bellowing with laughter. He felt the tension rise along with Dianne’s mood. There was a sniffle and he almost screamed with delight.
“Phil?” Dianne asked, on the verge of tears. She felt her hands shaking and her breath quickened. She gasped desperately for air, and felt the urge to simply run and never stop.
“How ya doin'?” Phillip honestly inquired.
Dianne's lips quivered as she tried to speak. Phillip's voice inflection had a drastic change. He sounded manic, the ending of each of his sentences had a sort of hysteric pitch to them. As if he were-- enjoying this.
“Phil, I'm sorry I hurt you, but I need to you to help me, do you know where Timothy is?”
Phillip chuckled for a moment on the other line.
“That's so funny Dianne, because, you see-- I need your help. And yeah, Timothy's here, safe and sound.”
Dianne felt a wave of relief wash over her.
“Can I talk to him please?” she asked.
After a moment of the sound of the phone being shuffled from one hand to another, Dianne heard a gentle voice say:
“Timothy, are you okay baby? Where are you, talk to mommy.” Dianne asked in an increasingly desperate tone. There was another moment of shuffling.
“Don't overwhelm him now Dianne.” Phillip tutted.
“But anyhow, back to my predicament.” Phil continued.
“You see, I never got the chance to finish talking to you, so there are a few things that were left unexplained.”
Dianne attempted to cut in, but was abruptly discontinued by a wave of shushing from Phillip.
“So, this is gonna sound really cliché, but my wife is pretty screwed up-- I think I am too now. Anyways, we have a little business, and agreed that the two of us and you would make a great partnership.”
“Get on with it.” Dianne interrupted.
Phillip laughed again,
“Let's make this precise then Mrs. Universe.” Phillip’s ego gained an overwhelming sense of dominance. “Your son is going to be staying with us for a while, and nothing will happen to him as long as you comply, or I am not at all pained to say that he'll end up sitting in the dumpster along with the pieces that's left of your hippie neighbor.”
Phillip paused to let the message sink in.
“And all you have to do, is provide us with a fresh batch of product every once and a while. You work the front desk sometimes, so every month or so, you're going to take a kid's application papers, and put them through the shredder. Then you're going to tell them whatever you want to to comfort them before they get shipped out to the border.”
Dianne was in a feverish state of surrealism, she was hearing his words, but they barely processed. She ended up sputtering an “okay,” after about a minute of her mumbling to herself. Her hands were clammy, and she was shivering. She didn't know what to do- didn't know what to say.
Phil pressed the end call button and trashed the cell he had been using and tossed it into a garbage bin with a few red-soaked plastic bags. He smiled warmly at Timothy, who was waiting patiently about ten feet away. “Come on bud,” he said taking the boy's little hand.
-3 YEARS LATER-
Timothy looked at the remote sitting next to him. He would soon indulge in his reward for helping out with another job. He reached for the remote, trying not to look at the scabs and deep scars spread across his arm; the reminders of his mistakes. He saw Mr. Dewalt walking towards the door, and in his most polite voice with all the courage he could muster he asked;
“Mr. Dewalt, can we watch TV?”
“Sorry, but I'm a bit busy right now.” Phillip answered. The knocking on the door quickened in intensity and Phillip hurried towards the racket. “I promise we can tomorrow,” he said, then opened the door. Timothy raised his head up over the couch, and saw in the doorway, smiling along with Regina, was the small boy in the wheelchair; they were back from the park. Timothy remembered he liked the park. At least he thought he did-- but the black void had devoured so much of his memory. A wave of envy washed over Timothy. He scurried away, and watched from the shadows. He saw them having fun, but Timothy knew he was special-- he wasn't the one who would be taken on a car ride, so far away, and thrown into the factories, never to see the light of day again. Even in his moments of doubt, his miserable pain, and despair in isolation, he knew he knew he had a purpose. One day he’d grow up, one day he’d be able to be the one who made them scream for attention, crave for the nutrition of human contact-for someone to love. Oh, the humanity-the righteousness of sweet justice’s touch. Tick tock goes the clock, the clock that ticks and tells the time-the time to his liberty, all Timothy would have to do, is bide the eternity of childhood.