3rd Place Winner -Creative Non-Fiction division of the North Texas Business Council for the Arts On My Own Time Literary Contest

by Michael Morgan

The magazines were there. They always had been. No reason to think Old Fart had thrown them out.

Maybe he noticed they’d been moved? No, I was always careful to get them right back in the same order, and in exactly the same position. Any thirteen year old could manage that. He has a new hiding place.

My determination was piqued. He’s lazy, so they’ll be close to the bed. Maybe under the mattress?

            Hands sliding between the mattress and box spring expecting paper and finding…metal?

The small pistol slid into view as I pulled my hand out from beneath the mattress. I had been looking for porn, and found something else. I was thirteen, but I had seen enough TV to know what came next.

Button behind the trigger guard, and the magazine slipped free. Six cartridges visible through the holes in the side of the slim metal box. Pulling back the slide ejects number seven onto the bedspread. A quick look in the chamber to be sure, and a quick backward tug releases the catch and allows the slide to close. “.25 ACP” stamped in the slide. Small, but not too heavy. Balances nicely in the hand.

Uh-oh! Garage door opening! Loose cartridge back in the magazine. Magazine back in the gun. Rack the slide, and CAREFULLY lower the hammer. Back under the mattress and bedspread nicely smoothed.

“Hi Dad,” as the old fart comes in the back door. Same old crappy conversation. “How was school? Where’s your mother? Blah, blah, blah.”

            Even though I called him “Dad”, he wasn’t my real Dad. He’d adopted me after he married my Mom. I guess he should never have told me that because it just made things worse.

For some reason having your real parent beat the Hell out of you must not feel as bad as having a fake parent kick your ass and tell you he did it because he loves you. At least the beatings and derision hurt a lot worse after I found out he was not my real father. Before, I knew I could lie to myself that whatever he was angry about really was my fault. Something I had done wrong. Punishment I deserved.

Now I knew it was him. Right, wrong, or indifferent, no matter what my sister or me did, if he did not like it, violence and pain would follow.

Today they made the big announcement. Dad was “moving out for a while. Just until things settle down.”

Now he is packing, and he calls me into the bedroom to get him something from the nightstand on his side of the bed. As I am collecting his things, he starts talking. Telling me how proud he is of me. How much he’ll miss us all. How he hopes things can work out and we’ll all be together again. He tells me he loves me.

Standing there with his bric-a brac in my hands I learn how fast the human mind can work.

Drop this junk.

            Grab the pistol from under the mattress.

            Rack the slide to be sure one is in the chamber.

            He only has three choices. Talk fast. Come at me. Run.

            I’ll be pulling the trigger as soon as the sights line up. Fast talk is out.

            There’s a king-size bed between us. Go over or go around. He’s too fat to do either before the slide locks back on the last shot.

            Running takes him down a twenty-five foot hallway. He’s a big man moving in a straight line. No way to miss.

            A twenty-five probably won’t kill him, but it will sure make an impression.

            I’ll be arrested. Probably charged. But kids my age with no priors walk away all of the time. Besides, I’m abused and lashing out at my abuser. My sister will back me up just by telling the truth.

            I can do this, and he can’t do anything to stop me…

“I love you too Dad,” as I walk around the bed to hand him his stuff. Then I walk away.

In that moment where his life was in my hand, I realized that I loved myself more than I hated him. He simply was not worth killing, even to get revenge for the years of pain he had inflicted.

He died a few years ago of colon cancer. My sister had kept in touch because he was her real father. She said he wanted to see me. To apologize for… everything.

I could have gone. A final gift to my tormentor. A last grovel of supplication from “his” son answering his abuser’s summons. I could have raged at him, or maybe forgiven him. It did not matter which. Either would have been a mercy because it was the attention he wanted not absolution. I would not dignify his last words. He wasn’t worth it.