The house was silent.
James’ wife Kate was in bed, no longer nagging him while his son slept quietly in his room. His cries had a way of penetrating deep into James’ head.
Sitting on the shitty brown couch his in-laws had given them as a wedding present, James enjoyed the silence.
Then his father spoke.
“Is that kid of yours going to cry tonight?”
James talked to his father every night, whether he wanted to or not; he always told James how to live his life.
The old man was more overbearing now than when he was alive.
“No, he’s not,” James replied.
“Yes, he will.”
Ignoring his father, he tried to find something decent to watch until Kate called from their bedroom.
“Honey, the air conditioner cut out again! Can you come take a look at it?”
“Tell her to suck it up,” the old man spat. His lifeless eyes blinked at his son as his crooked lips spread into a grin. “Or are you going to give in to her again?”
“Butt out,” James muttered. “She knows better now.”
He pushed off the couch, and made his way down the hallway. As James passed his son’s bedroom, he made sure to tread lightly so he wouldn’t wake the baby.
James did not want to go into that room again.
His own bedroom was dark when he stuck his head in. The air conditioner had indeed shut off and James could see his wife lying in their bed. To him, the temperature wasn’t too bad.
“You’ll just have to make do,” James whispered. “And keep your damn voice down so Garrett won’t wake up.”
James shut the door as he turned back to the living room. He veered off to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Squinting in the fridge’s light, he took a bottle of beer from the top shelf.
“He’s going to cry.”
James twisted the cap off of his beer, took a gulp and then said, “Don’t go there.” He bumped the fridge door closed with his hip.
“Don’t go where? I never tolerated you or your sister crying for no damn reason so you shouldn’t either.”
“How many times do I have to tell you to butt the fuck out?” James spun around to face him but the living room was empty.
He sighed, letting his shoulders slump, and took another drink.
That was always the problem. His father would show up every night, spit out his nonsense and then scram before James could argue back.
James walked back into the living room. Just as he sat down on the couch, a high-pitched wail erupted from Garrett’s room.
“See? I told you he would.”
“Kate!” James yelled down the hallway. “See to the baby, will you?”
He grabbed the remote and thumbed through the channels.
Garrett continued to cry.
James found a football game on and took another drink.
“Did you not listen to me last night?” his father asked, sitting at the other end of the couch.
“Shut up,” James replied.
“I told you how to deal with it.”
“And I did as you said.”
“Doesn’t sound like it.”
The quarterback dropped back into the pocket and threw a completion to his receiver in double coverage. It was an amazing play that warranted replays in slow motion.
Garrett’s crying intensified, sounding raspy.
“You have much to learn.”
“Fuck off you dead prick,” James said, grimacing. He leaned over the armrest of the couch and yelled, “Kate, for fuck sakes, the game is on! Go check on Garrett!”
James tried to enjoy the replays but the announcers were overpowered by Garrett’s seemingly endless wails.
“I may be dead but at least I knew how to run my family.”
“Goddamn it!” James threw the bottle toward his father but the old man was no longer there. The bottle bounced off of the cushion, spilling beer as it fell onto the carpeted floor.
He jumped off the couch and stormed down the hallway. Slamming his bedroom door open, he could see Kate still lying where she was earlier.
“Are you fucking kidding me? You’re still in bed?”
His father laughed from the hallway and added, “Great wife you got there.”
“Get the fuck up!” James screamed, grabbing Kate by her arm. “Now!”
He hauled her out of their bed and into the hallway. James kicked his son’s door open and dragged Kate inside.
Releasing his grip on her arm, James grabbed a handful of her wet and sticky hair, holding her face toward the crib.
“I’m at my wit’s end, Kate!” James cried. “I tried feeding him, rocking him and even singing to him. Despite all of that, he cries! Hell, I even shook him!” He let go of her hair and she dropped to the floor. “When none of that worked, I did what my old man told me to do. I caved his head in with my hammer!”
The one good eye Kate had left that hadn’t been mangled by James’ hammer stared lifeless at the crib.
There wasn’t much left of Garrett’s pulverized head. Blood, skull fragments and brain matter were splattered on the wall and ceiling. His blue Superman jumpsuit was now purple, having soaked up the blood.
James backed against the wall and slowly slid down.
Resting his face in his blood caked hands, he sobbed.
James felt his father’s hand rest on his shoulder.
“He wouldn’t stop crying…”
“You did alright, Son. How do you think I got your sister to stop?”
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright 2017 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.