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by Cal Marcius

I don’t know why I’m seeing her. Maybe just to convince myself I’m not the pathetic little shit she made me believe I was. My brother, Billy, and I’d spent five years in this desolate wasteland she called a haven. The next town is thirty-four miles away, and I only knew this because when Mike used to picked me up he’d tell me that my mother wasn’t as stupid as she always pretended to be.

She drove past these woods one day, ready to drop the little bastard she was carrying inside of her, and parked the caravan a mile off the road. We’d been on the run two years by then. Running from my father. The man who’d never done anything but love me. One day she picked me up from day care and we never went back home.

She drank a lot and slept around a lot. Got pregnant by some guy who was just as fucked up as her, and lost the baby. Time after time. Lost every one of them, until my brother.

Billy didn’t cry when he was born, just slipped out of her and lay on the floor, bloody and silent. She picked him up, wrapped him in a towel and pushed him into my arms.

“Play with him.” That’s all she said. I just sat there. Held him, and looked at him. That he survived was a miracle.

Not long after, Mike started coming around and he’d take me away with him. To meet people.

I look at the caravan in front of me. Still filthy. Still surrounded by the stench of violence and despair. I want to turn back and run. Run and never come back. Then I see the old basketball. The one Mike stabbed with a knife. There’s grass growing out of it now. Just something else damaged and left to rot.

I knock on the flimsy door, get no reply, and knock again.

I hear coughing, then, “Who is it?”

“Tyler,” I shout through the closed door. “I need to talk to you. Please.”

I hear her remove the chain, and she opens the door, peeks through the little gap. We don’t say anything for a few seconds. She just looks at me as if she’s trying to remember who I am.

“You’ve grown up,” she says at last.

“Can I come in?”

She opens the door further and steps aside.

The years haven’t been good to her. She looks like someone twice her age, with sunken eyes and missing teeth. She smells of cigarettes and booze.

“Your father know you’re here?”

“Does it matter?”

I look around, see an empty chair and sit down. She takes a seat opposite me, fishes a half smoked cigarette out of the ashtray and lights it, blowing smoke up into the air.

“What you wanna talk about?”

I shake my head. “I just want to know why? Why d’you let him do that to us?”

She looks away, has another drag on her cigarette.

“I didn’t know.”

“Don’t give me that crap. I told you, and you said I was lying. You let him do it.”

“He fed you.”

“People get jobs, they don’t sell their kids to perverts.”

I can hear noise from the other room, and jump up, startled. The bedroom door opens and Mike walks out, holding a gun.

“It’s alright,” my mother says. “It’s Tyler.”

“Tyler?” He lowers the gun, puts it on the table. “It’s been a while.”

“Fuck off, Mike.”

“Tyler came to talk,” my mother says.

“‘Bout what?”

“You know what,” I say.

Mike laughs. “Still hung up about it, huh?” he says. “You turned out alright. Dumb little shit, you probably liked it anyway.”

I can’t stop myself. Don’t want to. I jump up, punch him in the face. I feel the skin on my knuckles break. Feel teeth give way. He stumbles backwards and falls to the floor, spits blood. I follow through with a kick to the ribs and another punch to the face.

I catch sight of a pair of shoes. Small ones. They used to be mine. I let go of him and pick one up. My name’s crossed out and replaced with Billy’s. I hit Mike with the shoe. Over and over again. Just like he’d done when we were little. He tries to defend himself, kicks me between the legs and I go down. From the corner of my eye I see him grab the gun, pointing it at me, finger on the trigger.

“Mike,” my mother shouts. “Don’t.”

I watch the finger tighten. And then the back of his head explodes, and my mother screams.

I turn. Behind me Billy lowers his gun.

***

She watches us bury him in the woods. She doesn’t say anything, just stands there smoking. When it’s done, Billy says, “Let’s get outta here.”

“What about me? Who’s gonna look after me now?” she says and starts to cry.

Billy opens the door of his car, and looks at her.

“Who looked after us?” he says. “Why should I give a shit what happens to you?”

“Billy,” I say.

“What?”

“Let’s go.”

We leave and I don’t look back.


Cal Marcius is a freelance writer who lives in the frozen wastes of northern England. He has been published in Shotgun HoneyOut of the Gutter, Near to the Knuckle, and Yellow Mama. He also has a story in Near to the Knuckle’s “Rogue” anthology.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CalMarcius
Twitter: @CalMarcius

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