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by Zachary Wilhide

Red-faced and half-drunk, Daddy just sat there staring at me. His beady eyes were like angry blue marbles. They were the last thing I saw as a kid before the belt came off. I saw those eyes a lot. Shannon did too. College saved me. With one year of high school left, my sister wasn’t as lucky.

It’d only been a week since we’d lowered her into the ground; a closed casket, just like mom’s. Daddy’d said Shannon had tripped walking down to the basement. He didn’t need to elaborate. We’d tiptoed around it for a week, sizing each other up like prizefighters. Tonight I’d confronted him about it. I’d confronted him about everything.

“Tell you what, have one on me.”

Body odor and stale whiskey punched me in the face as he held out the half-full bottle of Dickel. The alcohol made a sloshing sound. I turned it up toward heaven and the contents burned like the devil all the way to my stomach.

I shoved the bottle back in his hand. He took a swig.

“Atta boy, make a man outta you yet,” he said. He leaned back in his chair, the springs of the tattered recliner groaned under his weight. With a smirk, he looked me up and down, his eyes milky with condescension.

“You definitely grew a pair. Just remember, you ain’t too old for me to beat your ass. I’ll chalk that last bit up to grief, but spout off again and I’ll make sure you’re in the next box.”

My hands shook. My pulse pounded in my temples like war drums. As my vision shrank to the size of a pin head, I looked around the living room hoping something would calm me down. All I got was peeling wall paper and a broken framed picture of me and Shannon at a school picnic hung crudely next to the fireplace. She was smiling. Her eyes were twinkling like glass in the sun. I pictured the coffin being lowered into the ground.

“Fuck you, old man.”

His eyes widened for a second. He shot up out of the chair and whipped off his belt in one motion. I dodged the first swing and tripped him into the fireplace. His head thunked on the mantle. I jumped on top of him and pounded his head into the bricks until my knuckles throbbed. Steadying myself on the wall, I reached over and patted Shannon’s picture.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “Daddy’s going to have a closed casket too.”

Her eyes seemed to brighten, but it was hard to tell. There was a lot of blood.

Zach Wilhide has had stories published in Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Spelk Fiction, and Out of the Gutter Online. He’s currently working on a novella.