I was 6-years-old the first time I saw him hit her. My two older brothers were at friends’ houses, but I was sick that day and had stayed home from school, so I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. They were arguing about whether or not to take me to the doctor.
“He’ll be fine, it’s a little cold, Marie! He’ll be back at school tomorrow or the next day. Stop treating him like a baby!” That was my father’s side of the argument. My mother’s was: “What if it’s more than a cold, John? Did you ever think of that? Maybe he needs antibiotics or something. And anyway, that school nurse is so strict. She’ll send kids home if they sneeze more than twice!”
Although my mother was right, my father must have only heard part of what she said; he must have heard, “Did you ever think of that?” and translated it into “Do you ever think?”
My father had a habit of doing that — of taking people’s words and twisting them into excuses for him to lose his temper. I was feeling guilty because if I hadn’t gotten sick, they wouldn’t be fighting. I was sitting on the couch in the den, holding onto the back of it and peeking over it into the kitchen to watch.
My father went silent, and he stepped up closer to my mother.
“Marie,” he said in a low voice, “what did you say to me? Are you saying I don’t think about what’s best for our kids? Who works? Huh? Who provides for all of you?”
My mother stammered. “I—I didn’t mean anything by it, John, I—“
Then he just smacked her face. That was it. He walked away after that. (There would be many times, in the future, when he would not have the ability to walk away after just one smack.) I couldn’t see my mother’s face, her back was to me, but even all these years later I can imagine the look of shock and fear on her face. As I got a bit older, I came to know that look well, mostly because I frequently saw it in the mirror. She began to cry silently. I tried to hold it in but I couldn’t — I sneezed once, twice, three, four times. When I looked up, my mother was staring at me from the kitchen. She knew I had seen what happened but chose not to discuss it. She gave me some over-the-counter medicine which barely relieved my symptoms — but I didn’t complain — and then she told me to go lie down. I heard no other arguments that night.
Throughout the years, my father became more and more abusive not just towards my mother, but to me and my brothers, Johnny and Andrew, as well. We were yelled at and hit for getting home late from friends’ houses. Bad grades? Smacked. Too loud at dinner? Yelled at and insulted. Fought in school? We got the belt. If my mother ever tried to intervene, she would be yelled at, too. Eventually, she learned to keep silent to avoid a black eye (the neighbors might ask questions), but I knew it hurt her to watch her sons being treated that way.
Johnny, Andrew, and I never spoke to anyone about what sometimes went on at home. We all dealt with the issue in our own ways. By the age of 22, Johnny was using heroin. When he was 19, Andrew was rarely at home. I was 18 and didn’t want to leave my mother alone if I could avoid it. I didn’t try to get a part-time job like some of my friends did simply because I felt like I needed to be home in case things got bad.
My father found out about Johnny’s drug use and did more than kick him out of the house; he broke his jaw. At least he cared, you know? I understood his anger for that reason. But Johnny didn’t see it that way. He saw it as continued abuse and he fucking had enough. Like Andrew, he began crashing at different fiends’ (I mean that; I did not mean to say “friends”) houses. He ignored calls to his cell phone unless they were from drug dealers. The only way to reach him was to go hunting for him. I kept the list of addresses in my wallet.
Andrew was fairly normal, but he was so impressionable. If a friend told him to get a tattoo, he would do it (and, in fact, he did — it was some stupid snake tattoo on his chest); if Johnny told him to steal some fucking beef jerky from Quick Chek, he did it. He did anything Johnny said. If Johnny said, “Cut off your middle finger,” Andrew would look for the nearest thing that could cut and he would fucking attempt it, at least. Johnny was shooting and Andrew would be following him around (thankfully Andy was clean; the one thing he wouldn’t do is drugs, and that’s probably only because Johnny told him not to), and I was left at home with my drunken mother, holding her in my arms, her reeking of liquor like her glands no longer produced sweat, but instead glistened her skin with vodka. She would cry into my shirts and soak them; cry about how she didn’t want Johnny to die, cry about how poor Andy didn’t love her (he did), cry about how she was holding me back from doing whatever I should be doing, cry about how her husband was coming home in a few hours and how she wished he would just die before he got here. I listened to all of this. I never said anything. She never asked me to. I kept silent because I was fucking sick of listening to her. I harbored no negative feelings regarding my mother, but I knew the only fault — the major one — that she had was not leaving. It turned out, though, that she didn’t have to.
“Hey,” a voice whispered in my ear.
“Mm,” I responded.
I was having a wonderful dream. I had been on a rollercoaster, and my harness was loose. As the car I was in was making the drop, my harness flew up and I flew out of my seat. Instead of feeling fear, I felt liberated. I put my arms out and flapped them a little bit, and I steadied myself and I began to fly. I was simply soaring, like a hawk, with nowhere in particular to be, no one to care about and no one looking for me. I was free.
“Hey!” the voice whispered again, a bit harsher this time.
In my dream, I began tilting from side to side, and I wasn’t able to straighten myself out.
“Wake the fuck up, man!” the voice instructed me.
In my dream, I was shaking violently and falling out of the sky.
“Dude, wake up!”
It was Johnny, Johnny shaking me awake, his pasty white, bony hands on my shoulders. The lamp on my bedside table was on, but it was dim, so the room wasn’t lit too well. Even still, I could see Johnny pretty clearly. I could tell he was high. He looked like complete shit. His eyes were red, hair disheveled and so greasy it looked wet. I knew he would be highly emotional. You’d think his eyes would be half open and he would be sitting in a chair nodding out, but those eyes were wide open and he was as alert as I’d ever seen him. His eyes were so blue, but the whites were bloodshot. I was still half in my dream world. “You awake, man? We need to talk.” His breath was rank.
“Talk about what? Your fucking breath? Go brush your fucking teeth, Johnny.” I rolled over onto my side and tried to get back into my dream so I could feel that freedom again, fly close to the sun and feel its tremendous warmth. Johnny rolled me onto my back again. I heaved a sigh. “I don’t feel like listening to your shit, Johnny! Andy, is that you?” I said. I saw him just then, leaning up against my dresser. He looked like he might be sick, but like Johnny, his eyes were wide and alert. “What’s going on? You need money? Don’t even fucking tell me you need money. I don’t have any. The last time you were in my room, you stole all of it that I had hidden from you!” I said to Johnny. I looked at his arms. The track marks made me nauseous and I tried to roll over again. I also didn’t want Johnny to see me tear up. I just couldn’t stand seeing what he was doing to himself. I did blame my father for Johnny’s addiction. Sometimes there isn’t anyone to blame but the addicted individual, but in Johnny’s case, I knew he had been pushed to his limit by our father and heroin was his escape. That was, or so he thought, a good and better place for him to be than home. He rolled me over again. He wasn’t bothered by what I had said. His mind was focused and his emotions were dictating his words and fueling his actions.
“This is fuckin’ serious,” he said. “We’re gonna kill John.”
I laughed. I couldn’t help myself. “God, Johnny, how much dope did you shoot? That shit has obviously fucked with your brain. Did you hear what he said, Andrew?” I asked.
Andy nodded. He had stopped leaning against my dresser and was standing up straight now, his arms rigid at his sides. He was looking at me, and I don’t think he was blinking. It was like if he moved too much, disaster would strike — disaster being John waking up (he slept like a dead person) and coming in here and whooping all three of our asses before starting in on our mother for letting Johnny in the house (she hadn’t).
“This is fucking serious, Mike,” Andrew said, using Johnny’s words.
I looked at Johnny. He was nodding his head and scratching his arms. I sighed. My brothers were fucking with me. I wondered if Johnny had finally let Andy get high.
“You guys are insane, “I said quietly. “Johnny, you’re sick and you smell. Andrew…I don’t know, man. Stop hanging out with this junkie.” It hurt me to use that word to describe my own brother, but I was just confused and pissed off that they had interrupted my peaceful dream with their ludicrous bullshit. Neither of them seemed to accept what I said. They continued to stare at me, Andrew looking like me might vomit all over my carpet and Johnny scratching, scratching.
“We’re fucking serious,” he told me.
I looked hard at them both. “You guys are serious,” I said. Johnny grinned because he thought I finally got it, and Andy let out a nervous laugh once he saw that Johnny had loosened up a bit. “So…you woke me up so we could all go murder our father,” I said to clarify.
“Yep,” Johnny said.
“It was Johnny’s idea,” Andy said.
“Brilliant plan, seriously. There’s no way we can get caught, so don’t even worry about that.”
“’Don’t even worry about that,’” I repeated. I gave up the idea that I might get to go back into my dream, and I got up and put my bathrobe on. It was winter, and it was cold. Fuck, I just wanted to get back in my bed. “Yeah, okay, guys. Tell me Johnny’s brilliant plan!” I waved my arms out in front of me, a gesture saying the stage is all yours, boys.
“Well, okay, we’re not fully sure how we should do this. “Andy said. “Yet,” he added. “We figured you could help because…you watch all those shows on Investigation ID and shit. Like the Homicide Hunter? How would he kill someone and get away with it?”
I laughed. “Christ, Andy, he’s a homicide hunter! He hunts people who commit murder! He doesn’t fucking kill anybody!”
Andy rolled his eyes. “No, I know that! I just mean he knows how people do it.” I said, “But he catches those people. So they’re not getting away with anything. You mean how would he not be like those people who get caught?” Andy and Johnny nodded. I couldn’t believe I was getting sucked into this, but I was beginning to feel excitement squirm around in my belly. I thought of a more peaceful life. I thought of Johnny not killing himself and Andy finding his own legs to support himself with, his own mind to guide him. Our mother, though… “Guys, what about Mom?” I asked them.
They looked at each other as if they forgot that it was her husband we were planning to get rid of, despite how horribly he often treated her.
“We’ll deal with that when we need to,” Johnny said. “So what’s our plan?” he asked me.
“You guys fucking woke me up for this! I was having a really nice dream, you know! So you wake me up and then you ask me how we should fucking kill our dad?” I said. I was mostly angry because it was so sudden; they came to me and expected me to have a fool-proof plan. I won’t lie — I often fantasized about our father dying, but in those fantasies, the cause of death was never particularly violent and it certainly wasn’t caused by his own sons. I was in this now, though. This was fucking serious, I could see it in their eyes. Johnny’s were so bright and glassy and serious. This wasn’t just emotions or drugs making them want to do this. They had reasons same as I had for my fantasies. I didn’t question anything else. I knew our mother was passed out drunk; she usually slept on the couch in our den downstairs, and my father’s bedroom was upstairs. I felt pretty confident that she wouldn’t wake up. I sighed like I was irritated and tired, but really that feeling of excitement was growing larger inside of me, like some sort of twisted fetus. “Okay,” I said. “I think I have an idea.”
I explained to them that without a body, there usually wasn’t a crime, meaning that foul play of any sort would be difficult if not impossible to prove — so long as we didn’t commit the crime in or near the house.
“We’ll knock him out,” Johnny suggested. “Then bring him somewhere else?”
“Exactly,” I told him. “We’ll kill him while he’s unconscious to make it easier. People will think he left on his own. Or just…disappeared.”
“We’ll have to use Mom’s car,” Andy said. Although we had our licenses (well, Johnny’s was suspended), none of us had our own vehicle.
I went to my closet and grabbed a spare fitted sheet.
“What’s that for?” Andy asked.
“For transport,” I said.
I already mentioned that our father slept like a dead person. Well, soon he would really be one. He was snoring loudly when my brothers and I entered his room. Johnny had gone down into the basement to grab a baseball bat, which had been purchased when Andy decided he wanted to play the sport, but then abandoned not long after when he realized he couldn’t bat for shit. Or catch, or pitch. Our father was pissed about that, because it was an expensive bat. Andy got punched in his stomach for that one. He never bothered with sports again. So now here we were, three adult brothers, standing over our sleeping father with a baseball bat raised and ready. Before Johnny hit him, I felt a pang of regret, but just for an instant. He looked peaceful and not like a big douchebag when he was sleeping, and I thought that maybe if we just woke him up and talked to him, that he would change and we could all start fresh. That thought was dislodged from my brain when I heard the THWACK sound of the wooden bat connecting with dad’s head. He abruptly stopped snoring and I was worried he had stopped breathing. He was bleeding on the side of his head. I didn’t want blood in this room, I didn’t want the cause of its spilling to be traced back to us.
“Oh shit Johnny, you hit him too hard!” I whisper-yelled.
“Why are you whispering?” Johnny asked.
Andy did a smart thing and pulled a pillow case off a pillow to press it against the wound. He held it there for a few minutes and none of us said anything.
“What now?” he asked us.
“Is he even breathing?” I wondered out loud.
“Why the fuck are you whispering? He can’t hear us!” Johnny said.
“I don’t know, I can’t fucking help it!” I whispered in response.
Johnny checked his pulse. He did it quickly, expertly. I couldn’t help but think that, sadly, the reason for his pulse-checking skill was because he frequently had to check his friends’ pulses to make sure they hadn’t overdosed. “Still breathing,” he said.
The wound wasn’t bleeding too badly, so we put the next step of our plan into motion. We put the fitted sheet on top of him, but we weren’t sure how to get it under him to wrap him up like some fucking human burrito. We decided to use the floor for our rolling. Our father was of avergage height — 5’9″ — but he was solid with muscle and was very heavy.
Andy and I tried to lift him from the bed to place him onto the sheet that Johnny had spread out on the floor. I lifted his legs and Andy lifted his shoulders. We lifted for about three seconds when our father’s weight shifted to one side all at once and we dropped him. He landed facedown. The impact made a loud noise that made us all cringe and we held our breaths, waiting for our mother to walk in and ask What was that sound and Oh my god what are you doing to dad? and Are you insane please don’t hurt me too and she would call the police and we’d be arrested and go to prison for who knows how fucking long and —
“Well at least he’s on the sheet,” Johnny said. Yeah, that was true. Andy and I rolled him over onto his back, and then Johnny helped us roll him up like a big meat burrito in our mom’s pink floral sheet. The elastic edging made it easier for us to fold and tie the sheet around our father’s bulk. Where his head was, the white flowers were turning red. We stood up, wiping sweat from our foreheads despite the slight chill in the air — it was always a bit colder upstairs in the winter.
I knew what had to be done next. I grabbed dad’s ankles through the sheet, and told Andy to lift up his head and neck.
“Why do I have to lift his head again? I don’t want the blood on my hands!” he protested.
“Oh you fucking pussy, I’ll do it,” Johnny said.
“You guide us.” Johnny and I lifted, and Andy went quickly but quietly down the stairs to direct us. I had to walk backwards, down stairs, holding half the weight of a 200-pound unconscious man.
“You’re good to come down,” Andy whispered. “You won’t fall.”
I made it down three steps when my knees buckled beneath me. I dropped my father’s legs and grabbed hold of the railing so I wouldn’t tumble backwards and break my fucking neck. My father was supposed to die tonight, not me.
“What the fuck, man!” Johnny yelled. He couldn’t hold onto dad by himself, so he let go and gave him a shove like he was pushing him on a sled down a snowy hill. Our father thump-thump-thumped down the stairs, his feet connecting with Andy’s shins and almost knocking him down.
“Shit,” I breathed. I stood clinging to the railing, keeping my eyes shut tight, waiting, again, for our mother to discover what we were up to. After about half a minute, we all decided she was passed out for good and that we could continue. Johnny and I went down the stairs and carefully stepped over and around dad.
“Mike, go get mom’s keys and start the car and open the trunk. I’ll have Andy help me carry him because maybe he won’t fuck up like you.”
“Fuck you!” I said, a little too loudly. But I did as I was told. After getting the keys, I snuck into mom’s room to grab an old blanket. Only when I went outside onto the porch, in the porch light, did I see what blanket I had grabbed. It was a quilt that dad’s mother had made. Maybe he’d want to be buried with it, but maybe not, since he always referred to his mother as “That stupid fucking whore, God rest her soul.”
I spread out the blanket in the back—the seats were already down—and then went to help Johnny and Andy. We got dad into the car, but the sheet was falling off and we had to fold his legs up to get him to fit. We were sweating again, Johnny the most, since he was still high. He told me to drive. I asked where. He said he didn’t know, that we’d find a place.
“We’ll find a place? How about we drop him off at the police station after we kill him, hmmm? There’s a wonderful idea! Christ, Johnny, did you even think any of this through?” I shouted.
He slapped me, hard, in the face. “Don’t fucking help then, if you want to be a douchebag about it. This was my idea. If not for me, mom would probably be getting her ass whooped by him tomorrow morning because she didn’t fucking make his toast right! And then he’d hit you just for existing!” He had a point. I said nothing. I got behind the wheel.
We drove for about half an hour to forty minutes before finding the perfect woods. Luckily for us, we lived in a relatively secluded area in south Jersey, with lots of parks and forests around. The three of us worked in silence getting dad out of the back, carrying him (the partially bloody sheet now mostly hanging off of him, dragging through the snow and dirt) into the woods. We grunted and breathed heavily. The sheet snagged on a branch of a fallen tree, and we heard the tearing sound. Johnny and Andy kept going, heading for a small clearing, but I checked to make sure a piece of the sheet hadn’t gotten stuck on the branch. That could be evidence.
“Heavy bastard!” Andy said as we dropped him onto the snow.
Again we stood, wiping sweat from our faces. I still had my fucking bathrobe on. Johnny wasn’t wearing a coat, or even a sweatshirt. His pasty arms with their track marks were exposed. They almost glowed in the darkness. Andy went off to melt some snow with his piss. Johnny found a place to sit, and I watched from the corner of my eye as he took something out of his pocket, and then something else. A little bag. A little piece of straw. He lifted the bag into the path of the moonlight, flicked it a couple times, opened it. Stuck the straw in his nose and then into the bag. When he was done, he took out another bag and repeated the process. Then another bag. He threw his trash in the snow behind him.
“At least bury it, you fucking idiot,” I said. He ignored me. I wasn’t angry, though. In fact, I sort of envied him right then. I almost wished I had some magic substance to calm me down and put me in the mood for the task that lay ahead.
Andy returned. “Who brought the bat?” he asked. We all looked at each other. None of us had it. We had left it in the room. We were weaponless.
“Should I go back?” I asked.
My question was answered when we heard a groan coming from the ground. Dad was waking up.
Our mouths open, we just stood there while dad grunted and groaned and rolled gently from side to side. We all backed up a few feet. I saw Johnny glance around, and I figured he was looking for something to use in place of the bat. I saw the look of remembering on his face, and he reached into his pocket. I remembered too — he always carried a knife. Had to, for protection. Dad’s grunts soon became syllables, then more coherent words.
“Fa…fa…fuck…Sh! Shit. Wha the fa…Wha the FUCK SHIT!” He sat up straight, his hands on his head. “My fucking head. Hurts.” His speech wasn’t even slurred.
Of course it wasn’t. Of course he was wide awake now. We had the shittiest luck in the universe. But I did hope that his vision was poor and he couldn’t recognize the men—the scared little boys — who stood around him.
“Mike? Is tha you? John—Johnny…you piece a shit…”
Johnny’s hand clenched around the handle of his knife. I hadn’t seen him open it.
“Yeah, I see that fucking thing in your hand, Johnny. I shoudn’t have named you after me, you fucking junkie piece a shit. You’re a disgrace. Mike? Is tha you?”
I cleared my throat. “Uh, yeah, Dad, it’s me.”
“What the fuck are you doing?!” Andy asked with more than a note of panic in his voice. I shrugged. I was waiting for Johnny to interfere somehow, but he still just stood there. I fucking hoped he wasn’t nodding out now.
The bullshit flowed: “Dad, you had an accident…Hit your head real bad. So…so we took you out here, to get some fresh air. I read about that somewhere, cold air is really good for—”
Dad interrupted: “Johnny, you piece a shit! I see that fucking thing in your hand! What are you gonna to do? Stab me with it? Kill me?” He laughed. It was a horrible sound. “Mike, is tha you? Are you gonna kill me too? Oh, Andy, you faggot. You’re there, aren’t you? Yeah, you’re always there with your piece-of-shit brother. Fucking faggots, both of you.” He spit blood into the snow.
My fists were clenched. I was getting angry. Maybe he wanted this, to piss us off so much that we would try to fight him. He thought he could win. I knew these words coming from him were meaningful. He meant every damn word he said. I took a step towards him, Andy took a step back, Johnny stayed where he was. Dad started to stand up. We watched him stumble, his hands still pressed to his head. Then, with surprising speed and strength, he came at me and pushed me, knocked me backward into the snow. I tried to get up, but my father kicked me in the face. Thankfully he was still off balance a bit, and only the side of his bare, cold foot connected with my nose. It still fucking hurt, though. My eyes teared up like they do when you get hit in the nose.
“Mike? Is tha you? I meant to kick Andy in his stupid faggot face,” dad said.
Andy charged dad from behind, jumping onto his shoulders like a little kid excited for a piggy back ride. None of us ever remembered getting a piggy back ride from our father. Dad spun around in circles, trying to throw Andy from his back. I got up and kicked him in the balls.
“You fucker!” dad said through clenched teeth. I kicked him again. He dropped to his knees and Andy pushed him facedown into the snow, still on his back, arms around his neck. Dad was a big man, and still strong despite whatever pain he was in.
“Johnny, fucking do something!” I yelled.
He stood there and watched, along with me, as dad rolled over onto his back, pinning Andy underneath him. I climbed on top and punched my father in the face. I got two good hits in before he got one good one in, and I fell over into the snow. Now my nose was really fucked up. I heard and saw Andrew and our father rolling around in the snow, making sounds like animals and throwing punches at each other. I didn’t know Andy could fight like that. Before I could react, in one swift movement, dad had gotten on top of Andrew and was straddling him, punching him in the face over and over and over.
“You fucking faggot!” he yelled. “Always hanging around with your goddamn faggot-ass junkie brother! Both of you, disgraces! I should’ve just jizzed on your mother’s tits and then you wouldn’t have been born, you fu—” He stopped yelling and punching when Johnny stabbed him in the back. He pulled the knife out, stabbed him again in a different spot. He pulled it out again and I saw, in the moonlight, the blade thickly covered with blood. It was a beautiful color.
He thrust the knife in again, and this time he twisted it. Our father made a sound of pain that I have never even heard in slasher movies, and I felt — for approximately 4 seconds — intense remorse. Johnny pulled the knife out and backed away. He sniffled and wiped his nose. Spit into the snow. Dad was moaning, but he got to his feet. He moaned and he turned around, slowly, and he faced Johnny. He used his remaining energy to speak: “I hope…you die…I hope…you stick that…fuckin needle…in your arm tonight…and I hope you…never wake up.” He struggled through the sentences, coughing during the pauses and spitting out blood. Our area in this woods had mostly red snow by now. “You fuckin…junkie,” dad said, and he spit blood into Johnny’s face. Johnny just stood there, and I saw him smiling. He knew he had won, so dad could say whatever he wanted. They were his last words, anyway. Johnny would let him have that. He let the spit and blood drip down his cheek and over his lips.
Johnny’s arms were at his sides, the knife in his right hand pointed at the ground, blood slipping off of it. Andrew was up, standing about a foot behind dad. I plopped onto the ground, watching, waiting for our father to fall down and die. Dad went onto his knees. He didn’t fall; he chose to kneel. He was a strong man in the wrong ways. I closed my eyes and lifted up my shirt to wipe my nose. The blood might have frozen to my face. I heard muffled words, and looked up to see Dad looking up at Johnny. He was crying, or it sounded like he was.
“Johnny…my boy…my first born…I don’t…blame you for this…but…could I…let me…say one last…thing…” dad said.
I could actually see Johnny rolling his eyes, but I knew he was as curious as I was.
“Say whatever you want,” he replied.
“You won’t be saying anything after tonight, asshole.” Dad looked in Johnny’s eyes and said, “You were…always…my fa…” His what? His favorite? Was Johnny really dad’s favorite? The man was admitting his true feelings now, before he died. I felt that awful pang of remorse again, even though he wasn’t telling me that I was his favorite son. “Always my fa…my fuh…my fucking…worst nightmare.” And he grabbed the knife, slick with his own blood, out of Johnny’s hand. I sat up straighter but stayed on the ground, because I knew he was just being a fucking prick, trying to scare us, trying to show us he wouldn’t go down without a fight. We already knew that.
Johnny let him have the knife, apparently confident he wouldn’t be able to use it to his advantage. He did back up a few steps, though. Dad was slumping farther foward, turning the bloody knife over in his hands. Andrew started to creep up behind him, fists ready to pummel him and knock him forward and get the knife returned to its rightful owner. Maybe dad heard Andy’s steps, because when Andy was close enough, dad used his last bit of strength to stand up and turn around and stab Andy in the neck. I gasped as I saw the blood spurt. More red snow. Andy’s eyes were wide open, so wide it was like the whites were attemping to rival the moonlight to brighten up the night. He put his hands to his neck and stumbled around, half walking, half running away from all of us, deeper into the woods. Dad laughed. That horrible sound. Coughing choked off his laughter and he spit out more blood. While he was distracted, Johnny ran at him full speed, grabbing and twisting the arm and hand that held his knife.
“Are you ready to die, you fucking asshole?! You fucking asshole!” he screamed so loudly I was afraid someone might actually hear us, even though we were isolated. I felt that I should go after Andy and help stop his bleeding. Dad hadn’t thrust too hard; Andy would be fine, but he’d probably have a scar one day to go along with his story, which would forever be kept a secret.
Dad was laughing and coughing, spitting out blood and obsenities, and Johnny was hitting him in the face with one fist and he finally got the knife back in his other.
“You can’t…kill…me…fuckin…junk—” Johnny stabbed him in an eye, and then in his chest. Three times. Four. Seven? Twelve? I lost count and then I grabbed Johnny around his waist from behind to pull him off dad.
“He’s dead! It’s over! Enough!” I yelled.
Johnny was crying. I stood behind him, my arms around his waist, and it felt kind of nice. I couldn’t remember the last time I had hugged either one of my brothers.
He pulled free from my hold and jumped on top of our father’s body. He began stabbing it in the stomach this time. I let him go. I counted up to thirteen — lucky number — and then I wandered off, looking for Andrew. I called his name. I tried to look for a blood trail, but I found none. On the way back to Johnny and our dead father, I passed by three crumped little bags and a piece of cut Dunkin Donuts straw (I recognized it by its colors; the last time I hung out with Johnny and Andy, we had gone for coffee and donuts and I remember asking Johnny why he was shoving all of those straws into his pockets). I shook my head in disgust, but I didn’t share my father’s opinions: I didn’t think Johnny was a junkie. I only called him that sometimes out of anger, and I certainly didn’t want him to die. The only person that I wanted to die was dead. I hoped.
After we checked his pulse and checked the time (2:33 am, plenty of time left to clean up after ourselves), we decided old John was definitely dead. The snow around him looked black. I reminded myself to cover as much of this area as I could with fresh snow and dirt. Besides the baseball bat, we forgot to bring a fucking shovel.
I risked the trip back home to get a shovel, my heart nearly thudding out of my chest the entire drive. Thirty minutes felt like 30 hours, it really did. But I encountered no people, police, or problems. While I was gone, Johnny was looking for Andy. Still no sight. We decided to give up on the search — he was probably scared and ignoring us until his bleeding was until control, then he would wait for Johnny to find him. He was always waiting for Johnny. We chose to bury Dad where he had died, because it was easier to dig around him and just let him fall into the earth. We took turns digging. A few times we had to roll our father this way or that, to remove some earth from beneath him. It took us an hour to dig deep enough, then another 45 minutes to realize that, come spring, the ground would thaw and his body might somehow be exposed. If the police found a body and could tell a homicide had occurred, we might be in big fucking trouble. What would Joe Kenda do?
“Fuck it, let’s go farther into the woods. Where the poison shit grows, the ivy, so no one will go in there. Fuck were we thinking, burying him in a clearing where people walk and take their kids for picnics and shit?” I said.
“Remember that picnic we went on with asshole and Mom and Grandma?” Johnny asked.
He reminded me of the time we went on a picnic with our parents and dad’s mother, and mom didn’t make the potato salad that dad wanted, so he took her behind the building with the bathrooms, and when they came back, her lip was busted. Our grandmother made no comment; she just left. Dad said she left because mom’s food was terrible. Us kids weren’t allowed to eat the macaroni salad. When Dad came back from using the restroom, he caught Andy sticking his hands into the Tupperware and shoveling the little elbow noodles into his mouth. He threw the container and remaining pasta into the woods, and smacked Andy across the mouth. Andy wasn’t allowed to eat for a whole day after that. And we never went on a picnic again.
It was difficult moving dad’s body, even more difficult than the first two times, because Johnny had stabbed him so much and so viciously in the stomach that his entrails were exposed. There was a gaping black, bloody, gooey hole where his left eye had been. I was so angry that, along with the bat and shovel, we had forgotten to wear or bring gloves. Fucking idiots. I made noises of disgust when I had to lift my father’s bloody body.
“Yuck! Fucking gross!” I said and I just dropped him.
“You sound like a fucking bitch!” Johnny said to me. His face was covered in blood, not his own. He was sniffling from snot and from snorting drugs. He was so pale and the sweat was beading on his face. “Andy wouldn’t care about touching some blood. What, you got punched? Big fucking deal. Andrew got stabbed.” Johnny said. “You just sat there and let dad stab him. Fucking useless. You were scared. I’m surprised you didn’t fuck this whole thing up.” After hearing him say those things, his voice low, his eyes moist from tears, I thought maybe he was talking more to himself than to me. I didn’t respond. I just walked beside him, each of us with one of dad’s ankles in our hand. Silently, we dragged him into the woods. Because it was winter and several inches of snow covered the ground, we could move him fairly easily. But sometimes chunks of fabric or flesh, or a combination, got caught on branches. Still quiet, one of us would lift his upper body and the other would lift the lower half, and we would carry him over the obstacle before dropping him back on the ground to be dragged to his grave. Johnny had nothing else to say to me. I was well aware that he was not feeling regret or remorse, but he was just worried about Andy. I also think both of us were afraid that our father would suddenly open his eyes — eye — and begin attacking us. The job was not done, so we could feel no relief.
We got to a heavily wooded area. This wasn’t a part of our town that any of us frequented, so if the police searched here, it would be one of the last spots they would look. Also, it was so densely forested, with so many fallen tree logs, that most people wouldn’t even think you could bury a body here any way but vertically.
It wasn’t an issue for us; Johnny and I had intense adrenaline that gave us the strength to move aside a huge log. Johnny had adrenaline and drugs in his system. I was more motivated by a cloying fear and the thrill of victory; fear that we would one day be caught and spend our miserable lives in prison, and victory because our asshole father was dead.
I asked Johnny what time it was, and he checked his phone. Only then did I realize that my phone was at home — not that anyone called me much anyway — and I didn’t know if Andy had his. If he did, he hadn’t called Johnny to ask where we were. I had a brief, terrifying thought that Andy might call the police, but he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize our freedom, especially his and Johnny’s. I pushed thoughts of Andrew aside. We still had some time before daylight, but the roads around here were traveled mostly in the warmer months, so I stopped worrying about us driving past any person or police officer or park ranger or anyone who might be suspicious as to why we were driving away from the woods so early in the morning, especially in this weather. It was cold. In fact, it was below freezing, I was sure of it. I just couldn’t feel it. I was numb by now, but I was still sweating.
Johnny sat on the log we had moved while I dug. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw him going into his pocket again. I heard sniffing again. I ignored him. I was angry this time, but I channeled my anger into digging a very wide, very deep hole. It was three feet feep and the about same width wide when I stopped. I stuck the shovel in the ground and leaned against it. The snow was light, so it wasn’t hard to shovel it aside, but the fucking ground and dirt were mostly frozen. Johnny didn’t say a word when he took the shovel from me and finished the hole. We used our feet to roll and kick dad’s body into it. We took turns shoveling frozen earth and dirty snow and fresh snow on top of him. Then he was buried. We moved the log over the grave. Teamwork.
“Don’t rest in fucking peace, asshole,” Johnny said.
I couldn’t help it; I laughed. Nice euology.
“May your eternal slumber be as lousy as that time during my 11th birthday when you smacked me in the face and threw my ice cream cake on the floor in front of my friends because I forgot to set the table. Yeah, I hope your death is shitty like that.” I added. (None of my friends’ parents ever let them come to my house again.) I chuckled, because now I could have ice cream cake whenever the fuck I wanted, and my father couldn’t make me set the table ever again. Johnny didn’t laugh, but I could tell he was happy. Happy isn’t strong enough a word, so maybe…he was fucking elated.
It was a mostly silent walk back to the little clearing, but it took just as long to get back to it as it had taken to leave it, because we were checking for evidence that the weather might not be able to obliterate. We used the flashlight on Johnny’s phone, and we saw nothing that might, come spring, be incriminating. We got to the clearing and sat on the ground. We were exhausted and cold but we didn’t even know it. Johnny called Andrew’s phone, but it went straight to voice mail. He must have left it at home. We called out his name some more, and we went in separate directions to try to find him.
We didn’t go too far in case for some reason we got lost — we didn’t know our way around these woods — but I didn’t have to go far before I noticed a strange looking log. We didn’t miss it the other times we searched, we just hadn’t looked over here. It was partially cloudy out, so a cloud was obscuring the moon, taking away needed moonlight. But because of the snow, it wasn’t fully dark out. It reflected the moonlight and lit up the woods for us. So I was able to see that this log was strange. It was wearing clothes, had a blue coat, and black sneakers, and the snow around it was dark. I gently prodded at it with my sneaker, which was covered in snow, dirt, and blood, just like this log. I bent down and saw the log had a face. It looked just like my brother Andrew.
Andrew had bled to death, and died with his eyes half open. Johnny had the shovel, so I used my numb, clumsy hands to dig up snow and earth to cover him, not just to hide him, but to hide him from Johnny. It was a futile effort. Johnny found me.
“I’m sorry, Johnny, I was just trying to help. I mean, I checked his pulse. But we can’t take him anywhere because then the cops would know. You know? Johnny, I’m sorry.” I meant my apology. I knew deep down inside of him, Johnny loved Andrew, and Andrew loved Johnny. I loved my brothers just because they were my brothers. Truth is, I never really knew either of them. Growing up the way we did, it didn’t take long for us to go our separate ways to find a suitable escape from home life, instead of choosing to band together. I can’t remember the last time we spent good, meaningful, quality time together — except for when we murdered and buried our father in the woods.
It was light out by the time we found a decent spot to bury Andrew. We didn’t put him anywhere near our father’s grave. When we were done, we bowed our heads and said our own type of prayers for him — silently, in our heads. I felt guilty that I couldn’t feel sad for someone I didn’t know, even if he was my brother. I was more happy that our father was gone than I was sad that our brother was also gone. I wasn’t sure how mom would react to this news. I didn’t even think of that. I forgot about her and her feelings. For the most part, I forgot about everyone’s feelings. I remember, not so long ago, when I thought Johnny was a crazy junkie and Andy was just plain crazy because they wanted to commit murder. But now I was so fucking glad that we did it. Andrew’s death was a sacrifice for his brothers’ and mother’s new freedom.
We drove home in more silence. I kept the heat off because we were still sweating. I grew more and more nervous as we got closer to home. I supposed Johnny would move back in. But would he get clean? I didn’t care about that right now, I could only think far enough ahead to wonder what lies we would have to tell our mother. She was awake when we entered the house. She was hung over, but sober (it wasn’t unusual for her to start drinking before 9 AM if she happened to be awake). Her eyes went wide when she saw my face, and they opened wider when she saw Johnny walk in behind me. Her eyes moved from my face and my injuries, to Johnny’s face and his self-inflicted injuries (his track marks). Her mouth was closed, her expression hard to read. She just kept looking at us, then she spoke.
“Your father didn’t come down for breakfast. He isn’t in his room. Last night he told me to have breakfast ready for when he woke up. The eggs must be cold and I’ll have to make new ones. I thought he’d gone to the store and would be back by now.”
I had often been woken up very early in the morning by my dad yelling at my mom, because he wanted his breakfast now so he wouldn’t be late for work, but the fucking eggs were scrambled instead of over easy.
“Have you seen him?” she asked us, a simple question. She didn’t wait for an answer. “Johnny, where’s Andrew? Is Andrew with your father?”
She had no questions about the state of our appearance, or why we were together, or where we had come from. She only had questions which had potentially devastating answers — where were dad and Andrew. I stammered, thinking of lies — Andy was using drugs with Johnny, and we were all hanging out and then some of Johnny’s dealers beat us up and robbed us, and we had no idea where dad was because we left late last night, sorry for coming in so early and startling you.
“Dad killed Andy and we killed dad. They’re both buried in some woods about half an hour away,” Johnny said. He sniffled.
I was fucking stunned — and scared. “Johnny. What. The. Fuck,” I whispered through clenched teeth. I said this while looking at my mother, because I thought that if I moved a muscle or even breathed too loudly — it was hard to breathe through my swollen nose, and the pain was starting to announce itself — she would call the police. She had her (major) issues with John, but he was still her husband and father of her kids. She loved her kids, she loved Andy. A parent’s worst fear is losing a child. My stomach dropped at this thought. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the agony my mother would, in a few moments, be experiencing. She looked at us and crossed her arms over her chest.
“What?” she asked. Johnny repeated what he said, exact words.
“Andrew is…dead?” our mother asked. “Are you sure?”
We nodded yes. I bowed my head. I was beginning to feel very sick.
“You couldn’t help him?” We shook our heads no.
“You killed John? Your father is dead?” she asked again, incredulity sneaking into her tone.
We nodded again.
“They’re both buried in some woods,” Johnny repeated.
“Huh,” our mother said. “But your father’s definitely dead?” she asked again.
“Yes, mom, I stabbed him like a hundred fucking times. He’s dead. Buried, in some woods,” Johnny answered.
I kept my head bowed, bracing my mind and body and senses for whatever would be said next.
“Your father’s dead. John is dead.”
I knew this fact was sinking into my mother’s head. I looked up, expecting to see tears running down her cheeks as she stared at her two remaining, monstrous, murderous sons.
A smile spread across her face. Our mother had a final question for us.
“What do you boys want for breakfast?”