TW: graphic depictions of death, sexual assault, some violence, brief strong profanity
I remember watching my dead horse Mollie fester in the sun not far from the barn. All my dad did was cover her with tarp. Bet Dad would have buried Mollie if she was a he, my brother Arn quipped. I swore off horse-riding going forward.
Dad sponged over my eye in our claw-foot tub from the fight I had with Rennie Merea yesterday.
"She spat in my tapioca, I spat in her face," I assured myself to him.
"And that's when she socked you?" He sighed and attempted the hardest to yank away his smile.
"No. I jerked her hair and broke her nose in two different directions," I motioned with my fist.
"Then she socked you."
I nodded and folded my arms proud enough of myself for self-defense. He sighed again but couldn't pretend the smile didn't creep across his face the second time.
"Teachers split us up and we sat in separate corners of detention."
He rung the sponge dry over my head and I giggled at the water covering me.
"I'm mighty proud of you defending yourself but you know I gotta take your biking privileges for this."
I frowned without a word and noticed a waterbug crawl around the wall in front of me. I squashed it with the palm of my hand and Dad chuckled before running the sponge over it to clear off the antennae and guts.
I remember hearing Arn pinned Rennie Marea to her bed and smacked her for screaming and not returning his forced kisses. The gossips said her dad burst in the door and fired off a few shotgun shells but missed every one as Arn scrambled out the window. I prayed my nose-breaking and hair-pulling could be undone then. He didn't return and no one wanted him returned either. Rennie turned 14 the night he forced himself on her and changed states whether he was vanished forever or not.
It was a lot to trudge through snow up to your waist for a five-minute walk to school. The trees I passed would lend me extra snow from their branches which I didn't ask for but random kids with snowballs ready would peg me with any snow I didn't catch from above. Administrator coffee hit my nose in the lobby and I wanted to gag. A girl twice my size did the same thing in the main hall and other students crowded around us but I didn't want to gag.
"I hear your brother abused Rennie and I'm gonna fuck you up instead since he ran away like the bitch he is," she growled and tossed me to the ground when I wobbled to my feet.
Good thing I got my haircut halfway to a buzzcut so it couldn't be used against me. I don't know who you are is what I planned to say but the box cutter I stole from Dad's tool-belt and hid in my back pocket begged to speak first. It said stab this nameless bitch in the knee and I agreed.
Everyone around us screamed and sprinted away but no one screamed or shrieked like the nameless girl did. Her eyes only got wider and her voice louder as the same fists that rearranged my nose covered a punctured knee. Administrators rushed over and police soon appeared to discover me with my hands wrapped around the box cutter in tears.
"I'm sorry, Rennie," I sobbed. "I'm so sorry."
Dad didn’t speak over red beans and rice about Arn. About Rennie. About me stabbing that girl in the knee three years ago. About the blood he coughed up in his sleeves and wiped against the table every few minutes.
“Why don’t you get upset about anything?” I nudged the full plate away from me and ran my fingers through the ponytail I grew inside juvenile detention.
“I stabbed a girl in the knee and got expelled for it, Rennie had to switch states because Arn abused her. I haven’t rode a horse in three years after Mollie. You’ve been coughing blood for a while now. What is it gonna take for you to do more than eat red beans and rice in silence?”
He coughed up more blood and stumbled out of his chair. I hurried over and held him. There was a disturbing sorrow in his eyes; a soft disappointment that could have housed every raw emotion for three years. A willingness to allow whatever disease devouring him to whisk him away from any responsibility to react the way most parents did.
I remember the first thing to give up was the feeling in Dad's legs. He wrestled out of my grasp no problem which meant two or three people his size needed to assist me. Arn could have done it himself after tussling with a vicious dog and having an alleged black bear encounter but... you know...
The next thing was the feeling in Dad's arms. He thrashed when I tried to feed him steak. Bring his favorite beer to his chapped lips. Thrashed and wept and refused to speak beyond "let me live".
I worked as a receptionist for a bail bonds guy who knew nothing about bail bonds and everything about day drinking. He swindled everyone who waltzed through the door a bit drunk but his clients were too consumed by the need to be helped to care. I worked for a grocery store on top of that where the customers and employees were kinder than the pay. Dad was in no position to do more than thrash and blubber and wait for me to spoonfeed or help him drink beer.
"Nobody's gonna attend his funeral but you," I heard a raspy voice out of nowhere and then Arn stood upright in one of the kitchen windows like an apparition. An apparition that was foolish to return.
I slid the window ajar and watched him press his hands against the mesh.
"Mr. Marea is gonna pump you full of lead if he finds you."
"Let him but I'm reformed," Arn insisted. "Reformed with more remorse than this sleepy town has addicts."
"Remorse don't undo what happened. I got expelled 'cause of you."
He rubbed his salt-and-pepper hair similar to Dad's and shrugged off what I said as if the words were ticks. Not that his mud-caked clothes didn't invite any possible ticks. Or his tobacco-stained teeth.
"You got expelled on account of you swiping Dad's box cutter to jab some girl in the knee I heard," he grinned and I desired nothing more than to knock out the teeth that weren't eroded by hard drugs.
I remember tearing the mesh off the window to tackle him. Whatever so-called "black bear wrestling" strength from his younger days wasn't felt when he swung on me. A sluggish swing I dodged without notice and headbutted him for good measure. He suffered hell attempting to shake me off as my toned arms coiled around his for another successive headbutt.
"Rennie didn't deserve you assaulting her."
I untangled my arms and rammed my fist into his jaw.
"She didn't deserve you pressing yourself against her."
He struggled to tangle my arms but I reversed the attempt and slammed my elbow into his neck. He couldn't move his limbs and this was my plan.
"You're pinned the same way you did her except you will never begin to experience what she did."
Arn lifted his knees and launched me off enough to point a handgun at me. Pathetic.
"Glad to know the same coward who defiled a girl seven years younger than him is the same coward hiding behind a gun," I snarled and waited for the bullet to penetrate some vital part of me.
"You're an addict who returned to a place you claim is notorious for addicts. What a joke."
"You don't know my hardships, Violet," he grunted and trembled behind the gun.
"You prance around in your denim and work to prop up a dying old man. Meanwhile I had to lay low for three miserable years and get clean because I stained my reputation around these parts. My life was a cesspool and I was the main source of its toxicity. I've been homeless, I robbed innocent people for bare necessities but I rejected meth and other shit I did some time later only for my own flesh and blood to assault me and say I don't deserve forgiveness for something in my past.
He cocked the gun and pressed it against his forehead. I felt nothing but the anticipation of his brains spreading in various directions.
"I guess the world is ugly and everyone's okay with it."
I remember the thump in the kitchen that preceded the thump in my heart. I climbed through the kitchen window and witnessed Dad's body sprawled on the ground in his own blood.
"Dad, wake up," I nudged him like the plate of red rice and beans which I could have eaten out of common courtesy alone.
"Dad, come on now. Please wake up."
Arn watched through the window or he moved along but I couldn't care either way. Everything else faded in the midst of this. In the midst of losing the only man who believed in me. I performed CPR and chest compressions but Dad's body didn't feel any less empty.
I had Dad cremated and the house sold because I didn't make enough to stay. Moved northeast with the money and settled into an apartment with two other girls, one of which was Rennie. She was radiant in the way someone is radiant without a lover or accolades which reflected in her clothes and how many social gatherings she attended. She wept at the sight of Dad's urn and we held a makeshift funeral with our other roommate in Paris.