My childhood home. It's one of those neighborhoods you know just kinda came into being, more out of convenience than design. Some yards were larger than others, each house set on it differently. Some had no more than patches of grass in the front or back, or both. Ours had some down the side as well. My best friend's yard had been paved with concrete in the back. The front really couldn't even be considered a yard.
Ours is a shotgun. For those that don't know, and there are still people who don't, shotgun houses are long and narrow, one room after another, a straight shot front to back. Some have doors, like ours, but others are unfortunately doomed to spend their childhoods spied upon by their parents or nosy siblings. My parents never seemed interested in what I did, whether inside the house or out. Once I hit about thirteen they must have just been glad to be have me out of the house. If only for a little while.
The street is quiet now, so unlike when I was a kid and we were up and down the block until the lights came on, playing football or riding bikes or commanding platoons of G.I. Joes. In the back yard we would smear the queer by day and hide-n-seek or flashlight tag each other at night, if my dad was in the mood to oversee our games. So long as there was beer he could usually be convinced.
When I was fifteen years old my dad disappeared. The belief was that he skipped town on accumulated charges stemming from his alcoholism. There was a brief and half-hearted investigation. He would turn up, they said, guys like my dad always did. This time things were different, but we didn't bother telling them that. We were more than happy to let it go as well. My father was a hard man, mean at times, cruel when he felt it was necessary. I always told myself he did the things he did because he loved us and it was the only way he knew, but the older I get the more I realize that was just my way of dealing. We all had our ways. Suzie had her little hands and her secrets. Her goddamn secrets. Until a few years ago I still owned the place, but like father like son, I suppose. Much as it hurts to admit. The bank repossessed it. Now, according to the neon-colored sticker sealing the doors, demolition is set for next week. I'd love to let it fall in on itself, crush everything he was and ever will be, but of course there was Suzie to think of. Always Suzie. Forever Suzie.
Darkness has loosed it's veil. At the back door I check for inquiring neighbors. They were probably all tucked away for the evening, eating dinner or watching the night's shows or whatever else people did in their nice cozy homes. I force the padlock with my crowbar and step into that kitchen for the first time in fifteen years. It smells of something old and forgotten, something long left behind and half dead, something terrible and sweet at the same time. It was my first home, the only place I've ever actually called home. Everything else had just been a way-point on my journey back here, and that was something I always knew. Hence the habit I picked up. No, not habit, that's too kind. I may have chosen a different drug, but I am as addicted as he ever was.
The memory of that night plays like a movie against the backdrop of my mind. I can almost feel the warmth on my skin as I step into the kitchen from the cool evening's chill. There was always a light on in the bathroom, because my mom and my sister were both prone to late-night visits. I was coming home from a party after curfew, so no one should have been awake, but as I approached her bedroom I could hear again the muffled sobs of my baby sister. I expected to find her in the pillow, but not this time. Not at all.
I'd known, of course, for a while, but Suzie had sworn me to secrecy. I wish I could say that was the only reason I let it go on. But as I said, he was a hard man, mean and cruel. Fear is difficult to overcome, especially when it's instilled at an early age, and he had begun the instillment very early on.
I went for the butcher knife.
When I got back he was still on top of her. Suzie saw me and let go a steady stream of tears. It was her own little hand over her mouth, ever keeping the secret, and until that moment I wasn't sure I would be able to go through with it. She was my sister and I had always defended her, yet that fear held me back. Only for a moment though. One very brief moment.
The blade slid into his neck. It met something hard and moved past it. Getting it out took more effort. Blood sprayed in a fan and he backhanded me, all the strength he had left. He twitched a few times, glaring at me, and tried to say something I couldn't quite catch. He died with his boxers covering his feet.
I'd expected Suzie would scream, but she never made a sound. Not even when his blood splattered her face. She never spoke of it either, not then and not last week when I saw her for dinner. None of us ever said a word about it. We knew it was the only way we would ever get through it.
The floorboards come up in pieces now, ripe with the stench of dust and rotting wood-flesh. I cover my nose and mouth, the beam of my flashlight jittering through the darkness as I pick him out, still wrapped in the blankets we put him in all those years ago, now torn and full of holes. His skull juts from one of these, as though he'd tried chewing his way out. My heart rate doubles and the light nearly slips from my hand. If I could leave him there, I would, but that's no longer an option. The End