It’s time for another flash fiction challenge from none other than Chuck Wendig. The challenge was Bad Parents. I will apologize in advance because it is very dark.
This is probably the quickest story I’ve written down since starting this process. I’m thinking this one just wanted to be told. Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s likable, but it’s 1000 words exactly…
The Day My Family Fell Apart
I remember the day my family fell apart. It isn’t a nice story. Most of my childhood would probably fall into the “not nice” category. I blame it on my parents. I know, I know. Is anyone really to blame? Probably not, because there’s a history, a cycle that continues generation after generation. You hear all the stuff about ‘they did the best with what they had’ and I try to believe it, but it’s hard when I was forced to be strong enough. I was forced to change the mold and break the cycle. I’d like to think I would have done it anyway, but sometimes circumstances happen that change you in ways you might not have.
We were the white all-American Christian family and all our neighbors thought we were perfect. They just didn’t know what happened behind closed doors. If they’d known, maybe they could have helped. Maybe not, though.
Dad was a tyrant and pushed his weight around. Not so much with his fists, but more with his words, a belt and a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. He used to stand at the door and yell at us to come inside. He stood there on purpose, kicking us in the butt as we walked by. You had a choice. You could stay outside and risk the belt, or you could put your hands on your butt and face him when you went through the door. It didn’t usually work, though. He would just grab your arm and kick you anyway, hand and all, which hurt worse. We learned pretty quick to just take it the way it was intended just to get it over with. Besides, no one wanted the belt.
Mom was… well, she was basically absent. Who can blame her. He controlled everything, including her. I’m sure she made feeble attempts to stop him, but they must have been so minimal they didn’t bother to stick around in my memory. For the most part, Mom took flight when Dad was in a rage, which is exactly what happened on that horrible day.
My sister, Jenny, and I were hanging out in the living room, doing homework and what-not. My brother, Jake, was home and he had a friend over. Bobby was bad news. He was one of those smart-ass kids that couldn’t keep his mouth shut. They were high. I didn’t know it then, but we found out later.
Dad came home from work and right away started in on Jake. “You didn’t mow the lawn. He needs to leave and it needs to be done, now.” He pointed his finger at Bobby, but was glaring at Jake. Bobby’s an idiot and right away started laughing, which pissed Dad off. He walked up to him and grabbed the front of his shirt. “You get out of my house right now and don’t come back.” He was yelling and dragging Bobby to the back door.
Jake was yelling at this point too. “Leave him alone. Let him go!” I don’t think Jake dared to touch Dad, though, cause he just followed them, yelling the whole time. Bobby wasn’t laughing anymore. Dad threw him out and slammed the door. The tension in the air was palpable.
Next thing I knew, Jake and Dad were toe to toe. I looked at my sister and mouthed, “where’s Mom?” She just shrugged. She’d been standing there just moments before. I don’t think either of us really knew what to do, but we knew something bad was about to happen and, of course, Mom was missing. I was too scared to leave Jake with Dad in order to go search for her.
I stood up, not really sure what I was going to do but just in case. Dad and Jake were staring at each other, Jake’s fists clenched tight at his sides, shaking. Then Dad did something and to this day I have no idea why, except that maybe Dad thought he really was the toughest guy in the room.
“You want to hit me, boy? Go ahead. I dare ya!” He shoved Jake in the chest, egging him on. I finally tried to step in.
I walked up to Jake and put my hand gently on his arm. “It’s okay, Jake. Let’s just go in the other room and cool off.”
“You stay out of this!” Dad shoved me out of the way. Jenny was trying to placate Dad, but neither of us were having any luck. He went back to taunting Jake and shoving his finger in his chest.
And Jake snapped.
He swung at Dad and punched him so hard, it laid Dad out flat. Then Jake was on him, punching him over and over again. Me and Jenny tried to pull him off. I was screaming “STOP” and grabbing his arms, but he was frenzied and wouldn’t budge.
“MOM! Where are you? Call 9-11!” No answer.
Jenny ran to the phone and called the police while I continued to try and stop it, but it was like trying to stop a moving semi with a white flag. I was useless.
The police, ambulance, firetruck… you name it, they showed up at our house. Only, it was too late. They took Dad to the hospital, but he never came home. Jake was taken away in handcuffs and is serving a life sentence. I try to visit him.
Mom… she finally showed up, but she hasn’t been the same since. In fact, she hasn’t spoken a word since that day. They took her to an institution and she’s still there. I don’t visit her.
Me and Jenny? We’re doing our best to survive. She had to drop out of college and get a job. I dropped out of high school and did the same, because I wasn’t going to let her support me. We support each other now, the best we can. She’s probably the only one who gets it. Gets me. At least we still have each other.