A sharp voice full of rocks and gravel. “Here. Hold this.” A warm beer in a hard fist swings through the dark and thuds painfully into his chest.
The old truck is hurtling through the night, fenders chattering and waving like a lunatic flapping his arms in terror, its howling engine a banshee gone wild. Twin headlights, aged yellow, peer at the dark like the eyes of a malevolent beast. Trees flip past, disappearing at the edge of sight. Tires whine and cry like tormented souls.
A bony man hunches behind a wriggling wheel, tall and thin in the dash’s ghostly light. The man’s cold eyes glitter in the yellowish reflection, the whites bloodshot. The feral face turns.
“Don’t spill it,” the voice spits, flat and terrible from a thin lipped slit. Fathomless pupils masked by yellow shift like demons. Then the eyes are gone, focusing on the road. The boy sits, petrified and deathly tired. His father has been partying all night with his friends; forcing him to party with them, do things he rather not remember, things he does not want to think about.
“My little man,” father had said, laughing. Jeff, eager, had smiled uncertainly, unsure if he was praised or scorned, but proud to be noticed.
The boy’s head jerks up, he sits straight, back stiff, both hands clenched around the beer, pressing the cool metal to his chest. The smell of fresh beer and stench of old surrounds him like the truck’s litter. He is exhausted, and that, too, is old and familiar.
It is a regular night, just like any night, like many nights to come, like many nights past. It is home – the sudden edge of terror, the smell of fear, and swift strike of pain. The strict observance of rules, the cruel punishments behind them, and the almost unnatural desire to please to gain the affection and escape the wrath of the god sitting next to him.
To him it is a terrifying situation rendered comfortably familiar by weary repetition and ignorance. He knows no other life. This is his world, ruled by a stern and heavy fist. All others are unknown and therefore feared. He gathers the smells, the comfortable familiar smells, watching the trees go by, mind blotted by exhaustion. This is how he lives, therefore how everybody lives – in a fearful uncertain world dominated by an angry god.
Something large and brown flashes in front of the truck, something skittish that hesitates, then dances in the road. His daddy curses and hisses; the truck swerves wildly and tires squeal shrill protest.
Like a dancer lifting her skirts to avoid a puddle, the truck seems to lift its fenders to avoid the deer; they dance sideways in the road. The beer forgotten, he instinctively slams a hand to the dash to brace for the inevitable crash as worn tires grip and the truck begins to tip up and up . . . until they are wavering . . . then it slams down with such force it chokes him.
Raising his head, he looks out the window to see a deer looking at him with big soft eyes that for a moment – an all too brief moment – remind him of his mother – then with an amazingly graceful bound, the deer leaps into the darkness, its disappearing tail a white flag of alarm.
Sudden quiet. Outside he hears crickets sing, the engine’s soft erratic tick-tick as over heated metal cools, and his motionless father’s labored breathing. His father stares into the night, unseeing, pale face furrowed in post-fear rage. Jeff shivers, feeling the rising anger, and desperately hopes the storm leaves him unscathed.
“Damn.” His father says, striking the steering wheel with a thud; then beating it louder and faster. “Damn, damn, damn, damn! Damn it to hell and back and then damn it all over again! Goddamn lousy ever-loving’ stinkin’ piece of shit for brains lousy’ fuckin’ deer!”
Jeff feels cold metal press his back as he draws into the corner between the seat and door, trying to be inconspicuous.
“Gimme my beer,” the man says, not bothering to look. He stares through the dust pitted windshield as if daring the deer to reappear.
A hand thrusts from the darkness, fingers writhing. Jeff ‘s heart freezes, mind petrified with fear. There is cool wetness on his shirt; he smells the bitter sharpness of fresh spilt beer, and realizes he dropped it. Like an incriminating eye, the can glimmers from the darkness beneath the dash.
“I said, ‘gimme my beer’,” his father growls, voice low, rough, and threatening. He looks at the boy, eyes filled with an angry glow. They follow the boy’s gaze to the faint twinkle.
“You spilt my beer.” The statement is as hard and accusing as the glittering eyes. “You knew that was my last one. I bet cha meant to spill it. Tryin’ to keep me from drinkin’ any more, huh? Just like your momma. Your ever lovin’ bitchin’ momma.”
Jeff whimpers, knowing the outcome. His heart races as his mind twists for a safe avenue. He knows what will happen. Still a glimmer of hope remains. A cruel glimmer of hope always remains.
“I dinna’ mean to spill it, daddy.” His voice, soft as night, issues from trembling lips. “I couldn’ help it.”
“Couldn’t help it?” The man mocks, his face a sneer. “I feed you, I cloth you, I look out for your dumb ass – the least you could do would be hold my beer! You useless shit.”
The eyes transfix him. He cowers against the door, feeling the handle dig in his back. There is a terse, silent moment, and then a hand lashes out, sears his face, and disappears. For a moment there is no pain, then it begins. A tear haze instantly springs to his eyes. He hears keys in the ignition, the motor shudders, then roars to life. Gears grind, grind again, then a lurch and movement. The tires begin to wind up, night crawls past the windows.
“You spilled my last goddamn beer,” his father says to the windshield. “After I told you not to. You worthless shit. It’s twenty miles to the goddamn store, an’ it ain’t open. I don’t know why I put up with your silly ass. You’re about the most useless little shit I ever saw. I wish to God I’d never hooked up with your momma, you fucking bitch.”
The boy listens, cowering in the corner as his father works to a tirade. His heart beats in terror and his soul withers at the mention of his mother. “You ain’t worth the shit I go through to keep you, you know. I shoulda let that damn nigger bitch from dee-facts take your sorry ass and put you where you belong – with a bunch of other shit-head niggers in some rat hole down in the projects . . . “
The boy draws into a defensive ball, waiting for the lightning that accompanies thunder. Another clash of gears, the engine growls as if thinking, and the truck accelerates again. The boy quivers with the knowledge the storm is about to break, knowing there is no escape.
It strikes suddenly, a bolt to the side of his head, turning vision white. Sparks explode and pinwheel into darkness as the meaty thwack of bone against bone echoes in the cab.
The boy, stunned senseless, looks around like a car-struck animal, his head jerking. There is a screaming ring in his ears; he feels he is falling through darkness.
The knotted fist comes again, unseen by dazed eyes, striking dead center in his forehead. As his head snaps back the door strikes a second blow. Even the truck is against him.
A sharp punch in his stomach rips the air from his lungs in a throat searing burst – and now! Oh now! Now is when sweet consciousness swarms to the top in a petrified gasp for survival, now is when he becomes most aware of who he is and what is happening.
Panting, knowing the danger of resistance, he defends, curling his forearms before him as a flimsy shield, an outclassed boxer caught in a fight he can’t win, knees curled to his stomach.
A hand pierces his defenses, grabs his shirt, and yanks him from his fetal curl like a turtle from its shell. An angry twisted face, snarling, thrusts into his. The smell of beer and vomit seem to fill the truck. A nearly unintelligible voice explodes; the face is replaced by a swiftly moving hand; the taste of beer by coppery blood. His blood. It is just another night on the town.
The hand lifts him, draws him close, shakes him like an old rag and throws him back across the cab. Something stabs his back as though the truck, too, seeks vengeance. Then the hand, then the door. The hand, the door. Again, and again. And then . . .
Wind explodes as the door flies open. Strangely, the door tries to push him back, as though the truck has a last minute change of mind and is trying to save him. For a split second he sees his dad’s frozen face and clawing hand – then the seat vanishes and he is flying through cold night air, his confused body twisting and cart wheeling, smashing and tumbling and rolling and then pain blossoms. There is a singularly brilliant flash of blue-white light, and then . . .
If you’ve like this (thus far) – trust me – it gets stranger, more puzzling – a LOT goes on in here. There are twists and turns; unexpected surprises (I even got a surprise or two while writing it!), hard truths . . . a LOT of stuff. As a reviewer wrote, “a little bit of everything”. Remember: you can get this book off Amazon (I pitched it as low as the publisher, Createspace, would let me to) – or on Kindle. Clicking on the book cover (should be over there in the right margin somewhere if the computer gods are being kind right now) – will take you there, or just click “here“. We appreciate your business, and proceeds go towards helping abused children. And I also personally guarantee: it’s unlike any other book you’ve ever read. I can promise you that, even on behalf of my ‘others’ (the ones who wrote this book) – and because my wife said so (LOL!).
Feel free to leave a comment. We are especially interested in feelings and emotions “The Boy” may generate in you – how your feelings and perceptions of the characters and events change over time. Be especially alert for any symbolism, and paying close attention: you’ll find there are handfuls of double and triple meanings in there (we didn’t find them until our second and third reading). The Boy is full of surprises and touches folks on many many levels (or so they’ve told us – thus far). I am Hoping that you enjoy it.
The Authors, Jeff & Crew
with especially thanks to Mikie (our wonderful inner child),
Matthew, the ‘guy’ who has taken him in (finally);
and our other participating selves , not the least of which was “The Beast” whom we wish good dreams among the flowers and roses . . . and a peace of being. (He played the part of …. well, we’re almost getting ahead of ourselves this time, didn’t we. shhhh!!!! no giving of secrets (grinning – the Beast here). Itss fun being alive!)
Ya’ll have fun! Be dear! and remember . . .