His chest heaved, sweat pouring from him as steady as rain pattering on a roof. Hands resting on his knees, he leaned over the last hole. A worm, cut by the shovel, wiggled into the dirt. Tenacious for a tenuous grip on life. In the end, we all feed the worms. Although his back was to the rifle, he visualized it leaning against the tree. It waited for him. He reached for it. A shadow darkened his arm. He put his own arm back on his knee.
“Looks like you dug one too many holes, Tim,” Jason said.
Tim’s eyes stayed on the worm as it fought to hide in the soil.
“Or did you dig just the right amount? One more than the bodies we have to fill them. Are you thinking of something Tim? I do believe you are.”
Tim’s mouth was a desert. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Jason’s questions and statements didn’t anger him. He wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed the way he thought he should be, like getting caught jerking off. It didn’t feel dirty. He wanted to be with his family. The way he figured it, they left him and he was just trying to catch up. Now, if Jason would only leave him to it, he could be on his way from here before the sun kissed the horizon. A drink of water would be perfect right now. A whole jugful, drained in a gulp was what Tim was thinking about. Feeling the water slosh around and the tightness of his bloated belly before he ate a rifle round would be nice. Jason, for the most part was ambient noise, the hum of electricity you never notice that’s always in the background. Ignoring Jason, hoping he’d go away, Tim spat into the hole. A pitiful spit, his mouth was too dry and it hung from his lip and hovered over the little worm.
“I know what you’re going through. I know what it’s like to want to die. I know you want me to shut up and walk away, leave you to your business and maybe I will. Not before I try to talk you out of it. I hope you’ll please listen. You’re a good kid.”
Tim snorted. A good kid. Jesus.
“When I was a kid, my dad used to put his cigarettes out on my belly. It’s weird, to think about it now. I hated that man, but I loved him too. I think he may have only smiled at me once or twice. Really. When he did smile at me, I thought my heart would burst from the happiness of it. My dad had two faces. He was an accountant and made some good coin in his time. He was funny too. He’d have these dinner parties, for his clients. I hated those parties. He made me wear a tie and slick back my hair and say ‘yes sir’ and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ all night long. He could work a crowd though. People loved him. The women blushed at his attention and the men all clustered around him while he told a joke or leaned in to whisper to them, making them feel like the most important men around. He was an alcoholic but not like those people you see on Intervention. He had it under control, to some extent. No one cold really have it completely under control. He never missed a day of work and always looked like he came straight from a photo shoot even if he’d been up the night before, blasted, drinking late into the night. He was mean. He liked being mean. I heard him rape my mom one night. In the next room. She screamed, begged. I could hear the slaps, the punches. Sounded like dropping a bag of meat. My mother didn’t leave the bedroom for two days after that night. When she did come out, her eye was swollen and there was a big gash on her lip. She could barely talk. That was the only time he lost control. He didn’t want people to know what he was doing to us. He was very careful.
When I was twelve, I ran away from home. I got on my bike, rode off and pedaled into the night and into another town. I loved that night. I felt free, like anything was possible. The night tasted of the coming summer and the insects chattered off the roadway. It was so peaceful. I was caught, returned home. I got three burn marks that night. I’d never gotten three in one night before. Hell, I’d never gotten three in a whole year. It was my mom who stopped me from running off ever again. Her big eyes trembled at me, because I left her behind.
I didn’t know it then, but I was fucked up. I got into cocaine when I was fifteen, shot up heroine once, stole a car or two and never got caught. I did flunk out of school. I was so afraid of what my dad would say. I remember wanting to run again but I couldn’t leave my mom behind. My stomach hurt so much and no matter how many times I tried to take a dump, nothing would come out.
After school, I went home, sat on the couch with the TV on. I had no idea what I was watching. That note in my pocket, asking for a parent meeting because I was failing five classes dug a hole into my brain and wouldn’t be dislodged. My dad would be home in two hours. In two hours I’d have to give him the letter. It never occurred to me to give it to my mom. He had us completely in his control you know?
My dad had a straight razor. He never used it, he just liked the way it looked. He’d had it sharpened and put away, in a velvet box. It was in the upstairs bathroom. I could feel it, calling to me. It fucking glowed up there, as though I could see it through the ceiling, through the walls and into the bathroom. One minute, I was on the couch, TV images a blur and the next minute I was in the bathroom. The box was open, the razor gleamed.
I sat on the side of the tub and flicked open the razor. My eyes reflected back to me in the blade, seeming so calm, so normal. I held the blade to my wrist, pressed, a drop of red collected against the blade. I thought of heroin and the sweat that gathered along my dad’s forehead whenever he was tying one on. Then my mom walked into the bathroom. She saw me, saw the razor blade. She shivered, a full body one, her hand jiggling the knob. Our eyes met, and then she closed the door and left me there without saying a word. She didn’t tell me to go ahead and she didn’t try to stop me either. In her eyes, before she closed the door, I saw envy.”