Lions & Spiders & Bears

Prologue 

 

Billy. Everything was always about Billy.
 
I sit in my room, listening to Ma make airplane noises as she feeds Billy. I feel annoyed. I never got airplane noises. There isn't a spoon swirling about in front of my face. 'Shut up and eat your damn dinner, Bobby!' That's what I get. I'm firstborn, yet they name Billy after Pa? Who'd wanna be named after that prick, anyway? 
 
"Bobby, get up here!" hollers Ma in her raspy voice from the kitchen. "Your dinner is out. Hurry it up!" 
 
I stop on a dime. The bulge in my pocket reminds me that I can't go yet. I take the blade I stole from the shed and slide it between the mattress and box spring. If Pa finds this on me, he'll have my head, and my escape plan is fucked. I don't need this yet. Soon enough, Bobby. Soon enough.

 

I head upstairs. Wow. Is it my turn to eat already? Ma has been makin' them damn airplane noises for half an hour. Is there even any left for me? 
 
"Bobby, come on, it's gettin' cold!" she yells again. 
 
I run into the kitchen. If Ma calls me a third time, Pa will be up in no time, belt in hand. Stale air hung in the kitchen. Country music from 96.3 Country AM whispers from the radio--the only kind of music Pa allows in the house. He says there's nothing better. Once I tried to listen to another type of music, the kind my friends at the school listen to, and Pa came up and pulled that cassette tape apart. Ribbon went flying everywhere. What an asshole. He told me I couldn't hang out with the boys anymore. Not like I ever really did anyway.
 
Motes of dust dance in the brilliant sunlight streaming through the windows; it sparkles like glitter. Like dirty fucking glitter. There's nothing to dance about in this house. Dancing usually means that you're happy. There isn't any happiness here. At the table, Pa is his usual, charming self. Pa spills his beer. It's because he's already drunk. 
 
"Now look what you've gone and made me do," he says. "You dumb cunt!" 
 
Ma jumps up. She's quick to clean up the mess. If she weren't sharp, he would probably hit her again. He pounds her a lot. He says it's what you have to do sometimes. I agree. When someone pisses you off enough times, over and over, I say they have it coming. She put his chicken back into the pan. Apparently, it's not cooked. I pull a chair away from the table. Its feet screech across the floor. Shit. 
 
"Don't be scratchin' up them floors, boy," Pa says. "Your mama has to scrub those, and you're just makin' more work for her." 
 
Says the donkey-piss drinker who just made her cook dinner twice. The chicken is almost black. You know it's cooked. The nerve of him telling me not to create extra work for Ma. Of course, I say this in my head. If any of it leaves my lips, I won't have them much longer. 
 
"Sorry, Pa," I lie. 
 
He doesn't notice I say anything. He should be happy I speak at all. Billy doesn't say anything. Ever. He never said a word since the day he was born. No one knows why. They don't know what's wrong with him. Everyone tries. I just think he doesn't have anything interesting to say, is all.

 

I take a massive mouthful of mashed potatoes in between thoughts. My mind is racing. I know it's going to happen. I can feel it. Wait for it, just wait for it. Billy is staring blankly at his plate, waiting for Ma to finish feeding him. Ma gives Pa back his dinner. 
 
"It should be ready now, Willie," she stammers. 
 
"It should have been ready the first time! I come home from a long day working in the fields! I want my damn dinner when I want it! On-time! You hear me, woman?" 
 
Ma doesn't say anything, just nods and continues to feed Billy. At least the airplane noises stop. She takes a bite of her dinner. Rarely do I ever see her sit down and eat a warm meal to herself. 
 
"Who's this young boy I see comin' round these parts lately?" asks Pa. 
 
When Pa asks a question, it usually means he already knows the answer. He just wants to see if you're going to lie. Ma is slow to answer. I bet she knows whatever answer she gives is going to be wrong. 
 
"He's new to the area and was just going around seeing if people needed help with their crops and garbage, is all." 
 
"Is all?" Pa asked. 
 
Again, not a question. 
 
"We don't be needin' no help around here. Who does this boy think he is? Makin' people feel like they can't do things for themselves!" 
 
"I'm sure he's just ni-" 
 
"Nice? What's nice about makin' people feel like they can't do things for themselves. Why are you defendin' this boy? You fuckin' him, ain't you?" 
 
He stands and slams his hand down on the kitchen table. "You better never let me catch him in this house, tryin' to help out, or someone is going to be needin' to help him out, you hear?" 
 
"H-he did come by t-today. The boy helped me take out all of that garbage that was piling up at the side of the barn." 
 
Ma could have just lied. Or said nothing. Same thing, right? Lying was so easy. I do it all the time. Why doesn't she just keep quiet? Probably because she knows if Pa finds out and it isn't her who told him, he'll cut out her tongue and say it was because she wasn't using it. He threatens to do it to Billy all the time. Man, my family is so predictable. His face turns redder and redder by the second. It looks like his head is going to explode. 
 
"What the fuck do you mean, he came by today? Nobody comes by this house unless I say! What am I good for if you're gettin' this youngin' to do all my work?" 
 
I'm sure Ma had asked him a ton of times to clean up that shit beside the barn. Maybe if you did your work when she asks, she wouldn't have gotten someone else to do it for you.

Pa grabs Ma by the back of the head. Here we go. He pulls her down to the floor. Billy hides under the table like he usually does. Normally I would be too, but not this time. I don't hide under there because I'm scared like Billy is. I just don't want to get a smack upside my head just for looking. This time I have a plan, instead of running under the table and hiding like a little bitch.
 
I run downstairs. I dash to my bed and slip my hand between the mattress and box spring. I hear Ma screaming, louder than usual. I slip Pa's hunting knife into my pocket then scurry upstairs. 
 
"What are you lookin' at, you little retard?" Pa shouts at Billy. 
 
He smacks Billy in the back of his head. See? That's what I'm saying. I enter the kitchen. Billy is still under the table. He is not crying anymore; he's just rocking quicker now—a little wimp. Pa's so angry he didn't realize I had left the room. Ma isn't looking so great. Pa isn't going to look much better in a minute. He doesn't notice me climb up on the table behind him. He's too busy kicking Ma in the head. One good stab is all I need. Ma isn't screaming anymore. She isn't moving anymore either.
 
I don't think about it for another second. I have been thinking about this my whole life. No more thinking. Time for doing. Life is a jungle, and even the smallest beings can take down the biggest ones if given a chance. Just like on that National Geographic show I watch with Billy. The Brazilian Wandering Spider can take down a lion, the king of the jungle. Make one wrong move, and you can get jumped.

 

Billy peeks out from under the tablecloth, looking like a terrified nun. I jump on Pa from the kitchen table. Billy's eyes widen. I think that's the closest thing to 'speaking' the little fucker has ever come to do. You got the room with a view, Billy. The nice one, staring out onto the pond with the ducks and the tree and the garden. My old room before you came along. You have issues, so you need a room with a view. All while I get bumped into the basement. The only window there is little, and it faces the broken wood at the side of the garage. Well, how do you like the view now, you little bitch? Red rain showers the kitchen.

 

Pa looks at me as he falls to the floor, blood spurting from his neck. The look on his face is priceless. It's like he's calling me every name he has ever called me. I'll keep that look forever in my mind. He lands on the floor next to Ma, who still isn't moving.

 

You would think I would feel something for her; anything. But I don't. I wonder if the bitch ever felt anything for me while he was beating me to a bloody pulp. If she did feel anything for me, it wasn't as much as the fear she feels toward him. Sorry, Ma. You have to die to save us. Maybe if you helped us sooner, instead of shining his fucking shoes every night or making airplane noises for Billy, I wouldn't have to help us now.

 

It's satisfying to see them like this on the floor. Quickly, I use my shirt to wipe off the knife's handle while it's still stuck in Pa. I leave it there. More blood spits out of the side of the gaping hole in his neck. Ma would watch shows like this a lot. So did I. I use my sleeve and grab Ma's bloody hand. I press her fingertips, hard, onto the handle of the knife. 
 
Now, it's time to win an acting award. I run to the phone and quickly dial 9 1 1. Ma and Pa had the cops called on them so many times, this wouldn't look out of the ordinary. People were probably waiting for this to happen. They're probably shocked it hasn't happened by now. I've heard people whispering under their breath at the grocery store. 'Oh, those poor children.' If only other ten-year-olds were as smart as me. I guess when your parents are dumb as rocks, you can either go one way or the other, depending on how much you have to teach yourself. I went one way, and well, Billy went the other. 
 
"It's Bobby Blake, at the farmhouse on Highway 48. Help, please help!" I cry just as I've rehearsed it. "Ma and pa are fightin', again. It's awful this time. She stabbed him, and he was kicking her in the head! Please, hurry, it's terrible!" 
 
It was dreadful every other time, too. 
 
"He's bleeding everywhere, and she's not moving!" 
 
They're on their way now. Cops are such pigs. Stupid fucking pigs. They come even when you call by mistake. They fit into my plan perfectly. So damn predictable. Just like Pa. Curiosity doesn't kill the cat, predictability does. I squeeze out the tears I can on the phone but plan to save most of them for the police station. I know it's going to be a long night, but it will be plenty worth it. Billy's lucky. People already know he doesn't say shit. They aren't going to be asking him anything.
 
Billy is still rockin'. Ma has yet to move, and Pa is on the floor, twitchin'. Billy is starin' at Ma. Maybe this was hard for him because she did stuff for him. It isn't hard for me, that's for sure.
 
I hear the sirens getting closer. They're here. It's hard to contain my excitement, but I must. Sure enough, the front door bursts open. This house is so old and falling apart the door comes off the hinges. I hear what sounds like a herd of elephants running down the hallway. Shady Acres' finest, ladies and gents. Finest and fattest. 
 
"Police! Police!" shouts one officer. 
 
"Hello?" yells another. 
 
They draw their guns and come running in, and their faces drop when they see the blood. None have noticed that we're under the table. The draping yellow tablecloth with the flowers on it that Ma loved so much covers us. It's now red. Covered in blood and what I think is a little piece of Pa's neck.

 

I perch next to Billy. Arms tightly around him, crying. He continues to rock and gives me a confused look. I don't think I've ever hugged him. I have to make this look good and do what any ordinary ten-year-old would do. I'm anything but ordinary. 

 

Officers are now running all over the place. 
 
"Where are the children?" asks a tall, grey-haired man.  
 
He seems to be the one in charge. Paramedics rush into the kitchen. They don't see us. They immediately begin checking Ma and Pa to learn if they're still alive. One shakes their head no. The other follows suit. 
 
"Call the coroner." says the medic. 
 
"James, check upstairs. I know this couple has two boys aged ten and four. These people fight all the time. This murder isn't surprising." 
 
I look at Billy, who is still looking at me. I put a hand on each of his shoulders. I look him straight in his cold dead eyes and lean in. 
 
I whisper in his ear, "You haven't said a single word your whole stinkin' life, you little retard, so don't you start yappin' now!" 
 
"No need, they're over here under the table." Officer James yells. "The murder weapon is still in the neck of the male victim. 
 
The other officer put his gun away. "Call Detective Eastdale, James. The incident looks to be a homicide."  
 
Officer James quickly runs over and squats down. 
 
"We're going to take you boys down to the police station while some people take a look around your house, OK?" he asks. As if we could say no. I push out tears harder now. 
 
"You're safe now. Everything is going to be OK. It's all over." 
 
Little does he know, it's only the beginning.