Chapter Two: Blood on a Baseball Bat
Bobby Bland had a tumor in his brain. It was a tiny, pink knot pressing up against his brain stem. He didn’t know he had one, even though he suffered from terrible migraines. Bobby and Luke had one thing in common. Neither one of them spoke much to their old men. While Luke didn’t quite trust his father’s emotional stability, Bobby feared his father, although he’d never confess to such. Bobby trusted completely that his father was mentally and emotionally unstable and he often played with the lovely thought that his gray-haired, chain-smoking papa wasn’t going to be around forever. His father would die and Bobby would dance a merry jig on the old man’s grave. If asked, Bobby would never admit that he wanted to kill his father, but anyone who could have watched Bobby and his father would have thought it a foregone conclusion.
Bobby’s old man gave him a closed fisted blow to the ribs for slamming the bathroom door and the first thing Bobby did at school was pay that violence forward. It wouldn’t be difficult to make the connection that Bobby wished the squealing, busted nosed freshman under his fist was actually his father. Bobby probably wouldn’t have made it to college. Not because he was stupid, to the contrary, he was actually quite intelligent. Bobby wouldn’t have made it to college, partially because of the tumor growing in his skull and partially because boys like Bobby became men like Bobby’s father. If Bobby got past the tumor growing in his head, he’d probably beat his father bloody one night. He’d be arrested and arrested again. Men like Bobby’s father had a strange duality. They felt powerless, so they charged about like wrecking balls, showing their power.
Bobby’s father struck Bobby because he couldn’t strike his boss and Bobby hit those weaker than him because he couldn’t punch his father. Although he wouldn’t admit it to himself or anyone else that he wanted to kill his father, he would get his wish. While Luke Peter’s sleep became less fitful and his heart rate slowed, the dark man visited Bobby Bland in his room. The dark man didn’t allow himself to be seen, however. The dark man was a whisper in Bobby’s ear while he sat in a desk chair in his small, cluttered room holding frozen peas to the side of his jaw. His father had backhanded Bobby for showing up an hour late for curfew. Bobby had wanted to hit him back. He had gone so far as to close his fist tight, cracking his knuckles in the process. He didn’t, though. His father stepped away to go collapse into his easy chair and Bobby fished the peas out of the freezer.
As smart as Bobby was, he couldn’t think his way around a lesson he had learned early on. Everything leads back to pain. Talking back led back to pain. Running away led back to pain. Allowing bruises to show, so that busy-body teachers go around asking questions, that definitely led back to pain. His father was mostly good about giving him body blows, bruises he could hide with shirts. Striking him in the face had been a mistake on the old man’s part because the frozen peas could only do so much. Still, Bobby nursed his tender jaw. Little beads of water licked along the length of his cheek where tiny, pale blonde patches of stumble had begun to creep their way to the surface. He hadn’t realized that he had completely tuned out the music from his iPod. Had his father walked in at that moment, he might have accused Bobby of being stoned. Bobby’s eyes were glazed over and a cold sweat worked its way though his short, dark blonde hair and down his temples.
Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. The dark man whispered. While Bobby’s eyes were glazed over, his mind was working like an over-clocked engine. Bobby saw such things. He saw a dark, swaying forest with large purple leafs laced with thin, red veins and dipping with clouded rain water. There were things in the darkness with large red eyes and yawning mouths full of needle-sharp fangs. Their eyes were glaring up to Bobby, narrowed and cold.
These are my children. They are the eaters, the killers, the takers. They are the darkness burning into your world, Bobby. They wish to claim you, Bobby. Come and see. Come and see. Come and see. The dark man whispered. The frozen peas spilled from Bobby’s fingers and bounced off his desktop, settling on the carpeted floor. His fingers tingled and shook as his eyes flickered into life like little blue light bulbs. He had been holding his breath while the dark man whispered to him. He hadn’t known exactly why, but he thought that the dark man might have a poisonous quality to him like breathing in Mustard gas. The wind came back to him in coughing bursts. Bobby pounded his chest while his eyes stole to a scuffed, metal baseball bat leaning up against the corner amongst a clutter of dirty laundry.
Come and see, Bobby. The dark man whispered and Bobby knew that the baseball bat was his key to come and see. There were flashes of blood bursting across Bobby’s mind as he stepped across his bedroom. The bat had a smooth rubber grip and it felt nature in Bobby’s hand. It had a solid heft to it and Bobby rested it against his shoulder, moving out from his bedroom and down the long, narrow hallway leading to the living room lit by flickering television. Bobby moved slowly and as silent as a whisper.
Come and see, Bobby. Bobby’s old man was leaning back in his easy chair with a six pack of beer between his legs. There had been a two-can deduction from the pack and there was another pack of empties resting at the easy chair’s side. Bobby’s father lifted one of the beers to his lips, took a long swallow and then replaced the can between his legs.
Come and see, Bobby. Bobby was behind him, the television’s glow splaying up against his face and glinting off the metal of the baseball bat. His father was watching a re-broadcast of an old boxing match. Bobby hadn’t recognized either fighter. One of the men had strikes of gray hair running through his black and a thin layer of fat on across his chest. The other man was younger, a blond man in his twenties. Bobby’s father picked up his beer and brought it to his lips, drew on it and brought it back between his legs. Bobby drew a hollow breath and his father heard it, craning his head around to see his pale faced, broad shouldered son with a metal baseball bat resting against his shoulder like he might have been waiting to go to baseball practice. Bobby’s father must have been that person viewing their father/son relationship because he just set his face in a wary grimace and put his beer. Bobby saw in his father’s eyes that his father had expected this day to come, eventually.
Come and see, Bobby. Bobby and his father communicated more with that one bitter than they had ever in all of Bobby’s life. Why would he raise a hand to someone who might come for him in the future? When you thought like Bobby’s father and when you thought the way Bobby would ultimately think, it made perfect sense. Bobby and his father were like the scorpion in that parable about the frog by the river. Bobby’s father struck Bobby because that was his nature, he was that kind of man. Never mind if his nature sent him drowning along with the son he stung so often. The baseball bat descended and Bobby’s father died silently.
Later on, with his father’s hulking body wrapped in an old, hand-stitched quilt and then stuffed into a hall closet, Bobby sat in his father’s easy chair, sipping on one of his father’s beers while the television flickered a blue-gray glow across his face. The beer had been tepid and biting on his tongue, but Bobby hadn’t minded. It slowed his mind down enough for him to understand everything that was happening. It was important that he understood, because he would be alone for the most part. The dark man did not want his hands to be seen in these doings. His eyes were dull and glossy as the dark man showed him such things. The dark man whispered in Bobby’s ear. The dark man told him about Luke, who Bobby had a vague foreknowledge of, and he told Bobby about the bothersome old man who he would have to kill first. The dark man had promised him he would see and Bobby had.