Kevin was walking home after the assault. The remnant of the six-pack dangled in his left hand. With his right hand, he kept wiping at his face and black shirt because blood was still slowly trickling from his broken nose. He stopped for a moment before entering the yard of his home. Courage had to be gathered before facing his drunken father.
Harry was working on the lawn mower, he was angry and frustrated. He turned his head and saw the mess that was his son. The cigarette almost fell out of his mouth.
‘What the hell happened to you?’
‘Nothing,’ came the response and Kevin tried to walk past his father and into the house.
‘Don’t you turn away from me!’ said Harry with increasing anger.
The boy was facing the porch of their home, his head down, to his right was Harry. The blood on Kevin's face and clothes was drying in the sun. His face had swollen up in the time he reached his house. The hair on his forehead reached just below his eyes, some of it was sticking to his bloody face. Kevin stopped but didn’t look at him.
‘It was that Fletcher-boy again, right?’
‘Y-yes.’ whispered Kevin.
‘I told you many times what to do, right?’
‘Bullshit! You’re a loser and if you don’t learn how to stand up for yourself, you’ll stay a damn loser.’ Harry said and lifted the beer can to his mouth.
‘If I’m a loser then what are you?’
A completely unexpected reply, Harry spit the beer from his mouth and looked at his son with wide eyes. He couldn’t believe that his loser son just confronted him. Harry’s face turned red, he threw the can on the ground. It still had some beer in it but it didn’t matter to him. His anger skyrocketed in a fraction of a second. He started towards the boy with a twisted face but then Kevin turned his head and looked at him.
Kevin wasn’t really interested in the consequences, he had had enough. It didn’t matter to him anymore if his father beat him up too. Maybe if Harry gave him another beating he would kill him in the process and it will be over. Kevin really wished it to be over, he wanted some peace and was capable of giving up everything for it.
‘What did you say?!’
‘Just what you heard.’ he whispered back and their eyes met.
Kevin had a piercing look in his eyes, a look that reflected resignation and determination at the same time. He accepted what he believed was coming and was ready for anything. It didn’t matter how his father was going to beat him up, he could take it without a word. Harry was almost going to hit his son but after seeing how bad his face was hurt he stopped.
‘It’s your lucky day, boy,’ Harry said,′ get the hell out of here and clean yourself up! I will deal with you later.'
Kevin put down the beer on the porch steps and went to the bathroom. When he looked in the mirror he saw the damage. His right eye was swollen shut, his nose was bleeding. Above his left eye, there was an open wound. Frank had hit him with such force that the skin burst open. After wondering if his bones were intact or not he bent above the sink and began cleaning his wounds. It was painful but it had to be done.
After washing himself he went to the fridge and prepared a bag of ice to put on his swollen eye. The fridge was dirty and smelly. There was not much food in it just some leftovers and an open can of beans that was there for a week or so. An open bottle of ketchup rested on the fridge door, it was more than a year old. When Kevin's father got his salary he usually packed the fridge with beer and some cheap food from the store. He usually bought canned food or anything that could stay in the fridge without going bad for a long time. He worked as a handyman and his salary was not a big one. Even under such conditions, he spent much of it on booze.
Kevin walked into his room and lay on his bed. He held the bag of ice against his swollen face and thought about his mother. When she was alive, he had somebody who was by his side all the time. He could trust her, he could tell her everything and she would understand. Even his father wasn't this bad back then. He had his moments of course but now he is a different man. You could reason with him even if he was drinking, he didn't drink this much anyway.
His parents had fights but usually by the next day they straightened their situation out. The worst fight they had was the last one, right before Samantha died. Harry exaggerated with the bottle and he just couldn't control himself. Samantha tried to talk to him, to reason with him but she couldn't. She took Kevin and climbed into the old car they had, it didn't matter if it was Harry's. They were traveling for some time when the accident happened. Kevin's mother was tired and upset and the car drifted half-way on the opposing lane. It happened in a curve and she didn't see the coming truck. The driver's side was hit hard, she died immediately, Kevin survived.
The boy thought about that fateful night a lot, the memory was now drifting through his mind again. If his father hadn't been that drunk the accident could have been avoided. Everybody knew that what happened was Harry's fault. He knew it too and he was eaten by guilt, this is why he was acting the way he was. Kevin thought that his father deserved to feel as he was feeling. He deserved a much worse faith. Kevin didn't yet know that the forces that were calling to him from the Hershey house had the power to restore the balance, not just for his father, but for everybody.
He thought about the moment he saw the house and felt the strange serenity the darkness within it brought to him for a second. He made a decision, whatever happens, tonight he goes to the house. Maybe the darkness will take him forever and hide him from this cruel world, from his father, from Frank, from everybody who ever hurt him.
In the afternoon of the same day, Jess Brooks was at home petting her dog, Spark. She was sitting on the wooden steps that lead to the porch of her home. Spark was sitting beside her with its head on her lap. The dog was a playful golden retriever. It was a gift from her late father, David. Jess loved Spark, her only pet. It was her 8th birthday when David brought Spark home, it was just a little puppy. Ever since it brought joy for Jess and her mother, Angela.
David died of cancer when Jess was 10. He used to work at a rubber factory where he got lung cancer from the fumes and chemicals they were using. Her father's death shook them both. Whenever Jess was playing with Spark she remembered her dad.
Her mother had somewhat moved on since she lost her husband. She met Jack, a redneck who moved all the way from Texas to this quiet little town. She always suspected that he ran from something, but never asked him about it. He was a guy who lived a dangerous life and was always unpredictable. Even Angela didn't comprehend why she was attracted to him but she was. He was handsome and funny but lately, he became frustrated and was easily irritated.
Jack just came home from work. He was working at Dale's Car Service down on Main Street. Dale, the owner always said that he didn't ever have a better mechanic than Jack. The only problem was, he said, that Jack had a crazy temperament and a bad mouth. He paid Jack a decent salary which he liked to spend on poker and whiskey.
He was entering the front gate when Spark rushed to greet him. He usually played a little with the dog but not now. He was upset and didn't even try to hide it. The blue baseball hat he was wearing looked like it was thrown on his head by a drunk from a mile away. His dark green shirt was half unbuttoned and soaked in sweat. The faded jeans he wore looked more like a piece of a rag than clothing.
'Get the fuck outta here!' he said and ignored Spark.
Jess didn't like this. She hoped that Jack's ill disposition will go away soon. When she first met him, he was a sympathetic guy. Jess liked him and they even talked about certain things sometimes. Jack even repaired Spark's little house which had been made by her father. Jack spit the tobacco he was chewing on the ground and headed straight towards the steps.
'Hi, Jack,' the girl greeted him.
'Where the hell have you been last night?' asked Jack ignoring the formalities.
Jess's eyes opened wide, she was shocked by this question. Her nightly trips were supposed to be a secret and now they are not.
'What?' she tried to fake that she doesn't know what he's talking about.
'You know what! I saw you climb back into your room.'
She was so surprised that she couldn't lie. Then she remembered that Jack is in no way related to her so she doesn't have to answer to him.
'It's none of your business.' she replied and hoped for the best.
Just as Jack opened his mouth to speak again, Angela stepped out of the house. She was busy washing the dishes when she heard talking outside.
'Hey, what's wrong?' she asked and gently wiped away a few blonde hairbreadths from her face.
'Do you know that your precious daughter is goin' out through the window when you sleep?'
'What? I don't...'
'Of course, you don't,' he continued, 'I came out last night 'cause the damn dog was barkin'. That was when I saw her.'
'Spark is not just a damn dog! And what if you saw me?'
'Jess, please!' Angela said but her daughter started to become upset.
'You're too young to go out on your own in the middle of the night. And you're definitely too young to have a mouth like that. Whom were you with anyway?' continued Jack in a more aggressive manner.
'I was with my friends and we were nearby. We were having fun. Since when having fun became a crime?'
'Jessica, go into your room!' ordered Angela and pointed towards the front door.
'But, mom!' she protested.
The girl complied but after entering the kitchen she stayed beside the door and listened.
'Jack, what's wrong?'
'Seriously? This is all you can say?'
'No, I mean what's wrong with you? Why did you attack her like that?'
' 'tack her? Have you even listened to me? She was out in the middle of the fuckin' night!'
'All right, all right! I'll talk to her.'
'You'd better...'couse if you won't then I will!' he said, spit on the ground and then walked towards the garage to work on his car.
'At least come and eat something!' Angela shouted after him.
He just waved it off without turning back,' Naw, I'm not hungry.'
Angela went back inside. Her daughter was in her room. She was upset, almost crying. Angela sat beside her on the bed and put a hand around her daughter's shoulders.
'I'm sorry for what happened,' she said and pulled Jess closer to her,' but you know that it's dangerous to go out after nightfall.'
'I know but I wasn't alone. I was with my friends and we were nearby.'
'All right, I guess I can't deny you going out because you will do it anyway. Just be very careful, ok?'
Ok, mom,' she replied and smiled a little.
'What's wrong with Jack anyway?' the girl asked, 'He's never been like this before.'
'I don't know, honey, I guess he's upset about something. I promise I'll sort it out with him.'
'Daddy never did things like that' she said and now the memories came rushing back.
'I know, I know,' her mother replied and held Jess closer to her chest.
She knew what was coming. Whenever Jess talked about her father she got emotional fast. They had been very attached to each other. David never argued with his wife nor his daughter. He was a man of reason and affection. It didn't matter how upset you were, he looked at you with his piercing blue gaze and you calmed down. He was a big man and had an even bigger character. No wonder why Jess missed him so much. Angela missed him too but she had to show her daughter that she is strong even if she too was struggling inside.
'I miss him so much, mom.' she said and a few stray tears ran down her cheek.
'I miss him too, Jessie.' her mother replied and then they stood there for some time - just the two of them.
Martha Fletcher was in the kitchen preparing dinner when the bell rang. She wiped her chubby hands and with big, lumbering steps went to open the door. She was a bit surprised as the man standing in front of her was none other than chief Keith Kerrigan. The sheriff sometimes visited the Fletcher family because he and Frank's father were friends. There were times when he came to see them because of Frank. The boy had a long record of misbehaviors but the chief let him go because he knew his father.
'Good afternoon, Martha,' he said in a polite manner while he took off his hat.
'Good afternoon sheriff,' she replied and held the door wide open, ' who did my son beat up again?'
'How do you know?'
'I just know. Let's say I had a feeling,' she said and closed the door after the sheriff.
The home of the Fletchers was tidy and cozy. Martha was an exceptional housekeeper. Her husband, Arthur was naturally a lazy man but she wouldn't let him just sit around all day. As a consequence, the man kept everything in order around the house. Evan Frank was well kept under her control. If he did his chores he could go out. It didn't matter to Martha that the boy was seventeen, he was still mommy's little boy who needed education and guidance.
'What brings you here, my old friend?' asked Arthur as he got up from the sofa to greet him.
He was balding and had a gut as many middle-aged American men. After shaking his hand he offered him a beer. His wife threw Arthur a piercing look and said in an authoritarian voice:
'No more beers, you've had your beer for today. Beer destroys the liver and eats your brain, at least what is left of it anyway.'
'All right, all right,' he replied putting his hands up in a defensive manner.
Kerrigan sat down in the living room beside Arthur. Martha did not take a seat, she just stood before them with her hands on her wide hips. She was a big woman, about five inches taller than her husband. Her old-fashioned curly hairstyle made her look even larger and taller. The white apron she wore over a light green dress was stained with tomato sauce. She looked more like a butcher than a housewife.
'Our son was bad again, Arthur,' she continued.
'Bad? That's an oversimplification,' said Kerrigan, ' he and his friend, Jim gave Kevin Cook a serious beating. One witness saw everything from her window. I just came from the Cook home and the boy ain't looking good.'
'Not again...' said Arthur and put his head in his palms.
'I told you the boy needs some education,' Martha replied, 'but looks like you can't do a damn thing about it. I have to deal with him again.'
'Martha, please...' her husband tried to placate her but the storm was growing.
'You two are lucky though,' said the chief, 'the boy's father doesn't want to press charges. He told me that Kevin needs to grow up and learn to take care of himself. Frank and Jim were picking on the Perkins brothers too earlier this day but I intervened.'
'Thank god!' exclaimed Arthur with a long sigh.
'Don't you worry, Keith. I'll deal with my son, 'said Martha, 'he will learn to treat others with respect.'
'You better take care of the situation 'couse the next time I'll have to take him in. I've forgiven him many times but that's over. I'm sorry.'
Arthur just nodded, Martha didn't say a word. Kerrigan sat up and walked out. Arthur closed the door behind him. After about ten minutes Frank came home, it was close to 8 p.m. When he entered the house his mother was waiting for him.
'Frank, what have you done again?' she asked while standing in the kitchen doorway.
Frank looked at her and he knew that she knew again that he did something wrong. Nevertheless, he tried to get away with it and played the fool. He thought that maybe she's referring to something else. He didn't think that anybody knew about what he did to Kevin. He did bully him in the past but never faced any repercussions.
'I didn't do anything, mom.'
'Yes, you did! Sheriff Kerrigan was here and told me that you beat up Kevin Cook.'
'I didn't beat him up, mom. He was bad-mouthed and I had to teach him a lesson,' he lied an hoped that his mother will understand.
'Don't you lie to me! The only one who will teach a lesson tonight is me,' she replied and started closing in on him with a big kitchen spoon in her right hand.
Frank knew very well what was coming. He was pretty much used to the kitchen spoon but this time it was much worse. He raised both of his hands in defense but it didn't matter.
'You dirty'...bam!...'animal'...bam again!
'You filthy animal!'...bam!
Frank cowered in a corner in the hall and tried to endure the beating. He was crying and screaming after every hit. Arthur heard the whole commotion from the living room but he didn't intervene. He continued watching the television as if everything was all right. Martha struck her son with all her force and after a few minutes, she stopped. She was panting, she couldn't speak for a few seconds.
'You almost got taken to jail you filthy bastard!' she said and hit him one more time. 'For this, you're not going to eat tonight and you'll sleep in the basement.'
'No mom, p-p-please!'
'Get your stinky butt down there now!' she screamed and pointed towards the basement door.
'Dad, please...help me!'
'Leave him alone, 'she screamed again, 'your father is busy.'
'Dad! I don't w-want to go down t-t-there!'
Arthur heard his son but didn't want to go against his wife. He just closed his eyes and prayed it will end as quickly as possible.
'Move! Now!' ordered Martha and gestured towards the door again.
Frank moved with head down still crying. He slowly opened the door and looked back. He saw the distorted, reddened face of his mother and he realized that it's better for him to go down. At least he will be left alone. He went down into the darkness and sat down in a corner on a piece of old blanket.
He wondered how much can he endure this and then decided it's over. Frank hated his mother but as of now couldn't do anything about it. He was attached to her emotionally but that emotion died tonight. He stood there with his head in his hands and kept fantasizing about ways to kill her. His anger grew but then he calmed down as sleep took over.