The thing I remember most about my dad is that shirt. "Slick Ricky's Memphis BBQ". It's all he ever wore, stained with tobacco spit and beer. I can still smell it, hovering over me, sickeningly sweet but musty at the same time. I used to concentrate on the shirt when he was doing it, on the picture on the front. It was of a pig eating an entire rack of ribs. I never understood it, why a pig would eat ribs. Pork ribs at that. And when he was finished that's all I could think about afterwards, the pig who ate the other pig, napkin impossibly tucked underneath his chin. That damn pig.
I didn't have a typical childhood. My dad was a carny and my mom left us before I was out of diapers. I guess I should give my dad credit for not taking me to child services right away, for sticking it out and trying to raise me the best he knew how. I guess I should also give him credit for waiting until I was fourteen to start raping me. Credit is given where credit is due.
I was never formally educated. It's tough to find time to learn when you're on the road, working sixteen hour days. I taught myself how to read from a dog eared copy of Crime and Punishment that some rube left on a ride one day. I always empathized with Sonia. I envied her even, because in the end she was able to break free, she was happy. I always envied happy people, wondered what it would be like to be one.
I guess that's why I helped my dad do it. Why I helped him find more kids like me. I wanted to bring anyone happy down to my level, bring them into my misery. It was easiest when we were running the haunted house. He would park his van right on the other side of it. It was my job to scout the target. I would pick out latch key kids, kids who came by themselves, whose parents wouldn't know or care that they were missing for a few extra hours.
At first it wasn't a big deal, really it wasn't. Daddy would drug them up so they wouldn't remember anything, then simply drop them off on some deserted road a few hours later, no harm no foul. We always did it on the last day the carnival was in town, so we could leave afterwards and nobody was the wiser. And that was enough for him, until it wasn't.
He started keeping them longer, doing worse things to them. He would make me watch. He would start getting this look in his eye, and go harder on them and hit them. Hit them hard. But the worst part was, I *liked* it. I liked that it wasn't me for a change. I liked that I I could see their happy little lives get disrupted. I liked all of that until daddy started killing them.
He would strangle them. It was so easy for him, he had strong hands, I knew. He would swear that I would be next if I told on him, said that even if I did tell I'd be in just as much trouble as him. Accomplice he said. And so I let it go on. God help me I let it go on. For three years. 26 girls, gone because I didn't have the guts to stand up to him.
Then it clicked for me. I was staring at that shirt and it clicked for me, how a pig could eat another pig. And I knew it needed to be over with.
His shirt, that shirt. It has more stains on it now, more holes than ever. And I sit there and stare at it like always and then I look over and see what would have been his next victim, wide eyed and sobbing, and I think to myself, "what would the pig do now?"