Slap. Hit. Henry’s father’s fists beat down on him with intensity. The blood wasn’t flowing yet, but it would be soon. There wasn’t any specific reason for his father’s anger. It was a Tuesday night and that was a good enough reason, if any. His mother had been dead for a long time now. Cancer. Henry wasn’t old enough to understand at the time, but now he knew it had attacked her lungs. Funny thing was Henry didn’t remember ever seeing her smoke. Oh well. That’s how life was sometimes. It fucked you over real good and for no reason at all. The blood had begun to run out of his mouth and down into the floorboards, but that wouldn’t make his father stop. Nothing would till he got his fill of beating someone down.
Henry was sixteen now. Able to fight his own battles, but when it came to his father he knew better than to fight back. Last time he did that, he spent two weeks in the hospital with a few broken bones including a broken nose. No, it was better to let him get it all out. Life hadn’t been good to his father. A dead wife. A son that he wasn’t happy with nor did he love or want. An unexpected pregnancy with a shotgun wedding to boot. It hadn’t been anything that he had ever wanted. Every once in a while, his father would drink and go on about the good days. High school football and nailing every cheerleader in the squad. All of his prospects, but everything stopped when his knee was injured. Now life was a mixture of lows. Good lows and bad lows.
As he lay there in the dark, he knew that one day he wouldn’t repeat all of his father’s mistakes. He would marry for love. He would have a child that he loved and that he never hurt. Kick. His mind reeled with pain, but he made no noise. Soon, he would be out of there. He’d been working and saving his money. He would leave and go live on his own. Right out of High School. It would be hard for him, but better than getting the shit beat out of his every night. His father stopped beating him. Henry heard him mutter under his breath, shake his fist out and then meander out of the bedroom door. He laid there for a few minutes, waiting for him to return. The moonlight hit on his face and lit the room. He dared not move. Blood filled his mouth, but he swallowed it down. Soon, he would be gone and his father wouldn’t even care but he would be free.
The Invisible Man
“How do you know you’re pregnant?”
“What do you mean? I took a test.”
“Then, you haven’t been to the doctor yet?”
“No, Henry. I haven’t been to the doctor yet, but five pregnancy tests don’t lie.”
“I don’t understand. How could you have let this happen?”
“What the fuck do you mean you? We both did this. Both of us.’
“But, you told me that you were using protection.”
“I was. Do you think that I would lie to you?”
“Not sure? How long have we been together?”
“What? Can you say that again? Only louder.”
“That’s right and in all that time, have I ever lied to you?”
“Oh I have to hear this…about what?”
“Oh, you mean the money that your crazy father promised me after his death…you mean that money…”
“Yeah that money.”
“You think that I’ll ever see a dime of that?”
“Maybe. He likes you.”
“I don’t know why. I hate him.”
“He thinks you have a back bone.”
“What? I have a back bone and his son doesn’t. You moved out on your own. Did everything on your own and that doesn’t mean shit?”
“Not to him. You know that.”
“I know. It…it just makes me fucking angry.”
“Listen, we have to talk about this pregnancy. I don’t want things to get bad. Like they did for them.”
“For my father and mother or for yours?”
“Well, both I guess.”
“I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
“This is your baby!”
“How can I be sure of that?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means just what it’s supposed to mean.”
“I haven’t been cheating on you, if that’s what you think.”
“I don’t know do I.”
“Don’t touch me.”
“Henry? I love you.”
In that one instance, he couldn’t think. Everything was happening too quickly. He couldn’t prepare. All of this would be the end for him. Their relationship. This pregnancy. They would become something that they weren’t. Henry pulled his hand back and slapped her face. She fell to the floor. Cupping her cheek and scooting backwards across the living room floor. In that moment, he saw himself in her. Blood squeezing from between her fingers from the slash that he had created.
“I need to get out of here.”
Grabbing his coat, he stumbled out the door and away from her crying.
“What’ll it be Henry?”
Henry had taken up drinking years back. Sometimes, it helped silence the demons that rattled in his head. He took his drink with two shaking hands and lifted it to his mouth. The whiskey went down smooth and bitter. The bar was empty that night. Weekday. Only the drunks and those with a guilty conscience. Henry wasn’t sure which one he was, only that right now he had to forget what he just did to Anne. He loved her. He did, but that love was hidden down deep inside and for the life of him he didn’t know how to get it out. Maybe, he was done for and she would be better off without him.
“Can I get ya another?”
The liquor made him feel better. Something about being drunk helped him to forget everything and by the time he had finished five drinks, he was straining to search in his pockets. Henry through the money onto the bar and walked out the door without saying a word. What he needed was some cold air to wake him up. Coffee didn’t work for shit. Never had and he found himself walking around the block until his head started to feel less dizzy.
She didn’t need him. Anne could fend for herself. In some ways, she reminded him of his mother. So strong and independent. He knew that she loved him and he could only imagine how much he must have crushed her over the years with the drinking and the fights. But, he had never hit her. Not until tonight. Cramming his hands into his pockets, he fought the cold but he couldn’t go home. Nobody needed him. He was replaceable and for the first time in a long time, he felt tears on his cheek.
“Just make me disappear.”
He muttered the words to the powers that be not expecting a result. But, as he walked he began to felt strange. He felt lighter and he could move faster.
“Must be the alcohol.”
Henry began his walk home. How could he face her? How could he tell her how closely he held the past to his heart? This would require becoming vulnerable and he just couldn’t bloody well do it for her or for him. He couldn’t even do it for his unborn child. This is the monster that his father had created. Slight figments of his imagination turned his father into the devil. Long pointy horns and spikes for teeth. This was all his doing. Henry moved through the streets not knowing where he was going anymore, all he knew what that he was tired of being scared.
Rain began to fall. Sliding down his body, he was hardly aware of its presence. He needed to light a smoke. Anne had been trying to get him to quit, but now wasn’t the time to start. He took shelter in the doorway of a shop, hunched over and lit his cigarette. His eyes wandered as he took in gulps of tobacco. He looked into the shop windows. An antique store. Small trinkets and jewelry. Something Anne would have liked.
He wasn’t there.
In the glass. He wasn’t there.
He looked down at his hands. He could see himself just fine, but in the windows nothing showed up. What was happening to him? The streets were just about empty this late at night, but Henry knew that there was one place that he could go to test his theory. He put out his cigarette, got his bearings, and began the long walk to his father’s.
Everyone had told him that he was crazy to stay in the same town as his father. But, it had been Henry’s home and as Anne put it neither one of them were getting any younger-they would have to forgive each other soon. But, in Henry’s mind he hadn’t done anything to be forgiven for and as he walked across town to the old trailer park it became apparent how much his father had hurt him over the years. He replayed events in his mind over and over. The beatings. The first time that he had met Anne, only because she wanted to meet his father, the son of a bitch who had hurt him. She wanted to look in his eyes and tell him how much she hated him, but he was old now-so very old and in the end she didn’t have the heart. Perhaps that’s why his father had liked her so much. She saw what no one else did-the fact that he was old and alone. She felt pity for his father. Anne was good like that-she had a big heart. Henry thought of her face when he had proposed to her. That wide smile brimming with hope. Even then, he knew that he didn’t deserve her. Two more blocks. He walked with a purpose now. Something had given him this ability. He knew that he wasn’t crazy. He saw what he saw and now it was time to do what needed to be done.
His father kept a spare key above the door. God knows why. No one came to visit him, accept Anne and Henry. He reached up and grabbed the key. For a split second, Henry felt guilt for intruding on his father’s trust but the coils in his stomach quickly faded away and he proceeded. The key fit in the lock and he turned the knob quietly. He hadn’t been to his father’s for a month or so, but from what he remembered he wasn’t the best housekeeper and he was probably drunk. Walking inside, he flipped on the light next to the front door and waited for a reaction. The living room was filled with heaps of beer cans. His father had only begun to drink a year or so ago. Maybe, he felt guilty. Anne had told Henry that his father was afraid that he would go to hell. But, Henry didn’t care. Wasn’t he already in hell and hadn’t his father been the one to put him there?
Snoring in his lazy boy, there his father laid. Feet up and television going on and on about some info commercial. Henry passed over the cans with caution and made his way to the chair.
He yelled into his father’s face. Henry watched as his father jumped to consciousness. It made him laugh to see him so scared.
So, it was true.
He couldn’t see him.
Now, was Henry chance. He balled up his fists and hit into his father’s face. Over and over, until the blood began to pour. Henry watched as his old eyes grew terrified and as he screamed for help. But, no one would answer his father. His old bastard of a father. Henry thought of all the punishments. He thought of cigarettes being put out on his arms. He thought of bruises and black eyes. He thought of hospital visits and lies and with each memory he plunged his fists harder into his father’s face.
Anne. Her blonde hair brushing up against his arm in the sunshine. Its gold glistening. Henry heard the rain outside and stopped. He could never go back to her. It was too late now. He would never be good for her. He was damaged goods. Walking back to his father’s bedroom, he dug into his closet until he found what he wanted. The gun had only been there for a few years, but Henry knew that his father would never move it from its rightful storage space. He took it into his hands and walked back out into the living room. His prey had moved. Walter was standing at the sink, washing the blood from off of his face. Henry stepped forward. His foot catching on a beer can.
“Whatever you are. Stay the fuck away from me.”
Old eyes. Wrinkles. It wasn’t enough.
Henry aimed the gun and set his finger on the trigger. He knew that the safety was always off. But, as he stood there his body began to feel strange yet again. He looked at his hands. No longer shaking.
No longer invisible.
It was now or never. Henry wanted to pause. He wanted to tell his father how much he had always loved him, but he couldn’t. It was too late. He pulled the trigger, shooting him in the head. Dropping the gun at his feet, Henry watched as his father fell. He stood over him and watched as the life drained out of him and into the floor of the trailer. He wasn’t happy, but it was a start.
Walking out of the trailer park, he knew that he couldn’t stay in town. Everyone would suspect him, and they would be right. He zipped up his leather jacket and lit another smoke as he walked. At least the rest of the money would go to Anne. Cheap man as his father was and had always been. He knew he had some money to go to her. And now, the baby. Her bare shoulders as she rolled over towards him naked in bed. She would always be with him, even if he was far away. The powers that be had given him something special that night, and Henry was certain that he had used it in the right way. Puffs of smoke blew above his head as he walked out of town and disappeared into the shadows.